Mark Helprin on "Mr. Clinton's Army" (from today's Wall St. Journal: 10/10/00) : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Agree or not, IMO, this writer is a wonderful talent, and my main reason for putting this up was to show him off. I never fail to learn more about the English language when I read him.

from Mr. Clinton's Army

Mr. Clinton's Army

The military has suffered through eight years of neglect.


Tuesday, October 10, 2000 12:01 a.m. EDT

Many people have come to believe that thinking about war is akin to fomenting it, preparing for it is as unjustifiable as starting it, and fighting it is only unnecessarily prolonging it. History suggests that as a consequence of these beliefs they will bear heavy responsibility for the defeat of American arms on a battlefield and in a theater of war as yet unknown. Theirs are the kind of illusions that lead to a nation recoiling in shock and frustration, to the terrible depression of its spirits, the gratuitous encouragement of its enemies, and the violent deaths of thousands or tens of thousands, or more, of those who not long before were its children.

They will bear this responsibility along with contemporaries who are so enamored of the particulars of their well-being that they have made the government a kindly nurse of households, a concierge and cook, never mind a resurgent Saddam Hussein or China's rapid development of nuclear weapons. They will bear it along with the partisans of feminist and homosexual groups who see the military as a tool for social transformation. And they will bear it with a generation of politicians who have been guilty of willful neglect merely for the sake of office.

So many fatuous toadies have been put in place in the military that they will undoubtedly pop up like toast to defend Vice President Gore's statement that "if our servicemen and -women should be called on to risk their lives for the sake of our freedoms and ideals, they will do so with the best training and technology the world's richest country can put at their service." This is an abject lie.

To throw light on the vice president's assertion that all is well, consider that in Kosovo 37,000 aerial sorties were required to destroy what Gen. Wesley Clark claimed were 93 tanks, 53 armored fighting vehicles, and 389 artillery pieces; that these comprised, respectively, 8%, 7%, and 4% of such targets, leaving the Yugoslav army virtually intact; and that impeccable sources in the Pentagon state that Yugoslav use of decoys put the actual number of destroyed tanks, for example, in the single digits.

To achieve with several hundred sorties of $50-million airplanes the singular splendor of destroying a Yugo, the United States went without carriers in the Western Pacific during a crisis in Korea, and the Air Force tasked 40% of its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, and 95% of its regular and 65% of its airborne tanker force, in what the chief of staff called a heavier strain than either the Gulf War or Vietnam.

One reason for the "inefficiency" of Operation Allied Force is that this very kind of farce is funded by cannibalizing operations and maintenance accounts. Such a thing would not by itself be enough to depress the services as they are now depressed. That has taken eight years of magnificent neglect. Case in point: The U.S. Navy now focuses on action in the littorals, and must deal with a burgeoning inventory of increasingly capable Third World coastal submarines that find refuge in marine layers and take comfort from the Navy's near century of inapplicable blue-water antisubmarine warfare. But our budget for surface-ship torpedo defense will shortly dip from not even $5 million, to nothing in 2001.

The reduction of the military budget to two-thirds of what it was (in constant dollars) in 1985, and almost as great a cut in force levels, combined with systematic demoralization, scores of "operations other than war," and the synergistic breakdown that so often accompanies empires in decline and bodies wracked by disease, have produced a tidal wave of anecdotes and statistics. Twenty percent of carrier-deployed F-14s do not fly, serving as a source of spare parts instead. Forty percent of Army helicopters are rated insufficient to their tasks. Half of the Army's gas masks do not work. Due to reduced flying time and training opportunities within just a few years of Bill Clinton's first inauguration, 84% of F-15 pilots had to be waived through 38 categories of flight training. The pilot of the Osprey in the December 1999 crash that killed 19 Marines had only 80 hours in the aircraft, and the pilot who sliced the cables of the Italian aerial tram in 1998, killing 20, had not flown a low-altitude training flight for seven months. It goes on and on, and as the sorry state of the military becomes known, the administration responds by doing what it does best.

In the manner of Gen. Clark presenting as a success the--exaggerated--claim of having destroyed 8% of the Yugoslav tank forces in 78 days of bombing, the administration moved to "restructure" the six armored and mechanized divisions by shrinking force levels 15% and armor 22%, while expanding the divisional battle sector by 250%, the idea being that by removing 3,000 men and 115 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles while vastly expanding the area in which it would have to fight, a division would somehow be made more effective. The two failed Army divisions cited by George W. Bush in his acceptance speech were returned to readiness with speed inversely proportional to the time it takes the White House to produce a subpoenaed document, perhaps because, according to the Army, "new planning considerations have enabled division commanders to make a more accurate assessment," and "the timelines for deployment . . . have been adjusted to better enable them to meet contingency requirements." In 1995, brigade officials told the General Accounting Office that they felt pressured to falsify readiness ratings, and that the rubric "needs practice" was applied irrespective of whether a unit scored 99% or 1% of the minimum passing grade.

