January 8, 1993

Operation Restored Hope

General MacArthur is going to deliver the keynote address. He didn't come by plane; he didn't come by train --he waded in off of Lake Michigan.

Bob Hope at a Republican convention(as I remember it)

I think that sending the marines into Somalia is a good idea. I approve of it for three reasons: First, the U.N. forces can't seem to do much more than stand around in their blue hats; second, it's the right and humane thing to do; and third, our country is half to blame for the situation existing in the first place. The other culprit is the now defunct Soviet Union. Since we have the biggest peacetime military machine that the world has ever seen, we might as well do some good with it.

The marines landed their forces as if they were about to confront a large army. They really don't know how to do it any other way. Waiting to meet the invading troops weren't soldiers, or even bandits, but TV cameramen. Apparently someone had neglected to inform the press that there was a war on. Nor did anyone declare it a war zone, thus requiring permission for a cameraman to enter.

Relief workers have been in Somalia for some time without casualties. How did the TV people get there? They just flew in. How did they manage to do it without frogmen, camouflage and hovercraft? It was a miracle of the walking on water magnitude, that they weren't all annihilated, and their cameras destroyed.

That same day, valiant marines made the grueling climb up the steps of the abandoned American Embassy to raise the stars and stripes. It was rumored that four marines all hoisted the flag at the same time.

Unlike the retired generals who populate the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, the modern working military can't seem to do much of anything without fanfare. Military men usually appear in public in their full regalia, and the higher the rank the fancier the decorations. It's almost as impressive as the Russian generals, who wear complete medals. Obviously an older Russian general couldn't wear them all so every morning it's

"Olga, which medals should I wear today?"

"I think that the Battle of the Lower Volga Drainage Ditch would go well with the Defense of Stalingrad medal."

Our clever generals don't have to make those difficult choices. Using ribbons instead of medals, they can wear them all. Of course if we keep having these skirmishes, an older general might have ribbons down to his knees.

I have a friend who keeps me posted about the activities of the Uniform Fashions branch of The Pentagon. They are working on a narrow ribbon that will enable an officer to wear twice as many ribbons in the same space. They are also debating the relative merits of this plan versus a plan to remove the right breast pocket from the uniform, thus enabling an officer to wear ribbons on both breasts. I learned in the Army that pockets in a dress uniform weren't supposed to be filled with anything larger than a handkerchief. One proposal was to have a motorized carrousel-type hat that would display all of the ribbons while it rotated. I can't give you more details, because the entire operation is top secret.

As I look back at the history of the military, I am impressed by the fact that it can't be any other way. Psychological warfare is very old. It wasn't enough for people to just fight each other with spears and stones. Obviously an enemy would be more afraid of someone who was painted in many colors; hence war paint. Now we have camouflage face makeup.

Europeans were very ingenious, and they developed armor which was functional, decorative, and also tended to convince their opponents that they were invincible. The WWI Germans had a helmet that had a short spear at the top so that, as a last resort, a soldier could lower his head and charge like a bull. This was done with the same strategic planning as in a football game, hence the expression "bull-shift."

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