Uncle Bob Wants You

Uncle Bob Gates wants more young people to join the military. In a Sept. 29 speech at Duke University, Defense Secretary Gates asked students, “If America’s best and brightest will not step forward, who will?”

The likes of you, Uncle Bob, that’s who.

By way of seducing another generation into the generational war his generation created, Gates told Duke students that talented young people who served in the military are “given extraordinary responsibility at a young age” and get to lead troops “at an age when their peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies.” Gates failed to mention that with the exception of the very few who lead troops in combat, junior military officers spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking bull-plop PowerPoint presentations for their bosses to impress their bosses with.

If Gates wants young people to take responsibility for the disasters he and his contemporaries hatched, it’s because he’s part of the “buck stops there” generation that never has and never will take responsibility for any of its own actions.

Gates, who has announced that his long-overdue retirement from the Pentarchy may or may not finally occur sometime in 2011, was a key member of the ungodly squad that transformed a defeated Rumsfeld regime into a lean, mean, Long War-fighting machine. Well, not lean, exactly. For all his sound and fury about reducing defense spending, Gates has actually managed to increase the defense budget. His standing offer to Congress is that if they pop for an annual 1 percent increase in defense spending, he’ll try to reinvest some of it in the military. If the Secretary of Health and Human Services offered to use a 1 percent annual raise to modernize public health services, he’d get the Torquemada treatment from rabid radio and Fox News. But Congress will probably take Gates’s offer seriously, even though it’s basic premise – spending money to save money – is nonsense and despite the obvious fact that even if his offer had any merit, Gates won’t be around to hold up his end of the bargain.

Regardless of how many sacred-cow weapons programs get sacrificed, wars cost lots of money, and Gates was a major force in the establishment of America’s “era of persistent conflict.” He helped Petraeus dupe the public and Congress into believing the purpose of the Iraq surge was, as Petraeus told the House Foreign Affairs committee, to create “conditions that would allow our soldiers to disengage.” As Petraeus hagiographer Tom Ricks confessed in The Gamble, a historical fiction disguised as book-length journalism, the real aim “was not to bring the war to a close, but simply to show enough genuine progress that the American people would be willing to stick with it even longer.”

Uncle Bob and King David, mentored from behind the curtain by retired Army three-star and uber-neocon Jack Keane, helped young Mr. Bush stiff-arm the Iraq Study Group and usher in Freddie Kagan’s A Plan for Success in Iraq. Gates played a material role in convincing Congress and the public that the surge was an enormous triumph even though it failed to achieve its stated goal of political unity in Iraq. Gates also helped Petraeus camouflage the surge’s strategic breakdown by fabricating a tactical measure of success: reduced violence statistics that Petraeus achieved by bribing the warring factions into not using the weapons he gave them.

Uncle Bob came out foursquare against Iraq withdrawal timelines when Candidate Obama announced he favored having one. He pushed for escalating the Bananastans festivities even though none of his generals could explain to Obama what they wanted the extra troops for or what they saw as the end state in that conflict. Gates backed the sacking of Bananastans commander Gen. George McKiernan and pushed for the appointment of Petraeus’s pet assassin and torturer Stanley McChrystal to take McKiernan’s place. Gates presided over son-of-the-surge in the Bananastans and the replacement of McChrystal with his mentor Petraeus, who is now repeating his Iraq modus, happily handing out guns and bribes to merry Afghan militiamen. Uncle Bob, predictably enough, thinks the Bananastan surge is going swimmingly.

I often suspect that the clouds in Uncle Bob’s sky are paisley, or magenta maybe, and that his worldview is a concoction derived from the breakfast mushrooms he’s had every morning since his William and Mary days. The latest catastrophe to erupt in the Bananastans is the disruption of our supply line through Pakistan. Folks: the entire U-Boat corps of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine couldn’t disrupt our maritime supply line to Europe in the Second World War’s Battle of the Atlantic, and Nazi Germany’s very survival depended on severing that vital sea line of communication. Now we can’t even keep open a land line that goes through a country that’s supposedly our ally, and to round out the ignominy, it’s the allied nation itself that’s shutting down our supply line. That’s like Churchill loaning Hitler a few extra submarines until the German shipbuilding industry could catch up.

Iraq’s elusive political unification will come, if indeed it ever arrives, attached to a dope deal with Shi’ite cleric and head of the Mahdi Army and Iran’s biggest, bestest buddy in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr. Irony is rolling on the floor of its coffin laughing. Our longest war ever will result in handing control of the country we liberated over to our supposed worst enemy.

(Never mind that “no greater challenge” country Iran has a defense budget that’s less than 1 percent of ours, and that it has no nuclear weapons program, and never mind that its army and navy and air force are incapable of projecting power significantly beyond its borders and coastal waters. And never mind that if we really wanted to take Iran down, the best way would be to give them free ride into Iraq and let them have a taste of what we’ve been through for the last seven-and-a-half years. Those poor saps wouldn’t last a month. But Iran’s president says really stupid things in public, and look what we did when we had a president who said really stupid things in public. So beware!)

And if the purpose of our war on terrorism is or ever was actually about countering terrorism, it’s the biggest military failure since the Spartans sank the Athenians’ ship of state in the Aegospotami River. We already knew our efforts were creating more terrorists than they eliminated, and that historical analysis proves that military force is the worst possible means of fighting terrorism. But if we needed a reminder of just how pathetically ineffective our use of armed force has been at achieving our national security goals vis-à-vis terrorism, our government just issued a “terrorism alert” for travel to Europe, ostensibly because of the threat posed by al-Qaeda, the cave-dwellers who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and who, now as then, number several hundred at most.

So when the likes of Uncle Bob exhort the students at Duke and the rest of their generation to join the military, he’ll appeal to their sense of duty and responsibility to make the world a better place, but it’s just a stratagem. He’s drilling for fresh fuel to sustain the present generational war into the next generation and the one after that, and he’s doing so by telling our future leaders a fairy tale about how they bring the war to a conclusion by joining the military.

It’s not true, kids. You can’t kill an insatiable monster by feeding it to death. Uncle Bob isn’t the nice old guy he looks like when he gives a speech in your auditorium. He’s that man standing on the other side of the playground fence who has a pocketful of candy and who wants to take you for a ride to a magical place where you and a bunch of other kids just like you can play and play and play all day and you’ll never have to stop.

Don’t get in that car, kids. Don’t get in that car.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.