Monday, April 24, 2006

Commanders in Chiefs - More or Less

George Washington was made President and additionally, Commander-in-Chief, because he had a victorious military record. The newly formed United States had serious national security problems, so combining responsibilities of military and political chiefs made good bureaucratic sense. Had President Washington been a chiropractor, doubt the founding fathers would have made him Commander in Chief - in my life time, the 20th and 21st centuries, assigning military responsibilities to elected presidents in most cases has not augured that well for the USA.

Franklin D Roosevelt won WWII - despite the fact he almost lost the US Navy at Pearl Harbor - he fired Admiral Kimmel and General Short over the disaster. Now we know that reliable intelligence existed, not disseminated, that indicated the Japanese were about to attack. FDR was itching to go to war with Germany and the Germans obliged immediately after Pearl Harbor by declaring war on the US - previous American aid, bundles for Britain, unrestricted military aid to England in its war with the Nazis, was the causus belli from the German standpoint. Whether the war could have been avoided is a moot point, but the fact FDR's policies allowed the Soviet Union to dominate central Europe and the Balkans remains as a devastating FDR legacy. We know that there were American generals who wanted to keep attacking across the Oder Neisse Line, but the fix was in - FDR had surrendered Central Europe to the USSR at Potsdam and Yalta - Cold War became a dangerous reality for nearly the last half of the 20th century.

President Harry Truman followed. Truman who was a haberdashery salesman turned politician at least heard the rattle of the battle as an artillery captain in WWI, but this experience apparently deserted him in office. Democrats celebrate the fact that he fired General Douglas MacArthur, because the general wanted to win the war in Korea by using nuclear weapons when the US had the monopoly on them. Liberals used pathetically political correct screed that Truman demonstrated civilian control over the military by this action - Truman's foolish decision resulted in a stalemate in Korea to now, where the North Koreans have nuclear weapons. Truman's other decision that has had far reaching consequences was the recognition of Israel. Against the advice of military men like General Marshall, Truman recognized Israel because he needed campaign funds that the American Jewish community would donate to defeat his opponent Governor Dewey. Truman is also reported to have said that since he had a Jewish partner in his haberdashery business who he liked and respected, that he guessed recognition of Israel was okay This is known as making foreign policy by the seat of your pants. This expedient-recognition of Israel has now morphed into total American defense of Israel at a serious cost to US interests in the Middle East, and a major basis of Jihadist terror against the US.

Eisenhower's election saw birth to Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba. Instead of snuffing out Castro's romantic revolution, he listened to the NEW YORK TIMES that promoted Castro as an agrarian reformer - his failure to take decisive military action left it to JFK who later bungled badly. IKE did warn the American people about the threat of a Industrial Military Complex, but nobody paid much attention until now with NO BID Halliburton setting on its chest.

Next president who frittered away his role as Commander and Chief was John F. Kennedy - he was by most standards a military hero - a profile in courage - remember "PT 109"? Russian Premier Khruschev met JFK at a conference in Vienna - came away figuring JFK was ditzy - said JFK was too liberal - put up the Berlin Wall and deployed strategic missiles in Cuba. JFK then agreed to pull US medium range missiles out of Turkey and promised not to invade Cuba again if the Soviets withdrew their missiles. Castro is still around making mischief for the US - JFK 's Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba still goes down as close to the biggest military screw-up in US history - not as bad as Custer at Little big Horn, but it came close.

Both Presidents Johnson and Nixon were strangled by the Vietnam war. In all fairness, they believed the US military knew what it was doing and it did not. War was lost for many reasons - part of it was the incremental introduction of forces - US forces were defeated in detail, no overwhelming force - never had enough force at the critical moment. US also effectively left Cambodia and North Vietnam as safe havens - Nixon, besides Watergate, also had Dr. Henry Kissinger the mad hatter dancing around, and that guy could screw up a free lunch.

President Ford really did not count except that he did appoint Rumsfeld to SECDEF for the first time - that mistake still haunts the US as Rumsfeld is still learning the job.

Along came Jimmy Carter as president. A graduate of US Naval academy - nuclear sub man - but the world used him as a doormat. Iran dumped the Shah ending US influence in the country, and during the Iranian hostage event, Carter made a circus of a rescue attempt. He signaled weakness and the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Also he had serious Central American problems - by all standards, Carter is a better ex president than president; he lasted four years until overwhelmed by Reagan.

