As President Trump heads off on an overseas trip, trailing Washington scandals in his wake, it’s worth reminding ourselves of America’s prodigious global presence and the profligate expense at which it comes. As David Vine notes in his latest article for TomDispatch.com, the USA has something like 800 military bases overseas, which must be garrisoned and maintained at a cost of roughly $150 billion each and every year. What exactly are we getting for this colossal global footprint?
Come to think of it, why do we need 800 overseas bases? Our aircraft carriers are basically mobile American bases, and much of our weaponry (Tomahawk cruise missiles, long-range bombers, and Reaper drones, for example) obviates the need for physical bases in foreign lands.
Of course, there are many reasons why these bases persist. One is the influence they give us (or that we think they give us) in places like Turkey and South Korea, for example. Second is the fear American officials have of losing their leading roles on the world stage, i.e. the concern that, if we abandon “our” bases, other countries will take them over, and we will be shunted aside, losing our starring role in world affairs.
Indeed, you could say Americans are the divos and divas of the world stage, elbowing our way into operatic tragedy after operatic tragedy.
Third (always a consideration) is money. There’s so much money to be made from these bases, and so many U.S. contractors involved in making it. And fourth is intelligence. Americans think these bases are essential to gathering intelligence, even as our “intelligence” routinely proves wrong or incomplete.
I spent three years in Britain at U.S. bases there (“Little Americas”), and could have been assigned to U.S. bases in Iceland and Turkey, but the latter never materialized. It’s funny: When you’re in the military, you never give much thought to why we have bases in faraway places. You just take it for granted; it’s the status quo for us.
(As an aside, think of the irony here of Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Even as Americans are everywhere in the world, thrusting our way into foreign countries with our militarized bases, we boast of building walls to keep other peoples out of “Fortress USA.” Only “exceptional” U.S. officials could see no contradiction here.)
Select foreign bases have some value, but the U.S. has far too many at far too high a cost. We’d do well to stop investing in them and to start closing them. American bases in Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere are not the key to our security. Our security begins right here at home.
Remember that saying, “Yankee go home”? Why don’t we?
26 thoughts on “Base World: The Pentagon’s Profligate and Prodigious Presence”
As usual， spot－on and well put。
Americans suffer from appalling level of ignorance, about the world out there. Most of it is acquired by our sanitized version of history and an old Soviet style Pravda Press here at work in the USA – our McMega-Media. The Corporate Press has been nearly non-stop cheerleaders for the Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex since the end of WW 2. Vietnam was an exception, but only when it became obvious the glowing battlefield commander reports and the press releases from the Pentagon and State Department contradicted what reporters were witnessing.
Honest reporting on the situation in Vietnam by the press, created the press as an enemy – they were not on Team USA. The press continued to do an effective job during Watergate and eventually hearings were held (Church Committee among others) that revealed some of the dirty laundry, i.e., Operation Mockingbird, Operation Mongoose, and Operation Northwoods. There maybe others but Iran-Contra was maybe a last gasp by the big corporate press at investigative reporting. By the time of Gulf War 1 and Gulf War 2, the McMega-Media were all on Team USA. The press was embedded in more ways than one.
There are some “third rails” our McMega-Media will not touch. It must not ever be reported that Saudi Arabia or the Gulf Oil States are dictatorships. The Castro regime could be labeled a Communist Dictatorship and vilified, but Communist China receives a free pass. Another third rail is if we are a peace loving nation why has the USA been involved in more wars since the end of WW 2, than any other nation on earth??
Certainly, all these bases inflate the bottom lines of the defense industry, but they are also vitally important to making the world safe for multi-national corporations.
Yes. So much for “making the world safe for democracy.” As Vine notes in his article, U.S. bases are in many authoritarian countries, effectively propping up many authoritarian regimes (as long as they continue to play ball with U.S. officials and corporate agendas, of course).
