By John Stanton
General Marshall is a great American, but he is far more than that. . .He has always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement and disillusion. Succeeding generations must not be allowed to forget his achievements and his example." Winston Churchill
"Marshall's restrained and professional behavior during the politically explosive tangles with FDR over the tension between readiness and aid to Britain provides a polar star for members of America's armed forces to guide upon as they consider their civil-military responsibilities. He did not attempt to advance his cause through leaks to favored journalists. He did not attempt end runs of FDR to the president's congressional critics. And he did not publish in the New York Times or Washington Post op-ed pieces articulating alternative solutions to the administration's policies. Instead heprivately provided his commander-in-chief independent and candid advice, not partisan advocacy of alternative policies, and he loyally supported and actively assisted their execution once the presidenthad decided." Charles Brower
He is a patriot, a distinguished soldier, and the most selfless public servant I have ever met." Dwight Eisenhower
Making the Case
There are not enough pejorative adjectives in the known universe to describe American leadership as it takes the United States into the last four months of 2011.
The fourth quarter of 2011 promises to be one of the most volatile in American history, if not world history.
America's political, military and business leaders of all political persuasions, races, creeds and colors have shown they are not up to the task. They have no sense of the maturing global picture or America's role in it. The shenanigans of the debt ceiling deal reached by the executive and legislative branches of the US government early in August highlight this fact.
McGraw Hill's S&P merely put a fine point on what government & financial analysts around the world-Chinese, World Bank, Goldman Sachs included-have said for the past five years.
American media's analysis of the debt cling deal often focused on who won and lost like it all was some sort of sporting event. It was not.
The United States of America lost. Period.
The US is on the brink of another depression even as US corporate profits are at a high point. In fact, some US banks are charging corporations to store the billions they have earned. Who can blame them?
The G-7 and G-20 group of countries are holding emergency talks to discuss the troubled economies of Western Europe and the USA.
The official unemployment rate in the USA is at 9.1 percent but, by some estimates is closer to 20 percent. Jobs are being lost that will not resurface. The critical infrastructure of the USA, to include its human capital, is sickly. As the ever excellent Calcualted Risk said this:
"This was a crazy week that people will long remember. On the political front, the U.S. government finally agreed to raise the debt ceiling. Unfortunately there were clear indications that the process negatively impacted the economy over the last couple of weeks. [There] was another weak employment report and [it] reminds us that unemployment and underemployment are critical problems in the U.S. There are 6.8 million fewer payroll jobs now than before the recession started in 2007 with 13.9 million Americans currently unemployed. Another 8.4 million are working part time for economic reasons, and about 4 million more workers have left the labor force. Of those unemployed, 6.2 million have been unemployed for six months or more. Clearly the overall employment situation remains grim. Other data was mostly weak too. The ISM manufacturing index declined to the lowest level since July 2009, and the ISM non-manufacturing index fell to the lowest level since early 2010."
Of course accountability for any of the decisions leading to the economic disaster of 2008 was never going to be an issue, just as it wasn't for 9-11. No American resigns for a job poorly done. Responsibility for one's actions is now a quaint cliché, meaningless as saying "hello" to a stranger. It is all about "look at me!!" rather than quietly working to take care of the US homeland instead of the political party, some god, or a tax deduction.
Not in China though.
Is China Right?
The debt ceiling deal reached earlier this month by the US president and congress, arguably, vindicates the Chinese Model of capitalism. Investors and their money like to know where they stand no matter what the political or economic status of a country may be.
With China, the central government speaks with one voice, ensures a comfortable business climate, maintains and enforces accountability and is focused on national security; in particular its economic security.
At any rate, at least China has a plan for the future and, for that matter, so do corporations/investors, like Boeing, operating in China. G.I. from the Economist offers a compelling take on the US debt ceiling deal and Chinese Model of Capitalism:
"I never had much sympathy for the view that America's economy was about to be eclipsed by China's, and the main reason was our political institutions. Those checks, balances and laws provide an orderly means to change course in response to new challenges. China's authoritarianism deprives the government of a feedback mechanism to tell it when it is meeting the needs and aspirations of its people. That makes its system intrinsically fragile.Events of the last few weeks have forced me to reconsider. While the crash of a high-speed train highlighted many of China's ongoing weaknesses, it also revealed, in the vigorous reporting and commentary that followed in print and online, a nascent apparatus of accountability. Conversely, America's ostensible success in avoiding default in fact highlighted the growing dysfunction of its political institutions. If these events are portents of things to come, then the day when China displaces America as the world's economic superpower is closer than I thought."
