The New Centurians
"Only Fourteen Shooting Days Until Christmas,"
--sign on a USMC tank in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.
--sign on a USMC tank in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.
If television ads are correct, then ED (erectile dysfunction) is the new blight of the American male, much as Dutch Elm Disease and Citrus chancre hit the trees a while back. Victory, however, is as close as your nearest bottle of Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, drugs whose roots suggest vigor, skyward movement or levitation of the lagging member. The little blue pill will soon leave you hanging tough and hard. A panacea that comes with the caveat that you should first be healthy enough to have sex prior to taking the pill.
This would seem to imply that not getting it up might be an indicator that one is not healthy enough to have sex. What happened to the old remedy--just buy a powerful, flashy hot sports car. This is an adequate response to ED that is time-tested.
Now, how does all this apply to Iraq and Afghanistan? Well, as with the ads, an important question is posed: Is America healthy enough to have a war, or are we simply over-compensating with flashy sports cars?
The ads further stress that having an erection for more than four hours is not normal, and in case of such a event, medical help should be sought.at once. Similarly, a war that lasts more than four years needs more than medical attention, as it's a danger to the entire nation.
Sex, power and combat go hand in hand. Driving, relentless combat wins wars, or at least, used to win wars. We used to have Generals who participated in a hands-on way, if not on the front lines. They were soldiers, apart from the political establishment, charged with the business of conducting warfare, as decreed by their Commander in Chief. Yes, they were accountable, and had to dialog with their superiors, but their provenance was on the field of battle. That is where they excelled. They enjoyed a rapport with their men which produced results.
The little blue pill may raise the flag, but it is an ersatz happening. Better than nothing, but not quite spontaneous, either. I analogize the use of the pill to the use of present-day Generals like Pace and Powell. They look good, but both have nominal combat experience in their careers. Neither have any major combat decorations, mostly thanks-for-coming and I've-Been-There awards. What qualifies them to be Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), or to hold any other National Command Authority position? Pace and Powell have no stature compared to the Generals discussed later in this piece.
Powell lacked the depth or major combat background required of this level of leadership. He did not command Centcom or NATO before he moved to the JCS. Both Powell and Pace are talking points-type of Generals. The military now uses General Officers to brief the press. Needless to say, these Generals always appear clean, professional and spiffy, but can they really be called soldiers? Maybe if they take their little pills.
In fact, Brigadier General Brooks at the inception of the Iraq mess was the briefing officer, and he was resplendent with his Expert Infantry Badge proudly displayed in his chest. What a joke. No grenades here.
As a quick tour, let's look at the Generals who forewent the spit and polish required of current presentation, in favor of simply doing their duty as soldiers. General U.S. Grant never wore more than a private's coat, with his stars simply attached. He was often muddy and never carried a sabre, since it served no function at his level of command. He did not need to be propped up by a sabre to proclaim his Generalship.
Look at MacArthur on the Missouri in Tokyo Harbor signing the WWII Japanese surrender documents. The Japanese diplomats and military were fully arrayed and appeared magnificent, but they were losers. MacArthur and company were conspicuously down-dressed, wearing stripped down uniforms with no awards or decorations, but they were the winners.
MacArthur had the Medal of Honor and nine Silver Stars to his name, but he never wore these items as eye candy. This General didn't need ribbons. At Tokyo Harbor, MacArthur was simply a soldier. After that point he became a warrior-king, but he still retained his humility of uniform.
However, a new construct of what constituted a General was emerging about the same time. This was the political-soldier--as embodied by Generals Eisenhower and Marshall. Both of these men were soldiers, but their power was based upon maneuvering within the political arena, affecting strategic combat operations of U.S. forces. Up to this point, Generals were soldiers first, politicians second. Now, the hardness of combat became of secondary importance, and even dispensable.
Many other Generals continued to remain apart from the political-soldier model, but they paid in terms of curtailed promotions.
In Korea, when U.S. forces were being relentlessly pushed back, General Matthew Ridgeway was assigned to reverse the trend. Ridgeway didn't use briefings and Power Points--his trademark was two Frag grenades attached to his combat harness at his chest. The message was clear: attack, using rifles, grenades and bayonets...but this army is going to attack. Far more persuasive than any Power Point.
General Dean of the 24th Infantry Division was captured in Seoul while attempting personally to kill enemy tanks. Howling Mad Smith, Chesty Puller, Walker--these were the Generals leading our combat troops. Puller, with a bad heart, walked out of the Chosen perimeter after giving his Jeep to the wounded. This was in temperatures of minus 30 to 40 degrees.
All these Generals were dirty, plain-spoken and effective. They were doing what Generals were paid to do,which was to lead by example. As an aside, Puller had five Navy Crosses and U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross, so his actions were consistent throughout his military life, as were those of the others mentioned. These Generals were leading by example. They were healthy enough without mother's little helpers.
Puller never became Commandant of the USMC because he lacked political savvy. He was a combat leader, not a corporate executive. But the die was cast, and top positions were now reserved for that new animal, the political general.
Much is said about the need for more soldiers in the Army, but there seems no shortage of Generals. When the Army shrinks, do General Officer slots get cut? The Army now has nine 4-Star Generals on board. Why so many when the Army is so small? This doesn't take into account the 2- and 3-Stars. The Gitmo penitentiary has a General Officer commanding the facility, which houses 500 prisoners. A good sergeant could do that job. Remember Abu Ghraib, which was commanded by Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. Heck of a job there.
I believe the Army has lost its ability to function at the General Officer level. Generals are now managers wearing meaningless awards and looking good.
As always, the soldiers carry the burden for leadership that depends on little blue pills and Power Points. All show and no go. Present day Generals are technically and tactically proficient, but they go limp when dealing with political issues. Keep the Generals in the Army. When they go limp, make them Secretaries of State a la Marshall, Haig and Powell. But don't make them politicians or statesman while they're wearing a uniform. Keep the grenades on their chest, and they won't need little pills.