A Military Education | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
A Military Education
by

GENERALLY WRONG
Re: Lawrence Henry’s Rumsfeld and the Generals:

A most thorough and accurate discussion of the “old Navy”! Thank you, keep it up.
WWII Combat Vet, Retired CPO USN

Excellent article on the whole. I do, however, have a comment.

Military officers cannot retire until they have at least 20 years commissioned service, so those officers who, at the rank of O-3, look around and see no place to go, cannot retire. They have not served the requisite 20 years, unless they had prior enlisted service. They can choose to resign from the service, because they realize they don’t like the military life, and do something else for a living. If they truly want to stay in, they must work for promotion. Failure to achieve promotion to the rank of O-4 results in separation through the vehicle of having twice failed selection to the next higher rank.

The military promotion system allows O-4’s and above to serve at least 20 years, and earn a retirement, even if they fail selection to O-5. If an officer is lacking in military or those interpersonal skills necessary to function in a hierarchal organization such as the military, they are not promoted to the next higher rank by the annual meeting of the selection board.

Competition becomes sharper the higher one goes on the pyramid. In a perfect world, this would result in the best qualified always rising to the top levels of command. I agree with your premise that politics become ever more important in the journey to the top of the pyramid, so rough-around-the-edges warfighters like Schwarzkopf, Halsey, Patton, et al., never make it to the very top of the pyramid.

Every time the U.S. military undergoes a rapid contraction, the officer corps must contract also. Disgruntled retired senior officers sniping from the sidelines is nothing new. What is new is the unbridled emphasis on their criticisms by the MSM, ever eager to bring down anyone remotely connected to the Bush Administration.

I am a retired military officer. I have opinions about Operation Iraqi Freedom, as it has been waged by the current administration. However, my opinion is no more important than any other citizen. No battle plan, regardless of how carefully drawn, ever survives the first few minutes or hours after commencement.
R. Goodson
Vero Beach, Florida

Again, thanks for clarifying the confusion. So, we actually DID TOO have enough troops in Iraq, post-Saddam hostilities, to establish and maintain order. The Ahmed Chalabi government-in-exile stepped right in and never missed a beat, assisted by General Garner and Paul Bremer, and now San Francisco-style democracy (or is that Chicago-style) is just around the corner. The hundreds of ongoing IED incidents which kill our heroic troops…who seem to be used more as targets than as assertive military forces…and the political chaos amid the intensifying religious civil war between the now-released centuries-old combatants in Iraq are all just some kind of cover-story dreamed up by some generals who don’t like to get their uniforms dirty. Got it. Oh, and if you have any Kool-Aid left over, could you maybe explain how the Bush administration’s open-border plan to let lawbreakers overrun our country here at home while trying to tell us citizens what to do, shaking us down for hundreds of millions of tax dollars in indirect subsidies and claiming this is THEIR Country are all GOOD THINGS also? I know if you apply some more of that clear Republican logic you can do it.
Gene Wright
Recovering Republican in Laguna Niguel, California

Mr. Henry has probably put his finger on one of the major reasons for the “revolt of the generals,” but as a retired lieutenant colonel who was on active duty for both Vietnam and Desert Storm, I would like to quibble with a couple of his “facts.”

First, a Troop (note the capitalization in his article) is a company-sized unit in the armored cavalry, which means tanks. A soldier is a “trooper” or a “troop” or, most commonly a “soldier.”

Next, he talks of the “generals” drinking “Bill Clinton’s kool-aid on gender norming, no smoking, and don’t ask don’t tell.” It is fairly well-known among those of us who follow this kind of stuff that the Joint Chiefs of Staff threatened mass-resignation over the Slickmeister’s original intended action of opening the gates wide to homosexuals. Don’t ask, don’t tell, with all its flaws, is what they forced Clinton to go to. On the matter of no smoking, I recall clearly that it was during the reign of Ronaldus Maximus and his most excellent SecDef, the late, lamented Caspar Weinberger, that I first saw the newly-minted lepers huddling together outside on the fire escapes during the winter at the Massachusetts Air Force Base where I was then stationed, in order to indulge their nicotine addiction. Don’t get me started on gender norming…
Patrick R. Glass, LTC, US Army (Retired)

“…plus ‘S-Shops’ (supply, medical, intelligence, chaplain).”