On the occasion of another former U.S. serviceman/servicewoman walking free after years in prison for telling the American people the truth about their vaunted Visigoths rampaging overseas, something I wrote five years ago:
“The Ship of State leaks from the top” — U.S. President John F. Kennedy
“Kill the chicken, scare the monkey” — Ancient Chinese proverb
Free Bradley Manning (in forty-four syllables)
Barack Obama who
Hates him some leakers (just
Not from the top),
Makes an example of
Low-level privates so
Don’t have to stop.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2012
Walk free now and enjoy the rest of your life, Chelsea Manning. And thank you.
Yes. I just read a comment by someone who’s outraged that Manning has walked free. Sharing secrets and all that — she must be punished forever!
Manning is a person of conscience. And whether one agrees or disagrees with her actions, she has certainly paid the price.
Walk free, indeed.
A great cartoon by Mr Fish:
“Washington D.C. 5 seconds before [and 5 seconds after] a real American hero was released from Fort Leavenworth after serving 7 years of a 35-year sentence for the unforgivable crime of sharing information that proved to the world that the United States is a heartless plutocracy held together by rage and bullshit and wouldn’t recognize the inspiring thunder of truth, bravery and public service if it detonated, like the voice of God Almighty, across the deaf and comatose republic.”
That about covers it.
I once served at a small “base” located on the banks of a dirty brown saltwater river about two kilometers from the southernmost tip of Vietnam. Back then we called such a remote and isolated outpost an ATSB, or “Advanced Tactical Support Base.” These days — because the U.S. military always needs new names for the same old shit our generals keep reinventing — we call them an FOB, or “Forward Operating Base.” Ten years ago, when I heard about General David Petraeus and his swell plan to spread out our military forces “among the people” of Iraq so as to “provide them with security” and stuff like that, I thought: “Oh, sure. I can see how that would work. Just like it did back in Southeast Asia forty years ago.” Anyway, I thought a bit about the “new” terminology introduced by our genius generals and came up with my own version of the plan. Call it:
Mini Green Zone Outpost Diaspora
Far from the Green Zone Castle
In mini-Green-Zone forts
Our scattered forces “mingle”
With RPG retorts
Then when the ambush happens
The cavalry replies
And rides off to the rescue
With any handy guys
It takes perhaps an hour
Once timely news arrives
Of dead and injured soldiers
And lost Iraqi lives
Somewhere we’ve got a mission
That no one can explain
It promises to triumph
With just a bit more pain
For sure, we hear, our “leaders”
In uniform and not
With yet more blood and billions
Could plan an “ink stain” spot
They work in bits and pieces
A little here and there
And see some hints of “progress”
Just never any where
They travel to the future
And tell us what they’ve seen:
That things, absent their fuck-ups,
Would soon get really mean
We need them to continue,
They say of what they’ve done,
Because if we stop losing
The “bad guys” will have “won”
The country’s off its rocker
When talk like this persists
While troop retention withers
And no one new enlists
Yet if they wreck the Army
Perhaps some good will come
For with no foreign legion
They might not act so dumb
It hurts to lose our soldiers
But many profit, too
So why give up the gravy
Slurped by the greedy few?
The country’s lost its marbles
That such a thing should be
As suits and brass commanding
Naught but their perfidy
We’ve learned of those “belief tanks”
Where no one thinks of doubt
And “scholars” scream for “going in”
But not for getting out
We’ve got the dumbest “leaders”
Who ever walked the earth:
Those lowered expectations
Of less than zero worth
So tell us of the “new” plan
We cannot wait to hear
The brilliant scheme you’ve cooked up:
What next we have to fear
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007
Mike: Nice reference to the ink stain/blot theory. I swear I just got this ink blot quote from a military briefing on-line: “Ink blot strategy: pacifying a given area establishes its presence in a location where the population is most supportive of its efforts, or where an area of
key strategic importance can be secured.”
Now, trying to render that into English: winning control of an area, then growing the gains outwards, like an ink blot. We tried that in Vietnam in the 1960s. We tried that in Afghanistan in 2009-10. Didn’t work. Not at a price we were willing to pay to sustain the “ink blot.” And that price wasn’t in ink, but in blood and money.
