I meant to do this piece to start off the new year, before certain events distracted me – and a lot of the country and the world, apparently. But the year is still only one month old, so I think we can comfortably call it pretty new. And as is customary in a new year, folks often make resolutions on things they wish to change or work harder on in the coming year, make wishes that they hope will come true, and generally hope for what might be better or different.
It is in that spirit I offer you my own contribution of a sort:
Savage’s First Annual “4 Things in National Security That I’d Burn to the Ground if I Could.”
First, a clarifying note: No, these are not threats or calls to violent revolution. When I say “burn to the ground” I mean that in a purely metaphorical sense (though I’d still say burn down the physical structures in some cases because they may have bad juju left behind but I also say we should do that only after we’ve fired everyone and they can leave with their personal items. I shouldn’t have to explain all of this in a perfect world, but we live in far from a perfect world, so I’m going to err on the side of caution.
A second note: Just because I think we should get rid of these things; doesn’t mean I don’t think we need something like them or a better version of them. In fact, I think all of these things are necessary for a country’s national defense in some shape or form. However, I think the version or versions we have of these organizations or institutions are so flawed and so beyond repair or reform at this point, that the only way that we can have anything resembling a positive version of them is to shut the existing one down and start over with a clean sheet of paper. I tend to have a similar attitude towards law enforcement, but that’s a story for another time (not fully a national security topic, but it might still cover it here if there’s any interest).
With those disclaimers and covering of my ass out of the way, let’s get on to the list:
U.S. Military Service Academies
Oh, the service academies. What distinguished graduates you have given us. From famous Civil War traitors, to rampant cheaters, to noted man of integrity and best Secretary of State of all time Mike Pompeo, and all manner of other leaders and elites – ranking from mediocre to downright awful – in between. Oh, to say nothing of all the sexual assaults the academy students mange to pack in between classes and the poisonous and harmful professional culture they perpetuate within the military’s officer corps.
But all that is ok apparently because sports ball. Sports ball, folks? Sports ball.
Now, is every graduate of a service academy an awful person? No. Are enough of them bad to justify just burning these institutions to ashes and starting anew? Yes. At least in my opinion. Is the pitiful excuse for a military leadership ethos that they instill in the officer corps bad enough to justify that as well? Very yes.
Though, the buildings themselves are nice. Maybe instead of burning the actual buildings down we should just shut the academies down and repurpose them as housing for homeless veterans, or for the refugees from the wars we’ve been waging in the Middle East for a good two decades now.
Oh, and we’ll let the Coast Guard keep their current one. They don’t really seem to be hurting anyone (as far as I know). Or the Merchant Marine, I guess. But West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs? Pack your shit and move out. We’re shutting it down and starting over with something that doesn’t just churn as many rapists, cheaters, and traitors per capita and maybe creates officers who care about those under them and serving the people – not just the state. I dunno, we’ll figure out what officers and an officer culture should actually be like later – that’s an article within itself I need to write. I not only think the military still needs to exist, but we’re gonna still need officers. I feel running a military unit by committee and debate, Russian Revolution style, may not be the best idea in the world when it comes to modern warfare – especially when the bombs and the shells start falling.
Special Operations Forces
These guys are supposed to be masters of their craft in unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and so on. Instead, the only thing they appear to be masters of is what we like to call in the biz: having a normal one.
And boy do current and former special operators ever have a normal one. Whether its spousal abuse, drug smuggling, attempting to carry out poorly planned coups in foreign countries, committing horrific war crimes in foreign countries – and then getting Presidential protection for it from Trump because he thought it should be more horrific, or just shooting up random civilians at bowling alleys here at home, nobody really compares in the skill of having a normal one like US SOF community. Really setting that bar high there, folks.
It’s always been hilarious to me that these guys are supposed to be elite badasses who supposedly make their enemies tremble in their boots and are just doing so much winning all the time – just constant winning. Yet, the wars in which they have been at the forefront of since they started, rage on with no real end in sight with them having accomplished virtually nothing except rack up the body count for all involved. If that isn’t a damming indictment of them being pretty much worthless in their current form, I really don’t know what is.
I say, shut it all down, send them all off to their second careers as Instagram influencers, and let’s go back to the drawing board. It’d give us a great chance to re-examine some concepts about SOF that we previously took for granted. Do we really need special operations force (or two, or three) for every branch of the military? Probably not. Should they be able to operate with the level of impunity and lack of accountability they do now? Absolutely not. Do we really need as many of them as the whole SOF enterprise has bloated to? Also probably not. Should they be going off and getting involved in endless forever wars of dubious legality or necessity? Absolutely not.
I say we start over, slim down, and go back to training SOF to blow up bridges to slow down authoritarian states that are invading their neighbors, or training rebel guerillas to fight back against an authoritarian foreign occupier, o rescuing hostages – stuff of that nature. Not just walking around the Middle East in Gucci gear committing war crimes and then coming back home and starting a racist coffee and/or military themed apparel company.
The Central Intelligence Agency
Do I really need to justify this one?
If you know anything about the CIA you should know it’s beyond saving at this point. I could list you a litany of their misdoings both at home and abroad. Literal books upon books have been written about it, and I could fill this entire article with hyperlinks to articles, documentaries, and much more describing it all. Countless stories of scandals and misconduct, such as torture, coups, assassinations and drone strikes, support of horrific violent groups and governments, and what have you – ever since its founding.
