By Noel Koch
Best Defense guest columnist
In the run-up to President Obama's trip to the Middle East, apologists for Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy civilian convicted of spying for Israel, urged Pollard's release. This has become a recurring event led, strikingly, by Israeli leaders.
Here are two reasons why it is absurd to consider ever releasing Jonathan Pollard:
First, the Israelis have never told us who his co-conspirators were.
Second, the Israelis have never told us how much of the information they obtained was traded to nations hostile to the United States.
Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 while trying to escape into the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In March 1987 he was convicted in a plea bargain that permitted him to avoid a public trial, as a result of which there would be no public record and thus no public awareness of the full extent of his crimes or why he committed them.
The narrative aggressively promoted by his supporters in Israel and the United States paints Pollard as a committed Zionist prompted by his love for Israel and concern for its security. It ignores other facts, e.g. before he began spying for Israel, he had already reached out to other foreign intelligence organizations, one of which actually was an enemy of Israel, in an effort to capitalize on his position as an analyst with access to classified U.S. information. The plea agreement also helped obscure the fact that Pollard was bought and paid for by the Israelis; his motive was money, not warm feelings for the Jewish state.
Israel's damage control efforts included the contention that the Pollard escapade was a rogue operation not carried out through the nation's normal espionage channels. This much would prove to be true. Pollard was not being run by Mossad. As is often the case with missteps between states, this one was rooted in personal animus. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger's reluctance to put the lives of American military personnel at the disposal of Israel's interests promptly produced the usual result: a smear campaign in which Weinberger was implied to harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. Especially ill-disposed to Weinberger was his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon. Among other things, Sharon was convinced Weinberger was refusing to share intelligence of interest to Israel. Accordingly, Sharon set about to get the alleged intelligence on his own.
Sharon's agent in this endeavor was legendary Israeli intelligence operative Rafi Eitan. Rafi found his dupe in the buyable Jonathan Pollard. Here begins an aspect of the matter hidden from public view by the manner in which Pollard was prosecuted. It has served the Israeli narrative for Pollard to be seen as some sort of super spy. He was nothing of the sort. He simply exploited his trusted access to Navy computers to withdraw information his handlers instructed him to get. At least some of the documents were secured behind alpha-numeric designators. Pollard had no idea what these designators represented. He was simply told to extract the associated documents.
Thereupon rests one reason Israel has from the outset been anxious to retrieve Pollard, and one of several very good reasons Pollard should remain in prison to the end of his life sentence. U.S. intelligence personnel have long known that Pollard didn't act alone and that there were other, still unidentified (or at least unprosecuted), traitors to America involved in this undertaking. Who identified for Pollard the specific documents he was to pull out of the computers? Israel hasn't told us.
In the netherworld of espionage, competent national agencies trade information. It is known that the information Israel bought from Pollard was exchanged with other national agencies to the detriment of U.S. interests. Some of the damage to the United States is known. Some may not be. In any case, Israel has never given the United States a complete accounting of what was stolen (to be sure, Pollard himself doesn't know) and what was passed to enemies of the United States.
Jonathan Pollard got what he wanted: money, jewelry, and paid trips in exchange for his treachery; he got what he deserved: life in prison. Unlike Judas, who had the grace to hang himself in shame, he lives in the hope that his purchasers will spring him so he can enjoy the apartment set aside for him, the money they have been banking for him, and the hero's welcome they have promised him for betraying the United States.
Noel Koch served in the U.S. Department of Defense from 1981 to 1986. During this time he worked with Rafi Eitan, advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on terrorism, and later with Amiram Nir, who held the same position with Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
The more I read, the more I am persuaded that getting the leaders of the U.S. military to recognize that marriages are different now is of utmost importance. Here is one:
As a military spouse and struggling professional, I've found that maintaining my career has taken Herculean efforts on my part. My spouse is still a CGO and I eventually had to resort to more creative measures to keep my career aspirations afloat. I truly believe there is a giant culture shift afoot in the military community and it isn't just Junior Officers...it's across the board. All military spouses, regardless of their servicemembers' grade are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to a shred of their professional identity...and many of us just give up. Unfortunately the price of giving up is astronomical and when these military spouses try to reenter the workforce 10, 15, or 20 years later, it's demoralizing and a slap in the face. Thank you for writing this piece. I am dying to hear more.