Should be supply, operations, Intelligence and training

“There are lots of retirements at the captain rank. The next rank up is major, a kind of nowhere state in between captain and colonel. Officers often retire at major, too.”

Most retirements at captain are mustangs, enlisted who become officers.

“The next rank up is major, a kind of nowhere state in between captain and colonel. Officers often retire at major, too.”

Actually, there is an up out policy in the Army and you will not be allowed to tie up a major’s slot if you are not promoted. You will be given the choice, leave or accept a reduction in grade to Enlisted grade 6 (E-6). If you take the Riff you will be allowed to retire at the highest pay grade achieved, major, which is a nice package.

“Colonels actually run battalions.”

Actually Lieutenant Colonels run battalions, Colonels run Brigades

Otherwise a nice article about needed changes in the Pentagon, The cold war is over, Rummy is recasting the DoD to meet the challenges of this, not the cold war.
Charles A. O’Connor
Ventura, California

Oh dirty stuff, the secret is out. Now we are in trouble. Mr. Henry has dared to speak the truth publicly. The emperor really is buck nekkid after all.

Rummy vs. “the generals” has always been about a civilian SecDef daring to transform the military into a real fast, real lethal fighting force, instead of a ponderous slow “war machine” ready to oppose the Russian tank forces at the Fulda Gap, in my humble opinion.

Note that the anti-Rumsfeld forces have beatified Gen. Shinseki. He is cited as the antithesis of the horrible mistakes being made under Rumsfeld. Shinseki knew how to solve a problem in the military establishment. Just take away the black beret from the quick, lethal, Rangers and give it to the whole Army. See, now we can go back and put on our blue helmets and walk around in public like heroes. No bullets in the guns though. We wouldn’t want to actually shoot anyone.

I actually think that Rummy is a better SecDef than George Bush is a POTUS.
Ken Shreve

In what war that the U.S. has participated were there no complaints from generals?

War is killing people and breaking things. Then there’s police actions, civil wars, and finally rebuilding defeated countries. Someone is always going to complain and it’s usually those who cannot encompass the scope of an operation nor its complexities and changes. Looks like so far we have kept a bunch of thugs without a country off balance and frustrated. Many kudos to our guys.
L. Hyak
Suisun City, California

While I agree with Lawrence Henry’s assessments about the political nature of the upper level military structure and some of his assertions that the military’s lesson from Vietnam was to just say no, by one means or another, to the need to use ground forces without very specific goals in military terms, I must however disagree with his assertion that the “Powell Doctrine,” and an “exit strategy” are the results of the lessons learned in Vietnam by the military. The Powell Doctrine or the use of overwhelming force predates Vietnam by thousands of years of military thinking. The central theme of this thinking rests on the fact that anything else usually results in a long war of attrition that ultimately costs a lot more in all levels of resources, both material and lives. The North had overwhelming resource advantages throughout the Civil War and still fought a war of attrition against the South that cost them more in the long run. Had the South had the resources of the North, it would have been a short war. Both Korea and Vietnam reflect what happens when you commit just enough force to “not lose.” We lost both wars in military terms. The 12-year war of attrition in Vietnam did not bleed the Communists out of the war. We violated the most fundamental principle of warfare by not defeating the enemy on the battlefield. That’s what the Powell Doctrine simply restates. If we are going to fight, we should do nothing less than give it all we have and end it decisively.

