J. KARL MILLER: Budget reductions pose unnecessary risk to national security

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:15 a.m. CST, Monday, January 23, 2012

I cannot manage any real measure of optimism over the administration's new defense strategy, that of shrinking the nation's armed forces while promising to maintain our military superiority around the globe.

To be sure, the president's declaration that "Our military will be leaner but the world must know — the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats" delivered in the presence of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the service chiefs was designed to show solidarity and strength, but we have been down this road before.

We pared our military after World War I (the "war to end all wars"), and again following World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. In each instance, not only were we destined to regret the cutbacks but also paid a high price in time, funding and manpower to regain the balance of power in combat forces.

No reasonably knowledgeable person nor organization can attest that there is not a measure of waste, redundancy or extravagance that cannot be winnowed or reduced to streamline the military without compromising mission accomplishment. Nevertheless, the $487 billion military budget reduction agreed to by Congress and the president through 2021 accomplished that and more.

But, when the earlier cancellation of $350 billion in weapons programs is added to the addition of another automatic $450 billion in reductions if the failure of the "super committee" to act goes into effect, we are endangered. A $1.2 trillion gamble on national defense is a bet that might be championed by the likes of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich but constitutes an unreasonable risk to others than impractical visionaries.

Some of us can remember the woeful state of training in existence after Korea and Vietnam. The lack of funding for fuel restricted pilots to "proficiency flying" of four hours per month and kept our ships from sailing. Ammunition for small arms and artillery training was equally in short supply and cannibalization of parts from other equipment was all that kept tanks and trucks on the road.

Today, after more than a decade of combat, our weapons of war are worn and in need of replacement. Our Navy, Marine and Air Force pilots are flying machines that are often older than the pilot. Aircraft, surface ships, submarines and infantry arms, replenished and refurbished in the 1980s, are rapidly reaching the end of serviceability.

Current planning calls for a reduction in ground combat forces of 90,000 from the Army and 27,000 Marines, relying instead on air and sea power, high tech weaponry and special operations forces as the new strategy. This may be an acceptable risk to some; however, it is a formula that has proven less than satisfactory in our war history.

Armchair strategists and tacticians have contended for decades that our wars would be won from the air, by technology — that close up and personal combat was a thing of the past. Yet, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan have been "grunt" or "Willie and Joe" infantryman's wars — wars won by occupying enemy territory — "boots on the ground" to cliche aficionados. The infantry remains the "Queen of Battle" — everything else is in support.

For those who point to Libya as the model for this new winning strategy involving air and high tech warfare, bolstered by multinational involvement, I offer a disclaimer. The action against Libya violated at least four principles of war at the outset and, our early withdrawal, e.g., handing it off to NATO to "lead from the rear," extended the conflict by at least six months.

Libya, as an armed combatant, would not have posed a threat to the Vatican's Swiss Guards. However, NATO, having to operate without the U.S. command, control and communications apparatus, was not able to close out a conflict that dragged on from Feb. 15 until Oct. 23.

Finally, with our economy in peril and the state of our indebtedness, the armed forces must accept a fair share of cost reductions. However, with the defense outlay accounting for just 4.5 percent of GDP, a trillion dollar cut is callous overkill.

Remember how former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was ridiculed for his "you go to war with the army you have" statement? It was as true then as it is now. Is it not more prudent to have a strong defense and not need it than to need and not have it?

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at

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Gregg Bush January 18, 2012 | 9:18 a.m.

And the warriors
Say, "Boo! Be afraid!" since peace
Threatens their paycheck.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 9:20 a.m.

I'm going to take a shot at this topic, and the reason I am is an op ed piece in this morning's Wall Street Journal (oh my gawd, Martha, he reads the Wall Street Journal!) by Arthur Herman of American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Herman posits that because of the reductions maybe the Pentagon will finally be forced to clean up its weapons procurement mess. The current mess goes all the way back to the 1960s and Robert McNamara, and has long since become a bureaucratic and monetary nightmare.

Maybe. It would probably be easier and take less time to clean up the Aegean stables.

According to Herman there are 30,000 people engaged in maintaining this boondoggle. Do we REALLY need all 30,000? If we're going to cut personnel, shouldn't we be cutting desk jockey civilians rather than combat ready troops?

As for not being ready for the next conflict, I couldn't agree more. Eight and a half years after Pearl Harbor and two months less than five years after we defeated Imperial Japan we were totally unprepared for an invasion of South Korea by an idiot named Kim.

PS: If you want, I'll mail you the Journal article.

(Report Comment)
Danielle Rodabaugh January 18, 2012 | 12:44 p.m.

* According to

* 2011 World Wide Military Expenditures: $2,157,172,000,000

* 2011 U.S. Military Expenditures: $741,200,000,000

* If my basic math is correct, that means America's military expenditures accounted for 34% of the world's TOTAL military expenditures last year. The next closest was China with $380,000,000,000, which is 17% of the world's military spending. I've seen other articles and charts that claim America's defense budget in 2011 was 8x that of China, but I'm not sure where that information comes from.

* However, this appears to be less severe than America's military spending in 2010. "‘The USA has increased its military spending by 81 per cent since 2001, and now accounts for 43 per cent of the global total, six times its nearest rival China. At 4.8 per cent of GDP, US military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East’, states Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Project."

* Regardless of what the exact numbers are, I don't think anybody would argue that the fact that, of recent, the U.S. military budget is consistently many times that of any other country in the world.

* I just cannot wrap my head around the fact that anyone could consider the proposed spending cuts unreasonable, especially given America's $15 trillion debt (which was clearly heavily influenced by the huge increase in military spending during the Bush era). "Even with the proposed 'cuts' America’s defense budget for 2012 will be more than twice the $328 billion budget of 2002."

* In conclusion, our military spending budget is absolutely outrageous, and the cuts are absolutely necessary. Invest the money saved into our failing education system. If Americans were better educated about other cultures or policies outside of the U.S., maybe we wouldn't feel the need to take it upon ourselves to police other countries and then build them in our likeness.

* But that's probably just wishful thinking.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote January 18, 2012 | 2:04 p.m.

Perhaps, if we were a wealthy nation with surplus revenues, it would make sense to spend exorbitantly on our military. As it stands, the US is in debt and woefully behind other advanced nations with respect to our national infrastucture, the education of our citizens, and the health of the populace. It has been a long time since the US has faced an existential threat. In 2010, 63% of discretionary spending ($815 billion out of $1.3 trillion) went to security concerns. That's analogous to spending over half of your annual salary on a security system for your house, while you forego adequate healthcare, spending on home repairs, investesting in your future, etc....and doing it every year.
Or put more eloquently,
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Note Eisenhowser's quote is from the height of the cold war.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 18, 2012 | 2:56 p.m.

I'm fine with slashing the military budget. But I don't want to hear any whining from:

1) MU when the DoD and defense contractors slash research funding:

2) STL when Boeing lays off thousands.

3) Columbians when gas prices skyrocket after some Middle East despot seizes a big portion of the world's oil supply.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 3:42 p.m.

Danielle Rodabaugh, even tho the post seemed to make China like the opponent on a soccer field (not so), could have sounded reasonable until we got, "Invest the money saved into our failing education system." Oh my!

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush January 18, 2012 | 4:20 p.m.

Defense spending is
A jobs program? Rebuild roads
And bridges instead.

(Report Comment)
Danielle Rodabaugh January 18, 2012 | 4:48 p.m.

