In mid-September, when President Obama fought back criticism about the fact that he needed to do more, do less, or do something else during the intersecting crises in Iraq and Syria, he went to Florida at McDill airbase at the headquarters of the Central Command. There, he turned to the military, who will have to put into practice the US military strategy that she will have.
That part of the presidential speech that was intended for the media included Obama's arguments in favor of resuming American participation in Iraqi events after more than 10 years after the invasion and subsequent lengthy and painful attempts to somehow get out of this situation. It was so important. newsthat many cable channels broadcast a presidential speech live. I watched it on TV while I was at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, waiting for my flight. When Obama got to the section of the speech where he was to announce whether or not he intended to send American troops into Iraq (then he did not intend to do this), I noticed that many people at the airport briefly noticed his speech. As soon as this section ended, the passengers returned to their smartphones, laptops and coffee cakes, and the president continued to mumble above their heads.
Under normal circumstances, I would also not look any further, since in public speeches of our leaders before the military there is a lot of formalism and routine. But I decided to watch this show to the end. Obama appealed somewhat unnaturally to representatives of various types of armed forces who were present in the crowd. (“I know we have some representatives of the Air Force here in the hall!” And so on, to which the relevant military responded with cheers of “Ura”, according to the official transcript of the White House.) He stated that the nation is grateful to its military for their ongoing participating in hostilities, for unprecedented casualties and pressures they have suffered for the last 13 years during endless wars. He noted that the military is often the face of American influence in the world, that in 2014, they went to Liberia to fight the spreading Ebola epidemic, that 10 years before they were sent to Indonesia to save the victims of the catastrophic tsunami. He said that the “September 11 generation of heroes” is the best of America’s best, that the US military not only surpasses all of its current opponents, but it’s - no more, no less - “the most beautiful fighting force in the world stories».
If one of my fellow passengers at that moment was still listening to the president’s speech, he didn’t give in and didn’t react. And why? We have become accustomed to the fact that this is exactly the way politicians and the press treat the military: unlimited and exaggerated praise, no criticism, no public skepticism, as is the case with other American institutions, especially those living on taxpayers' money. A solemn moment, a pause to honor the memory of the dead. And then everyone goes back to their daily business, with the exception of a few people in uniform.
The attitude of society that I observed at the airport is very noticeable among its representatives in Washington. On the same day, on September 17, the House of Representatives, after a brief debate, voted to deliver weapons and supplies for the rebel forces in Syria in the hope that now they will begin to fight more actively against the “Islamic State” than for it. The next day, the Senate did the same, and then both chambers went on vacation after an unusually short and record-breaking unproductive session of the congress, to be engaged in fundraising for the next six months and to carry out an election campaign in full force. I do not remember a single intermediate election race for seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, where issues of war and peace would come to the fore, except for the metaphorical “wars against women” and “wars against coal”. This is in contrast to the Obama health program, immigration, voting rights, tax rates, Ebola scare and so on.
Such a respectful, but indifferent attitude towards the military (we love the army, but do not want to think about it) has become so familiar that we now perceive it as the norm. However, this was not always the case. When Dwight Eisenhower, being a five-star general and supreme commander, led, perhaps, the truly most beautiful military force in world history, he did not talk about her so pompously. On the eve of the landing of the Allied forces, he warned his subordinates: "You have a difficult task, because our enemy is well prepared, well armed and battle-hardened." And as president, Eisenhower's most famous statement on the army was his farewell speech, in which he warned about what could happen if the political influence of the military would grow uncontrollably.
At the end of World War II, almost 10% of the American population was on active military service. This means that the armed forces consisted of the strongest, physically fit men of a certain age (plus a small number of women who were allowed to serve). For a decade after World War II, when there was at least one person in uniform in American families, politicians and journalists spoke about the army with admiration, but without reverence. Most Americans were quite familiar with the army and respected it, but at the same time, they were perfectly aware of its shortcomings, knowing about them as much as about the shortcomings of the school system, religious and other important, but imperfect institutions.
Today, the American army is a complete exotic for most of the population. For the sake of clarity, there are very few Americans living on farms today, but there are much more of them than representatives of all types of armed forces and arms. (In the country of 2,1, a million farms are home to substantially more than four million people. There are about 1,4 million people in active service in the US Army, and 850 thousands more in reserve.) The remaining 310 with a small million Americans "honor" their loyal farmers but generally do not know them. The same with the army. This year, much more American youth will be studying abroad than will come to serve in the army. Almost 300 of thousands of students will leave for study abroad, and less than 200 of thousands of recruits will be recruited into the army. America as a country in the last 13 years has been waging war. But not as a society or population. In the years after 11 September, about 2,5 million Americans served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a whole, many of them repeatedly. This is about three-quarters of one percent.
The difference between the former America, which knew its army, and modern America, which simply admiringly gazes at its heroes, is vividly reflected in pop culture and the media. When World War II was going on, its most famous chroniclers were Scripps Howard news agency reporter Ernie Pyle, who talked about the everyday courage of the military and their deprivation and hardship (until the end of the war was killed by a Japanese machine gunner on Leshim Island) and Stars and Stripes caricaturist Bill Mauldin, who ridiculed the confused and distant from the trench truth of the generals, with whom he contrasted the wizards of Willie and Joe.
American popular and high culture treated our last war on the basis of mass mobilization with deep respect and pride, but also with criticism and jokes. You can see it in the play “Mr. Roberts”, in the musical “South of the Pacific Ocean”, in the book “Trick-22”, in the military drama “Riot on Kane”, in the novel “The Naked and the Dead” and in the movie “From Now on forever and ever. ” The collective achievements of the army were real heroism, but the servicemen and commanders were real people from real life, with their own weaknesses and oddities. After 10 years after the end of the war, the most popular television series on a military theme was the Phil Silvers Show about rogue Sergeant Bilko. In the role of Bilko, Silvers became a popular and even legendary figure of the American sitcom, a sort of beloved by all the boaster that Jackie Gleason used to be in The Newlyweds, and today Homer Simpson from the Simpsons cartoon. “Homer Pyle, US Marine Corps”, “Hogan's Heroes”, “McHale's Fleet” and even an anachronism film about the Wild West “Squadron F” - all these were sitcoms, the action of which was unfolding in the military, and the main negative heroes were fraudsters, informers and sometimes idealists were people in uniform. American culture felt so easy and simple in a military environment that it could joke on the army. Now this is hard to imagine outside the armed forces.
