• September 5, 2015

Warrior Nation

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Larry Towell, Magnum Photos

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Larry Towell, Magnum Photos

"Endless War" is how The New York Times headlined its review of the Boston University historian Andrew J. Bacevich's new book, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. It's a headline that will work just as well if the Times decides to review Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War by Richard E. Rubenstein, a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University. In fact, either Bacevich or Rubenstein could accurately have chosen "Endless War" as his own book's title.

The occasion for both books, as well as for the City University of New York journalism and political-science professor Peter Beinart's recent The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, is the start of the 10th year of continuous (and at least seemingly endless) war by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, and—factoring in what the Times estimates is "roughly a dozen" secret military campaigns against terrorist groups based in other countries—around the world . Add those to the list of previous wars and military operations during the past 30 years: Nicaragua, Grenada, Libya, Panama,  Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

Bacevich, Rubenstein, and Beinart agree that war has been a prominent feature of American life for a very long time. They just disagree over how long and, by implication, how deeply embedded war is in America's identity as a nation. Unfortunately, as pessimistic as each of them is about the future (pretty pessimistic), their outlook may not be gloomy enough.

Bacevich regards the start of the cold war in the late 1940s as the beginning of an era of perpetual war in which, for the first time, "military might emerged as central to the American identity." The "Washington rules" that he says dominate the nation's elected government and permanent security apparatus are based on a "credo"—namely, that the United States alone must "lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world." 

 This credo, Bacevich argues, is made manifest in a "trinity" of operational imperatives: "maintain a global military presence" of bases and fleets around the world, "configure its forces for global power projection" to enable rapid military action anywhere, anytime, and "counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism." Remarkably, the end of the cold war made no difference at all in either credo or trinity. "Once the Soviet threat disappeared," he observes, "with barely a whisper of national debate, unambiguous and perpetual global military supremacy emerged as an essential predicate to global leadership." 

 Beinart by no means slights the importance of the cold war in The Icarus Syndrome. He regards it as the beginning of an era marked by "the hubris of toughness"—"toughness" because it involved standing up to communist aggression the way Chamberlain should have stood up to Hitler, and "hubris" because it was based on "the belief that you've discovered a formula that works in all situations." 

 But for Beinart, the excesses of cold-war toughness that ultimately mired the United States in the Vietnam War were not the first instances of hubristic overreach in American foreign policy. For that he goes back to Woodrow Wilson's "hubris of reason," which arrogantly assumed after the Allied victory in World War I that the United States could solve the world's problems by employing the same rational processes with which Wilson and other Progressive leaders were tackling  America's problems at home. The Paris Peace Conference's dilution of the president's idealistic Fourteen Points  for governing the postwar world and the Senate's rejection of the League of Nations  were among the unhappy results of Wilsonian overreach.

Rubenstein, after pausing at the start of Reasons to Kill to puzzle over Tocqueville's observation that Americans are "fond of peace" because it "allows every man to pursue his own little undertakings," traces the roots of American bellicosity further back than either Bacevich or Beinart.  He cites a study showing that even in colonial times, "there was either a declared war or a conflict for 79 of the 179 years from just before the founding of Jamestown until 1785, nominally the end of the Revolution."  Rubenstein also mentions research by the political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher Gelpi, who in their 2004 book Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force, record 111 "militarized interstate disputes" that the United States initiated from 1812 to 1992.

Rubenstein argues that a proclivity to war sank deep and enduring roots in American soil for two small reasons and one big one. The first small reason is the early settlement pattern that made Scots-Irish immigrants—warriors for more than six centuries in defense of their native land against the English—the dominant ethnic group in the southern frontier; the second is the "Billy Budd syndrome," in which Americans have long been "blinded by uncritical trust in authority," even when it leads them into unnecessary wars against countries like Mexico, Spain, and North Vietnam. The big reason is that Americans are a religious people who won't fight unless convinced that their cause is just but who are easily persuaded that lots of causes are just. Those include "self-defense" broadly construed, an "evil enemy," "patriotic duty," and their "unique virtue" as "liberators and peacemakers, not selfish imperialists."

All of these books are worthy efforts to explain why the United States, itself scarcely touched by foreign invasion, spends so much time fighting abroad. With the partial exception of Bacevich's Washington Rules, however, all of them neglect or underplay the importance of two critical Vietnam-era decisions: the replacement of the draft-based army with the All-Volunteer Force (AVF)  and the roughly simultaneous expulsion of Reserve Officer Training Corps units from many elite campuses. Taken together, those decisions have made the nation's inclination to war and other military action greater than at any time in its already war-saturated history.

The volunteer forces came into being in 1973  as a byproduct  of President Richard Nixon's decision to end the draft and thereby take the steam out of the campus-based anti-Vietnam War movement. Rubenstein attributes all sorts of idealistic motives to the antiwar activists ("peace, friendship, race and gender equality, economic justice," etc.),  but the truth is that Nixon was right. The demonstrations pretty much ended as soon as college students no longer had to worry about being drafted when they graduated or dropped out of school.

Congress has consistently anted up whatever funds were necessary to attract enough young people, most of them working class, to fill out the enlisted ranks. But where would the officers come from? Objecting to the war, many elite universities, chiefly in the East but also in the Midwest (the University of Chicago) and West (Stanford), had already shown ROTC the exit.  Subsequently, those colleges  reaffirmed their policy of exclusion in protest of Congress's 1993  "don't ask, don't tell"  law banishing outed gays and lesbians from the military. Today the armed services aren't sure it would make economic sense to return ROTC from exile if the gates were reopened, as seems likely at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and elsewhere as soon as "don't ask, don't tell" is repealed or decisively voided by the courts.

How have these decisions made the United States even more prone to war than Bacevich, Rubenstein, and Beinart think? First, both the volunteer forces and the ROTC expulsions turned the military's recruiting gaze southward, to the region of the country (still rich in Scots-Irish ethnicity and culture) most supportive of the armed forces as an institution and of war as an instrument of national policy. In 1968 ROTC had 123 units in the East and 147 in the South.  Just six years later, Southern ROTC units outnumbered those in the East by 180 to 93. Alabama, with one-fourth the college population of New York City, has 10 ROTC units compared with New York's two.  As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pointed out last month in a speech at Duke University, "With limited resources, the services focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success."

Forty percent of enlisted men and women are now Southerners, and the officer corps speaks with an even stronger Southern accent. As a consequence, like the South generally, the military has moved rightward into the Republican Party. "Reversing a century and a half of practice," laments the University of North Carolina military historian Richard H. Kohn,  based on surveys he helped to conduct, "the American officer corps has become partisan in political affiliation, and overwhelmingly Republican." In his new book, Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations,  Jason K. Dempsey  reports that in 2007 Republicans outnumbered Democrats 49 percent to 12 percent among senior officers. At West Point, Dempsey found, "enough officers overtly endorse the Republican Party that many cadets apparently conflate an identification with the Republican Party with officership." 

 Second, the end of the draft and ROTC's banishment from many elite campuses mean that a steadily declining share of those in Congress and the upper reaches of the executive branch have served as either officers or enlistees. Until 1995 the percentage of veterans in Congress was consistently higher than in the country as a whole. Since then it's been lower—around 30 percent and shrinking. 

The result: Fewer and fewer of the civilian decision makers who now send troops into battle know what war is like. Apart from the moral queasiness this ought to induce, there is a tangible consequence. Feaver and Gelpi show statistically in Choosing Your Battles that throughout American history, the government's likelihood of initiating the use of force has consistently gone up whenever the percentage of veterans in Congress and the cabinet has gone down.