And here is another:
I am the wife of a JO currently stationed at Camp Lejeune. I am also an attorney. I have finally found work in the booming metropolis that is Jacksonville, N.C., with the caveat that I was offered only part-time work with no expectation of partnership (as everyone knows we will pcs in a couple of years). Further, I make 1/5th the salary that I made when we were married 5 years ago (my pre-Marine Corps life), and, to put that in perspective, my former law school and law firm peers are currently law partners making 3-4 times what I was making 5 years ago. Put simply, the lost income is staggering. Only I am responsible for my choices in life, and I certainly don't regret mine, as I love my husband and the Marine Corps very much. But I never imagined it would be so difficult to find work. I have applied for countless gov't positions -- anything to get my proverbial foot in the door, mostly contract procurement jobs for which a college degree is not required -- and have never gotten so much as an interview. Thank you again for posting on this topic. It is a frustrating life, for sure.
And from a thoughtful male, after reading some of the comments from men:
I think some of the critics on this thread are hammering on the wrong nail. They think they are hearing serving officers say, "I wish I was posted in or near a big city." What they are actually hearing serving officers say is, "I married an educated woman with some gumption. There's not a lot for her to do with her education and gumption in F-ville. If the Army doesn't think more about this, then I have two choices: (1) lose the career or (2) lose my spouse." I don't think this is whining. I don't think this is a case of guys saying I'm a wimp and can't make it in Fort Hole in the Woods. This is the voice of reason looking for some reasonable answers.
By Roxanne Bras
Best Defense department of innovation
If you're in the military and have a good idea, do you know where to go? As recent debates erupted over whether the military encourages innovation and retains talent, I asked friends this question. Many had vague notions about programs at Leavenworth/IDEA Program/Quantico, but not a single person said he had confidence in this process. Now the plural of ‘anecdote' is not ‘data,' but in the absence of a survey about junior leaders' confidence in senior echelon responsiveness, I'm going to venture a guess that the low confidence exhibited by my peers is not spurious.
But we've debated this before, practically every month. Compare all the junior officer blog posts saying that good officers are frustrated with a geriatric bureaucracy to all the senior leaders' assurances that everything is fine. What do you get? I don't know, because these discussions quickly become personal, distracted by red herrings, and unsupported by data.
So is the military encouraging innovation? We can write about it, or we can test it by reaching out to emerging leaders and listening to their ideas. A group of junior officers has come together to try and do just that. We're organizing the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), a three-day conference at the University of Chicago, because we believe that our peers have great ideas, strategies, and inventions that can make our military better. And we hope that senior leaders will work with us in this process; this conference is developed in a spirit of duty to our military and its continued improvement, not disloyalty or arrogance.
(Un)fortunately, this conference couldn't be better timed: The military's run out of money. Now it must really think. DEF hopes to provide a place where junior leaders can come together to propose new ideas, network with people from different services and ranks, and learn how to translate ideas into action. General officers and civilian entrepreneurs are also attending, keeping us from just preaching to the choir.
And so you don't think we fully drank the Kool-Aid, we'll admit it: Slogans and buzzwords about innovation and change can sound starry-eyed. But the process of moving from brainstorming to actionable innovations is messy and hard to capture in a bumper sticker. That's why we want to move this conversation to a physical space where we can get together, discuss ideas, and help create road-maps for implementation.
Please take few minutes and check out www.def2013.com, then register and come to the conference! If you have an idea, no matter how random, technical, or high-level, submit it to our Ideas Competition. We'll be picking the best innovations, and the winners will be able to share their ideas at the conference. We've also arranged for an excellent series of speakers, and lots of time for small groups and informal discussions. Sign up for more information, tell us what you think on our Facebook page, get involved, and we'll see you in Chicago.
Roxanne Bras is a captain in the U.S. Army, and a member of the DEF board. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
I bet you haven't heard of most of them!
(Thanks to John Mill.)
By Jesse Sloman
Best Defense office of Junior Officer Issues
Millions of electrons have been spilled in the last few months on the subject of junior officer retention. As a company grade officer in the Marine Corps, I've been following the widening debate with great interest. Although assertions of a crisis in the JO community have yet to be proven empirically, the volume of interest this topic has generated speaks to its importance as a national security issue. It's also clear that questions about retention resonate among my generation of officers, many of whom are currently mulling their own decisions about whether to remain on active duty.
Despite this outpouring, one critical factor in manpower retention has remained unexplored: quality of life for spouses, over 90 percent of whom are women. Relationship status and spousal satisfaction are crucial influences on a servicemember's decision to stay or leave the armed forces, yet these issues have so far been largely overlooked. As women take on ever greater roles in American professional life -- they now make up a larger share of the national work force than men -- their attitudes and expectations will be increasingly at odds with the traditional role of the military spouse. This is especially true for the spouses of junior officers, most of whom possess bachelor's degrees, strong employment prospects, and belong to a generation of women who have been raised with the assumption that they have as much right to long and fulfilling careers as their husbands. I have seen this dynamic firsthand among my peers. Two of the most promising lieutenants I know, including one who graduated at the top of his TBS class, are planning to curtail their military careers primarily out of consideration for their wives.
