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Posts Tagged ‘If Not Now – When?’

Every day, we lose more than a thousand veterans and with them the wisdom of age and lessons of history.  American culture puts a huge premium on youth and beauty and even on inexperience and naiveté, but it is hard to see how any of these traits have utility in making us prosperous and safe.  To be sure, it is more pleasant to hear platitudes from vibrant, attractive people with hairless, sculpted bodies than it is to hear the unvarnished truth from someone with a leather face and less glibness than experience, but older people are more likely to speak with authority.
And with passion, too, for the older we get the more we recognize that, when the day is gone, it is gone forever and it can’t be retrieved.  So there is an urgency to the things that mature people say, which is why they talk incessantly and won’t shut up.  So much of their lives have already passed that they don’t have enough time left to recount the lessons in it.  And they are worried that you aren’t listening, which is why they tell the same stories, and deliver the same aphorisms, over and over again.
If it seems that we keep making the same mistakes, it is because we pay insufficient attention to people who have been through it all at least once before.  In the end, we will survive rather than perish not because we accumulate comfort and luxury but because we accumulate wisdom.
  -–  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book:  “If Not Now, When?
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…As every infantryman knows: it takes more resources to hold an objective than to take it.  An assertion that it takes fewer can only come from people with no understanding of how wars are actually fought and won.
…We have a system in which military leaders serve civilian bosses, because we do not want people in uniform to run the country.  We have seen it attempted elsewhere, and it is rarely successful and never very pretty.  So American service members are inculcated with the notion of the superiority of civilian authority,and they are very uncomfortable acting contrary to that notion.  Officers have the responsibility to contribute to the plans and the decisions to execute those plans, but they are taught that, once the decision is made, they must obey — unless, of course, the order is immoral or illegal.  And this works extremely well at nearly every level of command.  Nearly, but not at every level.
…But if the Secretary of Defense wants to do something contrary to the best judgment of the general officers appointed to render advice, something so egregious that experienced military people know instinctively, if not from experience, that it is foolhardy or worse, who is left to prevent disaster?
Only those general officers.  Professional military men know how many troops are needed to perform missions, and the plans must be reviewed and certified annually.  If Tommy Franks or Dick Myers or any other officer at the top of the chain of command thought that the plan was unworthy, each had an obligation to his uniform, to the nation, and to the troops they sent to war to ensure that the plan was not executed.  And if they thought that the plan was a good one, then they were fools.  In either case, they failed this country.
Civilian control was established to prevent military domination, and the rules for following lawful orders are clear.  Who would have thought that our real danger was the civilian hijacking of the military apparatus, snatching it from officers who were either too inept or too pusillanimous to resist?
  -–  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book “If Not Now, When?
[In my opinion, history will not be kind to either the Bush / Cheney Administration or to the general officers in command leading up to the invasion of Iraq – with the notable exception of Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki.
General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq.  This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.
On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid said that General Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.  (from Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, one brave man was not enough to keep us out of a war of choice.  —  KMAB]
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One could argue persuasively that if all citizens had a stake in the protection of our freedom, the arbitrary use of the military instrument of power, as a first resort, would be very difficult to engineer.
  -–  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book:  “If Not Now, When?
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…I guess I could have become a politician had I not developed an aversion to being nice to people I can’t stand.
  –  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
From their book: “If Not Now, When?
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Our mission as advisors in 1967 was to do exactly what American advisors are trying to do in Iraq now: train the local army to assume all security and nation-building duties and permit us to go home.  We never managed to do it effectively in Vietnam, and we are unlikely to be given enough time to get it done completely in Iraq, either.  Among other things, it takes more than simply sending over advisors, regardless of how well trained, qualified, and committed they are.  It takes the dedication of all executive departments in an organized, centrally directed, and concerted effort.  That’s not something one sees in Iraq.
  —  Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
from their book: “If Not Now, When?
[We could not “save” Vietnam.  We will not be able to prevent the collapse of Iraq.  And we will NEVER (in anything less than a hundred years) be able to build a modern, functional democracy in Afghanistan.  The sooner we are out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, the better off we will be as a nation.  Does anyone seriously believe we will not bankrupt the United States before we are able to “help” the Afghans stand on their own?  We are building both (Iraq and Afghanistan) houses on sand.  When the first rains come, both will be washed away.  —  KMAB]
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In Vietnam we were engaged in an unconventional war, one for which few of the lessons of World War II and Korea applied. The template for a war of this type was the British success in Malaya, but there were truths to be learned for the American Revolution, too.  All wars are ugly, but Vietnam had already proven to be frustrating, as well, and it was clear to everyone that we would be there for a long time.  But in typical American fashion, the Department of Defense ignored many of the lessons that and been learned about counterinsurgency.  In other conflicts, it had been proven conclusively that the prevailing side achieved success by isolating areas and securing them.  Instead, we launched a strategy of attrition.
— Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (and Douglas Century)
from their book “If Not Now, When?
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The popularity of today’s reality television shows demonstrates conclusively the satisfaction that results from seeing other people in difficult circumstances, not because people are inherently cruel but because when the show is over, the viewers are still fine.  All that is required from us is sympathy, and it’s easy to be sympathetic because it costs us nothing.  When it comes time to sacrifice, however, the price is no longer zero, and that is when the value of one’s character can be calculated.
   –     Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book:   “If Not Now, When?