Yet another disastrous metaphor. People and public support are not ink blots. Reality is nothing like that. Reality is far more complicated; and ink blots can be shrunk, or effaced — or erased.
Note* cliché: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
Right on about the disastrous metaphors, Bill. We can also call these frozen figures of speech thought-terminating clichés, a term coined by the historical psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton. Every time I hear or read about one of our military masterminds attempting to explain strategy and/or tactics by spewing this kind of post-modern mumbo-jumbo, I want to scream “Bullshit!” As DIY therapy for having to listen to this crap for decades upon decades, I made it my business to collect these artless arrangements of word-like noises into lines of verse so that I could at least make some creative use of them. Like, for instance:
The Tipping Point Turns the Corner
Around the next corner the tipping point turns
As the good ship capsizes and sinks
While the mad metaphors and flawed figures of speech
Guarantee that no one really thinks
So the dots get connected with crayon lines drawn
By the journalists flogging clichés
Like astrologers linking the stars into shapes
Telling fortunes as long as it pays
At the end of the tunnel the dominoes fall
As the oil spots to flypaper stick
With his boots on, George Custer fights to the last man
Making even the strong stomach sick
As they stood up, we stood down — just not right away
With our shoulders to shoulders we marched
When the morning came corpses piled up in the morgues
Like some laundry loads unwashed and starched
Like the city that shines on the top of a hill
With a thousand or more points of light
Now the current flows only an hour a day
So in sweltering blackness they fight
They’ve a government, now, freely chosen at last
By the parties that somehow had won
Our ambassador, though, had to choose their PM
When we didn’t like what they had done
Sure, they can’t leave the Green Zone without getting killed
Our officials, too, travel by plane
Sneaking into and out of the country unseen
By the people who think us insane
But he won’t cut and run says the man who ain’t there
From his purpose he swears he won’t swerve
“Bring ’em on!” taunts the juvenile joker in jeans
Clearing brush on his Texas preserve
As the world watched in horror, he drove off a cliff
Then he stumbled around in a daze
Now he says – after three years of chaos and death –
That he might have misused a trite phrase
“It’s as easy as shootin’ a bird in a cage,”
Says the Texas stud hamster of quail
When the rodents ride roughshod the feathered will flee
From the drunken dudes gone off the trail
And we’ve got us some mantras from Vietnam days
Like “we’re there ’cause we’re there ’cause we’re there”
So when once we go somewhere, that means we can’t leave
Like that German boot-planting affair
And the logic swirls faster in circles that swim
Like our friends won’t respect a retreat
See, they’d rather we kept acting stupid and blind
Till we wind up a pile of dead meat
And our foes will not fear us if we should act smart
Which assumes that they fear us when dumb
An American innocence, surely, that comes
From a depth that you simply can’t plumb
The octopus fascist sings swan songs sedate
Reinventing the same words and tune
So the president babbles of going to Mars
When we can’t even get to the Moon
Like the light of an oncoming train in the dark
We see hopefulness ever draw near
We’re on track, can’t you see, to a glorious dawn
So we’ll stay the curse, never you fear
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006
So, let us untie our hands, take the gloves off, run it up the flagpole, and grab ’em by the balls so their hearts and minds will follow. I almost lost my mind at that little ATSB called “Seafloat/Solid Anchor,” but I escaped to start life over again almost from scratch. It took me awhile to learn how to live with the memories, but I feel better now. And you can take that to the bank.
Another one that’s trendy is “all options are on the table,” by which U.S. leaders mean threats of military attacks. “All options are on the table” with North Korea, or for Iran’s nuclear program, or for anyone else we don’t like.
Now, why should that surprise any foreign leader? The other point: it’s a very large table that fits all options.
Just speaking of clichés, remember the Bumper Sticker Wars = These Colors don’t Run, Support the Troops, and the flowers and the proliferation of American Flags.
