As a student of abnormal psychology, or psychology that ought to be abnormal but lamentably is not, I’m listening to PJ O’Rourke’s Peace Kills, on American foreign policy. I enjoy exploring the isolation wards of the human asylum. It is like visiting remote Pacific islands to see the savages gnashing their teeth and waving the obsidian swords of dimwit ideology: O’Rourke, Rachel Madow, Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Al and Jesse, and the garbage plains of feminism. From this I derive a pleasant sense of the hopelessness of man.
I think PJ needs his head examined, as regards military policy anyway, which is pretty much the only foreign policy we have.
If I may digress slightly: In defense of O’Rourke I will say that he is known as an amiable drunk, and in fact so describes himself. This is to be commended. In a PC world, it shows independence of spirit. Further, a man who relies on sobriety to be able to think is an intellectual weakling. The condition is overrated. Should PJ one day lurch through the door of Tom’s Bar, I’ll buy. I do not refuse fellowship merely because its possessor’s politics will likely lead to mass murder, re-runs of Oprah, and local destruction of the solar system. Tom has some tables large enough for two to fit beneath.
Like so many of our parlor ferocities at National Review (PJ is not one of these, being an actual overseas correspondent), he believes that America is an international Charles Atlas, a motingator, astonishous, gleaming military monster such as the world has never seen (and didn’t ask to, but never mind). This is because he equates military expenditure with martial capacity. He refers proudly to the size of the military budget. He doesn’t seem to realize that in matters of size an implant may be involved.
He doesn’t understand the American military—that it is in the position of one of those toothy late-Cretaceous humongo-lizards, Tyrano-whatsit or something, uneasily eyeing a thin film of ice forming on the home swamp. “Something is happening,” thinks the big fellow. “I wonder what? Will I like it? Can dinosaurs wear sweaters?”
In the case of Orourkasaurus oenophagus, I am taxonomically puzzled. There were two types of dinosaur, the saurischians and the ornithiscians. It has to do with their pelvises, which mercifully we will not contemplate in the case of PJ. (I told you this would be disordered.) He seems to be a hybrid, perhaps due to a decline in morals in the later stages of extinction. We see the same thing in the US. His instincts are saurian, which is normal in foreign policy as usually practiced, but he is cerebrally ornithiscian. So is the Pentagon, which is why this matters.
See, you gotta understand the ice on the swamp, and what it means. When you need a sweater, you need a sweater, and not some other thing. The Pentagon has the wrong things. It is glorious and glitters and has many buttons and screens. It is just the wrong military.
The great Chinese strategist Fred Tzu once said, “Never use a broadsword to fight a swarm of pissed-off hornets.” Exactly. You have to understand the enemy. Otherwise you are in trouble and can’t understand why. If you are a behind-the-times sort of dinosaur, the rats are going to eat your eggs. If you are an American infantry battalion, sneaky little guys behind rocks are gonna blow hell out of your up-armored Humvee with the revolving IR heads. Trust me.
You have to understand the enemy. Another classic military mind, the Prussian genius Carl von Fredwitz, said, “Let the other dumb sumbitch spend hisself into the dirt, and then tear his throat out, or just buy him.” It’s what China is doing. Americans make war, and the Chinese make money. We spend wildly on an outdated military that couldn’t beat a tin drum if it was smoking Gunter’s best grass.
Think about it, PJ. I’m serious. The world’s most magnificent budget got run out of Nam like a scalded dog, yelling that actually, really, I mean honest, we really really won, shriek.
Not so’s you’d notice.
The same highly-trained martial codpiece got run out of Lebanon with 241 Marines dead, run out of Mogadishu by teenagers with armed pickup trucks, performed a comedy routine trying to rescue hostages in Tehran, lost in Iraq, and works diligently at losing in Afghanistan. Not too much bang for the buck, I’d say, or for the doe either.
China, him no say nothing. Just make money.
See, PJ, the American military is like a dentist trying to drill teeth with a petroleum platform. It’s the wrong tool. Multibillion dollar ratpacks of hugely expensive fighter planes are splendid fun, and say “Var oooooom!” Good stuff, that. They really are the best in the world, and nothing can stay in the sky with them.
Ah, but they are fighters with nothing to fight. The Pentagon’s problem is Ahmet the Wiley Wog who hides behind a rock with his RPG and keeps blowing up trucks full of GIs. Ahmet isn’t too flashy. He doesn’t have a conformal phased-array radar and isn’t supersonic. But he has clanking brass balls and wads of determination Oops.
And that’s the story of our whole military shebang: gaudy but mostly irrelevant. North Korea does something that upsets Washington’s digestion, so we send the aircraft carriers. These float fiercely offshore, doing nothing, because there is nothing they can do. They either (a) attack, risking all-out war on the Peninsula, not a particularly bright idea since Pyongyang has all the artillery in the world within range of Seoul, or (b) float in puzzlement and circles while North Korea ignores them. See? Wrong tool. Washington hasn’t figured this out, so it always sends the bathtub toys.
China, he no fight. Sell stuff.
Current Pentagonal thinking, if that is quite the word I want, is to impose Full Speculum Dominance, I believe it’s called, and control the world. A Full Speculum is full of very pricey fighters of little military use, marvelous warships of little military use, and glorious tanks of little military use. They chiefly serve to get us in trouble in places where we shouldn’t be in the first place. (Pesky military historians note that World War Two ended 68 years ago, but apparently the Pentagon thinks it might come back. Perhaps it is in hiding somewhere.)
Our global strategy is to surround Russia with military bases and missiles, and similarly to surround Iran and China. This latter is like an aging bull terrier trying to surround a frisky Rottweiler pup that is reaching puberty. The portents are sub-optimal. Anyway, when you have surrounded China, what does it buy you? Given our sorry record against several thousands of annoyed peasants in the bush world, do we figure to land at Shanghai and take on a billion Han Chinese? What could be a better idea?
Now, they say that money isn’t everything. Oh yes it is. And it is what America doesn’t have so much of any more. All those zoom-wowees and whizz-kerblams cost moolah. The days when the US could afford high wages and fun wars and a vast military all at once, them days is over. Oh. Ver. The jobs went to Asia and Mexico, unemployment runs way high, everybody is on food stamps or welfare, the standard of living falls, infrastructure rots, everybody is getting edgy and hates everybody else, and the military budget grows like kudzu on a Georgia road-cut. Hoo-boy. Think of an aging wrestler with a withered leg and padded jockstrap going into a biker bar and saying, “I can whip any bozo in the joint.”