Copyright by John T. Reed

On 6/5/08, Defense secretary Robert Gates fired the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force. He previously fired the Secretary of the Army.

The proximate causes were the Air Force pushing to buy piloted fighters for “the next war” instead of the drones that the military actually needs right now in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as mistakenly shipping ballistic missile fuses to Taiwan and mistakenly putting nuclear-tipped cruise missiels on a jet and not telling the ground crews or guarding them. The Army Secretary was previously fired for allowing Walter Reed Army Medical Center to turn into a disaster.

Gates also said that a substantial number of Air Force colonels and generals could face disciplinary measures as a result of the above screw-ups.

I love this. It reminds me of Abraham Lincoln. You remember him. He actually lead the nation’s military to victory in the Civil War—probably because he fired incompetent generals. Military Chief Marshall fired a lot of generals during World War II, also. And we won that war. Firing incompetent generals, who are numerous because of the lack of wars to test them, is a prerequisite to winning wars, but we have done too little of it in Vietnam and since.

Unfortunately, the number of generals that need to be fired far exceeds the number that are probably going to be fired. Plus, Gates himself is probably going to be fired by President Obama putting in a different, typical bureaucratic Secretary of Defense than Gates come January, 2009. How does a Commander in Chief who never himself wore so much as a Cub Scout uniform fire generals?

Three years
Fundamentally, our military needs to win our wars and do it in three years or less. The American people have never had the patience to wait longer for victory, even in the so-called “Good War,” World War II during the latter stages of which the American public was getting antsy. It lasted 3 1/2 years in Europe and 3 3/4 years in the Pacific.

We failed to win—in three years or less—the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and now the Iraq and Afghan wars. The generals need to either figure out how to do it or admit they can’t. But they keep saying “can do” when they can’t. The result is thousands of U.S. servicemen killed with little to show for their lives or for the hundreds of billions spent and, until Gates at least, a bunch of career military officers getting promoted in sipte of not doing their most basic job: winning our wars.

No more ’fighter mafia’
In addition to firing the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gates nominated to replace the Chief of Staff (highest raking officer in the Air Force) with a cargo plane pilot. In the entire history of the Air Force, no one but former fighter pilots has ever been Chief of Staff. Within the Air Force, fighter pilots are known as the “Fighter mafia.” Gates said he was looking for an Air Force chief who did not come with a fighter pilots call sign nickname. The Chief of Staff he fired was T. Michael “Buzz” Mosely.

A fighter is a plane that shoots down enemy planes. If you have been following the Iraq and Afghan wars, you may be wondering, “What enemy planes?” You could ask the same question about Somalia, Lebanon, Vietnam, and the latter portion of the Korean War. But the fighter mafia cares not about such things. Indeed, their priority before the firings was to get a new generation of even better fighter planes so as to better shoot down the enemy planes in the next war.

Even though I was in the Army and not involved with Army aviation (helicopters and small fixed-wing planes) except as a passenger in Vietnam, I was well aware of the high opinion fighter pilots had of themselves in not only the Air Force but also the Navy and Marines. I had already complained in other articles about the military at this Web site that the Navy and Marines should not have their own air force, that the demonstrations of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds constituted overly dangerous showing off, and that the fighter pilots had an extremely illogical notion that their training in flying small jets somewhow made them God’s gift to women. The latter became visible to the pubblic in such media stories as the Tailhook incident and movies like Top Gun and Officer and a Gentleman.

My other article that mentions fighter pilots is U.S. military personnel who died to impress V.I.P.s.

Will a new President McCain continue Secretary of Defense Gates’ efforts to end the “Fighter Mafia” control of the military? I suspect not. McCain is a member of the “Fighter Mafia” and of the Tailhook Association.