For those of us who would like to see the United States pursue a less bellicose strategy in world affairs, it behooves us to ask what the Department of Defense should do. Is it antithetical to ask them to Make Love, Not War? I turn to Wes Clark as I have since early 2004 when he was a candidate for President on the Democratic ticket.
General Clark's statement resonated then because of the Iraq war question: "It was wrong then and it's wrong now," he said. Since he was then in the ranks of Retired, there was much made of when he was himself in charge of Central Command. This is the bio which accompanies an op-ed piece he just wrote in the Washington Post, and the link to the article:
Wesley K. Clark, a retired four-star general, commanded the 1999 war in Kosovo as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe. He is a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.
Wesley Clark, who was wounded in the Vietnam war, writes today that it is not pertinent to dwell on comparison of the two conflicts. He says, "Iraq just isn't Vietnam, and the debates over a U.S. withdrawal need not tear the country apart." The theme of his remarks is centered on how Republicans and Democrats are perceived to look at the military by different light. What he has done politically since 2004 is to champion the cause of returning Vietnam veterans while speaking for Democratic candidates.
From his article:
.....the Democrat-dominated Congress still needs to work hard to understand the lower ranks and the culture of today's military. Perhaps as many as 75 million Americans have either served in uniform or have family members who have done so. At any given time, the armed forces total some 2 million Americans on active duty, in the National Guard or in the reserves -- all volunteers. Most read military-focused newspapers, such as the Army Times, and many live on bases, relatively isolated from nearby communities. The majority are married, and almost half have children, creating a subculture of families that endure frequent moves and frightening absences. Most Americans just can't fathom the stress and pain this lifestyle imposes (although Michelle Obama can -- as the future first lady showed by reaching out to military family members during the campaign).This essay sharpens the issue of peace and war, of national defense and global diplomacy, of hierarchy and democracy, and (perhaps) of political rhetoric and common sense. My personal bent points to reducing armament and increasing intelligence capabilities. I'm very wary of putting most of intelligence operations under DOD's control, which makes it easy for Congressional oversight committees to buy another gadget instead of looking at what the State Department is doing. There is too much recent history of the two Secretaries, State and Defense, who seem to pass like strangers in the night, wary each of the other. Those in "foggy bottom" have justified complaints over appropriations in that regard. On the Pentagon side of the argument, they can point to their steady stream of university-level courses to educate their officers.
ST. WAPNICAL: (Departments of State, Treasury, War, Attorney General, Post Office, Navy, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture & Labor). That was the mnemonic I was taught in the 30s to remember the Cabinet. As I think of the current global economic disaster, I realize the first four are still ones which provide security and prosperity more than others.
As I read punditry and add some extra to it, I suggest it would be helpful to realize that the old cliche of bullets and butter has become skewed. The evening Lyndon Johnson went on national television to pronounce his "I will not run" decision, he dramatized that. As did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he gave his "mountaintop" oration in Memphis. The evidence is clear. An economy which has become increasingly dependent on military spending has denied strength to both civilian and military citizens.
This is written in the hope that Americans will come to understand that their resources are many and their population is intelligent--but also that new insights need to be explored concerning war and peace. Oil is a topic to distract. Religious fanaticism won't go away, but it's a symptom rather than a cause of global disarray. Shall we say once again?--it's the economy, stupid!
Perhaps we should bump up Commerce into fifth place. If we think of all people--especially little children--having a chance to thrive, we just might not be so scared of each other.