Feaver and Gelpi also report that although the military is typically reluctant to use force, if compelled to do so, it "argues strenuously that the force should be overwhelming and decisive." This argument, when presented to policy makers who have led entirely civilian lives, almost always prevails. The theme that shines through Bob Woodward's new insider account of Obama's Wars, for example, is that despite sustained and even heroic efforts by the president, he was unable to make the military give him realistic options in Afghanistan that didn't involve committing more than 30,000 additional troops.

Finally, the all-volunteer force, by eliminating any real possibility of conscription, has severed the connection between passive disapproval and active opposition to war. Support for the war in Iraq in public-opinion polls fell farther faster in the mid 2000s than support for the Vietnam War ever did. But antiwar opinion in the Vietnam era turned into antiwar protest in ways that more recent antiwar opinion has not. Astonishingly, after President George W. Bush's war policy was rebuked by the voters in the 2006 midterm election, he was able to deploy an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq with scarcely any organized opposition in Congress or the country. Nor did Obama's own "surge" in Afghanistan generate effective protest of any kind. It is inconceivable that antiwar college students would have remained politically inert if there was any chance that they would be drafted to fight in the wars they oppose.

What can colleges do to mitigate these developments, which taken together have heightened the already great American proclivity to war that Bacevich, Beinart, and Rubenstein document in their books? Forget about trying to bring back the draft. The technologically complex modern military needs long-term volunteers, not short-term draftees, to function effectively. The all-volunteer military isn't going anywhere.

ROTC is different. Colleges that have kept their doors shut can begin by reopening them. As the Stanford historian David M. Kennedy argues, excluding ROTC for the past four decades has simply ensured that elite universities, "which pride themselves on training the next generation's leaders, will have minimal influence on the leadership of a hugely important American institution, the United States armed forces." "It's clearly best," Kennedy told the Stanford faculty, "for our democracy to have, among its military officers, citizens who have a liberal education at the best universities in the country."

But reopening the doors to ROTC, a military institution that is understandably chary of being burned again by some future campus controversy (an especially unpopular war? military harm to the environment?), won't be enough. Colleges and universities need to put out the welcome mat so that students are encouraged to consider military service as an option for at least part of their lives—en route, as some of them will turn out to be, to high public offices in which they will make decisions about war and peace in years to come. One form of welcome would be to top up ROTC scholarships so that high-tuition institutions are affordable to service-oriented young people. More generally, though, colleges should take to heart an argument made by Josiah Bunting III, the Vietnam-era army-major-turned-novelist who later became president of Hampden-Sydney College and superintendent of Virginia Military Institute.

Writing in The American Scholar in 2005, Bunting observed that the long-term benefit to society of Teach for America—the program that recruits high-flying college grads to spend two or three years teaching in difficult public schools—is that later in life, when they are in positions of influence, "they will know the costs and difficulties and sometimes dangers of such duties. So it should be with ... soldiering in behalf of the American people." That's not a programmatic plan of action, but it is an animating spirit that individual colleges and universities would do well to adopt and then apply to their own distinctive circumstances.

Books discussed in this essay

Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force by Peter D. Feaver and Christopher Gelpi (Princeton University Press, 2004)

The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris by Peter Beinart (Harper, 2010)

Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations by Jason K. Dempsey (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War by Richard E. Rubenstein (Bloomsbury Press, 2010)

Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew J. Bacevich (Metropolitan Books, 2010)

Michael Nelson, a former editor of The Washington Monthly, is a professor of political science at Rhodes College and a senior fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.


1. francishamit - October 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

I served for four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency, a subset of the National Security Agency. Part of that time was in Vietnam (nothing very exciting - I was a clerk) and part of it was as a General Staff NCO in Germany. This gave me a unusual overview of the Cold War and the role that the American anti-war movement played in it. I have recently read Mark Rudd's memoir "Underground" which describes his descent into terrorism. It starts with his anti-war activism. I have always been interested in how this movement got started and how it was able to persist. Rudd does trace the involvement of Marxist groups such as the Progressive Labor Party.

For my part, as the editor of a U.S. Army newspaper in Frankfurt, Germany, I found the anti-war activism aimed at our (until 1970) all-volunteer, high-tech, high-IQ military intelligence unit. We had no authorization, Army-trained personnel, nor any equipment besides what we provided personally, and we produced a publicatiuon that won awards, year after year. We were permitted to do this because there was legitimate fear that, if we did not, some of our men would start an underground newspaper. There were, even in Germany, people from Jane Fonda's "FTA" movement targeting our troops in Europe. That seemed weirdly extreme at the time, but a book written by Colonel Stanislav Lunev perhaps contains an explanation. Lunev, a Colonel in the GRU, defected after the fall of the USSR. On page 170 of "Through The Eyes of The Enemy", his 1998 memoir is this paragraph:

"The Vietnam War was considered a major GRU success. In fact the GRU believes it won the war. The GRU funded every major antiwar group. Any antiwar activists who claim otherwise are sadly naive. Of course, the support often came through third parties or was otherwise disguised, but the Soviet Union pumped more than twice as much money into the antiwar campaign as it did to North Vietnamese military and economic support. The success for the GRU was not only did their influence help win the Vietnam War but they tore apart the entire social fabric of the United States and made military service a mark of shame."

I am sure that there are many in Academia who will run quickly to dispute this assertion, but the shaming of veterans for military service continues to this day. A recent article in the University of Iowa alumni magazine describes a program where those who have served are encouraged to turn their uniform into paper that they can then use to inscribe their memoirs of military service. That's the same message I got in 1971 when I returned to Iowa City to resume my education, and like every other veteran who refused to drink the Kool-Aid, join the anti-war movement and confess my shame, was harrassed by members of that movement in various ways. I wasn't looking for a parade, but it would have been nice to have been left alone.

I am proud of my service. ASA, as said, was an all-volunteer outfit and I also voluntered for duty in Vietnam, not because I was gung-ho or anxious to "kill commies". (In fact I did not fire my weapons the whole year I was there except at the range.) I went because I sensed that no one was telling the truth and I wanted to see for myself what was going on. (At the end of my year there I was no further enlightened.) As for going along to get along with the anti-war people, I come from an Army family and the Army at that time stayed out of politics. We took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. If Colonel Lunev is correct, then there are a lot of people back then who were unwitting collaborators; what the theorists call "useful idiots". And some few others who were rather active traitors.

If you are shocked by that last statement I suggest you look up the law and read the part about "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." And while the old KGB has supposedly transformed itself into a kinder, gentler intelligence service, the GRU is military and hasn't changed a bit.

And since there were FTA operations in Germany, which was a long, long way from Vietnam, what other purpose could they have had except to undermine the morale and readiness of the American troops placed there to act as a counterweight to the very real threat of a Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap?

The recruitment and provision of educated personnel from all parts of American society (there were a few "rich kids" in my outfits) is beneficial to the society as a whole. One of the worries about the current US military is that it does not truly represent the entire society. People no longer feel obligated to do their part and serve. And that is simply cheating the rest of us. This is a National Security issue which might be addressed by a return to the Draft, except that the professional soldiers really don't want a conscript military. Draftees, in my own experience, are simply more trouble than they are worth. So, the answer is to stop the shaming and encourage people to step up.

2. estudiante - October 25, 2010 at 06:52 am

"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools." Thucydides.

3. groland - October 25, 2010 at 09:52 am

"Freedom is not free" is slogan often used by the armchair patriots who send our soldiers into harm's way to protect our way of life. Yet our freedoms have never really been threatened. What nation could invade, occupy, and rule us by force? The Viet Cong, the Marxist Guerrillas from Granada, Nicaragua, the Taliban? We are too big, too far away, and too unruly to be dominated by force, even if we had minimal defenses.

