American war culture in a nutshell

Sitting around, war supporter Fred Kagan demands that troops be denied any relief until they win.

Published September 15, 2007 1:36PM (EDT)

Jim Webb is a combat veteran and a war hero. His family has a long tradition of volunteering for military service, and his son, until several months ago, was deployed in Iraq. Sen. Webb wants to relieve a small portion of the shattering strain on our troops through legislation "requiring that active-duty troops and units have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas." As Webb put it:

Now in the fifth year of ground operations in Iraq, this deck of cards has come crashing down on the backs of soldiers and Marines who have been deployed again and again, while the rest of the country sits back and debates Iraq as an intellectual or emotional exercise. . . .

Troops currently face extended deployments with insufficient "dwell time" to rest with families and friends, retrain, and re-equip before they are redeployed. The effects have been seen in rising mental health problems among service members serving multiple tours and falling retention rates for mid-grade officers and non-commissioned officers.

Fred Kagan, along with his writing partner Bill Kristol, specializes in planning and advocating more wars, always from afar. His family has a tradition of doing the same. His dad, whose career he has copied, is Donald Kagan, whom The Washington Post described as "a beloved father figure of the ascendant neoconservative movement." Several years ago, Fred co-wrote a book with his dad arguing that America is too afraid to fight wars and "that it will be in the world's ultimate interest for the United States to remain militarily strong and unafraid of a fight." Neither has ever fought anything.

Donald's other son -- Fred's brother -- is Robert, who founded Project for a New American Century with Bill Kristol and is a fanatical, resolute supporter of the Iraq War (from the pages of The Washington Post).
Fred's wife, Kimberly Kagan, regularly types about how great the Iraq War is in The Weekly Standard and other places. None has any military service. They have no need for the troop relief provided by the Webb bill (which Fred opposes) because they are already all sitting at home.

Fred Kagan yesterday went to National Review -- home to countless tough guy warriors like him who fight nothing -- to argue against Senator Webb's bill. There is no need to give our troops more time away from the battlefield, Kagan types. Besides, doing that would be too administratively difficult ("this amendment would actually require the Army and Marine Corps staffs to keep track of how long every individual servicemember had spent in either Iraq or Afghanistan, how long they had been at home, how long the unit that they were now in had spent deployed, and how long it had been home").

If troops want more time at home, Kagan says, there is an easy way to achieve that: "win the war we're fighting." Of course, that would not even work, because Kagan and his friends at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute have many more wars planned beyond Iraq for other families' sons and daughters to fight. For that reason, Kagan actually had the audacity several months ago to type this:

The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.

That's the history of our country for the last six years at least. The Fred Kagans and his dad and his brother and his wife and his best friend Bill Kristol sit back casually demanding more wars, demanding that our troops be denied any relief, demanding that the President call for other families to volunteer to fight in their wars -- all "as an intellectual or emotional exercise," as Webb put it.

That's all revolting enough. But to then watch Fred Kagan sit around opposing Senator Webb's attempts to relieve some of the strain on our troops -- all because it would require too much paperwork to figure out and because they haven't yet won Fred Kagan's war and thus deserve no breaks -- is almost too much to bear. But it is worth forcing oneself to observe it, as unpleasant as it might be, because within this ugly dynamic lies much of the explanation for what has happened to our country since the 9/11 attack, and the personality type that continues to drive it today.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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