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MILITARY: ‘Lessons of history’ out of context

Letter by William F. Johnston, Tacoma on Jan. 12, 2012 at 10:55 am with 56 Comments »
January 12, 2012 11:35 am

Re: “Obama, like previous presidents, forgets lessons of history with military plan” (TNT, 1-11).

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales cites “lessons of history” and gets them all wrong without proper context.

How can you reference Vietnam and Iraq as examples, when it was illogical to have fought them at all? “By 1970 our professional army … was replaced by a body of amateurs.” I was a member of that pre-1970 military and, as I recall, we were a “citizens military” made up of draftees. The “professional” army didn’t come until after 1970.

And to compare Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Saddam Hussein is to display complete ignorance as to the unique role each played in their country’s history. Scales claims “we cannot pick our enemies.” I would just point out to him we certainly did when we invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever.

He goes on to be critical of President Obama’s plans to “confront China with technology rather than people.” This without considering over 40 percent of our economy is already controlled by the Chinese. Our threat from China is economic not a military one!

Scales is a man who is living in the past, wearing blinders as to the real threats in the world around us.

Leave a comment Comments → 56
  1. I haven’t yet read the referenced article, but I will. However, I will say that if this…

    “By 1970 our professional army …
    was replaced by a body of amateurs.”

    is a quote from MajGen Scales, then he’s wrong.

    What happened in the 70’s, after 1972 I think, was that the draft was ended and the Army went VOLAR, or All Volunteer Army. That’s not the same as replacing them with “amateurs.” Bullfeathers General Scales!

    After I re-enlisted then I was VOLAR, but no amateur! Hundreds of thousands of other Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard re-elistees and officers were not amateurs either. Calling us amateurs is pure Horsehockey General!!

    (Gonna go read the article now.)

  2. I haven’t read the referenced article yet, but if MajGen Scales said that

    “By 1970 our professional army … was replaced by a body of amateurs.”

    that’s wrong!

  3. keepinitreal says:

    “… invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever.” Really ? Talk about blinders.

  4. SCORPION says:

    As usual we have cherry picked, edited quotes. Here is the paragraph…

    “With Dwight Eisenhower came the “New Look” strategy that sought to reduce the Army and Marine Corps again to allow the creation of a nuclear delivery force built around the Strategic Air Command. Along came Vietnam, a war that Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson never wanted to fight. But by 1970 our professional Army broke apart and was replaced by a body of amateurs. The result was defeat and 58,000 dead.”

    I know what he means about ‘amateurs’ as it was during this time period that the average age of the soldier at arms was approx 21 years of age. A poor choice of words… probably since the jist of the original letter may be lost on this one sentence.

    We are again in the process of eviscerating our armed forces with threats continuing to grow.

  5. keepnitreal says:

    Well, if you believe we “invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever” then you have blinders on sir.

  6. MajGen Scales also seems to be a man who is willing to “pass the buck” as we say, when in the original article he writes…

    “After Vietnam, the Nixon administration broke the Army again. I know. I was there to see the drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline, caused mainly by a dispirited noncommissioned corps that voted with its feet and left.”

    Really General Scales! You are blaming the NonComs for lack of leadership and saying they “caused” the “drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline”? I was there too!

    Might I remind you sir, what they teach at The Command & Staff College, that all leadership comes from the Top Down, not the Bottom Up.

    You say you were there? Then take your share of responsibility sir!

  7. ManuelMartini says:

    “Well, if you believe we “invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever” then you have blinders on sir.”

    Let me guess.

    9/11?

    Yellow Cake?

    WMDs?

    New reason?

  8. Scorpion – you say Kennedy never wanted the war in Vietnam? I thought he was the president that started it??

  9. SCORPION says:

    darlin – it was a quote from MajGen Scales.

    two – Vietnam was cooking before we, the US got involved.

    three – in context with the issues at the time and in the suspected meaning of MG Scales, Kennedy was reluctant to commit a full scale deployment of US troops.

  10. aislander says:

    So…did we honor our commitment under the Paris peace treaty?