In God We Trust
America's leaders are flustered and desperate. They have presided over winless, protracted wars abroad, created a wave of massive unemployment/underemployment, ushered in a political and socioeconomic environment defined by uncertainty, and quietly oversaw the exchange of liberty for security. American leadership is bereft of ideas. And those who place and keep them at the helm year after year are ignorant of the world around them and, as such, do their country no service at all.
Into this cauldron comes Old Time Religion. It says, "Well we cant figure anything out but that's the way God wants it. In God We Trust. Solutions to all troubles are right there in the Bible." The popular acronym for the Bible is this: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Great!
Just so. The governor of Texas holds a mass prayer fest on behalf of his state and the nation. The new secretary of defense, Leon Panneta, goes on record as saying, "God willing, we will not have to cut the defense budget." The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, holds a rosary while watching the Bin Laden kill operation and would later say after the kill, "We should all go to mass tonight."
The Obama Administration is once again talking up war with Iran. A former CIA intelligence officer who worked in Iran has claimed there will be an attack on Iran by Israel in the coming months. Of course, that has been predicted many times before by pundits everywhere. If such an attack comes, the USA will have sanctioned it as it controls the airspace in the region. And should the US State Department remove the Iranian MEK from its terrorist watch list, the chances for a war with Iran will increase.
A month from now, Iranian matters collide with the Palestinian State issue. There may be a vote in the United Nations to recognize the Palestinian State. The USA will likely stay with Israel or attempt to derail the vote in the UN. In any case, Israel has been producing and purchasing more weaponry to deal with the violence that may occur with Iran, Lebanon or the de facto Palestinian State. Many of the world's nations have already independently recognized the Palestinian State placing the USA out of touch with reality once again.
The USA has fanned the flames of instability in Central Asia and the Middle East. The political situation, for example, is unstable from the North of Africa to its Horn and up to Turkey's border. Kosovo, an artificial creation backed by the USA, has come alight again and NATO has had to send reinforcements there to quell disputes between the Serbs and Kosovars. The US continues to place missile defense systems near to Russian and Chinese borders using Iran and North Korea as false rationales.
American leadership, at this moment, is not intellectually gifted enough to govern and lead in the world that is now and to come. But that is an issue for another day as it speaks to the under-education of Americans for their roles in the tough transition to a unified global system of production and employment and, ultimately, governance.
The USA is hamstrung in that it is governed by two political parties, or voices, that have become stovepipes (some argue one indistinguishable stovepipe). The metaphor stovepipes, as applied to a system, are often used to describe aging, rigid organizations disconnected from each other and unwilling, or incapable, of change. Such is the case with the Republican and Democratic parties who are doing more to undermine the United States than just about any other group on the planet.
The US Constitution, and the System of Government it has produced, will not continue to function properly if the two party system is not challenged in a most aggressive fashion. But that will not happen if the American people continue to believe that they have no choice but to vote. There other choices; don't vote, boycott, or better still, start a new political party based on selfless principles of public service.
George C. Marshall: The Party of Public Service
The public service of George C. Marshall provides a "polar star",a stellar example, of what American civilian and military leaders should be. In employment by country and service to it, Marshall is the definitive model of practice. If ever there is a new political party that emerges in the USA, Marshall's philosophy should be the foundation upon which it is based.
Marshall could have made millions of dollars selling the story of his public life to the highest bidder. He turned those offers down. His view was that his service to the country, and his country, was not for sale. One of Marshall's greatest skills-interpersonal relations--was captured best by Orson Welles in an interview with Dick Cavett (5:41 to the end).
Marshall was a master politician, military genius, and an involved citizen to the very end. He had no illusions about the human condition as it moved through high and low points. He was the architect of the allied victories over Germany and Japan. He oversaw the development and funding of the S-1 and Manhattan Projects, along with the US Army Strategic Air Forces that would drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and later become the USAF). His interest in air power began in 1909.
He was a canny politician who campaigned tirelessly around the country and in the US Congress to garner support for the Economic Recovery Plan (Marshall Plan) and, prior to that, to maintain a draft in preparation of the US entry into World War II. The US Congress passed the draft extension by one vote.
He served as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Head of the Red Cross and a Special Representative to China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. During his acceptance speech he suggested that students at the high school level be taught about decisions that lead to the "horrors of war".
Marshall was instrumental in the development of the National Security Act of 1947 as Chief of Staff of the US Army. But later, in typical Marshall fashion, in his role as a civilian Secretary of State he would warn that if too much power went to the Department of Defense, the Secretary of State would be reduced "to an automaton."
Visit some of the links in this piece to learn more about Marshall. He really was that good. That said, his interest was always about the United States. The way he carried himself on that mission garnered the respect of every leader of his time from Stalin to Molotov and Churchill to Truman.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at email@example.com