About That Latte Salute

The military salute is courtesy. If the President as Commander-in-Chief chooses to return a salute rendered by a service member, he should do so courteously. There’s been a bit of brouhaha over the salute returned by President Obama last week while his hand was encumbered with a cup of coffee.

I’ve been somewhat amused by the various attempts by some folks on the left to try to spin some of the adverse comments as purely political grousing.

Now, I realize that many of those spin meisters don’t have any military background, but I’m shocked by how many of them refer to the event has happening as the President debarked from Air Force One.aircraft_oneThe Air Force is generally responsible for providing the long-haul transportation of the President. The aircraft normally used are Boeing 747s. The Marine Corps provides helicopter transportation for the President. Air Force One is the call sign of the President’s airplane. Marine Corps One is his helicopter.

UPDATE—Additional hint for militarily confused journalists. If you see Marines at the bottom of the ramp, that’s the helicopter. The big jet will have airman at the bottom of the ramp. The Marines’ uniforms are a darker blue.

How to Win

I write from the point of view of an ex-soldier. The lessons of history teach that one wins a war by having the last infantrymen standing with loaded weapons and the enemies’ will to resist throughly shattered. That was the outcome at Mexico City, Appomattox, Berlin, and Tokyo. Since then, Mexico, the Confederacy, Germany, and Japan have never troubled us. That was not the case in 1918, 1953, or 2011. WWII was required to settle the open issues of 1918. North Korea still festers. And now, ISIL/ISIS/IS.

Air power is a wonderful asset. However, it can’t hold ground. It can’t root out an enemy surrounded by civilians. (After days of air strikes, the Israelis had to use soldiers in Gaza.) The alternative is to use carpet bombing (Dresden and Tokyo) or nukes (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to make a desert that can be called peace.

At some point, men with rifles are going to have to personally confront ISIS. Obama seems to hope that these men will be Kurds or Syrians or Iraqis—anyone except Americans, with the possible exception of a few SEALs or Delta operators. We shall see, but I’m betting that the matter won’t be settled in any way favorable to our interests until American soldiers and/or Marines get involved.

UPDATE—Meanwhile, it seems that some Brits understand the problem. From the BBC:

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said it was vital that Britain took some “serious action” against IS.

“The key issue here is that we cannot rule out the use of large-scale ground forces. I don’t mean the kind of thing that’s happening now. I mean large-scale intervention forces,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Failure to do so would mean Britain would “just accept the fact that the Islamic State will continue to expand, continue to decapitate our citizens, continue to pose a threat to our country and countries in the region”.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Cameron doesn’t.

This is not about British combat troops on the ground. It is about working with others to extinguish this terrorist threat.

How to End a War

Victor Davis Hanson has an essay over at NRO called Only Deterrence Can Prevent War. He makes the case from history that wars happen when one side thinks that it can beat the other. He makes the further point that wars end when one side becomes convinced that it has been beaten.

Not the League of Nations or the United Nations. Unfortunately, war is a sort of cruel laboratory experiment whose bloodletting determines which party, in fact, was the stronger all along. Once that fact is again recognized, peace usually follows.

Read the whole thing.

As a Viet Nam veteran, I note that the United States could have crushed North Vietnam at will, but that we lacked the will. Strength is more than superior firepower. It has a moral component.

Quote of the Day

The military art is not an accomplishment, an art for dilettante, a sport. You do not make war without reason, without an object, as you would give yourself up to music, painting, hunting, lawn tennis, where there is no great harm done whether you stop altogether or go on, whether you do little or much. Everything in war is linked together, is mutually interdependent, mutually interpenetrating. When you are at war you have no power to act at random. Each operation has a raison d’etre, that is an object; that object, once determined, fixes the nature and the value of the means to be resorted to as well as the use which ought to be made of the forces.

—Ferdinand Foch