The truth is that we are fighting to protect our interests abroad. Those interest are more corporate and commercial and do not necessarily reflect the interests of the general public. We have been involved in war at least half of my life span. We spend more than the next 20 nations combined on defense, yet we could not defend ourselves from 19 men with boxcutters, that is where the real threat is coming form. Like any large institution, the military will not downsize itself and it will continue to find justifications for its use and its growing influence. Meanwhile the use of force diminishes our standing abroad and encourages more terrorism, thus providing more justification for more force.

Our warrior culture will bankrupted us eventually leaving the nations that rely on soft power to play increasing roles in the world economy and in political affairs.

4. impossible_exchange - October 25, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thucydides had some game.

The thing that is funny about our Warrior Culture is that we have almost never been threatened with invasion, as has nearly every country in Europe, yet we are the world's most military and consequently belligerant nation.
One would expect we'd speak the language of peace because the dangers of militarism are guarded against by two oceans and strong bonds with our neighbors. Instead, we are the one's who are forever off on some military adventure or another.

5. dogstarman - October 25, 2010 at 11:42 am

I think it is hard to believe that during this election cycle our twin wars have not been discussed at all by candidates, either republicans or democrats These wars have killed thousands of our soldiers and cost trillions but yet are rarely mentioned by the big corporate news media who cheered the military on as they were embedded with them. This issue of perpetual war is part of our culture that is glamorized in everything from video games to Fox Sports on TV that salutes our troops nonstop during NFL coverage. Repetition is one way of selling just about everything. What if public service announcements asked Americans to consider a state of peace for a specific period of time; say a year. No military intervention in the world for a year. Think of the lives and money we would save and maybe it would catch on like wearing seat belts did.

6. 11240163 - October 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

Mr. Nelson's claim "Objecting to the war, many elite universities, chiefly in the East but also in the Midwest (the University of Chicago) and West (Stanford), had already shown ROTC the exit" is erroneous, at least with regard to the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago was dropped by ROTC (not the other way around) in 1936 (not in the 1960s) because the ROTC unit there was too small for the War Department to continue supporting it. The unit was transferred to Michigan State, which gave War more bang for the buck.

7. softshellcrab - October 25, 2010 at 01:41 pm

@ #1, francishamit

Very nicely explained. I appreciate your insight. The U.S. has done more to promote justice and to protect the peace-loving nations of the world, than any other force over the past 60 years. And yes, many "anti-war" protestors in both the 60's and today crossed, and continue to cross, the line into being anti-American or worse.

8. jaysanderson - October 25, 2010 at 02:33 pm


Thank you for your service to our country, and to our profession. Too often voices in academe come from only one side of an issue--and rarely from first-hand experience.

9. estudiante - October 25, 2010 at 04:13 pm

I have applied for several military history instructor positions at various ROTC programs but have never been hired. I have an MA in military history and actually served as a "Command Historian" in the the National Guard with WO/2 rank for two years. Anyway it's my impression that ROTC jobs go to RA "Lifers" and unless you belong to that Republican Party-oriented club there little chance for an outsider like me to teach. I kind of doubt that ROTC is the answer to the problem that Francis posits. It is too small and has been copted (Do I recall correctly that Bush Jr. was an ROTC -er?) Anyway bring back the draft or at least make it mandatory for the National Guard and other Reserve units. They are the only thing we have that approximates the ideal of the "citizen-soldier. Ye,s we should have a full time professional force but it should be small and supplemeted by reservists ala Israel,Switzerland etc.

10. robertusa - October 25, 2010 at 04:48 pm

Alternatively, we could welcome the latest military escalations as they will hasten the decline of the American empire.

11. realitychick - October 25, 2010 at 04:56 pm

The USA is ruled by a cabal of wealthy elitists who control the US government as their puppets. The US military fights wars that serve the interests of the wealthy elite, not the American people.

President Eisenhower warned Americans about the 'Military/Industrial Complex', which has now become the Miltary/Industrial/Media/Academia Complex, and it rules the USA.

The false-flag 911 attacks were perpetrated by the US government for the purpose of creating an excuse for the US aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Service in the US military is the same as working as a hit-man for a gang of ruthless criminals. There is no honor in US military service, and it deserves no respect.

12. jcisney - October 25, 2010 at 05:29 pm

I wish the general public were more exposed to the type of good arguments here. We need to get the scholarly/academic voice back into the public arena. Being an intellectual has become linked to elitism and anti-Americanism . . . as making that connection serves to marginalize voices that would question and provide support to social elements not directed by a military/corporate/media complex. Scholars need to recognize the nature of the fight, get engaged, organize and demand their place and respect in the public sphere if we, as a nation, are ever to move toward a more enlighted society. It is not likely to be done without them because it requires the deepening of perspective that generally only scholars and academics bring to the table.

13. realitychick - October 25, 2010 at 06:16 pm

jcisney wrote "Being an intellectual has become linked to elitism and anti-Americanism..."

What sort of elitism are you talking about? The wealthy controllers of the US government, US corporations, the media, and academia are not just elitist in their philosophy, they are elitists IN FACT, because they RULE this nation and much of the world. That is nothing like, and has nothing to do with, someone who prefers Classical over Country Western, or prefers to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car.

Since 'Americanism' obviously means aggressive and oppressive Imperialism and adoration of the extremely wealthy, I guess that makes me 'anti-American' -- and proud to be so!

Academic yes-men are like all yes-men -- always eager to hide the truth for a paycheck. Having a higher degree means nothing when you have flushed the truth down the toilet.

There can never be a "deepening of perspective" as long as dissident voices are marginalized or silenced. The wealthy controllers of the Military/Corporate/Media/Academic Complex want yes-men, and that is what the Academic system, itself run by yes-men, produces for them.

14. jcisney - October 25, 2010 at 06:51 pm

You misunderstood me . .. and I think the problem for many academics and scholars. The elite, as you describe them, and that I concur with, use the media and politicians to discredit the voices of those that would oppose them through a campaign of misdirection and brainwashing. While certainly many academics have been hooked into the elitist agenda and deserve the label, many are not and are in fact allies of righteous dissent and service to all classes. They are themselves often marginalized for who they are and what they represent and have great sympathy with those who are similarly marginalized. The deep perspective I speak of is one that comes from deeply looking into issues, considering all perspectives, having your ideas challenged, etc. The sort of thing that academics generally do more than others. Scholars are not the only ones to have well-considered arguments, whether you agree or not, they are just the most likely too. What school did/do you attend? Are there no voices similar to your own? Have you found no one in academics who you respect? No one who has not been co-opted?

15. realitychick - October 25, 2010 at 09:54 pm

To jcisney:
Thank you for the clarification of your position. I left college during the first year because I didn't like the prevailing patriotic mindset. I traveled and did various jobs for a decade, then went to a community college where my GPA was 3.95 and the Science department head said I would make a great scientist. However, I was still leery of all American institutions, so I left with a degree in Nursing and I worked as an RN for twenty years. I found the hospital milleau to be stultifying.

When I look at academia, I see dissident professors losing their jobs for expressing opinions that contest the US propaganda mythos. 70% of the science research in the USA is funded by the US military. Why would anyone with both a conscience and a brain want to work in such a controlled and unfree atmosphere? Given the lies that America (and much of Western society) have established as their dogma, I find the prospect of attending school or teaching school to be intellectual dead-ends.

I'm very pro-education, but I find that while there are many good books, there are no good institutions that I know of. They are all far too dominated by the elitist ideology of 'might makes right'.

My obsession is world mythology, which I have independently studied in depth and about which I have developed original theories regarding the continuity of culture, the astro-theological nature of most myths, and the capability of ancient societies to recall as well as to predict cyclic climate change on the order of many thousands of years (the Ice Age cycle).

