Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, is a retired military strategist and author of the 1998 report “The Defense Death Spiral,” who served in the U.S. Air Force before becoming a high-profile critic of the Defense Department’s weapons acquisition process and overall strategy. In this episode, Chuck explains why it is “ridiculous” to blame the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan on President Biden, how the war on terror has been used to justify ever-larger defense budgets, his recollections of the military strategists Pierre Sprey and John Boyd, and how the ongoing growth of the “military-industrial-Congressional-complex” is undermining American democracy.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today we’re going to have a big dose of politics. And in particular, the politics of the US military. My friend, I’m proud to introduce is Chuck Spinney. He is a longtime observer of the Pentagon, former Pentagon worker, he is the author of the defense, death spiral and numerous other works. criticizing the Pentagon and its acquisitions, process checks, many Welcome to the power hungry podcast. Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here. So Chuck, we’ve known each other for some time. But I’ve warned you that I’m gonna have you introduce yourself. So if you don’t mind, please imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone. You have about 45 seconds. And they say, well, who are you? So who are you?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 0:53
I basically work in the Pentagon my entire almost my entire career I, I joined the Air Force in 1967, after graduating from engineering school, worked in the laboratory for about three to four years, and then got assigned to the Pentagon. First as an Air Force officer, I resigned and he from the Air Force in 1975, and took a civilian job in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, basically, as an engineer and Operations Research Analyst doing special studies, and I took that job in 1977. And I stayed there until I retired in 2003.
Robert Bryce 1:38
Right, good. Well, thank you. Well, I’m going to add just a little bit to that, because we’re going to talk about Afghanistan today and about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. But you were also just to fill out your resume here. You gave a quick rundown. But you were on the cover of Time magazine on March 7 1983. After you exposed the problems, the myriad problems with the D o DS, budget and acquisition process processes. You testified before the United States Senate Budget Committee on defense in 1983. You were born on Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1945. Your dad was a colonel he served in the Air Force served 33 years in the Pentagon, it’s fair to say I think that your life’s pretty well been defined by the military. Is that fair?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 2:21
Ah, probably you’re probably right. I grew up in the 50s. And in military family, and, and of course, the 50s were the glory days after World War Two. And I sort of grew up in that culture. And also was a if you go back then there was a heyday of scientific culture in the United States, the space race and all that stuff. And I had, so I had an education in science and engineering. And, and I sort of grew up, you know, reading the the lore of World War Two, which was, of course, quite distorted, and from an American perspective to two young people in the 1950s.
Robert Bryce 3:04
Sure. So we talked, the reason I’m having you on this on the podcast is we talked a week or so ago, and we talked about Afghanistan. And, and given your, you know, now 50, some odd years or more of history in the military and active duty then at the Pentagon. You said that? Well, I’ll ask this question directly. Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires. Is this withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan? Is this the end of the American Empire? And if so, what replaces it?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 3:36
Well, I’m not sure it’s the end of the American Empire, because people aren’t willing to acknowledge what what happens that the failure in Afghanistan was predictable. In fact, I wrote a paper in in 2010, saying that Obama’s surge was going to end up in a failure and gave reason why and the basic reason why was they did not account for proper training of the Afghan military just like we did in Vietnam. We didn’t account for the training in the Vietnamese military. We had this theory of winning our hearts and minds and throwing aid into the country like we did in Vietnam. And of course, that unleashed the dogs of corruption. And if you look at if you look at the outcome, the outcome, in many ways was worse than Vietnam. I mean, the government, the government didn’t last until we laughed, it actually collapsed before we left Afghanistan. It lasted a while in Vietnam. And, in comparison, if you look at the Russian experience in Afghanistan, their government that they put in place, sort of their puppet government. It lasted three years before it collapsed. After it lasted three years after the Russians left. Ours collapsed before we as we were leaving basically or before we left
Robert Bryce 5:01
So is this more ignominious? Is this worse than the withdrawal from Afghanistan is this? What does this say about the American military? And how does it compare to you mentioned Vietnam? How does it compare to Vietnam, then?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 5:14
I think it I think in many ways, it’s worse. So the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese war was a much larger war, we had a much greater operational intensity in Vietnam, it just in terms of troops deployed days, troop days in combat, airplanes, sorties flown, bombs dropped, you name it, everything, Vietnam was far, far larger than Afghanistan, although Afghanistan ended up costing more than Vietnam, which is an interesting thing in itself and gets to one of the root causes of the military reform movement in the 1970s, which was that the cost of weapons was just increasing faster than budgets, and it could not be it was not sustainable. And that was one reason why we lost in Vietnam. And it was an indirect reason was that we had become too wedded to the weapons technology and had sort of, I guess, I guess, you know, the military art was essentially sacrificed on the altar of high tech weapons. And that, of course, just got rewarded after Vietnam, particularly during the reagan spending spree in in the 1980s. And thereafter, and if you look at today’s budget has been rewarded once again. And the outcome is the same. We’ve basically been defeated by a, by our standards, what would be called a very, very primitive force. I’m not implying they were primitive as as fighters. They weren’t. They knew what they were doing. But from our standards, from what we say, wins wars, they were extremely primitive. And we’ve had our second defeat now, our second over defeat. In fact, if you go back and look at our adventures, they haven’t been at six our other adventures, they weren’t that successful, either.
Robert Bryce 7:05
Well, let me hit on that. Because, you know, we’ve, we’ve known each other for, gosh, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years, I think, and this has been a consistent thing, theme of yours in the military reform movement. I guess that would be the other way. We were talking before we started recording about how you’d be identified. And I would say one of the one of the key players in the military reform movement that that came through the Pentagon in the 70s and 80s. And, and and i think that’s pretty well been extinguished. Now. Is there any military reform movement in active inside the Pentagon? Or in the, in the branches of the US military now?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 7:40
No, I don’t think so. If there is there, they’re certainly not organized to the extent that we were organized in the 1970s and 80s. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, in the end, in the end, when there was real momentum to for productive change. And in the starting in the early 70s, there were a lot of lot of mid level officers who came out of Vietnam, particularly in the Marine Corps, and, and there were some in the army as well. Not so many in the Navy or Air Force. But it basically said, Hey, we didn’t do very well, we got to learn how to do things better. And, and rather than blaming it on the American people, as the as the brass, we’re trying to do, you know, losing public support and whatnot, and that we won every battle. But you know, that, therefore, we didn’t lose the war, even though we lost the war. These guys said, we didn’t do what we came there to do. And we need to learn how to do things better. And out of that emerged, the military reform movement. And it wasn’t a premeditated organizational thing. It just sort of came together all along, what we would, in retrospect identify this three vectors. Basically the people vector the ideas factor, and, and the technology economic factor. And, and there were problems in each one of those factors. The the soldiers, and Marines who were sort of spearheading the changes, then tactics and doctrine. They were they initially were at the forefront of of the effort because they were, they were talking about how we actually go about doing our job. And if you think about it, people are the most important thing, because people are the ones who fight the wars.
Robert Bryce 9:41
The second thing I want to talk about john Boyd later but yeah, that was one of his points that he kept saying over and over and over again,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 9:47
people first ideas second and technology and hardware. Third, and and that sort of emerged out of this effort. Naturally, and So you saw general cola coalescence during the 1970s. And we acquired quite a following in the press and and over on Capitol Hill. In fact, there was a military reform caucus formed in the Senate and that was Senate and House members in Congress that had at one point over 150 members from the far left to the far right I mean, Dick Cheney, Representative dick cheney at that time, right congressmen have been very conservative Congressman, was a member of the caucus newt gingrich and even more conservative politician was a member as was barbara boxer.
Robert Bryce 10:38
Enter and Charles Grassley from Iowa
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 10:40
Well, in Grassley from Iowa who is very conservative, but barbara boxer who is an extreme liberal from California, right from San Francisco. I believe. She was a member then and there were a Gary Hart was a member. Sam Nunn was a member, you know, who is sort of this military.