I would also point out the central assumption post WWII was that in any conflict we might have with either Russia or China, we would be out numbered by at least 3:1 on the battlefield. The Division level thinking behind this and our AirLand 2000 Battle structure simply reflects that where ever we were likely to be involved in ground combat we would likely be outnumbered by a significant amount. To that end, “overwhelming force” being generated by what ever force level we have was a requirement to win. The outcome of the first Gulf War was vindication of that concept. We didn’t defeat the world’s fourth largest ground army with a few SF teams and precision ordnance. Our success in Afghanistan with such tactics is unique to the terrain, enemy forces there and isolated nature of Afghanistan. No such operation was going to work against the armed forces of Iraq in 1990 or 2003. We were able to take down Iraq in 2003 with less than three combat divisions in 21 days because we smashed the bulk of their mechanized forces in 1990 with a force 4 times that large, all of which were heavy conventional divisional forces. Six weeks of intense bombing followed by a 100-hour blitzkrieg like the world has never seen produced its own “shock and awe” that the 2003 invasion of Iraq didn’t even approach. The 1990 Gulf War approach was a broad sword compared to the dragger approach of the 2003 invasion. Every tool has it strengths and weaknesses. We need every tool we can muster with the small force structure we maintain.

There is no doubt in my mind that the current generals’ revolt is at least as much political as it is anything else. Never the less, three years after we took the country down, the county is still engaged in an armed insurrection and our over dependence on technology to offset combat force levels is sorely inadequate in producing a quick and decisive result. Like Vietnam, we are engaged in a defensive war of attrition with a minimal force level and the prospects that we may never “exit” Iraq. Add to this that the active military force can’t take a dump without calling up large numbers of Reserves and Guard forces for extended periods of time and these are real concerns even if spoken by the politicians in uniform. That’s where the comparisons to Vietnam end if you overlook the sanctuaries outside of Iraq that provide active support to the insurrection on a daily basis.

Is the current generals’ revolt about politics? Yes. Is it about “sour grapes”? Yes. Are there bruised egos at work here? Yes. Does this invalidate the facts on the ground? No. We simply don’t have enough combat forces to deal with all the potential hot spots in the world as they exist today. When people who support the “Powell Doctrine” express concerns about forces levels, what they are really saying is, “Do you want to win in military terms or not?” Iraq 2003 was the last battle of the 1990 Gulf War. We had the forces in place to take down Iraq in 1990 and crush a similar insurrection quickly. Those forces don’t exist today. The current National Command Authority did not make the decisions that led to this. We have about half the combat forces today we had in 1990 to be clear. A proportionate force structure in Iraq today would not be that much larger than is there now. The often asked question, “did we commit enough forces to Iraq” isn’t the proper question in my mind. The correct question should be, do we have enough force to win militarily in places like Korea, Taiwan straits, Iraq, Syria and Iran? As General Tommy Franks is fond of saying, “the enemy always gets a vote” in such matters. I think we are winning in Iraq but going about the matter with minimal forces for reasons that don’t make the talking head circuit with the parade of politicians in uniform (Ret) very often.
Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

The only thing wrong with Lawrence Henry’s affable and informed Old World cynicism about our military and its political careerists is that it isn’t book length. More!
Allen Hurt

I’m sure Henry knows that the Army hates its Special Forces, but not nearly as much as Special Operations hates Special Forces. SF troops are the best of the very best. They also tend to have IQ’s higher than colonels and generals, and since they have no particular love for authority or regimen, they usually delight in outwitting regulations, or using those regulations against those who would thwart them. They are force multipliers without equal, and they routinely accomplish missions everyone else considers impossible. Small wonder the public knows nothing about them, and the upper echelon loathes them!
Mary McLemore
Pike Road, Alabama

Lawrence Henry’s article “Rumsfeld and the Generals” is so fraught with misinformation, in paragraphs two through six, it leaves the impression that he has no knowledge on which to base his subsequent thesis, if one can discern it.

A “troop” is usually definitive of a member of the Highway Patrol, or State Patrol. In the military it referred to a horse-borne soldier. Military personnel are referred to as soldier, sailor or marine.

In the Army, two fire teams of five men make up a squad, plus a squad leader for a total of eleven men per squad. There are four squads per platoon, not three. There are four platoons in a company, and four companies in a battalion.

Battalions are normally commanded by lieutenant colonels, not colonels, with majors as battalion executive officers. Staff officers S-1-S-2 S-3 S-4 report to the battalion commander and are responsible for administration, intelligence, operations, and logistics. If a chaplain is assigned to the unit he is housed in headquarters company, not on the battalion staff.

Brigades, normally commanded by a full colonel, are comprised of several battalions.

