The Fish
for 15 June 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
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Matt Beer
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Guns and Butter

Hi Ambrose,

I believe that you are
mistaken to use Second
Lieutenant McCallister's
letter as an indicator of the
gap between military and
civilian cultures. First of
all, he is a second
lieutenant — only a
management trainee. As such,
his opinions are hardly
representative of Army
culture. Second, if you would
check the September issue of
Soldiers, you would find four
letters from senior officers
and sergeants attacking
Second Lieutenant
McCallister's letter. (There
were also two letters
criticizing the use of the
word "coward" in the Doss
article.)

It has been years since I
last read Soldiers magazine.
It hasn't changed much. It is
basically a People magazine
for Army personnel with lots
of glossy photos and puff
pieces. The real cultural
clue to be found in its
Letters column is the
never-ending stream of
letters complaining of some
minor uniform infraction (as
shown in a photo) or some
minor technical mistake in
one of the articles. That
tells you a lot about the
mind-set of the peacetime
Army.

So while I agree with the
conclusions of your piece, I
think you picked some pretty
lousy illustrations. Or is
that just another example of
the "civilian-military divide"?

(Just to let you know where
I'm coming from, I graduated
from West Point, did the
whole Airborne
Ranger/infantry thing while
on active duty (six years)
and then spent five years in
the National Guard. So that
gives you an idea of my
biases. Really, the guys in
the military aren't so bad.)

Adios,

Paco
<ffrazier99@gsm.uci.edu>

Good point. Unfortunately,
the author isn't here to
defend himself, having gone
off to fight America's
enemies. So you win this
round, Mr. Airborne Ranger,
but the battle's not over!

BarTel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Ke aloha no from Maui!

Well, the subtext I get from
your piece is that civilian
opinion is completely
controlling the use of
military force — and the
military isn't welcoming
that. So I'm not horribly
worried about a coup
tomorrow. Besides, the Army
got rid of all its white
horses back when Reagan was
in the cavalry.

I can't work up much sympathy
for poor General Clark,
either. From 1920 to 1941,
every military study, Army or
Navy, concluded that the
Philippines could not be
defended against Japan. (See
"War Plan Orange"; I've
forgotten the author just
now.) There was one
exception: MacArthur.

He told the civilians he had
a better way — sort of
like Nixon's secret plan —
and got the job. More than
250,000 Filipinos paid
with their lives for that
decision. If Clark thinks the
job cannot be done, he
should resign.

Admiral J. O. Richardson did
that in 1940 when Roosevelt,
to send a message, ordered
him to keep the Pacific Fleet
forward-based in Hawaii
instead of safe in
California.

Husband Kimmel, who the
Senate is trying to
exonerate, thought he knew
better than Richardson. He
was wrong. Two thousand men
paid with their lives in one
morning.

In fact, you could make a
case that Japan could not
have gone to war with the
United States, even if it had
wanted to, if the fleet
hadn't been within reach.
Then it would have attacked
the USSR, when it was
fighting Hitler. Would that
have been better? Probably
not.

Harry Eagar
<heagar@aloha.net>

MacArthur was a compulsive
optimist, a trait that worked
for both good and ill. But at
several crucial points, it
worked for good. In the
Pacific he turned what was
supposed to be a holding
operation into an all-out
assault and rolled up the
Japanese on land, sea, and
air, using a fraction of the
resources that were allotted
to Europe. Later, he invaded
Inchon in what may have been
the most insane and
ill-advised operation in
modern martial history. And
he won that one, too. Here's
one bonus question that bears
directly on Ambrose Beers'
article: MacArthur also led
the last mounted charge in
the history of the US Army —
where did that take
place, and against whom?

BarTel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

It might interest you to know
that in Starship Troopers,
the humans first tried
opening with a land invasion
and it didn't work. Then they
did the bombing thing and
followed it up with a land
invasion that didn't work
either. Then two of the
characters had sex while
Viper from Top Gun looked on
bemusedly. I can't remember
what happened at the end, but
Doogie Howser was involved.

Best,

David Marino-Nachison
<DavidM@fool.com>

Dummy! Clancy Brown captures
the Brain Bug, and you're
left confident that Doogie
Howser will figure out how to
win with his psychic
abilities. Join up now!

Yr pal,

BarTel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 
Guns and Butter

"(T)he decision to fire cruise
missiles at Afghanistan and
the Sudan for the purpose of
sending a message," as you
put it, can be blamed
on the understanding gap
between military and
civilian cultures.

That gap is very real and, I
agree, has potential dangers.
However, the decision to fire
a couple of missiles at what
have since been proven to be
innocent targets is one of
the best examples of
dogwagging in recent memory.
Look back at the coverage and
you'll see that the joint
chiefs were hardly even
consulted. That was a
strictly civilian (and
political) decision,
precipitated by the First
Fellator's impending grand
jury deposition. Christopher
Hitchens' piece in Vanity
Fair
(January 1999?) is a
great recounting of all
the similar attempts
to use the military to
deflect attention from
Clinton's problems.