Robert Bryce 11:00
Let me jump back to Afghanistan, because I want to hit on one point we talked when we talked on the phone the other day. I was just looking at the Wall Street Journal and there was a peggy noonan had a column saying this this she called it the Afghan fiasco, we’ll we’ll dog or we’ll come back to bite Biden and you said something to the effect of this withdrawal wasn’t Biden’s fault. And even though it you know, they’re gonna say, Well, this is gonna be the thing it appears that the conservatives on even on Fox News, oh, how terrible This was in the withdrawal. And we look terrible. And you know, Biden in this and Biden, It’s all his fault. Why? Explain why was this wire? Why wasn’t it Biden’s fault? And why is so everyone? Why are so many conservatives eager to pin it on him?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 11:45
Well, that’s the fact that they deserve his or your opinion on them. It’s it’s illustrates a very fundamental problem in defense. It is so politicized at this point, that it is more an issue of domestic politics than has anything to do with military effectiveness. As far as Biden being blamed for the fact fiasco of the retreat, it’s absolutely ridiculous to blame him. First of all, if you look at the people that he appointed to be in charge of the, of the withdraw, he’s only been in office since January 24 28. Something like that same back office in a year is he’s got a lot of things on the plate, obviously. He’s got a secretary of defense who’s a retired four star General, who was prior to this was commander of CENTCOM, the very command that was in charge of Afghanistan. I mean, on paper, if you look at the military people he had in place, he had the most qualified Secretary of Defense, on paper, theoretically. In terms of experience in the area, since George Marshall was Secretary of Defense under Truman, I mean, it’s, you know, to blame this on Biden, when you got these people as intermediaries. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. And and particularly since Biden, since Biden’s only been in office for what, eight months. Now? I don’t know how many felt right. Not eight months. Right. You know, and it’s just, it’s silly. I think there’s a more fundamental thing here going on. And what’s that? Basically, if you go back to the 1980s, Reagan comes to office saying, you know, Vietnam was a noble cause we didn’t lose the war, basically implying that it was withdrawn public support for the war, we’re gonna throw money at the Pentagon reinforce everything the Pentagon did, and and things will get better when they didn’t get better. And and in fact, when reagan left office, that military force was roughly the same size as it was under Carter with a few exceptions. Equipment wise, the average age of equipment was older than it was when Carter arrived, even though Reagan spent far more than car and and of course, they blamed everything on Carter, which is a good example of this kind of stuff that Peggy Noonan’s doing now in the Wall Street Journal. The Fed is a Carter was the cause of the problems that reagan came to solve. Actually, Nixon was the one who caused the readiness problems Carter inherited the first meeting I attended in the Pentagon, which was in December or 1972, or January 1973. As a junior Junior captain, I was 27 years old, was a meeting chaired by colonels I was the only non Colonel what the meeting and I was representing the off the Secretary, the deputy chief of staff’s office for research and development. And basically the reason they send such a low ranking guy there was they didn’t give a crap about what the meeting subject was, you know, so they send out the most junior guy in the whole organization. So I’m sitting at a table with all these old colonels who they were in their 40s probably doesn’t look that old in them, but it looked old in your eye and and
the colonel who’s in charge, the thing says, with this short, sort of dumpy guy with big, bad cigar in his mouth, and a lot of ribbons and stuff, any smoking and Puffin, and he says, we got ordered from the White House, he says, we’re going to reduce readiness, we’re leaving Vietnam. And by God, that’s what we’re going to do. And that’s what this meeting is about. And they start they started making budget decisions or setting the policy for the budget decisions. At that meeting, to cut through got readiness, and it basically gained momentum. Carter inherited the mess. I mean, it takes time for this stuff to build up. And and you just you’ve got readiness in the near term. You got a lot of train pilots, you got a lot of trained infantry man, you’re coming out of a war, you got a lot of spare parts, takes time to draw that down. What what they were doing was they weren’t spending money on it. And eventually, you know, you had what they call what Reagan used to call the hollow military. And that’s what he ran on. And the end, the end, Republicans blamed Carter for the hollow military. Then they come in, and they threw money at the Pentagon. And it turned out like if you look at fighter production, which we have are really good records on the actual production rates and Reagan Administration were lower in terms of new fighters than they were during the Carter administration, when Carter was supposedly wreck in the military. And that’s because, in fact an interrupt let me let me finish my pointer. Yeah, of course. And that’s because basically, what the contractors were doing is they were, they were basically jacking up their costs, and the Pentagon was paying for it. So the cost went through the roof. And they went up faster than the budgets, even Reagan’s budgets. And so production rates went down Baron sample. And that’s why by, by the time we entered the Gulf War in 19, what was it first Gulf War was at 91. Right, late 91. The average age of a fighter in the Air Force and the Navy and the Marine Corps was older than it was in 1980. when reagan came to office. Well, it seems to me as you’re saying was true was ships and other things anyway,
Robert Bryce 17:35
you know, what is your going on here? It just seems to me that, and I want to ask about, I’ll just put a placeholder here. Have we learned anything since Vietnam? But before I get to before you get to that? people, people ideas, and then technology, it seems that that whole even since Vietnam, that whole that that those three words, those three priorities have been flipped on its head. So we’re technology is always the first one. Right? Right, in our wars, or F 35. Airplanes or high tech, this high tech mat, it’s that the Pentagon has been so wedded to, as you call it, the military industrial congressional complex to more technology, more technology, more technology and putting people at the end, where it seems like in, in Afghanistan, and in Vietnam, it was the people on the other side and their dedication to the cause that ultimately won the one them the war. And on our side, we may have had dedicated people, but they you know, that wasn’t the that wasn’t the priority. It was Am I am I missing something? Or is no,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 18:36
you got it? Pretty much. Exactly right. And and the only thing I would add to that is we were saying we got to flip our priorities in the 70s. put people first idea second, and technology and economics, you know, in a supporting role, or third, in third. That was what was driving people nuts. And because it basically was a frontal assault on the military industrial congressional complex his priorities that had been in place since Eisenhower’s administration or maybe earlier. In fact, in fact, I would say I would argue that they weren’t at least in place since the Truman administration. If you look at the Korean War, appropriations, it was definitely technology first. And then people people were last. The soldiers, the soldiers in Korea, were not getting there’s new stuff that was bought with the huge Korean War appropriations, it was basically to build nuclear weapons and Strategic Air Command and whatnot. So it really started then continued through the 50s. Eisenhower wrung his hands at it in the in his farewell address where he coined the term military industrial complex. By the way, I had a very close friend. His name was Lars Eric Nelson. He used to write for the New York Daily News of all places, but he wasn’t very intellectual guy. And he was researching in the archives in the 1990s. He died several years ago, unfortunately, he was researching in the archives in the 1990s. And I got a call from him. And he said, he said, I found an early draft of Eisenhower’s speech. And they use the term military industrial congressional complex. For some reason, it got taken out of the final speech. independently, Susan Eisenhower, Eisenhower’s granddaughter made a statement to Winslow Wheeler that effectively correct confirm that. Unfortunately, I don’t know where Lars found that thing. And I’ve never I’ve never been able to see it on paper. But he was very excited when he called me.
Robert Bryce 20:47
Right. Well, so back to that question, which I put to you before, because the it seems to me the Afghanistan withdrawal really is a watershed moment for the United States, US military kind of America’s image of itself, right about who we are. And but I guess that’s my comment. But now that we’re out of Afghanistan, did the US military learn anything from Vietnam?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 21:14
I would argue No, in fact, they reinforced the bad the lessons they should have unlearned. And that was our main argument in the 70s in the 80s, was that we’re not we’re not reforming ourselves. This was a failure of military thinking of military operations. So it wasn’t a failure of the troops in terms of bravery, bravery, or anything like that. They fought well. But they weren’t well LED. And they didn’t, they didn’t have good doctrines, good operational doctrines, the the only military service that actually tried in a very fundamental way to change the way they did business with the Marine Corps, they did change their doctrine in the late 1980s, to do what was called maneuver warfare, which is not the world’s greatest term, but but they did change it, and they changed it in the right way. But it turned out, if you look at if you look at what happened there, the Commandant of the Marine Corps at that time was a guy named owl gray. And owl Gray was one of the colonels who was involved in the reform movement early, early on in the 1970s. And in fact, he was in charge of the evacuation of the Saigon embassy, I believe I’m not entirely sure that I think he was he was certainly there during during that time. And, and so He instituted these changes in the Marine Corps. His successor, basically tried to undo them and go back to business, as usual, is the next successor that the guy who came after great successor with guy named Chuck krulak, who basically tried to instill the ideas, which are a lot of which came from john Boyd. And he was recognized by the Marine Corps in fact, the Marine Corps had a special display of Boyd in the Marine Corps library, as the Father and maneuver warfare was very unusual when when marine grunts are honoring an Air Force fighter pilot, you know, something fundamental is going on.
