Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lowering Standards Will Make For A Dysfunctional Military


At my dad's funeral in July, 2009. He fought in World War II, the Battle of Buna Gona.

Okay, first let's get it straight that I am in no way "anti-military". Incredible as it may seem to some readers I was foursquare for Reagan's dispatching the Marines to Grenada in 1983, after Maurice Bishop, Gen. Hudson Austin and their band of  commie renegades had staged a coup and then slaughtered hundreds using anti-aircraft guns. I even wrote an article on "Operation Urgent Fury" while in Alaska in 1985-86, for the benefit of campus liberals who mistakenly believed it to be an outright American invasion. It wasn't. The heads of nine Eastern Caribbean nations had begged Reagan for help, including then Barbados PM Tom Adams.

I am also a huge WWII collector (stamps, books, videos, tapes), and its history is one of my avocations. I remain convinced now as ever that our entry into that conflict was essential. It was what could be called a "just war" and even a necessary one. In fact, my dad served in the Pacific Theater and fought in the Battle of Buna Gona in New Guinea  - now known to have been even bloodier than Guadalcanal. My dad's war diary brought this to life and one Australian (Head of its WWII Memorial Museum in Canberra) told me while in Switzerland last September,  he'd love to include it in his  New Guinea display. Alas, I had to inform him it was no longer in my possession but my sister's.

Anyway, if I were truly anti-military none of the preceding would hold. I would not be collecting and delving into items related to WWII nor would I have become so informed on it. Nor would I have applauded the U.S. entry into Grenada to bring down the bloodthirsty regime of Gen. Hudson Austin - whose sights were set on Barbados next.

What I am "anti' is the following:

- Anti-bogus wars or military adventures, including Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan

My conviction is our service people go through too much to have their energies, lives expended on wasteful exhibitions of national machismo or arrogance. If they are to be sent into harm's way it ought to be for a damned good reason - not for oil, or territory or new resources for capitalist markets.

- Anti-- military industrial complex

Note here that the military is not the same as the military-industrial complex. The latter is the cancerous entity Ike warned us about in his January, 1961 Farewell address. It is a military culture - including political, social and economic - gone awry and interested only in its unchecked expansion and insinuation into every fabric of the national being as well as into every statehouse. Ike warned that we must always be prepared to say 'no' to this complex and to be wary of its costs (at the expense of other domestic needs) and self-proclaimed reasons for existence.

All the above is by way of the recent news (Denver Post, March 31, p. 12A) that the U.S. Military is now considering lowering its enlistment standards. This according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaking at his former Philadelphia high school. Carter claimed that current military recruitment and retention has suffered from "two recent wars" (as I noted above, they were bogus) and also corporate America squirreling away the best and brightest.

The first thing I note here is the military wouldn't be under such recruitment pressure if in fact it was more wary of the conflicts it enters. But given there's been over 200 in which we've become embroiled since WWII it's no wonder this is a problem. Ditto with retention. Of course, this also falls on congress and our presidents to be more sensible and not send our men and women into every conflict they think matters to national security - which has become too wide an umbrella.

Anyway, Carter, at his HS address, said that standards may need to be lowered to re-infuse the ranks. The problem is they've already been lowered several times over, including (during the Bush years) approving "waivers" for former criminals to enter the services. No surprise we saw what happened in the wake of this nonsense, including undisciplined yahoos pissing on captives in Iraq, others raping Iraqi  females, and others engaged in travesties like Abu Ghraib. When you bring former criminals into your military culture this is what you have to expect.

So what Carter now proposes is easing age requirements to bring in older people and providing student loan repayments to attract college grads. I have no quarrel with either of these but I do if he plans to again increase "bad behavior" waivers.

If the U.S. military is to be a top fighting force then it can't allow a horde of bad apples to come in because recruiting quotas aren't being met. The Bushies did this over 2005-07, including letting many in with felony convictions, and we saw what happened.

What would my dad have said to this? Well, he'd have been appalled that the military would stoop to allow in Neo-Nazis, gang bangers, Aryan nation creeps or plain rapists and thieves just to make quotas. He would also question having to serve alongside such reprobates because frankly - he wouldn't trust them to watch his back.

If we're going to have a military, fine, but let's ensure it's world class in terms of personnel, and also when we send it on a mission that mission isn't a bogus one hoked up by hubris or trying to be "cop of the world" to appease some misplaced exceptionalism.

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