I'm not aware of any academic or commercial venue that would support my work. It doesn't appear to me that academic institutions are interested in such studies; the institutions that support studies of the Humanities only want to perpetuate interpretations of knowledge that are familiar and do not challenge the orthodoxy. I have my own work to do and I do not want to waste my time teaching the outdated ideas of others.

16. francishamit - October 26, 2010 at 02:51 am

Perhaps it is time to demolish a few cherished myths about the American military that seem to be still extant in Academia. ROTC was far from the only source of officers and during the Vietnam War most new second lieutenants came from the enlisted ranks, via Officer Candidate School, which was a three month intensive course. There was West Point, of course and the other military universities such as VMI (Virginia Military Institute).

And while there were some "warriors" who lived for battle, the overwhelming majority were "soldiers" people who were dedicated to serving the nation and were no more eager to be in a fire fight than you are. And ninety percent of those who were sent to Vietnam never experienced anything like you see in the movies. That's because a modern army has a very long logistics train and it takes nine soldiers there to support one at the point of the spere. However, anyone who completes Basic Training is a "trained killer" because that's the point of what is taught. It is the threat of deadly force that makes the military the perfect instrument for keeping the peace. And American policy for the past 120 years has been consistant in projecting force abroad to prevent it being used against us here.

It should be noted that we have the most educated military in the world. The U.S goverment routinely sends military officers who make a career commitment to law school, medical school and graduate school in a wide variety of fields. It runs its own graduate schools such as the War College and the Command and Staff School. This is a long standing policy begun during World War II. My father had his way paid through NYU Medical School by the US Army and served 26 years. He also got a MS in Biochemsistry in the 1950s at Army expense. At the University of Colorado. He retired as a Colonel and was a well-respected surgeon. Since he grew up poor on a farm in Kansas, he can hardly be considered one of the elite.

Military service in a unique educational opportunity. You learn things there you can't learn anywhere else....and I don't mean those combat skills. So keeping the military off campus and discouraging ROTC units simply deprives your students of educational opportunities and on-the-job experience that can't be found elsewhere. It also deprives them of another way to pay their tuition and expenses.

And not every job in the military is in uniform. There have always been a cadre of civlian officials, many graduates of the most elite educational institutions, whose degrees were earned at goverment expense.

And ROTC graduates also rise to the top. Colin Powell was one.

17. realitychick - October 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm

As an Army staff officer in Viet Nam, Major Colin Powell helped to cover up the My Lai Massacre. See link:


As US Secretary of State, Colin Powell presented false evidence of nonexistent WMDs to the UN to gain approval for the US-led invasion of Iraq. See link:


Colin Powell, who was regarded as a 'team player' by the US government, is definitely not the sort of man that I would want my children, or anyone, to emulate.

US Military values, and US government values, are motivated by elitism and avarice.

18. realitychick - October 26, 2010 at 02:02 pm

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq has so far cost the lives of 4,447 US (regular) troops, and an unknown number of Iraqis. A US government document recently published by Wikileaks states that 285,000 Iraqis have been killed since the US invasion.

Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, lied to the UN Security Council on February 5th, 2003 about non-existant WMDs to gain UN approval for the US-led invasion of Iraq. As a US Army Major in Viet Nam, Colin Powell tried to cover up the My Lai massacre.

If the USA were a viable democracy (which it is not), Colin Powell and his accomplices in the US government and the Pentagon should have been tried for Treason (with the death penalty as a potential outcome) for presenting their lies about WMDs in Iraq to the UN and to the American people, and for orchestrating the unnecessary US invasion of Iraq.

19. francishamit - October 26, 2010 at 05:07 pm

realitychick: I find it intellectually dishonest to skew the conversation towards Colin Powell and the Iraq War so you can rant about it. I've done my own ranting about that elsewhere. I always thought it a bad idea and said so, and was surprised to find that this is the one political issue that Jerry Pournelle and I agree upon. Jerry is a friend, but an old Goldwater Republican while I am a lifelong Democrat. But Jerry served in the Korean War with distinction and knows what it is to be a soldier, unlike the (as he calls them) Country Club Republicans who cooked up that fiasco. They were able to do this in part because no one in Academia troubled to study the military and simply bought into some wrongheaded and very naive notions about what a serving American military officer and can't do and what they will and won't permit. We had "a revolt of the generals" with more than a dozen flag retired rank officers declaring themselves "New Democrats" to express their opposition to the policies of the recent Bush Adminstration. The operative word here is "retired". Serving officers are forbidden by the Uniform Code of Military Justice from doing this, and the act was not without risk for those officers since all are subject to recall to active duty at any time. It should also be noted that the U.S. military is a fraction of the size it was during the Cold War and the Vietnam era. The result is op-tempo that is breaking the force and driving people out of the service. As for Colin Powell, the general feeling (no pun intended) in that community is that he was hung out to dry when the civilians in that adminstration cooked the books on Intelligence of WMD.

Part of being a soldier and serving the nation is that you do what you are told, even at the cost of your life. It's not a debating society. You have to trust the people in charge and pray they haven't got it wrong, but a guiding principle of the U.S. military is that we are the instruments of a democratically elected civilian government. We take a oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Not any particular party or person, but the document and what it stands for. One of the very unwelcome trends introduced by the Bush Administration was the attempt to vet flag rank officers for their politics. You see where that got them. New Democrats.

The U.S. military spends lot of money moving people from post to post every two or three years simply to prevent political factionalism in the ranks. It develops better officers and NCOs, but it also keeps everyone focused on the goals of "Duty, Honor, Country."

As for My Lai, it was soldiers within the Army who stopped the massacre (that helicopter crew). and soldiers within the Army who investigated the event. I don't think anyone I knew (and I was in the Army when it happened) was happy about any of it.
I knew a couple of officers who had to be talked out of resigning over this. I knew a lot more who were just trying to get their 20 years in and retire and a few who did everything they could to avoid being sent to Vietnam themselves. That wasn't resistance to the war but just personal cowardice. I do not claim that our military is perfect. It has a lot of problems since it is made up of individuals each of whom has imperfections.

I was citing Colin Powell as an example of a citizen soldier; one who came from humble beginings and rose to the top and served his country well. The WMD episode is a blot on his career. But not of his making. He was lied to like the rest of us.

20. realitychick - October 26, 2010 at 07:48 pm

francishamit: You're the one who brought the subject of Colin Powell into the conversation, so I have every right to expose Colin Powell as the serial liar and government propagandist of My Lai (1968) and Iraq (2003).

You wrote that Powell 'rose to the top'. As the saying goes, 'shit rises to the top'. Particularly in the US Military and the US government.

21. francishamit - October 27, 2010 at 01:35 am

Realitychick: It is obvious from your posts above that you bear General Powell some animus. Saying that we should try him for treason and impose to death penalty? Really, now. The Constitution makes it very hard to convict anyone of treason. This is why Jane Fonda was never tried. She had First Amendment protection for her actions to begin with and no one except her knows what her true intent was-- and it was more likely a publicity stunt than a serious act of protest. Much like her sudden conversion to evangelical Christianity. You can't try fools for treason. It's very hard to take her seriously and the FTA movement was annoying, but never a real threat. Applying 20-20 hindsight and accusing Powell of a capital crime when only he knows what he intended is just a bit over the top, too. Let me communicate a hard truth to you: In any war soldiers will die and innocent civlians caught up in that very industrial process will also die. This is why we keep so much power and project it abroad; so those civilians are not ours. And for military officers and NCOs the hardest part of the job is not risking death themselves but sending others in harm's way or even to their certain death as part of a larger strategy over which they have no control.

