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September 11, 2006

Comments

Frank: posting rules violation, as well as being wrong. You have been warned. Don't do it again.

Slarti does with every breath he takes though.

On the in-breath or the out-breath? Maybe Slart only ever posts here during the opposite breath.

Maybe we can get him to hold his breath and post "this statement is a lie".

I thought that one might object to saying that Truman got to be president because of his military service, or that Jefferson Davis wasn't actually President of the USA, but of the CSA, since I was just listing Presidents. Or maybe I was just trying to figure out where 'impactful' came from ;^)

"I thought that one might object to saying that Truman got to be president because of his military service, or that Jefferson Davis wasn't actually President of the USA, but of the CSA...."

I hadn't thought we were discussing only Presidents, or just of the U.S., since I'd already said that's not who I had primarily in mind, and since you mentioned Davis, Glenn, Kerry, and Dole.

(I'd be more inclined to asterisk that Glenn got to the Senate via his Mercury First American In Orbit flight, not particularly his military service, per se, but that it did him squat in his presidential run. And of course Kerry's service wound up almost a liability, due to his lack of swift response to Swift-boating. Dole probably helped counteract his service with his "Democrat wars" remark, although I think that larger factors were that a) WWII was a long time ago by then; b) military service has obviously been helpful, not compelling; c) he was a lousy Presidential candidate in general.)

Yeah, Truman didn't get to be President because of his military service (obviously, but more to the point, it wasn't a big deal in his re-election), but as I said, he wouldn't have gotten to the Senate without it, I'm sure. Though also not because of it.

Military service has been a helpful gain to sufficiency in getting elected to office, but it being the primary factor has been considerably less frequent.

And it's notable that the current generation in Congress is considerably less filled with veterans than at most times in our history, though there are still a noticeable number. For obvious reasons, the overwhelming majority of new candidates in '46, '48, and '50, were vets. Even supply clerks like Nixon, who never saw a shot fired in anger (though he played a good hand of poker during the war).

Well, I since I listed only presidential candidacies, I thought I might get busted on that point. At any rate, I'm hard pressed to think of another country where military service is so much a standard part of the resume. Part of it is because American has eschewed a professional army like one of England or France. Looking at the numbers, it seems less like a helpful gain, and almost (but not quite) a necessary but insufficient aspect. Almost.

I do believe that part of the reason why the current generation in Congress has fewer veterans is not simply because of the shift to a volunteer professional force, but because ROTC programs were pushed out of universities, which I think was a mistake, because it reduced the possibility of adding a more liberal component of people to the armed forces.

"Part of it is because American has eschewed a professional army like one of England or France."

Um, hmm? What do you mean?

I think a big part of it, in the 20th century and after, is that the U.S. didn't particularly suffer during either WWI or WWII.

And in Britain, in the 19th century, the military officership was usually relegated to the 2nd or 3rd son, or for the dumber one, who wasn't deemed able to make it in more prestigious professions. And Parliament was overwhelmingly upper-class, though of course the real upper crust were restricted to the Lords (or renouncing their title).

"I do believe that part of the reason why the current generation in Congress has fewer veterans is not simply because of the shift to a volunteer professional force, but because ROTC programs were pushed out of universities, which I think was a mistake, because it reduced the possibility of adding a more liberal component of people to the armed forces."

I agree, except that you're reversing cause and effect. ROTC programs were pushed out during Vietnam, which is also when liberals and the center-left started to largely separate out from viewing the military positively, and the great cultural divide between civilians in general, but particularly liberal ones, and military culture, was cemented with the end of the draft.

An awfully high, though I don't have a measure handy, percentage of liberals started to simply lack any sympathy with, or understanding of, the military, per se. We had some discussion of this here not long ago, though I left in the middle.

But "the shift to a volunteer professional force" was also a huge part of why we have fewer politicians who are veterans.

"Part of it is because American has eschewed a professional army like one of England or France."

Um, hmm? What do you mean?

My understanding is that the US model has traditionally been to have a smaller standing professional army that was augmented by draft/volunteers in times of war. On the other hand, England famously thought that the BEF would be able to handle the Germans not once but twice. Admittedly, the nature of modern war tends to obscure this, but one of the most poignant parts of the US Civil war is the fact that people who fought together were standing on opposite sides.

