Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blood and Treasure: part II

In Part one of "Blood and Treasure" I found it necessary to address the need for government oversite in military operations, the need for the congress to listen to military command, and the general strategy of the Afghan theater. As some members of congress, including both Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud of Maine, have voted to defund the troops as a cost saving measure, part two will deal with the actual cost of warfare, not just in monies, but in lives.

The removal of material resources to the military in a time of war most assuredly can and will save money. Warfare by its very nature is costly and no nation can take up arms and expect their treasuries not to become leaner. The vast and seemingly endless need for foodstuffs, fuel, ammunition, clothing, shelter, and transport are immense but necessary expenditures in any contest of arms, especially in modern times. One cannot deny that the cost to the American taxpayer for our current involvement in hostilities has been huge. And if we were to look at warfare from simply a dollars and cents point of view one could easily be persuaded to follow the call of those Representatives who wish for us to stop funding the operation.

However, the subject is more complex than a mere accounting tally sheet. Though money plays a very important role in the conduct of operations, it is NOT the only and most important factor.

For; ultimately warfare in all its forms and guises is about the use of force, which culminates in the letting of blood and also death. There are always casualties in war, both belligerent and civilian. This is an inevitable fact associated with the violent nature of the task. Therein lays the true cost of violence, the price we pay in blood and lives.

One cannot honestly calculate the cost of hostilities by focusing on just treasure or blood. Both factors must be assessed fully for they are intertwined and each has a definite bearing on the other. I believe that it is this most important of facts which has escaped our legislator’s attention as they call out to deny the troops the necessary equipment and means to do their job. This vote by Congress can only be viewed in two ways:

First it is Reckless, as it will endanger the lives of our soldiery thus increasing the cost in blood. Over the centuries governments have learned that it is in their best interest to supply the soldiery with the proper equipment and materials to achieve victory. This cost in monies oft times is offset by not paying in lives lost. A well equipped and fed soldier has a better chance of surviving than he in tatters with antiquated weaponry.

We can assume this recklessness is based in ignorance of this correlation.

Second it is Disingenuous, as many representatives are merely posturing to seek votes from the anti-war crowd and so propose to pay for those votes with the blood of our troops. Those representatives who are posturing thusly are not only very dangerous fellows in their own right, they are also foolish to the point of folly. As they vote to defund many think “it won’t pass but I will have made a statement as to the conduct of war.” Perhaps, yet what if so many of our officials took the same thought and acted upon it? This would cause the proposal to be passed inadvertently would it not? Thereby placing soldiers in an even more dangerous state than they are subject to now.

Pericles the Athenian once said “ And everyone supposeth that his own neglect of the common estate can do little hurt and that it will be the care of somebody else to look to that for his own good, not observing how by these thoughts of everyone, in several, the common business is jointly ruined.”

The danger inherent in the House members voting to defund as a protest of sorts, is summed up quite nicely by that ancient sage.

The Government and the Commander in Chief have ordered the military into battle. They have dictated that our sons and daughters will go to foreign shores and fight the enemies of this land to destroy and demoralize the foe in his home rather than in ours. Many of those brave troopers ordered such will die; many survivors will witness the horrors of the battlefield first hand and need to live with its terrible images for the rest of their lives. They will let their blood out upon the dusty ground, thousands of miles from home, in acts of selflessness that can only be described as heroic.

Why? Because they have been ordered to do so.

How then can the very same Government who put these men and women in harm’s way deny them the material support to fight effectively? What manner of a man would even conceive of such a plan which denies troops in combat, armor, medicine, and ammunition? Such a proposal is so morally bankrupt one must consider whether or not those who support it are mentally healthy.

Carl von Clausewitz wrote “war is but an extension of politics by other means”

This being true then Congress needs to decide if the conflict in Afghanistan is of political value to the nation and act accordingly. They must assess the cost in blood and treasure; they must look to the future and ask what the consequences of their actions will be both good and bad. If the Legislature concludes that the eastern theater is not of value to the United States then it is their duty to call for a cessation of hostilities.

Have they done this? No they have not! Instead they propose to simply stop funding the war. Though expedient this course of action is in no uncertain terms, nothing more than negligent homicide. This if I am not mistaken is a crime in most states, for good reason I might add. To play at politics with the lives of human beings is an act unworthy of any man or woman, but especially so for those who are supposed to be “the best and brightest” of our society.

Let me conclude with this: “in all the confusion of politics we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of one simple truth “That in war lives are at stake, and that it will be families home and abroad who will pay a greater price in blood than can ever be weighed out in treasure.”

