How about that—generals are featherbedding bureaucrats, just like most of the rest of the government. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
The United States has always had a love affair with certain generals. George Washington, of course, was immensely popular, and thirteen US presidents were generals before they were president.
But prior to the Second World War, generals as a group were not revered or treated with any particular veneration or respect. In fact, in the nineteenth century, full-time US military officers were often treated with suspicion and contempt. While state militia officers were regarded as indispensable night watchmen who preserved order, the full-time government employees who served in the federal military were often derided as lazy and otherwise unemployable.
But now those days are long gone. In recent decades, active generals and retired generals have grown into a group of politically influential technocrats who can be regularly seen on evening news programs and are habitually feted and promoted as incorruptible patriots. They are fawned over by media organizations while being paid enormous pensions. Moreover, upon retirement they are able to turn their former government employment into lucrative positions on corporate boards and throughout the private sector.
The immense deference and trust placed in the opinions and alleged expertise of these men is far beyond what is warranted. Like all technocrats—whether we’re talking Supreme Court justices or public health bureaucrats—the generals have their own interests and their own agendas. This was recently highlighted by the president’s new public feud with some generals. At a Labor Day press conference Trump averred: “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t, because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.” It’s always difficult to guess Trump’s motivations and earnestness when he makes statements such as this, but the statement itself isn’t wrong. The generals—retired and not— are often deeply enmeshed with weapons manufacturers and tech firms that rely on Pentagon spending.
Not a week goes by where someone in the alternative media doesn’t write an article about the cozy relationship between America’s generals and military contractors, but Trump is the first president in decades to talk about it publicly. From Hunter Derensis at theamericanconservative.com:
Top brass are suspiciously cozy with contractors who profit from war. Trump is the first president to point it out.
President-elect Trump with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, who would soon become Secretary of Defense in between stints at General Dynamics. (By a katz/Shutterstock)
Once again, the whispers of phantoms
masquerading as administration officials have attempted to put Donald Trump on the defensive only two months before the fall election. And in typical fashion, the roused president has gone on an immediate rhetorical offensive.
Trump has doubled down on his affirmations towards the U.S. military and the American soldier, while simultaneously confronting the class of generals who command them. “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are,” Trump said at a Labor Day press conference. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
This is a dramatic shift in perspective from the man who spent the first two years of his presidency surrounding himself with top brass like Michael Flynn, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis (along with almost being beguiled into nominating David Petraeus
as Secretary of State). Perhaps Trump learned the hard way that the generals of the forever wars don’t measure up to the twentieth-century soldiers he adulated growing up.
For instance, when George Marshall oversaw the deployment of 8.3 million GIs across four continents in World War II, he did so with the assistance of only three other four-star generals. In retirement, Marshall refused to sit on any corporate boards, and passed on multiple lucrative book deals, lest he give the impression that he was profiting from his military record. As he told one publisher, “he had not spent his life serving the government in order to sell his life story to the Saturday Evening Post.”
Contrast that to the bloated, top-heavy military establishment of today, where an unprecedented forty-one four-star generals oversee only 1.3 million men and women-at-arms. These men, selected and groomed because of their safe
habits, spend years patting themselves on the back for managing wars-not-won, awaiting the day they can cash in. According to an analysis
by The Boston Globe
, in the mid-1990s nearly 50% of three- and four-star generals went on to work as consultants or executives for the arms industry. In 2006, at the height of the Iraq War, that number swelled to over 80% of retirees.
Generals are boot-licking careerists. They won’t speak up against the US’s next idiotic military misadventure. From Danny Sjursen at theamericanconservative.com:
U.S. Pentagon brass listen to President Trump’s State of the Union Address, Feb. 5, 2019. (CSPAN/You Tube/Screengrab)
Poll after poll indicates that the only public institution Americans still trust is the military. Not Congress, not the presidency, not the Supreme Court, the church, or the media. Just the American war machine.
But perhaps that faith in the U.S. Armed Forces is misplaced. I got to thinking about this recently after I wrote articles calling for dissent among military leaders in order to stop what seems to be a likely forthcoming war with Iran. While I still believe that dissent in the ranks stands the best chance of galvanizing an apathetic public against an ill-advised, immoral conflict in the Persian Gulf, I also know its a pipe dream.
These are company men, after all, obedient servants dedicated—no matter how much they protest otherwise—to career and promotion, as much or more than they are to the national interest. The American military, especially at the senior ranks, is apt to let you down whenever courage or moral fortitude is needed most. In nearly 18 years of post-9/11 forever war, not a single general has resigned in specific opposition to what many of them knew to be unwinnable, unethical conflicts. Writing about the not-so-long-ago Vietnam War, former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, himself a problematic war on terror general, labeled in his book title such military acquiescence Dereliction of Duty. That it was, but so is the lack of moral courage and logical reasoning among McMaster and his peers who have submissively waged these endless wars in Americans’ name.
Posted in Cronyism, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Government, History, Imperialism, Intelligence, Military, Morality
Tagged Afghanistan, American empire, Iran, Iraq, US generals