I'm not sure what exactly the figurative language about China and soccer is supposed to mean.

I wasn't literally suggesting that America take the money saved from (potential) military budget cuts and put it into education (cutting it from the budget altogether could limit our debt). I was simply trying to draw attention to the fact that if our government had different budgetary priorities, such as our citizens' education > policing other countries and taking the responsibility of modeling them after ourselves, then perhaps the perceived need for defense and war would be less severe. (Of course, this crazy idea would be much more effective if implemented globally.)

Unfortunately, Americans (generally) prefer to remain blissfully unaware of how people in other countries function culturally, socially and politically, which produces fear and the reasoning behind our need to invest so much money in "defending" our "infallible" ideals.

Yes, military intervention is necessary from time to time, but I just can't understand how our government can justify why we NEED a military budget that's so enormous. It hasn't increased gradually over time due to inflation or according to increased foreign threats, but extremely fast in the past decade. Simply put, America cannot be so threatened that we need to account for 1/3 (or more) of the world's military spending. Some of that money could most definitely be used more effectively elsewhere.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 18, 2012 | 5:12 p.m.

I have enjoyed these comments.

The same folks that argue we use scare tactics to maintain our defense budget, even though we have lost thousands of American lives from attacks by foreign enemies on our soil, use scare tactics themselves to claim the water from melted glaciers is at our doorsteps, even as more and more evidence points to doctored reports fulfilling self serving agenda instead of the truth.

The incredible naivety of comparing our governments military expenditures to China's as if any website has any idea what China spends on their military. See, the Chinese government does not allow a free press nor does it feel the need to be open about such things. I know in hopey changey school they teach you all these things, but those of us out of training know better... Same post goes on with the age old, "Lets keep throwing money down the hole even though our results are not improving and our spending has increased exponentially". The problem in education is not money, it is the kids that have not been parented in a way that prepares them to learn. But, that would mean that democratic voters are most likely behind the failure of our schools and not the big bad Bush that is the root of all evil today and that goes against every thing I have been told in hopey changey school all my life...

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 18, 2012 | 6:14 p.m.

Military spending vs. annual deficits, 1981-2010:
(money in Billions)

1981 157,513 -79,000 199%
1982 185,309 -128,000 145%
1983 209,903 -208,000 101%
1984 227,413 -185,000 123%
1985 252,748 -212,000 119%
1986 273,375 -221,000 124%
1987 281,999 -150,000 188%
1988 290,361 -155,000 187%
1989 303,559 -153,000 198%
1990 299,331 -221,000 135%
1991 273,292 -269,000 102%
1992 298,350 -290,000 103%
1993 291,086 -255,000 114%
1994 281,642 -203,000 139%
1995 272,066 -164,000 166%
1996 265,763 -107,000 248%
1997 270,505 -22,000 1300% (*)
1998 268,207 69,000 *
1999 274,785 126,000 *
2000 294,394 128,000 *
2001 304,759 -128,000 238%
2002 348,482 -158,000 221%
2003 404,778 -378,000 107%
2004 455,847 -413,000 104%
2005 495,326 -318,000 156%
2006 521,840 -248,000 210%
2007 552,568 -162,000 341%
2008 607,263 -455,000 133%
2009 675,084 -1,416,000 48%
2010 689,000 -1,294,000 53%

There is an extremely high correlation between US military spending, and US federal budget deficits and debt. Structural US debt (public) increased about $11 Trillion from 1981-2010; total military spending for the same timeframe is about $10 Trillion. Our military spending is *THE* reason we are having problems with our national debt.

Point being, if you want a strong military, you darned well need to pay for it - with much, much higher taxes. If you want less government debt, you're going to have to cut military spending.

It's also easy to see the run-up in military spending since 2001. It's a good indicator of just how much the "war on terror" has cost us as a nation: our military budget has more than doubled over the last 10 years. Did the roughly $2 Trillion spent over the last 10 years above baseline military spending trends buy anything anyone really wanted? Exactly what is that, anyway?

How much more do you think will be needed to actually get what everyone seems to want? Now, increase the taxes you pay accordingly. Just like Buffet can, you too can pay in extra taxes to actually fund the military you want.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 18, 2012 | 7:03 p.m.

Oops, money in table above is in Millions, not Billions, the way it's formatted.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 18, 2012 | 7:18 p.m.

Ellis-Thank you for the offer but, I subscribe to the WSJ. I have not had the time to read it yet as I spent the day working on sample ballots and testing the voting machines for the County Clerk. I will look for and read the article mentioned.
And, I am glad that at least one contributor recognizes the danger in being unprepared.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 8:01 p.m.

D Fogle - You too become desperate? Why not include 1971- the years J. Carter decimated our military. Whats this? No deficit '97-2000? I have spent years trying to prove this to folks like you. Does this mean if we control our spending we can adequately defend ourselves from those wanting to kill us?

Honestly, (wrong word?) can you sincerely post these numbers and expect some to believe "Our military spending is *THE* reason we are having problems with our national debt."? Clinton hired (as has Obama) close to 200T new Federal employes, but was able to show a decrease by "firing" more than that from our military. Show us some numbers that reflect the reductions to our military needs, Every time a Democrat President is elected. Reagan's defense spending was primarily due to J. Carter's lack of it. So it goes.

But your post was not about defense, only a plea for more taxes for the elite to bank personally or spend as They see fit. Aren't we all tired of these shinanigans? I am.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 18, 2012 | 8:50 p.m.

When the attack finally occurs, the whiners are the same ones that always ask why didn't somebody do something to prevent the attack?

However, defense spending is one of the few areas our founding fathers actually included in the Constitution. The vast majority of the remainder is spent under the guise of Article 1, Section 8, first clause. If the founding fathers had known how the term "general welfare" of the United States was going to be twisted into welfare for people keeping them in indefinite financial servitude, it would never had been written.

Just as important though is that tyrants understand, without question, that we are willing and able to use that power when they seek to export their tyrany. I realize this will cause many of you liberals to suffer extreme nether region puckering and distress, but that's tough. Teddy Roosevelt said the rest of the world will respect us, fear us, but they will never like us.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 18, 2012 | 8:59 p.m.

I note that no liberal here has suggested reduced defense spending actually be used to pay down the national debt and lower the deficit. I wonder how an economically strong America would protect itself when it is defensively weak? We are no longer the sleeping manufacturing giant that Admiral Yamamoto feared. As previously noted, it would be costly in lives and time to come back up to speed. Remember all the complaints from liberals when Rumsfeld accurately stated, "You go to war with what you have." Where were these same liberals during the Clinton years demanding we be prepared for war by uparmoring Hummers? Oh, in case you forgot, Hummers were meant to replace the jeep, not act as a tank.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 18, 2012 | 9:05 p.m.

Frank, as Colonel Miller can attest to, I had people being killed in training accidents because we lacked the funds in the Carter/Dem congress years to maintain our aircraft, vehicles, and other systems. When one of my amtracs quit working properly and sank at night in heavy seas full of combat loaded Marines, it made for a very wary and nervous bunch of men not wanting to get in them again for the next operation. Then LtCol John S. Grinalds (a real Rhodes scholar) and Major Ollie North went with the Marines on those 'tracs' for the next operation. Before we returned to the States, we lost two helicopters due to inadequate funds for maintenance. When you choke the military from money, you ensure that the next time we go into combat, we lose more lives and endure more casualties than we should have. However, it does ensure some college professors have enough money to attend conferences in Europe and Australia, and play a few rounds of golf.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 9:21 p.m.

