Saturday, January 07, 2006

War? No, Just A War President

George W Bush is quick to tell anyone who will listen that he is a "war president". He regularly trots out the line, "We are a country at war..." He consistently refers to himself as "Commander-in-Chief" while rarely identifying himself with the more appropriate title of President Of The United States. He promotes the whole vision by making a solid majority of his public appearances in the presence of US military or naval personnel. He also, quite improperly, appears wearing military regalia and items of uniform clothing to which he is not entitled.

To prevent any misconception from this point, let's acknowledge that significantly large numbers of US military and naval forces are engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops are fighting and dying in both countries. Those troops are indeed in a shooting war. That those troops are at war is not in question.

The USA may have troops deployed in a fight, but to suggest the entire country is at war is more than huge leap. There may be a war in Afghanistan, there may be a war in Iraq, but the population of the United States is not at war.

The 11 September 2001 attacks on the US precipitated several actions. The most significant was NATO, on 12 Sept 2001, invoking Article 5, which declared that the attacks on the US constituted an attack on all NATO member nations. The US identified the Taliban led Afghanistan as Osama bin Laden's operating base and host country, then led forces to ostensibly eliminate the Taliban and capture Osama and his followers. The people and the government of the United States appeared to be of one mind, had rallied together and supported the action taken, despite the fact that there was no formal declaration of war. In any event, the US population and the world generally, supported the forced change of regime in Afghanistan. The problem would become The War On Terrorism, an abstract concept with no end point.

The Bush administration's next expedition was a different story. Against world opinion, the US invaded Iraq. The administration had falsified intelligence and intentionally misled the world. In an atmosphere of fear, a majority of the US population was still behind the administration's course of action, although an element of skepticism had emerged. Bush's invasion of Iraq was done without a declaration of war and extended beyond the limits of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Congress had delegated its exclusive constitutional authority under the War Powers Clause, an unprecedented and constructively unconstitutional act. And from that point Bush started calling himself a "war president", even though by definition, the US is not at war.

If the US was at war, conditions in the country would be different. The relative comfort enjoyed by a large segment of Americans would be considerably reduced and the attitude would be different.

No country in a desperate fight, as the Bush administration states, would cut taxes and then maintain those tax cuts. Indeed, during any major conflict taxes increase.

The Bush administration's exceptional borrowing to finance its engagement in Iraq is being done by selling the US economy overseas. In major wars borrowing is necessary, but in World War Two the government borrowed from its own people. There has been no such effort to borrow from the American people. Instead, the US now has a debt of over $8.2 Trillion of which 54% is owned by foreigners, a huge segment of that in the hands of China. The administration, instead of initiating a "war bond" system has simply loaded each and every citizen with a debt exceeding $24,000.

The military's civilian leadership is running combat campaigns. This is not new. In fact, it's de-ja-vue. McNamara did it during the Viet Nam conflict. But if the US is "at war" as the Bush administration says, then they should be heeding the advice of their military in all aspects of military deployment and activity. Instead, wholly unqualified dilletantes are making military decisions and dismissing generals and admirals who disagree with them. A nation at war would be very cognizant of their military leaders. Yet the average American today would have difficulty identifying the current commander of the US Army's Central Command.

The US, if it were truly at war, particularly in Iraq, would have a troop deployment considerably different than what is currently engaged. The total US troop strength in SW Asia is officially estimated at 170,000. Given the type of action and the difficulties of a major insurgency, (which the military leadership advised was inevitable and which the unqualified civilians refused to accept), troops levels should be near 500,000. Rumsfeld's immovable attraction to technology to provide force multipliers is a flawed philosophy which no experienced general would accept. Tech force multipliers are just fine in a maneouvre war, but that's not what's happenning in Iraq or Afghanistan. Fighting an insurgency requires "boots on the ground". But as stated earlier, the civilian leaders of the military, from Bush on down, aren't listening to the best of the generals and the US population remains mostly uninvolved.

If the US were really at war there would be a rallying of the population to defeat the enemy. That would include a massive induction into the armed services. Instead, the US military is not meeting recruiting targets. The quality of recruit in the army is declining and the army is reducing induction standards. Given that condition, if the US were really at war, the introduction of conscription would be warranted and there would be little popular opposition. During WW2 the US Army was comprised of a "hostilities only" body of citizen soldiers which represented all classes of American society. Today's army is overwhelmingly manned by kids from lower and middle class families, while a disproportionate number of young people from wealthier homes stay out of any fighting and far from danger.

If the US were really at war priority would be given to production of equipment needed by troops on the ground. Instead, vital equipment is delayed pending production.

If the US were really at war there would be a demand to conserve and reduce consumption of vital supplies. In this instance, petroleum products are the key. Instead, the North American automobile industry produces even more gas-guzzling SUVs, and they're making them bigger and less fuel efficient.

If the US were really at war there would be a national effort to win it. Instead, the only Americans who feel the effect of war are the families whose sons and daughters arrive home maimed or in a sealed metal box.

The US is not at war. There is no national sense of purpose. The sacrifice is limited to those directly affected by combat and those awaiting their return. There is only an administration headed up by a non-combatant, deceitful "war president" who continually spews forth the language of fear and then spends 20 percent of his term in office on vacation.

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