Thursday, April 14, 2011

Home of the Chumps Who Got Sent to War

Ever since the first propaganda films in the 1940s, we all learned that American GIs are originals who always win and their enemies, who often enough wore more finely tailored uniforms and had better manners, were stodgy and dull and dropped dead like flies.

The Germans could never hear an American approaching. The French all wore berets and brought their liberators wine. The Italians were cowardly. The Brits were whimsical. Dinkum Aussies and Kiwis cursed using colorful, but never profane, vocabulary. But the (white, Anglo) Yank got the girl.

In fact, proportionally very few Americans fought in the Second World War. Far fewer Americans died in that war than any other ally save France, which was defeated in less than a year. Several times more Americans died in the Civil War.

The myth of American invincibility — unchallenged until Vietnam — was so pervasive and the pride so misplaced that even a B-list actor who became president proudly told an Israeli foreign minister visiting the White House that he had liberated a Nazi concentration camp as a soldier. Which he had — in a fiction film.

To tell the truth, however, the United States didn't emerge as one of the victors of World War II, with unparalleled logistical power to deploy troops anywhere in the world, merely because the nation was, supposedly, the home of the free and the brave.

The USA won because while every German soldier was supported by three people in reserves, supply and manufacturing, every American soldier was supported by 32. The USA won because the nation was building 11 Liberty ships a day to supply Russia and Britain with war materiel.

Rosie the Riveter won the war.

Concentrated attacks on conventional installations and armies involving massive and overwhelming numbers of American soldiers, ships and warplanes won the war.

But the adversaries of the United States eventually figured out what mice know about terrifying elephants. None but the most lunatic of tin-pot dictators will ever challenge the U.S. armed forces to open battle again. The U.S. military is physically larger than the next 11 smaller armed forces combined.

World War II can never be won again.

The day of the big bomber, the giant aircraft carrier and even of the Marines is long gone. Nuclear and bacteriological weapons (which the United States has, despite all denials) are still worth keeping as deterrents. The rest of the war toys are useless against men with determination and simple tools.

That's why the flower of American youth refuse to fight. The Pentagon has to scour for dropouts and poor kids coming out of high school with skills two or three grades below their grade level. That's why Abu-Ghraib happened.

Want to wave the flag and talk about power? Slash military spending to the point that the nation has a reliable cadre of men (and women) determined to win with the simplest of tools in the roughest of conditions — without computers and PXs and the 1,001 toys that have kept U.S. armed forces from a decisive victory since World War II.

Better still. Give the Pentagon's budget to the U.S. Institute of Peace, to figure out how to avoid and defuse conflict in the first place.
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