Once a Marine...

Once a Marine...
Every year or so, I get together with my Marine Officer buddies. We're not as lean, not as mean, but we're still Marines. That's me, with the long hair.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Will to Win Wars

Somewhere in the Berzerkistan Province of Iraq, an awards ceremony is taking place:

General: Well, Captain, what did you do?

Captain: I’m a fighter pilot, General. I dropped flaming gasoline on a group of men.

General: Hmm, they looked suspicious, eh?

Captain: Roger that, General.

General: Very good. You get, uh, these three ribbons, and… this medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

Sergeant: General, I engaged in house-to-house fighting, and when I ran out of ammo I commenced to bashin’ heads in with my shovel. By the time the battle was done, I was down to gouging out the eyes of the enemy using my MRE spoon.

General: Nicely done, Sergeant. You’re a killer, and a man for the enemy to fear. You get you get two ribbons, a badge, and this medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

General: Ah! A young lady! What did you do?

Private: Sir, I made a guy wear my underwear on his head. Oh, and one time I watched while another MP had a dog bark really loud at a prisoner. Want to see the pictures?

General: Are you kidding me? Absolutely! That is so freakin’—

General’s Aide: Pssst. There’s a reporter watching, Sir.

General: …so… so freakin’ bad! Bad Private. No ribbons. You go to jail.

General’s Aide: Next!

Lieutenant: General, my platoon was ambushed, and we wiped out the enemy.

General: Well done, Lieutenant. Four ribbons, and medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

Staff-Sergeant: General, my squad was ambushed, and we wiped out the enemy.

General: Well, that’s the sort of thing—

General’s Aide: Sir, there’s a reporter here from the New York Times, and he says he talked to one of the enemy and the enemy says that the Staff Sergeant wiped them out.

General: Yes, well, uh, isn’t that the point?

General’s Aide: The enemy says they didn’t deserve it.

General: And?

General’s Aide: And the reporter is from the N-e-w Y-o-r-k T-i-m-e-s.

General: As I was saying, Staff Sergeant, that’s the sort of thing that results in murder charges. You go to jail.

Staff-Sergeant: Murder? In a combat zone? In a fire fight?

General: Get a photographer over here. I’m ready to do my concerned and disappointed look.

Somewhere in Charleston, a former Marine boils:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for a brief, educational break: War is what our military does, and as is the case with all war-making units, they hurt people, and break things. The hurting and the breaking continues until the other side is so broken and so hurt they’ll do anything to make it stop, even listen to American politicians tell them what to do. Sometimes achieving this is very hard, because listening to American politicians is an awful fate indeed: Clear thinking folks that the Japanese are, they resisted long and hard. Finally, we had to nuke a couple of civilian cities.

But, that’s the way it goes. The man in charge of the mission made the call, and the atom bombs flew. FYI, here is the total number of people who went to jail for nuking two civilian cities: Zero. Here’s the total number of guards who went to jail for teasing Japanese POWs: Zero.

But… times have changed. America today is a kinder, gentler America than back in the 1940’s. These days, the press has virtually unlimited access to our wars, and those brave war correspondents have kept us on that path of kindness and gentleness. Only once have we strayed from this new recipe: During Gulf I in 1990, the military put all the reporters in a room and spoke to them only during daily briefings. In unrelated news, Gulf I is also the only war we’ve actually won since WWII.

So, how did we reach this point? When did we as a nation begin accepting the second hand testimony of the enemy as a reason to charge our military men with murder? When did we sink so low as to make a public spectacle of a little girl named Lindy England?

It began the day John F. Kennedy took two for the team. In covering JFK’s funeral, the American media discovered that they could not only report the news, they could shape the way we feel about the news. I have painstakingly charted the media’s emotionalizing of stories, and found that when that chart intersected the chart tracking politicians who govern by poles, the result was, uh, America today.

The formula is now thus:

Politician- This Abu Ghraib thingee is problematic. The networks are screaming bloody murder. What do the polls say?

Handler- Well, the CNN poll says the American public is outraged. The MSNBC poll says the American public demands action. ABC, CBS, and NBC all report that America’s standing as the world’s moral compass has been shattered.

Politician- How about Fox? What do their polls say?

Handler- Their polls indicate the American people think it’s kinda cool, so they’re launching a bumper sticker slogan contest.

Politician- Well, how do I play it?

Handler- It’s a tough call, Big Guy. Those are our soldiers, and it’s their lives were discussing here. We need more facts.

Politician- Ha! Good one! You can always make me laugh when I’m down!

Handler- Just go with the polls, Boss. Demand an investigation, sound angry, and throw the military under the bus. The press loves that indignant routine.

Somewhere in Charleston, a former Marine asks some questions:

Should we, America, ever go to war again? Do we have the will to inflict the violence necessary to utterly break another people, like Sherman broke the South? Is there any cause so great that the press would agree not to publish information about secret missions before they happen? Is it possible in today’s world of live-feed news and Twitter to allow the commanders on the ground the do their jobs? Can we forgive our troops when they lose control and wreak havoc on bystanders? If the answers are what I think they are, should we become isolationists?

Food for thought--


  1. As long as our mainstream media marginalize opposing views and trivialize popular opinion, why should we as a nation ever go to war again?

    The media must be discredited and shown for what they have become: non-expert in purveying opinions masquerading as unbiased, substantive, and superior:

    1) Journalists must possess creditable expertise in matters upon which they report facts to readers, or disclose their intrinsic inexpertise.

    2) Missing from today’s journalistic quality is routine interest in and scrupulous reporting of contrary assessments by dissenting experts.

    3) Finally, journalists should keep their opinions to themselves unless their educational achievements, career experience or substantive, evidentiary facts set them apart from knowledgeable readers. Otherwise, it must be assumed it is just propaganda they spew.

  2. Looks like I'm part of the V-Twin, tag-team combo to post here. Have looked at all your blogs--really enjoyed--and laughed!You need a wider readership. You should post more at Lexs' place, more people would follow you over. You're on his blogroll, after all, but often that's not enough. Once one gets a set pattern of daily "instrument scans" it's tough to break the pattern--there are only so many hours in the day. ....Come to think of it I'm already regretting finding you...just another damn distraction..

  3. PS:That's a pretty shifty group of desperadoes you have pictured up there--you sure you didn't rip that off some Post Office wall flyer?

  4. Huh. Who knew we could call it something different and get away with it? "Kinetic" action in Libya!

    I'm not sure I want our young men dying for kinetic anything.