The roar of F-16s or F-35s might rupture the peaceful image of Vermonters, nice people who think that they can create some sanctuary and drop out of the national tragedy. They should spend their energy instead going to war against a national security system that can no longer police itself, and one that no one in Washington has any intent of changing.
The Canadian government, looking northward, is expressing less concern about Putin and more about "development for people of the North," "responsible resource development," "safe Arctic shipping," and "sustainable circumpolar communities." So saith Iain Hunter in the Times-Colonist.
BTW, can you imagine an American newspaper having a name like that? Not likely. ‘Mericans don't like "colonists." We like our newspapers as tribunes, standards, heralds, dispatchers, reporters, and the like. What's more, the colonialist Canadian newspaper was founded by a guy whose parents were Tory refugees from the United States. He changed his name to Amor de Cosmos. It would have been great if he could have hired World B. Free to be his sports editor, but the timing didn't work. Cosmos also was at one point the premier of British Columbia. He was later declared insane.
More Canadian news here.
Over the weekend, my wife and I spent some time in Canada. It was nice to be in a place with a working government. Parks were open.
The people also were extraordinarily friendly. When we walked our dogs in a small town in New Brunswick, every person we passed said hello, or commented on the beautiful weather. One woman even consoled us on our lack of government.
You must see the ground; you must cover the distances in person; you must measure the rivers and see what the swamps were really like.
--Winston Churchill, "Old Battlefields of Virginia," Daily Telegraph, December 16, 1929, about walking the sites around Richmond and Fredericksburg, as quoted on page 121 of Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America.
The headline on the local news story proclaims, "Celebrating 100 years on guard in Sault Ste. Marie."
I wonder what the 49th Field Artillery Regiment was guarding against? I know it adjoins Michigan, but what if Minnesotans were trying to sneak into Canada to find work in the wheatfields? I can see how the combination of Prince, Jesse Ventura, and Michelle Bachman could be scary. But that towed artillery piece would look good in a Prince show.
And who can forget the Algonquin Rifles from which the regiment is descended? One of the great names, along with the British army's old Royal American Regiment.
By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, Ret.)
Best Defense department of defense de-organization
Three decades ago, when the military reform movement was beating the drum for what became the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, a number of us in uniform and out, were trying to sound a cautionary note. We got outvoted and the legislation passed. "Jointness" became the new mantra, and arguing against it became heresy, if not hate speak. Based on recent events, it may be time to reassess Goldwater-Nichols.
The proponents of the elevation of jointness to absolute military supremacy claimed that it would prevent long open ended wars such as Korea and Vietnam by giving the President and Secretary of Defense better military advice than they got in such conflicts. The reformers also promised more competent and professional military leadership and less cumbersome command arrangements. The results of the wars in Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm in the immediate aftermath of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation seemed to confirm the validity of those promises; but somewhere in the ensuing decades, the wheels came off.
Instead of fast and clean conflicts, we got Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only were they long and strategically muddled, they were also poorly executed by the joint institutions that Goldwater-Nichols was supposed to fix. In his new book, The Generals, Pulitzer Prize winning author Tom Ricks ruthlessly exposes the myth that our generalship was improved by Goldwater-Nichols. He argues that the generalship of the likes of Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchez was marked by absolutely mediocre planning and strategic leadership. In Afghanistan, we have had averaged one supreme leadership change a year. In addition the Navy relieved more commanders than in any time in its history, and the other services have been plagued by instances of misconduct by senior officers.
Many of those who argued for Goldwater-Nichols used the German General Staff as a model to aspire to. While the German generals were superb at tactics, they were lousy strategists. After winning the wars of German unification in the nineteenth century, they lost two disastrous world wars. As Ricks points out, our generals are good tacticians, but poor strategists. Ironically, the reformers got what they wished for.
The problem is not just with general officers; our joint staffs have become bloated with unneeded officers due to the legislative mandate that every officer aspiring to reach flag rank has to serve two years in a joint billet. No-one has ever explained how serving as a Joint Graves Registration Officer will produce our future Grants, Shermans, or Pattons. There was a time when being selected for major was the great cut in an officer's career. Today the running military joke is that if you can answer a phone, you can become a Major.
Strengthening the unity of command of joint operations was a good idea, but most of our regional joint staffs are bloated to a point where they ill-serve the commanders who lead them. Because of the number of joint officers the law requires. Admiral Halsey and Rommel won their most famous victories with staffs a fraction of the size of the average U.S. Army brigade combat team staff today.
This can be fixed. Unfortunately, we will need even more legislation. First, we need to get rid of the requirement that all general officer candidates be joint certified. All of our generals and admirals don't need to be superb joint war fighting experts. Rommel was not a General Staff officer, and Halsey would not have wanted to be one. The joint staff track should be reserved for those who aspire to eventual joint command and staff positions, but there should not be a stigma for those who want to lead air wings, Marine Corps Expeditionary Forces or Navy fleets; we need real warriors as well as soldier-diplomat strategists.
A smaller, more elite joint staff corps would allow us to concentrate on creating real strategic expertise. Joint Staff candidates should be put through a series of rigorous force-on-force seminar war games that would test their capability to make both diplomatic as well as military decisions against competent, thinking opponents. Those candidates who come up short in such tests should be sent back to their services with no stigma to their careers. Successful graduates would still spend time with troops, fly airplanes, or drive ships when not serving on joint staffs; however, once selected for flag rank, their command and staff positions would be primarily joint. This would allow joint staffs to be smaller and more efficient.
Goldwater-Nichols has institutionalized mediocrity. We can, and must, do better.
Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps officer, is an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs.