Also, it is an important point that politics was (and still is to a certain extent) confined to the upper class in the UK. One could suggest that while Brits sent the dumber son into the military, Americans sent them into politics. (I think that is related to a observation, maybe by Gore Vidal?)

Reversing cause and effect, possibly, but the fight about maintaining/permitting ROTC programs wasn't, I think, simply a follow on from Vietnam, but an item that could have been separately considered, which it wasn't.

I remember the conversation on liberal perceptions of military service, but I don't think I participated because it seems to have precisely the same problems that any argumentation about the beliefs of a larger group of people, in that it tends to cause more problems than it clarifies. Plus the fact that I'm not really sure how I feel about the military. FWIW

"My understanding is that the US model has traditionally been to have a smaller standing professional army that was augmented by draft/volunteers in times of war."

Ah. Yes, historically, that's entirely true.

"On the other hand, England famously thought that the BEF would be able to handle the Germans not once but twice."

Gosh, but that's wildly wrong, though.

First of all, in WWI, the BEF was never, ever, ever, ever, ever, thought capable of "handling" the Germans. The role of Britain and military involvement in Europe had always essentially been that it would counter any international aspect of a European war with the Navy, and blockades, while contributing relatively small forces on land to an overall alliance. Thus it was against Napolean, and thus it was originally intended at the start of both WWI and WWII.

In WWI, of course, the war which was intended by all to be over by Christmas turned, as everyone knows, into an endless meat-grinder stalemate, overall, and each attempt to outflank resulted in fairly short order, for the most part, into meat-grinder stalemate again (save for outlying events that didn't change the center of gravity of the war, such as the Arab Revolt, battles in Africa, and so on). Britain did then raise a large draft Army, but also was unable, even in concert with France, and unsteady and faltering ally Russia (I won't run through the full list of allies; it would be tedious), to win against Germany and its allies, although it's extremly arguable that they were on the way to finally doing so at the very end even without the clincher of America entering the war.

And in WWII, the original plans, such as they were when it became clear there would be war, during and prior to the Polish crisis, and after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, was to have no ground forces at all in Europe, leaving that to the massive French Army, and, they hoped, other allies.

In that year before the war, it became evident that the couple of divisions Britain had would have to be committed to Europe after all (and that it seemed unlikely there would be help from the other nations of the Empire, or at least that such could be counted on, unlike in WWI), but a couple of divisions was trivial compared to the hundreds both France and Germany had.

I've been meaning to blog this">http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB622.pdf">this monograph for some time (a couple of weeks or more), and really should; it's excellent on what "appeasement" meant, and why Munich is a rotten analogy for any other situation, including Iraq, Iran, and other contemporary ones, and it also has some good stuff, as an essential part of that, on Britain's WWII war plans, so I commend it to your attention.

As it mentions:

Determined to avoid a repetition of the trench warfare horrors of 1914-18, increasingly fearful of the German air threat (see discussion below), and persuaded that France and its Eastern allies, which from 1935 on included Czechoslovakia and nominally the Soviet Union, would not require a major British ground force contribution in a war with Germany, British governments in the 1930s focused increasing defense expenditure on the Royal Air Force at the expense of the
army.

Following Czechoslovakia's dismemberment, however, the Chamberlain cabinet moved quickly toward the view that a continental commitment could no longer be avoided; even so, it was not until February 1939 that Chamberlain finally authorized such a commitment in the form of two divisions within 21 days of the beginning of hostilities, with another two to follow within 65 days--drops in the bucket compared to a fully mobilized French army and a rapidly expanding German army.

(When war came in September,
the French put 84 divisions in the field; and the Germans, 103.)

I really should blog it; I'm embarrassed that I've forgotten which fairly prominent blog called it to my attention, though. (Anyone remember?)

Anyone, the point is that, essentially, in modern times, the 20th century and some part of the late 19th, both Britain and the U.S. were reasonably similar in policy of having a small professional Army, with a plan to use that as cadres for rapid expansion in true major wartime, which is why I wondered what distinction you were drawing by writing that "Part of it is because American has eschewed a professional army like one of England or France,"; I'm afraid I'm still baffled at what distinction you were intending to draw.

