Saturday, November 11, 2006

A veteran's thoughts on Veteran's Day...

Originally, it was Armistice Day, the anniversary of the day in 1918 that the "War to End All Wars" ended. It was renamed Veteran's Day in 1954. For 52 years, America has taken this day to honor all of its veterans.

On Tuesday, America voted to throw away the sacrifices made by thousands of men and women in Iraq. We will end up pulling out of Iraq. All I personally ask is that we call it what it is--bugging out, retreating, surrendering. Please spare me the "Peace With Honor" crap that was used in Vietnam--let's just admit that we're not any sort of military superpower if we can't sustain a war across three years and 3,000 dead. Every life lost in Iraq now that the end is nigh is a true waste, because the end will be unchanged.

This isn't the first time we've walked away from a national commitment and thrown away everything our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have bled and died for. We did it in Vietnam. That left a tremendous scar on our military; I was still feeling the effects as a Marine 8-16 years later. Today's NCOs and officers have my sympathy as they try to hold together a military that is feeling as if it's the bastard stepchild nobody wants to acknowledge. There's only so many times that the troops can be thrown under the train like this and then respond to the clarion call of duty. Treat the troops like trash long enough, and you will eventually only have trash for troops.

This year's ceremonies felt empty, and tasted like ashes in my mouth. The usual civic worthies stood up and uttered the usual platitudes about duty, honor, and country. But they were mere words. America has a habit of uttering pretty words to our servicemen and veterans while performing all manner of ugly deeds against them. There are Vietnam veterans who have all manner of tales about their welcome home, and their postwar treatment. Hollywood treated Vietnam veterans shamefully, describing them in numerous films as drug-addicted misfits who could not integrate into American society. No doubt similar treatment will be forthcoming for returning Iraq war veterans as America seeks to forget why we went and what we tried to do.

I have to confess that my own feelings about my service are ambivalent. I am proud to have been associated with some of the finest men and women I've ever met. I am embarrassed to have served on behalf of the many selfish, ungrateful, undisciplined, and supremely ignorant assholes I've encountered in civilian life. Today, I counseled a young man who was thinking of becoming a trigger-puller in the war on terror to not bother; America is simply not willing to commit to a war, and he cannot supply the missing commitment.

So, where to from here?

I propose drastically scaling back the United States Army and Marine Corps. If we are unwilling to stand behind our warriors, we need to quit recruiting them and sending them into battle. We can also decommission the surface and air elements of our Navy, as it will no longer be necessary to support amphibious landings, sustain forces in overseas theaters, maintain sea lines of communication, or engage in most power projection missions.

Take the money saved, abrogate the START, START 2, and SORT agreements, and massively build up our nuclear forces--additional ICBMs, fully MIRVed, additional SSBNs with full loadouts of W88s, and additional bomber forces with a new series of gravity bombs and cruise missiles. Testing, of course, will be required. Reconfigure the attack submarine force with TLAM-N. And, in the future, respond to every national crisis or terrorist attack with a large nuclear strike against the miscreants--or suspected miscreants. If necessary, explain that when the only tool we have is a hammer, every problem's going to look like a nail.

Oh, and tell our allies out there that they're on their own. Of course, they've probably figured it out already.

Many years ago, Jerry Pournelle wrote an excellent novel West of Honor (available here), which includes a lovely little marching ditty attributed to the CoDominium Marines of his dystopian future. I reproduce it in part, because it perfectly mirrors my feelings about my service and about America:

The Fleet is our country, we sleep with a rifle,
No man ever begot a son on his rifle,
They pay us in gin and curse when we sin,
There's not one that can stand us unless we're downwind,
We're shot when we lose and turned out when we win,
But we bury our comrades wherever they fall,
And there's none that can face us, though we've nothing at all.

Kiss my ass, America.

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