The following items are not from some satire site like the Onion, they are true.
Professional Sports have periodic tributes to support the troops. May 14, 2015, the Department of Defense has paid at least $6 million in taxpayer money to 16 NFL teams across the country, including $377,500 to the Jets, with the bulk spent by the National Guard. U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, said most in the general public believe the segments were heartfelt salutes by their hometown football team, not an advertising campaign paid for with their money. The Guard defended the arrangement as an effective recruitment tool for the force, and the Jets pointed out numerous other ways in which they support the military. http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/05/which_nfl_teams_are_getting_your_federal_tax_dolla.html
March 13, 2017, Cambodians are responding with outrage to the U.S. government’s demand that the country repay a nearly 50-year-old loan to Cambodia’s brutal Lon Nol government. Between 1965 and 1973, as it fought what would prove to be a losing war in neighboring Vietnam, the United States dropped an estimated 500,000 tons of explosives on eastern Cambodia. United States said the money was still owed, with interest and late fees, though it offered rescheduling on favorable terms. Since then the debt has swelled to $506 million. >> Not exactly a Marshall Plan spirit here. <<<
Good points about the Pentagon tax subsidies for sports-franchise propaganda events that “promote the troops” and — by implication — America’s now-permanent “wars.” But even more shameless than the American loan repayment demand, I read not long ago where the Southeast Asian victims of our massive air bombardments and crop defoliation attacks asked the United States to pay reparations, whereupon the U.S. refused, saying “the destruction was mutual.” I defy anyone to top that for unadulterated cluelessness.
If we paid them, Mike, where would it end? I bet that’s what U.S. officials were thinking. Recall recent reports of all the bombs we’ve been dropping in the Greater Middle East. Few people consider the aftermath of all these munitions.
There are still people being killed in Southeast Asia from unexploded U.S. ordnance, along with the persistent cancerous effects of Agent Orange and similar chemicals.
Even when war is over, it’s never over. It persists in the minds and bodies of participants and victims as well as the land itself — the environment, I should say, since it poisons water as well as land.
War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
As a follow-on to your comments about the “all options on the table” cliché, Bill, I remember once hearing someone compare these sorts of “choices” to shopping for a new suit of clothes and having the salesman offer you any shade of khaki that you like. For new presidents like Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump, the Pentagram normally provides a full palette of khaki troop escalation options: namely, a little escalation, a lot of escalation, or just the right amount of escalation. For some reason, the “no escalation” option never seems to make it onto the table. And never say “withdrawal.” Always say “drawdown.” The one implies leaving, the other implies staying at a reduced level until the opportunity for escalation again presents itself, like now with new President Trump.
When I worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company as a manufacturing planner and computer programmer, one of my managers explained to me the bureaucratic concept of “slow ramping.” He said that when you wanted something from higher management, you first need to figure out what you really needed for your project. Then, figuring that your boss will only give you half of what you ask for, you double your request. Then, when you only get half of what you asked for, you actually get what you thought you needed in the first place. This has the added benefit that when your project doesn’t pan out you can blame your management for not giving you everything that you asked for. So when your boss asks you how much more you need to finish the job, you ask for twice what you think you need and repeat the process. This explains starting out with a few hundred special forces “advisers” in South Vietnam and ending up with over half a million regular ground, sea, and air forces seven years later. The U.S. military has long since perfected the practice of “slow ramping.” You would think that American presidents would have learned this by now.
I have often struggled with trying to find a poetic image that would illustrate this tendency of the U.S. military to hyper-inflate everything they touch. I imagined a president assigning them the job of providing balloons to a group of kids having a party on the White House lawn. I could just see our generals and admirals hooking up a high-pressure air hose to a pack of condoms, inflating them with hydrogen gas into a fleet of Goodyear blimps, Hindenburg dirigibles, and “Lead” Zeppelins, covering the entire city skyline with tumescent phallic symbols and blocking out the sun — until they began exploding in toxic balls of flame. Something like that.