Robert Bryce 23:27
let’s let’s let’s come back to Boyd because Yeah,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 23:29
right. I was getting ahead of myself. But what I wanted to what I wanted to emphasize here, sure, if was, if, if certainly the Afghanistan or more generally, the war on terror, the war on terror, has been a bust that shows to anyone who’s familiar with this history, going back to Vietnam, and the lessons were unlearned, and we went back to business as usual. There’s another way of looking at what happened. However, after if you recall, going back to the late 1990s, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Cold War ended in a way that no one anticipated. It ended suddenly the Pentagon was caught totally flat footed. And in fact, if you go back to the early 90s, you had the Wolfowitz defense guidance that they were trying to publish it didn’t get published, because it was too outrageous. That was basically trying for the 1990s to reinstate to reinstate Cold War thinking. You also had Senator McCain arguing about the Chinese threat. So you had wolf Woods saying we got to worry about peer competitors, China and Russia. Read read China and Russia, right Keynes explicitly saying China. Look at today. What are we got? We got what they were trying to sell us in 1998. If you look at what took place after the Cold War ended, you had the us that the US got Russia to agree to the unification of Germany, within the NATO framework, where east or East German part of Germany would be part of NATO would be part of the NATO, German Germany’s NATO forces, right. Based on a promise that was made to Gorbachev by both German leaders and American leaders, a verbal unfortunately, rather than written that we will not expand NATO one inch to the east. Well, look at what happened in the 1990s. In n Clinton authorized the expansion of NATO, in part to get votes from these central Europeans in the Midwest. And, and how did that pressure start to expand NATO? It was started by the committee to expand NATO, the head of that committee was a vice president of Lockheed Martin guy named Bruce Jackson. And and basically, what you had was an intimate environment of the defense, the military industrial congressional complex, expanding NATO. Why? Well, if you could get Poland into NATO, guess what, you got a bigger market for F 16 or whatever, if you get hungry, and if you get, and now you can see they’ve even gone to the point where they’re trying to there are people who have been advocating getting Ukraine in and Georgia. Well, the idea of Georgia, which is on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, being part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization is totally bizarre. It’s a caucus. You know, it’s it’s, you could argue that Georgia may not even be a European state, but it’s more Central Asian, right? it’s debatable, obviously, but, but those are
Robert Bryce 26:55
all things that then the US pushed for, you’re saying the military complex push for that then threatened to keep business as usual,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 27:02
big key business as usual, in the military industrial complex flowing during the 1990s. And in basically, if you look at how far the budget was reduced, it was basically reduced to two low Cold War levels in the 1990s. It didn’t go below Cold War levels, it went down to what what you would consider to be the local war levels of the, of the Eisenhower administration in the aftermath of Vietnam. And then, you know, they started adding all these new systems like the F 35. You know, you had all this more and more investment in Star Wars and stuff like that, which are clearly Cold War inspired weapons. And, and, of course, there was no Cold War in that. And that’s the kind of background that people should think about when they’re trying to understand this war on terror. There’s no question that we were attacked, and we should have done something. But this war on terror became a marketing device for high tech military equipment. And if you look at the, the actual soldiers on the ground, there, there weren’t that many of them. But the total cost of that force had gone through the roof. And, and if you look at the programs in the procurement budget, they’re cold war inspired programs. They weren’t the kind of weapons, they weren’t the kind of weapons designed to fight, you know, in in the kind of war on the kind of fighting that we had in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and stuff like that. We didn’t even
Robert Bryce 28:34
which I really will, I don’t know if this is a lower level of insert an insurgency or exact system. Well, they
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 28:40
certainly they certainly ended up that way, but that Afghanistan started off that way. We made Iraq and do an insurgency, and, and also, to a lesser extent, in Syria, and Libya, in other places, but the point here is, the point that I’m making is if you look at this in terms of long term spending patterns, the war on terror has been sort of an egg, an interregnum or a bridge and what is turning out to be a bridging strategy to Cold War Two. And if you look at what’s in the Pentagon’s procurement budget today, they’ve produced this huge battle wave of an across the board, super high tech modernization program much more complex than any previous bow wave of thing that is basically modernizing everything starting off with more expenditures for Star Wars of strategic weapons are being modernized across the board, new submarines, new ICBMs new bombers, we’re even building a precision guided nuclear bomb for our to be carried on our firefighters b 61 dash 12 you know, where they’re putting precision guidance that on a nuclear weapon to dial a yield nuclear weapon that can dial between 10 and I forget what the kilotons are 1030 or 50 kilotons. Hiroshima was about 10. That’s like putting a guidance system to hit Hiroshima. Scott, it’s ridiculous. And, and the idea, yeah, it’s crazy. And if you read the doctrines they’re talking about, they’re going back, they’re talking about limited nuclear options, ln O’s, which means, which is what they were trying to sell in the 70s. And what the Pentagon was trying to sell in the 70s. And it’s based on the theory that you can fight and win nuclear wars through gradual escalation.
Robert Bryce 30:42
Be honest, on its face, it just seems like that that just is incredible, given where we are after Afghanistan, that you’ve got this. You know, I hate to say this tail between the legs thing, but that mean, that was those pictures of the Afghanis clinging on to the airplane. I mean, it’s just surreal. It is a real remarkable image that very similar in some ways to the helicopters in Saigon and just this, the here’s this incredibly high tech, incredibly expensive cargo airplane, taking off in the air from the airport and got people just wanting so desperate to leave. And I mean, it just, it’s truly, it’s truly remarkable. But let me let me jump back here to one of these.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 31:28
Let me let me finish. My main point that I was gonna make was, if you look back, in put this in context, the war on terror. Afghanistan, particularly, was basically an interregnum. It did have one big benefit for the military industrial congressional complex, it kept budgets very high and acclimated the people to super high budgets. Now with this Modernization Program, which is essentially restarting Cold War Two, or starting Cold War to restarting the Cold War. No one’s questioning the development of these programs, the Pentagon is off to the races. And, and in fact, if you look at Congress, if you look at Congress, they’ve they’re abdicating their oversight responsibility. You know, they don’t even have a new. They don’t even have new editions of the selected acquisition reports, which are, in my opinion, very limited value, but they’re basically what Congress uses to look at new programs. The five year budget that Biden is put together, it is so chock a block with programs, they haven’t calculated the out years, all they did was said, here’s our FYI, 22, which is basically the camels nose into the tent. And we don’t even have an official projection of what’s going to take place over the next five years, which has been our standard way of doing business since 1962. I mean, this is this thing is totally out of control. And this loss in Afghanistan, is basically got everybody distracted and blaming Biden, for this blaming Biden for this disaster. It’s just, you know, it, basically, it’s a bait and switch operation, no one really knows what the hell’s going on. What what is really going on is they’re throwing all this money in the Pentagon, they’re getting all the congressional districts pregnant with new defense contracts, for these big programs that we won’t be able to turn off. And in essence, they’re going to make the Cold War a reality. They’re in the process of making it because you know, the Russians and the Chinese can’t look at this and basically ignore it, and gotta do something
Robert Bryce 33:40
with it. One of the things that was remarkable, I think I was looking at, well, before I finished this one before I talked about the Moyers thing that you did 2003 When was the last time the Department of Defense passed a financial audit, you know? Oh, they’ve never passed it. Never it so you talked about this at length in your in your 2000? Yeah, episode was on the last day of your your last day on the job at the Pentagon in 2003. You filmed an episode with Bill Moyers. And by the way, I should interrupt myself here I’m talking with my friend Chuck Spinney. He’s an engineer and longtime three debt spent three decades at the Pentagon was among the leaders of the military reform movement in the 1970s 1980s. And then into the into the 2000s. You can find him at Chuck spinney.blogspot.com. That’s Chuck spinney.blogspot.com. That show that you did that episode you did with with Moyers won an Emmy in 2003 for the best news magazine report of the year. And you talked in that episode about Afghanistan. Would you have predicted then that we would the United States would stay in Afghanistan for 20 years?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 34:48
Now, I I I figured we’d probably be there about 10 years. I didn’t think we would be there much longer. We were in Vietnam. I figured I figured we’re gonna leave like the Russians. Like the Russians left, maybe not as dramatically, I figured it would be, it would be more
Robert Bryce 35:13
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 35:14
it would have appeared to be a more organized wouldn’t have been hard. It would appear to have been a more organized exit in, in the end, it appears. If you look at if you look at what we’ve been subjected to over the last couple of weeks that our exit from Afghanistan makes the Russians look like a smoothly run operation. The Russian Well, let
Robert Bryce 35:34
me let me jump back to the financial audit here. Because you mean you were talking about accountability here. And this is one of the things that you point that you made in the Moyers interview about that this is a moral issue that, in fact, the accountability in the government and one of the most fundamental and you brought, you brought it back to the constitutional issue, that now we have, it may be I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But there’s a an the biggest element of, of discretionary spending in the US in the in the US government’s budget is the D o t. And it’s not accountable because they don’t have to pass financial audits. There’s no one that’s really doing proper oversight, including Congress. Is that a fair assessment of what you we’ve been saying now for well, ever, for close to 40 years?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 36:16
forever? Yeah. Yeah, you basically hit the nail on the head. But the basic problem is the the, in the 19. In 1990, they passed Congress passed a law and the President signed it, called the chief financial officers act. And and essentially what they wanted to do was to increase the accountability of government across the board, by requiring every department in the federal government to pass a what they call a financial audit, every year in annual audit. Now, now this audit is very different than an audit of a company in a private sector. It’s It’s It’s more what it’s what I call checks and balances audit, more than a detailed audit that is has certain fiduciary obligations and stuff like that. It’s in theory is far simpler audit. And essentially, essentially, under the Constitution, a government cannot. a government agency cannot spend money unless it has been appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the President. The whole iran contra scandal was about as the executive department spending money that was not appropriated. And now that could have very well been an impeachable offense for Reagan. But, but what they what they wanted was, it basically wanted a way of enforcing the appropriate two clauses in the Constitution, the appropriations clause and the accountability clause. And basically what what that what those clauses say the the appropriations clause says the federal government cannot spend money unless it’s been legally appropriated by Congress. And the accountability clause is, is a more vague, it’s a vague or thing that says the federal government will submit our report, accounting for his expenditures from time to time, something like that, that those are direct quotes from. Right. Right. That’s the gist of what it says. And, and the chief financial officers Act, which has had a few amendments since then, but it’s basically the same, basically says you got to, you got to give us a report on your ability to
Robert Bryce 38:46
track the money,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 38:47
track, track the money, and in that gets you into transactions. Now, government transactions are compliment, okay, they can go through several steps before they actually leave the door. And so a budget of say $400 billion, like the Pentagon might have, could have several trillion dollars worth of transaction fees in its books, right for a single year. Basically, they’ve never been able to audit those transaction, those transactions and, and some of the reasons are perfectly understandable. For example, a lot of the accounting systems in the different organizations of the Pentagon have been built up independently, like an army, financial audit financial system for buying tanks, for example, could bill up independently of of other systems. So you’ve got this huge conglomeration of systems that essentially is it’s it, they’re their parts. They’re parts of a total system, but they’re not interchangeable parts and you can’t figure out you just can’t, you can’t reconcile them with each other. And that’s what that’s The basic reason is they can’t track transactions. That’s the basic reason for the problem.
Robert Bryce 40:05
And and what’s interesting to me is that correct me if I’m wrong, and I didn’t check my numbers before we we started recording, but the budget for the military in the in the US in 19, or 2003, when you talk to mortars is about 400 billion, we’re roughly double that now. And we
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 40:21
were at the budget before Congress is is over 700. I think it’s like seven. I’m not sure exactly what it is. It’s between 707 40 it also depends on what you count, right? Because Energy Department has some defense related expenditures for like nuclear warheads. Sure. But it’s, it’s it’s definitely between seven and 800.