"...the fight about maintaining/permitting ROTC programs wasn't, I think, simply a follow on from Vietnam, but an item that could have been separately considered, which it wasn't."

Well, yes. That was part of my point.

"Plus the fact that I'm not really sure how I feel about the military."

This seems to imply that you're in conflict. Just out of curiosity, and to be a trouble-maker (:-)), can you briefly outline the essence of your conflict?

(Certainly I think few would disagree that war is terrible, and so is killing; many, including I, would say that being prepared to engage in it is still, unfortunately, necessary at times, though obviously some disagree, and, of course, the true devil always comes in the specifics. It should also, I'd certainly agree, be a very last resort.)

"Thus it was against Napolean"

Whoever he was. Also against Napoleon.

Anyway, the point I may have still not stated clearly enough above is that the British plan was also to have a small professional Army, which expanded massively with the draft, and this was also precisely the same structure the French Army had prior to, and then during, WWII, while they thought it.

Since America, Britain, and France, all had that same model, I don't know what distinction you are drawing in observing that America had this model, which made it, you say, different than France and Britain. Thus my huh, wha?

In WWI, of course, the war which was intended by all to be over by Christmas

When I said 'the BEF would be able to handle it', I didn't mean whip all comers, sorry if I left that impression, but, as you say, that a small professional army in conjunction with an intelligent foreign policy, would be adequate. Britain didn't start conscription until April 39 and the war began in Sept. Also, it took place in incremental stages, so the first was just men between 19-21, then increased to 20-23 in Oct, and then, after the fall of France, took on the characteristics we think of. (a small aside, when my grandfather, who served in the Black Watch regiment in WWI, was called up to serve in the Territorial Army, he took the call up notice and gave it to my uncle, who had the same name. My uncle was 16, I think, and he said that was when he had his first pint. He later ended up in the RAF).

You are right that the characteristic of France is conscription, but the nature of it seems to mitigate against requiring candidates for high office to serve, unless it was to torture Algerians (sorry, just Mitterand snark there) While Napoleon was the first to initiate the draft, that was in response to the threats that France felt because it was the center of revolutionary thought, and certainly, the other countries of Europe during that time were not too happy about the notion of exporting the ideals of the French Revolution. Thinking about other countries, none seem to have the necessity(-ish) of having military service on the political resume that exists in the US, with the possible exception of Germany, though for obvious reasons that was a bit disincentivized post 1945.

can you briefly outline the essence of your conflict?

Not sure. There's equal slices of service and passing on service in my family tree and there is a great suspicion of discipline, especially military. As a kid, I thought (like a lot of other kids that age) that being is the military was something special, and entertained the childhood thoughts about going into the military, and spent huge amounts of time reading military histories, playing war games, making models, but very bad vision at a very early age knocked out the options that I imagined. And as I've gotten the stories from relatives, it certainly takes the gloss off those childhood dreams (just two quick ones, my uncle was drafted and served in Korea. Wounded by shrapnel that he still carries around, he was supposed to be choppered out, and heard one of the orderlies say something to the effect of 'take the gook last', which provoked a stream of profanity from him that made them realize that he was an American casualty, another is the efforts of my mom to find her step brother who, after my English grandmother was widowed, was adopted by her husband's relatives in Alabama and ended up a navigator of a B-17 that we always understood went down on a raid on St. Lazaire, but when my mother started looking into it a few years ago, there were differing accounts given, but trying to get the original records, she was told they were destroyed in a fire and still several things don't really add up (Trent Lott's office was very helpful, which is why I hesitate a bit on pouncing on him))

So, I am a bit embarassed by my childhood fascination, but I am also aware of the tendency you point out about liberals not understanding the military, so I'm worried if I was fooled as a kid, or if I am just reacting as a liberal now. Really hard to tell. Being from the South, I know and have 1 degree of separation from a lot of people in the military, and so I can still burrow into a military history, or be interested in a campaign in a way that seems a bit unhealthy. (I'm also think that part of my rather blase reaction to the Allen commercial is the fact that it is generated by people who served recently, though that is no guarantee that they are right, I know) I do know that if there were something like what rilkefan says in his 8:59, assuming that it was run well, I would feel drawn to it, though obviously, being in Japan with a family and a mortgage, I can't say I would drop everything to do it. Probably a lot more than you wanted to know, but there you have it.

