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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Attack Libya? How about asking American soldiers first (update)

UPDATE--ADD Wesley Clark to the list of major retired military leaders who cast serious doubt on US military intervention in Libya.

I know that a lot of thoughtful people are urging the president to militarily intervene in Libya, but have you noticed the group of people NOT joining the pack calling for American military intervention in Libya? One of the most underappreciated stories of the post 9-11 era is the increasing resistance by retired and active military to America’s ever widening military footprint in the world. This resistance has been on full display in the discussion surrounding the Libya crisis. A war weary military, facing continuing challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the maintenance of hundreds of military bases around the world in a context of a looming deficit crisis, deserves a hearing. Below are reports on key concerns of the active and veteran military. As you read these, ask how military intervention in Libya would effect these concerns.

Military leaders and the deficit:

Military leaders have been at the forefront of discussions over the threat of America’s deficit. For over a year we have been hearing consistently from our military leaders that runaway deficits are a genuine national security threat. Here is an article from February of 2010 titled “Deficit Balloons into National Security Threat”.

Military leaders and additional wars:

More recently there was Secretary Gates, in a speech at the West Point no less, said this
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Gates told the cadets. “As the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations,” he added. “The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country — may be low,” he opined, adding that the US government and armed forces should focus on preventing “festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have taken the lead in calling publicizing the epidemic of suicides in the military.

The organization Veterans for Peace has led the fight against President Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

The reason we know about the outrageous effort by the three star Lt. Gen. William Caldwell to use psychological operations against United States politicians visiting Afghanistan is because of the courage and convictions of Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes. “Holmes believed that using his team to target American civilians violated the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was passed by Congress to prevent the State Department from using Soviet-style propaganda techniques on U.S. citizens. But when Holmes brought his concerns to Col. Gregory Breazile, the spokesperson for the Afghan training mission run by Caldwell, the discussion ended in a screaming match. ‘It’s not illegal if I say it isn’t!’ Holmes recalls Breazile shouting.”

Thanks to Col. Holmes’ whistle blowing, the Pentagon is taking action against Caldwell.

Given the extraordinary strain of the last ten years, it is good to know that Defense Secretary Gates sees the fatal error of our ways. Hopefully he will be listened to in the deliberations over Libya and hopefully he will be listening to the genuine needs and concerns of veterans and active duty soldiers who would bear the brunt of action against Libya.

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