There’s an odd article running at Foreign Policy about crazy military ideas put forth by civilians:
Here are the top 10 most ridiculous military options offered up by U.S. government officials or civilian commentators over the last few decades. Thankfully, these would-be civilian follies, based on unrealistic and often dangerous notions of what military power can achieve, were quashed before they left the drawing board.
It’s strange for a few reasons. First, it’s about proposals rather than actual actions. In other words, these were things that were thrown out and shot down. Given the range of suggestions–some crazy, some sane–that surround any policy issue, it hardly seems indicative of anything that a few of them over the past decades were pretty awful. Second, the ideas mentioned, while not particularly good, don’t really rise to the level of “follies.” Robert Gates’ 1984 suggestion that American airpower be used against the Nicaraguan military in order to support the revolution there isn’t even in the realm of being a quality thought, but it’s hardly crazier (or even close) than the actual American policy of illegally selling arms to the Iranians and then shipping the proceeds to the American-supported insurgents in Nicaragua, or, for that matter, mining Nicaraguan harbors(bonus content: angry letter from Barry Goldwater!). Third, the suggestions pale next to the insanity of some military ideas, like MacArthur’s desire to use atomic bombs against China in 1950-51, Curtis LeMay’s wishes to use nuclear weapons in just about any crisis in the 1950s that took his fancy, or, worst of all because it actually happened, the entire Bay of Pigs fiasco.* Next (and this is something of a reiteration of the first point), none of these became policy. Isn’t that a recommendation for the process? Finally, it leaves out entirely potentially the worst civilian idea of them all, which was the Bush administration’s Oedipal decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
*I’m counting Eisenhower as military for this post, given his background.