    …and we entered Iraq because of Saddam’s failure to adhere to the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire…

  11. took14theteam says:

    Moniker impostor alert!

    Pay attention to the spelling of keepinitreal

    I am sure muckibr would support me on this as well as the martini dude….

  12. bobcat1a says:

    People should listen to Ron Paul. Mr Scales talks about forgetting lessons…he and too many of our “Defense experts” have indeed forgotten one important lesson, that of the Roman Empire; a nation cannot grow and prosper while spending all of its resources on intervening in and trying to control every dispute in sight. That way lies eventual national suicide.

    As posted on the original article.

  13. bobcat1a says:

    Aislander, you need to go back a few years and look at the Geneva Accords which called for national elections that were ignored by the US and our client state of South Vietnam because we knew we would lose. Vietnam was a mindless adventure that accelerated into a massive tragedy. Just like Iraq.

  14. aislander says:

    I remember the Geneva Accords as relating to the French, put the Paris Peace Accords involved the US. We withdrew from Vietnam under those accords, promising to provide at least material support should North Vietnam invade after ITS withdrawal under the same accords.

    When North Vietnam invaded the South upon our withdrawal the Democrats in Congress withdrew funding so that we could not honor our treaty obligations. That is probably the most shameful foreign-policy episode in the entire history of this nation.

    I just have to laugh when Democrats insist that this treaty or that carries the force of law, and that we MUST honor it. Screw Kyoto…

  15. islandernwly says:

    “promising to provide at least material support” To whom were we to provide? The South Vietnamese Army was almost nonexistent by this time. The North Vietnamese did not wait for us to leave before invading.The majority of their forces were already well established in the South.

  16. aislander says:

    So…if North Vietnam didn’t honor the terms of withdrawal, why did we?

  17. aislander says:

    It was shameful…

  18. aislander says:

    SilliCavilli, I see…

  19. I think Bush’s reason was “this is the guy who tried to kill my dad”

    But the PNAC’s vision of Pax Americana was the real reason we invaded Iraq. They used the “new Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 to “catapult the propaganda”
    http://www.crisispapers.org/Editorials/PNAC-Primer.htm

    So…..I gotta wonder, what will be the “new 9/11″ that will lead to our invasion of Iran?

  20. alindasue says:

    aislander said, “I remember the Geneva Accords as relating to the French, put the Paris Peace Accords involved the US. We withdrew from Vietnam under those accords, promising to provide at least material support should North Vietnam invade after ITS withdrawal under the same accords.”

    aislander,
    Do you honestly think it would have made any difference if we had sent our troops back into Vietnam? Would we have actually accomplished anything there other than sacrificing even more of our young soldiers to the quagmire? I highly doubt it.

    beerBoy said, “But the PNAC’s vision of Pax Americana was the real reason we invaded Iraq. They used the “new Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 to “catapult the propaganda””

    beerBoy,
    I’m not generally one for conspiracy theories.

    However, given the fact that President Bush (the younger) continually injected “Remember 9/11″ into his speeches about the war in Iraq – despite ample proof that Iraq was in no way connected to the events on 9/11 – I’d say that he (or, perhaps, they) was definitely using 9/11 as a “new Pearl Harbor” to “catapult the propaganda” all the way up until about the time he finally left office.

    It angered me then. It still angers me now.

  21. alindasue says:

    By the way, beerBoy,

    Even though I don’t generally go for conspiracy theories, I did find it interesting that the economic predictions included in that 2003 article about the PNAC did end up coming to pass pretty much as the writer stated.

  22. Spiderweb says:

    “Well, if you believe we “invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever” then you have blinders on sir.”

    There was a reason: oil. If they didn’t have any, we wouldn’t have gone there…for those of you who bought the “liberation” crap, I’m sorry, you got fooled, again.

  23. TSkidmore says:

    So sad…obviously those out there who continue to believe the Bush b.s. The man took the country to the cleaners and he and his buddies robbed us blind and this bunch can’t see it…must be some kind of psycho disorder….

