Friday, June 16, 2006

Let me talk about the other side now

In the interest of maintaining my centrist cred, I must know attack a right wing book. Thankfully, I have a wide range of choices. Due to the similarity to the prior target of my spitting rage, I choose America's Victory: Why the U.S. Wins Wars and Will Win the War on Terror. Just from the title, I was certain this would suck. This time I have an interview with the author to prove my point.

What is frustrating about this book is that it is trying to prove something I think is true, that the US military is the among the most humane, competent and progressive militaries on the planet. You can look at the military's efforts to limit casualties on both sides, to its (imperfect) study of history to improve itself, its dedication to civil control and the fact that is far ahead of broader society when it comes to racial and social integration.

So why is this book bad?Becausee it covers the good with ten tons of shit. There is so much to pick on, but let's talk about American aversion to casualties. There are many reason why the US is more casualty averse than other nations. One of the most prominent is the hyper-materialistic nature of American society, which values wealth and personal expression over battlefield honor. Another is that unless Americans can see a non-self serving reason to fight, they get mad, fast. Know what the author, Larry Schweikart, says it comes from? Peace protesters. Remember the big peace movement in World War 2 and Korea? Me neither.

The bigger complaint is the complete disconnect between policy and military action. For Schweikart all wars are the same. "Victory" is all that matter and victory means defeating the enemy. He makes no link between the stated goals of the government, which may or may not be best met by crushing the enemy. He compares Iraq, a war of choice, to the Civil War, one of the two most existential wars fought by the country. So he asks us to sit back and accept that Bush understands we are winning, as it is too challening for we mortals to understand. And then he casually refers to a possible war with Iran as if he is discussing which month he should change his oil.

A much better book, Imperial Grunts, explains the virtues of the American soldier. For a great (and brief analysis) of the evolution of the concept of victory, see Brian Bond's Pursuit of Victory. If you simply must have some right wing blowhards, watch Fox News, at least it won't cost you anything.

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