Allen R Butler
Gray, Maine

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blood and Treasure: part I

I must begin this article by stating that no civilized man enjoys war, or killing.

No person in his or her right mind will advocate for the use of military force when other options are available to resolve issues between nations. For; there is no glory in the battle, no beauty or grace, but only fear, pain, loss and death. We do not want to place the lives of others in jeopardy anymore than we wish for ours to be. Yet, until such time as mankind can control his appetites and shy away from the violent instincts and passions that are the cause of war, we are left with a simple fact. Warfare, ugly and cruel, is part of the human experience. And so long as factions and nations persist in being belligerents, we as a people will always face the prospect of attack. So it is now the United States finds itself immersed in a long and bloody conflict. Not one of conquest or of desire, but rather one foisted upon us by a cunning and vicious enemy. We all wish that this was not the case and that the attempts to use diplomatic measures with these terrorists had succeeded. I don’t like war, but as we have been left no recourse and our foe has chosen to ignore reason and debate, and has taken the stance of aggressor, I see no other option but to fight.

The myriad of facts surrounding a topic such as “Military Operations” i.e. warfare, pile up quickly and can overshadow even the brightest or best of minds. Add to the overload of confusing information concerning troop deployments, logistics and timetables, the American politician’s penchant to argue and debate issues great and small, we quickly find ourselves mired in a morass of “Point vs. Counterpoint”. The minutiae’ of strategy, theory, and tactics, are drawn out, dissected, and fought over. More debate arises over the validity of contentions, both factual and fictional.

This of course is the American way of doing things and it is only natural that Military matters would be treated in the same fashion. For, if the Commander in Chief, and the Congress, had no control over our standing Armed Forces then I assure you we would not enjoy the freedoms and liberties we so often take for granted. History has shown time and time again that an autonomous Military establishment beholden to none but its own, leads not to the safety and security of the people, but to tyranny and dictatorships. I diminish not the valor, honor and genius of our military leaders by stating such, for they too understand the need for some oversight from the Legislature and Administration. Such cooperative management curbs the potential for abuses of power within the armed services as well as the government itself and protects the citizenry from that most fearful of political takeovers, the “military coup”.

However, though the necessity of cooperative management be evident, there is a point when the government must give the command of the conflict to the Generals and Admirals of the service. For it is ultimately with them that the experience and knowledge of armed struggle resides. One would not entrust a regiment of Marines to a lawyer or sailmaker anymore than one would have law practiced by the laborer and vice versa. The talents and abilities acquired through years of study and hands on experience of any job or skill is what gives the practitioner of the art his or her level of expertise. The talents and expertise for the profession of warfare most assuredly requires men and women of knowledge to execute the endeavor to effect. And though their peculiar talents and positions ultimately lead to the letting of blood, distasteful as such an act is, can in no way lessen the fact they are best equipped to handle the tasks assigned.

Establishing thus that those soldiers and sailors who hold rank and leadership within our armed services are professionals in their field we must conclude that their ideas, plans, assessments and views concerning warfare hold merit and value. This fact cannot be disputed, no matter how often certain persons try.

Yet, though this truth is evident, we are witness to, from the floor of the House and Senate, politicians braying loudly about the strategy of this nation’s current military operations. Some have gone so far as to say that there is no strategy at all as pertains to one area of Ops, that being Afghanistan.

This contention, on the part of some of our legislators is false, and quite frankly insulting to the soldiers and officers of the Military, for there is a strategy in place. One that is at the heart of the entire conflict, and if understood by those in congress who accuse the Generals of ineptitude I daresay, those same politicians would reward and applaud these brave men and women rather than defame them.

As has been pointed out time and time again the general strategy of the Afghan theater is to seek out and destroy the terrorist organizations and their financial supporters. In so doing we not only keep the enemy off balance by forcing him to react to our actions i.e. initiative, but we also undermine his ability to formulate and execute attacks on our civilian population. In this we have been rather successful for to date, the terrorists have been unable to effectively assault the American people. This I believe is due in great part to the military actions within the borders of Afghanistan.

One would think that such a simple strategy, well known and of common knowledge, would be available for our legislators to view and understand. Sadly this is not the case, and as the uninitiated and uninformed politicians scream about the cost in treasure for the operations in the east, they ignore the cost in blood and propose a vote to defund the entire theater.

It is here that rests the heart of the matter. (Continued in Part II)
Allen R. Butler