Thursday, November 10, 2005


Is the Army near mutiny?

Bob Herbert seems to think so. The Army, for example, has been stretched so taut since the Sept. 11 attacks, especially by the fiasco in Iraq, that it's become like a rubber band that may snap at any moment. My impression is that that point is far off, but that we should beware the warning signs. We have the precedent of Vietnam to remember, in which discontent and drug use in 1968 turned into fraggings in 1972 and then into what any military person will tell you was a nightmare during the 1970s. Should there be a widespread breakdown in military discipline, there are a number of clear risks: 1. The US would become incapable of anything except emergency military response. We could no longer prevent a Rwanda because we would have all resources focused on flashpoints like Korea. 2. An inability to respond except to emergencies would embolden adversaries. That is not entirely a bad thing. Under the Bush regime, we have become the adversaries of peaceful change in countries like Haiti and Venezuela. A breakdown in our power would facilitate the advancement of democracy in those countries. Free of a threat of invasion, Cuba might well thrown out the Fidelistas and end repression of freedom of speech and assembly (I bet they would keep their educational and medical system, though). However, the sort of change that radical Islam wants is ultimately not in anyone's interest. 3. The US would have to start paying market rates for commodities, notably oil. Again, in many ways that would be good. Americans would do a lot more walking and bicycling, build fewer detached residential homes, and free up resources for consumption by other countries. However, the economic effects in the US would be wrenching. How many people could handle a 50% cut in their standard of living? We shouldn't imagine it can't happen: Argentines had to do it. 4. The risk that nuclear weapons would be used would rise. That would break down a critical threshold that has kept the world from large-scale destructive wars for sixty years. 5. As much as we at Mercury Rising criticize the US, we are certainly aware that other potential world powers-- Chinese, Russian, Indian, Japanese, German, Iranian-- are probably even more selfish, authoritarian, and destructive. But we have little hope of reforming them, while the United States could-- just possibly-- cast off the hubris that is destroying it in time to recover. Is the Army ready to mutiny? In my opinion, no. But Herbert is right to raise the alarms. A country whose greatest strength is democracy and whose greatest weakness is the royalist pretensions of the Busheviks needs to beware of its army being turned into the instrument of the pretender to the throne.
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