I did do some work in verse trying to exploit this thought-terminating “all options are on the table” cliché. My Taiwanese wife helped. She never tires of reminding me of when Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House and immediately declared “Impeachment is off the table.” Said my wife at the time: “Well, there goes another election down the drain.” She will never let me forget that. Anyway:
The Answer Off the Table
(From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley)
The bankrupt brainless blowhard beast defies
The reason to contest stupidity.
Grown fat and lazy on its loathsome lies,
The perpetrating predator feels free
To gorge upon the surface spoils of war:
Domestic profit far as eyes can see
Where foreign puppets groomed to play the whore
Return a portion of their greedy gains
To congressmen who leave us poor and sore,
While death upon a target people rains
And soldiers into pudding pounded are
By roadside bombs. How little now remains
Of them and us who suffer while we spar
Against the bogus baby made of tar.
Our new commander in his briefs has bought
The dreary drug of endless, pointless fights
And thus cannot discern the Truth he ought
That Quagmire in its sophistry delights
In making men of straw, red-herrings, too:
Those lifeless foes whose fragile feeble slights
Prove easy for the brain-dead to outdo;
A dialectic dodge that paints “extreme”
On any choices obvious and true,
Which leaves decision “centered” in a dream.
The feckless failures flail about and flop.
With each New Year they COIN a great new scheme.
We hear of “options” on the table top,
Just not the one to clearly think and stop.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2009
Might as well throw in this one. I did it for my wife, so that she would stop laughing at me and my “American democracy.” Who now can recall the last time that Democrats actually won a mid-term election promising to cut off funding for illegal wars and removing from office the lying sons-of-bitches who started them?
Nancy the Negotiator
Nancy the Negotiator
Gives up first; surrenders later;
Takes her cards from off the table,
Then recites her loser fable:
“We don’t have the votes we need,”
Nancy says, in tones that bleed:
“Mean Republicans will whine
If we do not toe their line.”
Nancy bows to George and Dick
While her skinny ass they kick;
Writes them checks both blank and rubber,
Then proceeds to lamely blubber:
“We don’t like what Dubya’s doing.
Still, we quite enjoy the screwing.
Masochism’s what we offer,
Helping crooks to loot the coffer”
“Sure, the squandered blood and treasure
Goes to those we will not measure.
Still, we promise you’ll adore us
If you mark your ballot for us.”
“Choices you don’t have assail you,
Leaving only us who fail you.
Nonetheless, we’ve gotten fatter.
Why, then, should we think you matter?”
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007
Does anyone still not know why Donald Trump won election to the presidency last year?
Michael, your thoughts on “Nancy the Negotiator” brings to mind an interesting story Ray McGovern told in the comments section of the following article:
May 20, 2017 at 11:34 am
Prof. Stephen F. Cohen is right that the Intel agencies are a 4th branch of government. I’m reading David Talbot’s “The Devil’s Chessboard” while this is going on, and one can see how right he is. Allen Dulles and his right hand man, James Jesus Angleton, resented any butting into their CIA work by any high government officials. It is amazing that Americans never seemed to wake up to the brutal, wretched activities of the CIA as unacceptable behavior to be reviled, until we now are finally getting a real account of the sordid details. What is different now, however, is how the press is not doing its job as an arbiter of fact rather than acting as propagandists, which is why this saga with Trump’s official beginning as President is so twisted. I actually don’t blame Trump for anymore than not knowing how to pick good cabinet and assistants due to his political inexperience. I also believe that if Clinton had gotten elected, we would have a corresponding circus from the other side. The American “democratic” political system I consider long gone due to corruption by money.
I was thinking last night that, if Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama had not backed away when many Americans wanted Bush and Cheney to be held accountable for their heinous crimes in Iraq, we would have a higher standard for government now. If anyone should have been impeached when he lied about WMDs and for the way the war on Iraq was conducted, it was George W. Bush. Trump doesn’t deserve impeachment any more than many members of Congress, and the Supreme Court should have been impeached for the Citizens United decision. This is a farce…
May 20, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Thanks, Jessica K, for sharing the following observation:
“I was thinking last night that, if Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama had not backed away when many Americans wanted Bush and Cheney to be held accountable for their heinous crimes in Iraq, we would have a higher standard for government now.”