This abuse of military power
for political aims only
exacerbates the discontent in
the military and magnifies
any feelings of separateness
from the rest of society.

<zimmermd@msnotes.wustl.edu>

Which is exactly the point our
correspondent made in his
essay. Someday, Bill Clinton
will be gone, and we'll once
again be able to see the
logic of a civilian
government. It may not seem
to make much sense right now,
but really, someday, Bill
Clinton will be gone.

Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

"Ricks tells story after story
about the cultural isolation
of a Marine Corps that views
itself as a nation within a
nation, stronger and smarter
than the great undisciplined
masses. There's a cost to
that kind of partitioning:
Ricks describes Marines who
feel pretty sure that they'll
ultimately be forced to fight —
literally fight, go to
war with — their own
countrymen, cleansing the
nation of its fifth column of
cultural Marxists. The gap
between military and
civilians, Ricks argues,
threatens to pit the two
against each other in a way
that could ultimately
threaten the nation's
constitutionally sanctioned
civilian hegemony."

You mean you didn't realize
this was the whole point of
military culture: to train
(brainwash) one group to
regard themselves as distinct
from the common citizen so
its members won't have any
real moral conflict when its
leaders tell them to turn on
their own women and children,
on their own families. The
historical origin of
organized armies was to keep
the subjects in line, and the
governments, royal families,
and five-star generals who
call the shots have never
forgotten that. Is Suck
getting naive, or have I
become even more cynical?

<alanb@datamedia.demon.co.uk>

Maybe that's the way it is in
that cloudy monarchy you live
in, Alan, but this is
America, where we bend the
knee to no man, and all the
citizens live in a state of
well-armed liberty.

Proudly protecting our right
to arm bears,

Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dear Suck — and today you do,

Your bullshit rant about
military culture really got
under my skin; I know it is
your job to do that. However,
gross generalizations are
never fair, and they display
a distinct laziness on the
part of the author. Several
points:

* Military culture is
different than civilian
culture because it has to be.
Given the things that the
military has to accomplish in
short periods of time, it is
necessary to limit the
freedoms of its personnel.
Wake up, dumb asses. Your
freedom was purchased
with the so-called culture
you disparage. I really
think you are offended mainly
because you could never hack
the discipline it takes to be
a successful soldier, marine,
airman, or sailor. You are
obviously a group of
time-wasting, cowardly
critics that hide behind
language.

* We have no real, discernable
civilian culture in the
United States. But I guess
the person who wrote this
coffee-shop horseshit
deludes himself into thinking
every time he has a
pseudo-intellectual
conversation at Starbucks he
has immersed himself in some
high "culture."

* The fact is the lowest life
forms in the military, who
are guilty of the kind of
thinking you mention, are
still a step above your sorry
effete asses. What do you
crap heads know about service,
honor, sacrifice, or valor?
My dingleberries know more.

* As a former officer, I know
something you do not: The
military trains soldiers on
ethics to a much greater
extent than any civilian
institution. Write about
something you know, or
do the research, you bunch of
sorry twits.

In summary, I would just like
to say, blow it out your ass,
Suck-heads.

And have a nice day.

Steve Degnan
<s.degnan@worldnet.att.net>

I guess reading comprehension
wasn't emphasized in your
officer training — was
it, Steve? The author of this
article — who, as a
matter of fact, is right now
practicing service, honor,
sacrifice, and valor in the
army — made all the
points you make in your
letter - though he may have
thrown you off a bit by
writing with actual grammar
and style.

But boy, you're right about
how the United States has no
real discernable civilian
culture. I mean, sure,
there's Herman Melville,
Scott Joplin, Howard Hawks,
Elvis, Carole King, Michael
Jordan, Steven Spielberg,
Washington Irving, Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, and Star
Wars,
but these are really
indie, alternative phenomena,
obscure in the United States
and completely unknown in
other countries.

Keep harvesting those
dingleberries.

BarTel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

 The Shit
Left for Dead in Malaysia, Neil Hamburger, Drag City, 1999
The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, Mark Dery, Grove/Atlantic, 1999
Crazy from the Heat, David Lee Roth, Hyperion, 1998
Keep It Like a Secret, Built to Spill, WEA/Warner Brothers, 1999
Abbott's Pizza Company, near the corner of Abbott-Kinney and California, Venice Beach, Los Angeles (delivery hours limited)
Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd, CD remaster, EMI 1994
Motorhead, CD remasters, all
Det Som Engang Var, Burzum, Misanthropy, 1998
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Nashville, Tennessee
A History of the Modern Fact, Mary Poovey, University of Chicago Press, 1998
V., Thomas Pynchon, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999
The Coffee Mill, Emeq Refaim, Jerusalem, Israel
The Salesman and Bernadette, Vic Chesnutt, Capricorn Records, 1998
Good Morning Spider, Sparklehorse, Cema/Capitol, 1999
Third Floor, Anderson Building, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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