Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thoughts on Losing Our Way

Herbert sounds like a classic New Left socialist -- the evil capitalist warmongers are ensuring there are, few if any quality, good-paying jobs for liberal arts graduates. The military/IC and its perpetual wars of intervention are indeed a significant waste of money, but what's spent is still a small fraction of what is spent on social welfare, income redistribution, and health and education programs. While some of those services are very important, they are being produced or delivered very inefficiently. We spend more per capita on medicine and education than most of the world does on food, clothing, and shelter.

Maybe that is because even rich America can't afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year per student in our extremely inefficient, unresponsive, and un-competitive State-run primary and secondary schools, nor can afford to spend $50-100K to send a kid to college so they can "find themselves" or "self-actualize" in arts and letters from State-run or State-subsidized and -regulated universities. For that sort of money, they need to become lawyers, engineers or medical doctors.

There are plenty of decent paying jobs out there, but they're not for college grads -- they're for technical trade school grads -- "gray collar" jobs that everyone needs, but no one wants to do. There is a global glut of college educated people, and usually with the wrong sort of degrees -- it is a major cause of the upheavals in much of the 3rd world, where what are needed are productive farmers, civil engineers, entrepreneurs, production managers, transportation specialists, etc., not more lawyers, managers, heavy industrial engineers, professors, bureaucrats, or military officers, etc. They need more doctors, etc., but can't afford them because their societies don't produce enough and people can't earn enough no matter how hard they try.

March 25, 2011
Losing Our Way

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone. The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family. There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn't be, and didn't used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now. The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation's wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: "G.E.'s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether." Despite profits of $14.2 billion - $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States - General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times' David Kocieniewski reported, "Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore."

G.E. is the nation's largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home. New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whither Army: A Frontline View
March 14, 2011

By Colin Clark

The Army is trying to figure out how to take advantage of the coming period of retrenchment and restructuring. The presumptive Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey started the early stage of the discussion during Unified Quest, the annual Army war games designed to figure out what
to do down the road. There was talk of another battalion for each Army brigade and much worrying about just what constitutes a full spectrum force.

The 22,000 people brought in to cushion the Army for the Iraq and Afghan surges and help its troops recover from the grueling pace of the last decade will be vanishing. The fights in Afghanistan and Iraq will be waning for the U.S. over the next five years, raising the question of just how should the Army be structured to cope with the future. One of the most original thinkers on the issue of Army organization has been retired Col. Doug Macgregor. Knowing an opportunity when he sees it, Macgregor has been pushing his ideas within the Army and to senior Pentagon leaders.

But his reputation as a disruptive influence has often blunted the impact of Macgregor’s ideas, along with the Big Army’s deep and abiding reluctance to engage in major change, especially in time of war. (Of course, Army leaders have also resisted change in time of peace; just
look at the Clinton era.)

We got a glimpse at the internal Army debate from an email sent from a lieutenant colonel in Afghanistan, who said “the same forces of obstruction and unwillingness to make meaningful change that held sway then still do today.”

If the service had adopted Macgregor-style changes in organization and weapons, this officer says he thinks the Army “would have saved tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars and had a significantly more capable

This officer wonders what it will take to get the Army to change as he and others believe it must to ensure the service can respond effectively and rapidly to the nation’s needs. “So on that inevitable day when we plunge off the cliff, once the wreckage has come to a halt and the pieces have settled from their tumult, those who survived will say, ‘you know, that Macgregor fellow seemed to have warned about this in the past. Had we followed his recommendations, maybe we wouldn’t have crashed and burned just now. Hmmm, maybe it would be a wonderful idea if we listened to him NOW and tried to rebuild on the ashes of the disastrous past…”

We hear senior OSD officials are considering proposals derived from Macgregor’s work as they struggle to rebuild the Army. More on this later this week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fix the Army, Now!

Fix the Army, Now!

