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John F. Petrone

The Military Mind

(19 January 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 3, 19 January 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The liberals howled in anguish when President Truman broke his promise to them and refused to reappoint James M. Landis, an early New Dealer, as chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Landis, it was announced, would be replaced by a Wall Street investment banker.

Senator Glen Taylor was so upset that he tore up a statement for the press announcing his decision “not to run for vice-president in Wallace’s third party, Max Lerner of PM whined that Truman’s dismissal of Landis “because the big airline corporations didn’t like him” was another example of how “Truman still falls down, judged by really exacting standards of a fighting liberalism.” (But evidently not far enough down for PM to quit supporting him for re-election.)

The reaction was so unfavorable that Truman decided not to appoint a banker to the job after all. Since all of Truman’s major appointees are either bankers or generals, this left him only one way out. So he appointed a general – Maj. Gen, Laurence S. Kuter.

Henry Wallace was quick to take a crack at this action: “For 15 months I have been pointing out that the president has been handing over control of the administration to Wall Street and military men. It is reported there are now more than 170 former army and navy officers in top civilian posts. It’s hard to keep tally on the investment bankers.” (Of course, the process actually began long before 15 months ago: to be more exact, it began to assume its present huge proportions under Roosevelt).

While it is hard to keep tally on the growing number of generals and bankers taking over in Washington, it’s not hard to see what the effects are. Take the example of General of the Army Marshall, who is hailed as “Man of the Year” by Time magazine. Marshall can hardly conceal his contempt for civilians, including the members of Congress whose servant he is supposed to be.

At the Senate committee hearing on the Marshall Plan on Jan. 8, Marshall laid down the law: “Either undertake to meet the requirements of the problems or don’t undertake it at all.” Meaning: You Senators had better do what I say and grant as much money as I demand – or else. It wasn’t until a day later that George of Georgia got up the nerve to take the floor and describe this insolent ultimatum as “a propaganda method,” although, he hastened to add, “General Marshall may not have meant it that way.” Even this feeble protest was regarded as “a verbal bombshell” in the Senate.

If Senator George doesn’t watch out, he’s liable to go down into the brass hats’ blackbook as a “troublemaker.” They don’t like to be questioned too much, or to be contradicted. Things just aren’t done that way in the armed forces, and their conception of the brave new world is a great big barracks, with the people lined up at attention, waiting for orders.

But Tris Coffin, Washington columnist, on Jan. 10 printed an even better illustration of what the prussianization of the government adds up to:

“A group of the (State) Department’s experts were briefing Secretary of State Marshall on some intricate problem. The Secretary was completely absorbed and occasionally broke in to ask sharp, penetrating questions. One such inquiry was a question of policy. There was a respectful silence among the higher-ups around the Secretary. But one of the younger men, an expert in a specialized field, spoke up brashly, ‘Mr. Secretary, I think ...’ That’s as far as he got. Marshall turned a Cold, fishy glare on him and asked, ‘What is your salary?’ ‘Seven thousand dollars a year, sir.’ The Secretary said abruptly, ‘At that salary, you are riot paid to think.’ ”

By the way, what’s your salary?

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