The attentive consumer of news has undoubtedly noticed over the past decade how incompetent our well-paid military leadership is. Beginning with their incomprehensible failure to launch a ground assault on Baghdad during Desert Storm, the military has been the author of or contributor to one screw-up after another. The non-use of ground troops in Kosovo, the puzzling unwillingness to attack the Chinese for their holding a U.S. reconnaissance plane, the embarrassing caution about unleashing Desert Storm II: this is only a partial list.
And how does the lay person, with no military background, know the U.S. military is timorous, hidebound, incapable of fulfilling America’s manifest destiny of benevolent global hegemony? He can hardly avoid that conclusion, bombarded as he is by the wise strategic insight by thinkers on the exalted level of Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Frank Gaffney, and William Safire, to name only a few. The American public is fortunate to have these heirs of Clausewitz and Moltke the Elder to correct the strategic military blunders of our elected leaders and the overly cautious professional military class. These sages never shrink from sounding the call for bold military action from their lap-tops, microphones, and lecterns.
But unsolicited advice in the op-ed pages of The New York Times or The New Republic can hardly be expected to reverse the despicable torpor into which our military policy has fallen. As every good drill sergeant or Catholic priest knows, the best leadership is leadership by example! Herewith a modest proposal to better utilize the collective talent of our best strategic thinkers.
On the model of the intellectuals who created the international brigades to fight in the Spanish Civil War, our 200 most illustrious war pundits should be formed into a special assault company to take on the tasks the U.S. military is too chicken to perform. Is there a Navy P-3 sitting shanghaied on Hainan Island? The 1st Pundit Assault Company (Special Operations Capable) should be parachuted into the island to blow it up and raise general mayhem among the perfidious Red hordes. Has the CIA overcome its incompetence and located Saddam Hussein in one of his numerous palaces? Send in the 1st Pundit Assault Company to storm the palace, overcome the Republican Guard, and slay the beast in his lair. Since Saddam is the leitmotiv and obsession of the pundits’ writings, since he no doubt appears wraith-like in their troubled dreams, we can be sure the pundits would jump at the chance to kill him, even if the cost were their own certain death! Are the Serbs recalcitrant about turning over Radovan Karadzic, the Slavic Caligula? If the pundits are as forthcoming with deeds as they are with words, Karadzic or some other hapless Bohunk will be cowering in the dock in no time!
Since, as every patriotic and right-thinking American knows, life is like a movie, our pundits would have the unbelievable luck of playing the role of a lifetime: war hero and leader of men, just like John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima or Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, only better – for this time, the bullets and the blood would be real, mere talk would be translated into action. Our brave pundits could be transfigured by a meaningful death, rather than expiring on a respirator at Washington Hospital Center after 10 pointless years of senile dementia. A glorious death for the sake of benevolent global hegemony would not be wasted on Richard Pearl or Michael Kelly as it would be on the callow and non-Ivy League youth who make up the bulk of today’s foot-slogging infantry.
The man best equipped to lead this swaggering band of heros is Bill Kristol, the hands-down champion of martial virtue who never eschewed a chance to send U.S. forces into combat, be it in the sun-drenched wastes of Iraq or the gloomy crags of the Hindu Kush. With only a modest subsidy from Rupert Murdoch, he has singlehandedly made The Weekly Standard into the foremost journal of militarism since the Wehrmacht ceased publishing Signal. And needless to say, he would lead his company from the front, even on suicide missions.
As the company’s executive officer in charge of security, the natural choice would be William Safire. His curriculum vitae fairly brims with excellence: principal champion of the link between Saddam and the attack on the World Trade Center, he should be given the opportunity to get in on the fun when the bullets fly. His career in intelligence is legendary: tasked by his Mossad handlers to torpedo the career of Admiral Bobby Inman (another do-nothing professional officer who had the bad taste to know what happened to the U.S.S. Liberty), Safire succeeded brilliantly. He was also the man in charge of fingering Wen Ho Lee as a Chinese spy; was it his fault the FBI was too incompetent to beat the truth out of an obviously guilty man? And, of course, as the confidant of Ariel Sharon, Safire has much of “the Bulldozer’s” manly bravado. And so to the rest of the cast: as platoon leaders, the aforementioned Gaffney, Kelly, and Perle would be logical choices, but there is such a wealth of talent that it is difficult to elevate some above the others. “Kenny” Adelman, who seems to have spent the last decade in obscurity, has recently come on strong with his pronouncement that a war against Iraq would be “a cake walk.” What could be better for him than to test his theory while leading a heavy weapons platoon onto the tarmac at Baghdad Airport? Then again, why not Andrew Sullivan (for the purposes of this unit, both citizenship requirements and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy could be waived)?
Since readers of The Weekly Standard know that the regular military is meanly underfunded at a mere $350 billion or so annually, the 1st Pundit Assault Company would be entirely equipped and supplied from the incomes of its personnel. This practice would bring back the panache of the old British officer corps, who purchased their commissions. Likewise, no basic training at Fort Benning for this elite unit: as its members make up the greatest concentration of strategic brainpower since the Oberkommando des Heeres set up shop, they are clearly in no need of mundane exercises like crawling over obstacle courses and 20 mile route marches. No, straight to the front for these eager beavers! And another critical point: isn’t air support for wimps, as well as a burden on the taxpayer? If enemy resistance is heavy, the 1st Pundit Assault Company can lug a few mortars with them. After all, can’t one American Enterprise Institute alumnus whip a hundred ragheads?
Despite their virile heroism, the “Screaming Pundits,” like any other group of fighting men, will need spiritual support. Just as Father Duffy induced the Fighting 69th to seek Divine guidance before bayoneting the Hun, the Pundits will require encouragement from their own fighting chaplain. For this office, there could be no candidate more suitable than Holy Joe Lieberman. As a bonus, his Hassidic leanings would emphasize the deep spiritual purpose behind the 1st Pundits’ continual deployment to fight Israel’s enemies.
Finally, and as distasteful as it is to relate, we must consider what happens if a “Screaming Pundit” is captured by the enemy. Every man jack of them has to realize that as a great nation, America cannot lower its prestige by bargaining for the return of its fighting men. The very idea negates the whole concept of National Greatness. Accordingly, each member of the Pundits will be issued a cyanide pill to obviate the disgraceful consequences of capture by our evil enemies. And we may be sure that unlike that cringing poltroon Francis Gary Powers, every captured pundit will see his duty and bite down on it!
George Sunderland* is the pen name of a Congressional staff member. His previous article for CounterPunch was How the Israel Lobby Controls Congress. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s Other Features:
A Crisis of Confidence
in US Leadership