By Douglas Macgregor

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 11:59 am
Posted in Land, Policy


Doug Macgregor is alternately revered, respected and ridiculed by his Army colleagues and senior Pentagon officials. Ever since then-Army Chief Dennis Reimer made his book, Breaking the Phalanx, required reading for the general officers corps, his ideas have stirred passions in the largest U.S. military service. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' West Point speech elicited strong reactions from Macgregor. In the following op-ed he calls on the next defense secretary to remake the Army in truth--and not just to give the idea lip service.

He calls his piece:

Generals: The Truth will set you free!

By Douglas Macgregor

Nowhere in the world does stating the obvious provoke more shock and alarm than inside the beltway in Washington, DC. Defense Secretary Robert Gates's recent speech at West Point is a case in point.

In what was an unambiguous reference to the commitment of large Army and Marine ground forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said, "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." Do you think so?

Events in Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Islamic World demonstrate that while many of the societies in the Middle East and North Africa are broken and their people are angry about it, these problems have nothing to do with the United States. These societies struggle with dysfunctional cultures and severe socio-economic problems that will not be solved through American military occupation and counterinsurgency operations aimed at exporting liberal democracy at gunpoint. The million dollars a year it costs to keep one American Soldier or marine stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan makes no sense when, for a fraction of the cost, the U.S. Government could easily protect America's borders from the wave of criminality, terrorism and illegal immigration pouring in from Mexico and Latin America.
Gates did not stop there. He went on to say "the need for heavy armor and firepower to survive, close with, and destroy the enemy will always be there, as veterans of Sadr City and Fallujah can no doubt attest." However, Gates suggested the future would not involve the employment of Army divisions warning the Army's generals they "must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements."

In 1997 I published a book, Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Land Power in the 21st Century. In it, I advocated the dissolution of the Army's World War II industrial Age warfighting structure arguing instead for a new paradigm with a flatter command structure designed to tightly integrate Army ground forces with air and naval power. The design I set forth replaced conventional Army brigades and divisions with a new formation, the Combat Group; a permanently organized, all arms formation commanded by a brigadier general with the staff and the critical links to plan and execute decisive operations under a Joint Headquarters that replaced the WW II Corps and Army headquarters. I also implored the generals to harmonize readiness training and deployment schedules with the Navy, Air Force and Marines on the Navy's rotational readiness model to ease the burden on the individual soldier and to reduce the costs.

In 2003, I extended this analysis in Transformation under Fire: Revolutionizing the Way America Fights, arguing for the employment of the Combat Groups outlined in Breaking the Phalanx under a joint integrative command structure that crossed service lines to drive critical warfighting capabilities to lower levels. Instead of organizing around its anachronistic branches, I urged the Army generals to reorganize the ground force around the functions of maneuver, strike, ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and sustainment (logistics) to facilitate its integration with the capabilities in the air and naval services.

Gates, like his predecessors in the office of the Secretary of Defense, was well aware of these works, works widely supported inside the armed forces. But neither Cohen, Rumsfeld nor Gates did anything. Why?

The Army's active and retired four stars were certainly not interested in changing the Army. The politicians who were nominally in charge of overseeing the military were much more concerned about getting their share of the defense budget than in changing the way we organize to fight.

Sober analyses like the ones in my books were pushed aside in favor of purchasing new and ever more expensive silver bullet equipment like the Army's Crusader Artillery System or the Future Combat System (FCS) - systems designed to support vacuous programs like the Army After Next and the Objective Force - preferably for delivery in the indefinite future and heavily classified so their effectiveness could not be judged. Meanwhile, the number of professional combat Soldiers declined while the numbers of generals on active duty increased and the contractors got rich.

Hundreds of billions of dollars and years later the retired four stars who launched these flawed programs are wealthy men, but the Army is poor; stuck with huge inventories of broken equipment developed in the 1970s for use in the 1980s and armored trucks designed to chase men with rifles through alleys and valleys.

Churchill insisted Americans eventually do the right thing after they've done everything else. It's time for a new Secretary of Defense to do the right thing. It won't be easy, but the alternative is to risk a repetition of the bloody and cripplingly expensive debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Retired Colonel Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran and the author of four books. His newest book is Warrior's Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting published by Naval Institute Press.

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