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My intellectual taste ran to simple, comfortable constructs, and nothing was more comfortable than leading soldiers and doing soldierly things and living among people who were performing very difficult tasks at the lowest level in pursuit of an ideal.  Being on staff was life as a bureaucrat, and bureaucracies are organized to do routine things in a routine way.  They are committees, notoriously inefficient and obstructionist enemies of the people.  I wanted to be a platoon leader, I liked being a platoon leader, and I wanted to continue being a platoon leader.
  –    Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book:  “If Not Now, When?
[There is something refreshing (and admirable) about a person who wants to be at the focal point of contact – be it with a customer (salesman) or an enemy (soldier).  Or, come to think of it, a mother breastfeeding her baby.   —   KMAB]
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To a twenty-one-year-old, time is irrelevant.  It disappears over the horizon to infinity, and you don’t have an appreciation for time until you get to be old.  Because they are afraid they’ll never wake up, old people often don’t sleep well at night, and they know that you can cheat the Angel of Death by taking short naps in the daytime, when the Angel of Death is ostensibly occupied in China, where it’s nighttime.  But at the age of twenty-one, you’re going to live forever, and you can sleep all day if you want to.
  –    Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From the book:  “If Not Now, When?“  by Col. Jacobs and Douglas Century
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We spent a good amount of class time on military history, and that had positive value of some consequence, but it did dawn on me that many battles, campaigns, and wars contained the same lessons.  This resulted in two conclusions.  First, there seemed to be a relatively small and finite number of inexorable military truths, universal constants whose mastery should form the basis for success in nearly every combat situation.  And second, because all this stuff was a matter of public and historical record, there is no earthly reason to make the same mistake twice.  My early naïveté was clearly boundless.
  –    Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From the book: “If Not Now, When?“,  by Col. Jacobs and Douglas Century
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Having a breadth of intellectual experience is vital among those who have great responsibility and authority, and in our history we have seen the occasional, sad result of having leaders who were narrow-minded simpletons.
  ––     Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book:  “If Not Now, When?
[The Colonel’s words are lifted from their original context, but as I first read the words I was struck by the damaging blows to freedom in this country of eight years of Bush/Cheney and the potential costs of having Sarah Palin near the White House.  Ten years ago, I thought John McCain was a decent and honorable man (even if he is a Republican), but I will never forgive him for two things: accepting the torture of prisoners and inflicting Sarah Palin on America.  His actions and inactions dishonored himself and every other tortured POW/MIA he ever served with in Vietnam.  His decision to have Sarah Palin as his running mate (VP) and place her within one heartbeat of the Presidency showed an equal disregard for the future safety of this country.  I still can only question the sanity and intelligence of anyone who would support her in a future run for ANY political office.  —   KMAB]
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We are a nation of laws and not of men, of course, and that’s really the glue that keeps everything together, the notion that what we do, for good or ill, has an impact on all of society, on our neighborhoods, our families, on all of us.
  —    Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book:  “If Not Now, When?
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But nothing in life can ever be cleansed completely of fiction because memory is unreliable and selective at the best of times.  To those who have been misquoted, misnamed, or mischaracterized, I apologize.  I did the best I could with the limited faculties I still possess.
  —   Colonel Jack Jacobs (Ret.)
Medal of Honor recipient
From the Author’s Note to his book:  “If Not Now, When?
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In a classic demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, it was the GI Bill that had been the engine driving change.  It’s hard for us as a nation to remember this, but at one point during the 1940s this country had nearly nineteen million young people in uniform, and by war’s end we had almost fourteen million Americans who were suddenly being mustered out of the service.  And they were all rushing into the weak economy of a country in debt.  The workplace that had been dominated by defense manufacturing during the war was, perforce, going to shrink, and there would be no work for the large majority of returning veterans.  Millions would swell the rolls of the unemployed, and the economy, unable to cope, would plummet again into a depression.  Neither the economic nor the political consequences of the situation could be risked, and something had to be done to delay or prevent certain catastrophe.
The Truman administration is often given credit for the GI Bill, but it was actually the idea of Warren H. Atherton, a California Republican and a consultant to President Roosevelt’s secretary of war.  His brilliant concept became the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, and it was the last bit of Roosevelt-era New Deal legislation.  The law enabled returning GIs to go to institutes and universities, thus keeping them occupied and off the unemployment rolls.  It wasn’t cheap, but the government could always print more money, and the negative effect of doing so was calculated to be far less deleterious than the alternative.
So what happened? The program had its desired effect.  Averted were the likelihood of millions of unemployed and the dire possibility that a nation that had won the war would be destroyed by the peace.  And there was another, unexpected and joyous result.  The American generation that had fought to save the world from fascism became the best-educated cohort in history, and when the veterans were graduated from school they fueled an economic boom never before experienced by any country in the world.
And the results were magnified further by another crucial provision of the GI Bill, one that granted low-interest, zero-down payment home loans for these veterans.  This enabled Americans to own their own homes, and suddenly millions of ex-servicemen’s families — families like ours —  were being propelled into a genuine middle class that was born during the early days of the automobile and grew to maturity in a great exodus from the traditional urban centers.
  —    Colonel Jack Jacobs
Medal of Honor recipient
From his book: “If Not Now, When?
[I would argue the slow but steady reduction and elimination of these benefits has also been one of the long term brakes on the greatness of American society and the economy.  Now, servicemen must pay a portion of their salary towards their future education benefits — as if risking one’s life and limbs in the service of one’s country is insufficient “payment”.  —  KMAB]
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