I think you are completely correct. After the Democrats won back the House in the 2006 election, Cindy Sheehan and I had a private talk with the Judiciary Committee’s John Conyers in his office. It was just after Conyers had taken the chair of the committee again. Besides the three of us, there were three of Conyers’s lawyers.
What do you want, Conyers asked. Impeachment of George W. Bush, we answered. Conyers: But Nancy Pelosi has removed impeachment from the table; it’s not going to happen. Why, we asked. Because Nancy says that, if we Democrats appear divisive, we will not win as big in 2008.
So I said: But the Constitution leaves you no alternative. If launching war of aggression on made-up “intelligence” is not a high crime, I don’t know what is.
“There is nothing in the Constitution that says John Conyers has to start impeachment proceedings,” Mr. CIA man, says the chairman.
I ask, Who is chair of the House Judiciary Committee?
Conyers, I am he. But we could not line up the votes anyway.
Sure you could, says I, as Conyers’ three lawyers almost pee-ed in their pants. (Apparently, you don’t talk like that to a CHAIRMAN.)
I refused to leave his office. He called the cops; I was arrested. Went to trial and was convicted for “illegal assembly,” a story I relish telling my grandchildren; some of them are already old enough to understand what the implications of what happened… and what is happening to our Republic.
I was, ok, “shocked.” Not so much at seeing at first hand how craven politics was thwarting implementation of the impeachment provision in the U.S. Constitution, a provision that our Founders were prescient enough to include in our founding document — but even more by the casual “justification” adduced by Conyers for his cowardice; no shame there, just practical politics.
There is, of course, a fully legal way to remove presidents who start unnecessary wars based on fraudulent intelligence. And the was cast, and the House prepared. Dennis Kucinich had listed and described some 50 of W’s impeachable offenses; Conyers was the responsible chairman in the House to begin impeachment proceedings. Yet, he elected to bow to Nancy — for the greater glory of Democrats in November 2008. Yuk.
Later, I learned that Pelosi’s motivation was probably worse than simply crass politics and disregard of the Constitution. My NSA alumni associates and others have reminded me that Nancy was briefed on illegal eavesdropping, torture, and other such activites conducted by the intelligence agencies she pretended she was OVERSEEING in her long-tenure leadership position in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. And she knew, of course, that there were all those memoranda of conversation written by the CIA ops people/congressional briefers, once they got back to Headquarters about how fully briefed she was.
Talk about being vulnerable to blackmail! Nancy was and remains thoroughly compromised. (Benighted Sally Yates should interview Pelosi, if she is interested in how high officials become really — not just notionally — compromised.) Pelosi even made some pre-emptive complaints back in those days about how the CIA has a practice of lying to you.
In sum, the session with Conyers — and the Dems refusal to start impeachment proceedings — showed me how far the Dems have come from the day of FDR, whom my father respected so much — not least, for his concern for the little guy.
Confronting the once-respected erstwhile chair of the House Judiciary Committee and seeing him all too willing to kowtow to the Dem politician “in charge” and then defend the kowtowing as he talked with us simple citizens taught me a whole lot. It was VERY worth getting arrested for.
(And who is to say what kind of dirt the Deep State has on Conyers?)
As for the Dems, I was a BIC (Bronx Irish Catholic) back in the day when membership in the Democratic Party was conferred at Baptism — along with automatic future membership in the local union. My union membership has expired; I view the Democratic Party with increasinglyly sad contempt (and am glad Dad is not around to see what has happened to it); I remain a Catholic — not because there’s no way to sign out — but far more because I continue to share the open, accepting, ecumenical vision of good pope John XXXIII, the aversion to war of John Kennedy, and the basic tenets of Catholic social teaching, which are no longer invoked in this land — seldom even from the pulpit. Those tenets remain the most well hidden secret of basic Catholic faith. What about taking care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger (the so-called “alien”).
