Monday, September 10, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

Monday's New York Times (9/10/07) has an interesting op ed piece by Roger Cohen ("A U.S. General's Disquiet.") The general in question is Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli who is presently the Def Sec's (Robert Gates) senior military advisor. Cohen's piece is about an upcoming article in the journal Military Review by the general. (along with Maj. Steven Smith.) Let's see if we can figure out the reasons for his disquiet from the information provided by Cohen.

Here are some quotes Cohen has taken from the general's article. "Much of our government and interagency seem to be in a state of denial about the requirements needed to adapt to modern warfare." This would imply that we are not ready to engage in such warfare and that Iraq is a big mistake

The view Chiarelli descries is "that all we have to do to win our modern wars is kill and capture enough of the enemy." This seems to be the view of Bush and his advisors as all their emphasis is on battling the "enemy" and trying to impose order through force. Chiarelli knows, however, that modern warfare requires much more than just the fighting aspects. There are hearts and minds to be won over as well.

"If," he says, "we are unable to do a better job than our enemies of influencing the world's perception, then even the most brilliant campaign plan will be unlikely to succeed." But the world's perception will be based on our actions as they really are not on issuing better press releases than our "enemies." For example, if there is little support for our mission in Iraq in the perception of the world, it is because none of the reason's we have given to explain why we are there make any sense. How can we do a better job of influencing the world's perception, when that perception is probably already correct?

The general also thinks that the U.S. has been damaged by, Cohen says, "some military leaders and service members" who, Chiarelli writes, "have not internalized the moral and ethical codes that define who we are as an armed force and nation." More than the military is involved here. The use of torture, the invasion of Iraq (a war of choice), the mass killing of women and children by our forces, etc., was thought up and put into motion by the civilians in the Bush administration. The military just implemented what Bush and Cheney and their gang told it to do. As for abstractions such as ethical and moral codes, they really only exist in the actions and behavior of human beings. What you see is what you get. The U.S. military's morality is Abu Ghraib, just as it is Bush's morality as well.

The general is right when he says such actions damage "our credibility as a fighting force, our mission and indeed our standing in the world." But what can be done about it. We are our actions. The general says, "Too often, we are reluctant to admit mistakes." Again, it is a mistake to think of these foul moral actions as "mistakes" rather than the inner essence of war itself and of the American military, or any military, that wages a war of aggression and invasion of another country. This was, after all, a war of choice and is in itself a moral obscenity. There is no way to change that perception.

Chiarelli's disquiet is also seen in the following. "The U.S." he writes, "as a nation -- and indeed most of the U.S. government-- has not gone to war since 9/11. ... the American people and most of the other institutions of national power have largely gone about their business." This is because most people know that this war has nothing to do with 9/11. The events of 9/11 were cynically manipulated to justify the invasion and war in Iraq which had already been decided upon by the Bush followers. This war is not for the American people, nor is it in their interests. They know it and that is why the military is fighting alone and the nation is shopping, or as Cohen puts it, "maxing out credit cards." Its a good sign the American people are not behind the military, except pro forma, because it means the people still have a sense of the moral imperatives the military and the Bushites have clearly lost.

He understands what is at stake. "Our current problems raise the legitimate question of whether the U.S., or any democracy [with two probably stolen back to back presidential elections!] can successfully prosecute an extended war without a true national commitment." I think it cannot. The war in Iraq will be lost because it does not deserve to have such a commitment. It is an unjust and illegal war, certainly it is an immoral one. The U.S. military should not be the plaything of a president who uses it for his own corrupt motives and if it becomes such a plaything it should not be surprised to see the American people distancing itself from it. The military is not completely at fault. Congress failed in its duty to make the president stand down, and it failed to prevent his highjacking of the military for his own purposes. But generals such as Chiarelli also failed to speak up and, by working for Robert Gates rather than for the men and women of the armed forces, have failed in their moral duty to the nation.

1 comment:

FSJL said...

Iraq is, as Talleyrand observed of an action of Napoleon's, 'worse than a crime, it is a blunder'.