The Civil War Inside the US Military

Interventionists and America Firsters face off in budget battle

by , May 16, 2016

In early April, a battalion of senior military officials appeared before a Senate panel and testified that the US Army is “outranged and outgunned,” particularly in any future conflict with Russia. Arguing for a much bigger budget for the Army, they claimed that, absent a substantial increase in funding, the Russians would overtake us and, even scarier, “the army of the future will be too small to secure the nation.”

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! And before you know it, Brooklyn will be renamed Putingrad.

Of course it was pure coincidence that, shortly after these alarm bells were rung, a piece appeared in Politico magazine purportedly showing that the Russians were breathing down our necks: it revealed a “secret study” – revealed for the first time! – that supposedly detailed Russia’s deadly new capabilities as demonstrated in Ukraine. Included in this potpourri of propaganda was the assertion by none other than Gen. Wesley Clark, former presidential candidate and well-known Russophobe, that Moscow had developed a tank that is for all intents and purposes “invulnerable.”

Perhaps embarrassed by what seemed like an exercise in inter-service internecine warfare, Politico recently ran an article by Mark Perry throwing new light on what is really going on here. Citing senior military figures, Perry’s piece threw a rhetorical hand grenade into the Army’s argument:

“’This is the ‘Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling’ set in the Army,’ the senior Pentagon officer said. ‘These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There’s a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. What a crock.’”

The “secret study” supposedly showed a level  of technological prowess on the part of the ragtag Ukrainian rebels that many retired officers found unbelievable:

 “’That’s news to me,’ one of these highly respected officers told me. ‘Swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles? Surprisingly lethal tanks? How come this is the first we’ve heard of it?’”

The reason may be because the source of this dubious intelligence is most probably the Ukrainian government, and they are notoriously unreliable: these are the same people who have been citing “evidence” of a full-scale Russian invasion for years now. Aside from demanding more economic aid to keep their bankrupt and notoriously corrupt economy afloat, Kiev has been eager to wheedle offensive weaponry from the US, constantly warning that, unless they get what they want, Putin will soon take the whole country. Former NATO Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove has been buttressing these warnings with what are nothing more than outright lies, claiming that tens of thousands of Russian troops armed with the latest weaponry are present in eastern Ukraine. As the German intelligence agency BND has pointed out, the sophisticated Russian military equipment supposedly pouring into eastern Ukraine is nonexistent. And German diplomats have denounced Breedlove’s overtly political interventions as “dangerous propaganda.”

What is clear is this: inter-service rivalry is driving this latest episode of “The Russians Are Coming!” Forced by budgetary considerations to choose between modernization and expansion, the Army wants to have its cake and eat it too. And they want the whole cake. They are arguing that a bigger Army is absolutely necessary in order to face down Putin in Europe – a region where, by dint of geographical reality, the Russians will always outnumber us no matter how many troops we pour into the continent. The Army’s position is that we just need more of everything – especially in terms of personnel. But as retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula and Doug Birkey, director of government relations at the Air Force Association, wrote:

“No war has been won through the mere presence of personnel or material – whether they are infantry, tanks, ships, or airplanes. If that were the case, the United States would have prevailed in Vietnam with the presence of half a million US boots on the ground in 1968, or through the expenditure of over one trillion dollars on personnel and resources over the past 14 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bottom line – it takes an insightful, flexible, and prudent strategy to deliver victory in any military operation.

“History stands in testament to this reality. No amount of bravery at a personal level can overcome the lack of a robust plan. Whether discussing the strategically bankrupt Rolling Thunder bombing campaign from 1965 through 1968, the failed 1980 Operation Desert One rescue mission In Iran, or the poorly planned and botched execution of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002 – the raw projection of personnel and equipment into harm’s way without a viable course of action leads to disaster. It is fundamentally immoral to ask America’s sons and daughters to exercise bravery and sacrifice to fill the void of inadequate strategy.”

Deptula, now director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Politico:

“It’s time to stop waving the bloody red shirt. Calling for more resources because you’re taking casualties is a wake-up call for a new approach – not for throwing more folks into the meat grinder. We really need to think in a deliberate goal-oriented way to secure national interests, not just parochial Army interests.”

The Army, resistant to budget constraints – and to any reform of its antiquated Vietnam era strategic perspective – is playing hawks in Congress for fools. And of course the hawks are eager to seize on any excuse to expand an already bloated US military budget – one that exceeds Russian military expenditures by seven-fold.