Robert Bryce 40:46
What’s the self licking ice cream cone?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 40:48
Oh, self licking ice cream cone is an ice cream cone that takes care of itself. It’s constantly adding, adding stuff. It’s adding, it’s like we’re constantly adding money to our thing that we then spend it. So it’s like a self licking. It’s like a party with a never ending a bowl of ice cream cone. Ball of ice cream. You know, it just it just has been refilled. Right.
Robert Bryce 41:09
But you’ve used that term to describe the Pentagon,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 41:12
then I didn’t invent the term other people have used it. I first learned about it from an Air Force officer who was joking about the Air Force itself, like an ice cream cone. A lot of guys understand what’s going on here that that’s another thing that in trying to sort out what’s wrong with the Pentagon, we’re not dealing with a we’re not dealing with a bunch of evil people, although there’s certainly corruption and it went totally out of control in Afghanistan, we’re dealing with the vast majority of people are well intended patriotic Americans, they may not understand that they’re cogs in the machine. And they may they basically are charged with doing a job and a very narrow frame of reference. And they do that well. But they may not understand how that fits into everything else. And and you can end up with what what, when you have all the obstacles and impediments to getting your job done that just occur in any kind of big bureaucracy. You can end up having what what some people refer to, you’ve heard the term probably in relation to climate science, noble cause corruption. They basically say, well, we’re going to cut a few corners, because what we’re doing has to be done is right and it’s moral. And and in essence, you can I’ve had people justify lying, lying to Congress, which is a felony carries time in the slammer, in addition to a bind. But I’ve heard people justify lying to Congress. And you, I guess, the way the fundamental thing, and this brings us back to the Constitution is the fundamental thing that you have to come to grips with and trying to sort out each individual’s role in this thing, and each individual has to learn to come to grips with this is that basically, we’ve only taken one Oath of Allegiance. When we join the federal government, we don’t take allegiance to the republican party or Democratic Party. We don’t take allegiance to the President. We don’t take allegiance to your bureaucratic boss, you take a lead, you take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, without exception, an unreserved, voluntarios, you know, without exception, and basically that says, you know, the most important part of the Constitution is keeping the keeping the government, which is a republican government, remember, we don’t have a democracy, we have a republic, and a Republic has representatives of the people running things, they have to be held accountable to the people. Without accountability, you have no Republic. And that’s what the Constitution is supposed to ensure. And if you go through the Federalist Papers, you see this over and over again, it’s not like it’s an obscure principle. It’s the basic foundation on which they tried to design things. Now, you could argue that the Constitution is a product of the 18th century enlightenment and and, you know, maybe it’s time for a big change. And and and that you’re
Robert Bryce 44:12
but if you’re but if I interrupt you, but your point is just fundamentally about accountability, and the
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 44:17
more and more obligation, you see you take when you take that oath, you’re taking a moral obligation. And that’s where this noble cause corruption comes in conflict with it. noble cause corruptions makes you think you’re taking on No, no a noble action by doing something that’s fundamentally wrong. Like, for example, lying to Congress or deceiving Congress, or getting Congress or accepting, you know, making life easier for our contractor. Right? You know, whatever.
Robert Bryce 44:47
Well, let me ask about the corruption part of this because that’s the part that I mean, we talked about it again on the phone the other day, and you we’ve talked around it, but is that the one reason why I mean, yeah, there are many reasons failure has many as many causes right? But if there’s one factor in Afghanistan that caused this, this effort to fail, was it corruption?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 45:07
Oh, I think so. If you read Joseph gozone. Recent lessons learned report, he makes it pretty clear that the corrupt sorry, I don’t know who Joseph. Oh, let me explain. I’m sorry, Joe southco
Robert Bryce 45:22
is the so pk. Oh,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 45:23
yeah. So PK. Oh, and he’s the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan. He has a special job that was set up. I’m not sure exactly when it was early in the Afghan war. And it’s an ag that is definitely that is specifically oriented toward Afghanistan. It’s its acronym and cigar s i g a r. Right. And every every quarter they issue reports. And and he just issued a big lessons learned report that came out actually before the debacle at at the airport, at the airport, and was called gobble at the Campbell airport. And, and, you know, it basically it was right there. I mean, he corruption is the name of the game. And, and one of the reasons we’re having this huge problem is that there were more contractors, US contractors in Afghanistan, they may not have, they were employing us nationals and foreign nationals. But there were more contractors in Afghanistan. And then there were military. And a lot of these people are obviously afraid for their lives, even if they were Afghanis or were on contract because they’re going to be viewed as traitors by by their by the Afghan by the Taliban, and maybe other Afghan ease as well. And that that was what led to all his pressure to or is one of the contributors to all this pressure to get the hell out of there. But the amount of money that was going under the table, to these contractors, and the amount of corruption has been documented and in agonizing detail by by sockos. Organization, he’s, he has done a great job. He’s one of the few IDs in the federal government, who has done a really, really fantastic job. And, you know, he should be getting, he’s the kind of guy that should get the Medal of Freedom. He won’t, but but he’s the kind of guy that you get one. Because he has done a remarkable job. I’ve never in my association with these things going back to the beginning of my career in 1967. I’ve never seen anything like this guy’s operation, nothing on he has really done a wonderful job of exposing us. And of course, it’s gotten a lot of people pissed off. Sure.
Robert Bryce 47:51
It. Let me let me shift gears a little bit, because you know, the Well, let me ask you one of the things since I’m just thinking it just popped in my head. You know, as I thought about Afghanistan, you know, I’ve got two young boys once, you know, in their 20s. And I think Well, what I want them to go to Afghanistan will know, you know, why? why what’s my strategic interest there. But you also talked about the fact that the way the military has evolved since Vietnam to an all volunteer force has fundamentally changed how then the US powers that be can use the military and with with less retribution or less fear of backlash from the voters is so is that one of the the the the other key issues here about the the detachment of the separation of the military itself from the broad, from the broader perspective of the American public is that how do you get in touch?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 48:45
That’s a major factor I regard the all volunteer force, if you look at how the government, we talked, I talked earlier about how we were trying to reform the Pentagon from within or the military, within the entire department of defense, from military to procurement to all that from within, but you also have to look at how the institution itself adapted to the outcome of, of Vietnam, and one of the big adaptations was the shift to the all volunteer force. Now, if you recall, all you go back to Vietnam, one of the biggest problems in Vietnam, where the body bags of the draftees, and we had a draft that was fundamentally unequal where poor people and and minorities were bearing the brunt of the burden in terms of blood being spilled, and rich kids were getting drafted for minutes and cushy, cushy jobs when they had to go into military. So you had a very cooperative owner
Robert Bryce 49:43
they had bone spurs, or
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 49:45
Yeah, yeah, I mean, you had your guy like george bush, the second he ends up with a job in the National Guard. Now he’s he’s a year younger than I am and and which means he would graduate Writing from college somewhere around 1968. And, and I can tell you getting a job in the National Guard in 1968 was next to impossible, because they were clamping down, the pressure was building for a more equitable job, he obviously got a cushy job. They sent him the flight school, he didn’t even he didn’t even do his training. And he was flying f 102 interceptors with no chance of being deployed. Because, you know, they didn’t, they sent a few appointment twos over there. But anyway, that that was the state of state of play now what they did, because of the outrage that build up among the public, because in part because of the body bags and the inequities of the draft, and, and obviously, you got Westmoreland constantly promising right at the end of the tunnel, while he’s asking for more bodies to kill more American bodies, you know, to fill the body bags, right. You know, people just got outraged. And, and, and they knew, they began to realize that government had been lying to them. And so one of the things that was done was the the military decided, well, we’re never going to go to war unless we have the nation mobilized against us. And so they moved a lot of combat support you that’s into the reserves, normal units, that would have gone on deployment in Vietnam, because they were part of the active force got put into the reserves. So you would have to send reserves to do something like Vietnam in the future. But in essence, it sort of made sense to think about it, because then it would force the president to mobilize, declare war, and you know, put the country on a war footing. That was the idea didn’t exactly turn out that way. The other thing, because attached to that was the idea of, we’re not going to have a draft, we’re going to have a law of volunteer force. And what that did, of course, is over time, the all volunteer force, basically made it easy, easier to deploy, to deploy forces than these limited operations, because basically, you signed up with as your volunteers Screw you, if you don’t like it tough.
