Sunday, November 21, 2010

Of presidents, generals and recruiting ads

I watch a lot of football, so I see a lot of ads for the U.S. Army. Gotta keep recruiting for those endless wars ...

The USArmyMediaCenter puts these commercials online. I was curious enough to look up an ad that these worthies describe this way:

A brand new U.S. Army Officers career commercial showing you what it takes of becomeing [sic] and beign [sic] an officer in the United Staates Army.

I was surprised by the sloppy description, but that is an exact quote of their text.

What caught my eye was this shot from within the ad:

That's General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur heroically defended the Philippines during the Japanese invasion in 1942 and fulfilled his promise to fight his way back in 1944, later accepting the Japanese surrender in 1945 and overseeing the U.S. occupation of that defeated enemy.

MacArthur later led U.S. and U.N. troops in Korea in 1950-51 with considerably less success. After driving North Korean invaders back to near the Chinese border, his forces were surprised by and overrun when Chinese "volunteers" entered the war. The late David Halberstam vividly chronicled MacArthur's Korean stumbles in The Coldest Winter. Halberstam makes a strong case that MacArthur's miscalculations cost the lives of undertrained and poorly led U.S. troops. But it was MacArthur's political machinations when he tried to push President Truman into a wider war in mainland China that led to his replacement as commander.

Though MacArthur certainly served heroically, the trajectory of his service led in the end to conflict with civilian authority and a cautionary tale about how a lionized general can end up challenging the President who is his commander in chief.

Is such an arrogant and insubordinate leader who we want in an ad trying to attract officer candidates to the U.S. Army?

General David Petraeus also appears in this ad.

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