"We had been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence, so many benefits brought by us to populations in need of our assistance and civilization. We were able to verify that this was true, and because it was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but whereas we over here are inspired by their frame of mind, I am told that in Rome factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment and vilify our action. I cannot believe that all this true, and yet recent wars have shown how pernicious such a state of mind could be and to where it could lead. Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we protect the glory of the Empire. If it should be otherwise, if we should leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain, then beware the anger of the legions."
From a letter supposedly written by one Marcus Flavinius, a centurion in the second cohort of the 2nd Augusta Legion serving overseas, to his cousin, Tertullus, in Rome, quoted in the Prologue of Jean Larteguy's novel, "The Centurions."
Perhaps there was such a letter, perhaps. It is odd that Marcus Flavinius did not have three names. I suspect that this is apocrypha. There is another such letter supposedly written from Dacia by another Roman soldier. In it, the writer complains that every time his unit learns how to perform its mission, the mission is changed or they are re-organized or whatever it is that fits the subject of the Army schools class in which it is quoted.
I am concerned that the legions and their commanders are becoming more politically active and resistent to civilian authority than is good for them or the country.
McChrystal's estimate is a case in point:
– This paper presents the president with only one option on a "take it or leave it" basis. I realize that Stanley M. is a subordinate theater commander and a full general but he is still the president's subordinate and he serves at the pleasure of the president/commander in chief. In all the Army schools that I attended (Infantry Officer Basic Course to the US Army War College), it was more or less customary to present the commander with several options in the way of "courses of action." If you do not do that then you are clearly seeking to limit the freedom of action of the commander. This is insubordinate in spirit.
– There is considerable log-rolling going on to bring Stanley and Dave back from their commands to Washington so that they can talk it up around town. When Petraeus testified before Congress on behalf of the AEI/Keene Iraq strategy he was justifying GW Bush's policy. That was bad enough in that it made him a player in the political process, but in this case the Republicans and the AEI crowd clearly want these two gentlemen back here so that they can be used to undercut the possibility of an independent policy decision by their constitutional civilian commander. The Republicans seem to have forgotten that the wheel of history is turning and that soon they will have a Republican president in the White House whose authority may be challenged on the basis of the precedent they seek.
– It has been blogged (not by me) that people on Stanley M's staff claim that he has the thought that he might ask to be relieved if not given what he wants. I do not know if that is true. If it is, and he follows through on that hoping for an "Old Soldiers never die…" moment, then he ought to be retired in his permanent grade.
– Andrea Mitchell reportedly said on Friday that one of the redacted secret parts of the Stanley M. estimate says that 500,000 troops will be needed in Afghanistan over the next five years to achieve success in a counterinsurgency campaign. That appears to means that some combination of US/NATO troops and Afghan troops amounting to half a million would be required. Does that mean that whatever portion of that half million is not supplied by the Afghans must be supplied by the US and NATO. Someone should ask Stanley M. what he expects will be the peak "in country" strength for US/NATO forces.
The legions and their commanders are not exactly angry yet, but they wll be. pl