By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Not our commander in chief

Garry Wills has written a brilliant essay on the militarization of American society in general, and of the presidency, especially George W. Bush’s, in particular. No summary or excerpt will do it justice, so no quotes here. Just read it.

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  1. Danny L. McDaniel

    Americans don’t build TV set any longer; we don’t produce more steel than any country on the face of the planet; we don’t even build the best cars any more. Americans used to be the best craftsman on earth but no longer. The only thing we can do are military operations and the one in Iraq doesn’t look that good either. That is how we define ourselves in the world today: military prowess.American used to be proud of what we did and what we produced. I am afraid that after this war is over will say to ourselves “what happened to the rest of the world while we were gone?”When major university in the US have graduate courses on Industrial Archelogy, you know that the US has changed and not for the better!Danny L. McDanielLafayette, Indiana

  2. Tony

    “we don’t even build the best cars any more.”Actually, Americans do still build the best cars. More Hondas and Toyotas which are sold in America are made in America, by Americans. More of my Honda CRV was made here than not. Same for my Civic before it. Just because they’ve been historically Japanese companies, with Japanese management, doesn’t mean “we” don’t build them. 🙂

  3. John Galt

    Enter RWR: “Facts are stupid things;” the Laffer Curve, add virtual reality and the good old USA went to sleep.

  4. o-fish-l

    Far from being “brilliant,” Gary Wills’ NYT piece fails on its face:Wills: “We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of (M)arines.” “That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one.”o-fish-l: Wills somehow forgot that the only memorable non-Obama moment from the 2004 Democrat convention was this gem from the man who dreamed of being President. (Hand salute, while wearing civilian garb) “I’m John Kerry, reporting for duty.” Why not even a passing mention of this?———————Wills: “We used to take pride in civilian leadership of the military under the Constitution…”o-fish-l: We still do. 1992-When choosing between a real war hero, George H.W. Bush and a civilian draft-dodger, Bill Clinton, the country chose the civilian.1996-When choosing between a real war hero, Bob Dole and a civilian draft-dodger, Mr. Clinton, the country choose the civilian.2000-When choosing between an Army veteran who had actually been in theatre in Vietnam, Al Gore, and an Air National Guardsman who had served stateside, George W. Bush, the country rejected the veteran of foreign wars.2004-When choosing between a candidate who accentuated his combat veteran status and “heroics” at every possible moment, John Kerry, and one who downplayed his stateside National Guard Service, Mr. Bush, the country rejected the “war hero.”If Wills is bothered by the trappings of the Presidency, “Hail to the Chief” et al, perhaps he should argue that point. Otherwise the piece is picayune.

  5. Danny L. McDaniel

    o-fish-l, congrats you hit it out of the ballpark!

  6. mike_b1

    The US still builds an impressive array of products, just not the conventional ones we used to.So yes, textiles, electronics, and many other products have gone offshore. But one need look only as far as 495 to realize that nanotechnology is the next big thing, and it takes extraordinarily (for now) precise equipment and controlled environments — and the US is ground zero for manufacturing what will a world-changing technology.

  7. Anonymous

    Mike_b1 is almost correct. But nano-technology is the buzzword technology that came and went before it ever existed. Nano-technology isn’t a technology at all, it is merely a matter of scale.One of the problems that Americans are going to have to deal with is the following. (I have noticed this first hand). Engineers are employed by companies headquarted in the US (although the companies may be owned by shareholders around the world). The engineers in the US develop designs for products. The products are manufactured in Taiwan, Singapore, Malasia, or wherever. The products are sold in Europe and the middle east, and the profits are re-patrioted to a holding company in Cancun. Who benefits? Well obviously, the engineers in Cambridge do, as long as the companies determine that they will pay the engineers in Cambridge, instead of the engineering grads in India. As far as I can tell, it’s an intractible problem.Note (to Mike and others): via globalization and the internet, some medical companies are sending X-ray images off-shore to be read and interpreted by Indian radiologoists. I’m sure that the Indian radiologists are quite capable, but it has been reported that they are not bound by the confidentiality requirements of American radiologists. And that they have threatened to release information that would be considered confidential in the US if certain demands are not met. Would you really want that sort of thing to occur, via, “globalization”?–raj

  8. mike_b1

    Raj, sorry but what you are describing applies to many types of manufacturing, but certainly not all.Nanotech, while by definition is simply building things at the molecular scale, is most assuredly a technology on the rise. Nanotech products range from highly sensitive electronics devices to such mundane objects as jeans. (Own a pair of stainproof pants, say, Dockers? That’s nanotech.) Golf balls and clubs, clothing/footwear, disenfectants/chemicals, medicines/balms, bicycle frames, solder pastes and adhesives … the list goes on.With all due respect, raj, those who say it “went” simply aren’t aware of its widespread use.Insofar as your globalization concerns, well I don’t know that Cancun (which is part of Mexico) is much of a tax haven, but Bermuda and the Cayman Islands have their advantages. But that’s an entirely different discussion, and companies that make their profits not from manufacturing but from services would have the same incentives to base their headquarters offshore. Even inside the U.S., companies incorporate in Delaware or “relocate” to South Dakota to take advantage of various business-friendly laws, low taxes, or both.

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