Friday, April 15, 2011

Some Random Thoughts

From Andrew Bacevich's book, Washington Rules, with some comments and questions appended. Originally sent to my Presidency class on April 15, 2011.

In the chapter, "The Advent of Semiwar," Bacevich examines the careers and views of Allen Dulles and Curtis LeMay, the heads of the CIA and SAC respectively. These men built "empires" after WWII but they "are all but forgotten today." About LeMay, Bacevich points out that the press at the time "gushed" over him. Life magazine said that "LeMay knew that when he committed his bombers against Japanese cities 'a lot of innocent and helpless men, women, and babies were also going to be burned up. [But] this fact did not deter LeMay. He is a thoroughgoing professional soldier. To him warfare reduces itself to a simple alternative: kill or be killed. He would not hesitate for a moment - indeed he would not consider any moral problems to be involved at all - in unleashing the terrible power that now lies in his hands....LeMay is a tough man: the kind of man the Russians respect." [pp. 49-50]

And it was written in Harper's magazine that SAC [Strategic Air Command] had human beings in it who accepted "the awesome obliterate a city at one blow. For this mission everything human and therefore fallible must be dispensed with, must be trained out of them. Systematically the Strategic Air Command seeks to perfect its men, in the hope of honing out human error, doubt, and frailty." [p. 49]

Does this actually say that "everything human...must be dispensed with?" It seems to say that. And does this mean that We the People also have adopt similar or identical attitudes toward "everything human?" It would seem so. And are "doubtless" human beings "perfect?" It would seem so. Amazing stuff, whether you find it appalling or uplifting. And to think that some people argue that the United States doesn't have the "stomach" for fighting wars. Maybe this is one reason people like LeMay are "all but forgotten." It serves to confirm the illusion that we are, at bottom, a peaceful people. [I am not singling the US out here. Has there ever been a peaceful people? Seems doubtful.]

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