Yes, yes, you didn't misread that. As promised, I bought Kindle edition of Tim Bakken's much anticipated The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military and gave it a first "browsing" go. I immediately found myself in a "hot water" of sorts since, while very readable, the book completely blew my views out of the water--the book's major premise is that of a lack of civilian control over US Military and I couldn't agree with this at all, because it is simply not true. While being correct in many crucial details of US Military existence, Bakken, obviously, makes a very grave mistake when thinking that there is no "civilian control" over US Military. There is plenty of this "control" to go around, because American civilian political elites, with some minor exceptions, are the most militaristic, aggressive war-mongers in history and it is they NOT US Military who the "buck stops with", because US Military establishment, while undeniably having its own share of mindless, incompetent and even evil careerists, is not the one who makes final decisions on unleashing America's, one after another, disastrous wars. Those decisions are made in the civilian corridors of power. Let's recall where and how it all started in the immediate wake of WW II and continued in the post-Soviet collapse times of 1990s.
It was early in Clinton's first term, back when she was U.N. ambassador during the first showdown with Serbia over Bosnia, that Albright showed her stripes on foreign policy. At a 1993 meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell--who gave his name to the doctrine that the military should be used only after a clear political goal has been set, and then only with decisive force--she challenged the general: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" As Powell later recalled, "I thought I would have an aneurysm."
I guess, we shouldn't lose the sight of this simple fact that it is US Congress which the power to declare war lies with. And POTUS--if these purely civilian institutions cannot figure it out, granted often manipulated by the so called (lack of) intelligence and military community, what good they are for then? Most active and most enthusiastic addicts to American (often completely primitive and distasteful) military porn are precisely American civilian government officials overwhelming majority of who never served a day in the uniform, let alone in operational zones and are, in fact, major enablers of primitive American militarism, since lacking appropriate human (and real men) qualities, overcompensate by associating themselves with a military power, thus creating an echo chamber, or a feedback loop, if one wishes, to a non-stop US military pornography being re-amplified with each election cycle. So, I emphatically disagree with Bakken on this particular issue--US Military carries out the orders which civilian US men (and women) in suites from political parties, to media (propaganda, that is) to corporations issue to it.
It does not absolve US military from atrocities it commits in its wars, but those who give (or help to push for) those orders are the most culpable in this unmitigated disaster which US failed wars in the last 75 years are. Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, John Bolton, Bill Clinton, Lindsey Graham, his late buddy John McCain (granted former officer), Robert Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney are just a few examples of war-mongers, if not outright sociopaths and war criminals, who played and continue to play a crucial role in spreading a bloodshed and misery around the globe and use US military as merely their own personal tool for promoting most delusional geopolitical agenda, which, in the end also destroys the United States from within. I cannot accept, in this case, this Bakken's argument as valid. I quote myself (pardon me for this):
In March 2018 an influential American magazine, The Diplomat, published a short piece by Francis P. Sempa on the Thucydides Trap. In this piece Sempa, citing a collection of articles and essays by U.S. senior military officers titled Avoiding the Trap: U.S. Strategy and Policy for Competing in the Asia-Pacific Beyond the Rebalance, noted in amusement that:The most remarkable aspect of this study is the lack of “hawkishness” among the contributors, most of whom are high-level military officers. Only one article asserts that China intends to become the Asia-Pacific’s regional hegemon and is following a step-by-step expansionist strategy to displace the United States in the region. Two of the contributors emphasize the need to strengthen and improve U.S. defense ties to Japan and India in order to counterbalance China’s military growth.It is, sadly, not surprising that Sempa, an attorney by education and a political “scientist” by occupation, is surprised by the fact of military professionals being reluctant to take political science whiteboard theories to heart. But military professionals are absolutely correct in their reluctance and they have ample reasons to be suspicious of international relations concepts cooked up in the deep recesses of Western in general, and American in particular, political science kitchens populated by people who, for the most part, have zero military backgrounds and experiences.