Yes, that 1974 fire in the St. Louis repository seems to have been .... extensive.

Sorry. Errors and my failure to preview caused the beginning of my comment to be discarded.

I was responding to lj's she was told [the original records] were destroyed in a fire.

lj,

I'm not Gary, but I'm still going to react to your inclusion of Lincoln on the list of candidates helped by military service. Lincoln served as a volunteer for a whopping 60 days during the Black Hawk War, never saw combat, and didn't both to volunteer for a second tour after his first 60 days was up. I find it difficult to believe that was a factor in his gaining the GOP nomination in 1860.

"I find it difficult to believe that was a factor in his gaining the GOP nomination in 1860."

And yet it was a small factor.

For instance:

"I think one could make an argument that Andrew Jackson would not have been elected president had he not been the victor at New Orleans," Holl said. "Thereafter, until Lincoln, things are a bit mixed.

"It's probably very important that Lincoln had been a member of the Illinois militia in terms of the Mexican war. Clearly the fact that Lincoln had served in the militia was important."

Here:

Of course, Lincoln as President also mocked the idea of military service as politically relevant, as that was in his interest, given the number of generals who desired to run against him, and he was doing this earlier, given how many Democrats were in the militia, using his own experience, as was typical, to mock.

For instance:

Lincoln’s only military experience was as a militia officer during the Black Hawk War. It was not particularly distinguished. As a congressman, he poked fun of his own military experience to mock the attempt by the Democrats during the presidential race of 1848 to turn Lewis Cass into a war hero comparable to the Whig candidate, Zachary Taylor. "By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero? Yes sir; in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass’ career reminds me of my own. I was not at Stillman’s defeat, but I was about as near it, as Cass was to Hull’s surrender; and like him, I saw the place very soon afterwards… If Gen. Cass went in advance of me in picking huckleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did; but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry."
Since we haven't defined what a "factor" is, whether his service was or was not is debatable, to be sure.

It's fair to say, I think, that military service wasn't as politically important prior to the Civil War as after, but on the other hand definitionally the early American politicians were all revolutionaries, and Andy Jackson was elected President on the basis of his generalship.

LJ: thanks for your elaboration on your feelings on the military.

"Thinking about other countries, none seem to have the necessity(-ish) of having military service on the political resume that exists in the US, with the possible exception of Germany, though for obvious reasons that was a bit disincentivized post 1945."

It's odd to read this in present tense, since there's obviously no such "necessity" in the U.S., and hasn't been since the WWII generation of politicians, which is to say over forty years. Neither was WWI service ever a "necessity."

Basically, we've had in some 230+ years, two periods of about 20 years -- post Civil War and post WWII -- where a huge proportion of national politicians were vets, and that's it. What is this "necessity" you speak of in American history?

Maybe we can get him to hold his breath and post "this statement is a lie".

On the contrary; I always value Frank's insightful and intelligent commentary.

Well, as you noted, for the US, the civil war marked a turning point, and I feel that this has been the underlying notion (if you put on some poignant folk music and slowly allow your gaze to move across the computer screen for the Ken Burns effect while reading this, it will be a lot more convincing :^))

(and the current absence of a 'necessity' is based on a lot of conflicted feelings about Vietnam that, as the conflict recedes, then to get forgotten, which is why you had so many people wax poetic about Bush's Mission Accomplished bs, or why the images of a president as a former soldier (Harrison Ford, Bill Pullman) end up being key points on which popular movies turn)

But, to flesh this out on the fly, the Civil War was the first war that utilized the kind of mechanisms required for a war that was industrial and not completely supported by the populace, that relied on a level of nationalism and propaganda about purposes. To return to the question way way back, why is it that the notion of chickenhawk is such a sensitive one and one that requires so much discussion? I'd suggest that it isn't that it is simply a vague word, cause there are tons of vague words that get thrown around that don't evince the same reaction. You may come back and suggest that loser-defeatist and traitor are two that get the same reaction, but I'm thinking that loser-defeatist is one that has arisen a lot later, while traitor isn't the same. Also, I don't think the notion has an currency in other countries, so I would suggest that theree must be some aspect that is a wrinkle in US history and the one that seems obvious is an underlying demand for military service that arose after the Civil War.

