Another Caesar or Napoleon? – Part 2
Monday’s New York Times: Gen. David H. Petraeus began his campaign to convince the public that the coalition can succeed, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”
Fired Gen. Stanley McCrystal was obviously no Eisenhower, nor could he really be compared to MacArthur’s tragic fading in history; he was a victim to the perception pronounced by his successor.
General Petraeus emphasized to reporters the necessity of a commander being a “pentathelete,” able to direct various non-battlefield functions, most of all public relations.
General McCrystal’s fall was instigated by an English public relations “whiz,” recommended to him by another top leader who had used the man briefly. By all descriptions, the four-star general was a dazzling genius at secret combat fighting, by Special Forces and commandoes. Promoted to his highest public and political role in charge of a quickly dissolving Afghanistan, he had little time to worry about the face he presented to the rapidly growing disillusioned majority of the American public.
General McCrystal heard, in cultivated, authoritative tones, that his new campaign could win over to the military command’s side the readers of Rolling Stone. The four-star general might have been startled at the notion of cooperating with the magazine favored by hippies and pot smokers when it first came out: That’s how most of his generation still views Rolling Stone. As a good soldier, he deferred to the expertise of a man very highly recommended for keeping the American public and politicians off his back.
The interviews turned out disaster; from my experienced view, because the so-called “expert” did not have “a bloody clue” – to quote his British English – what journalism in this country has become. It’s a cut-throat, overly diversified business dedicated to novelty and celebrity. From each side of the spectrum, Walter Lippmann and Bill Buckley are no longer around; if those names mean nothing, let me explain: each was the journalistic high-priest of liberalism and conservatism in the last century. While both reigned, there was the illusion of fair rules in the media; but that was long before the Internet turned reporting into a root-hog-or-die contest.
For not the last time, a true and good soldier and patriot was done-in by ambitions, if not personal then certainly that his mission would prove a smashing success. But what David Petraeus proposed and Stanley McCrystal practiced was tantamount to Caesar crossing the Rubicon River or Napoleon fleeing from Egypt for greater gain and glory.
Someone must quickly shut down the heresy that allows military figures directly appeal to the public, over the heads of politicians, their constitutionally designated “bosses.” Veterans of Vietnam “know” that that war was lost in the media, not on the battlefield; they are dead wrong. We simply should not have interfered in France’s problems with its colony, Indochina, including Vietnam.
Dwight Eisenhower started, John Kennedy continued, and Lyndon Johnson was emotionally eviscerated by a war in the once grand-imperial mold. There is a stain-glass window in England’s Winchester Cathedral paid for by the family of a young lieutenant speared to death on a totally forgotten African river. As you know, the English “red” that once covered the globe is now virtually restricted to the three small islands that started the painting.
America’s military with clinched jaws reckoned their victory in Vietnam was snatched away by weak politicians and strong media. That is absolute hogwash, which must be relegated to Adolph Hitler’s ranting the World War I German Army was stabbed in the back by various interests, especially the Jews. The ranting furnished the main substance on which der Fuehrer justified the gas ovens and concentration camps.
Washington junked conscription after Vietnam under the assault of lobbyists in uniform; they did not want to fight another war when the enemy they faced was less lethal to their careers than their troops’ friends, affiliates and families – especially the mothers and their tears. Maintaining a professional army enables U.S. military apologists to protest simply: They volunteered; we didn’t force them to join. Not incidentally, centuries long past Julius Caesar the Roman Empire collapsed when citizen-soldiers were replaced by mercenaries.
When draftees were dying, the nation wept, from coast-to-coast. That’s not happening now. Young men and women are sent on multiple combat tours, sky-rocketing their chances to die or be terribly mangled. Aside from families, friends, patriotic organizations and sympathetic individuals, my fellow citizens continue to demonstrate they could care less about battlefield casualties; they are not happening to those they love or know: Vietnam’s draftees and short-time enlistees who joined for a cause.
Equipping military commanders with public relations and media machines preempts civilian authority, and strongly violates the U.S. Constitution, the part that reflects ancient Rome’s laws to prevent the Legions from taking over the whole shebang; they made forcefully illegal any commander’s crossing the Rubicon River, grossly defying the ultimate power in the civilian Senate.
General Petraeus made naked the current American military’s ambition; he told media that he did not take over Afghanistan command to preside over a “graceful exit,” contradicting numerous White House statements and public assurances.
His predecessor, General McCrystal, retired after gross insubordination, for defying civilian control of the armed forces. General McCrystal’s successor was even more insubordinate this week by going over his commander-in-chief’s head. General Petraeus must be replaced…now!
A series of presidents enabled a series of armed forces commanders to grasp more and more power. Allowing admirals and generals to generate propaganda directly to this country’s general population begs for another Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte that would destroy any pretences of democracy.
Unquestionably, before any more grasping occurs, it must be stopped dead in its tracks.