Corps, for the most part, no longer exist. Brigadier generals serve as assistant division commandeers for maneuver, and ADCs for support. Major generals command divisions, and lieutenant generals who in previously times would have commanded corps, now command Armies, a command previously reserved for generals.

Armies are comprised of several divisions, whereas they formerly were comprised of Corps.

It would be rare indeed if a captain, unless he were a respected “Mustang,” (one who came up from the enlisted ranks, were to retire). A captain who twice fails to be promoted to major, when eligible, is automatically discharged from the service.

I suspect politics exists in the military, as in any organization. However competence in the task at hand, and performance is the common denominator among military achievers. I previously served with the major general who pulled Major Powell up from the ranks to be his acting G-3 in the Americal Division, which gave Powell his first stage in the lime light in combat. I also previously served with the Congressional Medal of Honor winner, who was the chief of staff of the Americal, when Powell was on the staff. Powell didn’t make it to the top because he was a politician; he made it to the top because he was competent, and viewed as such.

Henry refers to the Balkans in the ’90s. Who was the overall commander, and who was relieved from the position?

As far as the genesis of the Powell doctrine is concerned, it would seem the generals’ concern is with the Congress, not with the military. We all know that had we adequate civilian support in the Vietnam conflict, the outcome would have been quite different. In 1991 Powell took his support with him. In 2003 Franks took what was necessary.

Some retired generals have become embroiled in politics, because they believe their own press clippings. I don’t think Powell is one of them. In any event these retirees are no longer in the military. Overwhelming force as it pertains to Vietnam does not mean fighting a guerilla contingent with Abrams tanks. Overwhelming force means grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow. The military has done that in Iraq, and with a few exceptions that will be weeded out, they are following.
John Moran
St. Paul, Minnesota

A couple of things.

Lieutenant colonels typically run battalions. Full colonels run brigades or regiments.

“Lots of long-term soldiers get to the rank of captain…”? Not so sure “long-term soldiers” and the time to reach captain fit together unless the captain had been a mustang. That is a former enlisted man who became an officer.

“A conscript Army sent to fight a war…” Whoa. Some statistics show that approximately 16-25 percent of the total forces in-country (as in: in Vietnam, the Republic of) were draftees. Statistics also show that nearly 30 percent of combat deaths were draftees.

Finally, the whole notion of disaffected or political generals is not new. But, still, it’s a shame they have to wash their dirty laundry in public now.
C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

As a career officer who retired almost 20 years ago, I can attest to the ring of truth in this piece.
Tom Armstrong
Alexandria, Virginia

A FLAGGING CAUSE
Re: David Holman’s There He Goes Again:

Thirty years ago I spent a lot of time going to Star Trek conventions dressed in one of those mini-skirted red uniforms like Lieutenant Urhura used to wear, and speculating on how in the world the Enterprise could carry enough pantyhose for a five-year mission; and there are photos extant of me and my Gran Torino painted in Starsky and Hutch colors, driving to locations where the show was staged and enacting scenes that were shot there. Forty years ago I spent all my money on Beatles magazines and practicing copying their signatures until I could sign John Lennon’s name as well as he could himself. Twenty years ago I was a leading light in the fandom of Doctor Who, and photos of the times will show me decked out in colorful scarves and lionized by Doctor Who fandom for my writing skills.

My point in confessing all these things is to point out that if I were to decide to run for public office, no doubt I could be attacked as a lightweight and possibly as delusional by the Stuck in the Sixties Patrol — if the assumption they made about Mr. Allen were taken as gospel: that what we did twenty, thirty and forty years ago is what we are doing now.

In fact, I’d love to have someone in Mr. Allen’s campaign office to find out what Mr. Lizza looked like and what he wore, and what kind of shenanigans he was up to, back in the Real Sixties. I’m betting, like my own photo albums, this vision would be considerably different from the way he currently presents himself.

Mr. Lizza should get up every morning, look in the mirror, and repeat three times: THE SIXTIES ARE OVER. THE SIXTIES ARE OVER. FOR THE LOVE OF ALMIGHTY GOD, THE BLEEPING SIXTIES ARE OVER.
Kate Shaw

Another article that speaks truth to the liberal MSM. The whole battle flag thing is smoke and mirrors. The fact is that treating Sen. Allen this way over that particular symbol WILL get him votes for his re-election this year and his run for POTUS in ’08.