Danielle - "the figurative language about China" was to try to show that tho China is a trading pardner (and lender), that government is not our friend. Did you read the BBC account of China's defense spending? You, imo, are the one (of too many) whom see "defending" our "infallible" ideals." as a fallacy. Our infallible ideals are written in our
Bill of Rights. Where, if I may ask, did you get this idea? Which other countries that you believe "function culturally, socially and politically", did so before the United States of America was born?
Your professed opinion of our country is disturbing, but in short, Our defense spending has to include that for EU nations whose socialistic governments never have considered their defense as important to the people and now are so broke they may be destroyed within whether or not, and as previously stated, the spending which has been "extremely fast in the past decade.", has been for the recovery from previous Democrat idiocy and a war to protect us from more 9/11s. Corrections to defense spending are appropriate. To condemn it imo is not.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 19, 2012 | 5:31 a.m.

Don Milsop:

I trust, since you name no names, you aren't including me in your roster of "liberals." I have been and continue to be in favor of the first priority for defense spending being people, not gadgets. My suggestion (see above) that procurement be overhauled still stands, but I would use any money saved to improve training. Government waste is government is waste, regardless of the government agency involved.

As to perceived (by those who don't wish us well) military versus economic strength, it's easy to make the case that the two operate in TANDEM. At present our potential enemies are convinced we have military might but they may see us and our NATO allies as economically "suspect."

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 19, 2012 | 8:18 a.m.

I would like to point out that the first casualty of deep cuts in defense spending is the funding for research and development (R&D). The day to day operational commitments must go on as do the unplanned but necessary use of our military in natural disasters, both here and abroad. As stated in my column, our servicemen are flying, driving, firing, in many cases, worn out and outdated weapons systems. If the very notion that we may send troops into war or danger without state of the art or even adequate equipment does not cause most Americans unease or even shame, then I have missed my calling.

Finally Mr Bush, while I am not sure whether your "And the warriors
Say, "Boo! Be afraid!" since peace
Threatens their paycheck." was posted as joking or serious, but I consider it out of line. I have yet to meet a combat veteran who was not an advocate for peace nor one who was in service of his country to get rich.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 19, 2012 | 9:19 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Danielle Rodabaugh January 19, 2012 | 1:26 p.m.


For the record, I'm neither a liberal nor a conservative. I make my own informed opinions based on what I learn from a variety of sources, most of which are biased one way or another (because, unfortunately, that's how much of today's media works). I hate that even the most intelligent of conversations are supported by left/right stereotyping. The ensuing arguments are typically pretty ignorant, and I immediately discredit any statement that points to the idiocy of all lefts/rights/democrats/republicans, etc. But it is what it is.

I do not condemn military spending. I understand our country's basic need to protect our citizens from threats. I understand we have a right to protect our country's ideals. However, we should not have the right or need to inflict them onto other countries, which is done through military actions that require huge increases in military spending. Based on what I've read from various sources and (admittedly anecdotal) evidence from friends in the military, there's little reason for U.S. troops to currently be stationed in so many places at our own expense.

I read the article on China. I guess the point was that we're all supposed to be intimidated by their military advances. Yes, being prepared for potential foreign threats is wise. However, I don't understand how America can feel so threatened that our military budget has more than doubled in the past 10 years. (I am aware that 9/11 is a factor.) Why do we feel compelled to defend ourselves to the point that we account for 1/3 of the world's total military spending? My point is that it seems excessive. Some cuts to our military budget would not cripple our ability to ensure our safety.

For the record, I also have deep respect for my country and the opportunities it offers. I am, however, extremely disappointed that so many Americans fail to take advantage of them. I simply think if more people cared about the social, cultural and political happenings of other countries, we could find better ways to help than retroactive military intervention at the cost of our taxpayers (a notion that's probably too "hopey changey" for some). Unfortunately, this is unlikely as Americans care more about Jersey Shore and the Kardashians than any topic that actually warrants attention. But that's a whole other topic.

And since we're addressing so many problems America currently faces, yes, bad parenting and a lack of funding are both factors, not sole causes, for our declining education system. Our country's priorities as a whole seem askew, which can be observed by where we spend our money. As such, I simply cannot understand why so much federal spending NEEDS to be allocated toward military defense. (Full circle?)

I'm not claiming to have an ultimate solution to anything, as nobody really can. I just don't think trimming our military budget means the end of the world (or our country).

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 19, 2012 | 1:28 p.m.

J. Karl:

Speaking of military research and development, I think Mr. Bush has come up with the ultimate battlefield weapon required to confuse and demoralize our enemies.

We'll put Mr. Bush on the front line, equipped with a bullhorn; after he broadcasts a few of those haikus of his it's a sure thing all the enemy combatants will exit while screaming in abject terror. :)

I do have familiarity with the armed services. While not a Marine, I belonged to a pretty damned good armed service, one that among its contributions does in fact build bridges.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 19, 2012 | 1:39 p.m.

It's one thing to keep a gun handy in case someone breaks in and you have to defend yourself and your family; that's perfectly reasonable. It's another thing, however, to walk down the street pointing a loaded gun at anyone who comes near you, in the off-chance one of them decides to attack you. Not only is that person dangerous and insane, his nonsensical "pre-emptive self-defense" strategy INCREASES his chances of being attacked--in the eyes of everyone else HE'S the aggressor.

US foreign policy today is a lot more like the latter than the former. Yes, we should defend ourselves and our allies, but dropping military personnel all over the world is the wrong way to go about it. It's not good PR to tell everyone else "Alright, I don't trust you people to keep things civil, so I'm just gonna stand right over there and point my gun at you, that way we can put you down quickly if and when you guys misbehave as you are wont to do. Carry on, and have a good day."

Like Ron Paul asked in (at least) one of the Republican debates, how would we feel if China built military bases on US soil under the pretense of peacekeeping and "maintaining order"?

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 19, 2012 | 2:34 p.m.

Good post above. I think I jumped on you a little hard. It was the end of a long day at work and I think I vented a little at you at I am sorry. Behind the rhetoric are still my thoughts, but I could have toned down the style some...

IMHO, the mistakes we have made in defense spending have been the occupancies. We can afford to cut some of our missions, but we can not afford to cut R&D or troop preparedness. We need to keep our armed forces the best in the world because it keeps us in control of our own destiny. For those that have served and have made this destiny I am forever greatful.

It is men in uniform that have provided you the freedom you take for granted, yet you show no respect nor thanks. You are showing your true colors and they aren't pretty. I guess the young mother that recently protected herself and her baby by shooting and killing an intruder is nothing but a murderer in your eyes? I am guessing that you were a contractor and not a soldier or you would know what the pay is like in the military. I have yet to see the career soldiers showing up in Forbes...

In fact, it is the soldiers who protect our paychecks!

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 19, 2012 | 3:52 p.m.

Danielle - I guess this is why we are referred to as individuals(except by those who see people as the masses). I see your latest somewhat differently.

You are neither liberal or conservative, yet, every thing I have read from you has been liberal. This imo, would indicate that "idiocy" occurs when you are questioned by conservatives.

