Sunday, August 22, 2004

Vegitus Redux

Life has again slowed for a brief respite; my mind has again turned to observations and ponderings of the world that surrounds me.

My thoughts most recently have turned to the utterly screwed up the structure and organization of the United States military.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not contending that in the present circumstance of the world that the US Military is incapable of effectively dealing with any foe the national policy makers desire to engage. Far from it, technological and logistical superiority do now and shall for the immediate future remain the elements that ensure supremacy in almost all conceivable conflicts.

Having said that the structure of the military is far from perfect; to the contrary we are very much like the society and culture that supports and maintains the force. That is to say, corrupt on many levels; afflicted with bureaucracy, political correctness, ineptness, selfish careerism and general disarray. The most powerful giant that now roams the Earth is in many ways a very sick beast.

Vegitus wrote eloquently to the Roman Emperor of the maladies that afflicted what was then the most powerful beast roaming the world. The Roman Army easily won every battle that it fought for years after it began the decline and demise akin to and apace with the moral, economic and political demise of the Empire in general. Ultimately winning mere battles was neither enough to win campaigns and influence the face of the world into the image desired by Rome nor was it enough to save the empire.

One could reasonably argue with a great deal of validity that the most professional and competent military ever in possession of the United States existed in the 1930’s. Small, professional in both the NCO and officer corps, the military of the 1930’s was not only forward thinking and innovative it retained all that was good from centuries of military tradition. WWII and is the greatest testament to the competence of the 1930’s military. To be sure it was not this force that fought and won the war. It was the leadership and leaders that this force developed and produced that won the war.

The most significant difference in the military of today and the 1930’s force is that we simply do not produce the sort of men we did back then. I think this point is basically inarguable and I would challenge anyone to find that caliber of man wearing stars today.

The reasons for this are of course numerous. WWII required a great influx of bodies in all ranks. The small pre-war force could simply not fight a global war. The officer corps grew with the inclusion of men that were not part of the “officer class”. I am not inferring that society should be based on solidified social strata, rather that morals, ethics and principles have historically been housed best is classes of men, the idea that any society can rely on the general populace to provide men of principle and character in great quantities “from the street’ has been proven incorrect.

Following WWII the moral failings of the “citizen officer corps” were addressed through the Dewy Commission and the legislation passed as a result of its’ findings. Instead of insisting that measures were emplaced to ensure that only moral men of true leadership capacity were commissioned congress decided to reduce the authority of commissioned officers in general. Invariably this changed the system of discipline and command that was previously developed over centuries of trial and error. The effects of the mistakes of the post WWII congress are still felt today.

We cannot of course blame all ills on the 1947 congress. Each successive congress has done its’ part to meddle in affairs they do not fully understand. I suppose that it is impossible to expect a gaggle of political creatures to place what is right above what is expedient. In our system we have long ago abandoned any expectation that politicians, have the capacity or desire to really do anything more than make a name for themselves. Sad that we accept this as the truth but it is reality.

We saw the disastrous effects of congress’ meddling in the Korean War. The military was there plagued by discipline problems previously unknown. Of course everyone knows enough about Vietnam and the problems there.

Then of course there was the attempt to create an all-volunteer force without properly funding pay and allowances. We foolishly attempted the feat of maintaining a superpower force to face down the Soviets with underpaid volunteers. Times had changed; the profession had been diminished by years of abuse and mismanagement by the government. The best and the brightest no longer wanted to serve in sufficient numbers. Add to that the fact that the sheer numbers required put a burden on recruiting that could not be met without reducing standards.

For all the talk of the great and wonderful force we have now the reduction in standards of the 1970’s still plague us. We added women to many specialties that they really have no business physically or emotionally tackling. I could go off on that tangent for pages. My views on that matter are solid, supportable and basically inarguable (despite the fire which some may bring to the discussion). The NCO corps, the groups that ought to be the backbone of the force, became weak sisters.

During my entire 19 years in boots I have observed a steady decline in the quality of NCO’s at senior levels. This is I believe a direct result of when they came in and how influenced them early. Bad habits have a way of spreading. Thos fortunate enough to have as chief influences men that were hold-overs from the good habits of the old force “grew-up” right. Unfortunately most of the senior non-coms of today never had the experience of being taught right. Instead they have been developed by a broken system that encourages individual politics and self-preservation. I have come to view anyone wearing E8 or E9 rank as a mere nuisance and best and a real problem at worst. These folks add nothing but another butt in need of a chair and a loud mouth. The rare few that have some worth are hard to find and seldom celebrated by their “peers”. In fact the few that are actually worth a darn are so rare they are peerless.

These are of course just some of the events and pressures that each service has endured. Each service has dealt with these issues in different ways. The United States Marine Corps (Semper Fidelus and God bless the Corps) has been the most stalwart in rejecting the machinations of incompetent political masters. The Navy being a sea service and very tradition bound resisted pretty well until Tail-Hook; after that heads began to roll of those that did not adapt to a "kindler-gentler" Navy. The beheadings of course did not stop with a few "rowdy-boys" the phenomenon spread and continued until the entire leadership was purged of real men. The Army made some effort to resist but the fact that the Army has the largest manpower requirements meant early on that there was little choice but to adjust to the conditions set by Congress.

This of course leaves the Air Force. For reasons that are incomprehensible to me the Air Force has not only embraced the move from practical, proven military tradition and discipline they have in fact innovated and created new methods that the Congress itself was not bright enough to devise. In my humble opinion the Air Force has long ago ceased to be a military service and has become nothing more than a uniformed service. There is a significant difference in the two.

In the mid 1980's Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act. I am pretty sure that Barry Goldwater was too old by that point to realize the significant negative impact this one act would have. The bottom-line is that all operations that can be joint are by law forced to be joint. This means folks from all the services take part. Never mind that this means incompetent flunkies from the Air Force are now forced by law into every major command. The influence of these non-military folks that merely wear uniforms on the outcome of everyday events is enormous. As I overheard an Army general put it the other day “I have a great deal of suspicion of anyone that comes from a service that is lead by people that believe in business school models and fly around in air conditioned airplanes dropping bombs on unsuspecting people from thousands of feet". I do not believe anyone could put it better.

I can and will elaborate on the deficiencies of the Air Force and their continued participation in any influence and decision making capacity in current and future military operations. In my opinion they ought to be treated as nothing more than people that fly planes from point A to B on order from the military services, period….more on that later when I have more time to vent...I am sure I will anger someone that has or does collect a paycheck from the Air Force. If so, just hold your thoughts until I have time to elaborate and complete my venting, then unload on me as best you might.

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem
El Cid

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