Michael Hastings wrote a piece in Reuters a couple of days ago extolling the prowess of Obama in wresting control of the military away from… Well, it’s unclear who was controlling the military before Obama took control of it; generals/admirals, Congress, or the industrial half of the Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Whoever it was, Obama stood steely-eyed at a podium in the Pentagon to symbolize his assumption of command over the armed forces some three years after becoming Commander-in-Chief.
Tom Englehardt had a different view of the same event, viewing Obama’s use of the Pentagon podium as a metaphorical aircraft carrier and the moment as an implied assertion that with regard to the land wars in the Middle East we are declaring victory and going home.
I have a view that is in between, but somewhat closer to Tom Englehardt than Hastings. Obama has done a better job of controlling the military than Bush did, and by quite a lot, but to say that he has “taken control of it” is a bit of a stretch I think, and his “new” strategy is long on forehead and more than a little bit short on reality.
For one thing it is, as Englehardt points out, hauntingly reminiscent of Rumsfeld, and we all know how well that worked out. I may be a little older than Tom, and I grew up in the Air Force, and I recall echoes of Billy Mitchell all too well. “We don’t need the Army, we can win wars with aerial bombardment.” The military is always obsessed with its newest toys, and always believes that the new technology will replace combat. It never does.
If you want to avoid combat, stay out of wars.
All three of us agreed on one aspect of the moment, that it was politically inspired and was a key moment in a reelection campaign. As such it is, in the long run, probably no more meaningful than one of his cheerleading stump speeches at a “town hall” in the nation’s heartland, and the “change” contained within it is probably no more realistic than the change he advertised in 2008.