There is very little difference in the behavior of the institutional churches from the way they behaved after Germany’s “9/11,” the burning of the Reichstag in January 1933.
Thus, “good” (but ignorant) Catholics can “in good conscience” vote for Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.
Years ago, a friend of mine, who became President of John Jay University in New York City, had the courage to blurt out before 3,000 well heeled participants in a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, “I have heard it said — ‘Give an Irishman a clean pair of underwear, and he’ll vote Republican every time.” He was greeted with unalloyed boo-ing by the participants who then went back to sipping their cognac and smoking their cigars.
O Tempora, O Mores!
So true, Mike. Any shade of khaki you want. Perfect.
As you noted, Mike, give the people a choice between tepid Republicans (Hillary and Crew) and scalding ones (Trump & Co.) and they’ll take the scalding.
The Democratic Party is still run by limousine liberals with a certain contempt for the people. The Republicans? They don’t mask their contempt. They sell it. Put us in charge and we’ll cut our own taxes for your benefit. Ha!
If nothing else, you have to admire the brazen honesty of the Elephant Party, so great at trumpeting their own agenda. As opposed to the braying and kicking asses of the Democrats.
The ‘slow ramping’ reminds me of another addiction of US authorities: fancy acronyms.
Never mind the contents let alone quality of whatever they describe, as long as the acronym is’sexy’.
Thus the first USAID agricultural ‘success story’ in Afghanistan was called RAMP. (Always check your catch words for meaning in other languages. In Dutch for instance ‘ramp’ means ‘disaster’ and that quickly caught on.) Don’t even remember what it stood for. Its follow-up program was called ASAP: Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Program. Everyone with even the foggiest idea of the time needed for agricultural developments in general – let alone for them to be sustainable – will appreciate the absurdity of sustainable agriculture being ‘accelerated’. To fit presidential election PR requirements and ultimately the catchy acronym.
Not to mention the various military campaign titles, from ‘Desert Storm’ to ‘Enduring Freedom'(as if there ever had been any to start with). Wonder whether they apply some hidden logic when choosing them, like all the names of race horses born in any particular year having to start with the same letter? Or maybe they throw dice to choose the next surge’s initials, or some general ‘honours’ his wife and/or mom by choosing theirs? After which they organise an old-fashioned game with a medal as prize : what can we make from an E and an F? Forever Evil? Eternal Folly? First Exit? Ending Freedom?
As for clichés, my most detested ones are : ‘We are making every effort to avoid civilian casualties’, ‘We will increase our efforts to avoid civilian casualties’ and most of all, after having caused civilian casualties: ‘We will thoroughly investigate what happened’, after which there usually only is deafening silence and in the best of cases : it was an unfortunate misunderstanding.
Eternal Folly: So droll and deadly. As a young LT, I remember a senior civilian explaining to me that projects often lived or died based largely on their acronyms. Come up with a clever, memorable, acronym and you were almost guaranteed funding. A great example is the ASAP project you cite above. How can anyone be against sustainable agriculture achieved “as soon as possible”?
Until, of course, you think about it. Haste makes waste, especially when you’re trying to grow food in a sustainable and rational way.
But, and here’s the value of acronyms, why bother thinking, when the acronyms do the thinking for you?
Full speed ahead on project ASAP. Yes, sir!
The ink spot or more like ink blot had as one origin point during the French-Indochina War with the agrovilles.
This would morph into during Diem regime into Strategic Hamlet Program. Per Roger Hilsman, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, “Each strategic village will be protected by a ditch and a fence of barbed wire. It will include one or more observation towers…the area immediately around the village will be cleared for fields of fire and the area approaching the clearing, including the ditch, will be strewn with booby-traps…and other personal obstacles. The Strategic Hamlet Program began implementation in March 1962.
