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Please send this on to Chico Ramos as well.
SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE, AND OTHERS
The weekend of 12-15 October had a powerful effect on me. The old soldiers
assembled for the 25th Anniversary of the founding of SOF were persons of
unusual interest and value. My regret is that each of these persons has not
written down both his experiences and the lessons he has drawn from them.
The conclusions from this formidable crowd would give our decision-makers
guidance and advice that would make them far more effective, than the young
bureaucrats surrounding them are now doing. I'm judging by results, not any
classified documents leaked to me.
The setting of the convention was an unusual sort of arms show. The booths
and equipment filled an auditorium twice the size of basketball gymnasium.
Some very interesting books were for sale in many of the booths. I do not
know if selling books is common at arms shows.
The 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War was the occasion for
a panel discussion of how the war went, and what we learned from it. Generals
Heinie Aderholt and John Singlaub were participants as well as MOH winner Lew
Millett; an experienced Special Operations practitioner, Mike Williams; an
impressive moderator and author, Mike Haas; and me. A video of the group's
discussion was made. I will alert you if it is as good as expected. My grim
discussion of Task Force Smith an hour earlier helped set the stage we walked.
Millett's earlier presentation had captured this audience. His combination
of experience, humor, and knowledge of how soldiers think and react under
pressure, had a stunning impact on everyone who heard him. My immediate
reaction was that this aging bayonet-wielder is an asset to be exploited for
the rest of his days. He should be talking at each class of our NCO
academies; the Marine and Infantry Officer Candidate Schools; the Service
Academies; our various staff schools; and all of the War Colleges. This will
give him time to spend the rest of the year at our various Universities' ROTC
programs. He would have had the program voted back on campus in a year,
rather than the three years it took me to do it after we were evicted from
the University of California at Berkeley!
Haas and Williams would be ideal follow-ups a week later at the University
ROTC units Millett visits. N.B., I am not limiting any of these three to
talking only with cadets. The faculties and the regular students are the
real targets, i.e., the ones who would benefit most in the long term from
this exposure. I showed Millett the Wilson Quarterly's review of the Harvard
University Press's just published The Mystery of Courage. He will get my
annotated copy of this work shortly.
General Singlaub's report on his fascinating military life, which ended in
1978 after he had frustrated Jimmy Carter's intention to withdraw our forces
from Korea, is a must read. A journalist published Singlaub's expression of
a universally held belief in the military that this retreat would have
invited the North Koreans to attack again. This story does not end his
Hazardous Duty. Rather he extends it to years supporting the Contra effort
and a grim account of the Ollie North story, and the Gulf War. Singlaub
needs provide all of us his perceptions of the nation's political and
military history since his 1991 publication date.
My immediate reaction to the professional military life of our foremost air
commando, Heinie Aderholt is enclosed at the end of this paper. The style
and composure the author, Warren Trest, describes in Air Commando One, Heinie
Aderholt and America's Secret Wars, is evident today. This old man is still
what he was when he was jolting the Air Force away from its fascination with
irrelevant aircraft and missions, and made its responsibility for a
significant commando effort, work. N.B., he out-maneuvered a number of
chiefs far senior to him to get some real use for the enormous investment we
have made in our Air Force.
Rob Krott and Tom Marks each made fascinating hour-long oral reports on "Our
Next Vietnam." The resemblance of the aborning effort in Columbia to that
past folly is sobering. My immediate effort to get this comparison of errors
on the debate slate for the two presidential candidates failed, as I
suspected it would. The grim "World News" article in The Washington Post of
October 17 reinforced Krott's and Mark's alert. It is titled "Colombian
Military Fires 388 in Human Rights Effort," and is a worthy accompaniment of
Barry McCaffery's just-announced decision to leave that miserable job. Two
last thoughts on the subject of Columbia: "what would legalizing drugs mean,"
and "when will the miserable thoughts of Krott and Marks be on paper." (See
the NYT's article of October 17, "Ambitious Antidrug Plan for Columbia is
Faltering." The death of 54 Columbian soldiers in a three day battle earlier
this week augurs that grim days lie ahead.)
All of us who have fought the Chinese subscribe to an unofficial Principle of
War: do not invade China. The rest of this: do not invade Russia. Both
still appear valid to me.
Everyone who has taken POWs believes it is better in all ways to "feed em
instead of fighten em." Keeping the Chinese as partners is far superior to
making active enemies of them. We have a rapport now that has a future.
Helping them resolve current non-military problems of inadequate water,
insufficient energy, and the "income gap" derived from their infrastructures'
underdevelopments is doable. This would help most of our mutual animosities,
including the one caused by the future of Formosa, wither away.
Specifically, no one who has ever fought the Chinese wants to do it again.
See Chalmers Johnson's Blowback for the "unintended consequences" of our
various post-WWII activities in Asia, and Diana Ray's citations of Mike Lynch
and me about military readiness in the current Insight (November 6).
The discussion of a noble effort by Refugees Relief International moved me.
This under-funded and under-manned organization is furnishing medical aid to
the Karen tribesmen on the Thai-Burmese border. The shameful treatment of
these people by their Burmese masters should enrage every veteran of
Merrill's Marauders, and all of us who have served in that region. My
involvement in the betrayal of our Hmong allies in neighboring Laos, made
everything John Padgett of the RRI said of his effort, very valid.
There were constant criticisms of the Clinton/Gore team and continual hope
expressed by many people for Governor Bush to become President. It was
acknowledged by many that joining the National Guard in time of war was
tantamount to becoming a Canadian immigrant, but this did not seem to hurt
Bush himself. The 25th Anniversary issue of Soldier of Fortune speaks meanly
of National Security Advisor Sandy Berger's questionable entry into the
Army's National Guard. There was no citation nor mention anywhere that
Bush's joining Alabama's Air Force Guard let him evade active service in
This same issue of the magazine (page 92) criticized Gore's Earth in the
Balance as one of the proofs of his lack of relevance. The chapter from a
book, Al at Full Moon, available at the convention from The American
Conservative Union at no cost, was titled "Gore's Crazy Environmentalist
Agenda." It is as unkind as you can imagine from the title.
John Plaster, the Vietnam SOG veteran who helped CNN and Time decide to
apologize for their false and scurrilous statements about the use of nerve
gas on Americans made prisoners by the VC, explained the impressive role of
our commandos. Jim Warner, a Marine pilot who became an involuntary guest
for some five years in the Hanoi Hilton made this situation real, for the
rest of us. No one who heard him describe this would do other than vote for
Senator McCain if given the opportunity again (2004?).
One of the long term SOF correspondents, Al Venter, described the results
attained by mercenaries in Africa by comparing them with those attained by
the conventional forces sponsored by the United Nations. It has been evident
for a long time that experience on a battlefield is far more valuable than
good intentions, and the purest of amateur standing.
This assembly of ancients would have been a powerful field in which our
nation's intelligence services could find and recruit sources. The persons
trying to describe "asymmetric" warfare and its application to our present
position in the world could learn a lot from such meetings.
Our chiefs' ability to maintain an enduring belief in our Cold War force
structure was often discussed. The language used by John Hillen in his OPED
piece in Sunday's (October 15) San Francisco Chronicle captured the
oft-expressed attitudes of many of the attendees. Our various enemies could
profit from being present at such meetings, and unidentified!
As some of us have noted, soldiers do not become better looking as they age.
This applies to this lot