You have provided much opinion about how you understand our military actions. "However, we should not have the right or need to inflict them onto other countries, which is done through military actions that require huge increases in military spending." We "protect(ed) our country's ideals"in Japan, Germany, Italy and finally Russia. Are those countries still the threat to humanity? No, we consider them our allies. In your extensive posts presenting many statistics, you have never seen fit to mention Iraq and Afghanistan except as "military actions that require huge increases in military spending." Try to wrap your head around this. This action was for the same reason of WW2. We were attacked! We went to the source of the attack to destroy it and prevent another disaster on our home soil. It seems only liberals cannot accept this fact. "I read the article on China. I guess the point was that we're all supposed to be intimidated by their military advances." We are not playing video games! We all absolutely should feel intimidated, at least to the extent that we never again elect people to office that will give our nuclear classified information to Chinese or anyone else.

Have I missed something, or have you gathered all the statistics to show how much we are spending but looked for nothing that might show the need for it? Sorry to get left/right with you but any liberal from around here will tell you we spend too much on defense and no liberal around here has any concern about the 4T$ borrowed by our government since 1/20/09. Apparently, not even you.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 19, 2012 | 5:22 p.m.

DF (1/18@1814): "If you want less government debt, you're going to have to cut military spending."

Don (1/18@2059): "I note that no liberal here has suggested reduced defense spending actually be used to pay down the national debt and lower the deficit."

I guess this proves I'm not a "liberal."

Make whatever case you want for a strong military. But a strong military is expensive, and it has to be paid for with taxes. Lots of taxes. More taxes than we're paying now.

As others have pointed out, the military is the *only* thing our Constitution explicitly authorizes Congress to raise taxes for and spend money on. But even if we eliminated all other social insurance taxes and payments, the remaining general tax revenue would barely (some years) cover military expenditures. Every other aspect of the Federal government would disappear. That would include eliminating the conservative favorite DEA, BTW.

If you're serious about reducing government debt and deficits, you've got to be serious about trimming the military budget. If you're serious about needing a big expensive military, you've got to be serious about paying higher taxes.

It's completely unrealistic to think we can continue to increase military spending and continue to cut taxes, but not continue to go into debt. This is what we've done, this is why we're here. If you want your war toys and games, fine, but they need to be paid for. It's that simple.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 19, 2012 | 8:05 p.m.

Fortunately Jack, amongst those who did do the actual fighting as well as those who served, your opinion is in a distinct, extremely small minority. Veterans and their families are well aware that the reason teachers, students, and laborers have the freedoms they enjoy is due to the sacrifice of the small minority of Americans who have served our nation in the armed forces.

An effective teacher knows that he or she can teach with students sitting on a log, or an unheated, unairconditioned room. How did we ever solve the early theories of physics and biology before electricity or the computer? Good equipment only enhances good teaching. But we have seen a quantum leap in the amount of money thrown at public education, with virtually no gain to show for it over the last 30 years.

The inferior quality of many teachers, poor school discipline, self-serving administrators, liberalism, and the courts have done an amazing job at dumbing down children before they even have a chance to enter college or the job market. And all for vast sums of money. Private schools and home schoolers continually show
superior achievement over publics schools, and at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps we should disband public education, return the money to the tax payers, and let the individual citizen choose the education forum they would like their children to attend.

My very best friend has been a public education teacher for over 10 years. He is white. The vast majority of the students he has taught have been minority, and mostly black. Oft times his classroom was in a juvenile lockup. In most of the schools he's taught, he's been recognized almost every year as teacher of the year...and by teachers who were mostly minorities. He has a masters in education, and BS in criminal justice. But before he did any of this, he was a 9th grade dropout who enlisted in the Marine Corps at the day he turned 17. Colonel Miller knows him.

What our military gives in sacrifice and return benefit to our society is far more than the investment in dollars for military pay, benefit, and equipment. But without those dollars being spent, you won't have teachers, students, or laborers who can decide for themselves what they want to say, learn, teach, or do as work.

Add to that, most teachers, students, and laborers today are not toting 70 pounds of gear on their back at 8,000 feet, watching for IEDs, fearing ambushes at every bend, being severely wounded, suffering traumatic amputations, nor waking up with nightmares from PTSD. And that is because those who do serve are willing to endure those things so that others will not have to. They are deserving of the best we can give them. They deserve it first and foremost. If you can't recognize that, then you are unworthy to have worn the uniform of our armed forces.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 19, 2012 | 8:25 p.m.

Derrick, I'm looking at the budget for 2010. We spent
$3.456 trillion. Approximately 20% of this was DoD spending. The breakdown is:
$793 billion Medicare and Medicaid
$701 billion Social Security
$689 billion DoD
$660 billion discretionary
$416 billion other "mandatory"
$197 billion interest

In the next 30 years the first two items are going to skyrocket far faster than any other portion of the budget.
I see $1.076 trillion of other discretionary and other mandatory spending still there. I also know of the first two items, there is a huge amount of waste and fraud contained within those expeditures.

So before we raise taxes or cut defense spending, I would suggest there is a whole lot of carving we can do to those other items. I would bet that if we took a group of 1,000 volunteers of ordinary citizens, they could get the job done with no help from congress. For defense spending reductions, I would say that if you knowingly and deliberately defraud, steal, waste $1,000,000, we make it a death penalty for treason.

Would that be fair?

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 19, 2012 | 8:49 p.m.


I was one of those men in uniform, I'm a combat veteran of two wars. Stop buying their propaganda. If you think for one second it is about protecting your freedom you are just another sheep

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 19, 2012 | 8:54 p.m.


Is that why we overwhelmingly support Ron Paul, the one guy who wants to end this nonsense? You are another sheep who needs to stop eating the propaganda they feed you. The Cold War is over old men, please get out of our way so we can start paying down the debt you all ran up and fix the infrastructure that fell apart on your watch.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 19, 2012 | 9:28 p.m.

Jack, both you and Ron Paul are approaching 2012 from a perspective of the early 1800's. Times have changed. It is exactly your attitude that gave us WW2. Your type ignored Hitler and Imperial Japan. In a nuclear age that outlook is foolish at best, and criminally negligent and suicidal at worst. I do encourage you to speak your mind. As long as you do so and we do not stifle it, America is in no danger of electing those of your kind to any position of least for any length of time.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson January 19, 2012 | 11:27 p.m.

Col. Miller: I don't know if you are familiar with Ralph Peters (retired US Army officer), but here is a column of his concerning the proposed Obama defense budget:

An excerpt:
The ugly truth is this: When Washington insiders are scrambling for “their share” of 600-billion dollars, there is no one ― no one ― to stand up for Private Snuffy, Sergeant Rock or Captain Jinks. The average member of Congress will sacrifice an Infantry battalion to preserve a couple of do-nothing jobs back home. But when we go to war again, by George, they’ll praise the troops they send to die with weapons that don’t work as advertised. And the same politicians who voted to cut troop strength will be “shocked, shocked” by our lack of readiness to field an adequate force.

When I read of debates about defense spending, three words come to mind: Task Force Smith. And one name, not well-known by most Americans: Louis Johnson.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 1:03 a.m.

Take a good look at the FY 2012 budget for the State of Missouri.

Look where the increase is at. 31.66% of the increase is for government:

14.34% increase for administration
9.62% increase for employee benefits
4.67% increase for elected officials
3.03% increase for the legislature

That's just in Missouri.

Now look at the decreases:
14.29% decrease for agriculture
6.24% decrease for social services
3.56% decrease for senior health services
3.32% decrease for public safety
3.23% decrease for mental health

The largest increase was 17.41% for transportation. Want to guess how much of that $390 million increase will be used for roads and bridges?