The Robert Altman 1970 film “Field Hospital” was clearly about the Vietnam War, which at that time entered its most difficult and bloody period. (When discussing this topic, I always try to point out that at that time I was subject to appeal, but I protested against the war, and at 20 I was completely legitimate, but I failed at the medical board. In 1975, I told this story in an article in the Washington Monthly ( What did you do in the Class War, Daddy?) But the action of the picture “Military Field Hospital” occurs at the beginning of 1950's in the Korean War, and thus its dark humor about the incompetence of the military and the authorities somewhat distanced it from the acute disagreement over Vietnam. (It was preceded by a rather insipid elm with John Wayne "Green Berets". This is a film in defense of the Vietnam War, shot in 1968 year. What we now see as classics of the Vietnam War movie, only appeared at the end of 1970, when the films "Deer Hunter" were shot "And" Apocalypse Today. ") The television version of the film Oltman, which was on the screens from 1972 to 1983 years, is a simpler and more direct sitcom, filmed in the image and likeness of Sergeant Bilko. All this suggests that the culture at that time was quite close to the army, and could joke and laugh at it.
Let's fast forward to the present, the era of the Iraqi and Afghan wars, when everyone “supports” our army, but know almost nothing about it. In pop culture, telling about the people leading our endless wars, their suffering and resilience, as well as the long-term harm that can be caused by war, are emphasized. The most graphic example is the “Lord of the Storm”, as well as “Survivor”, “Restrepo”, who lived the short life of the 2005 series of the year “There, in the War” and the “Alien Amongst Yours” series that runs today. Someone recalls thrillers like “24 hours” and “Target number one”, allegedly being very truthful. In them, the military and intelligence officers are shown by courageous and desperate people. And although these dramas bring to the fore the damage that endless war inflicts on military and civil war both on the battlefield and later, they don’t have that comfortable proximity to the military, which would allow to ask questions about the competence of people in uniform in the same way, like people from other institutions.
Of course, the battlefield is a separate area, as evidenced by military literature since the days of Homer. But today the distance between civil America and its ever-warring army is enormous. Last year, writer Rebecca Frankel published the book War Dogs (Dogs of War) about dogs and their guides who played an important role in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to her, she chose this topic in part due to the fact that dogs are a kind of common reference point between the military and civilians. “When we cannot find this human connection in relation to war, when we cannot show or imagine this distant world of military actions, working military dogs become a bridge to bridge the gap that has arisen,” Frankel wrote in the preface to her book.
This is a wonderful book, and communication through dogs is better than complete lack of communication. But ... dogs! During previous American wars, common anchor points were human, not doggy. Fathers and sons are in danger, mothers and daughters working in defense enterprises or also wearing military uniforms. For two decades after World War II, the regular armed forces were so large, and the children of the era of the Great Depression were so small that most Americans had a direct and direct connection with the army. Among the older people from the baby boom generation, those who were born before 1955, at least 75% had a close relative in uniform - brother, sister, father, mother, spouse, spouse, child. Among Americans born after the 1980 year, only one in three has a close relationship with people with military service experience.
The most stinging satire on the Iraqi-Afghan era is the Ben Fountain's novel (Ben Fountain) Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (Billy Lynn's Long Walk). This is an example and analysis of our empty rituals under the slogan "Thank you for your service, heroes." The novel tells of an army platoon heavily battered in Iraq. The surviving soldiers are brought home and honored as heroes during the breaks of the game “Dallas Cowboys”, which is shown on television throughout the country on Thanksgiving Day. They are approvingly clapped on their backs, in their honor a tycoon from the VIP box makes a toast, and the girls from the support group are flirting with them. They are "passed around like a favorite hookah for smoking marijuana," thinks one of the soldiers named Billy Lynn. And then they are sent back to the front.
People in the stadium feel great. Why, they expressed their support for the military! But from the point of view of the military, this performance looks different. “There is some kind of rudeness and heartlessness in the actions of his fellow Americans, some kind of greed, ecstasy, itching coming from the inside, from the deepest needs,” the narrator tells Bill Linn's inner thoughts. - He has the feeling that they all need something from him, this pack of not-rich lawyers, dentists, football moms-fans, vice-presidents of corporations. With all they want to tear off a piece from this barely grown-up fighter earning 14, 8 thousands of dollars a year. ” For his novel Fountin in 2012, he won the National Book Critics Circle Award (National Book Critics Circle Award) in the category of “artistic prose”. But this did not shake the confidence of the mainstream in the correctness of their actions, aimed at ensuring that every conscious and conscientious person continued to “salute the heroes," more raising respect for himself, rather than respect for the military. Listening to Obama that day at the airport, recalling Fountin’s book and watching the bustle that reigned around me, I thought: historians will someday take advantage of those passages of presidential speech to which the Americans reacted to explain the mores and spirit of our time.
1. Cowardly warlike nation
If I were writing this story now, I would call it the “Cowardly-militant nation,” based on a mocking name for those who are not eager to go to war when others go to it. It would be a story about a country ready for anything for its armed forces - except for being serious about them. As a result, what has happened to our army happened to all organizations and institutions that are not subjected to serious external checks and have no connection with society. People from the outside treat the military with excessive respect and at the same time with arrogant unceremoniousness - as if treating them as heroes is some compensation for their endless participation in wars where it is impossible to win. Thus, we deprive the army of the political attention that we pay to other large state institutions, from health care and education to environmental protection. The tonality and scope of public debate on these issues can hardly inspire optimism. But in democratic countries, heated debates ultimately do less harm than our connivance, when we allow important bodies to work on autopilot, as our army does today. A cowardly belligerent nation is likely to continue the war, constantly losing it, unlike in another country that tackles long-term effectiveness.