The original deal with the flag was a matter of daring to challenge authority and what we now call political correctness. It was about courage against greater odds. It was about nanny state Yankees telling Southerners how to live, when the same Yankees didn’t follow their own prescriptions. Does anyone remember the riots in Boston’s south side against busing to achieve integration in the schools?

Yes, there were some in the South that used the flag for its ties to slavery, but they were a very distinct minority. We could always understand and accept that black folk didn’t like the flag. We mostly just said that we agreed with them on the whole slavery thing, but just between us, we like aggravating the elite classes and the governing classes with flag decals, etc. By the way, has George Bush banned the Texas flag, cause it sure gives the Hispanics heartburn?

I am personally disappointed that Sen. Allen has gone slightly squishy on the flag thing, but if he holds the line regarding his other beliefs and his true conservatism, I will give him a pass. Sen. Allen has been the underdog in just about every elective race that he has ever run, yet his winning percentage sure is good. He must have been doing something right.
Ken Shreve

You are right on point. However, I don’t like to see Sen. Allen pandering to the race business and the “drive-by” media. You touched on the fact that the Confederate flag, means different things to different people. To Southerners, it means heritage and history. What that heritage is, is freedom from tyranny and supportive of limited federal government, this country’s founding principles. The War between the States, was just that. The federal government, controlled by the Northern states, wanted to control and dominate the South, and slavery was the convenient red herring. Northerners, at the time, and arguably still today, were much more racist then Southerners. If that sounds crazy, just Google “black Confederates,” and General Grant’s opinion of blacks, and you’ll be satisfied. Slavery, in due time, would have died a peaceful death, without the death of 600,000 Americans and the loss of Liberty by an entire nation (I’m referring to today’s nation). Slavery and segregation was morally wrong and, America, being a moral nation from its founding, would have come to grips with that immorality on its own, peacefully. The “drive-by” media and liberals have successfully coined that war, the Civil War, so that they can forever, no matter how long ago slavery and segregation ended, guarantee the black vote for themselves. The race business depends on its money and the Democratic Party depends on its votes. That’s why Mr. Lizza will never concede the truth, to do so will be to concede defeat.

I wish a politician in the conservative movement would stand up, and without, as Shelby Steele (a black man) brilliantly coined in his OpinionJournal.com column recently, the Liberal produced “White Guilt,” be proud of this country’s founding principles of limited government and personal liberty. That’s what the Confederate flag means to me, and as an immigrant from Canada of all places, if I can see the truth in this, many other natural-born Americans can too.
Daniel Scouler

David Holman’s defense of George Allen is unexceptionable. But his conclusion that Lizza’s attack will somehow rally conservatives to Allen’s cause is wide of the mark, if my reaction is in any way representative. I’m a decades-long Republican, until now. Bush has done me in — illegal immigrants are decent folks, yada-yada-yada. The guy’s a nut case. Pile on the shameless GOP congressional corruption. George Allen? He’s got that scarlet letter firmly imprinted on his forehead.

If Allen has the guts to third-party it, I’ll go for him. Otherwise, bring on Lyndon LaRouche, dead or alive. What could possibly be worse than we have now? Don’t the political elite finally need a very strong message that the folks aren’t buying their brand of pander anymore?
J. Loftus
Falls Church, Virginia

I had two ancestors in the Civil War, both named George. George W. (honest to God…) was a sergeant in the Ninth Maine, and George N. served in the federal navy. The sergeant survived the war (I still have his personal revolver); the sailor did not. There was evil enough done on both sides in that war, but also deeds of great valor. George W. (Wash, as the family knew him) at any rate seems to have held his late adversaries in respect. The Confederate flag that is the center of the current storm was a battle flag, and flew above those southern soldiers. Let it continue to fly; the sons of the South were valiant, even in defeat. We could not afford to lose them then, and should not sully their memories now.
Bruce Abbott

Once, it was considered politically risky to challenge such adolescent pinheads as Ryan Lizza. Some conservatives bore such a burden of insecurity, due to the power of the Liberal Establishment and its ability to control the agenda, that they were given to pause before confronting the status quo. Better to lead one’s life in a Thoreau-like world of quiet desperation. No more. The house of cards has fallen. Only a few Republican politicians, still living in the past, bear that insecurity, and its consequences.