You have a $121 million increase in those governmental operations appropriations, and a cut to public safety.
There is a $330 million increase in education. A 10.8% increase to higher education, and 4.1% to K-12.

Please, don't tell me that education, either nationally or by state is getting the short end of the stick.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 20, 2012 | 4:59 a.m.

Don Milsop wrote:

"Private schools and home schoolers continually show
superior achievement over publics schools, and at a fraction of the cost."

Actually the cost of private schools can be twice what public schools cost. Religious schools tend to be cheaper because they typically receive church support, however, a lot of parents may not want to send their children to a religious school.

A lot of the immigrants I work with have children in public schools that get a really excellent education. It's a question of parental involvement and discipline.

Another issue is there is not nearly enough classroom space in private schools to take all the students in public schools, and private schools do not have to deal with the discipline problems that public schools do. I suspect if they did, educational outcomes between public and private would be a lot more similar.


(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 20, 2012 | 6:58 a.m.


I am not ignoring Imperial Japan; we are Imperial Japan. We are the aggressor, we are the ones invading sovereign nations without just cause, we are the ones murdering innocent people. WAKE UP and stop buying their propaganda.

I repeat:

"Get out of our way so we can start paying down the debt you all ran up and fix the infrastructure that fell apart on your watch."

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson January 20, 2012 | 8:01 a.m.

Jack Hamm writes, "Don: I am not ignoring Imperial Japan; we are Imperial Japan."

Wow. That is an analogy too far. Way, way too far. Hyperbole squared, perhaps cubed. We are most certainly not Imperial Japan. Such a comment ignores and belittles the atrocious, horrible occupations, rapes, and pillage of lands and peoples from Imphal to Wake, from Manchuria to New Guinea. And besmirches the sacrifice made by the US & Allies to resist and turn back the "Co-Prosperity Sphere."

I will not defend every action by our government, but let's have a bit more reasoned and rational perspective here.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 20, 2012 | 8:05 a.m.

Tony...I am familiar with LtCol Peters and have read that very column. I thank you for bringing it to everyone's attention.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 20, 2012 | 8:53 a.m.


Many of us that fought in these wars disagree; its not way to far and its not hyperbole. Don't be fooled by what they tell you on the TV. The US is engaging in horrible and disgusting acts all over the globe. A lot of soldiers are starting to speak up about it; instead of discrediting them like Don because it does not fit your narrative and preconceived view of the world try listening to them. The people of the nations that we are terrorizing are saying it too. The US is not the noble beacon of freedom that Americans like to think it is.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson January 20, 2012 | 9:13 a.m.

Jack Hamm writes: "The US is not the noble beacon of freedom that Americans like to think it is."

While there is probably some truth to that statement, we are not Imperial Japan, either. While I appreciate and thank you for your service, I still respectfully disagree with your analogy, and continue to consider it wrong-headed and hyperbole. I do not imagine I am alone in that, among civilian/military, or veteran/non-veteran readers.

I obtain news and information from a variety of sources, not just TV, not just American sources, and not just conservative sources. I try to take them all in with a grain of salt, whether it be jingoistic, chest-thumping "my country, right or wrong" rhetoric, or claims like "we are Imperial Japan."

Seems to me the smart money bets on the truth being somewhere between those two extremes.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 20, 2012 | 9:28 a.m.

People do not join the military to rape and pillage their way to riches. Yes there are problems when you have the number of soldiers we do operating all over the world. But, if we operated like imperial Japan, we would not need to pay any taxes because we could be living off of all the middle easterners oil money that we would own and their slave labor. Why don't you ask a South Korean about us and Japan. You will not find any support for your nonsense. They have experienced imperialism and our foreign policy and know the difference very well.

IMHO, it seems you are acting like a sheep following a different shephard. One who preaches everyone gets a ribbon and nobody in the world, not limited to your pre-school class mind you, will ever take what they don't have from anyone else by force. Kumbaya...

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 20, 2012 | 1:42 p.m.

Keep drinking the kool aid Mike

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 2:14 p.m.
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Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 20, 2012 | 3:21 p.m.

Interesting to notice that servicemen's opinions are sacrosanct...until one of them says something that doesn't sit well with popular opinion.


Imagine any liberal using the "just look at the TV" argument in defense of their position and tell me if you would find such an argument compelling in the slightest. Likewise, arguing for the military's greatness based on what the TV shows is naive, considering that there's a lot more the TV DOESN'T show.

And this isn't a conspiracy theory or anything, just an acknowledgment of the fact that advertising the good and drawing attention away from the bad is something all of us do. For all the good will the US military spreads around the world, there are also all the Abu Ghraibs, My Lai Massacres, etc. Trying to speculate as to the ratio of good vs. bad would be stupid, but the fact remains: The military by necessity is a secretive organization, which means they're under no obligation to keep the rest of us in the loop.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 4:25 p.m.

Jonathan, what Americans have seen on TV is history. It happened. Those humanitarian missions weren't somebody's opinion. Likewise, the decades of military experience the Colonel and I and others here share is in direct contrast to the opinion of just one. In Iraq, Vietnam, and other countries, we have tried and even imprisoned Americans guilty of war crimes.

Show me the war crimes trials of Japanese, N. Korea, N. Vietnamese and the punishments rendered. They're non existent. There were newspaper stories in Japan following two Japanese officers in Nanking who were competing to see how many heads they could chop off with their swords in a single day.
300,000 dead in six weeks in Nanking. Thousands of dead government officials and their families in Hue. The treatment of our POWs by Japan, N. Korea and N. Vietnam. Contrast that to Abu Grahib.

No, comparing our actions to those of tyrant nations is simply wrong and unacceptable. Mr. Hamm should be apologizing to our active duty and reserve personnel, veterans, and all of their families for his comments. He should be completely ashamed of his words.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson January 20, 2012 | 4:36 p.m.

@Jonathan: Trying to speculate as to the ratio of good vs. bad is far from stupid. Actually, it is pretty much the point - that there is no moral equivalence between the US military of today, and Imperial Japan of the '30s-40s. Claiming such shows a lack of serious study of both. Don puts it a bit stronger, but on that, I agree with him.

Servicemen's opinions on global issues can and do vary, almost as much as that among civilians. We as a society tend to weigh them heavier, due to their firsthand experiences in oftentimes awful situations. But, they are not always right. For one example, Smedley Butler was a courageous patriotic Marine, but politically kooky.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 20, 2012 | 4:55 p.m.

Mr Hopfenblatt,if the military is indeed a secretive organization, designed to keep us out of the loop then why was it the U S Army that broke both the Abu Ghraib and My Lai incidents and made them public knowledge? Contrary to the beliefs of the uninformed, the U S military is woefully inexpert at keeping secrets and executing coverups. Instead the services investigate improper behavior and institute correctve action whether it be to exonerate or to punish. The UCMJ mirrors civilian courts--except that there are fewer loopholes that permit the guilty to escape justice.

The Special and General Courts Martial as the trial arms of the UCMJ are actually the only trials by a jury of one's peers. I do expect a cacophony of disagreement with this commentary; however, none will originate from the ranks of the informed.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 20, 2012 | 5:37 p.m.

Don - "I would bet that if we took a group of 1,000 volunteers of ordinary citizens, they could get the job done with no help from congress." Not if Congress is controlled by Democrats. I'm reminded of Reagan's J.P Grace Commission with J. Anderson and all private funding, provided policies and cuts that would have saved identified billions for our government. Presented to Tip O'Neill and Democrat Congress - totally and completely ignored!

