Friday, August 17

Toenails Release Slick Peas: Playing Telephone on the Hot Line with Rudy G

Rudolph Giuliani, "Toward a Realistic Peace", Foreign Affairs September/October

THIS is, I think, the most ignorant thing I've ever seen attached to a politician's name, and I've heard Everett Dirksen, S.I. Hayakawa, and Steve Symms speak.
We are all members of the 9/11 generation.

And that's it. He could have stopped there, for all the evidence he supplies, all the analysis that flows from this "fact". This is a man asking us to name him to follow the most incompetent administration in our history, to take charge of the colossal mess created precisely because we relied on this sort of sloganeering instead of looking for ways to create a realistic peace.

Or any peace, for that matter, because in the heyday of the use of Red White an' Blue as a charm against falling objects we had no interest in peace whatever. If that's ever changed for Giuliani you won't hear it about it here, just as you'll never hear it on the campaign trail. Peace, a solution (other than the Final one), these are not even a part of the narrative, as they would be in any real war, no matter how odious the enemy. It's Ultimate Victory Which Demonstrates for All Time God's Righteous Guidance of our Tax-Cutting Program vs. Demoralizing, Humiliating Defeat Which Turns Our Brave Heroes Gay. If you want an accurate title here, or at least one that refers to what's in the body of the piece, it's "How to Recycle Cold War and Post-Vietnam Rhetoric In Such A Way That It Might Win Us One More Election."

Okay, I know that Giuliani's just saying things to win a nomination--not that I think he's shamming--but this is Foreign Affairs, not NASCAR in Pictures Monthly. The base ain't listenin'. So we're forced to conclude he learned international relations playing Telephone with Young Republicans during the Reagan administration. After suggesting that our every international concern is the result of, or has been exacerbated by, our short-sighted refusal to simply explain to the other nations of the world why our system is logically the best for them if they would like to prosper, join in a secure community of nations, and avoid having us blow their fucking heads off--said persuasion to be accomplished by submarine, "paramilitary groups" (I kid you not!), and the Voice of America--Rudy assures us that, like all responsible Presidential candidates, he's already got the exploratory committee on his own canonization hard at work:
Our cultural and commercial influence can also have a positive impact. They did during the Cold War. The steadfast leadership of President Reagan, working alongside British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped the Soviet Union understand that it could not bully the West into submission. Although such leadership was essential, alone it might not have toppled the Soviet Union in the time that it did. But it was effective because it came with Western economic investment and cultural influence that inspired people in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Levi's helped win the Cold War by entering the Soviet market. Cultural events, such as Van Cliburn's concerts in the Soviet Union and Mstislav Rostropovich's in the United States, also hastened change.

Good Lord, it's history as told to People magazine. No, make that Us. Reagan steadfastly ran from Lebanon, after getting a couple hundred Marines killed to no purpose whatsoever, all because Realism Informed by Idealism dictated that he toss out the Camp David Accords as being, if I recall, "too accomplished by Jimmy Carter". As a result, of course, there hasn't been a bit of trouble on the Israel/Lebanon border since, and we've developed a special relationship with the Saudi royal family, once it understood the benefits of free elections and unfettered trade. The Pope managed to muzzle some mouthy South American priests and give hope to millions around the world who felt that the 19th Century was moving just a little too fast. Thatcher, meanwhile, took a failing British economy and, by dint of superior principles, drove it into the dumpster. Plus, in a certain light, she looked a little like Churchill. And who can forget that she kicked some Argentine ass, a move roundly applauded in the United States by people who couldn't have pointed to the Falklands on a map, and who apparently sided with the British in the hopes that one day we'd get our own Spice Girl out of the deal.
The next U.S. president should take inspiration from Ronald Reagan's actions during his summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík in 1986: he was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talking went nowhere. The lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal. Those with whom we negotiate -- whether ally or adversary -- must know that America has other options. The theocrats ruling Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot, by undermining popular support for their regime, damaging the Iranian economy, weakening Iran's military, and, should all else fail, destroying its nuclear infrastructure.

It's amazing that the party which used to grouse about Unintended Consequences now seems to imagine there are no consequences of any sort, or where there are some, however unpleasant, it's because we haven't doubled down enough yet. Elsewhere Giuliani spits out the recent commonplace that the Iranian people "actually like us"--the whole thing is current events as scrapbook--but somehow they'll be happy to have us fuck with them from 30,000 metaphorical feet provided we've got a really good reason to do so.

This, by the way, is the essence of Giuliani's military thinking, a return to 9/12 and the infinite possibilities of crafting military action using logistical maps and vapor.
The U.S. Army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades. It may need more, but this is an appropriate baseline increase while we reevaluate our strategies and resources. We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers. Rebuilding will not be cheap, but it is necessary. And the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Which, of course, doesn't mean we can afford it, or even that it's a good idea. But let's look at this one from the top, beginning atop the spires of the alabaster castle he's erecting in the clouds and continuing down to the crater we'll leave when we climb onto the thing.