Americans admire the army in ways they do not in relation to other institutions. Over the past 20 years, respect for courts, schools, the press, congress, organized religion, big business and literally all other institutions of modern life has fallen sharply. Except for the army. The credibility of the military has risen sharply since September 11 and remains at a very high level so far. Last summer, the Gallup Institute conducted a sociological survey, three quarters of whose participants expressed "great" or "substantial" confidence in the military. About a third expressed the same confidence in the medical system and only 7 percent to the congress.
Such unlimited complacency towards our army, as well as too little understanding of the tragic consequences of the next war, if something goes wrong there, are an integral part of the Americans ’willingness to engage in one conflict after another, blithely believing that we will win in any case . “Did we feel that America was not indifferent to how we live and fight? No, they didn’t, ”Marine Marine Seth Moulton told me about his feelings during the Iraq war. Moulton joined the army, graduating from Harvard in 2001. According to him, he believed that at the moment when many of his classmates were heading to Wall Street, he should set an example of public service. He was against the invasion of Iraq, but he ended up there four times out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very divided. We were proud to serve, but we knew that we were a small group of people doing work for the whole country. ”
Moulton, like many other combatants in Iraq, told me that if members of the congress, business elite and media leaders had more children in uniform, they would hardly have started the Iraq war at all. Being sure that the elite are acting uncontrollably, without reporting to anyone, Moulton, while in Iraq, decided to go into politics after his dismissal from the army. “I remember this moment well,” he told me. - It happened after a hard day in Najaf in 2004. A young Marine from my platoon said, "Sir, you need to run for congressional sometime to prevent this shit from happening again." In January, Moulton will take office as a member of the Democratic Party of Representatives, who nominated him in the sixth district of Massachusetts, north of Boston.
What Moulton told me is the desire to create some kind of accountability and control. It is striking how rare such accountability and control are in our current wars. Hillary Clinton paid for her decision to vote for the start of the war in Iraq, because it provided an opportunity for the little-known Barack Obama to run against her in 2008. George W. Bush, whose popularity, like that of most ex-presidents, increases the more, the longer he is not in power, would have played a more prominent role in the public and political life of the country, if not for the Iraqi dead end. But these two cases are exceptions. Most other statesmen, starting with Dick Cheney and ending with Colin Powell, left Iraq behind. This is partly due to the decision of the Obama administration from the very beginning “to look ahead and not look back,” without thinking about why things went so badly during the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it would be more difficult to keep such an amnesia imposed by force of will if more Americans felt how negatively the outcome of those wars affected them. Our generals, our politicians and the majority of our citizens did not bear any responsibility for the military failure, did not experience the consequences of failures. And this is dangerous - and such a danger will increase the more, the longer it remains.
Our military is the best-equipped combat force in history. And the most expensive - the cost of it is not comparable with others. By all standards, today's professional army is better prepared, motivated, and also more disciplined than in those years when there was an appeal. Not a single decent person, somehow connected with the army of today, cannot but feel for her feelings of respect and gratitude for what our military does.
However, less powerful, less well-equipped and practically non-funded enemies regularly defeat this powerful combat force. Or it wins victories in individual clashes and battles, and then loses or gets bogged down in the war as a whole. No one knows the exact figures, and there are a lot of disagreements on this score, but 12 years of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and neighboring states cost us at least 1,5 trillions of dollars. And Linda J. Bilmes (Harvard Linda J. Bilmes) recently calculated that total costs can be 3-4 times higher. Recall that when Congress discussed the start of the war in Iraq, the head of the White House Economic Council, Lawrence B. Lindsey, was forced to resign because he told The Wall Street Journal that the total cost could be from 100 to 200 billion dollars. Practice has shown that the United States often spent more than that amount in a year.
From the point of view of strategy and human losses, these are burnt dollars. "At the moment, it is completely obvious and indisputable that the American army in Iraq has not achieved any of its strategic goals," Jim Gourley, a former military intelligence officer, recently wrote on the Best Defense blog. “If we evaluate the situation according to the goals set by the military command, the war ended with the complete defeat of our armed forces.” During the 13 years of continuous fighting in accordance with the decision of Congress on the use of armed forces (this is the longest war period in US history), American forces achieved one clear strategic success: they conducted an operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden. Numerous tactical victories, from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein to an alliance with the Sunni tribal leaders, as a result of which it was possible to build up a grouping in Iraq, showed that the American military men possess both courage and appropriate skills. But all this did not bring long-term and lasting stability to this region, and also did not contribute to the promotion of American interests there. When the ISIL militants seized a large part of Iraqi territory, the arms were laid down and the soldiers who fled from them were from the very national army of Iraq, which the American advisers for big money, but very inefficiently trained for more than five years.
“We are vulnerable,” journalist William Greider wrote during the summer debate on the topic of fighting ISIS, “because our confidence in an irresistible superiority is drawing us deeper into conflicts that cannot be won.” And since the army is isolated from society, the process of developing conclusions and lessons from these defeats has been disrupted. The last war, which ended in victory, even remotely resembling the goals of pre-war planning, was the brief conflict in the Persian Gulf 1991 of the year.
After the Vietnam War, the press and the public went too far, accusing the military of having been a systematic failure of the strategy and its execution. But the military themselves recognized their shortcomings, and a whole generation of reformers after the war tried to understand the existing habits and change them. In 1978, a military intelligence veteran by the name of Richard A. Gabriel (Richard A. Gabriel), together with Paul Savage (Paul L. Savage), published the book Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army (Command Crisis. Mismanagement in the army), in which The authors explain the numerous failures in Vietnam with the bureaucratic style of military leadership. Three years later, an army officer under the literary pseudonym Cincinnatus (later revealed that it was Lieutenant Colonel Cecil B. Currey, who served as a reserve priest) wrote a paper entitled Self-Destruction Vietnam Era (Self-Destruction. The collapse and decline of the American army during the Vietnam era), in which he linked the problems of the Vietnam War with the moral and intellectual flaws of professional military. There were sharp disputes about the book, but it was remembered. An article about this book, which appeared in the Air University Review, states that “the author’s arguments are impeccable,” and that the structure of a military career “corrupts those who serve; this system expels the very best, and rewards only sycophants. "
Today we often hear judgments of this kind from the mouth of the military, and sometimes politicians, but only in private. We no longer speak publicly in such a language about our heroes, as a result of which the control over the professional army is significantly weaker than in previous wars. The military historian William Lind (William S. Lind) in 1990-s participated in the development of the concept called “The war of the fourth generation”, which refers to the fight against partisans, militants, terrorists and other “non-state” groups that do not want to fight as traditional armies do. Recently, Lind wrote the following:
The most curious thing in our four defeats in the fourth-generation war - and this is Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan - is the complete silence of the American officer corps. The defeat in Vietnam brought up a generation of military reformers .... Today there is emptiness on this field. There is not a single voice of the military calling for the implementation of thoughtful and meaningful changes. Just asking for more money, that's all.