Far from exhibiting military "corporatism" I merely point out the fact that these are primarily American civilian institutions which allowed and, in fact, incited militarism which now reached grotesque forms and ignores completely the reality of the United States losing (or not winning) all her wars since the end of WW II. I have another major disagreement with Bakken in regards to military education and engineering courses modern officer should take, but that will require a separate post. I'll do it later, including some review of principles of Combat Training and military bureaucracy. Now, about what Bakken's gets with precision and does it well.
Bakken goes for the jugular and, correctly, starts with deconstructing one of the darlings of American WW II military mythology General Douglas MacArthur whose myth of a great military leader was pretty much destroyed in Korea when MacArthur's arrogance and a complete detachment from military reality when grossly underestimating Chinese intentions and military capability did cost the US a war. Bakken is correct when starting from WW II and it seems I and he very much on the same page when stating the obvious fact that the US Military learned all the wrong lessons in WW II. In my case, I reviewed George Patton, whose actual military merits were exceeded by far by his ability for self-promotion and manipulating US press. As I wrote in my first book:
...there was a real downside to the famous 1970 Hollywood flick and genius acting of George C. Scott which contributed not only to the Patton myth but to an always foggy, very skewed American understanding of World War II and warfare. While the movie was a cinematographic triumph in the United States, those who knew war first hand—the Germans—had a different opinion. Ladislas Farago was blunt in stating the obvious:German interest in Patton was still so spotty many years later that the famous motion picture with George C. Scott, a smash hit everywhere else, flopped dismally in Germany. After a week or two playing to empty houses, its showing had to be cancelled. Rommel, yes. Zhukov, surely. Montgomery, maybe. But the vast majority of the Germans simply didn’t know why General Patton rated a film.Nor did Russians, who, after the liberalization of the 1980s and the spread of VHS culture, were not amused by the movie which glorified, in Paul Fussell’s words about Patton, “a master of chickenshit”. For Russians, who had a pretty good idea of the scale of WWII and were used to its imagery, the film raised the inevitable question of why so much pathos would be generated about a general who commanded a single army at the Western Front in the last year of WWII
This could have been as well written not by me but Bakken himself, because, as I continue to state non-stop, problems with the US Military started with the failure to learn the actual history of WW II, which, through its "interpretations" in the US steadily removed the Red Army as the main contributor to a defeat of Nazi Germany and substituted it with a narrative of the United States, with some help from Great Britain and USSR securing European Continent for "democracy" and "liberty". There is no surprise that famous revisionist work of Earl Ziemke, in which he states that these were Anglo-American Allies who defeated Hitler and makes such a statement, is till being referred to:
The Soviet contribution to the victory in Europe was important but not overwhelming. Soviet postwar claims notwithstanding, the war in no sense demonstrated the superiority of Marxist theory. The German-Soviet conflict was euphemistically billed in Germany from the start as a crusade against Bolshevism, but the Soviet Government chose not to submit its system's popularity to a direct test and, instead, nominated itself to lead a war for national survival. The Soviet people opted for the indigenous dictatorship.
This hardly qualifies as a real military history, yet, it is precisely what was laid in the foundation of the American view of WW II and lead to what Atkinson, when describing Patton, defined as: the creeping arrogance, the hubris, which would cost the American Army so dearly in Vietnam. It is of no surprise then, but sadly ironic, when former Soviet military professional (me, that is) is forced to explain to American posters on all kinds of forums, that Operation "Cobra", a breakout from Normandy, was a plan conceived and, essentially, executed by Omar Bradley, not Patton, that the victory in Ardennes was won well before Patton's 3rd Army ever got there and it was Hodges' 1st Army which stood firm against Dietrich on the Norther Face of the Bulge and that is what determined the outcome. That Patton, far from being the "genius for war" was just another army commander whose record is simply not that impressive and is inapplicable to even comparison with anything tank warfare wise on the Eastern Front. Bakken is correct--arrogance, ignorance and, often, lack of professional military adequacy is what to a large degree defined US Military which was forced to believe in own invincibility against the background of overwhelming empirical evidence which testifies that self-proclaimed "finest fighting force in history" is not, actually, that good when facing an enemy which decides to fight for real, but about this later. This is just a warm-up, a primer of sorts, on Bakken's undeniably controversial but, in my mind, very important book which provides some very necessary insights into how the US Military views itself....