Robert Bryce 52:20
So it made it worse. So it made elective wars
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 52:23
and made elective Ward these these things may elective wars easily. And because the reserves were part of the online tier force, you could mobilize the reserves and send them and we sent a lot of reserves, you know, on rotation to Afghanistan, without declaring war. And so,
Robert Bryce 52:40
when you say that, you know, it just the other thing that pops in my head, Chuck is just that this is the one of the things that concerns me greatly about where America is and where we’re headed is this widening of the class divide, and the widening of the urban and rural divide? And it seems to me, you know, when I look at the military and see, you know, the casualties war, where a lot of these kids coming from that insane place, from from rural areas from low income
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 53:07
coming from the same place these draftees came from and and
Robert Bryce 53:12
accept or not accept, there’s no come there’s no, there’s no, there’s no coercion to force,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 53:17
exactly. It’s, well, there is coercion, there’s now economic origin, because we’ve also de industrialized and of course, that gets us into a much broader subject. But one of the things, one of the things that I wanted to bring out, is while we were having this shift to the all volunteer force, and the movement of certain combat necessary, combat, required required combat functions to the reserves. We also remember that meeting I told you about early in the talk earlier in a talk where we trashed readiness, right, basically what happened in the early 70s, in order to buy off the contractors to go along with the budget reductions. Nixon launched what was called the Nixon doctrine, which basically said, we’re going to sell frontline equipment overseas, like f 14 to the show over on, which was new that we didn’t do that prior to that. And we’re cutting down on the operations and maintenance budget and the personnel budgets because the readiness reductions, so we’ll be we can start more, we can start new programs that will come to fruition in the late 70s. So he basically set up the situation that led to Carter’s problem. But we had this huge battle wave of modernization built into the program procurement programs, it remember had contract money salted all over the country, because these contractors have subcontractors and as many congressional districts that they put them in that’s called political engineering. It’s a very deliberate process. Sure. And and so they created this, it was like they’re creating an egg. distortions strategy, they reduce the readiness which created the readiness Rs, which then got everybody all lathered up in the late 70s. Because, and you could blame it on the Democrats, when in fact, the whole thing was caused by decisions made in the early 70s, which I saw up close and personal. I saw him put the stuff into place. I was at a very low level, I didn’t have anything to do with it. But I was sitting at the table when that when that was happening. And and
Robert Bryce 55:27
so is it fair to say, then this Afghanistan outcome is just the result of 40 5060 years of the same kind of business as usual corrosion of the foundation of what the military should be about? Is that yeah,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 55:40
it’s Yeah. And basically, what we’re seeing is Eisenhower’s Nightmare on steroids. That’s basically the way to think about it. And it’s, and there’s nothing new going on here. In fact, the way I view Afghanistan, or the war on terror, and is a better way of doing it, the way I view it was sort of a bridging operation to justify high budgets to get the public acclimated to high budgets, while we salted all this new money, this new modernization and in the thing, and now we’ve got everybody convinced that China and Russia are threats, like they used to be in the 50s. And, and now we can go have cold war too, and the money will flow forever. And we’re talking about a bill that’s going to keep the money flowing, at least until 2008. I mean, we’re talking long term expenditures, and this stuff is past 60 years. Yeah. I mean, this new bomber, the Air Force, this new bomber, the Air Force, is starting, they put that in B 61. You know, it’d be known as the bomb, the bombers, the B 21. Okay, they put that into the Pentagon, you know, authorized the program to go into milestone B, last August, a year ago, I think it was a year ago, August. Basically what that did is that authorized the Air Force to do to launch what is called engineering and manufacturing development. The engineering and manufacturing development means you’re designing the bomber. While you’re also investing in your supplier support base, you’re designing your supplier support base, and you’re designing your production equipment. So you’re ready to go when you reach milestones. See,
Robert Bryce 57:24
what if you were just as a spiral development that you do?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 57:27
Exactly what kind of currency in spiral development is, is basically the most extreme version of it. But it’s concurrency. Now, nobody would spend no private manufacturing company that had to pay for its own r&d, and product development. We do things this way. It’s crazy. But if your goal is to extract money from Congress, this is the way to do it. Because basically, what it does is it authorizes the Pentagon to start shoveling money, the Pentagon and the contractors to start shoveling money to the congressional districts. Right. That was explained Well, in the Moyers interview. Sure.
Robert Bryce 58:03
Right. So just a reminder, I’m talking to chuck Spinney. He’s an engineer, retired military officer, spent three decades in the Pentagon was one of the chief proponents of the military reform movement in the Pentagon, from the 1980s until he retired in 2003. You can find him at Chuck spinney.blogspot.com. Let me shift gears here a little bit, Chuck, because I know you can discuss this all day. And I know you have a passion for it, but I wanted in doing a little research getting ready. You know, I was reminded that you were born at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in 1945. And your dad was a colonel in the Air Force. I’ve never asked you what was your dad like?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 58:44
Um, oh, he I had a very, I would say positive childhood and loving, loving parents. And my dad was very supportive. pilot. No, no, he was an engineer and, and, and was involved in he worked at the aircraft lab, which is where I was first assigned. In fact, ironically, the guy he shares
Robert Bryce 59:06
you were raised in the aircraft lab.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 59:09
And, and the lieutenant that was in the same cubicles I was his dad was a civilian in the aircraft lab, and his dad shared a cubicle with my father. Wow, during World War Two, and my dad was my dad was a product of the depression he he suffered very severely during the Depression. And you know, the depression, World War Two, the experience of world war two had a very positive effect on on America in terms of economics and jobs and, and patriotism and all sorts of things. And in many ways that made that generation and, and he was a product of that generation. So I grew up around around melody. People and stories about the military. And I also grew up my dad because he, he even though he did not graduate from college, he worked in the scientific community. In fact, many of his friends were were scientists, well, some of them very well known scientists. I grew up around those people. And in the 1950s, you had, basically, this culture that we won World War Two, we’re the Big Kahuna. we’ve invented this consumer society, the likes of which has never been seen before in the history of humanity. And, and we also are scientific. We’re a scientific society, and then you know, nothing epitomize that more than the than the space race. But it went way beyond that. I mean, if you just look at all the stuff that was made, your, your current passing for power, was was was a product of that era. Sure. without power, we could have never done it. So I grew up in that type of very positive environment. And, and I was also influenced when I was a history buff as a kid, although I was basically my primary interest was science and engineering. I was a history buff, and I read all the world war two memoirs, which at that time were written from a very American perspective. Sure, some of the early German memoirs were coming out in the late 50s. But, but but by and large, you know, was were the big kahuna. We beat the Germans, we beat the Japanese, right? And you know, we save the West and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Robert Bryce 1:01:43
So let me let me ask you about you going into the Air Force, though. So were you a pilot, did you draw as a pilot?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:01:49
No. And I, I mean, I think I would have liked to have been a pilot, but it was never that important to me, my brother, my brother is a pilot. He was never in the military, because he had eye problems, but, but he’s very involved in flying. I’ve been more interested in flying from. I love airplanes. I love the engineering aspects of airplanes. And let me know new things to work on.
Robert Bryce 1:02:17
Right? Let’s see. Let me ask you about that. Because you and I’ve talked many times about airplanes and different kinds of airplanes. And I love airplanes. Love aircraft, love helicopters. Let me do again, never done this on this podcast. But let me give you the lightning round here and give you just the names of some airplanes, and you just give me quickest thing that comes to your mind, you know, 234 words as we go along. You ready? Yeah. Okay. Okay. B, one, E, one Turkey, beat. B two, bigger Turkey. f 22. Turkey. Turkey cubed.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:02:51
The F 22 is a classic case, the F 22 is a very interesting example. Because it was a step backward. A huge step backward. We haven’t talked about the influence of boys. And
Robert Bryce 1:03:03
yet, what a billion dollars apiece, or something, I
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:03:06
forget how much they cost, they were really expensive. We ended up buying less about two lessons slightly under 200, more original payments of eight or 900. But the the, if you look at the F 15 development in the 70s and the F 16. development in the 70s, they were to two really good fighters, the Air Force, the S 15. Basically was saved by by Colonel Boyd with his energy maneuverability theory. And it turned out to be okay. But, you know, Boyd was my very good friend. And he always he always thought of the epic game as a transitionary. Fire to really superior planning of which the F 16 prototype was, may have went backward.
Robert Bryce 1:03:53
Yeah, I’ll come to the F 16. So as the F 35. Bigger Turkey, how big a committee How many? What’s hurting
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:04:01
the F 35. The F 35. In my experience from the time I’ve been in the Pentagon, and first got involved in this, which goes back to working on the FX which became the F 15. And the flight dynamics lab and as a lieutenant and the Ei x, which became the ADM I think the F 35. is is is the worst development disaster I have seen ever. That’s my personal view. I
Robert Bryce 1:04:28
mean, I haven’t even worse than Star Wars. Oh, no, I’m talking about airplanes. Oh, okay. Okay. All right. Let me count horses in Lake bites. Okay, so let me let me just finish here. We only have a few more airplanes to go through v 22.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:04:42
Oh, that’s another problem. I mean, the V 22. Is this is the way it’s got some air. Yeah, yeah, it’s a tilt rotor. And it’s it’s a positively dangerous airplane. Because if you go into combat in the helicopter, anybody who has seen any films of Vietnam I know that the helicopters used to go in low and fast and they plop down real fast that guys jump out a plane and fly out. That’s known as going into a hot landing zone or a hot elzie. That’s the nature of the beast in combat. And the problem with the V 22 is, it can’t it can’t do a combat assault like that, because when it when it starts to shift into the helicopter mode, it’s got two rotors that go up like this that are on the wingtips. And if it starts descending really fast, what you can get in most helicopter pilots who have been in combat have experienced, at least one of these things, is what’s called a vortex ring state where the where the rotor stalls, and basically the plane drops. Now normally, when you’re going in fast, the vortex ring state doesn’t set out, set in until you’re maybe 1010 feet above the ground and need to go in and you’re praying the plane and you might bend the struts and stuff. But you know, you can take off and go home, right with the V 22. If you get a vortex ring state in the thing, you’ll lose lift in one rotor before you lose lift in the other rotor, even if it’s just a split second, and the rotor that is lifting, say say this one cause the plane to flip over. Right. And and if that happens, they did some flight tests, you know, back in the 90s. I think they did some flight tests when they were getting real concerned about this. And and basically you needed almost 1700 feet to recover from the vortex ring state. If I recall correctly. I may be wrong on that. But it was it was it was
Robert Bryce 1:06:32
I am familiar with that. And I wrote about it a long time ago.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:06:35
Yeah, I mean, there. Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy. And so and if you let me bet they’re just floating in there sitting ducks,
Robert Bryce 1:06:43
right? Okay, so just a few more vipa B 52.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:06:47
miles a great bomber. I mean, bombing has its limitations. That’s a complex story in itself. But the plane has certainly, of the bombers that we have is the most reliable. And interestingly, if you look, the B 21 is the new stealth bomber, and it’s going to replace the B one and the B and the B two. In other words, the new bombers right, the beef is not gonna replace the beat that they do. So the airforce is hedging our bets. They’ve learned their
Robert Bryce 1:07:17
lessons keeping the B 52. Yeah, even though it’s what 60
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:07:20
or 70 it’ll be 80 years old right now it when it’s retired, Chris has been rebuilt so many times the numbers sort of meaningless,
Robert Bryce 1:07:27
right. So last one, a 1008 10 is
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:07:31
a great airplane. Now I’m biased because I worked on it as a as a kid. And when I was at the flight dynamics lab, and my post, one of my closest friends PR spray was one, he was probably more responsible for the concept and the basic ideas behind it. As any person interestingly enough, I did not know Pierre in the early years, even though I was I was at a very low level. And he was looking at it from the other end of the telescope, so to speak, right? We are basically having the same, the same kinds of debates. We were at war with the computer modelers, and we were trying to get combat data so we could figure out what to do to make the plane survivable and stuff like that.