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 20, 2012 | 5:50 p.m.

Jack Hamm - "The US is engaging in horrible and disgusting acts all over the globe. A lot of soldiers are starting to speak up about it".

OK, what subscription, station, or channel can I turn to, to absorb their information about our horrendous activities? I'm sick enough, please don't say, Democracy Now!

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 20, 2012 | 5:58 p.m.

As if there's not graft, waste and fraud in military too? I've shown a significant part of our current budgetary problems has been military spending. "But it's going to be social programs in the future!" is the typical deflective response.

Of all budget items, the military budget has been the most unpredictable, and increased the most, over the last 10 years. Everything I hear about justification for military spending revolves around continued unpredictability, and the need to spend more money to respond to it. Fear is a great blank check, isn't it?

The vast majority of senior welfare is paid for with specific purpose tax revenues. In fact, senior welfare is still owed $2 Trillion by the rest of the system. The only segment of senior welfare that's not really paid for is Medicare Part D - basically government welfare for pharmaceutical companies.

Non-senior welfare also has specific targeted tax revenues, but these fall far short of covering the costs. I agree that these programs also need cut, and cut even more than defense spending. But just like cutting defense spending will have a contractionary effect on the economy, so will cutting non-senior welfare. When you count prison costs, the US spends nearly a $Trillion a year to control poor people. And, the job-creating company Wal-Mart winds up with a good chunk of all that money in the end. Without government funded non-senior welfare, Wal-Mart would collapse.

The single largest (by far) expense in the US that does not have a dedicated tax revenue stream is the military. Non-senior welfare and everything else fill in the rest.

You can cut ALL of non-senior welfare, and lay waste to half of all federal government agencies (the more expensive half, including the DEA), and you'll still have to cut nearly a quarter from the military to completely balance the federal budget.

The federal budget cannot be balanced without either cuts to the military, or increased taxes. Or, I suppose, the 3rd option is, we could go ahead and eliminate all spending besides military that doesn't have targeted tax revenue, and find out just how much domestic stability and economic activity all that welfare money actually buys.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 6:42 p.m.

Using DOE and DoD figures, I find that from 1980 to 2011, education spending has increased 198.15%, not including the $98 billion plus pumped into education from the 2009 stimulus.

DoD spending from 1980 to 2011 increased 134.2%, including the spending for both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 6:47 p.m.

Frank, Reagan traded with O'Neill. Reagan got his tax cuts and increases in defense spending, and traded with for more social spending. Reagan's tax cuts doubled revenue to the federal government. Federal spending tripled.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 20, 2012 | 7:04 p.m.
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Tony Robertson January 20, 2012 | 7:57 p.m.

I do hope that the comparison, "we are Imperial Japan", expresses the sentiment of a small, woefully ill-informed segment of the American public. If not, I am even more pessimistic about our educational system than I was before.

To write that prior paragraph, is not to deny abuses by our own military, nor to claim some sort of idealistic perfection on the part of our own nation. I find it puzzling, though, that we even need to point out how utterly ridiculous the comparison is.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 20, 2012 | 8:02 p.m.

Jack H. - Thank me too. I'm also, glad you were not with any unit to which I was attached and moreover, I never met anyone like you anywhere I served.

You made a statement about others that think? like you. You were asked how to contact them. Can you not see the similarity in your answer with that of D. Fogle? Both only demand attention to your ideological feelings and both lack any reasonable information to support your claims. Too bad.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 20, 2012 | 8:17 p.m.

Don - More aptly, Reagan Had to trade with Tip. To get "Reaganomics" to the floor of the house, Reagan had to sign one more "jobs" program. 2B$, 600M$ came off the top and went to Massachusetts. Tip was a proud liberal. About the only thing we've done to stop them is make them ashamed to admit it. They've just switched to "progressive".

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 9:28 p.m.

Frank, to be a liberal you must be totally devoid of shame. Please though, don't use the moniker of progressive. You should substitute the more accurate description, repressives.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 20, 2012 | 9:32 p.m.

Tony, I do believe we must rebut immediately even the silly statements that Jack makes. For those young, uninformed, or erroneously informed, we must provide the counter balance and allow them to decide for themselves. It's the old tyrant's trick: Tell a lie often enough, and people will believe it's true. Jack is sounding more and more like those bitter former veterans who have a discharge that most would prefer not to have.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 2:21 a.m.

frank christian January 20, 2012 | 5:50 p.m.

Jack Hamm - "The US is engaging in horrible and disgusting acts all over the globe. A lot of soldiers are starting to speak up about it".

Frank, I recall how John Kerry threw his medals over the WH fence. Well, he through somebody else's medals. And how his mind was seared with the memory of Richard Nixon sending him into Cambodia during December, 1968.....a month before Nixon took officer. No wonder they called Nixon "Tricky Dick". Then there were all those Vietnam combat veterans who testified before congress....who turned out never to have been in combat, and some never even served in the military.

Jack, I think you'd fit right in. I had one guy I worked with a couple of years ago that was a retired Army SFC. He was anti war and said our time in Iraq and Afghanistan was a complete waste. He was just convicted in federal court of bribery in his dealing with contractors in Iraq. Amazing how these guys often seem to fall into this category of disgruntled veteran.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 3:33 a.m.

Jack Hamm January 20, 2012 | 7:04 p.m.

"After looking through your comment history I will take that as a compliment.. Honor, respect, intelligence, and comparison do not seem to be traits you hold in high regard."

Jack, I hold those traits in very high regard. Just wish you would exhibit them. I'm sure the people you served with wished you had also.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 21, 2012 | 5:13 a.m.
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Ellis Smith January 21, 2012 | 5:38 a.m.

[I've been trying to avoid this topic - there are presently others concerning Missouri higher education I prefer to address - but now I'm going to do this post. God knows it appears we could use some eduction.]

Well, folks, if we can so easily be compared to Imperial Japan, why not also compare us to National Socialist Germany? After all, Hitler sent his troops out to all sorts of places. The Fuhrer really enjoyed collecting real estate.

But we don't have the "Jewish issue." Haven't you guys heard? Our government is secretly building extermination facilities in Glassboro, New Jersey, Norfolk, Nebraska, Dime Box, Texas (yes, there IS a Dime Box, Texas), Durango, Colorado and Lompoc, California. And if you don't toe the political line, you could end up in one of them even if you aren't Jewish.

Ridiculous? Of course, but no more so than the bit about Imperial Japan.

History review. Japan was and is a country with few natural resources. In the 1930s Japan initiated a war with China, in part to gain resources. That war proved expensive and gained very little. The next effort was to gain control of resources in the southwest Pacific: the grand prize being Australia (which is today a major supplier of raw materials to Japan). It was hoped that a sudden "knockout" blow to the Americans, British (Malaysia, etc.) and French (Indochina) would give the Japanese the time needed to both conquer those areas and dig in. The Japanese miscalculated.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 21, 2012 | 6:33 a.m.


I'm not accusing our soldiers of anything. I'm accusing our government of engaging in inhumane activities. I insulted no one, I called a spade a spade. Its always the POSs that talk the biggest game and claim the patriotism; I know Frank was one, its pretty obvious Don was one and I'm betting you were one of those career pentagon officers.