As for "government propagandist", that better describes the job I held in Germany than Powell's. I ran one U.S. Army newspaper and supervised five others and regularly engaged in psychological warfare against those who would do us harm, whether they were Soviet proxies or our own misguided citizens. That was my job and I did it well, without apology. Information is also a weapon of war.

22. dvacchi - October 27, 2010 at 10:28 am

In an article that argues how we should be avoiding a combative spirit, with whom many making comments agree with the authors that this is not the way we should be, observe how the discourse devolves into a combative spirit.
If you lean left or are far left, you have the same tendency to fight that everyone in America has, but it is defined by screaming when you don't get your way - its OK to provide a dissenting opinion, but when most everyone disagrees, it's time to realize you're in such a minority that you're idea needs to wait, stop, or be revised, it's not time to scream louder. This is why even people who identify more closely with the Leftist agenda will not admit to being from the Left or Democrat, because they don't want to be associated with that stereotype.
If you lean to the right, you have to try to be patient with the screaming Left as their ideas are generally not based in logic, but in emotion and are generally impractical and unsupportable. You can't allow yourself to be dragged into the mud by the Left - if the screaming is ignored it will eventually go away. If you also present fact and argue with logic, the Left can rarely win an argument.
As for the military analysis in this article, I find it generally true, especially with a near perfect record of some kind of military conflict for 350 years. Consider the eradication of American Indian tribes for almost the entire 19th Century and you have a few years before WWI and few years between the wars where we had little to no conflict.
As for the notion that Scott-Irish heritage in the South is to blame for the nature of our nation entering endless war, that is patently absurd and unsupportable by research. Further, as a retired officer who struggled with an overwhelmingly liberal enlisted population and a more balanced, but Right leaning officer corps, the notion that Scott-Irish war-like heritage (which I have coming from the North) is responsible for the officer corps leaning to the Right is also absurd.
Not only is the officer corps not as Right leaning as the authors (or what ever bogus research they've cited) suggest, but the reason the officer corps leans to the right is solely based upon the Left overly being anti-military or unfriendly to military for supercilious reasons and the Right being willing to promote adequate funding for a military required by our constitution. We tried the "let's defund and downsize the military to save money" plan and it almost resulted in our country sharing two new languages: Japanese and German.
Consider also the politics of promotion, which are nepotistic in the military: if the Right supports you with money and the Left does not, how comfortable you think an officer feels expressing an identity that is more closely associated with the Left? I can tell you not very, but there are many more officers from the Left than the authors suggest.

23. francishamit - October 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

dvacchi: Well said. When I was in during the Vietnam War I found more librals in Military Intelligence than I ever expected, and they were career officers, not short timers. I wrote an editorial deploring the Kent State shootings, for which the Left blamed the Army but were caused by the Ohio National Guard which violated Army doctrine on handling riot situations (i.e. no loaded weapons or ammunition should be issued.) Yes, there were some in the HQ who thought I'd gone too far, but my Commanding General and his deptuy, a full Colonel, were not among them. ASA was always a test-bed for trying out social change for the larger Regular Army. We created a new kind of unit newspaper and a year or so later, to counter the FTA movement and their underground newspapers, the Army issued new regulations and command instructions that made them the military equivilent of small home-town newspapers. That had a favorable impact on morale. And, because the draft was going away, ASA integrated women into the force. We had two assigned; one officer and one enlisted. They did not wear WAC brass but MI brass like everyone else. That small symbolic gesture was very powerful. Within a few years women were ten percent of ASA and when my roommate joined the Army in 1980 she did her Basic Training in a unit along with the men. She pulled guard duty the same as they did.

Here is what really bothers me. Academics are supposed to be smarter than the rest of us, right? Critcal thinkers? Deep researchers? Capable of seeing all sides of a question? Then why are so many of them so wlllfully ignorant about our military and the people who are in it? The demographic is no longer from the Scotch-Irish-German populations who fought the Civil War. There are more people named "Santos" in the U.S. Army than comprise the entire force of some armies in South America. The General who investigated the Abu Graib mess is named Taguba and was born in the Phillipines. The U.S. military recruits from every ethnic group and social class, except from the well-to-do and the self-professed intellectuals who populate university campuses. One salutary effect of the draft is that the military was able to leaven the mix of talents and abilities and that those individuals actually had some understanding of the soldier's role in a Demoocratic society. The lack of that now simply undermines the National Security because it makes us all prisoners of the myths of a war that that was over 35 years ago.

As for heritage issues. the professional military culture that academics mock so often is global. The tradtion of saluting dates back to the Romans. It is an expression of mutual respect, not submission. The person saluted is obligated to acknowledge and return it.

And no one in the US military is supposed to do politics. The efforts of the past adminstration to vet flag rank officers for their politcal views has created a situation that will now have to be corrected. Fortunately, no one gets to be an active duty General or Admiral for very long. We have no juntas here.

24. it_cant_happen_here - October 28, 2010 at 07:58 am

Great articel - just one small problem - the central thesis "that the roughly simultaneous expulsion of Reserve Officer Training Corps units from many elite campuses." isn't true. In a situation analagous to the question of athletic scholarships -the Universities insisted that there would not be a special dispensation for ROTC students in terms of the institutions general academic requirements for a degree. ROTC withdrew from the campuses where they figured the return on effort invested wasn't worth it anymore. Univeristy of Chicago did both in the 30's (see above #6 - 11240163) frankly giving up a sport in which you were a leading top ten team must have required more courage than insisting that ROTC grads earn a valid University of Chicago degree - which lots of 'blue collar and no collar students have done.

25. texastextbook - October 28, 2010 at 08:11 am

Once he'd deflowered anti-war, the candidate went in pursuit of pro-war. He does what he does for no reason other or better than because he knows it's the way to draw votes in what is essentially a popularity contest. In this type of contest it is the voter, not any candidate, who is to be crowned the most beautiful, the fairest, of them all (and if the crown, when it arrives, doesn't fit, isn't flattering, it's no skin off the candidate's back).

To the American soldier on active duty/the ideal reader of this particular Chronicle tale, the setting is the 1950s. The main characters, two 19-year-old females named Michael Nelson and Barack Obama, are pretending, as though their lives depended upon it, to be virgins.

26. usaret - October 28, 2010 at 09:10 am

I went to college (VMI, as a matter of fact) on an ROTC scholarship--could not have afforded an out-of-state school otherwise, and then spent 27 years (1973-2000) in the Army, 8 of which I taught English at West Point. The Army sent me to Univ North Carolina for grad school. My first two platoons were almost all either Viet Nam veterans or recent draftees. And I got to particpate in the two gut-wrenching changes the Army experienced--going to an all-volunteer force and expanding the roles of women, two extraordinarily good but painful shifts (my wife is also a retired Army officer). Integrating gays, BTW, will be much easier because so many are in the service already.

I agree that Army officers, at least, are more likely to be conservative or Republican than they used to be--though to what extent I do not know, specifically. I do know that people like me, what we used to call "draft-induced" volunteers (had to serve anyway, may as well be an officer, may as well have the government pay our way through school), tended to range across a wide variety of political views, but certainly skewed more Democratic than when I retired in 2000. But that may reflect the Democrats' shifting philosophies, too--Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned Democratic leadership not to abaondon working-class Americans, but somehow they did. Some of us used to say that the worst thing Ronald Reagan did was make military service respectable--brought in the wrong crowd. But that is, of course, unfair.

Tw or three things occur to me about all this: few institutions are better at social mobility than the US military--taking folks from one class to a higher one through experience and education, expanding their horizons through exposure to other races, cultures, geographies, beliefs, ways of thinking. Only higher education does as much in terms of changing people's lives. So you think somehow we would have more in common than we do.