Forcible relocation was used. In an interview, a resident of a hamlet in Vinh-Long described the situation: “It is dangerous in my village because the civil guard from the district headquarters cross the river to the village only in the daytime…leaving the village unprotected at night. The village people have no protection from the Viet Cong so they will not inform on them to the authorities.”
I was a grunt 11B type along the Cambodian border (rain forest) and then into Cambodia from 1970-71. Other astute grunts that had been involved with operations in populated areas had this to relate: They would sweep through villages during the day. The VC and NVA had made it clear, just remember when the Americans leave at night we will still be here.
The Strategic Hamlet Program failed in reality but not on the Silver Screen. The Green Berets movie was chock full of cliches, too numerous to mention. I had to go to WIKI, to refresh my memory. It was the Vietnam War equivalent of “Reefer Madness”.
I suspect the villager in Vietnam that long ago revealed the failure of the Strategic Hamlets (Ink Spot) has numerous counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In addition to the ludicrous “oil spot” and “flyaper” metaphors employed by the U.S. military to avoid actually thinking about why they can never get this “counter insurgency” thing right, I don’t think anyone can top the “termite killer” metaphor for sheer insanity. Consider:
“In early 1967 [General William] Westmoreland gave a most complicated and interesting explanation for the rationale behind the President’s “ceiling” on the number of American troops. “If,” he said, “you crowd in too many termite killers, each using a screwdriver to kill the termites, you risk collapsing the floors or the foundation. In this war, we’re using screwdrivers to kill termites because it’s a guerilla war and we cannot use bigger weapons. We have to get the right balance of termite killers to get rid of the termites without wrecking the house.” To continue this extraordinary metaphor, the American force had managed to wreck the house without killing the termites; they had, further, managed to make the house uninhabitable for anyone except termites. In a different manner, they had made the [American-created puppet government] house unlivable as well.” — Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, pp. 460-461 (Westmoreland quoted in Newsweek, 27 March 1967 – almost a year before the Tet Offensive of 1968)
And speaking of the term “guerrilla war,” as referenced by General Westmoreland and others of his type, I read not long ago where someone had lost touch with the Spanish “guerrilla” and had typed “Gorilla war,” instead. I really liked that. I propose that we make it our standard nomenclature when discussing U.S. military operations, generally.
The picture at the beginning of this article is credited to a USAF photographer but who wrote the caption? Surely not you, Colonel Bill — because of the reference to “Ramstein AFB”. (You of course know better.) Last I heard, a USAF base located outside of the USA, such as Ramstein, was not called an Air _Force_ Base but rather simply an Air Base (e.g., Yokota Air Base and Bagram Air Base, to name a couple others). What an embarrassing gaffe, for someone.
Thanks, Henry. Yes, I know better, but it’s my fault. Typing without thinking.
I just joined your blog this AM, though for years when I saw ‘Astore’, I’d click, read, agree, and enjoy. Through your description of “retired” USAF, I guessed you about my age: 70. I was way off!
Anyway, your ‘Real Red Scare’ essay really hit me. Retired in France, I just returned from the ‘Snakes’ for 2 weeks, and the irony is I came to the same conclusions you did: capitalism & communism seem to be meeting, destroying the very societies they claimed to be saving!
Growing up on Long Island, in the same house since the 50’s, visiting my 98yo mother, I went into a ‘time zone’ I’ve never experienced before! It’s all the same, but needs a coat of paint – at the very least. Of course the problems are far more severe and alien to me: LI Newsday tells of daily opoid, dui, murders, etc. the last 24 hours. The paper also squabbles over our once proud Northport Veterans Hospital, now falling apart. Condominiums anyone? Property breathtaking! Already successful with condos in part of nearby Pilgrim State, once the largest Federal mental health hospital in America, I met plenty of crazies on Huntington’s public bus ‘system’, for lack of a better word.
I never agreed with Karl Marx’s notion that “In the end, capitalism destroys itself”, but I’m having second thoughts….
Thanks for joining and commenting!
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