Politicians play general, generals play politics (part 4)

Our discussion with Military.com columnist Jeff Huber, author of a new novel, Bathtub Admirals, continues.

How did you score a column on Military.com?

It was easy, to rob an expression from Inspector Clouseau. All I had to do was enlist. Milcom’s editor Ward Carroll and I were contemporaries. Ward was a Tomcat back-seater and no, before you ask, he’s not Buzz Rucci from Bathtub Admirals. I never met Ward while we were on active duty.

Some years back, Ward, who had already published his successful debut novel Punk’s War, heard I was working on a novel and called me out of the blue to encourage me to stay at it. Time passed. Ward had seen my blog and asked if I wanted to start submitting things for the Milcom editorial page. I said yes.

Things have worked out pretty well, I think. I still have to chuckle when I see my picture next to right wing yahooligans like Frank Gaffney and Ollie North, neither of whom I’d have a beer with if they were buying and I was broke.

Like yourself, as is apparent from military media like Military.com and Joint Force Quarterly, some officers differ with stated military and administration policy. When the likes of Bush and Cheney don’t even seem to have read “Foreign Policy for Dummies,” that would seem to encourage enlisted personnel, just like said officers, to question the motive for a war, as well as strategy, not to mention tactics. Once they’ve developed their own opinions, should they continue to follow orders with which they disagree?

Could I have an easier question, please? I honestly don’t have a good answer. If enlisted personnel don’t follow legal orders, the very fabric of military discipline unravels. It’s a bit different in the officer ranks — the officers’ oath doesn’t include that bit about obeying the commander in chief. But not that different. You work within the system as best you can, and at some point you decide you can live with it or you have to leave.

Across the top of your blog, Pen and Sword, is blazoned a quote by William Faulkner capable of stopping a web surfer dead in his or her tracks: “Men have been pacifists for every reason under the sun except to avoid danger and fighting.” Can you expand on what it means to you?

War is at best a necessary evil. Unnecessary wars are merely evil. Opposing an unnecessary war is an act of bravery. Supporting an unnecessary war is the worst kind of cowardice.

Speaking of unnecessary wars, Bathtub Admirals shows how you became disillusioned with the military. You seem to have gone through the same process with the administration’s policies. In fact, your admiration for left-leaning reporters like Gareth Porter and Larisa Alexandrovna, as well as cross-posting to Booman Tribune and Daily Kos, suggest you’re sympathetic to progressives.

Often, though, military people who become disillusioned with our nation’s foreign policies more often align themselves with libertarians. Is that how you would describe yourself and are you backing Bob Barr or Ron Paul in the presidential race?

Disillusionment is for people who are just start figuring out the truth about Santa Claus in their mid-thirties. If you haven’t realized by age eight or nine that the adults are all screwed up, you’re behind the power curve. Thanks probably to early life experiences and a youthful appreciation of satirists like Swift, Voltaire, and Twain, I’ve always known that just about everybody is full of it.

So no, I didn’t become disillusioned with the military, I just decided I’d filled my joy quota with them and it was time for a different kind of fun.

As to my political leanings: I wrote recently that Lord Acton did not say, “Power tends to corrupt Republicans.” There is no such thing as a centrist venue of ideas anymore, so if you’re critical of the Bush administration and its woebegone wars, you’re going to land in the progressive camp. The far right, as it has been throughout my lifetime, is a crowd of herding rodents, and not a very pleasant one.

No, I’m not “backing” Paul or Barr, and I’m not a Libertarian. Libertarians are Republicans who don’t like having the GOP hit them up for money. Neal Boortz is a Libertarian, for heaven’s sake. Shudder.

I’ll vote for Obama most likely, but I don’t expect him to be, as Gary Trudeau so aptly put it, the first black president since Kennedy. I’m sorry he caught so much flak over the things his pastor said, but like I always caution, that’s the kind of thing that happens when you go to church.

I guess that Wright character was pretty extreme, but I don’t see him as being any worse than say, Pat Robertson, or the Catholic Bishops who told their followers they’d go to hell if they voted for John Kerry. Wright’s a buffoon. Robertson is dangerous. Catholic bishops need to keep their hands out where I can see them.

I’m perfectly comfortable with Barak getting that three AM phone call. I don’t think any phone on earth could ring loud enough to wake up John McCain at that hour. Come to think of it, if McCain gets elected, the best thing he could do in any crisis is sleep through it.

We’ll conclude our discussion with Jeff Huber tomorrow.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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