That these components of an indelible picture are in themselves small parts is relevant only in that the best intelligence is the proper notice of small details. But there is more. Mainly by coincidence but partly by design, several broader measures exist. The Army rates its echelons. In 1994, two-thirds of these were judged fully ready for war. By 1999, not one of them was. More than half the Army's specialty schools have received the lowest ratings, as did more than half its combat training centers (although the chaplains are doing very well). These training centers serve as an instrument that illuminates the character of all the units that pass through them. By examining their ratings it is possible to get a comprehensive view of the Army's true state.

I have obtained National Training Center trend data that are the careful measure of unit performance in 60 areas over three years. Of 200 evaluations, only two were satisfactory. This 99% negative performance, stunning as it is, is echoed in the preliminary findings of a RAND study that, according to sources within the Army, more than 90% of the time rates mission capability at the battalion and the brigade levels as insufficient. RAND has voluminous data and doesn't want to talk about it until all the t's are crossed, long after the election.

If Gov. Bush becomes president, the armies his father sent to the Gulf will not be available to him, not after eight years of degradation at the hands of Bill Clinton. Given that their parlous condition is an invitation to enemies of the United States and, therefore, Mr. Bush might need them, and because the years of the locust are always paid for in blood, he should take this issue and with it hammer upon the doors of the White House at dawn.

In the Second World War, Marine Brig. Gen. Robert L. Denig said, with homely elegance, "This is a people's war. The people want to know, need to know, and have a right to know, what is going on." Nothing could be truer, and the vice president of the United States does not speak the truth when he characterizes as he does those forces that for two terms his administrations have mercilessly run down. The American military does not deserve this. It is not a cash cow for balancing the budget, a butler-and-travel service for the president, an instrument of sexual equality, or a gendarmerie on the model of a French Foreign Legion with a broader mandate and worse food.

If we are, in effect, the enemies of our own fighting men, what will happen when they go into the field? The military must be redeemed. Should Gov. Bush win in November he should bring forward and promote soldiers and civilians who understand military essentials and the absolute necessity of readiness and training, people both colorful and drab, but who would, all of them, understand that these words of Gen. George S. Patton are the order of the day:

"In a former geological era when I was a boy studying latin, I had occasion to translate one of Caesar's remarks which as nearly as I can remember read something like this:

"'In the winter time, Caesar so trained his legions in all that became soldiers and so habituated them in the proper performance of their duties, that when in the spring he committed them to battle against the Gauls, it was not necessary to give them orders, for they knew what to do and how to do it.'

"This quotation expresses very exactly the goal we are seeking in this division. I know that we shall attain it and when we do, May God have mercy on our enemies; they will need it."

Mr. Helprin is a novelist, a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. His column appears Tuesdays.

-- eve (, October 10, 2000


You Fascist warmongering pig. The US does not need a military except for domestic control. There is no foreign threat except what we have caused by our own evil meddlings. The billions spent on so-called defense should be spent by me on stuff that I know is good for you. So there!

Good vibes, Ralphie

-- (Ralph@PIRG.Send_me_the_money), October 10, 2000.

Okay eve:

Why should I pay any attention to this. WSJ has been very biased for years. Helprin is mainly known as a novelist and short story writer [I know that you feel that Rand explains all; but no more about that]. He contributed to IC, which really no longer exists. As I remember he predicted victory for Iraq in the gulf war.

Best wishes,,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, October 10, 2000.

Z -- purely for the beauty of his writing would be reason enough for me.

Please take a moment to try another of his pieces...

Statesma nship and its Betrayal

-- eve (, October 10, 2000.


I will make you a deal. I have already read that but I will read it again. Your part of the deal is to read Finnegan's Wake by Joyce which is either a masterpiece or a great joke; opinions vary. When you are finished, tell me and we will get together and discuss fine writing; or our version of it.

Best wishes,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, October 10, 2000.


You drive a hard bargain. Why don't suggest an easier read like Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow?

-- Lars (, October 10, 2000.


No way. I have been through Finnegan's Wake three times [sort of]. I want someone to explain it to me. Those are my terms :^) and I am sticking by them.

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, October 10, 2000.

Ok Lars:

To keep it in this century [it is still the 20th], I am willing to negotiate down to the Emersonian works of Steinbeck. Is that ok?

Best wishes,,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, October 10, 2000.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. The corrupt Clinton administration will be remembered for many years, if we survive.

-- Cassandra (, October 10, 2000.


Let me guess; the gods started with you.

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, October 10, 2000.


Let's stretch the comparison just a bit. Are you trying to say, for example, that Shakespeare is not objectively better than the rantings of a lunatic? In other words, if you wanted to know which was better, it would just depend on whom you asked -- and the Shakespeare proponent's response would be just as valid as the lunatic proponent's?

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying Joyce reminds me of a lunatic's rantings and Helprin is closer to Shakespeare. I AM stretching the analogy. :)

My apologies if I've misread you here. I'm tired, I should be in bed, and I've just read what appears to be a very strange "offer" of yours.

-- eve (, October 10, 2000.

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