How do we solve this? Simple. Tell everyone at Langley their services are no longer required, have them pack up a cardboard box, and then literally set that cursed place on fire and let it burn until all the bad spirits have been released. Then bulldoze over the remains and, I dunno – turn it into a pet cemetery or something. Or just pour cement over it like it was a toxic waste dump.
Now, this leads to another question: do we need an intelligence capability? Well, some leftists may not be happy with this answer because the CIA has conceptually poisoned the well for them so thoroughly on this topic, but in my opinion: yes. When pull a Henry Stimson and decide that “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail,” you’re not doing yourself any favors but you’re giving plenty to anyone and everyone who wishes to do you harm. I’ll save that discussion for an essay of its own, but while I still think we need intelligence gathering and analytical capability, I don’t think the CIA is the answer by any means. We need to start over with a new culture, new people, new methodology, and new ideology guiding it all – among many other new things.
Defense contractors have to be some of my favorite punching bags in the national security field. And why shouldn’t they be? They just make it so goddamn easy. Its all so justified. They’re either at best amoral, or at worst bordering on Dr. Evil levels of supervillainy with the role they play in fueling conflict.
But its not just the evil that makes me want to get rid of them. It’s the fact that they can’t even do their goddamn jobs right while being evil. I read defense and national security news and analysis pretty much every, and you’d be hard pressed to go more than a couple days without seeing some story about a major defense procurement program that has run into issues that will delay and almost certainly drive up the cost of the end product – if the program isn’t cancelled before you even get to production. Hell, for a while last week, we were getting at least one of these a day.
This is not new by any stretch of the phenomenon. The decades following the end of the Cold War are littered with dozens of failed acquisitions efforts that wasted billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars only to end in little to nothing to show for it. Efforts to build new amphibious armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery, stealth scout helicopters, airborne laser systems (you see now I wasn’t joking with the Dr. Evil comparison), or comprehensive plans to entirely transform the Army have all ended in failure – but not without running up hefty price tags first.
Even the programs that do get through and do get fielded often do so plagued with problems. Take the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter for instance – the world’s most expensive weapons system in history, which despite almost two decades of development and a trillion dollars or so in funding is still plagued with both hardware and software problems – so many issues that Defense News has an entire section of its website dedicated to them.. Or the KC-46 Pegasus tanker aircraft, which the Air Force itself has called a “lemon” and that I can only describe as the defense procurement version of Sideshow Bob constantly stepping on rakes. Oh and don’t even get me started on the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships – which someone wittier than I on twitter once aptly described as a “glorified jet ski”, which is once again having technical issues that are only the latest in a long line of problems and have led the Navy to halt deliveries.
I could go on and on with stories like this. We could also have a very detailed discussion or on why the defense industry can’t seem to do anything right since the end of the Cold War – don’t’ get me wrong, they sucked back then too, but they could least delivery a bit more regularly. We could have a debate on whether these failures and overall state of the defense industry is the result of incompetence, laziness, or willful malevolence and greed on the part of the defense contractors – my opinion is the answer is “all of the above” to varying degrees.
However, we’ll save all that for another time because it’s definitely a topic that deserves an essay of its own – or two, or three – to pack in all the detail. The main takeaway here is, is that whatever you call this disaster factory – whether its military industrial complex or defense industrial base – it’s not working. Its time for it to go.
Now I’ve built up a reputation of adding caveats at this point, so far be it from me to defy expectations at this point. Shocker: I believe we still need a capability to manufacture weapons and military equipment. However, I don’t think this should be something private sector corporations should be doing for profit. War is a racket, as Marine General Smedley Butler famously said – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
My answer? Nationalize them. All of them. Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, the whole lot. Nationalize them. Providing for the national defense shouldn’t be a money-making endeavor. It should be an obligation taken on by the state in order to defend its people – and that’s the key: the people. Not just protecting the institutions and certainly not just corporations and the wealthy and the elite. Competition for who gets to build what shouldn’t be about getting a paycheck, it should be for the pride of having done the best job providing the military with a tool that – while we hope we never have to use it – will be used under just circumstances to defend ourselves and others from unequivocal and clear aggression.
You want to make money? I dunno. Start a podcast with a Patreon (or an OnlyFans). But making the machines and material that are unfortunately necessary for the grim and permanently reality of armed conflict shouldn’t be where you go to become rich and powerful. Not on my watch.
That’s All Folks! (For now…)
I could go on for pages more with these – I haven’t even gotten to the National Guard yet (I bet that one might cause some interesting opinions). But I do try to keep those somewhat short and accessible, so your eyes don’t glaze over the first couple paragraphs in. I thank you for sticking with me this far in on this self-indulgent journey. I’ll be doing more of these in the future – not least because its fun (being the giant nerd that I am), but also because it gives you a bit of a preview of topics I’m planning to cover on their own in the future, as well as more of an idea of what I’m about with my own ideology and outlook.
This year may not have gotten off to the greatest start, but what were we expecting really? It can be hard not to get bummed out and black pilled somedays for sure – I struggle with it off and on. But at the end of the day, while I think things will probably get worse before they get better, I remain convinced that they can and will get better eventually. So, we might as well start planning for it now so we can get a running start when that day comes. Making a little click-bait style list gives us at least something to work off of once we get there, right?