During and after the successful American wars, and of course after the standoff in Korea and the defeat in Vietnam, the leadership qualities of professional military and their judgments were often criticized, and this was considered natural. Grant saved the Union, and McLellan almost did not sabotage him - but he was the only general Lincoln had to remove from the road. Something similar happened in many wars, including Vietnam. Some commanders were good, some were bad. And now, in the framework of public discussion, they are all turned into heroes. As Thomas Ricks wrote in this magazine in 2012, Thomas Ricks “in the wars of the past decade“ hundreds of army generals participated, but the military command did not dismiss any of them for their inefficiency in battle ”. According to him, this is not just a radical departure from the American tradition, but also an “important factor of defeat” in our recent wars.
In part, such changes occurred due to the fact that a society in complete security does not insist on army accountability. This is partly due to the fact that lawmakers and even presidents recognize that it’s risky and almost useless to argue with professional military. If the presidents recently removed officers from their posts, they usually did this in connection with accusations of misbehavior, sex scandals, financial violations and other disciplinary offenses. It is appropriate to recall the two famous four-star generals who resigned themselves without waiting for Obama to dismiss them: Stanley McChrystal, who commanded the international forces in Afghanistan, and David Petraeus, who became the director of the CIA after the post of commander of the Central Command. A general rule-proving exception happened 12 years ago when a senior civilian leader directly accused a four-star general of military incompetence. Giving testimony to Congress on the eve of the war in Iraq, General Eric Shinseki, who was at that time chief of staff of the ground forces, said that much more troops than planned were needed to successfully occupy Iraq. The then deputy minister of defense and the head of Shinseki, Paul Wolfowitz, publicly ridiculed him, calling the views of his subordinate "ridiculous" and "completely unfaithful." Since then, Wolfowitz and his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Donald Rumsfeld) began to defiantly oppress Shinseki.
In that case, the general was right, and the politicians were wrong. But today, the military are far more often and far more skillfully distancing themselves from numerous military failures, even in cases where they are mistaken. In part, this shift in public relations is anthropological in nature. Most reporters who cover political issues love this process and politicians who also like this job. And this is one of the reasons why the majority (like the whole country) were much more indulgent towards the covenant and belligerent Bill Clinton, rather than the “cold” and “wary” Barack Obama. But political reporters always hunt for blunders and scandals, through which you can bring down the goal, and it seems to them that they are acting in the interests of society.
Most reporters covering the military issues love this process and cannot but love or at least not respect those they write and talk about. They are physically strong and resilient people, accustomed to say "sir" and "ma'am"; they have passed such tests that most civilians will never face; they are part of a disciplined and seemingly disinterested group of people and quite naturally command respect. Consciously, this is done or not, but the military receive substantial support in the formation of public opinion in connection with modern practice to appoint officers in the middle of their careers to various think tanks, to the congressional apparatus, and to study various educational programs throughout the country. For universities, military students (as the dean of a public policy department told me) are “an improved version of a foreign student.” That is, they diligently study, regularly and fully pay for their studies, and unlike students from abroad, they have no language barrier, difficulties in adapting to the American way of life with its communication with the audience and the exchange of opinions. In most countries, student warriors are treated with respect, and these programs bring together the usually skeptical American elite and people like young Colin Powell, who, being a lieutenant colonel at 34, was given a White House scholarship in Vietnam . Or David Petraeus, who received his doctorate at Princeton 13 years after graduating from West Point.
But no matter how the Americans "supported" and "respected" the military, they are divorced from them, and such detachment inevitably leads to the adoption of dangerous decisions, which the public almost does not notice. “I’m very worried about this growing gap between the American people and our army,” retired admiral Mike Mullen told me recently (Mike Mullen), who under Bush and then Obama served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee (and who in the process of military services studied at Harvard School of Business). Military people are “professional and capable,” he said, but “I would sacrifice some of these excellent qualities in order to bring the army closer to the American people. Fewer and fewer people are familiar with the military. It’s just now too easy to go to war. ”
Citizens notice when crime increases, when the quality of schooling decreases, when drinking water becomes unsafe, or when government departments stop functioning properly. But few people notice a change for the better and for the worse in the army. The country thinks too rarely and too well of the one percent that is under fire for us.
2. Cowardly-militant economy
Because of the widening gap between America and its army, the country goes to war with excessive readiness, and is too heartless about the damage it causes. Because of such a gap, we spend too much money on the army, and we spend it stupidly, which is why the well-being of our troops and their success in battle are threatened. We buy weapons that are less related to the combat realities and more with our never-ending belief that advanced technologies will ensure victory, as well as economic interests and political influence of military contractors. As a result, we get expensive and very unreliable white elephants, and a vital weapon, not distinguished by glamorous sheen, very often brings our military.
We know that in technology the main advantage of our army. However, the story of the long wars of America after 11 September is the constant narrative of the temporary victories of our high-tech weapons, which simply melt before the older and harsh realities of homemade weapons, fanatical discontent and growing hostility towards the occupants from afar. Many of the most innovative and high-tech inventions for the needs of the Pentagon have become costly and bright failures, including (we'll talk more about this) the main aviation project of recent years, the F-35. If America had a close relationship with the military, such issues of strategy and military practice would be familiar to us in much the same way as, for example, the standards of secondary education.
Those revolutionary breakthroughs in technology that are being implemented on the battlefield may eventually hang around the neck of the army as a strategic burden. For example, when the United States was practically a monopolist in the field of combat UAVs, they killed individuals or small groups, and as a result whole countries turned against them. When a monopoly ends (and it ends inevitably), the openness of the United States leads to the fact that the country becomes vulnerable to defeat cheap and numerous weapons systems that are used by the rest.
Meanwhile, defense spending is growing and growing, encountering almost no political opposition and very rarely encountering public discussions. According to the most thorough and complete calculations, which are significantly different from the usual budget figures, this year the United States will spend more than one trillion dollars on national security. This includes about 580 billions of dollars from the Pentagon’s base budget plus funds for “unforeseen circumstances abroad”; 20 billions of dollars from the budget of the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons, almost 200 billions of dollars in retirement to the military and the expenses of the Veterans Affairs Department, and other allocations. But over 80 billions of dollars a year in the share of defense from national debt are not counted here. After adjusting for inflation, it turns out that the United States this year will spend more on 50% on military forces than they spent on average during the cold and Vietnamese wars. America will spend about as much on military needs as the next 10 countries combined. This is 3-5 times more than the expenses of China (it all depends on how to count), and 7-9 times more than the costs of Russia. The world as a whole spends about two percent of its total income on its armies. And the United States spends about four percent.
However, the budgeting process is so upset, so flawed that even with the increase in expenses, the Pentagon lacks funding for repairs, military training, pensions and maintenance of veterans. “We buy the wrong things, and we pay too much for them,” a former employee of the Senate Committee on Armed Forces and a former professor at the National Military College, Charles A. Stevenson, told me. “We spend so much money on people that we lack equipment, which in any case becomes more expensive.” And we are not increasing our R & D allocations. ”
Here is just one good example of media coverage showing the huge and difficult to control trends in the development of weapons and their costs. We will talk about the unfulfilled hopes of the new aircraft F-35 Lightning.
Now the planning and development of weapons sometimes takes decades, and the history of the F-35 began long before the majority of today's military personnel were born. Two aircraft 1970-s began, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter and the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, departed from the basic military design trends as much as the compact Japanese cars of the era differed from American cars with fairing and tail. These aircraft were fairly cheap, easy to maintain and repair, and they were designed to perform their specific tasks very well for their intended purpose. So, the F-16 was supposed to be a high-speed, extremely maneuverable and deadly aircraft in air combat (and was such). A-10 was created as a kind of a flying tank, capable of carrying out, as the military say, direct aviation support to ground forces, pouring fire on the enemy’s battle formations. A-10 needed heavy armor to be protected from enemy fire; over the battlefield, he had to fly as slowly as possible in order to cause real damage, rather than just growling past targets; and he needed one very powerful gun.
A person has such inventions that are a bare expression of functionality. This is Eames’s armchair, classic pencil number 2, the original Ford Mustang or Volkswagen beetle, MacBook and so on - choose what you want. The A-10, dubbed Thunderbolt (Lightning), but better known by its combat nickname Warthog (Boar), just became a model of such pure functionality in the modern army. It is durable, it is inexpensive, it can destroy enemy Tanks and convoys firing at a rate of up to 70 rounds per second and firing 28-centimeter long armor-piercing ammunition with depleted uranium on the target.
But over the past decade, our military leaders, led by the Republican Bush administration and Democrat Obama, tried their best to get rid of A-10 to get enough money for a more expensive, less reliable and technically unsuitable aircraft, which was good except for insider transactions when people and society did not care.
The plane for which we abandon the A-10, is its complete opposite in almost all aspects. If you use automotive terminology, this is “Lamborghini”, and A-10 is a hard worker-pickup (or a flying tank). If you use the terminology of air travel, then this is a first class cabin with sleeping accommodation for Singapore Airlines, and A-10 is an economy-class cabin (with pre-purchased tickets) from United. Such comparisons may seem ridiculous, but they are fair and honest comparisons. That is, "Lamborghini" in some respects is much better than a pickup - speed, control, comfort, but you should choose this car only in special circumstances. Same thing about the first class cabin. A ticket to such a salon would be ordered by everyone if someone else paid for it, but for most people it is basically a waste of money.
Each new generation of weapons is usually “better” - just like the “Lamborghini”, and it is “worth it” in the same sense as a ticket to the first class. A-10 demonstrates pattern. According to the calculations of aviation analyst Richard Abulafia (Richard L. Aboulafia) from the Teal Group, the price per unit at current prices 2014 of the year (this is the most fair comparison of similar products) is as follows. A-10 costs about 19 million dollars today, being the cheapest combat manned aircraft. The Predator drone is only a third cheaper. The remaining fighters, bombers and multipurpose aircraft cost much more: V-22 Osprey about 72 million dollars, F-22 fighter about 144 million, B-2 bomber about 810 million, and F-35 about 101 million (like five A-10) . The same difference in operating costs. In A-10, they are significantly lower, and in other machines it is much higher, because the Boar has a simpler design and the least of all that can fail. The simplicity of the design provides him more flight time, since the aircraft does not have to stand idle for a long time in the repair shop.
Unlike A-10, the F-35 was a bad idea from the start. He would be written on the front pages of newspapers as often as other failed federal projects like Obama’s health care reform or the response of the Federal Agency for Crisis Management to Hurricane Katrina, if this project had a direct impact on people's lives, or if it could be widely shown on television. In this case, few politicians would decide to defend him. The total loss of taxpayers from the unsuccessful Solyndra solar energy program is, by the most pessimistic estimates, 800 million dollars. The total amount of taxpayer losses from the F-35 project, including cost overruns, theft losses and other damages, is approximately 100 times greater. However, probably more people know about the “Solyndra scandal” in 100 times than about the generic efforts of F-35. And here's some more information for you to think about: the total cost of this aircraft today is estimated at one and a half trillion dollars. About the same, according to conservative estimates, was spent on the entire Iraq war.
The essence of the tragedy of this aircraft is that this project, designed to correct the most serious problems of Washington in designing weapons and paying for it, in fact only aggravated these problems, becoming their personification. The aircraft, which was planned to be made inexpensive, reliable and easily adaptable, became the most expensive in history and the most capricious in operation. The federal official, who made this project a symbol of new, transparent and data-based approaches to the distribution of contracts, ended up in a federal prison where he is serving a term for corruption in connection with Boeing projects. (The Boeing Chief Financial Officer also served his time.) For information: The Pentagon and the leading contractors are stubbornly defending this project and protecting the aircraft, stating that all problems with it will soon be resolved, that this is a future plane, and A-10 is an obsolete relic of the past.
Theoretically, the F-35 should be purposefully protected by all types of armed forces, since the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will receive their own versions of this aircraft, tailored to their needs. But in reality, everything turned out differently. The F-35 of the project must have very many and often conflicting characteristics. It must be strong enough in the Navy version to take off and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier; it must be very light and maneuverable to outperform other air force machines in aerial combat; he should have the ability to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter; he must be reliable in the difficult conditions of battle, coming to the aid of the marines. Naturally, to fully implement all these requirements in one car was impossible, and the promises were unfulfilled. In theory, the F-35 was supposed to bring together and solder American allies, since it was provided for the purchase of other countries, and this machine was to be their main aircraft. In addition, it was planned to involve these countries in one way or another to carry out contract work. But delays, cost overruns, problems with the mechanics turned this plane into a subject of sharp political debate in the countries-customers, starting with Canada and Holland, and ending with Italy and Australia.
And in the US, these problems are discussed the least. During the 2012 debates, Mitt Romney criticized Barack Obama for supporting green energy projects such as Solyndra. But none of them even mentioned F-35, and I have not yet found a hint that President Obama would dwell on it in at least one of his speeches. In other countries, F-35 can now be presented as another example of annoying US interference. And here it is protected by supply contracts, which are widely distributed.
“Political fraud” - this term was popularized in the 1970s by a young Pentagon analyst named Chuck Spinney. This is a populist policy pursued on a massive scale. Cost overruns are bad if another gets extra money. But it's good if your company receives orders, or if your constituency receives new jobs. Political frauds are a true art, aimed at ensuring that one or another military project covers as many constituencies as possible, and that as many congressmen as possible feel that if they cut funding, this will be to the detriment of themselves.
The 10 contract of millions of dollars in one congressional district provides support to one representative. Two contracts of five million dollars in two districts is twice as good. And the best option is three contracts of three million dollars apiece. This logic is understandable to every participant in military contracts. This is understood by leading contractors entering into supply deals throughout the country; understand the procurement officers, who distribute work among contractors; understand politicians who get more or less votes depending on the results. At the end of 1980, a coalition of so-called budget hawks in congress tried to cut funding for the B-2 bomber. They were unable to achieve anything when it turned out that the project was being conducted in the 46 states and in the 383 electoral districts (435 in total). The difference between now and today is that Northrop's main construction contractor, B-2, was forced to disclose secret information to show how large the scope of the work was and how much the appropriations were distributed.
Whatever the technical problems, F-35 has become a triumph of political fraud, on a global scale. A piquant illustration of the possibilities of political fraud is the example of the former socialist mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders, who is now an independent senator from Vermont and a possible left candidate to participate in the next presidential race. In principle, he believes that the F-35 is a bad idea. When one of these aircraft caught fire last summer on the runway in Florida, Sanders, in an interview with a reporter, called this program "incredibly wasteful." However, he and Vermont’s left-wing political establishment fought hard to deploy an F-35 unit assigned to the Vermont National Guard Air Force in Burlington and dissuade opponents who considered these planes too noisy and dangerous. “For good or bad, but for the time being, this is a record holder,” Sanders said last year to a local reporter after the incident in Florida. - And no one will refuse him. That is the reality. ” And once the plane appears, why not here? As Vermont thinks, so does the whole nation.
The next big project in the plans of the Air Force is the successor to the B-1 and B-2 long-range strike bomber. Among its tactical and technical characteristics is the ability to deliver bombing attacks deep in Chinese territory. (This is such a reckless step that the United States did not even consider this possibility when they fought with the Chinese during the Korean War.) By the time last summer the full cost of this car and its capabilities became clear, Chuck Spinni wrote that this plane, " as well as F-35, it will be uncontrollable ”This is due to the fact that now its supporters insure themselves and provide this car with the future,“ distributing subcontracts throughout the country, and even around the world, as it did with F-35 ”
3. Cowardly-militant policy
Politicians say that ensuring national security is their primary and sacred duty, but they act very differently. The last military budget was approved by the House Armed Services Committee unanimously (61 vote "for" and 0 "against"). The debates that preceded the vote were the same. This is the same House of Representatives, which can not approve the law on the government fund for the construction of highways, enjoying the support of both parties. "The praise of military leaders by politicians is a very remarkable and dangerous phenomenon," retired air force colonel Tom Ruby, who now covers the problems of organizational culture, told me. He and other people say that this is one of the reasons for which there is practically no serious control over the military.
Retired Marine Colonel T. Hammes (TX Hammes), who received his doctorate in modern history at Oxford, told me that politicians no longer consider it necessary to critically review military programs, and national defense issues have ceased to be a sacred duty for them. Today, all this for them is just a trifle. “Many on Capitol Hill are now looking at the Pentagon with amazing simplicity,” he said. - This is a way to send tax money to elected districts. This is part of the work for which they were elected. ”
In the spring of 2011, Barack Obama asked the most experienced Democrat politician with great connections, Gary Hart, in defense reform issues to form a small working group from both parties to make recommendations on what changes he should make in the Pentagon and in the practice of his work, if he gets a second presidential term. Hart carried out this work (I was part of the group along with Andrew J. Bacevich from Boston University, John Arquilla from refresher courses for Navy officers and Norman Augustine, who previously headed Lockheed Martin) and sent the President a report in the fall. No reaction followed. The White House constantly receives heaps of requests and recommendations, and it responds only to those that it considers most urgent. Obviously, military reform is not included in this list.
Therefore, during the 2012 presidential race of the year, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney spoke in detail about how they would spend one and a half billion dollars a day on military programs. The exception was Romney’s only statement that he would spend another trillion on them if elected. During the only direct discussion of military policy at the final stage of the race, Obama said that Romney’s plans would give the military more money than they ask. Romney noted that today the Navy has fewer ships than before the First World War. Obama struck back: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our armed forces has changed. We have such things, which are called aircraft carriers, where planes land. We have ships that go under water and are called nuclear submarines. " That was Obama’s most sarcastic and most aggressive statement ever. This is the end of the discussion about where trillions will go.
Jim Webb is a veteran of the Vietnam War who has many awards, as well as a writer, a former senator from the Democratic Party and a possible presidential candidate. Seven years ago, he wrote in his book A Time to Fight (Time to Fight) that a military career turns into a culture in which everyone should get a piece of a common pie on the principle of "all sisters in earrings." Webb had in mind that ambitious officers notice how many of their mentors and predecessors after their dismissal occupy posts on boards of directors, in consulting firms and in defense companies in executive positions. (Some past high-ranking military retirements today have more than a money allowance before being fired. For example, a four-star general or admiral who has served 40 for years can receive more than 237 000 dollars a year in retirement, although in actual military service his maximum allowance was 180 000 dollars.)
According to Webb, the knowledge of what awaits them after being fired cannot but influence the behavior of some high-ranking military leaders when they wear uniforms. Among other things, they defend the principle of sharing the cake, which is the military budget, and they establish contacts with their predecessors and with their employers, looking into the retirement perspective. "There are always officers leaving to work in contractors," Webb, who grew up in a military family, told me recently. “The new is the scale of this phenomenon, as well as the degree of its influence on high-ranking military men.”
Of course, the modern army in every possible way advertises itself as a place where young people without chances and without money for higher education can acquire valuable skills, as well as benefits, to go on to study after service. In general, this is good and right, and in this regard, the army, albeit unintentionally, plays an important role as the creator of favorable opportunities for Americans without privileges. But Webb is talking about something else, about the corrupting effect of the system on well-trained and influential careerists who begin to prepare their future in advance.
"It is no secret that such high-ranking military leaders in recent years, services are slowly beginning to prepare positions for the retirement period, trying to start a second career," wrote Webb in his book. According to him, the result is a “close relationship” of corporate and military interests, which “threatens the impeccability of the military procurement process, causing enormous personnel problems, such as the emergence of huge“ militarized ”structures (contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it also inevitably creates risks for the national security system itself. ” Many other interlocutors expressed the same point of view. The toughest assessments on this score are given not by those who are suspicious of the military, but by people who have devoted a significant part of their lives to the army, like Webb.
Last summer, one person who had overseen the Pentagon’s contracts for decades told me: “The system is based on lies and self-interest, purely for the purpose of moving money.” This system continues to work because “the troops get their budgets, the contractors get their contracts, the congressmen get jobs for their constituencies, and those who are not involved in these processes do not want to find out what happens there.”
The most revered American military 20-th century, Dwight Eisenhower insistently warned that business and politics will corrupt the army, and vice versa. Everyone heard about this speech. But not enough people read it. And even fewer were exposed to its dangerous anti-war views, as they would have thought today. What mainstream politician can say today, as Eisenhower did in 1961, that the military-industrial complex has “total influence - economic, political, even spiritual, which is felt in every city, every state department, every department of the federal government”?
A few days before his victory in congressional elections this fall, Seth Moulton said that since the days of conscription, the quality and morale of the army has improved significantly. “However, it was filled by careerists, especially at the very top, who made their way there because they insured at every turn and did not want to take a risk,” he told me. - The best officers from among my acquaintances were lieutenants who knew that they would be fired, and therefore were not afraid to make the right decisions. I know a great many senior officers who are very afraid to make difficult decisions, because they are worried about how this will affect their personal files. ” It sounds like a complaint of life in any large organization, but there is more to it. We do not have other land forces or a marine corps, where you can go, starting all over again. The military has almost no opportunity to correct a mistake or a black mark in the appraisal, which is the basis of his promotion.
Every department and organization has problems, and at every stage of American history there were critics who believed that the US Army was over-funded, poorly prepared, too self-contained, it thinks a lot about itself and has other flaws and shortcomings. I must admit that modern imbalances all in one degree or another originate in the cowardly-militant basis of today's defense strategy.
Bearing huge losses, both financial and human, the country ensures the existence of the most powerful armed forces in the world. But since only a small part of the population is interested in the consequences of military actions, the usual feedback for democracies does not work with us.
I met serious people who argue that the isolation of the army corresponds to its own interests, and not to the state. “Since the times of the Roman Empire, there were people, mostly men, but today more and more women who voluntarily turned into the Praetorian Guard,” said John A. Nagl to me. The brazen is a West Point graduate and a Rhodes scholar who commanded a military unit in Iraq and wrote two influential books on the modern army. He left the service as a lieutenant colonel and now heads a private preparatory school at Haverford, near Philadelphia.
“They know what they are signing up for,” says Nagle, of today's military. - They are proud of their work, and in return they expect decent living conditions, retirement benefits and medical care in the event of injury or illness. American society is fully prepared to allow volunteer professionals to serve where they should serve, and this is a wise goal. Under these conditions, the president gets more freedom of action and can make decisions in the national interest, and the troops will simply take the peak and do what is necessary. ”
I love and respect Nagle, but here I completely disagree with him. As we have already seen, the inattention of society to the army, which appears due to the fact that people have no direct interest in its fate, has led to an increase in strategic and departmental problems.
“People who are not affected by the war (or they think so) are unlikely to think about it,” wrote Andrew Basevich in 2012. His war touched directly - he fought in Vietnam, and his son died in Iraq. “Having made sure that they do not have any bets in this game, they will allow the state to do whatever it wishes.”
