How Many Generals Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

The third time around, the Pentagon evidently wants to do it right -- truly right -- this time. What other explanation could there be for dispatching 12 generals to Iraq (one for every 416 American troops estimated to be on the ground in that country, according to Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast). And keep in mind that those 12 don't include the generals and admirals overseeing the air war, naval support, or other aspects of the campaign against the Islamic State from elsewhere in the Middle East or back in the U.S., nor do they include generals from allied forces like those of Australia and Great Britain also in Iraq. Youssef offers a "conservative" count of 21 "flag officers," including allies, now in that country to oversee the war there.

Among other things, they are undoubtedly responsible for ensuring the success of the major goal proclaimed by both Washington and Baghdad for 2016: an offensive to retake the country's second largest city, Mosul. Only weeks ago, it got off to a rousing start when the Iraqi army recaptured a few obscure villages on the road to that city. Soon after, however, the offensive reportedly ground to a dispiriting halt when parts of the American-retrained and rearmed Iraqi Army (which had collapsed in June 2014 in the face of far smaller numbers of far more determined Islamic State militants) began to crumble again, amid mass desertions.

In the meantime, in both Iraq and Syria, U.S. operations seem to be on an inexorable mission-creep upward, with ever more new troops and special ops types heading for those countries in a generally under-the-radar manner, assumedly with the objective of someday justifying the number of generals awaiting them there. Somewhere in a top-heavy Pentagon, there surely must be an office of déjà vu all over again, mustn't there? (And talking about déjà vu, last week the U.S. launched yet another air strike in Somalia, supposedly knocking off yet another leader of al-Shabab, the indigenous terror movement. If you could win a war by repeatedly knocking off the leaders of such movements, the U.S. would by now be the greatest victor in the history of warfare.)

Meanwhile in Afghanistan... but do I really have to tell you about the ground taken by the resurgent Taliban in the last year, the arrival of ISIS in that country, the halting (yet again) of withdrawal plans for U.S. forces almost 15 years into the second American war there, or other tales from the crypt of this country's never-ending wars? I think not. Even if you haven't read the latest news, you can guess, can't you?

And this, of course, is exactly the repetitive world of war (and failure) into which the young, especially in America's poorest high schools, are being recruited, even if they don't know it, via JROTC. It's a Pentagon-funded program that promises to pave the way for your future college education, give meaning to your life, and send you to exotic lands, while ensuring that the country's all-volunteer military never lacks for new troops to dispatch to old (verging on ancient) conflicts. As Ann Jones has written, "It should be no secret that the United States has the biggest, most efficiently organized, most effective system for recruiting child soldiers in the world. With uncharacteristic modesty, however, the Pentagon doesn't call it that. Its term is 'youth development program.'" So let's offer thanks for small favors when someone -- in this case, ex-Army Ranger Rory Fanning (author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger's Journey Out of the Military and Across America) -- feels the urge to do something about that massive, militarized propaganda effort in our schools. In my book, Fanning is the equivalent of any 12 of our generals and we need more like him both in those schools and in our country. His latest, "The Wars in Our Schools," is a must read.