Throughout America’s history, the U. S. Army had been composed of Citizen-Soldiers—at Concord and Lexington, Bull Run and Gettysburg, as well as Normandy Beach and Okinawa—but, that changed after Vietnam. That endless, mindless war caused the American people to regret ever hearing the word, Vietnam, and the impact of that rebuke spread throughout the Army.
I do not use the term Army to suggest our overall Military. The Army’s problems did not spread to the smaller, more focused Marine Corps, and it certainly did not tarnish the more technological Navy and Air Force. It was due to the Army’s more labor-intensive military brand, that it bore the brunt of the Vietnam expansion–from the initial handful of Special Forces (“Green Berets”) Advisors, to 3,500 Marines in 1965, to the 500,000 man Military in 1967, when I arrived “In Country”.
As public sentiment waned, the enlisted men primarily felt used and forgotten, as the war dragged on! Disrespect for authority, and following orders, were no longer an acceptable way of life for many GIs. And, perhaps it worsened after the Tet Offensive of 1968, before which Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to believe communications intercepts that enemy forces were building-up, all around the country. Also, there were instances of “fragging”, live (safety pin pulled) fragmentation grenades being rolled into officers’ tents—killing some.
I just added Andrew J. Bocevich’s “Breach of Trust” to my Books That I Recommend Tab. Bacevich, a West Point Grad who spent 22 years in the Army, is a Professor of History and International Studies at Boston University. His book provides an excellent analysis of how the Army, went about reacting to the Vietnam situation; but, it just made matters worse. In fact, Breach of Trust is quite reminiscent of President Dwight D. Eisenhower—the General who led the Normandy Invasion in World War II—and his warning about the Military Industrial Complex, during his Farewell Address.
The Citizen-Soldier Army, of America’s first 175 years, was transformed into a Professional Warrior Class Army. Whereas, up through Vietnam, the Army was of the People, and literally every American had skin in the game. If your husband, son(s), or (now) daughter wasn’t in uniform, you knew someone who was. Prior to Vietnam, wars were only waged when necessary, winnable and only for a reasonable duration. But, as the U. S. sunk deeper, and deeper into that quagmire, the American People failed to Act.
And now, we have a Professional Army, which is no longer of the People, and no longer for the People. After disbanding the Conscription, or Draft Concept, soldiers’ wages were raised by a fair amount. In prior years, a small group of professional soldiers kept the Army functioning in Peacetime, and the Draft enabled it to expand when necessary and, then it would contract again, once the danger had passed.
But, once America formed a larger Army, composed solely of higher-paid volunteers, the Pentagon needed to justify the higher expenses of a large Peacetime Army? Just like any organization—public or private—duties must be contrived, operations must be planned and missions need to be created. Solution…Permanent Warfare!
Here’s where Ike’s Military-Industrial Complex Admonition comes into perspective. In fact, President Eisenhower wanted to dub it the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex, during his televised Farewell Address; but, he dropped the “Congress” from the final version. When his brother, Milton, asked him why, “General Eisenhower” (as he preferred to be called) replied: “It was more than enough to take on the military and private industry. I couldn’t take on the Congress as well.”
Only one percent of America has any involvement in the wars now Longer wars, however, raise the stature of the professional warrior class, and enable the generals and admirals (”flag officers”) to earn more stars and promotions. The Defense Industry profits from supplying the Toys of War, which the Pentagon now needs in greater quantities, in its never-ending WarfareStrategy. Besides the industry’s substantial campaign contributions, they are willing to spread the manufacture of weapons among a number of Congressional Districts—at reduced efficiency, but the added costs are just passed on to the Taxpayer.
In June of 2012, I wrote a post on this blog “Re-enact the Military Draft”, which is one of my most read posts. We need to get the American People back engaged; because, the death and destruction, caused in our name, surely doesn’t reflect positively on America. Focus on the important, necessary wars and require Congress to provide the civilian oversight that was written into our Constitution, some 240 years ago. Otherwise, we will just continue to spread mass death and destruction overseas, as we squander our resources—both our Treasury and our Future Generations!
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