Academic life values the solitary scholar, someone who works on his or her own to acquire a body of knowledge and then build on it through a life of teaching and research. It does not value wide experience outside of that model except in those fields like medicine or law (there are others, I am sure) where such experience is valued in the classroom. And it does not always value teamwork or cooperation. Many academics have an unfortunately narrow view of the world around them--as any interdisciplinary dispute on any campus would show. Interestingly enough, many military people have similar narrow views, though fewer, frankly, than I have seen in my 10+ years in higher ed outside the Army.

I think that academic and military life are almost mirror images of each other. I'm reminded of my old boss and mentor Pat Hoy's essay in the Sewanee Review, "Soldiers and Scholars," where he compares West Point and Harvard. The two sides startle each other because they are so uncannily similar.

27. notexactly - October 28, 2010 at 01:04 pm

Fascinating article and subsequent debate.

First, to francishamit, thank you for your thoughtful commentary. Though I disagree with you on several points, I can at least understand your perspective. Probably only a few of us here actually are old enough to have been involved in the Vietnam era as you and I have, though I was not in the military. I did, and do oppose that war, but I would not under any description consider myself 'anti-American'.

I am glad (and it's a point you do make indirectly later on) that in recent times, at least, courts have taken a rather limited view of 'giving aid and comfort to the enemy'. To take the meaning as some would do in the popular sense of the words would destroy the concept of democratic debate. Nothing is more critical to our way of life than the opportunity for vociferous dissent.

Our problem has become that while the military pledges to uphold the Constitution, the job has undergone dangerous mission creep. The founding fathers pretty much eschewed getting involved with other nations' battles and if we were to truly defend the Constitution in its original meaning, we also should be persuing this goal. Defending the United States does not require a massive global footprint, with troops crisscrossing the world and getting involved in disputes not ours. Unfortunately after the huge military involvement in WWII, we seem to have acquired a form of bureaucratic critical mass, where the military involvement keeps growing and growing because it's already so big. Eisenhower seems to have seen this problem, but also seemed unable to do much about it, perhaps even by his day it had become too big to stop. But it has to. Because if it is not stopped, and reined in, our nation will collapse under its weight. The only power to stop it is the American population. In this sense, the anti-war movement, despite it's own corruptions, did some good. When a sizable chunk of the population starts challenging the schemings of the government, history can change course.

Like the old adage 'when you only have a hammer, every job is a nail', we currently have no major active military threats. We certainly still need our defensive capablities but chances of invasion are near zero for the forseeable future,and would remain so even if we started bringing our armies home and kept them out of other nations affairs. The guerrilla and terror threats we are facing are really not tractable to military operations. A nation cannot defeat such threats by military solutions, and it's about time we, as a nation, realize that. Like crime, terrorism (or the threat of terrorism) simply cannot be eliminated (especially in a free society, but even totalitarian societies cannot stop it either). It's about time for us, and our government to recognize that the only power terrorists actually have is fear. And that is power that we as a nation are giving them (an excellent bumper sticker: Refuse to be terrorized).

It's time to become a defensive nation again. To restore our position of trust in the world stage.

28. t_paine - October 28, 2010 at 06:49 pm

According to your posts, everything, every institution, every leader, every powerful culture is evil. No one simply disagrees with you; they are corrupt and evil. Doesn't the fact that you remain pure (while everyone else is despicable) raise an alarm with you?

From the short biography you provide I can see you have taken a lifetime of comfort from your delusions. Being the only principled person can be quite rewarding (I know this from personal experience) but in your case you seem to have let the cancer of bitterness eat you up, right to the core.

Sorry for you.

29. erwinbw - October 28, 2010 at 09:38 pm

One would think that a country that has helped take down any number of petty despots and tinhorn dictators would be considered a good thing. Apparently not. Does the Left really prefer these tumors be allowed to metastisize? What a sad, misguided commentary.

30. reality_chick - October 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm


The fact that I am displeased with American institutions does not mean that I am displeased with all cultures or even with all institutions.

Today I visited the World Buddhist Teaching Institute, one of my favorite institutions; everyone I have met there has been lovely.

I spent twenty-two years taking direct care of extremely ill people. Do you have more arduous tasks in your own resume? What measure of accomplishment do you demand from me?

What matters here is whether I am speaking the truth about certain American institutions (the US government, the US military, the media, and academia), not your opinion whether I am a success or a failure at the 'American Way of Life'.

Can you skip the ad hominem attacks and focus on the topic of discussion?

31. t_paine - October 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm

"What measure of accomplishment do you demand from me?"

Well. Since you asked.

In my opinion it would be a great thing if you could realize the complexity of the problems you are discussing. It is not: bad people and bad institutions, problem solved. I do not for one minute believe you are inherently any more (or less) morally gifted than any of the people you criticize, and further, I am willing to see well-meaning and well-intentioned people at the heart of many of these problems, where you can only see Satan and his Minions.

These things are complicated. You, on the other hand, are simple. Simply right, every time. And you add to the hatred with your bitter simplicities, your life-long prejudices and your clear conscience.

32. reality_chick - October 29, 2010 at 12:07 am


You wrote "It is obvious from your posts above that you bear General Powell some animus."

I do not have a particular animus for Colin Powell; I just think that Powell deserves to have his 'day in court' to explain why he lied to the American people and to the UN about nonexistent Iraqi WMDs.

I do have a general animus for the unscrupulous elitists who control the US government, the US military, the media, the major corporations, and academia. Note that I wrote in my previous comment that "Colin Powell and his accomplices in the US government and the Pentagon should have been tried for Treason."

The false evidence about Iraqi WMDs and an Iraqi threat which was presented by Colin Powell, by the White House, and by the Pentagon and intelligence agency staff who prepared that false evidence, constitutes a crime against the American people, the Iraqi people, and the UN's community of nations.

4,447 US (regular) troops and an estimated 285,000 Iraqis (according to a US government document recently published by Wikileaks) have been killed during the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Since the unnecessary and murderous US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq was sold to the American public, to Congress, and to the UN with false evidence presented by the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon, whoever was
responsible for producing, vetting, or presenting that false evidence should be held accountable for their actions.

On PBS on February 3rd, 2006, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, described Powell's February 2003 Iraqi WMD presentation to the UN as "A hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council."

After leaving the Bush administration, both Wilkerson and Powell stated that they had serious doubts about the validity of the 'evidence' of Iraqi WMDs and an Iraqi threat -- which they nevertheless had presented to the UN to justify a US-led invasion of Iraq.

Accused criminals often try to shift the blame to other parties.

Since Wilkerson and Powell both admit that they doubted the validity of the false evidence they presented, as public servants they had a duty to express their doubts. But they did not do so until after they left their jobs with the Bush administration. Colin Powell had a past history of lying to cover up the My Lai Massacre in Viet Nam; by lying about Iraqi WMDs, Powell was continuing his role as a propagandist for the USA's ruling elite.

It takes courage to tell the truth when it may cost you your job or prevent you from getting another job. Wilkerson and Powell, who both admit that they doubted the 'evidence', acted with cowardice when they deliberately lied about Iraqi WMDs to the American people, to the US Congress, and to the UN.

It is not the duty of the Secretary of State or any other civilian official to simply obey orders without question and to act like a totally servile 'yes man' to their superiors. Particularly when the orders involve committing a crime by presenting false evidence and providing false testimony to promote an unnecessary war. By presenting the false evidence of Iraqi WMDs, Wilkerson and Powell served their elitist masters, but they betrayed the trust of the American people that their government will not deliberately base its actions and policies on lies.

Jane Fonda acted as a private citizen who expressed her own opinions about a controversial war. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell, and members of the Bush administration acted in their roles as high-level US government officials and public servants when they told lies to start a deadly war.

