IN READING THE ARTICLE BY RALPH PETERS, “Progress and peril” [February], one is struck by the infantile approach we as a culture are making to the global war on terrorism. We continue to grope in the dark, searching for new systems, techniques and methods by which we can defeat the Islamic insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Peters puts the rounds on target. We keep looking for “new” tactics to deal with insurgents, “new” techniques to fight on the “asymmetric” battlefield and “new” methodologies to “win hearts and minds.”
However, we have yet to question the fundamental premises or our own worldview and thinking on which all of this is based. We have forgotten the basic logical concept that says: If a premise is false and the logic is correct, the conclusion is still false. Until we challenge and change our premises, all of our “new” systems will amount to nothing.
We need to ask a fundamental question: What are our democratic values? Pluralism and tolerance are not values, because by their very definition they are valueless. As soon as somebody stakes a belief in anything, he becomes intolerant of its opposite.
Amazingly, we continue to fall for such nonsense. We continue to slip into the fantasy world that everyone wants what we have. It never dawns on us that many in the world don’t even want freedom. Most people, even in this nation of ours, prefer security, which is the antithesis of freedom. But, the more security we have, the less freedom we get, or deserve, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin.
When schoolteachers tell their students not to cheat on tests, they are demonstrating intolerance for cheaters. Conversely, if teachers tolerate cheaters they are demonstrating intolerance for those who refuse to cheat by at least granting cheaters a special advantage on the tests. Our very drive for “pluralism” and “tolerance” demonstrates that we believe in nothing, not even democracy. Thus, with empty heads and vacuous minds, we blunder from one “system” to the other, searching for the silver bullet that will somehow make it all right.
With this approach we have become nothing but technocrats, striving to solve values-based problems with mathematical solutions. If we just find the right system, things will get better. All we need to do is solve for X. The problem here in the United States, is that the vast majority of people no longer believe in anything, save for their personal peace and their material comfort. Thus Kierkegaard and his “leap of faith” have met the “material girl” in a drivel of philosophical goo in which its practitioners no longer believe there is anything worth fighting, or for that matter dying, for. Unfortunately, our opponents on the other side of the asymmetric fight don’t think like us. And as a result, any serious student of history can see that we are in deep, serious, trouble.
Staff Historian, U.S. Army Forces Command
Fort McPherson, Ga.
I read with interest your article about the military in Iraq banning soldiers from using military resources to maintain personal Web sites [“Under attack,” Blogs of War, December].
I remember an illegal “Sugarbush” net set up in Vietnam in 1969 by dissident soldiers who used it to pass on their anti-war, drug-culture views. Soldiers found that by going up to the far limits of the PRC-25 radio frequency band, off the assigned military frequencies, they could get radio signals to bounce off the troposphere at night and cover all of South Vietnam. For example, a rogue soldier or Marine on a mountaintop in I Corps Tactical Zone could talk to similar soldiers in the Mekong Delta.
They passed on anti-war propaganda and used a lot of drug-culture terms that I barely understood, but I knew it was not consistent with good order and discipline in the armed forces. These clandestine radio nets were dangerous because the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong could gain intelligence from them, and most of the leaders on our side did not know they existed.
It does not take long for clever soldiers without scruples to manipulate our command-and-control systems. Computers with Internet access and cell phones are dangerous tools in the hands of the wrong people.
Lt. Col. Thomas D. Morgan (ret.), Army
In the January issue, Christopher Griffin wrote that several milbloggers were unhappy with President Bush’s decision to let Donald Rumsfeld leave the Defense Department [“After Rumsfeld”]. Griffin went on to write that Rumsfeld also had “open detractors among milbloggers, ... an unusual circumstance from soldiers who normally hold that public criticism of the secretary of defense is, put mildly, ‘above their paygrade.’”
I’m not sure I understand the logic behind suggesting that chastising the president is OK but criticizing his subordinate is not. Common sense would seem to demand that either both are off limits, both are fair game or, at the very least, that the lower ranking of the two can be criticized while the higher ranking cannot, right?
Terry L. Welch