Robert Bryce 1:08:15
Well, I want to come back to spray just one in one minute this so f 16 is the last plane
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:08:19
the F 16. The F 16 is a mixed bag, in my opinion, but not why f 16 the why f 16. The original prototype, maybe the most maneuverable plane ever built it you’d have to do a bunch of tests to prove the point but but it was a really superb maneuvering aeroplane. It also had very long range, which is affects people from forgotten because it was small. And it was it was more maneuverable than the F 15. And it could fly a lot further than the f a d now words in a dogfight you could run an F 15 out of gas. You know and and but the Air Force after the prototype was built rather than, you know, building an air to air, an air to air fighter maneuvering fire, which was the original thing that that plane was designed around. Right, they decided they’re going to use it to replace the f4. And that meant they wanted to put a big radar in the nose. They wanted to carry all the hard points. They promised when when sleisenger cut the deal with them to buy more of them. They promised they wouldn’t wire it for nuclear weapons. As soon as sleisenger got fired by Ford. They put wiring data to begin to put the wiring in for nuke, so the F 16 is a nuclear bomber. And, and by putting the big radar in the nose, they increase the size of the nose. They reduce the fuel fraction, which means its range went down the nose sort of impaired his maneuverability. He added so much weight to the plane, the wing loading when up. He increased the wing a little bit, but they didn’t increase it back to the levels of the y axis. 16 so the wing loading was higher. By and large, even though the F 16 is still a very good airplane, which just goes to show when you do something, right. It’s really hard to wreck it. But but they made they made a lot of efforts in that regard. But but in the end is not as good as it could have been. Sure. And and in fact, the the the, the inspiration for the F 16, more than any other single individual was john Boyd. And when they started adding on those bells and whistles, he basically washed his hands of the program.
Robert Bryce 1:10:33
And so let me, let me shift them to Boyd and spray because we’ve been talking for more than an hour. And I told you I didn’t want to take more than much more than an hour of your time. But I know both of these. JOHN Boyd and Pierre spray, were very dear friends of yours. And were among the most influential figures in the in the military reform movement. And we’re we’re colleagues of yours. So I know the books have been written about Boyd and that there’s we can talk for hours about Boyd and but for people who don’t know, boy don’t know his history. Give me Can you give me the 45 second or one minute and one minute rundown of Boyd Is that even possible?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:11:13
I don’t think I could do adjust as basically Boyd Boyd was he started off his career as a fighter pilot view. And he was one of the first officers. He was in Korea for 20 missions, he didn’t have any air to air kills or anything was enough 86 pilot he was in at the tail end of the war. But he was one of the first fighters, fighter pilots assigned to the fighter weapons school and he was in charge of the tactics, air to air tactics curriculum. As a he may have been Lieutenant is certainly that way as a captain. And he he he made a name for himself there. That was essentially the air that was the progenitor of that idea of Top Gun, which is a Navy program, but but the fighter weapons school was sort of the first Top Gun and it was in the Air Force
Robert Bryce 1:12:00
will spray if I can jump in here today, who worked with Boyd as well called him the American Clausewitz. And
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:12:07
yeah, but that’s different. Now he basically didn’t understand this. From there, he developed the tactics that were basically adopted by the free world and copied by the Russians, the book is published your book is the captain. And then then he was in graduate school, getting a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. He and he was in the thermodynamics class. And he came up with this idea of energy management as a way of evaluating fighter performance. And it developed he along with a guy named Tom crystal, he developed what became known as the energy maneuverability theory. And this is about the time I came into the Air Force. And that literally took the aviation the aircraft design community, particularly the fighter design community by storm, the energy maneuver really revolutionized the way we looked at fighter design and how we thought about designing fighters. His idea was originally that design come up with better tactics but but then he realized that if he could do that, he might also be able to come up with a better design. And, and that’s where it has real impact. And, and he that’s what made Boyd famous and made him world renowned. At that point. He got the Air Force’s highest scientific achievement award. And it led to the he basically saved the F 15 with his with the with it use this theory to redesign the FFT to guide the redesign. He didn’t redesign himself, but the guided and that became the basis for the F 16. The why f 16, the prototype,
Robert Bryce 1:13:45
and then he went on to the
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:13:48
create the ooda loop. This is this is where this is where it gets. It gets really interesting here because Boyd had a degree in economics, and a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering, which is more of a management degree than a engineering degree. And he started thinking, and this is when I first started working for him. He’s gone. How come me a dumb firefighter without the education credential has come up with the energy maneuverability theory when all these PhD aerodynamicist didn’t. And he spent the next three years trying to figure out how his mind operated. And he’s reading all these books on philosophy and anthropology and economics and evolutionary biology and physic physics and Tao is I mean, you name it, he was reading it, and I was a captain working for me and another Captain named Ray Leopold Ray and I were good friends working for him and we were like his alter egos and he’s constantly going jumping this by, with and then that’s where the idea of the loop came from. It was out of his paper, which he called his learning theory or the official title is destruction and creation and in And that’s what led to the development of the ooda loop. And I was I was present for the birthing of that whole thing. So I saw that up close in personal life, I probably understand as well as what happened within the limits of human memory is any any person and at the end, but if I’m not sure that that’s where a PR statement comes from you loop became the idea for the tactics. And this Now remember, we’re talking about the mid 70s. This is when we had those Marines that I was mentioning earlier who were working on military or for a few army officers, and and basically, boring started putting into this. Together, he started putting together a briefing called patterns of conflict, which is what Pierre was referring to, when he said he’s sort of an American Clausewitz, by the way, Pierre Pierre would not have used that. I think that’s an apocryphal statement beer despise Clausewitz. Instead of boy, by the way, well, boy didn’t despise him. But he, he thought cause was at some fundamental flaws. That’s a separate issue. We won’t get into it. But but the the Boyd started doing this. And then there was a guy who was working for senator Gary Hart named Bill in, who was he’s a historian, very conservative, interestingly, which says a lot about art. Who was one of the guys who was working with the Marines. Well, he heard about Boyd stuff. He saw a boy he came over, saw what Boyd was doing. And then he put, he put, he put the Marines in touch with Boyd. And that led to the connection of Boyd in the Marines and Boyd got deeply involved with the Marines. And to the point where when they were starting to rewrite the doctrine, Boyd was sort of personal advisor to general al gray, who was the commandant, putting that thing together when you get to that new doctrine, and the Marines ended up, you know, building this sort of memorial to them, you know, in their, in their library in their research center, in a research center. They had a little display with him in his Airforce uniform. I mean, it’s surreal. You go in the Marines, ring. grunts don’t like mine fighter pilots. They hate Air Force fighter. And here they worship at the altar of Boyd. Right.
Robert Bryce 1:17:22
Well, he was clearly and Robert Corum wrote a bar. Yeah. Here’s a chart, which I recommended. Yeah, I can show up to Wow. Yeah. It’s remarkable. So it’s a great book. And now Boyd has been dead for some time. But your friend, your dear friend, Pierre spray just died a few weeks ago. I read the obituary of him in the Washington Post. And I regret that I wasn’t able, during, you know, travels been restricted, of course for a while. But in that trips to Washington, I was never able to actually meet Pierre. How do you remember pier who was by all accounts, a polymath he was an air engine and an aircraft designer, he he then I was looking at mapleshade his recording comm where he’s, you know, selling all kinds of recording gear and his theories on recording. He was, I mean, from all accounts and just a truly remarkable mind. And I say, you know, given what I know about him a genius.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:18:15
Well, you, boy dampierre were geniuses but they were geniuses of different colors. And they work together very closely like a hand that’s a glove. And Pierre Pierre, to give you an idea of this guy’s in terms of just raw intelligence. He got accepted to Yale when he was 14. When he got a he got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. And he got a bachelor’s degree in French literature from Yale. He then went to
Robert Bryce 1:18:48
Cornell and graduated in three years or something. What was it under? Yeah,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:18:51
he graduated early. He graduated early, graduated quickly and had the, you know, the two degrees and
Robert Bryce 1:18:57
then you went to Cornell and it was the son of Jewish immigrants. If I remember that they came to the minister or Is that right?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:19:02
He was outstation of outstation to send a newborn in nice. Oh, you know, because Alsace have been taken over by the Germans in the Franco Prussian war in the 1870s. So a lot of outstations moved to France, or Algeria. Okay, Gear VR moved to southern France. And they came over to the United States either during the initial beginning of World War Two or just before, right, yeah, I’m not sure exactly. Anyway, Pierre. Pierre got his master’s degree in Mathematical Statistics from Cornell. And he pretty well completed his his his coursework for PhD. And he was a senior Operations Research Analyst thing airline engineer at Grumman at the age of something like 20 or 21. Wow. He came He eventually came to the Pentagon after a few years at Grumman. And he was part of the early early cadre of McNamara’s wizkids in the Pentagon. Now, the organization I was in in the Pentagon was was the remnants of that organization used to be called systems analysis, they had different name when I was there. And I, when I first got there, I knew I knew board very well because I’ve worked for him and and, you know, boy, boy was a consultant in the office where I was where I was working. And he basically said, you need to go, go look at the old stuff. And the skies that I started going through the studies done by systems analysis. And, man a lot of the complaints I heard about those guys I agree with, but then I came across Pierre stuff in it was in a totally different lay his stuff. I mean, it’s hard to explain, and most of your readers won’t be able to appreciate this. Or when I started reading this stuff, my heart started dumping highs that this is really cool stuff. I mean, I really enjoy the way he developed his ideas and the way he he developed his engineering stuff. It was a really got me dumping. And at that time, I didn’t know Pierre, I knew of beer because john had explained him to me. And I didn’t know and I didn’t know about Pierre when I was working on the a 10. At bike dynamics I have, curiously enough.
