Marvin Goes to War

I was on my feet cheering last night after we finally started bombing the hell out of the Islamic State in Levant (at least a corner of the Caliphate Empire). It filled me with awe seeing the pictures of the first 47 Tomahawk missiles fired from U.S. Navy ships, although I couldn’t be sure they weren’t reruns of footage from Gulf War I and Gulf War II epics.

As thrilling as the start of what John Berman on CNN kept telling me the next morning was “a new war,” I felt a little degraded and dismayed.

Our leading Republican Party thinkers had been telling us for months that the president was a wuss on the Middle East, a 97 lb. weakling who didn’t mind getting sand in his face. As a Republican strategist told John Berman, the president went from no strategy, to half-baked, to what now seemed like a comprehensive strategy for a long-term military operation.

Soon my party would be referring to the president as Obama the mad bomber.

What to make of all of this?

Well, maybe he wasn’t that clueless.

Not only was their awe in my house at the fireworks in the Levant, there was the shock that we finally had so–called Arab partners in what was shaping up to be a coalition of the unwilling. During the opening salvos Monday night, our partners were not being identified by name, simply referred to as “partners.” It was like a Grand Jury indictment identifying alleged perpetrators by number.

What were they afraid of, I kept thinking? Making ISIL mad? Would the use of a pseudonym protect its citizens from not being read their Miranda Rights before their heads were cut off by Caliphate thought police? One would think alleged participation in the first bombings would satisfy those who questioned their manhood in a noble cause.

The masking of the partners Monday night reminded Jim Miklaszewski, the NBC Pentagon correspondent, of kabuki dancers.

By Tuesday morning the secret was out: Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and the Saudis were the alleged partners.

The attack of the analysts began the day after. By Tuesday morning, the cable news network had rounded up the usual suspects, ex-generals, ex-diplomats, ex-administration officials, terrorist specialists, the best consultants from the think tanks money could buy, some who had been in their stables since the end of Gulf War II, chewing their cud, reflecting on what to repeat.

All seemed to agree this war is a little more modest than earlier Gulf Wars. Remember the half million ground troops assembled to bring democracy to Kuwait?

Crack veteran analyst, Wolf Blitzkrieg on CNN went out on a limb: ‘I suspect it will escalate.”

During the escalation, Pentagonese will become a second language. “BDA,” for example, means “Before Damage Assessment”—when we learn smart bombs aren’t all that smart. Weapons are called “platforms.” The number of platforms involved in the first 150 or so attacks was enough to make them dance in the aisles of military industrial complex headquarters, concerned about platforms in danger of passing their use-by date.

My favorite platform in the opening day of our newest war was the Raptor, which finally got to show us its muscle. The famous F-22 fighter-bomber flies the highest and fastest and 15 miles away from target can release bombs that will hit a malaria-bearing mosquito on the nose. Analysts explained the F-22’s costs $67 billion, for the already built 188 that had been in danger of becoming obsolescent through non-use.

Also in battle was the F-35, Lockheed Martin’s contribution to western civilization. As a fiscal minded Republican, I have kept my eye on the F-35 program, which is said to have cost $400 billion for 2,400. I’m sure I’m not giving away any military secrets (it was in the New York Times) but at last count the Defense Department had grounded nearly 100 of the jets delivered to date, after the engine of one of them ignited on June 23, the latest in a series of technical and production defects that have caused lengthy delays and nearly doubled the projected costs of the programs. Off we went into the wild blue yonder!

Whatever the platforms, I am glad our partners are apparently willing to spend the money for the gas to fly these magic platforms for the worthy cause of making the Arabian Peninsula safe for autocratic regimes that treat women like camel dung and cut off hands for cheating on expense accounts and bribing military contractors, or whatever other laws we don’t quite understand in western democracies who have gone to war in their behalf once again.


Marvin Kitman
Sept. 23, 2014

Marvin Kitman was the media critic at Newsday. His column, “The Marvin Kitman Show,” began on Dec. 7, 1969, a day that still lives in infamy, according to network executives. On April 1, 2005, he stepped down from his position of power. As he explained, “Newsday gave me a tryout, and after 35 years we decided it wasn’t working out.” He is the author of nine books.