David Brin, the science fiction writer and part-time sociologist, likes to annoy people, preferably everyone at once. He may have outdone himself in CONTRARY BRIN: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War.
The contrast between Democratic and Republican styles of war could not be more stark. Beginning with the degree that they show deference to the United States Senior Officer Corps.
Do you know any generals or admirals? Ask them about this. Odds are, you’ll get no answer at all, due to their punctilious respect for civilian authority and resolve not to meddle in politics. But you may get hints. Anyway, continue searching and ask retired generals or admirals! And bear in mind these folks constitute the third best-educated clade in American life, after scientists and medical doctors.
One of these retired flag officers told me: “Democrats admit they don’t know anything about military matters. They consult. They ask questions. They listen.”
He added: “Republican presidents all assume they’re some mix of John Wayne and Patton. Plans are for nerds. Caution is for wimps.”
Republican administrations like war to look and feel like war! Tank armies and massed divisions… with politicians giving direct orders and over-ruling the professionals. And in the process, they pretty much destroyed the old-fashioned tools that they used.
When he entered office as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen was asked what he considered to be his most desperate concern. “The Army,” he said. Saving it from what had been done to it.
Now chew on this fact: When Bill Clinton left office, every U.S. Army and Marine Corps brigade was rated fully combat ready to defend the lives and interests of Americans. When George W. Bush left office, not one U.S. brigade was so rated. We went from all to none. And the GOP has a reputation for defense?
The Army that rolled over Saddam’s Republican Guard divisions in 92 and 03 does not exist anymore. What has replaced it is in some ways better, more agile, more professional, if also tired and badly in need of rest. It had to adapt and become agile, having been worn down to the bone. Things are better now, but it will take time. And meanwhile, we must confront deadly foes across a murky battlefield of terror and sabotage that spans the globe. So, whose doctrines are appropriate?