Reagan's years were wine and roses - USSR collapsed - got the hostages back from Iran - kept Castro in his box with the invasion of Grenada, and by cleaning up San Salvador and Nicaragua - gave the Soviet fits in Afghanistan that led to their defeat and hastened the USSR's decline.

George Walker Bush, also a military hero, lasted one term before he was kicked out of office by the voters. Decided he would go to war with Saddam over Kuwait. If you follow events, you know the war started after Bush raised taxes violating his pledge of READ MY LIPS NO NEW TAXES - there was really no difference between buying oil from the despotic Kuwaiti sheiks or the malevolent Saddam - the result was the First Iraqi War - Bush also began the involvement of a military expedition in Somali. Based on TV horror depictions - last time I checked, the War lords run the country and the people continue to starve. Bush operations in Iraq were sloppy - though the Iraqi were thrown out of Kuwait in a 100 hour war, he encouraged Shiites in Iraq to revolt, but sent no aid when they were brutally suppressed by Saddam. Bush made a US protectorate of part of the Kurd lands and installed no-fly zones over Iraq without treaty or UN sanction; this was an expensive proposition. It was another factor in the Second Iraqi War

Along came draft dodger Clinton - made Les Aspin, a system analyst peacenick SECDEF whom he had to fire quickly, because of his failure to provide armor to Somali that resulted in BLACK HAWK DOWN catastrophe... Clinton really wanted gays in the military and for awhile did not want the Marines to wear uniforms on the White House detail - gave a burial plot at Arlington Cemetery to a big time campaign contributor who never served in the military - had to dig the guy up at midnight, rebury him elsewhere because the military was so pissed off. His Balkan war made him an Ottoman Turk as he stationed US forces permanently in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia for nation building - he encouraged the Kosovars to remain on Serb land that they illegally occupied through infiltration from Albania. About the only thing he did right in the Balkan War was to bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and he spoiled that by apologizing and paying reparations - even after he left office, his national security chief, Sandy Berger got caught stealing documents from the National Archives Building - stuffed them in his underwear - Sandy was also an advisor to Senator Kerry during the campaign 2004 - as far Clinton chasing Bin Laden, he reminded me of Puerto Rican cops who in police cruisers patrol the dark streets of Old San Juan with blue lights flashing warning the criminals to escape...

But despite the foibles of previous commander-in-chiefs, the advent of GW Bush, sometimes, formerly of the Texas and Alabama Air Force National Guard, makes you want to call a constitutional convention or set in motion an amendment to cleave the power of commander-in-chief from the presidency. As it stands now, the American people want a refund for electing GWB. Bush's elective war in Iraq combined with gross mismanagement of the war by Rumsfeld, has endangered the US. GW Bush was slapped in the head with 9/11 - never got around to closing US borders - he attacked Iraq and effectively stopped chasing super terrorist bin Laden in Afghanistan area - his war fighting was done ostensibly on the cheap to hide real costs from the American people - as a result the national guard will take years to reconstitute, if it ever does... military equipment now has to be replaced on a massive scale - the costs of the war has eroded the dollar, driven up interest rates - future cost of caring for wounded veterans is expected to be over the top. Any checks and balances on presidential excess has not yet materialized in Congress, and the US press has lost its nerve. Recovering from GW Bush's absolutely disastrous rule may take a long time... the longer he remains at the helm, the more difficult it will be. It took oilmen Bush and Cheney to drive the price of gasoline over $3.00 a gallon... and that was a subject in which they professed expertise. How can you trust their judgement in war?

Solutions? Run wars through an ad hoc committee, mission designed, formed only during hostilities. Rely on representation outside the bureaucracy who have full authority to task all government agencies and draft talent for the duration of hostilities. Had a task force organization been formed for homeland security, the country would not have wasted money on a fat bureaucracy and still remained undefended - there is always a General George Marshall in the US system - you just need a President smart enough to find him... Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret


Blogger USNA Ancient said...

Geez ! If only we had had your pompous ass as dictator for life instead of all the incompetents you cite, we could have avoided all this. Just off hand, I would surmise that you probably voted twice for the current asshole in befouling residence at 1600 !


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