Welcome to the New World. A world where the darkness, spread by Lizza’s friends in public education, is being dispelled by the light of knowledge available in the Information Age, and old assumptions about the body politic are being challenged. A world, especially in the South, which is not what he would have us believe it is. Where he finds ignorance, we find enlightenment and sophistication. Where he finds racism, we find people sharing a common bond of mutual respect. Where he finds guilt, we find innocence.

Symbols are understood differently depending on who is doing the understanding. If one found an American flag displayed on a wall in bin Laden’s current cave, would it mean he loved America, or that he wanted a daily reminder of who his enemy was? If one found a Nazi flag displayed in Ward Churchill’s office, would that mean he loved Nazi Germany, or that it represented his beliefs about the American government? And, if one found a Mexican flag displayed on a wall in Ryan Lizza’s office, what would that mean?

Senator Allen has no fetish for the Confederate flag — Ryan Lizza has a fetish for the Confederate flag!

And, like the Confederate flag, Ryan Lizza is a relic!
Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

Thanks again for more on the retreat from rationality of “liberals” (quotes required as “liberals” are no longer liberal). One hopes that the nation will be returned to arguing over policy, etc. but I see no signs of same. With two kids, 10/11, that frightens me…

For the small point file: I am reasonably sure that M. Isakoff is responsible for the canard about Christians, not M. Weisskopf. As I remember it, Isakoff did apologize and I thought the apology was genuine.

It was distressing to read that Allen has caved in to the anti intellectual left as regards the battle flag. Given the above, however, one imagines he is better off than attempting a reasoned explanation.

Suggest you stay on Allen as he will be the Republican nominee and, at this moment, likely to beat whomever the Dems put up. It cannot hurt to be one of the first to keep his name in the public and also pursue the Sisyphean task of bringing rationality into political discourse.

Good luck!!!!
Bruce Karlson
Navarre, Florida

David Holman replies:
Mr. Karlson, Thanks for your note. Not to bicker, but it was Weisskopf. Just plug his name and “Christians” into Google and follow the results.

More generally, I’m not so sure Allen is “pandering” to the left on this thing. Perhaps I should have phrased it differently in the article. He is behaving how they would prefer, not flying the flag anymore. But he has not called that morally wrong, or said others should not fly it. In short, he doesn’t want to be confused (however unfairly) for a racist. It is a prudential decision. Can he have it both ways? That’s up to you folks.

NOT SO HIGH ON GM
Re: Eric Peters’s The Sky Is the Limit:

Eric Peters sings the praises of Saturn’s new Sky roadster in terms and with details worthy of a highly skilled corporate flack, but notes that this effort may be too little, too late, to save Saturn from going the way of Studebaker (or Oldsmobile, not to rub salt in GM’s wounds). I suspect that he’s right about the latter part. I don’t have a degree in marketing, but I have had some thoughts about Saturn, and about why I don’t forecast a bright future for this sporting venture.

As I recall, Saturn’s first marketing focus was a “no-haggle’, one price approach. Having seen how much ‘blue sky’ could be wrung out of the price of a new car by various means back in the days when I bought new cars, my reaction was to suspect that they suspected me of being an idiot. Did they really think that I would think that Saturn was a fit arbiter of a fair return on the corporate investment? I immediately took a dislike to the company for insulting my intelligence.

The company has survived for a number of years, so I suppose that, whatever their pricing policy from time to time, some significant number of buyers actually bought Saturns; just not enough, of them, it would seem. There must be some sort of Saturn mystique that, if more sportily applied, would save the whole shebang, I guess is the reasoning behind the Sky venture.

Granted that I haven’t paid any attention to Saturn’s marketing efforts over the years, but I have noticed some of their vehicles on the road. It’s been over a number of years, of course, but I can’t recall ever having noticed one because it was beautiful or performing or handling on the highway or in traffic with verve or aplomb.