Mike Mullen believes that it is possible to bring the Americans closer to the army by reducing regular troops. This process is already underway. “The next time we go to war,” he said, “the American people must give their consent to this.” This means that millions of uncomplicated people will become involved. Then America will unite and become united. The people of America have not been to these previous wars, and we paid dearly for it. ”
Having distanced themselves from the military, politicians do not speak seriously about whether the United States directly threatens chaos in the Middle East and other places, and whether America is more secure than before (in this new book, A Dangerous World?) Christopher Preble and John Mueller from the Cato Institute. The overwhelming majority of civilian Americans can show triple cynicism towards the army. What does "triple" mean? First: “honor” the military, but not think about them. Second: “think” about military spending, but in fact consider them a program to stimulate both parties. Third: to maintain a “strong” defense, but to proceed from the fact that the United States is much stronger than any adversary, and therefore it is pointless to worry about whether we have the right strategy, weapons and leadership.
Cultural problems associated with the separation of the army from the people, may be even more serious. Retired Air Force Major General Charles Dunlap Jr. (Charles J. Dunlap Jr.), teaching at Duke University Law School, reflected on the relationship between civilian and military for most of his military service. At the beginning of 1990, when he was a young Air Force officer and studied at the National Defense University (this was right after the first Gulf War), he was awarded a prize for the best student essay on an imaginary future entitled “The Origins of the American Military” Coup of 2012 ”(Causes of a military coup in America in 2012).
The message of his work was a caution, based on the contradiction between increasing admiration for the military and a weakening trust in most other state bodies. The more discontent the Americans displayed about their economic and social problems, the more they felt relief when competent men in military uniform led by General Thomas Brutus finally took power into their own hands. As Dunlap explained, one of the reasons for the coup was that the military were very distant and isolated from mass culture and its various currents, and therefore began to look at society as a foreign territory that can be conquered in order to then manage it.
Recently, I asked Dunlap how the real world in America after 2012 had fits with his fictional scenario.
“I think we will soon witness the resurgence of that phenomenon that has always been present in the collective American psychology,” he said. “This is the so-called benign anti-militarism.” It will be the reverse side of the reflective militarism of recent years. “People don’t appreciate the unprecedented situation they are in,” continued Dunlap. What is the essence of this situation? For the first time in its history, America has secured a permanent and fairly strong military presence, which forms our ties with the whole world and seriously affects our economy. However, the people in our army during the years of “her manhood as a professional and volunteer force” were not enough to proportionally represent the country they are protecting.
“This is becoming increasingly similar to tribalism,” says Dunlap about the warring army in our cowardly-militant country, “in the sense that more and more military come into the army from very small groups of the population. Service is becoming a family tradition, and this somewhat contradicts our understanding of how democracy distributes a common burden. ”
People from a military tribe feel that they are both above and below the confused civil reality of America. Below, in the sense that the entire burden falls on them, that America, without due attention, relates to their lives, to their difficulties, to their lost opportunities. And above, because they are able to withstand the difficulties that instantly break their weaker contemporaries from among the modern youth.
“I think the army has a very strong feeling that it is much better than the society it serves,” said Dunlap. “And this has a definite meaning.” Anyone serving in the armed forces and members of families of servicemen understand what he means. Good physical condition, self-discipline, diligence, neatness in clothes, self-discipline - all this has long turned the army into a place where young people with wrong views on life could improve. Plus, the spirit of love and loyalty to his comrades, which in civilian life only exists in sports teams. The optimal resolution of the contradictions between military and civilian values is that people who understand tribal affiliation to the army use their strengths outside the military tribe. “The new generation that has emerged,” says Dunlap, about the young veterans of the last long wars, “these lieutenants and majors who were kings-commanders at their little outposts; they literally made decisions on which people's lives depended. It is impossible to say to such a generation: “We see you, but we don’t want to hear.”
In addition to Moulton, the current convention will include more 20 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, including new Republican senators Tom Cotton from Arkansas and Joni Ernst from Iowa. Among those 17 that are already working there are members of the House of Representatives Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth, members of the House of Representatives Republicans Duncan D. Hunter and Adam Kinzinger who play a prominent role in the development of a policy on veterans, and in 2013, they actively participated in debates on the topic of intervention in Syria. Gabbard strongly opposed such an intervention, and some Republican veterans were behind - but they all presented their arguments based on personal experience and observations on what gives the result and what leads to failure. Moulton told me that the main lesson he learned from his four assignments to Iraq was about the importance of the service, whatever it was. According to Moulton, the renowned Harvard Chaplain, the late Peter Gomes (Peter J. Gomes) convinced him in his student years that “believing” in the army and other services was not enough. We must find a way for ourselves to serve. If there are no unbelievable changes, then service in America will not imply conscription. However, Moulton says that he will contribute to the establishment of an atmosphere in which more people will want to serve.
Despite all the differences in points of view and conclusions, these young veterans look alike in that they are serious about the military, and not just adore them. The vast majority of Americans will never gain their experience and feelings. But we can learn from this seriousness, realizing that military policy deserves at least the same attention that we pay to taxes and schools.
What can this mean specifically? For starters, that's what. In a confidential report addressed to President Obama, prepared more than three years ago, the working group Gary Hart made recommendations on a number of practical issues. This is the need to create smaller and more maneuverable units, changes in the national structure of the military command, and different approaches to the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There were three recommendations on how the country as a whole should build its relations with the armed forces. Here they are:
Assign a commission to analyze and evaluate long-lasting wars. This commission should impartially draw conclusions from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan regarding the nature of non-traditional conflicts with the use of irregular forces, command structure, intelligence effectiveness, cultural factors of the indigenous population, training of local armed forces, and the performance of combat units and subunits. Such a commission will significantly expand our understanding of when, where, and how to intervene in the future, and whether they should start.
Clarify the decision-making process on the use of force. Such critical decisions, which are of a situational nature today, should be made systematically by the relevant authorities on the basis of reliable and convincing information with an understanding of our national interests based on the realities of the 21 of the 20th century.
Restore the relationship between civilian and military. The president as commander in chief should explain the role of the soldier to citizens and the role of citizens to the soldier. Traditional relations between the army and civilians are weak and poorly defined. Our military structures are increasingly moving away from the society they protect, and harmonious relations should be established between them.
Barack Obama, busy with other things, did not find time for this. But the rest must find it if we want to wisely choose wars and win them.