  24. Iraq War = Dick Cheney. Bush was just the front man.

  25. Spiderweb says:

    It wasn’t about “getting” it, it’s about controlling it…

    Can’t help what others believe, but we would NOT have anything to do with the ME if it wasn’t for all the oil there….that’s what I believe, based on what we’ve actually done, as opposed to what we say we do….

    Why haven’t we done anything about all the despots in places that don’t have oil? No MONEY in it..

  26. islandernwly says:

    aislander – So…did we honor our commitment under the Paris peace treaty?

    So after a twenty year conflict, do you think that we were worried about what the politicians called a “withdrawal with honor”, was going to bring us back into it. Anyone who observed the killing of people on both sides knew that it was time to stop. How many kids your age did you have to take care of, that left their body parts over there, and see the effect on the families, friends. Why? because our fear of communism? Kids went over because in the fifties and sixties there was a sense of duty and because of the draft. Sorry but like Iraq, Vietnam was all about politics. You might want to read up about the fear Bush and his cronies had when OPEC
    was thinking about moving to the Euro. and what its effect would have on the dollar.

  27. “There was a reason: oil.”

    NOT REALLY!

    From the webpage linked below:
    =============
    “Iraq’s oil industry after U.S. withdrawal”

    “Makovsky: For those who thought that the U.S. went in to Iraq for oil, that’s been a loser, right if that was the case. Because the U.S. companies have not been getting a greater share of the deals.”

    “So you could argue we squeezed out some energy security from the Iraq adventure. What you cannot argue is that Iraq’s oil revenue paid for its reconstruction — as was once advertised. That $50 billion came from you and me.”

    http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/iraqs-oil-industry-after-us-withdrawal
    =============

    It’s more likely at least one reason Bush-2 had for invading Iraq was revenge, and he did use the excuse of 9/11 bolstered by the lies of WMDs that were never found. While there (his V.P.) Dick Cheney’s buddies at Halliburton made tons of money via war-profiteering, as well did other sweetheart deal no-bid contractors.

    The Bush Admin. did claim that oil profits after the war would eventually pay for much of the war, which we now know was yet another big lie.

    Over four thousand five hundred U.S. military personnel were killed so some fat cats could get even richer on the war, but not through oil alone or primarily. They got rich through the blood of American soldiers and the Iraqi people.

    Plain and simple… The United States should have never invaded Iraq the second time.

    After U.S. military forces withdrew upon the completion of Operation Desert Storm (the first Gulf war to eject Saddam’s forces from Kuwait) the U.S. should have stayed out and let Iraq and Saddam wither away as it was on its way to doing due to the accumulating effects of international sanctions and the No Fly Zone overflights.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bush-2 War, was a lie from the beginning to the end.

    Bush-1 stopped the job from being completed during Desert Storm. He had the opportunity to allow Coalition Forces to takeover Baghdad, under command or Gen. Schwarzkopf, depose Saddam and rebuild Iraq at that time, but Bush-1 stopped them short of completing the real mission.

    Bush-2 botched the job with Iraqi Freedom, using primarily ONLY U.S. forces, because “The Coalition” of the previous war was not with us. The Bush-2 War was ostensibly about the Regime Change his father had failed to complete, and the so-called democratization of the Mid-East which will probably never happen in Iraq. It was really about war profiteering, but not by oil alone as we can see now.

    Bush-1 and Bush-2 will go down in history as two of the worst presidents in all of U.S. History.

  28. Spiderweb says:

    Ah, yes, “security”…

    “Plain and simple… The United States should have never invaded Iraq the second time.”

    Totally agree.

    Would we care about Iraq, or Iran, if they didn’t have oil? Really, really doubt it…..somehow I don’t think Persian rugs and hashish can be tied in to that whole “national security” deal.

  29. Spiderweb says:

    Knew we would agree, on something, anyway…have a good day

  30. scooter6139 says:

    While I agree that Bush Jr. wanted revenge, I think there might be another possibility: War President. Rove loved this idea. Cheney (the real president for the first half) wanted profits and oil for all his business buddies like those in the Cheney Energy Task Force.

  31. scooter… It still all comes down to Republican/Conservative/Fat Cat war profiteering at the expense of American soldiers and Iraqi blood. Agreed.

