President T.R. Roosevelt is quoted as having said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Don’t you just love those easy clever witticisms? Bumper sticker diplomacy at its finest. Wit is not the same as wisdom. Clever is not the same as wisdom. Wisdom speaks softly and carries a big stick – and carries the judgment to know when to use what. President elect Donal Trump is stacking his cabinet and administration with military leaders – Generals – big stick fellas we might presume. But I don’t think so.
The United States Military is the largest organization ever imagined on the face of humanity. They run more golf courses than Donald Trump. Check it out. My son was a Navy man. He graduated from boot camp about twenty some years ago – I don’t remember exactly. But I do remember the graduation ceremony at Great Lakes Navy Base. The military does big things in a big way. I arrived at the ceremony building and was told specifically which seat among 5,000 was mine. Odd, I thought, bothering with reserving a seat for me. The ceremony began and the brass band marched in playing Anchors Away with the Flag Corp following the prearranged ceremony of fifty state flags. Quite impressive. Then the graduates came marching in. Nine hundred of them. The marched in front of us, stopped and turned to face us. My son was standing directly in front of me. Are you impressed yet? The Navy graduates 900 every Friday at Great Lakes. Wait until we get to the part about the military taking charge in New Orleans after Katrina. FEMA get out of the way – the General is taking over.
Our efforts were failing in Iraq in the early years. Rebels and insurgents gained round and popularity. Army General David Patraeus stepped up with a plan. It was not rocket science. Swing that big stick – but follow it quickly, or simultaneously, with soft speech. These are lessons learned from WWI and WWII – and every other nonsensical war waged by humans.
The Big Stick does not win by itself. Speaking softly does not win by itself. The largest organization of any type at any time in history is run by some very sophisticated “Generals”. We are not talking Gomer Pyle or even his Sargent. We are talking about people with advanced degrees in the arts and sciences.
I am one with great faith in our Generals to be better politicians than Donald Trump ever imagined being. The modern American military is very sophisticated. Modern Generals understand victory is a way that likely escapes the intellectual breadth of Donald Trump. Victory is not achieved with 19th century military tactics – victory is very considerate of post military triumph.
Diplomacy in a delicate global economy is precarious when some governments do not buy the plan. There are despots and dictators and totalitarian leaders around the world that do not respect soft speech. Neither do they respect idle threats. And there is the catch. These leaders do not respect the lives of their own citizens. Some of other people carry their own big sticks. Their stick is not as big as our stick – but it sure hurts when they smack you on the shin bone.
There are military leaders who only understand military tactics. There are military leaders who resent civilian rule. There are military leaders who hold diplomacy in contempt. Some of those people get close to the top on shear intellect and ego. But the military people who do not see the bigger picture of the carrot along with the stick seldom reach the top in the United State Military.
Watching Trump select from the ranks of the military is a fascinating spectator sport. Trump is in for an awakening.