4.15.2007

Robert Gates: Lost in the Twilight Zone

by Laura Snedeker

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and of sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead.
– Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone

Your next stop, the Pentagon!

Meet Mr. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense for the United States of America. Mr. Gates, from his lair in the bowels of headquarters of the Department of Perpetual Occupation, announced that all active-duty U.S. soldiers currently deployed or about to deploy will have their tours extended by three months so that the United States can maintain elevated troop levels in Iraq.

This pronouncement comes only months after President George Bush announced the “troop surge” in Iraq, an escalation of a war that many Americans think we’ve already lost. At the same time, the Army has witnessed a rise in desertion the past four years, a sign that the people most affected by this war are unwilling to risk their lives for unwinnable and ambiguous cause.

Despite the highest levels of desertion since the Vietnam War, the Pentagon continues to pursue a policy that guarantees increased desertion. As soldiers spend more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than they do with their families, more will become desperate enough to desert the Army.

Mr. Gates, lost in his own upside-down world in which the strain on the Army is nonexistent, continues the administration’s policy of ignoring military experts. Just as President Bush refused to listen to the advice of General Eric Shinseki, who warned that the United States would need overwhelming force – the kind used by Colin Powell during the Gulf War – to win the war in Iraq, Gates ignored retired generals who have long predicted the eventual breakdown of the Army.

Lt. General Theodore G. Stroup (Ret.), a former army personnel chief, criticized the Pentagon’s actions: “Clearly, it’s going to have an unpredictable impact on the retention of mid- and senior-grade noncommissioned officers. It already is having an impact on company-grade officers, the captains.”

As officers leave the Army after their tours of duty, the military is forced to promote less-qualified officers, further degrading the quality of the military and undermining the very U.S. effort in which they proclaim the nation must be firmly committed. To Gates and the deluded men who run the Pentagon, this is not a problem. For them, it is entirely possible for the United States to escalate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while retaining the efficiency of the U.S. military in the face of desertion and retirement.

For them, declining morale due to overextension and time away from families is simply not an issue. They do not think of the U.S. soldiers as people with families – they are simply machines, paid to follow nonsensical orders from on high that have nothing to do with the reality on the ground.

How many of the soldiers who have served in Iraq under false pretenses will be re-deployed despite mental stress directly caused by their service in Iraq? What does it feel like to be sent back to Baghdad year after year to fight in a war that was lost before it began? And what will happen to these soldiers when they return home?

If Vietnam spelled the end of the draft army, Iraq spells the end of the all-volunteer military. As Paul von Zielbauer wrote in The Boston Globe: “The increase highlights a cycle long known to Army researchers: as the demand for soldiers increases during a war, desertions rise and the Army tends to lower standards, recruiting more people with questionable backgrounds who are more likely to desert.”

What happens when longer troop rotations fail to quell the insurgency, which has permeated even the supposed security of the Green Zone? Even if the longer rotations retain more soldiers, they cannot help but reduce recruitment at the same time. Men and women willing to spend a year away from their families are less willing to spend 15 months away from their homeland, without a guarantee against indefinite deployment. What happens to the men and women who return, only to find they are unwelcome in the United States, an embarrassing reminder of a war the United States could not win and should never have gotten involved in?

What complicates the matter is that the Army knows it cannot count on reinstatement of the draft. If there is one thing that the Pentagon is not delusional about, it is the potential of conscription to create massive unrest.

The life of Mr. Gates is refreshingly uncomplicated. He lives in a parallel universe ungoverned by practical (never mind ethical) concerns. The capacity to imagine anything, anything at all, regardless of how fantastic, is practically a prerequisite of the job. Unfortunately for us, Gates is not alone on the train to Willoughby. He condemns us to follow him into the Twilight Zone.

(The poster is from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)






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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very good blog.

I actually think Gates is one of the best people we have had in any government in the last few administrations. He served ably under Bush's father, he is a skilled and intellgent man.

That said, a corpse rots at the head first and I don't care how skilled Gates is, the rotting Bush Presidency puts tremendous limits even onto the most skilled individuals.

I think Gates had his eyes open when he joined the Bush White House but he did so in hope against all hope that he could effectuate change and help his country recover from a disaster.

Looks like he was an optimist.

Anonymous said...

Seems that once someone joins the administration, they get pulled along into this one vision of victory, and that it matters very little what promises they held out before they joined.

It looks like the three officers who declined to serve as "War Czar" figured this out. They know that however skilled and intelligent they are won't make a difference after they sign up.

-Laura Snedeker

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