The USA's elitist-controlled Congress has made no effort to investigate the now widely-known fabrication of evidence that was used by the Bush administration, Powell's State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies to instigate the US war of aggression against Iraq. This lack of courage to enforce the law when the interests of the elitist class are at stake is typical of the elitist-controlled US Congress.

The false evidence of Iraqi WMDs presented by the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the intelligence agencies has historical precedents in previous false evidence concocted by the US government which provided the US government with an excuse to make aggressive war. The 'Gulf of Tonkin Incident' was used as an excuse to escalate the Viet Nam War, but declassified US government documents have revealed that the 'Tonkin Incident' was a hoax. The explosion of the US battleship Maine in Havana 's harbor was used as an excuse to declare War against Spain, a war in which the USA siezed control of Spain's colonies in Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. But photographs of the salvaged Maine's hull show that the explosion came from within the ship's hull, and not from an exterior mine or bomb planted by Spanish or Cuban terrorists.

Most US wars have been fought to promote or protect the interests of the USA's ruling elite, not to protect the American nation or the American people.
The US Military has mainly served to promote and protect the interests of the USA's ruling elite. Colin Powell served the ruling elite while he was in the US military, and Powell continued to serve the ruling elite as their 'yes man' and their servile spokesman as Secretary of State. In doing so, Powell betrayed the trust and thwarted the interests of the American people. Powell also committed a crime by deliberately presenting false evidence to launch an unnecessary war of aggression.

In 1935 retired US Marine Corps General and two-time Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler told the truth about US foreign policy when he said:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military
service and during that period I spent most of my
time as a high class thug for Big Business, for
Wall Steet and the bankers. In short, I was a
racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make
Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil
interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a
decent place for the National City Bank boys to
collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half
a dozen Central American republics for the benefit
of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the
International Banking House of Brown Brothers in
1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican
Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916.
I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit
companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to
it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.
Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a
few hints. The best he could do was to operate his
racket in three districts. I operated on three

33. reality_chick - October 29, 2010 at 01:50 am


I am not a follower of any Abrahamic faith and I do not believe in Satan, his minions, in Hell, or in any permanent evil. I do not believe in damnation or in damned souls. I believe that personal identity and individuality is an illusion.

I have many regrets about things I have done, not done, said, or falsely believed. I have often found myself to be wrong, and I have learned many things the hard way, by making mistakes due to erroneous ideas or attitudes and suffering the consequences, or watching others suffer the consequences. I DO NOT have a clear conscience, and I was a very small child the last time that I did.

The physical body and the ever-changing cluster of ideas and emotions that currently bears my name will disappear like a soap bubble when I die. Eventually even my consciousness will merge with that of others.

You are correct that people are generally "well-meaning and well-intentioned." However, "well-meaning and well-intentioned" people sometimes do remarkably cruel and unjust things.

Erroneous ideas may lead people to misguided or cruel attitudes and behavior more often than malicious intent. Unfortunately the results can be just as cruel or unfair regardless of whether the motivation was misguided 'good intentions' or malicious intent. Like erroneous ideas, even true maliciousness is just a product of ignorance.

Life is indeed complicated, but we should not make that complication an excuse for us to become complacent or apathetic. 'Life is complicated' is a common excuse of those who lack the determination to undertake self-improvement.

You may call this simplistic if you please, but I consider the sine qua non of humane behaviour to be compassion toward all living beings. Compassion may include self defense or defending others against aggressors. So it's important to learn who the real aggressors are, and to recognize how the aggressors use propaganda to demonize the innocent and describe them as 'enemies'.

34. t_paine - October 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

Uncle. I give. It's like you swallowed the whole New Age section at Borders. There's a half hour I'll never get back. Bye, got a class.

35. getwell - October 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

reality_chick: "I'm not aware of any academic or commercial venue that would support my work...I have my own work to do and I do not want to waste my time teaching the outdated ideas of others."

So, possibly you could plant yourself in Second Life or some other virtual reality game, where you can control everyone and everything. Obviously, the real world (faults and all) has become too much for you. I will pray for you daily:)

36. reality_chick - October 29, 2010 at 01:36 pm


Your responses to my comments provide a good object lesson in why one should never provide autobiographical or personal information on a public forum. It simply gives some people an opportunity to make ad hominem attacks instead of debating the topic under discussion.

37. reality_chick - October 29, 2010 at 02:00 pm


There are not many academic venues where one can specialize in Comparative Mythology. Researching or teaching general Anthropology might provide an income, but it would also divert me from pursuing my own chosen work. I am certainly not the first person to find that independent means is needed to enable a unique research project. If you know of any institutions that support unique research in Comparative Mythology, I would be grateful to recieve a referral.

The subject of discussion on this forum should not be me or my lifestyle; the discussion should relate to the "Warrior Nation" article and its implications. Please return to the topic under discussion.

38. francishamit - October 29, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Realitychick: I hold no grudge against anyone who protested the war because they were caught up in the pressure to conform to the prevailing fad. And the anti-war movement was a social fad. The SDS of that era had a tactic for seizing power locally. Show up in strengh, bore people with rhetoric until all the credible opposition left from sheer boredom and then take the vote from those left, the greater majority of whom were their members. It worked for awhile. I have this from a friend, now deceased, who was part of the Days Of Rage in Chicago in 1968. On the front lines. That was his combat zone. We used to go drinking together and compare notes because it was a very big war and we each saw different parts of that particular "elephant".

But where Ms. Fonda is concerned I have to wonder. The almost entirely male military of that era felt betrayed when she started FTA. She was a "dreamgirl", a fantasy object. (Ever see "Barbarella"?) and her choosing the other side was like a "Dear John" letter for many. Hence the anger aginast her that persists to this day. And, if Colonel Lunev's statements are correct (I'm still looking of independent confirmation)then her activism and that of other Hollywood "stars" may have been the ultimate aggiprop operation. Popular culture had a very powerful impact and if some attention-seeking actor can make headlines by striking a brave pose in opposition to an event that most people are avoiding active service in, then what's the harm, right?

I have a lot of male contemporaies who, on short acquaintence, will take great pains to tell me how they got out of the Draft or had a low lottery number. It's a point of pride with them. Compare that the World War II when men who were declared "4-F" and denied enlistment went home and killed themselves out of shame.

But the guys who went to Canada don't bother me. If you are that opposed then you should go elsewhere. It is the large number of those who worked within the system to keep themselves or their sons out of harm's way. The National Guard of that era was infamous for this. We had lots of these legal draft dodgers in ASA, I'm sorry to say, because ASA was officially not in Vietnam. (It tripled in size during the Vietnam War and actually had several thousand troops doing what was called "Radio Research". But there were some, and some were commissioned career officers, who transferred in because they didn't understand the reality.)

I also have been told that many drill instructors were recruited for that job from the ranks of draftees and were promised if they consented to abuse their betters, they would never be sent to South East Asia. There was some prejudice against Vietnam veterans even within the military. Surprised? I sure was when I arrived in Germany and my new First Sergeant made a point of telling me that my prior assignment meant nothing; that the real military was standing fast against a Soviet invasion that never came. My Lai was recent, and while an isolated event, every Vietnam veteran took the heat for it, in or out of the Army.

As for the Iraq War, as previously said, I was opposed. I wrote an anti-war play because of it, which had a showcase, but has never been produced again because people think it's too political. I think Colin Powell acted on information and belief and that he was lied to and used. End of story.

I take it, Realitchick, that you are against the military because you are against war. Well, as a friend of mine said, that's like being against the Fire Department because you are against arson.

You want someone to blame. Sorry. There is plenty of blame to go around but the rule is never to ascribe to malice and evil that which can be explained as incompetence. The reason I don't hold her anti-war activities against Jane Fonda is that I think her a great actress and a lousy politician. I didn't feel betrayed when Barbarella went over to the other side because I never believed she was real. The problem was that so many others did.

