Come Home, America -- universally ignored by the media heavyweights -- has received a stunning review in Congress Daily (June 15, 2009). It was written by George Wilson, author of "Mud Soldiers" and other books and for many years the lengendary defense correspondent at the Washington Post. George and I are old pals and former colleagues at the Post so I guess he doesn't count as objective. On the other hand, he is the wisest reporter I know on military affairs and I am deeply flattered by his reaction to to my book.
Forward Observer: War Without End?
By George C. Wilson
Is this Global War on Terror going to last forever? Has it already changed our nation from an historically defensive Athens to an offensive Sparta whose military looks everywhere for trouble and finds it? Who is calculating the cost to benefit ratio of sending Green Berets and other Special Operations troopers into remote corners of the world to assassinate suspected terrorists?
Ever since the Vietnam War our Presidents have ushered members of Congress into the grandstand where they can boo or cheer military decisions but not make them despite what the Constitution says right up there in Article 1, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to provide for the common defense.”
While the lawmakers sit in the grandstand and watch his game plan unfold, President Obama is betting on Iraq pacifying itself rather than fighting a civil war; on Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the newly named field commander for Afghanistan, and State Departments specialists winning over the Afghan people and neutralizing the Taliban; on Pakistan’s shaky government keeping its nukes out of terrorists’ hands; on Russia, China, North Korea and Iran not stirring up the kind of trouble our over-extended military would have to deal with. Can any politician, any President, be lucky enough to win all those bets? I doubt it.
Even if Obama should be lucky to win all those bets, how much is it going to cost the taxpayers to finance the on-going wars; replace the military gear worn out in Iraq; keep buying those over-priced super weapons the admirals and generals want in case they have to fight Russia or China or both; pay for those hundreds of thousands of mentally and physically wounded troopers who fought in this open ended Global War on Terror? The short answer is to print more money. Besides adding to the giant deficit, such a step would fuel inflation and perhaps prompt China and other creditor nations to demand that the United States redeem the IOUs they are holding.
Unlike Congress, William Greider, a brilliant writer and analyst, has looked these and other dangers in the eye and told us what he sees around the corner in his new book, “Come Home, America.” He dares to write in the book that America has indeed transformed itself from Athens to Sparta to the point that our unchecked militarism endangers us all. What follows is an excerpt from his chapter entitled “The Next War:”
“The U. S. military, despite its massive firepower and technological brilliance, has itself become the gravest threat to our peace and security. Our risks and vulnerabilities around the world are magnified and multiplied because the American military has shifted from providing national defense to taking the offensive worldwide, from being a vigilant defender to being an adventurous aggressor in search of enemies.
“The predicament this muscle-bound approach puts our country in is dangerous and new,” Greider warns. “Go looking for trouble around the world and you are likely to find it. The next war may be a fight that is provoked not by them but by us. The next war may already have started somewhere in the world, perhaps in a small, obscure country that we’ve considered threatening.”
I agree with Greider that there is a new attack elephant in the American living room. The old watchdog that would bark if some stranger knocked at the door but only bite if he broke into the house has been retired. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates seem to have fallen in love with Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine special operators who do their deadly work in the shadows. The top of our government was similarly infatuated with special operations during the Vietnam War until some of the operators got out of control and had to be reined in to discourage what was called “cowboyism” back then.
Senators and Representatives have indeed felt part of this new aggressive elephant in the nation’s living room. For example, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked McChrystal at his confirmation hearing before Senate Armed Services, “How long do you expect the counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan to last?” McChrystal replied:”Sir, I can’t put a hard date on it. I believe that counter-insurgency takes time. I believe that we need to start making progress within about the next 18 to 24 months.” That’s a far cry from World War 2’s bracing “Berlin by Christmas” or “unconditional surrender.” “Progress” will be in the eye of the beholder, as it was during the Vietnam War.
What Congress owes its stockholder, the American people, it seems to me are detailed, annual reports on this Global War on Terror. How inclusive is it? What cost to benefit ratios are being applied to proposed operations? Are we creating more problems for ourselves than we’re solving? Is putting our military on the offensive all over the world more drag than lift? Who is killing whom in the dark and why? Are we in a war without end? What is it costing? Is this virtual solo trip into the twilight zone really necessary?
Congress leaped into President Bush’s Global War on Terror before it really looked. But as a nation we have not yet reached the point of no return. There is still time for Congress to conduct public hearings to reappraise this seemingly open-ended war and in the process reassert its Constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense.