When Rudyard Kipling penned these words nearly 80 years ago, he described the British regular soldier as he was traditionally viewed by his countrymen. Though the United States of 1970 bears no resemblance to Kipling’s Victorian England, the words could nonetheless be applied today to America’s fighting men. In fact, some phrases now being tossed about are much more vitriolic than the second line of the above stanza.
Those who currently wear the uniform of the nation’s armed forces are being branded as everything from idiots to conspirators. Military men—together with a large group of “conniving industrialists”—are charged with having formed an insidious coalition designed solely to extract unending self-enrichment horn the labors of the American people. This conspiratorial concept holds that the military man’s payoff comprises large amounts of money and liquor, the favors of co-operative women, and promises of lucrative jobs following retirement. Moreover, his basic perfidy is compounded by a narrow-minded and potentially disastrous willingness to destroy all life on earth if Communism—man’s ultimate enemy in his benighted view—seems to be a serious threat.
And finally, along with the vast army of bellicose veterans he has trained and indoctrinated in the past quarter of a century, he has transformed the United States into a militaristic and predatory nation which now preys upon the rest of the world.
Examined from any angle, this is a shocking picture. And it poses a rash of questions: Who levels such charges? Are the accusations true? How dangerous are they? Most important of all: What should be done about the assault?
To begin with, it must be understood that this is no academic exercise, for upon the answers to these questions most assuredly rests the future security of the United States. The charges cannot, therefore, be brushed aside and ignored on the assumption that, like previous anti-military campaigns in America, they will fade away before any grave damage is done. This is especially true if today’s critics are more numerous or, above all, more influential than the usual lunatic fringe—those who will senselessly attack any available target at any given opportunity.
A survey of these critics—both actual members of the anti-military clique, and those whose utterances the cabal exploits—reveals that we are confronted with a highly articulate and extremely influential body. It therefore behooves us to listen most carefully to and examine as objectively as possible the charges that are being made.
The following spokesmen formulate probably the most effective pronouncements currently trumpeted by the anti-militarists. It should not be inferred, however, that the former individuals are labeled herein either as leaders or members of the anti-military movement. Nor are they being classified anti-military per se. But because their words serve as eminent fuel for use by those who tend the anti-military fires, the views of these critics are vitally important. Lastly, one must note that their views will be scrutinized quite without regard to any particular order of motivation, influence, believability or sincerity.
At the outset it might be wise to digress or to speculate about the atmosphere within America that has spawned and nurtured the current outcry.
It seems reasonably clear that there are two basic causes. First and foremost is the war in Vietnam.
This Southeast Asian conflict is one of the least understood—and therefore most unpopular—wars in our history, primarily because the attempts of three Administrations have failed to explain to the American people in convincing terms the nature of the war and the stakes involved. This failure and America’s historic impatience syndrome have combined to disillusion and discourage a large segment of the population. With disenchantment has come increasingly vocal opposition to the war—and to the military.
The second major cause is strictly domestic: an explosive drive by minority groups—ethnic and economic—for instant political power, social equality, and financial affluence. This drive directly re-enforces the anti-war fever insofar as it involves competition for the national dollar; most especially, competition for that portion of the American budget presently devoted to defense.
Taken together, these two fundamental factors have contributed heavily to growing disrespect for constituted authority, urban riots, academic chaos, moral decline, predominance of personal aspirations over national well-being and, in extreme cases, the spectre of revolution and anarchy. It is against this backdrop that one must view the phrases now being lobbed into the military camp.
Perhaps the most widely known dissenter in the United States is Senator J. William Fulbright. He has long been a critic of defense spending; in particular, of how the arms produced by that spending are used. His objections to the Bay of Pigs and Dominican Republic crises are well known. So are his 1964 expressions of astonishment over the “uncritical support” the American people annually give to military funding. Since 1965, of course, the Senator has used his position as Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a springboard for an unswerving campaign against the war in Vietnam; an issue he has clung to with the tenacity of a bulldog worrying a bone.
Until recently, however, Senator Fulbright’s efforts have affected the military itself only indirectly. Deeply concerned with nationalism, which he considers the most dangerous force in this century, he advocates co-operative international approaches in almost every field of endeavor. He admits that nationalism cannot be legislated out of existence and therefore insists that the United States must lead the way by moving in the direction of a broader world community, while simultaneously directing substantially more of its collective energies toward the welfare of individuals. Implicit in this program is a considerable reduction in U.S. defense spending, first of all, to provide greater welfare support and, secondly, to demonstrate by example American willingness to lay down her arms. The Senator confesses that “to bring about [such] fundamental changes in the world we would have to take certain chances.” Among them would be assuming the risk—he admits this is great—that other countries would read our “generous initiatives” wrongly and “bring about a calamity.”
There is another thrust to Senator Fulbright’s actions. Since 1965, he has hammered away incessantly at a “Constitutional erosion” which, in his view, has at once shouldered the Senate out of the foreign policy arena and witnessed Pentagon usurpation of all State Department prerogatives in the formulation and conduct of that foreign policy. One wonders parenthetically if the Senator believes that the locus of this usurpation has now shifted from the Pentagon to Henry Kissinger’s basement office in the White House. In any event, this segment of Senator Fulbright’s dissent has been directed mainly at the civilian portion of the Executive Branch rather than—a few instances excepted—at the military services themselves.
In recent months, as his apparent frustration over Vietnam continued to grow, and as he increasingly turned his attention to arms control negotiations with the Soviets, Senator Fulbright expanded his target list to include direct questioning of military leaders, their beliefs and judgment. Again, using the ready-made forum of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he first trained his sights on U.S. overseas deployments, bases, and commitments.
Then, in early 1969, he moved on his most spectacular target, the Safeguard Anti-Ballistic Missile System. Devoting special attention to military evaluations and recommendations, he achieved more than a little success in opening up a military credibility gap. His efforts drew loud huzzahs from hard-core anti-militarists across the country.
Nevertheless it must be emphasized that the Senator’s campaign has been more implicit than explicit insofar as direct effects on the military itself are concerned. At the same time it must also be recognized that if his view of the external threat to the United States is overly sanguine, the net impact of his dissent could prove as dangerous as the fulminations of those who advocate immediate and complete unilateral disarmament of the United States.
More prolific in a literary sense and certainly more direct in his approach is another spokesman to whom the anti-military group looks for words and dogma. John Kenneth Galbraith is a long-time and most articulate liberal, a writer of some note—author of best-sellers—and former courtier of John Kennedy’s Camelot. Mr. Galbraith is also an unabashed and outspoken battler against what he sees as the ultimate evil: the military-industrial complex. Perhaps the most revealing view of the beliefs held by this former chairman of the Americans for Democratic Action is provided by an article published in the June 1969 issue of Harper’s Magazine: “How to Control the Military.” As the title of his dissertation suggests, Mr. Galbraith claims that the military and its industrial allies have seized control of the country, placed its war chariot out in front, and are busily whipping the horses into a lather—in a headlong race to disaster. If any uniformed man has lingering doubts about the seriousness of the challenge confronting him or the capabilities of those who espouse the anti-military cause, he had better devote a few unemotional minutes to reading Galbraith’s article.
Mr. Galbraith disclaims any belief in the conspiracy concept. He does so unconvincingly, however, observing almost immediately thereafter that “It would be idle to suppose that presently serving officers—those for example on assignment to defense plants—never have their real income improved by wealthy contractors with whom they are working, forswear all favors, entertain themselves, and sleep austerely alone.” Then, having neatly assassinated the entire officer corps, he reveals that he actually objects to the conspiracy theory, not because it is fallacious, but because it is gravely damaging to an understanding of the “military power,” a commodity he forthwith defines for the benefit of the unanointed.
Comprising the “four Armed Services” [sic—with due apologies to the U.S. Marine Corps], the military industrialists, intelligence agencies, Foreign Service Officers, the Defense-oriented think-tanks, and the Congressional Armed Services Committees, “military power” makes decisions based upon its own private needs, quite without regard for the imperatives of the nation or the national good. Such is the Galbraithian view.
Unlike the unthinking anarchists and idealists who seem to predominate on dissident picket lines, however, the sage of Cambridge has a solution. After explaining how this military juggernaut came to power, he offers an Olympian “political Decalogue”—his own Ten Commandments—to guide those of his disciples who seek to regain “control of the military.”
His program is a broad one. It entails the election of a new President, purge of Congressional Armed Services Committees, and above all: organization. Its goal is control of the military through resistance to military programs, mobilization of scientific judgment, and negotiation with the Soviets.
Galbraith professes that his is not a crusade against the military man himself, then states that World War II military leaders would be appalled to find their modern counterparts handmaidens of the arms producers. One might note at this point that the pen—herein at its innuendo best—is indeed mightier than the sword.
Because his academic robe is figuratively festooned with professorial, ambassadorial, doctoral, and liberal service badges, Galbraith exerts considerable influence in the land, especially amidst the political left and in the realm of academe. His assertions and dictums cannot therefore be ignored. They must be exposed and rebutted.
Then there is another sort of spokesman for those who today are producing the kitchen heat which all in uniform feel. He is the military leader turned town-crier.
Certainly as far as military men are concerned, the most publicized and best known such pronouncement in recent months has been Marine General David M. Shoup’s article in the April 1969 issue of The Atlantic: “The New American Militarism.” Motivation for General Shoup’s efforts (Colonel James A. Donovan, U.S.M.C., Ret., got precious little credit for his co-operation) is most difficult to assess. Available explanations range all the way from the General’s apparent failure to become one of the “New Team” during the Kennedy years to the possibility that, having looked war square in the face, he has become a true convert to pacifism. The truth, of course, must as usual lie somewhere in between. Regardless of his motivation, though, one may be forgiven for agreeing with the National Observer’s astute conclusion that he “has provided a distinct disservice.”
As anyone who has read the article will agree, the General laid about his person with a king-sized club. After bowing briefly in the direction of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address—a statement to which many critics of the military allude, but which few quote in its entirety—the ex-Commandant of the Marine Corps brought in a plethora of indictments. Those who wear the military uniform—especially with insignia of senior rank—are enthralled with war, viewing it as a competitive game, and the highroad to promotion. They have only a narrow, military education (and, therefore, neither liberal nor cultural understanding); their primary loyalty is to their parent Service and the Department of Defense; they really do not understand Communism, either as a doctrine or a form of government; and they are more concerned with competing against aggression than with preserving the security of their own country. Moreover, they have brainwashed two generations of civilians—who initially held humanistic views—into becoming a bellicose, sword-waving second front. Unless these military officers are brought to heel, the poisonous weed they typify will surely kill the nation they have sworn to defend.
To the extent that articles such as this undermine the nation’s security by destroying the credibility of those who manage the U.S. armed forces or by demanding unwarranted reductions in those forces, they are truly a “distinct disservice.” Moreover, such articles are far more insidious than others because the authors appear to the layman as idealistic and high-minded insiders who, unable to change nefarious conditions from within, have undertaken full public exposure as the only remaining means of averting disaster. There seems little doubt that, in this instance, the General became an instant hero to the New Left, SDS, and others of similar persuasion. Far more importantly, he has probably sown a significant crop of doubt amongst that vast body of people Time termed “middle Americans”—the bulk of the population, the people who dutifully pay their taxes, keep the nation running, and suffer radicals as well as their children in silence. And after all, it is this group which will ultimately decide the issue at hand.
Other voices are being raised in different ways, and they should not be overlooked. The messages vary widely.
Perhaps the most critical proposals are being made on Capitol Hill, because action taken there can force inordinate reductions in and unwise withdrawals of American military forces. For example, Senators Clifford P. Case and Walter F. Mondale—with their young staff assistants—have mounted a campaign against aircraft carriers. Senators Michael J. Mansfield and Stuart Symington were temporarily deflected from their drive to slash U.S. force levels in Europe only by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. New York’s Senator Charles E. Goodell is attempting, at the time of this writing, to legislate complete troop withdrawal from Vietnam by 1 December 1970—regardless of the consequences.
Then there are the ignorant and intemperate tirades of the radical left. Such screechings will not be dignified with comment by this examination.
In microcosm, these are the kinds of words being used today to assault the American military. During the past months charges and accusations have grown from a trickle to a flood; a torrent which could ultimately submerge the military power of the United States. And the real danger in this assault lies in a few simple truths about the world in which we live.
It is a world of power politics. In that world are nations which wish America ill—perhaps one should be blunt: nations seeking, at the very least, our political demise. It matters not whether these nations act in concert or individually. (For this reason the issue of “monolithic Communism” is specious.) So long as one or more of these nations have the military power to inflict upon or threaten the United States with grievous national harm, then our security is in jeopardy. And so long as the United States has the military prowess to prevent such harm, or to deter it through assured capability to retaliate in greater measure, that security is preserved.
Our foreign antagonists clearly understand this power equation which has governed international relations, particularly since the beginning of World War II. After that war, those nations and blocs of nations who would profit from our political passing attempted to circumvent that equation. They tried in Europe, in Korea, Cuba, and now in Vietnam, but to date they have failed. Always, America’s armed strength and dedicated fighting men have blocked the way. As a result, the United States remains—as she has been for two-and-a-half decades—the Free World’s main bulwark against the omnipresent tide of slavery and totalitarianism.
“For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, wait outside’;
But it’s ‘Special train for Atkins’ when the [troopship’s] on the tide—”
The outcry against all things military in the United States, if carried to its ultimate end, would upset that international power equation and destroy American as well as Free World security. Thus, while the threat from without remains, we now face an equally potent challenge from within. It makes little difference whether that challenge is generated and sustained by those who, because of myopia, fail to perceive the external dangers confronting us; by those who, through misunderstanding or wishful thinking, believe our enemies would benignly allow us to turn our backs on the world and concentrate all our efforts on our domestic ills; or by those who are enemies in the true sense of the word—idolaters of Mao and the deceased Ho—seeking a revolutionary Communist America. Nor does it matter if—as the Long Beach Dispatch put it—“a collection of liberals, misfits and ivory-tower dreamers, aided and abetted by either naive or calculating members of the media, are out to destroy the military itself.” What does matter is that the continued existence of a free and democratic United States is at issue. There is an enemy within, regardless of his appearance or the design of the mantle with which he cloaks himself.
The question that now assumes critical importance for the military is: What should be done about it? The answer is not simple. One thing is abundantly clear, however, and that is what we should not do.
If the United States is to be protected against the efforts of those who would place her in peril—whether through apathy, ignorance, or malice—we in the military cannot stand idly, silently by and watch it done. Our oath of office will not permit it.
Now is the time for everyone who wears the uniform of the American armed forces to take that oath out of the attic trunk, brush aside the dust it has collected, and read again the words upon it.
In concentrating on the main task of the past 30 years—the external threat—some of us may have forgotten that we solemnly swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That pledge is not directed to a particular Service, a partisan belief, nor is it a license to hunt for personal gain. It is instead a dedication to prevent violent overthrow of a form of government Abraham Lincoln saw as the “last, best hope of earth.” Our mission is clear: to ensure our country is not militarily weakened to the point that external enemies can, through the use of force, overthrow the U.S. Government and its Constitution.
No. We cannot remain either inactive or silent. Our oath of office most certainly does not condone such behavior.
But, before deciding what should be done, we must first ask ourselves another most difficult, but nonetheless vital question. How much truth is there in the accusations being hurled at the military?
In an organization as large as the U.S. armed forces, there are bound to be isolated cases of wrongdoing—cases which, when brought to light, are dealt with promptly by our uniformed services’ leaders to the hilt of their political permissibility. Unfortunately, it takes only one such case to lend credibility to exaggerations and gross falsehoods that, though unrelated and groundless, inevitably follow.
In an organization as large as the U.S. armed forces, there could be a very few who, as General Shoup claims, hunger for glory and are quite willing to sacrifice much to obtain it; there could be a very few who compromise principle and integrity for personal material gain; and there could be a few others who subjugate national need to individual Service pre-eminence. We in the military must redouble our efforts to guard against these isolated cases and, if and when they occur, we must continue to deal with them promptly and effectively.
Thus, if we in the armed services are to do our part in frustrating the aims of those who would turn the American eagle into a lamb, we must continue to single out and eliminate those among us who, by their avarice and indiscretion, despoil our integrity and destroy our credibility. Our regulations require it; American citizens deserve it. It is, moreover, not enough that we remain vigilant against wrongdoing itself; we must strengthen that vigilance against the exercise of poor judgment which gives the appearance of wrongdoing.
Secondly, we must police our own requirements even more rigidly if we are to disarm the critics who decry “unrestrained military spending.” Specifically, we must continue our efforts to forestall justifiable criticism by attacking the problem of national military needs with hardheaded pragmatism and absolute honesty, necessarily leavened with political realism and fiscal responsibility. We cannot forget that, all too often, the vociferous critic needs only a small bit of evidence, real or apparent, to make believable a broad spectrum of accusations.
When John Kenneth Galbraith points his pen at bureaucratic institutionalism, for example, he can cite just enough evidence to make his follow-on shotgun condemnation credible; especially to the layman. When a senator uncovers one badly-written or carelessly monitored contract entailing any waste of funds, he can easily render a thousand ideal contracts suspect. When the armed services are accused of squandering public funds—be it on hardware, travel, research, or what have you—everything else we are trying to accomplish may be jeopardized.
We must continually ask ourselves, for instance, whether the American military establishment does contain some bloated staffs, worthless bases, unneeded weapons systems, or other examples of costs that cannot be supported on any rational basis—austere funding or otherwise. Insofar as the current budgetary reductions may cause us to eliminate such possible inefficiencies, they will serve us and the nation. If, on the other hand, we eliminate combat forces—the cutting edge of American military prowess—in order to hang onto a gaggle of military sacred cows, we will surely bring down on our own heads the legitimate anger of the very people we are pledged to defend. Like charity, responsibility begins at home. And, within the parameters of political reality, we must continue to be responsive to this responsibility.
We need to maintain unstinting self-vigilance because our very integrity is at issue. If, through indiscretions and sloppy practices, we permit our credibility to be shattered—it patently is chipped and cracked today—we can be sure that our sound advice and realistic requests soon will be totally ignored, even with respect to those issues which, in fact, mean life or death for the United States.
Safe in the knowledge that we are properly policing our own conduct and environment, we are free to turn our attention increasingly to those domestic critics who would, knowingly or inadvertently, gamble away U.S. national security.
And here it is pertinent to observe that while silence may be golden when fighting an aggressive external enemy, it is akin to sheer folly when combating assaults from within. In the latter instance, ammunition comprises words both spoken and written, and there is no place in such a conflict for a silent service. Moreover, the military man’s historic reluctance to speak out must be overcome. Unless it is, and unless the military spokesman—buoyed by confidence in his own integrity and experience—confronts his critics directly, rather than speaking in bland, ineffectual generalities, he will make no headway at all in stemming the anti-military tide.
There is another vital requirement. As the very shrewd Galbraith noted, “There must be organization.” Here we in the military are well endowed. (Certainly the SDS and others think so, judging from their efforts to subvert that organization from below.) It is an organization in being, needs only to be directed, and provides an almost infinite capacity for passing our own considered and documented view of American security needs to those most directly concerned: the vast, silent majority of the American people.
There is no other way, for instance, to counter assertions such as the one recently made by Marcus Raskin (co-director of Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies) at the Conference on the Military Budget and National Priorities. He urged the abolition of the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Defense Department within the next ten years. Only in this way, he claimed, can the “national security state” be eliminated and the continuance of a free society be assured. One can readily envisage two reactions to unchallenged irresponsibilities of this sort: chuckles of incredulity and delight in Moscow and Peking; and, in the United States, picket signs being hastily lettered by war, draft, and ROTC opponents.
Similarly, we owe it to the oath under which we serve to refute, item by item, the inaccuracies, half-truths and, in too many instances, utter nonsense which currently inundate American media.
Our approach to the problem must, of course, be a dual one. Refutation and rebuttal are essentially negative reactions. A set of positive answers is equally important; answers built around our carefully reasoned and convincingly documented conception of this nation’s security needs in today’s real world. Inherent in such a view is an accurate, up-to-date assessment of the external threat and what the United States needs to meet it. Those needs must be arrived at not only in the traditional way, but with the leavening provided by an objective consideration of domestic political and fiscal realities as well.
Unless this latter input is included, we will fashion not just a credibility gap, but a vast chasm of distrust; one that will multiply the risks facing the United States just as surely as will many of the anti-military proposals being propounded today.
Let there be no mistake about it; the current attack upon the American military is acute—and it is growing in intensity. Joseph Kraft recently expressed the view that to succeed in “chaining the defense monster,” the critics must keep shooting away. This view is widely held.
Carried to fruition, the anti-military campaign threatens to so weaken this nation’s defenses as to place the United States in the greatest jeopardy in its history. After all, since we do live in a world of power politics, our ability to control our own national destiny continues to depend upon the military power which at once protects us from external attack, and constitutes the backbone of our foreign policy posture. Reasonable and informed Americans recognize that this state of affairs will probably continue to exist until the arrival of that elusive millenium when men and nations will at last conduct themselves according to the Ten Commandments—God’s; not Galbraith’s.
“Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, ’ow’s yer soul?’
But it’s ‘Thin red line of ’eroes’ when the drums begin to roll—”
This particular domestic battle will not be easily won. Like the war in Vietnam, it is somewhat different from anything we in uniform have experienced in our past. Barbs hurled by the New Left, or by public figures who seek to convert public confusion and unease into political capital are neither new to U.S. society nor difficult to understand. Complexity enters the picture when current domestic ills are added, and the waters are muddied by self-seeking cop-outs from responsibility, on the one hand, and opportunists on the other. Finally, the confrontation is further complicated by an ingredient uncomfortably unfamiliar to the modern American fighting man: the necessity for him to defend to his own countrymen his motivation, his judgment, and above all, his integrity. This latter, of course, is the hardest cheese of all to swallow. Nevertheless, it must be done.
We have the resources and the capability to combat the assaults now being made upon the military. Even General Shoup admits that the American armed forces include large numbers of intelligent and articulate individuals. They must make themselves heard. In speeches, in writings, and in general conversation. The opportunities are myriad; we need only seize them.
Again one must insist that this is the worst possible moment for the American Serviceman to react to the current attacks with injured feelings, righteous indignation, panic, or withdrawal. Unlike Tommy Atkins, no Kipling speaks for us to remind Americans, as Kipling warned the British, that “Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool—you bet that Tommy sees!” To honor the oath we have taken, we must speak for ourselves. If we do so with the same dedication and professionalism that we have so abundantly displayed on wartime battlefields, we shall be equally successful in protecting this nation against those who now endanger it from within.
For, given the whole picture—not just the slanted and perverted glimpse being broadcast these days—the American people will speak out with the sound and reasoned majority voice which will preserve the United States and its democratic processes. They have done thus for two hundred years. If we in the military keep our heads and faithfully honor the whole of our oath of office, they will be able to do so for another two hundred.