Anyone who wants can go read US government and military documents backing up what I'm saying at wikileaks but something tells me you'll are the type that prefer to stay in the dark pretending you are better than the rest of the world. Our you can watch the soldiers say it in any of the thousands of videos like this:

Miller you can lie to yourself all you want but the fact is I'm not an enigma. More of my brethren have died of their own hand then from the war; that alone should give you a hint at to what is really going on over there .

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm January 21, 2012 | 6:36 a.m.

That should read POGs not POSs, auto correct got me again.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 7:43 a.m.

Colonel, I don't think he's an enigma. But the word I'm thinking of has a lot of the same letters, in almost the same order.

Jack, the colonel, as far as I know, was never at the Pentagon. It was worse. He was the Marine Corps' liaison to congress .... a far worse punishment. FYI, the Corps doesn't have career Pentagon officers. To be a Marine and be assigned to the Pentagon is considered a punishment by most Marines. Additionally, Headquarters Marine Corps is next door to the Pentagon in the Navy Annex (about a mile west). Even this is considered punishment. Most Marines avoid it like the plague. The Marine Corps is small by military standards. During peacetime, much of it is in the Pacific, or deployed on ships. This is good because the Marines tends to weed out people like you so they don't affect the morale of combat troops - in a forward deployed unit, you want all your men well trained and happy (complaining about things that aren't serious).

Jack, it is obvious that what you know about combat troops and operations you picked up off of TV shows and the internet. Since those of us who did serve never met anybody like you, we must conclude your opinions on these subjects are just so much scat. That being said, I won't address further anything you have to say on the subject.

The colonel knows people I served with - including one of my former sergeant majors who did a really mean thing by sticking me with battalion staff duty NCO the night before I got out. I don't need any verification. Perhaps you might send the colonel your DD214 and let him verify your bona fides.

I will state this for the thread though. I served with many very highly decorated men. Most of them had a deep faith in God. They were quiet, gentle men. It was my honor to have known them and served with them. None of them would have been associated with any type of conduct that Jack Hamm spews about.

As previously pointed out, our military has record of taking casualties in efforts to avoid casualties amongst non combatants. The only campaign otherwise were the bombings of Europe and Japan, and the battle for Okinawa.
And even on Okinawa there were huge efforts to get civilians to surrender and move them out of the combat zone. And they were receiving in kind what they had dished out to others. You saw no atrocities. You participated in no combat operations. And if you did serve, any competent combat commander would have ensured you were in the rear with the beer and the gear. If you had been in a combat unit, the commander would have put you on point five clicks out where the rest of the men would have been safe.

Tony, perhaps we should have listened to you to begin with, and just ignored him.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 8:25 a.m.

Please note that during the peace time years of 1980 to 1991, we had more military deaths from all causes than we have had during each year of the War on Terror, with the exception of 2004. Also note that 74+ % of the combat deaths occurred amongst military members of European descent. Just in case anybody wants to throw out the race card on that like they tried to in Vietnam.

Yes, suicide rates are exceeding combat deaths now. Motor vehicle accident death rates are exceeding both causes combined amongst military personnel.

In 2009, we had 1,445,000 active duty personnel, and 834,000 reservists. Combined, that is 2,279,000.... roughly the population of the city of Houston with a population of 2.1 million. There were 334 military suicides in 2009. There were 264 suicides in Houston during 2009. So what we have here is a suicide rate of just under 15 thousandths of one percent for the military. Our troops are deserving of the best care we can give them. I would say that for the rigors of what they endure, that shows a pretty comparable rate to non military life.

Could be too that our suicides rates exceeding our combat deaths has to do with far fewer people in combat.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 21, 2012 | 9:31 a.m.

"To be a Marine and be assigned to the Pentagon is considered punishment by most Marines."

News Bulletin: It's not just the Marines that have that attitude. Give me Korea, give me Okinawa, give me Fort Leonard Wood, but don't give me the Pentagon! Actually, today Fort Wood isn't that bad. It's gotten quite "civilized."

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 10:45 a.m.

Ellis, it was a great surprise to go back to Okinawa in 1977 and discover that the Marines had basically taken over the Zukeran area. Sadly, this did not improve the gender issues for that area.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 1:21 p.m.

Ellis, Colonel, so if the Marines don't like the Pentagon, and the Army doesn't like the Pentagon, just who are those mythical "career pentagon officers"?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 21, 2012 | 5:50 p.m.

I've never been to Okinawa, but nobody I know that has been stationed there ever wanted to go back.

There was a joke during the Korean War the the only Army folks who actually VOLUNTEERED to go to Korea were the ones stationed at Okinawa and Fort Leonard Wood. :)

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 21, 2012 | 11:02 p.m.

Okinawa is 68 miles long, and averages about 10 miles wide (ranges 5 to 21 miles in width). The changes I witnessed from 1969 to 1973 to 1978 were incredible. The population has grown considerably over the last 40 years to 1.4 million. But 2/3 of the island is in the hands of the American military. You need a certain level of maturity to enjoy living on an island for an extended length of time. Oahu is 45 miles long and 30 miles at it's widest. Much of the island in mountainous, so there is really a small amount of land available for 953,000 people to live on. Even in an area that small, a mind that loves history and cultures and hiking and scenerary can keep one very busy.
However, young minds tend to find that kind of restriction repressive. Military gallows humor keeps things in perspective. I now smile being far older than all of the senior people in the Marines, and I recall referring to the senior staff NCO barracks as "menopause manor".

Were I to live on Okinawa now, I think I would enjoy it far more.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 22, 2012 | 12:05 a.m.

J Karl Miller:

"Mr Hopfenblatt,if the military is indeed a secretive organization, designed to keep us out of the loop then why was it the U S Army that broke both the Abu Ghraib and My Lai incidents and made them public knowledge?"

The jury is still out on who broke the Abu Ghraib story, actually, or at least there's good reason to think that the goal wasn't transparency for its own sake so much as damage control. Allegations of abuse had already been floating around, and chances are the media would have gotten wind of the story regardless--all you need is a loose-lipped soldier, or a lapse in judgment ("dude, my friends back home are totally gonna get a kick out of these pictures"), or someone who values morality more than allegiance to the group.

Speaking of which, the latter is pretty much what happened in the My Lai incident:

The massacre of 347 to 504 unarmed villagers was initially reported as the defeat of 128 Viet Cong soldiers (along with 20 noncombatants' worth of collateral damage). Here's a transcript of the report given by the Colonel in charge of investigating the matter:

The incident only became public after one soldier (who hadn't even been there) started digging around after he noticed that the story on the official reports was completely different from what the soldiers who had been there were saying, at which point he wrote a letter to several people in Washington expressing his concern. If he hadn't done that, the whole thing would have probably been quietly swept under the rug. (Apparently even after it went public, only one of the soldiers involved ended up receiving any kind of punishment, a whopping 3.5 years of house arrest at Fort Benning).

"Contrary to the beliefs of the uninformed, the U S military is woefully inexpert at keeping secrets and executing coverups."

Yeah, except that that's not true at all, considering that the US government has several massive and well-funded agencies at its command whose sole job is to keep secrets, secrets to which not even the President has access unless a "need to know" is established. Then there's also the fact that virtually all consumer electronics and gizmos out there are military hand-me-downs. I know you're in the military and all, but that doesn't mean you can say whatever you want and get away with it purely on credentials.

Having said all of this, no, I don't think the US military is evil or anything, but the way some of you are talking makes it sound as if they've never done anything wrong and that anyone who would claim otherwise should be charged with heresy. I too think that Jack Hamm's comments came off too strong, in fact, but your all's responses could also tone down the hyperbole.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson January 22, 2012 | 12:39 a.m.

I find a modest amount of reassurance in the fact that even Jonathan Hopfenblatt thinks "that Jack Hamm's comments came off too strong..." Yeah, comments like "we are Imperial Japan" tend to suck the sanity right out of the discussion, the veritable flatulence in the Sunday School classroom, so to speak.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 22, 2012 | 3:45 a.m.

What I find absurd is the notion that there can be a war (including all the wars not involving any American or NATO forces) in which no one is supposed to end up dead, wounded, displaced and/or hungry (civilians), etc. Let's go swimming, but we don't expect we'll get wet.

I've had (both when I was on active duty and since) people complain that some things the armed services do are "irrational." My answer: Yes, because the primary purpose of the armed services is to fight wars, and isn't war itself irrational? Of course nothing in civilian life is irrational.

Essayons! That's French, not Latin (like the Marine motto). Engineer Corps doesn't guarantee a damned thing; we simply state that we'll TRY. :)

Tony, I prefer the expression of flatulence while in an old fashioned diving suit.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 22, 2012 | 7:45 a.m.

Well, you've done it again! BLUE screen! It started with Jonathan, of course.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 22, 2012 | 11:54 a.m.

Jonathan, just fyi, all classified information is viewed on a need to know basis. There is clearance, which allows you to see information at that level, then there is access, which says you need to see that information. Intelligence information goes to very few people, even at a senior headquarters. If a division G-2 (intelligence) officer thinks that the G-3 (operations), G-5 (plans), or G-4 (logistics) needs to see something, then they share it.

Training and education at various levels teaches you what and when to share access to information that you are privileged to. The president can see any information he desires. He merely needs to request it. However, I can guarantee you that he does not have daily access to the avionics maintenance information for the IFF (identification friend or foe) electronics on the F-35 joint strike fighter. He simply has no need to know this information. But if he wants to see it, he can. I had the clearance to see anything the President could see. But I didn't have access to all of it. I did have access and control for virtually all classified information for an entire Marine Amphibious Force. Operations, plans, intelligence (including enemy capabilities), maintenance, nuclear weapons access, control, employment, and maintenance(special weapons operations procedures). However, I read very little of it. I was responsible for the control and dissemination of the information to various staff agencies and units, but I had virtually no need to know the information itself.

So just because there are organizations with large amounts of classified information to which the president does not have access, does not imply in any way that it's being kept for the president. He can see it if he wants to. But if he has no need to know it in the performance of his daily duties, then he shouldn't view it.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 22, 2012 | 8:13 p.m.

Tony Robertson January 20, 2012 | 7:57 p.m.
I do hope that the comparison, "we are Imperial Japan", expresses the sentiment of a small, woefully ill-informed segment of the American public. If not, I am even more pessimistic about our educational system than I was before.

Tony, that's the good thing about living on Oahua. At this point, the Rio Grande is 2,600 miles wide and 15,000 feet deep.

For any of the opposition who takes things literally, I do realize the mouth of the Rio Grande is in the Gulf of Mexico, and the headwaters are in Colorado. But I'll bet you didn't know it was the second longest river in the United States.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 22, 2012 | 9:06 p.m.

Don, I'm aware of security clearances and the need for compartmentalizing sensitive information. My point wasn't that these guys are so dirty they're keeping things from the President, but I'll take the blame for not making that clear enough. I could've done a better job with the wording after all, since I did dedicate a good chunk of that post to talking about military cover-ups and what not.

Anyway, I only brought that up in response to what Karl said about the US military being "woefully inexpert at keeping secrets and executing coverups," which is utterly false. I don't need to have spent any time in the military to know that the US government spends a lot of money making sure we have the smartest people out there working on the most advanced technology out there to stay ahead of the curve in terms of national security and defense.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 23, 2012 | 7:10 a.m.

@ Don Milsop:

The Rio Grande may be long, but it doesn't carry much water. Years ago Corps of Engineers had a dam built near Cochiti Pueblo southwest of Santa Fe. You can, as an option, drive across the top of that dam and view the lake located upstream (Lake Cochiti). If you suffer from vertigo, I suggest you not look down, because I've been across the dam numerous times at various times of the year and there ain't much later in that lake!

The project was partly for flood control, but also to hold back water for use in irrigation in the summer in southern New Mexico, where they even "water" the roots of pecan trees!

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 23, 2012 | 8:34 a.m.

Don, Ellis - Off the subject, but who ain't?

A TV documentary on the Lewis and Clark expedition stated that the Mississippi River, below the Missouri should actually be called Missouri River because it runs into the Missouri, not the opposite.

If this were the case, the Missouri would he longest river in the world! 200 miles longer than the Nile. True? Not true?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 23, 2012 | 8:58 a.m.

Frank: I think the Mississippi is/was "wider" than the Missouri at their junction north of St. Louis. Hence, the Mississippi gets the nod as the joinee rather than the joiner.

Ain't no expert on rivers, tho, except I know they flow downhill.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 23, 2012 | 9:11 a.m.

Frank: I think you are in "de Nile" (get it?). While an analysis of the constituents of the water might show differently, the Nile as it passes Cairo appears to be one very polluted river. I do know the Nile in Egypt contains schistosomes, parasites that can cause liver and other problems. Every few years some tourist decides to take a swim in the Nile and ends up diseased.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 23, 2012 | 9:35 a.m.

"Ain't no expert on rivers, tho, except I know they flow downhill." Every plumber knows that!

"Every few years some tourist decides to take a swim in the Nile and ends up diseased." Or sucked up by a 200kg Nile Perch (I once read 700lbs).

Have a question? Need an answer? Post it on the Missourian blog.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller January 23, 2012 | 8:20 p.m.

Mr Hopfenblatt, you are confusing oranges with apples with your idea of coverups. Of course the R & D, NSA and other departments engaged in development of future weapons programs and clandestine ops are secretive.

However, as I said, the operating forces are not good at keeping secrets and covering up malfunctions--they have neither the time nor the expertise. Nor is it their best interests to attempt to do so. I have spent considerable time in the military, enough of which was spent in high level positions that I know of what I speak. You are entitled to your opinions; however, questioning the collective integrity of the commanders of our forces in the field without having experienced that responsibility is not good form.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 24, 2012 | 8:34 a.m.

Jon - We can " have the smartest people out there working on the most advanced technology out there to stay ahead of the curve in terms of national security and defense." working night and day, but it becomes hard to keep a secret when a President names a liberal named Hazel O'Leary director to Energy Dept. and she in interest of "fairness" and public relations abandons all security classifications in that Dept. Where, I understand our Nuclear information is held. Why the DOE, I do not understand. Her program is labeled the "DOE Openness Initiative".

"Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney wrote that O'Leary "chose Pearl Harbor Day to launch what was, arguably, the most devastating single attack on the underpinnings of the U.S. national security structure since Japan's lightning strike on the 7th Fleet 52 years ago."

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush January 24, 2012 | 9:25 a.m.

The families of
Pat Tillman and Jessica
Lynch would disagree.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 27, 2012 | 5:11 p.m.

Safety? Security?!? Over 30,000 people die on US highways every year. There have been over 360,000 traffic deaths in the US since 9/11. Yet, I don't I hear anyone clamoring to spend $700B/year on auto safety...

Rational risk assessment and resource allocation?

You're doing it wrong.

(Report Comment)

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