Robert Bryce 1:21:28
I would hear his great insight about the a 10 are also known as the Warthog, which was very effective in the first Gulf War, was that the way you defeat the other army, if you’re if it’s a if it’s a clash of two big armies, you worry about the trucks. Forget about the fighter planes, the rest of it, if you take out their trucks, you kill
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:21:44
the tag and their tanks and their tanks. I mean, the a 10 is basically a tank buster in it. It was designed to go after the Russians. It was inspired. Many of the ideas surrounding it were inspired by the Germans, cannon firing stuka World War Two, which was flown by a very small number of super pilots, led by a guy named Hans rudl, who was unfortunately the star grading Nazi but he was he was probably the greatest combat aviation pilot in the history of aviation. Wow, he Yeah, he flew like 2800 combat sorties. And I mean, if I’m heard of, wow, he he, he had 20 over 500 confirmed tank kills. He sunk a battleship sunk a couple cruisers. And, you know, some god awful, unknown number of trucks. We actually interviewed him a few times in the set in late 70s. Yeah, Pierre would do the translation. And john and myself and Tom Christie, and some other guys would be there. Well, they were kind of controversial, because the guy was politically, you know, he was really toxic. Right. But, you know, we were just interviewing him for his technical aviation experiences. Sure. And and this is after the a 10 was designed and built. Sure. But, and anyway, that was the inspiration behind that. And when I was working, interestingly enough, when I was working on the a 10, very peripherally, mostly from the point of view of trying to uncover combat damage data in Vietnam and applying it to new designs, of which the a 10 was just one. I had actually read rurals book stuka pilot, which Pierre when he had his cadre in the Pentagon, it was mandatory reading. You know, so we were like, you know, we were sort of had the same orientation, but from a distance. Boyd, I knew Boyd before Pierre, I was, I would say, I was closer to Boyd than Pierre, although I was called very close to Pierre. But boy and Pierre worked together, and they had a positive interaction. JOHN, john basically thought in terms of analogies, john Boyd did, he thought he thought in terms of analogies, which is a very, very productive way of thinking but it’s also an extremely dangerous way of thinking, because if an analogy cat captures your imagination, it can take your right off the cliff, you know, where it doesn’t have any any closeness to reality. Right? Einstein Einstein thought in analogies and and Pierre Pierre hated thinking in analogies and and he, he, he was an empiricist he did experimental work, and he would build up from he was a bottom up in Paris he do experimental work and then form an idea and then do more experimental work and form an idea and, and the traditional the traditional way of Sciences either doing a Pierre’s way or sort of a top down thinking from hypothesis to to that does a to a there’s been big debate. In science, so we’re gonna which way is the best way to go? Boyd was different, that he used those analogy. So it was sort of a top down thinking but it was a much looser way of thinking. Well, their minds fit together like a hand fits a glove. What was interesting about Pierre I, I knew Pierre very well, and he, like you said he was a polymath. He is he he had insights of absolute genius as the Boyd, but they arrived at him very differently. And I remember one time I was at Pierre’s house, and and we we’ve been drinking with light, in fact, is the only time I ever seen Pierre on the verge of being tipsy. He was very controlled drinker. As was gentlemen. I was a little less control. But, but Pierre Pierre is looking at me and he goes, you know, he says, I can’t figure it out. And I said, He’s your best friend. You know, Boyd better than anyone. Because I know. And he says, I really love the guy, but he thinks wrong. To me, if he says he thinks by analogy and thinking my analogy is terrible way of thinking. He says, ilija down the primrose path to get yourself in all sorts of trouble. You know, in Washington, politicians always are coming up with these analogies to explain things and their total bullshit. Well, wow. You know, that’s, that’s the problem you have with analogies. And so piers, and I respond, I never responded to him. I said, Well, Einstein thought by analogy that he wasn’t stupid. And he goes, I know, but john, john just does it all wrong. He said, but but then he goes, he says, I’m an empiricist. What works is what’s right. And he says, He always comes up with the right answer.
He says, I got to go along with it. And that was his frustration, his empiricism. empirically, john was right. systematically, john went about it the wrong way. But he couldn’t argue with john kennedy was at Berkeley. And and basically, what they did is what he was really describing. And I didn’t understand it at the time as well as I do now. And he probably did neither of us is it he was talking about how they were self discipline in each other. They basically bond Boyd had a wide ranging mind that went off in tangents and was very loosey goosey about stuff. Gear had a very tight mind and very rigorous mind. And the problem the problem with john is you could go off the deep end if you’re not careful. The problem with Pierre is he could stifle that kind of thinking that john did. Right. And in fact, when when we were writing stuff, john and i would do a lot of writing and and I would I get excited about it’s a name. This is really good. Let’s get it. There’s one by Pierre. And we used to call it the PF spray buzzsaw, because he just rip it to shreds. And john would go, No, no, not now. We’re not ready for him to tear apart, it’ll be his stuff and not ours, just hold off. And eventually, we would take it and it would be improved. 100%, there were several papers that I did with the air, where we co authored that, you know, we’re initially started off as my papers, and I would run this stuff by him and he would make changes. And, you know, it was sort of starting off as an editor. And we would get so involved in I would finally at the end, I’d say, Pierre, I said, this is the most your paper is mine. I said I want you to be a co author if you agree to it. And we did that two or three times, particularly on that last paper joint paper we did on nuclear, sleepwalking to a new Cold War, which I regard is one of the best thing that I wrote. You just, you know, he was so persuasive and everything. It was actually a danger there initially, but once you learned how to deal with that, he was just a joy to be around. And watching him and john, I mean, they were peers, I was sort of like a subordinate, not a subordinate. Not exactly an understudy. I started off as an understudy. But let’s say I was like, I was sometimes a second team, I was in the bullpen.
Robert Bryce 1:29:14
My guest interrupting here is Chuck Spinney. He’s an engineer, former Air Force officer spent more than three decades in the Pentagon was a leader of the military reform movement, which seems like it’s needed more than ever now in the wake of Afghanistan. You can find out more about him at Chuck spinney.blogspot.com. Check. We’ve talked now almost an hour and a half already. Let me just hit you with a couple of quick other things. We’ve talked many times about models and about how models work. And do you believe in climate models, the climate change models, so And if not, why not? Well,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:29:49
I, I my development in many ways, parallel appears on models and we started off doing I started off Trying to collect combat data to fill out vulnerability models, models that predicted how we would use planes in Vietnam. And I realized early on that they were complete bullshit. And, and the problem with modeling and particularly now that we have this computational power is that a lot of times you just remodeling things with information we don’t understand. I’ve done a lot of reading about climate models, because it’s a subject that interested me also interested in the air by the way. And and I saw a lot of similarities between what the climate modelers were doing and what I saw on the Pentagon during war game, and war modeling, and combat effectiveness modeling. And that is when you, when you have parameters that you don’t really understand or anything, you just start plugging in assumptions and stuff like that. So I’m very skeptical of climate model or of climate models, per se. And energy maneuverability was a way of modeling performance in an airplane, but that was easily verifiable. I mean, we could we could link that to basic engineering data and wind tunnel data and test data in flight data, you know, so we could validate the models. And the problem, the problem with climate models is validating them is very, very difficult. In fact, one of the biggest problems is, if you look at these global circulation models, they they involve, fundamentally, they involve navier stokes equations, the Navier stokes equations are brilliant equations, they’re they’re partial differential equations that model gas flows. And I studied those things in in college and, and literally, you can paint pictures with them, they’re really fascinating. It’s only a one problem is they’re not solvable. They, they have more variables. In three dimensional flow, there are more variables than equations. And and anybody who’s taken High School algebra knows that when you got more variables than equations, you got a problem. Right now, what we did in aeronautical engineering is to deal with it without limitation as we use wind tunnels, and we make simplifying assumptions like two dimensional flow. But in the end, you do flight tests of the full blown airplane, you know, you couldn’t, you couldn’t thing and what they’re trying to do now is they’re using what’s called computational fluid dynamics, which is basically the kind of calculations done in climate models to substitute for wind tunnel data. And we’ve we’ve, we know that when you’re dealing with something, you those equations work fine. For air foils that have been designed, have been booked a lot, put in the airfoil libraries, and we know, we know their characteristics, you can design them, you can use that for design, if you’re dealing with a new type of airfoil. Forget it, you got to do wind on all data. And that brings us to the climate model aspect. You know, what we need is, is the equivalent of good wind tunnel data for climate models? And of course, we don’t have a wind tunnel, you can model the climate, there’s no way even even abstractly,
Robert Bryce 1:33:06
because there’s too many variables. It’s just
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:33:08
too many variables. And so what you find is these guys are making assumptions about the variables or they’re burying the variables, or are they using these chaos models or complexity models, nonlinear dynamics, which are basically unpredictable. And and they sort of tinker with them? It’s silly, come up with an answer that looks correct. Whatever that is, right. That, in my opinion, is an abortion of science.