I also think it is interesting (but not surprising) that chickenhawk's older etymology is sexual and pejorative and suggests why it will be a lot harder for the US to have a female president than a lot of other countries, though again, your mileage may vary on that. It might also explain why a politician in a strong position is often described (as a bad taste joke) as only going to lose if found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

Chickenhawk seems to be a particularly potent epitaph that strikes at a peculiarly American notion of public service, and that's just my suggestion at trying to explain it. It's why two James Stewart movies, _The man who shot Liberty Valence_ and _It's a Wonderful life_ have a particular kind of resonance with Americans, because they both question that notion that martial ability are necessary in determining the worth of a person.

But all this is just very very late night philosophizing on my part and should be taken with the same amount of salt that one would take with any college freshman bull session.

Got an error posting this the first time, apologies if this doubles.

"_The man who shot Liberty Valence_"

An electrifying role for Stewart, but would you say more of a positive or negative character?

Stewart's character was the lead, so I'd say he was pretty positive. He was the guy who helped get the territory to statehood and was still serving as a senator.

Of course, he got to do all that because people believed he had more martial experience than he did...

"Of course, he got to do all that because people believed he had more martial experience than he did..."

Well, yeah. It's been an awfully long time since I've seen it, so the details aren't remotely fresh in my mind, but as I recall, the entire point of the film is that he's not really what he seems, that he's not "the man who shot Liberty Valance."

And being the lead is hardly the measure of being a good guy ("positive"). One would hardly say that of The Godfather, to name just one example. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of the anti-hero.

Gary,

That was kind of my point. Stewart's character is believed to be the man who shot Liberty Valance, and that's what set his career in motion. And if it's been a long time since you last saw it, you should watch it again. It's a great film.

And yes, I realize the lead isn't always the hero. But we're talking about Jimmy Stewart here. Trust me, he was the hero. It's one of my favorite films, and he's the hero. John Wayne is the anti-hero.

"And yes, I realize the lead isn't always the hero. But we're talking about Jimmy Stewart here."

It's a fascinating oddity of Stewart's persona that he, in fact, played numerous truly dark characters, but people think of him as nothing but a cheery, upbeat, almost saccharine fellow.

Even It's A Wonderful Life gets dismissed as a saccarine, Frank Capra, film, by most people, who completely miss how dark much of it is (and other Capra films can be.) I mean, it's a film about a guy who's so frustrated and bitter that he tries to kill himself.

Here is a good -- and accurate -- piece on the subject from just the other week.

I do mean to watch Liberty Valance again; I miss the days when broadcast tv (all I can afford) used to have lots of old movies; unfortunately, my Netflix queue will only let me have 500 films at a time, and it's filled, with quite a few things left over waiting to get in. (Last night was V For Vendetta; today, Pi: Faith In Chaos, and Pirates of The Carribean, which I've not yet seen, standing by.)

would you say more of a positive or negative character?

tough question. I don't think you can just check positive or negative. Part of me is in love with the notion of John Wayne's sacrifice, giving up his happiness for the greater good, but what strikes me about Stewart in this movie is that he never deludes himself that he actually did it, something, sadly, that happens far too often.

But also, there is the notion that some lies are necessary for things to move forward, which is another notion that (probably over)fascinates me.

As always, the Wikipedia entry for both Stewart and the movie are quite interesting. The latter notes that the movie had a unique solution for who was advertised as the lead, something that was used for Hoffman and Redford in All the President's Men.

I knew about Stewart's war service mentioned in the Slate article, but I didn't know that he flew in the Scheinfurt raid, which had about 20% of those participating killed nor did I know the info about Stewart and Vietnam.

"tough question."

More of a pun on your "Valence"/Valance" error, actually.

Sorry, I missed that completely.

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