  32. SandHills says:

    I certainly wouldn’t state that the cannon fodder draftees of Vietnam would be considered more professsional than the all volunteer force. After a 2 year limit ( basically in processing, basic training, advanced training, then a one year tour of duty in Vietnam) most draftees were back out on the street to replaced by a new crop. That fact does not a professional level of experience make.

    But a draft did one thing, it put the burden of putting our military into harms way on the backs of all of society, not just young kids with no job or ability to attend college (as well as graphically show how income and political influence can get deferments and special National Guard slots – because with a draft there would have been no need to deploy any Guard units and therefore it’s ranks would swell with the well-heeled connected).

    But back on point – to insinuate that a military dependent on those not willing to volunteer, based on a number from a lottery, for a two year period (some of today’s weapon systems might add even more train- up time) to our military force today is an out-and-out misstatement of facts and a disservice to those still bleeding and dying in Afghanistan.

    One has to wonder how the referenced author attained his two-star rank because his logic is flawed with selective memory loss (not to be confused with the onset of Alzheimer’s ).

  33. SandHills says:

    On a side note, given the drug use, beer rations ( even flown in to remote combat posts) and availability of “love you long time G.I,” female companionship – one has to wonder how the Vietnam draftees could have survived General Order #1 of today’s forces deployed.

    1. No alcohol
    2. No personal relations with native population.

    Then add in the modern UCMJ edict that makes it a court martial offense with possible prison time for engaging in human trafficking ( getting some of that boom-boom services from a bar girl) – and one then wonders how many more ” fragging” incidents would have happened in Vietnam without these diversions.

  34. Good point SandHills, but just one thing. Towards the end of the Vietnam War the Army stopped sending draftees across the pond, and used mostly RAs for cannon fodder.

    Perhaps the general is merely suffering from SML “selective memory loss” as afflicts apparently very many, including some on these threads.

  35. BlaineCGarver says:

    Muck has hit a home run once again….. Saddam could have avoided every bit of that war and remained in power if he had ceded to the Resolution the The World voted for.

  36. concernedtacoma7 says:

    So even if we agree for arguments sake that Iraq was about oil, why was there a need? We have resources here, so why is ME a legatimate energy security concern? Because the environmental lobby has prevented us from making the most of domestic energy.

    And energy security alone can be viewed as justification given its need in a modern economy.

    The left also ignores what Saddam did to his own people (above and beyond what he did to the Kurds). There are millions of Shiites thanking the US for their freedom.

  37. Essentially I would disagree that the Iraq war was about oil. I maintain it was about personal revenge from Bush-2 for Bush-1, and profiteering by the cronies of the Bush’s and the Cheney’s et. al., and some other sundry issues. Oil was a minor part of all that.

    As to “The left also ignores what Saddam did to his own people (above and beyond what he did to the Kurds).”

    To me that is absolutely backwards. “The left” as you I.D. them, has also been historically known as “bleeding heart liberals” and the atrocities Saddam met upon his own people were just the kind of thing that helped “The left” to go along with “The Right” and commit American troops to that travesty in Iraq.

    P.S. BTW, I support the bans on domestic drilling, and reject the “Drill! Bay! Drill!” mantra. This country, indeed the entire world, needs to find alternatives to oil and coal as quickly as possible. Not because of Global Climate Change or any of that. Just because oil and coal are screwing-up our environment. And that’s an unassailable fact.

  38. aislander says:

    test

  39. aislander says:

    So…are you going to let me post my comment, or not????

  40. aislander says:

    Right…

  41. sandblower says:

    I think one would be hard pressed to find any retired high ranking officer who said the military was big enough.

  42. ManuelMartini says:

    good grief, Charlie Brown.

  43. ManuelMartini says:

    “So even if we agree for arguments sake that Iraq was about oil, why was there a need?”

    Naivity at its best.

    Tell me one oil company that will say “we’ve got enough oil”.

  44. aislander says:

    “Tell me one oil company that will say ‘we’ve got enough oil’.”