Consider the difficulties a young educated woman faces when her husband commissions into the armed forces. As she watches her friends enter the workforce and embark on their new careers, she will almost certainly be forced to move to an entirely new community with little in the way of local employment options. If she is lucky enough to find a good job, her excitement will undoubtedly be tempered by the knowledge that within a year or two she'll be forced to move and start over. Every time she begins a new job search she'll be competing against not just all the other recently arrived spouses, but also against non-military locals who employers know will not be leaving in the near future.
The numbers attest to the difficulties spouses face in finding employment. A 2004 Rand Corporation study found that military spouses are less likely to be employed than their civilian peers and earn less money when they are employed. This holds true even when they are compared against civilian spouses with similar employability characteristics. Given these obstacles, it's little wonder that 85 percent of military spouses say they either want or need work. Of those who are employed, it's not uncommon to find spouses working in positions for which they are manifestly overqualified. I know a former government lawyer currently employed at a nearby unit as a Family Readiness Officer, a job that does not even require a bachelor's degree.
None of these issues is new for military spouses, but it is surely not lost on them that today they are being largely excluded from one of the most important demographic shifts in American history. As Hanna Rosin, journalist and author of The End of Men, explains: "For the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce [has] tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation's jobs.... Women dominate today's colleges and professional schools -- for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women."
To its credit, the Department of Defense has taken recent action to try and improve spousal employment with the creation of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative in 2009. SECO is made up of three programs: the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) tuition assistance program, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), and the Military Spouse Career Center. Unfortunately, a 2012 Government Accountability Office report noted that, "DOD is not yet able to measure the overall effectiveness of its spouse employment programs," so it is impossible to know if they are proving beneficial.
I suspect that, given the obstacles arrayed against it, SECO will prove inadequate to the task of providing JO wives with fulfilling long-term employment. Instead, the military may need to come up with more radical measures, such as reinstituting homesteading and increasing the number of unaccompanied tours to locations suffering from limited employment opportunities. Another option is to ensure that spouses' careers are given weight when assigning servicemembers to new duty stations. There are significant practical obstacles to both of these ideas, but over time they may grow to be considered preferable to the problems brought on by spousal discontent.
Ultimately, effective solutions will only be possible when there is widespread recognition that the military's current social model is a legacy of a different time. Today's young women will be increasingly unwilling to sacrifice their professional ambitions for their husband's military career. The choice for young officers will become stark: Stay in the military and make their wives unhappy, or get out and give them a chance to pursue their dreams as well. Unless positive measures are taken to increase spousal satisfaction, I fear more and more JOs will choose the latter.
Jesse Sloman is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps currently based in Okinawa, Japan.
In our cynical age it is easy to forget that sometimes the newspapers get it right. I was struck while reading George Orwell's diaries by the reports he cites in August 1939, just weeks before World War II began in Europe.
The Manchester Guardian comes off particularly well. It reports that month that "German mobilization will be at full strength halfway through August & that some attempt to terrorise Poland will be made."
A few days later, Orwell notes, the same paper's diplomatic correspondent predicted that "Spain will almost certainly remain neutral in case of war."
He may be retiring, but he remains quotable: "It's not an easy course. It's not designed to be. We're not here to get you in touch with your inner child."
Sgt. Maria Asenbrener/DVIDS
For the genre of "hard-won but sometimes humorous military wisdom," "Charlie Sherpa" mentioned these in a comment on the lessons of helicopter pilots, but they are too good not to run as a separate post.
1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"
2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"
3. Never speak with complete authority regarding that which you lack direct knowledge, observation, and/or suppressive fires.
4. Never pull rank over a radio net.
5. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.
6. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to communicate.
7. "I am responsible for everything my commander's organization knows and fails to know, learns and fails to learn."
8. Know when to wake up the Old Man. Also, know how to wake him up without getting punched, shot, or fired.
9. The three most important things in the TOC are: Track the battle. Track the battle. Track the battle.
10. Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries.
11. Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person on the map.
12. Rank has its privileges. It also has its limitations.
13. Let Joe surprise you.
14. Don't let Joe surprise you.
15. The first report is always wrong. Except when it isn't.
16. The problem is always at the distant end. Except when it isn't.
17. Exercise digital/tactical patience. Communications works at the speed of light. People do not.
19. The warfighter is your customer, and the customer is always right.
20. Bullets don't kill people. Logistics kills people.
21. Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it's supposed to work.
22. Cite sources on demand. State opinions when asked.
23. Work by, with, and through others. It's all about empowerment.
24. Do not seek the spotlight, Ranger. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.
26. Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.