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Collapse of the ruling class in America

by rootless2 Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:25:40 PM EST

During WWI, British officers were famous for living well back from the front and living luxuriously well, while their soldiers lived and died in mud. I only recently read
 "The last true story" a memoir of a US National Guardsman who "served" in Iraq. The grisly picture of effect of the US occupation on Iraq comes through well, but what also is striking is the gross incompetence, stupidity, delusion, and lack of responsibility in the Republican officer class. While the soldiers live 15 to a room without even fans in the Iraqi summer, sleeping on bare floors with no water, patrolling the streets with no mission, equipped with Vietnam era worthless body armor, lacking guidance, intelligence, or any semblance of a plan, the officers cower in air-conditioned fortresses, emerging only to play Patton and give cliched speeches to soldiers whose names they can't bother to remember.

Somehow, without a heriditary aristocracy, the US has found itself managed by a collection of twits who could have emerged from Mayfair.


What exactly is "the Republican Officer Class?"  Didn't see that one in the link.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 11:02:48 PM EST
The officer ranks in the US military are very right wing and Republican. This is a relatively new development since the Reagan era.


has a short summary.

by rootless2 on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 12:51:51 PM EST
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Interesting paper. I read it word for word.  However, it does not offer much more than opinion that the American officer corps is becoming more politicized and particularly Republican over Democrat.  It uses two former senior officers as examples of officers who in the author's opinion showed political preference while in uniform. Colin Powell has indicated he is a Republican and Maxwell Taylor served in uniform in the Democratic Kennedy administration after retiring following disagreements with Republican Eisenhower and being recalled to active duty by Kennedy (because Kennedy knew Taylor agreed with his strategic military vision.  The other examples of lower ranked officers seem to be concentrated during the Democratic Clinton administration.  Of course, Clinton was publicly criticised for evading the draft, protesting against the military during the Vietnam War.  He was probably the least liked/respected of any recent President by the military in general.

The other notable example given was the effect of the overwhelming overseas absentee vote for Bush in Florida.  However, no distinction was or could be made on the basis of officer vs. enlisted voters.  

All that said, my personal opinion, based on many years association with the American military (in one fashion or another) is somewhat supportive of the author's views in that: (1) as also pointed out in the article, the military tends to be more conservative (both officers and enlisted) than the average American Joe; (2) part of this can be laid at the feet of the "all volunteer force" that tends to draw and retain persons interested in long term stays in the military as opposed to draftees who were in and out as soon as possible; (3) the Iraq war is likely to have a profound effect on party favoritism within the military, perhaps not immediately, but eventually the war will lead to mistrust of the civilian leadership, as it did following Vietnam and could cause a more favorable view of the Democrats (and finally, as with myself an intense distrust of and unhappiness with both parties).

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:05:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The military being more conservative is not surprising, the issue is self-identification as Republican which seems to be about 2/3 in the officer ranks according to surveys I've seen.

But the point I was getting at was that the same toxic mix that, to me, characterizes managerial class republicanism - a mix of ideology, media-cafard, selfishness, and sheer ignorance seems prevalent in the military. The Crawford book documents an organization that lacks responsible leadership. Here are US soldiers, who cannot rely on the military for basic supplies  despite the nearby existence of huge, luxurious fortresses inhabited by their officers. Living 15 to a room, sleeping on bare floors, covered with flies, scrounging for food, in a major city where the managerial organizations have swimming pools and gyms constructed for their use. The officers can't be bothered to even remember the soldiers names. And the officers show up now and then, waving pistols a-la-Patton, hoping for media and delivering "good work, men" speeches.

by rootless2 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 06:31:37 AM EST
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I understand where you are coming from on the issue of treatment and living condition disparities. I know that the issue of body armor(as a basic supply) dates  back to the beginning of the war.  I was involved in a (non-military) security assistance program in 2003-04 that included supplying body armor. Body armor was extremely difficult to buy in quantity and we eventually had to settle for second best (but adequate) because the state of the art was unavailable with all that was being produced being delivered to DoD.

I think the war (which, by the way, I don't believe should have been started) is being fought on a shoe-string budget (as expensive as it is) and that's not the fault  of the officer corps in Iraq, but the administration.  My experience in Vietnam is quite the opposite of what your book source says happens in Iraq.  I had Marine friends at the platoon (Lt) and company level (Capt) and I know they slugged it out with the troops in the bush.  On the base where I lived in relative comfort and security, officers and enlisted lived separately, but the only officers I know of that had air conditioning and superior quarters were pilots - and of course they were combat fighters.  My officers quarters were actually worse than those of the enlisted men in our unit.  They had AC and concrete.  I lived in a stick hut and couldn't spend time there most of the year during the day due to the heat. I would never have thought of complaining though, because I was taught to take care of the "men" first, and I still believe this is a cardinal rule of military leadership that goes back centuries.  I also regularly visited army compounded units out in the countryside where everyone lived the same and the officers (up to major) fought like everyone else.

My point is that if it's that radically different in Iraq things have changed drastically, but I just don't see all the officers lazing around looking for publicity shots because they have all become "managerial class" Republicans.  I can see someone claiming this is the case from time to time.  I recall some enlisted men who disliked officers intently and were inclined to exaggerate.  By the way, I served as both enlisted and officer during my military time, and have do not lack respect for either calling.  There are good and bad everywhere.

  Maybe I just need to read Mr. Crawford's book -  I have an open mind on the matter but need to be convinced given my experience.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course any generalization has exceptions and Mr. Crawford saw the worst - as member of the step-child national guard. But the stories from Iraq, from the deliberate lack of supervision at Abu Ghraib, to the unconscionable lengthening of tours, to the media driven "rescue" of the blonde soldier who got captured, all show an absence of either sensible leadership or any officer presence at all. And I think this is a new phenom in US military units, but one that David Hackworth documented as it spread through the military. The early story that blew me away was off a US camp in southern iraq where water was in short supply and some religious nut chaplin used his control of a small swimming tank to coerce religious attendence. Where was the outraged Captain or Major or Colonel stepping up to protect the soldiers? Small thing, but part of the picture.
by rootless2 on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 04:14:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, collapse is not enough.  We read daily about the most abhorrent behaviors at all levels of power, trickling down from the top, yet it does not crash and burn.  It´s worldwide, though the most destructive is the US because of its position, and it would take a global people´s revolution to bring it to an end.

I have little hope for that kind of movement because we are much too comfortable believing ´it will get better´ and we are too busy with our cozy, little lives...  On the other end, people who survive below the most basic human rights levels, are too powerless to rebel and are busy migrating to countries with unsustainable "comfort" levels.  

Talking with immigrants all the time, trying to explain to them that aspiring to a personal car is not the best they can do, they probably see me as the village idiot for being almost the only one who doesn´t own a car.  Can I blame them for following the "economic growth" example of our masses?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 10:23:27 AM EST
We were in China a couple of years ago, and were struck by how ordinary people are aspiring to a nice apartment and a car. When I was there in the early 1980s, they were aspiring to a pack of cigs and maybe a voucher letting them travel to the city for a day. It's impossible to fault people for wanting to be comfortable.
by rootless2 on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 05:22:14 PM EST
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I agree, this is the same phenomenon that has caused Americans to leave the farm over the past 100 years and become city dwellers.  Farm work, as it was on relatively small plots of land, as in China, can involve backbreaking labour with little money earned to purchase the "finer" things that city dwellers employed by factories are able to afford.  It takes a whole different mindset to see advantage in leading a simpler life style.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 10:25:25 PM EST
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