As for Wesley Clark’s “invulnerable” Russian tank, one officer told Politico: “What nonsense. If the Russians have developed tanks that can’t be destroyed that would be the first time that’s happened in the history of warfare.” Well, yes, but war propaganda has nothing to do with the facts: Clark, as Politico noted, is infamous for his eagerness to go up against the Russians. It was Clark who commanded a British officer to confront the Russians in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, during the Balkan wars. And Clark has been going around making speeches in support of Kiev’s demands for lethal weaponry, echoing the Ukrainian coup leaders’ assertions that a “’renewed offensive from the east’ before VE day, on May 8” was imminent. That was May 8 of last year, and there’s still no sign of the Russian offensive.

It’s a vicious civil war unfolding in the US military, pitting “bigger is better” arguments proffered by Army advocates against the Air Force and the Navy, who say bigger isn’t better and we need to improve not only our capabilities but also our strategy – and, by implication, change US foreign policy to a less interventionist mode.

In an article supporting the Army’s position, former Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan argued that ignoring the Army’s demands would result in more casualties: “It’s soldiers we are thinking of when we worry about the undermanned, under-ready and under-funded Army we’ve created,” he averred. Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, cited by Politico, had a ready answer for him, laden with foreign policy implications aplenty:

“The statement is sickeningly false. If the generals actually gave a damn about the soldiers the last 15 years would have been totally different. What happened to the thousands of lives and trillions of dollars squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan? What happened to the billions lost in a series of failed modernization programs since 1991?”

The US Army has an institutional interest in our globalist foreign policy: the alleged necessity of stationing tens of thousands of soldiers in foreign lands, occupying territory, and pouring in megatons of military equipment and support networks means bigger budgets to play around with. The problem is that this strategy has failed – and it’s bankrupting us. One Pentagon officer put it to Perry this way:

“You know, which would you rather have – a high-speed rail system, or another brigade in Poland? Because that’s what this is really all about. The debate is about money, and there simply isn’t enough to go around. Which is not to mention the other question, which is even more important: How many British soldiers do you think want to die for Estonia? And if they don’t want to, why should we?”

An even more pertinent question is: How many American soldiers want to die so that the ruling oligarchs in Kiev can hold on to their power and pelf, living high on the hog at US taxpayers’ expense? The answer, I’m willing to bet, is none. And the American people will back them up in this, of that I have no doubt.

A civil war within the US military is raging, and it isn’t just a case of inter-service rivalry over scarce dollars, pitting the Army against the Air force: it’s also a reflection of the foreign policy debate that’s taking place among civilians – interventionists versus America Firsters. And I know what side I’m on.

The anti-Russian propaganda campaign has been ongoing for years: the military-industrial complex and their neoconservative allies (and beneficiaries) need a new enemy now that the “war on terrorism” is wearing a little threadbare. That’s why the media and the politicians are yelping about the alleged Russian “threat.” The only real threat, however, is to our ever-expanding military budget and the prestige of those ancient cold warriors who long for a return to the 1950s, when the prospect of World War III loomed large and Americans were digging bomb shelters in their backyards.

Antiwar.com has been debunking this shameless war propaganda for years: the overblown comparisons of Putin to Stalin (who killed some 60 million!), the regime-change operation that overthrew the elected leadership of Ukraine (with plenty of funding from the US) and installed a gang of cutthroats and authoritarians in the name of “democracy,” the provocative (and profitable!) expansion of NATO that threatens to encircle the Russians and is designed to elicit a military response – all of this and more has been exposed in these pages.

The truth of the matter, however, that is we can’t continue to do it without your help. We are being outspent by the War Party by a factor of a million to one: they have the “mainstream” media on their side, and they have absolutely no budget constraints. They can spend millions without even thinking about it.

We, on the other hand, have only you – our readers and supporters – to counter the massive propaganda campaign they have launched.

To debunk this barrage of lies we need your tax-deductible donations right now – because, yes, there is an imminent threat, and it isn’t emanating from Moscow. It’s coming from Washington , D.C., where the neocons, the foreign lobbyists, and the arms industry are agitating for a direct confrontation with the Russians. As US forces edge closer to Russia, it’s only a matter of time before a near-miss becomes a direct hit – and we’re suddenly faced with World War III.

Donate now – before it’s too late. Together we can stop the War Party.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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