Wednesday, May 13, 2009



I had Posted recently (here and here) about Harvard and the military, in honor of General Petraeus’s recent visit and the remarkably coincidental Dear-Mr.-Gable OpEd penned by a female Army major who just happened to be a student at Harvard.

Now comes a male major, also a student, and he too has been given an OpEd. This lad has more creds: a former company commander in Iraq.

The gist of his piece is that you (meaning, in terms of paying the bill, We) can educate 5,769 Army officers for the price of one cancelled F-22 fighter aircraft.*


The thought of sending 5,769 Army officers (or double or triple or quintuple the amount if you factor in more than one F-22) to college – and to Harvard! – should neither console nor inspire. We have a number of war-colleges replete with faculty and DOD-levels of funding for the ‘scholarship’. We have a second tier of ‘schools’ and ‘programs’ available for officers at mid-grade levels, run by the assorted Service training-and-education commands.

And to Harvard? Do We want military officers getting the idea that the Harvard philosopher John Rawls put into the heads of generations of law and philosophy students: that only those who ‘get it’ (meaning that they ‘get’ Rawls’s particular – and peculiar – vision of how the world and America should work) are really entitled to direct the course of the nation’s development and activity, and that such enlightenment even justifies bypassing the Constitution and democratic political processes so that this grand vision can be implemented by judges and ‘Correct’ public intellectuals? Can you imagine what is going to happen if the Army officers start to conduct that same type of ‘revolution’ that the gender-feminists and the Politically-Correct ‘elites’ have been waging for three decades now?

Harvard’s track record has not been good in the past half-century. The ‘whiz kids’ of the Vietnam era, the aforementioned Rawls and his spawn, the bunch of big-name ‘experts’ sent over under Clinton to help the Russians become a capitalist democracy, the big-name business whizzes who helped bring on the current economic catastrophe … it’s bad enough that folks are still sending their kids there, let alone having the Army send its officers into the middle of that crockpot.

But maybe it’s all just a cynical matter of ‘status’ now; it’s not what you learn, it’s the fact that you’ve got the school ring. And entrée to the alumni database and the ‘network’. Oy.

After all, if it’s all only a matter of how you ‘feel’ about yourself, then the Army can just buy a couple-three thousand boxes of Harvard tee-shirts or ties and let the uniformed gentlepersons wear those and look at themselves long enough in a mirror. Thus fortified, they may carry the cause – in that marvelous film phrase – “to infinity … and beyond!”. What’s not to like?

We are, the major very accurately points out, heading into an “era of persistent conflict”. Oy, yes. Nor (see my immediately previous Post) does this mean that the troops will be fighting continuously and all over the shop for ‘liberty’ and to ‘liberate’. We are heading into an era of ‘resource wars’ where, just like in less enlightened ages of human history, the ‘strong’ will have to do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep themselves supplied and any potential rivals under-supplied. Indeed, national strategic policy has actually said that very thing: US policy henceforth will include making sure that no ‘rivals’ arise. Oy gevalt.

Our military is on its way to becoming an 18th-19th century British military: a whole mess of hapless little guys being sent, in all manner of ridiculous headgear and the trumpery of military expeditions, always in insufficient numbers, to face ‘natives’ on their own turf. Nor will it be a decisive advantage that “we have got / the Maxim gun, and they have not”. Nowadays, the so-called ‘natives’ have purchased the best modern weaponry from arms dealers (American, Israeli, and entrepreneurial Russian practitioners high on the list); in a weird replay of Army experience on the frontier in the Indian wars, troopers and their officers will discover that enterprising capitalists have been selling repeating-rifles to the tribes, even while the always outnumbered cavalry is desperately relying on the tribes having single-shot weapons to compensate for the disparity in numbers of boots-on-the-ground (or butts-on-the-horse, really). Sweet blessed frak.

Nor will it help the boots much that in the steppes of Central Asia, as it were, there is a mighty battle-group of super-duper American aircraft carriers just a thousand miles away. Carrier aircraft aren’t ‘long-legged’ by the nature of their design-constrictions, and putting missile-carrying super-drones on the carriers simply replays the same problem that you get with drones now shooting up the tribes under the control of consoles operated by ‘pilots’ in Nevada or Arizona, working under the pressure of having to stop and get a cake for their kid’s birthday party as soon as they get off-shift. Gad-frakking-zooks.

The major recalls a bit of his combat experience: Iraqi soldiers, when their vehicles encountered IEDs, would leap off their trucks and perform ‘the death blossom’: they would shoot wildly in all directions. Just that. I cannot but sympathize genuinely and deeply with the now-Major and with any combat officers We have sent into that part of the world. But it also comes to me: if this is the level of competence that We have to work with among Our local ‘allies’, then We – and Our boots – are so hugely screwed already. And if that’s the quality of instinctive or ‘default’ response to challenges that the local culture and history has imprinted upon those ‘allies’, then We are in much deeper and darker water than We (or the Beltway ‘brains’) ever imagined.

So, I think I am not inclined to agree with the Major. Sure, let him stay there and soak up all the useful information he can. Then let him go back to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and put together a course that can be taught to officers through the military education channels. True, the officers thus educated will miss out on such highpoints of elite education as brunch at the Kennedy School and discounts at the Harvard Coop.**

But not to worry – I’m sure the Army can call the Coop and get the tee-shirts and ties by the crateful at a decent discount.


*For the non-military, the F-22 is a ridiculously expensive and complicated manned aircraft that was conceived to counter Soviet fighters. It is just now getting sort of together. Which in itself indicates that the old Soviet central defense-and-economic planning didn’t die with the Soviet Union; the Soviet Gosplan approach simply migrated to the Pentagon.

What the military actually could have used was a fighter like the Soviet Sturmovik: simple, rugged, inexpensive, but lethally competent at supporting ground forces. But – oy! – the Air Force had just such an aircraft, the A-10 Warthog, the soldier’s savior. But there’s no glory – according to Air Force ‘thinking’ – in providing ground support to boots-on-the-ground; the Air Force fought its own aircraft tooth and nail, and went so far as to scrap a bunch of them just so that it wouldn’t get stuck with ‘ground support’ chores.

The much-reduced number of A-10s is still doing yeoman service on the Eastern Front now, much to the relief and gratitude of the bethump’t boots. Talk about supporting the troops … Also, an A-10 pilot, trained and observant, flying low and slow enough to distinguish between friend and foe, is a lot less likely to blow up wedding parties, schools, and religious gatherings.

**An alert reader might be forgiven for wondering if this entire OpEd is merely a trial balloon for an elite-university drive to capture wads of ‘stimulus’ and ‘bailout’ money by taking on the ‘education’ of thousands of serving military officers.

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