Ten combat brigades. That's 50,000 men, plus materiel, plus the neglected-to-mention-'em-because-they-ain't-sexy support troops. Forget where they're supposed to come from when we haven't been able to recruit 50,000 a year despite raising the age limit and lowering the physical and mental requirements to "Present". Every recruit receives an automatic $90,000 ($20K in cash) benefit package upon acceptance, plus unknown future educational benefits and whatever medical care we don't cheat them out of when they're no longer of any use. We spend between $50-100,000 on training each soldier in his first year. That's a commitment to a minimum $7 billion dollar increase before anyone gets a haircut, and doesn't include feeding, housing, or equipping him, and it presumably comes after we re-equip and re-man the existing ten divisions. The current Pentagon wish list is for an increase of two divisions (roughly 30,000 troops). Rudy wants half again as many at a minimum while we're sitting around trying to figure out what we really need to do. This at a time when combat readiness is at an historic low, when we may need to requisition Yellowstone for use as a parking lot for junk equipment (sorry, I shouldn't have said that out loud), and at a time when we've already transferred the responsibilities of the Army's "Ready Brigade" to the 101st Airborne--which is by training and equipment incapable of performing all the doctrinal requirements--so that we could send every brigade of the 82nd Airborne--which can--to assist in The Surge. At the best of times--like, say, when we had a standing army that was equipped and prepared to do its job--creating a single division would require a minimum of five years. Forget who's supposed to pay for all this and how--presumably vapor taxpayers and vapor money are as easy to conjure up as ghost brigades--who's going to train them? You'll have to retain practically the entire fighting force we have left, promote them, and a corresponding increase in benefits and pensions, as a training force.

Wait, we've barely begun. We've created an army of soldiers many of whom are not yet born, and saddled their younger siblings with the bill. But what th' fuck is the mission? We've already seen that a standing force of 1.1 million--double that with Reservists and Guard--was unable to deploy, let alone maintain, much more than 200,000 troops between Iraq and Afghanistan. Which force, as everybody but the Republican Presidential contenders now knows, was woefully inadequate for the job, which was to occupy the poorest country in the world, with little more than a leftover insurgent force to defend it (albeit in favorable terrain, but that terrain did miraculously get tougher on September 11), and a tenth-rate military power still more than decimated by the pounding we gave it twelve years earlier. Neither of them is Iran, and Iran is no Pakistan. Where are we sending these boys and girls, Rudy? What're they supposed to do once they get there? Or has Camille Paglia--who mused last week that we might have to return to Iraq sometime in the near future and bomb the hell out of 'em this time, as though to emphasize the fact that this was another subject she didn't know a fucking thing about--signed on as your secret military advisor?

I told myself I was going to ignore it this time, but the song of the sirens is too persuasive. It's not just current military matters on which Rudy is certifiably insane:
America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, we fought a war with the wrong strategy for several years. And then, as now, we corrected course and began to show real progress. Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse.

Fiction. absolute fiction from beginning to end. Wrong in every particular. (For the record, Your Honor, America needs to learn the lessons of Vietnam before it worries that it's getting a little fuzzy about the details. And perhaps you'd care to go first?) And it perfectly underscores the depth of the problem in front of us--not just the eventual breakdown of what remains of US forces in Iraq, which the Bush administration determined several years ago was preferable to its admission of error (these are the patriots, folks), not the wresting of temporal political control from a party of lunatics, in order to hand it over to a party of lunatic enablers, but the complete reversal of sixty years of military fetishism, insane spending priorities, and a view of history somewhere between "Unlettered" and "Hallucinated", all of it transfered from ear to ear, one whisper at a time.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. If I weren't so damned sick right now, I'd print off 200 copies of your post and hand them to people exiting the next Rudy Rally here in Des Moines. Would it cause some eye-opening? Perhaps not, but it might cause a few heads to explode...

M. Bouffant said...

Best item of yours I've read yet! Which is saying a lot. (Course It is like shooting fish in a barrel, but you've done it w/o putting any holes in the barrel, just getting the fish. It is a drag getting the shot out of the fish, but let's not stretch this metaphor much farther.)
Cheers, as the limeys say.

mark hoback said...

loved it!

Alicia Morgan said...

Fantastic. You have a new fan.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

The bit about military fetishism is hugely important.

Just as the old carpenter's saying has it: When all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

All this military spending has gotten us nearly nothing except diabolically rich military contractors and that certain inability to look for any solution that doesn't involve things going boom.

While most of the booms we are hearing are the sounds of collapsing infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, maybe Rudy plays too much Risk and figures we'll just wait until the beginning of our next turn and pull the extra brigades out of a little plastic bin.

Mauro said...

Best thing I've read all week. (:

In late 2004, these credentials would have let me to support Giuliani, in the hopes that those Republican fools got to suffer the effects (Mmmm, schadenfreude!), but I soon realized that that screws over progressives, too. However, I think that we need to realize, collectively, that as much as we may suffer from the election of Republicans, we need to be laughing at the Republican-caused misfortunes of any who elected them.

Anonymous said...

Your stuff is the best I have read since Hunter S. Thompson's early stuff. Thank you.

punkinsmom said...

I'm not that up on my history, perhaps Rudy can tell me where exactly the "newly energized" Soviet Union expanded to after 1972.

Prof. George Edward Challenger said...

Mr. Doghouse,

This essay is truly topnotch. You are playing at the top of your game. A pleasant skewering of Rudy's ignorance.

Just one quibble: Ten 'combat' brigades would be about 30,000 troops. 50,000 troops would be about 5 Divisions. Each combat brigade has about 3,000 soldiers -- I believe that would include one battalion of support soldiers as well. There are three brigades and a headquarters company in each a division.

Still, pretty bold undertaking to be making with someone else's (future generations) money.