Opinion: Doug Thompson

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Hawks and squawks

“The liberal plan to weaken the military,” or something like that, glared from a list of links on a conservative website. I couldn’t stifle a groan.
No deliberate plan to dismantle the military could possibly hogtie it as well as sending so many of our troops to Iraq.
We’re bleeding $10 billion a month that could be going to replace and update our troop’s equipment. We’re saddling our economy – a major source of our military power – with debt. We’re neutered.


The world’s only superpower can’t credibly threaten Iran, for instance. First, our ground troops are tied down in Iraq. Second, nobody would follow this U.S. president into another war. Third, we destroyed Iran’s most powerful regional enemy – Iraq.
The phrase “No more Iraqs” will ring for the next 40 years, hobbling U.S. military options for decades.
For more than 50 years, Republicans were always strong on defense. Now – thanks to their willingness to be blind and be lead by the blind – they’ve proved themselves to be able to waste it all.
The one and only time I watched “West Wing,” somebody said that Republicans want a strong military but don’t want to use it, while Democrats want a weak military and want to overextend it to police and peace-keeping actions everywhere. Well, that’s completely turned around now.
The Republican president and Congress want to go to war and then not spend any more on it than they have to. Democrats want to bring the troops home – just as soon as they fully exploit the war to win the next round of elections.
It’s all so useless. Instead of applying the lessons we should have learned in Vietnam, we went into Iraq with an attitude that we were going to use it to refute Vietnam. We were going to show that we had the will to win this time.
And what’s the chief lesson of Vietnam and now Iraq? That other people are patriotic about their countries too. Nationalism – or tribalism, or regional or religious loyalties – are strong motivators. They can inspire people to stand up to the world’s only superpower and keep up the fight for years.
Second, it’s not what the majority of adults or voters that matter. It’s the will of the majority of those willing and equipped to fight.
Most Iraqis want a single, unified country, according to what poll data we can get. Most Iraqis willing to fight, however, do not.
We have a saying in this country. If you don’t vote, you don’t count. Well, war is just like politics in that respect. If you don’t fight, you don’t count. The ones who fight want Iraq split up, and they are getting their way.
This is nothing new. Most people in the American Revolution just wanted to be left alone, or were loyal to King George out of inertia. Those willing to fight for freedom won it for everybody else.
On a related note, I recently stumbled on a remarkable idea on the website “War is Boring” (warisboring.com).
The idea: Disband the U.S. Air Force.
This is a staggering idea. I doubt it would be politically plausible. Our own state, for instance, has the Little Rock Air Force base in it.
However, the debate alone would be worthwhile and the perceived threat was serious enough to provoke a USAF response.
The argument goes that the one thing the air force does well by itself – bomb stuff – isn’t helping. The things the air force does in assisting the other armed services – ground support and achieving air superiority over battlefields – help immensely.
The air force is spending $200 billion (with a “b”) on the F-35 fighter and can’t find $500 million (with an “m”) to get new sensors and weapsons for the workhorse A-10 ground support aircraft. Guess which airplane gives more practical benefit in Iraq and Afghanistan?
From the B-1 bomber to Star Wars to the increasing costs of fighter planes that have become the stuff of legend in tales of wasteful Pentagon spending, the Air Force has a long track record of extravagant expense.
I’ll have to read up on this idea a lot more before coming to an opinion, but I must admit to being intrigued.

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