Robert Bryce 1:33:35
So just a couple last things, check. You’ve looked at. You’ve been part of the military reform movement. You were for your entire career. Now. You’re retired now for close on 20 years, I guess. You’ve been around the world you sailed. I remember you in the Mediterranean. You saw Syria before the Civil War, you’ve had a remarkable experience. And now you’re in your 70s. Are you bullish on America?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:34:00
No. I’m worried. I’m definitely worried. It doesn’t seem like we’re, we’re doing things to make it fix our problems. I look at the problems in the Pentagon. And they’re, in a way they’re a microcosm of Americans problems and they’ve gotten steadily worse. They’re worse today than they were at any time I was in the Pentagon, in my opinion. The other thing is, is if you look at the long term trends, the deindustrialization, the financialization of the economy, the manager realisation of production, where you have people with degrees, master’s, MBA type, people running production companies, and, you know, they haven’t been out on the factory floor. They haven’t been in design rooms. That’s led to all sorts of problems. I mean, Boeing has become a case study and what happens when managerial innovation takes over engineering in a production Engineering focused company. Boeing has horrendous problems in quality control. Now, in basic aerodynamics, we saw that in a 737. max, there may be some problems in the 787 as well, they’re certainly quality control problems. Right. That’s typical. So it’s hard to be bullish on America, when you see all this going on. And you have this grotesque inequality of wealth evolving. And and people that are trying, that are advocating solutions, they’re coming up with saying, well, we’re going to eliminate fossil fuels, you know, by What 2050? What are they talking about? You know, that better than I do. But yeah, it’s totally inconceivable that they can do that. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. And in what has made the modern industrial world, it’s basically energy. Right. It’s basically energy within you know, that. I mean, that’s been your stick for the last few years. And and, yeah, so it’s it’s very difficult. And I think defense, I think, I think defense is a case study, in our failure to come to grips with problems that are understandable. We did a lot in defense that made our understanding those problems clear, we know a hell of a lot more today than we knew in 1970. right about that, you know, just how the the the evolutionary bureaucracy or the evolutionary dynamics of the bureaucracy work and all that we understand that too much greater extent today, we can fix it,
Robert Bryce 1:36:35
but just seems out of control.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:36:37
It’s totally out of control. And that’s because a lot of people are getting rich off of being out of control. Which brings us back to Joe sonko.
Robert Bryce 1:36:45
We know, it’s just that one thing springs to mind. I’m working on an article about the some some plans to include some provisions for decarbonisation of the utility sector in in this reconciliation bill that’s in the pending for Senate, and there’s no accountability. I mean, there’s no accountability. It’s an appropriation that’s included within this reconciliation bill, but that didn’t originate in the house, and then it defers all of this. The enforcement to the Secretary of Energy, and I’m like, Well, wait a minute. No, this is gonna hold the hearings on this. I mean, it just seems to me it’s crazy faces is incredible. Okay, it’s crazy. Well, so what are you reading now?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:37:21
What am I reading? Actually, I’m reading a biography that did go off to Hmm. Which is interesting. I did go.
Unknown Speaker 1:37:30
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:37:31
I forget the name of the author, but very interesting, huh?
Robert Bryce 1:37:35
Is it a recent book?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:37:36
Yeah, yeah. It’s fairly recent. And and the goal is very interesting character. He. I
Robert Bryce 1:37:43
was responsible for France building the nuclear bomb.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:37:46
Well, that and and he was also responsible for a much more sensible policy, I think, making Europe Europe’s too dependent on the United States. That’s one of the big problems in foreign policy that feeds the military industrial congressional complex to go one or more independent path. I’ve always sort of felt
Robert Bryce 1:38:05
that when he withdrew, he withdrew from from NATO. Yeah, yeah, I think so. He wanted that he wanted France to bomb and,
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:38:13
well, he didn’t, it wasn’t so much that he wanted France to be the ruler of everything. I mean, it was obvious that Germany and England and France of Western Europe are the main drivers industrial industrially when he was when he was doing his thing. But, but he did not like the idea of European dependence on the United States. And it’s sort of like the old idea of British. I think, I haven’t finished the book. But I think it is sort of like the old idea of the British playing a balancing act on the on the continent except America had taken over that role. And the Brits had tacked themselves on to America so they could punch above their weight, but they’re basically are doing what we tell them. You know, as some people have said, Tony Blair was Bush’s poodle. And I think De Gaulle wanted a more European centric thing. He also probably wanted a more moderate policy toward the Soviet Union. One of the interesting things and isn’t another in the last four months of his life appears phrase life I, we had conversations that were very different than what we’d had before. And we talked a lot more about our personal personal lives and, you know, sort of insights into each other’s personality and stuff when Pierre was never that way. And, and I remember Pierre was telling me, he said, You know, he says, I’ve always been a globalist. And I thought, shit, so I think I am when I wasn’t sure. I was just another An example of how we we tended to think along similar lines without having any kind of interaction, it’s first time I ever talked them about the goal. And I was reading this thing about the girl and I was I was saying, there’s another interesting aspect to go to De Gaulle and, and that is, you know, De Gaulle was an exponent of Armored Warfare, sort of along the lines of the blitzkrieg that the Germans adopted. And and he you know, there was the Gaul there was jfc, fuller and Ladell heart in Britain. And there was the Guderian in Germany and it was patent in the United States, and a guy named to kruszewski in Russia while filing killed ducas ASCII, Turkish ASCII was the head of their military and he was a brilliant armor general. He was, he was involved in sponsoring Xu coffin in, I believe in in the fight with the Japanese in the 1930s at a place called Kalkan goal, where the Russians just kicked the shit out of the out of the Japanese and the that was one reason why Japan never declared war on Russia. They didn’t want to they had been on the receiving end of Duke miszewski so blitzkrieg type operations while style and ended up killing to kruszewski. But what’s interesting is during World War One De Gaulle had gotten captured at Verdun in 1950. And I believe, and he was in a German prisoner camp. One of his settlements was through kruszewski they weren’t they came out arguing the same thing now I don’t know whether there’s any connection I haven’t found any yet. There was a Russian he was a Russian now they got him in prison. Yeah, it took a shot. He was going to escape and escape from the prison camp and he eventually did in De Gaulle was trying to encourage him to defect to the west because the Bolsheviks will kill him because Toshi Dukas Jessica came from a noble family. Well to go zosky made a name for himself in the in the Bolshevik ward in 1918 to 1922. And he eventually was became the number one guy in the Soviet Army, then Stalin did write, you know, he executed it, you know, by coincidence, you know, and I’m trying to see if there’s anything to it. I mean, it goes beyond that, but I haven’t been able to yet, right, probably won’t be able to.
Robert Bryce 1:42:20
So last thing, and this is just a reminder, my guest is Chuck Spinney, my friend, Chuck Spinney. He’s an engineer, one of the key players in the military reform movement of the 1970s 80s 90s through the 2000s until 2003. You can find more about him, Chuck spinney.blogspot.com. Chuck, what gives you hope?
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney 1:42:45
You know, we tend to muddle through, we muddle through, you know, I look at my grandchildren, I have hope they’re I’m very depressed about the pathway Americans aren’t I don’t see, you know, I, I don’t see Biden correcting things. I certainly don’t blame him for Afghanistan. But that’s unfair. But But does he represent a real change for the better where we’re coming to grips with our problems? I don’t see how it seems like he’s dumping on. He’s jumping on democratic sacred cows, just like the republicans jump on republican sacred cows. And I think, to fix the problems in this country, which is fundamentally inequality, brought about by deindustrialization, managerial innovation and financialization and the perverse aspects of the military industrial congressional complex on the private sector, which is something we haven’t talked about. These these, these points, by the way, were well argued by professor at Columbia named Seymour Melman in the 1980s wrote a great book called profits without production that people were interested in and read. But, you know, until we come to grips with those problems, you know, in a very fundamental way, trying to see how we’re going to make things better. And, you know, we could end up with Well, we’re coming up with a bifurcated state anyway, it could get much worse, you know, it could be it’s almost it’s almost like an reincarnation of feudalism that’s taken place, where you have thought control going on and, you know, this this whole thing of, you know, they you got people invoking science, follow the science, and yet they have no idea what science is. And you see that in all sorts of areas you certainly see in yours. I saw it in I saw it in the Pentagon, it’s elsewhere. You know, where people just concoct thing, assemble data, cherry pick data, get it the fit, and, and then they call it science. You know, and then they invoke the authority of science, you know, it’s almost like a new form of religion. You know, until we come to grips with those fundamental things. I just, it’s hard to see how things can get better.
Robert Bryce 1:45:01
Well, that’s design duty enlightenment, my friend. Back to wishes. Well, it’s a somewhat sobering in to our discussion here check but I was really you know, I’m very pleased to have you on to talk about Afghanistan because it does seem like a milestone in in modern American history and you bring a unique perspective to it again, my guest has been Chuck Spinney. You can find out more about him Chuck spinney.blogspot.com, including his remarkable 2003 episode he did with Bill Moyers on Moyers show which is available on that same on that same website. So Chuck’s many million thanks for being on the power hungry. I enjoyed this. enjoyed it. Thank you. And thanks to all of you on the podcast world tuned in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Until then, thanks