    Depends on the market. When the market is down, oil wells get capped…

  45. aislander says:

    keepnreal: Pollution levels in developed nations are down over the last forty years despite much-increased fossil-fuel use. Developing nations are the gross polluters.

    It is obvious, therefore that the most effective anti-pollution measure is prosperity.

    Cheap, plentiful energy is required for prosperity.

    Pie-in-the-sky is neither cheap nor plentiful (and my cars won’t run on it).

    Conclusion? Alternative fuels cause increased pollution…

  46. aislander says:

    k*e*e*p*n*r*e*a*l: Pollution levels in economically-advanced nations have fallen greatly over the last forty-odd years despite much-increased use of fossil fuels.

    Developing nations are the gross polluters of the world, relative to their GDPs.

    Economic prosperity is, therefore, the best anti-pollution measure.

    Cheap, plentiful energy is necessary for prosperity.

    Pie-in-the-sky is neither cheap nor plentiful and my cars won’t run on it.

    Therefore, alternative energy increases pollution…

  47. aislander says:

    k*e*e*p*n*r*e*a*l: Your moniker is culled by the spam filter. THAT’S why I couldn’t post…

  48. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Muck- we do not have the technology today. You are trying to force the market to come up with solutions to an incredibly complex problem. In the process we (USA) goes broke while Asia burns everything they can and while leaving our economy in the dust.

    Less coal would be easy with more nukes.

    And as to the oil companies, with all of our govt restrictions on supply, we (govt) drives the price up, in fact helping them. If we could produce more domestically would we really use that much more? Of course not. We would import less helping our security and stop the wealth transfer to evil regimes that hate us.

    On top of all that we produce oil cleaner here and would save on transpo costs.

  49. “Muck- we do not have the technology today. You are trying to force the market to come up with solutions to an incredibly complex problem.”

    On September 12, 1962 when President Kennedy said we would send men to the moon and safely return them to the Earth we didn’t have the technology then.

    Seven years later we did it!

  50. k*e*e*p*n*r*e*a*l: Your moniker is culled by the spam filter. THAT’S why I couldn’t post…

    Apparently the board monitor is attempting to deal with the clone poster…

  51. aislander says:

    I see that one of the posts that didn’t work finally showed up. Sorry about the duplication…

  52. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Muck- cute story, but means nothing.

    A President can say “find a new source of energy” at anytime, but it does not mean a thing if the science is not there, even with unlimited funds.

    In 1962 we already had rockets and some understanding of space travel and the physics involved. After billions we are no where closer to new fuel source than we were in the 80’s.

  53. took14theteam says:

    Hasn’t someone been saying find a “green” alternative source of energy for years now? Has a viable source been invented yet? So saying let it be so doesn’t really make it happen if the new source cannot be created.

  54. alindasue says:

    concernedtacoma7 said, “In the process we (USA) goes broke while Asia burns everything they can and while leaving our economy in the dust.”

    Asian countries may “burn everything they can” but they are well known for their public transportation systems and heavy use of bicycles for commuting.

  55. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Alindasue- they ride bikes because they cannot afford a car/gas. You want us to be like them? And areas like Pierce County, which is mainly suburban/rural, are not conducive to bikes.

    As to mass trans, I am all for a train system that makes sense. The east coast cities do it right, while the Puget Sound is terrible and bus reliant.

  56. alindasue says:

    concernedtacoma7,

    The Puget Sound area, particularly Tacoma, used to have a wonderful commuter rail system, but ripped it all out when they brought the buses in. Meanwhile, places like Japan just used the buses to expand the reach of the already existing rail systems. Some of those train stations there date back to the 1920s.

    Suburban/rural areas here are just as conducive to bikes as they are in places like Japan. Actually, though, the suburban sprawl you speak of is probably why buses are a better solution for us right now. I think that eventually the business centers will start to revolve around the rail stations, but that’s decades away as our rebuilding of the rail systems is still in the fledgeling stages. Bus systems don’t have to follow the rails so they are better able to adapt to a community’s changing needs.

    Either way, a good public transit system, whether is be Asia’s rail/bus systems or our bus/rail systems, would do much to keep commuters flowing smoothly without adding yet another lane to each of our freeways.

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