You know, I was never particularly in favor of the war in Vietnam, but neither was I opposed. When I joined ASA it was not going to be part of my reality. Originally I was supposed to train for Iran. It was only later that I volunteered to go there.. The reality was that those who feared imminent danger of death and destruction in Vietnam were, unless they were a front line combat arms soldier, grossly misinformed and overwrought. Compared to some of the things I've done in civlian life, my tour in Vietnam was a cakewalk. As my father said of his own tour at First MASH during the Korean War, I wouldn't trade you a million dollars for the experience and I wouldn't give a nickle for another one like it. Being there certainly did not change my politics. I'm still a liberal Democrat.

39. reality_chick - October 30, 2010 at 10:29 pm


Thank you for the polite and respectful tone of your comment.

You wrote "And the anti-war movement was a social fad." Well, 'tut, tut', as the saying goes. The same might be said of US military service -- that it is merely a 'social fad'. But the fact is that most anti-war protesters are motivated by a sense of duty not unlike the sense of duty that motivates military servicemen.

When I was ten to twelve years old (in 1961 to 63),
I was fascinated by the developing war in Viet Nam, about which I kept a scrapbook of every newspaper and magazine report I could find. During that time, I knew more about what was going on in Viet Nam than any adult in my immediate acquaintance.

When I saw the photos and films of Buddhist monks burning themselves to death in protest against the US-supported government of South Viet Nam, I realized that there had to be some serious and possibly valid grievances to inspire such a suicidal protest. When South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were murdered in a military coup that was backed by the US government, I realized that the US government's involvement in South Viet Nam was NOT about supporting or fostering democracy.

In 1967, when I was fifteen, I hitchhiked fifteen miles to attend my first anti-Viet Nam War rally. I went there against my parents' wishes, and I subsequently attended every major anti-Viet Nam War rally that was held in my city. The SDS members in my city were few in number and their influence was very limited. Most of the anti-war protesters were acting independently and we weren't particularly inclined to take orders from anyone. We were joined by many US military veterans, who were our friends and fellow protesters in the anti-Viet Nam War movement.

Jane Fonda's activities during the Viet Nam War did not serve as an inspiration for me nor the other people I knew in the anti-war movement. In the absence of Jane Fonda's antics, we all would have protested the War exactly as we did. In fact, some protesters regarded Fonda as a 'loose canon' and others even suspected Fonda of serving the US government by 'acting outrageously' to make the anti-war movement look bad. (When you want someone to do an over-the-top performance, why not hire a professional actress?) One thing is certain -- whatever Jane Fonda's motivation was, we in the anti-war movement didn't need her example to do what we did.

Before, during, and after the Viet Nam War, I have never been a total 'pacifist'. I do believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves or to defend others against aggressors. I refuse to obey anyone or any government that orders me to attack those who I do not see as a real threat or as true aggressors.

I do not approve of forcing people to participate in fights in which they do not wish to participate, and I do not approve of punishing people for refusing to participate in a fight. Everyone who participates in a fight should do so by their own volition.

I have never regarded Socialism as a threat; many of the greatest improvements in the USA and other nations have been Socialist reforms.

I do not see 'international Islamic terrorism' as a threat because I believe that the 9/11 attacks and many other so-called 'terrorist attacks' have actually been 'false flag' events staged by the USA, Israel, and the UK to provide an excuse for the US-led aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and other nations.

The most belligerant aggressor nation in the world today and the greatest threat to international peace, freedom, and justice is the United States of America, which is assisted in its agression by its allies -- Israel, the UK, and others.

40. suggest - October 31, 2010 at 07:44 am

francishamit's intelligence background seems to earn him exaggerated respect: why? Is there something in the record of US intelligence that justifies it? The idea that the Soviets funded the antiwar movement is beyond silly, for the simple reason that the antiwar movement had no funding. Its operations were utterly cheap. As for Mark Rudd, whom I knew well, his descent was not into terrorism but into silliness: these were not even the Keystone Kops of terrorism. Citing one of the mob of ex-Soviets bearing tales is hardly impressive: please remember, these are just words, not evidence. Civility and respect have their place, but not at the expense of common sense.

41. francishamit - November 01, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Suggest: The intelligence background is the foundation for my creative and academic work, staring in the 80's when I wrote most of the articles on Intelligence Affairs in the Encyclopaedia Britannica; the article about CIA, NSA, and all the other alphabet agencies as well as some short biographies and topic articles.

That research caused me to start collecting my own research library on the field since there was so little to be found in academic and public libraries. The short biography I did on Belle Boyd inspired what eventually became "The Shenandoah Spy" and the books in that series that will follow (I'm working on the second one now). The artilces on MI 5 and MI 6 led to my 1988 stage play about Christopher Marlowe and his day job with the early English Secret Service (That will be made into a motion picture next year.) I did a monthly column for a security magazine between 1993 and 2001 and often got into those issues because the humble security officer is the first line of defense against terrorism. As for Rudd, I never met him, but his book is a valuable document because it demonstrates how even those with the best intentions can be manipulated into bad acts by their own best intentions. One of my close friends in Chicago was Bill Martin, the last editor of The Chicago Seed and a veteran of the Days of Rage. He was the guy I exchanged notes with. He was also my editor at Video Action magazine.(He died in 1998.) Most of my information about the inner workings of SDS came from him, but Rudd's book confirmed a lot of it. I ended up feeling a little sorry for Rudd because his intentions were the best and he went so wrong. It's a good case history about what happens when one acts on bad intelligence...or upon belief rather than facts. And "belief" rather than "facts" is what drives academic attitudes towards the military. New facts and fresh viewpoints are not particularly welcome, are they?

One of those Britannica articles was on Disinformation, which I described as "an elegant form of lying." You see a lot of that same kind of thing in the current political campaigns. The Republican Party has gotten very good at it. So I take a journalistic approach to these issues and compare various sources against each other. That has been very helpful in researching the fine details of the Civil War. As for Colonel Lunev's hypothosis, you will note that I said I was looking for independent confirmation. He was dying at the time he said it, for what that's worth. The seductive thing about that hypothesis is that is does fit with the known facts rather neatly and it is entirely logical, because as previously stated, we didn't lose that war on the battlefield but in the streets and on the campuses here. It is exactly the same strategy that the the CIA used against the Comintern in Italy and Greece in the post World War II period. Money is a powerful weapon and during our invasion of Iraq low-ranking intelligence officers carried millions of dollars in crisp hundred dollar bills to hand out to anyone who would help us. The moderm warfare dynamic has evolved in many unexpected ways. Why shoot bullets when bribes will do?

I maintain some professional affliations through groups such as the Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and the National Military Intelligence Association (NMIA) mostly because they publish new studies that relatively unbiased. There are thousands of veterans of the 17 intelligence services and most of us had a very compartmented, worm's eye view of the big events like Vietnam. We're still trying to figure out what did happen. "The Truth Shall Set You Free" -- if you can just figure out what that is.

42. reality_chick - November 01, 2010 at 01:38 pm


Although some people may find Colonel Lunev's 'hypothesis' credible, it lacks corroboration and evidence of Soviet funding for antiwar groups or individuals. Most antiwar activists and groups have operated on a poverty-level budget.

The post-war covert operations of the CIA in Europe against leftist groups are now famous and well-documented:



There is also extensive documentation of CIA infiltration of anti-war and anti-Imperialist groups in the USA as well as abroad:


But there is no significant evidence or documentation of Soviet funding or infiltration of the anti-war movement in the USA.

43. gold4k - November 14, 2010 at 06:28 pm

I'd love to see reality chick's bibliography. I think she is knows a lot

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