Yesterday the Times had a great piece on a West Point colonel, Gian Gentile, who has opposed the new militant doctrine of Counter Insurgency. Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller says there’s an active debate about US policy at the military academy:
Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars.
“Not much,” Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. “Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.”
Colonel Gentile also has a great post up at the Atlantic slamming General Stanley McChrystal’s decision to give a seminar at Yale but keep it off the record. Guess there’s more debate at West Point than at Yale.
Gentile’s outspokenness reminds me: These days inside the US establishment, the military is the leading antiwar voice. Institutional liberalism is not taking a strong role in opposing American militarism. The strongest statements about the Palestinian issue have been from generals.
Don’t get me wrong, there is clearly a strong grassroots antiwar left in the country– the occupy movement, Norman Solomon’s congressional campaign in California, Code Pink’s brave leaders, just to name a few. But inside American mainstream institutions, the strongest criticism of America’s overseas adventures lately has come from a West Point colonel. Not to mention that rightwing libertarian running for president as a Republican, Ron Paul. The Brookings Institution isn’t antiwar. The Council on Foreign Relations is full of rightwing militants. And though there are antiwar congresspeople– Lynne Woolsey, Maxine Waters, Walter Jones, and Dennis Kucinich– they are outliers. Conservative forces have played an important antiwar role. Antiwar.com is a libertarian site, the American Conservative has lionized the great Bradley Manning.
Why are liberal institutions AWOL? The main reason is the successful divorce of elites from military service with the end of the draft. So liberal establishment figures no longer had to worry about their children serving in stupid wars they supported. The New Yorker played a leading role opposing the Vietnam War, but supported the Iraq war. And yes, I think the Israel lobby also plays a role; traditional doves turned into hawks when it came to the Middle East. And these hawks have had a prominent role in establishment institutions. Joe Lieberman, Howard Berman, and Chuck Schumer all began their careers as anti-Vietnam-war liberals. No longer. Haim Saban funds Brookings, and he’s an ardent Zionist. The Center for American Progress is closely aligned with the Democratic Party and it has done a famously lousy job of resisting the push for war with Iran. During Vietnam, Senator Gene McCarthy ran against the war inside the Democratic Party. So did George McGovern. Those prominent Dems can’t be found this time round.
P.S. Helena Cobban is on the Gentile interview here.