Generally, when I’ve noticed a Saturn, it’s been because the driver of some nondescript, dirty, old-looking pile of sheet metal did something to give evidence that the driver was in a state of semi-consciousness, with precious little or none of that consciousness occupied by an awareness of anyone else on the road. I’m not talking about risky or aggressive driving. I’m talking about just plain stupid driving.

No doubt there are many Saturn drivers out there who are excellent and conscientious at manipulating a vehicle. I don’t mean to malign them as a class; I just never notice their cars. My point is that Saturn drivers aren’t the sort of venturesome souls who are going to upgrade to this spiffy roadster, and drivers of other makes aren’t likely to imagine that driving a Saturn of any model is going to enhance their road presence. Risky and aggressive drivers are unlikely to deign to sneer at the Sky.

When was the last time you saw a Saturn sporting a new wax job? Chrome exhaust extensions? A humorous bumper sticker? If your experience is like mine, the answer is “never.” You could at least count on the Chevette (one of which I bought brand new in 1980 [sob]) for the occasional self-deprecating bumper sticker or paint job.

I can’t and don’t know, but it seems to me that Saturn was intended as some sort of knock-off of the Japanese cars for patriotic buyers, but without the resale value. The committee that has guided it over the years is now going to try to market an allegedly sporty car to an established base of customers to whom the term “sporty” is, at best, value neutral. It will try to convince other potential buyers that a new Sky won’t look as limp and lifeless as any other Saturn in six months, with thirty months left to pay.

Good luck, Saturn, but I don’t think it’s going to work. You put me in mind of the “Charlie Brown” cartoon in which “Pigpen” appeared in the first frame all dressed up and spotless and, without doing anything at all, ended up looking just like “Pigpen” in the final frame.
Mark Fallert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I agree with many of the comments of writer Eric Peters in his article of 5/5/06 about the new Saturn Sky model. As a former Chevrolet dealer, I love cars and have significant experience in how GM “does things.”

First, the Sky should be a Buick model — not a Saturn. Its “upmarket” content and styling compared to the Pontiac Solstice fits with the rest of the market tier of the Buick line. It certainly does not fit with the “econo car” tiering of the Saturn lines. The Sky will not generate interest in the rest of Saturn’s offerings, and I — for one — do not want to drive a “Saturn” Sky, nor do I want to go into a Saturn dealership.

No doubt — this is GM’s last ditch effort to rescue Saturn after spending billions and billions on the Saturn line. If they had spent the same billions on retooling the offerings at the Chevrolet line instead of starting Saturn, GM would have realized return on its investment over the last twenty years. As it is, GM will likely never see a positive return on its Saturn investment.

Peters’ analogy of the Avanti to the Studebaker mark is an apt one. I only hope for GM — and for American manufacturing in general — that GM wakes up and builds the same sort of excitement into the rest of its lines as it has done with a couple of offerings like Solstice and Sky. For example, the new Camaro should be introduced — as displayed at car shows — as soon as possible.
Robert King

Yeah, but GM makes such CRAP I wouldn’t have a Saturn if you gave it to me. Would probably be lucky to make it home without something serious falling apart.

My dad used to own a couple of GM dealerships. I know how they treated their dealers. I know what trash the cars were. And Saturn still is, truth be told.

Sad to say, I’ll be happy if GM goes bankrupt.
unsigned

REJUVENATED
Re: Ben Stein’s Greetings From Rancho Mirage:

I do not usually do this but I am thank you for your letter. I not going to lie — I’ve been feeling down this month. See, I am missing my child’s birthday for a second time, all I could think about was I am never around for my children, am away to some far in land or away training to go to somewhere. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do, it this time of the year I feel like a s***** father, kind of reminds me of the one that was never around. I never wait to be like that, the reason I am thanking you is your letter motivated me. You brought back my sprit; well it really never left you what me. Your letter brought me back why I am really here for freedom. Maybe my kids will forgive me for the times lost. Once again thank you, the motivator is back.
SGT Ventura, PA USMC
Iraq, TQ

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