By Richard Buchanan
Best Defense office of mission command
In 1993, when I left the Army as a CWO (HUMINT/CI) myself and another CWO (Order of Battle) were training 7th Infantry Light non-MI personnel on MI skill sets using a hand-jammed two-week NEO scenario exercising against Abu Sayfeh. Down right counter guerrilla if you ask me as we were using my Special Forces Vietnam experience to frame the scenario. Bottom line up front -- if a light fighter is trained well in his infantry skill sets counter-guerrilla operations are not a problem -- it was true in 1993 and it is just true in 2012 so why did we have to create COIN?
We were actually breaking ground in 1993 by creating the CoIST and DATE concepts years before they became standard terms. The MI Center in Ft. Huachuca was interested in the scenario and concepts of our version of CoIST/DATE, but came to the decision that guerrilla warfare was where the Force was not heading so they basically canned what had been provided to them.
I then left the Force and moved into the IT world of ATT and Cisco where for years we spoke using the IT slogan "people, processes, tools" long before the Army broke into the G/S6 world.
Now 29 years later the Army has "people, processes and tools" -- People is a PME system generating Cmdrs and Staffs, Processes is Science of Control, and Tools is multiple mission command systems.
I recently meet (after 29 years) that same retired CWO who has as a retiree done his rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan and just as I am he is still trying to educate the Force. When we met we simply smiled and almost at the same time said "boy did we get it right 29 years ago" and then compared notes on what has been working and what is failing since 1993. There are not many of us greybeards still out there working with the Force -- and still the Force does not "listen."
So Tom's recent question ("Mission command is nice but what will commanders actually practice it?") caused me to go back and give it some serious thought as mission command is really something some of us have been where possible practicing since 1993.
The question of how do we facilitate mission command training in a Force that is centrically singularly focused on mission command systems is a valid concern and yes one might in fact think the Force is only paying lip service. Processes and tools are simple to understand/control -- but the Art of Command is all about Leadership and right now "Leadership" in the Force is a "black art."
The fuzzy "black art" thing we call Art of Command with the equally warm and fuzzy terms of team building, open dialogue in a fear free environment, and TRUST is the elephant in the room that everyone wants to ignore. It is ignored in the AARs coming out of the DATE exercises, it is ignored by MCTP AARs, it is ignored in Staff training exercises and the list goes on.
WHY? The answer is easy -- not many are comfortable and confident with themselves in the areas of Trust and open dialogue or they have had negative experiences with these terms. Trust and dialogue are hard to mentor day to day in the current Force.
Has anyone recently seen in any CTC AAR or in any MCTP AAR a section on Trust? Meaning, was Trust being demonstrated within the Staff or between the Cmdr and his Staff, a section on how was dialogue being handled within the Staff or what the Cmdr's leadership style was? That is, did it contribute to team building or did it push dialogue and or contribute to trust being developed in his unit? Or was there ease in the way the NCOs and Officers worked with each other. Or was failure tolerated and learned from with the Cmdr leading the way in the lessons learned by a failure?
Has anyone recently seen a CTC AAR or a MCTP AAR speak out about the quality of the Cmdrs Mission Orders to his subordinates (was it clear/concise) or did they speak about the quality of the Commanders Intent -- two critical core elements in the "Art of Command"? Or did the OCs speak about his and his Staff's micromanagement?
What is inherently missing is a clear strong Army senior leadership emphasis on Leadership in the current group of O5/6s and one/two Stars. Leadership that develops the team, develops/fosters open dialogue and fosters Trust. If junior officers see that emphasis in their daily routines then it becomes second nature to them -- right now not many O5/6s are leading by example. We have way too few "truth seekers" in the current O5/6 and one/two Star ranks.
In some aspects the necessity for mission command (Art of Command and Science of Control-the processes not the systems) has been articulated in ADP/ADRP 6.0, in the concept of "hybrid threat" TC 7-100, in the doctrinal thinking behind Capstone 2012, and anchored in the new DATE scenarios that are now standardized at the CTCs.
With the future of the Army training being refocused on hybrid threats tied to DATE training exercises the "Art of Command" is the key in moving forward. If the Cmdr has built his team using the elements of Trust and open dialogue there is no "hybrid threat" scenario that cannot be mastered by an agile and adaptive Cmdr/Staff.
In addition the concept of "Design" then starts to make sense and just maybe we can move into a open debate about whether the current decision making process MDMP makes sense in a "hybrid threat environment" or should it be replaced by a different problem solving process which actually "Design" and "mission command" demands.
Or as a recent article in Tom's blog put it, "I am leaving the Corps because it doesn't much value ideas." It is not only the Army that is having Trust issues. We are losing the "best and the brightest" simply because senior leaders are not serious about a "Leadership" that builds teams, fosters dialogue, and Trust.
Richard Buchanan is mission command training facilitator with the JMTC/JMSC Grafenwoehr, Germany training staffs in the areas of mission command, MDMP/NATO Planning Processes, MDMP/Design, and Command Post Operations. From 2006 to 2008, he rebuilt as HUMINT SME together with the Commander Operations Group (COG) National Training Center (NTC) the CTC training scenario to reflect Diyala Province. From 2008 to 2009, he introduced as a Forensics SME into the NTC training scenario the first ever battlefield forensics initially for multifunctional teams and then BCTs. From 2010 to 2012, he trained staffs in the targeting process as tied to the ISR planning process as they are integrated in the MDMP process. The opinions here are his own and not those of U.S. Army Europe, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. government, nor even the shattered remains of the once-proud New York Jets.
In the new material there is lots of emphasis on mission command. I think it is a fine idea. What I don't understand is what incentives there are for commanders to actually practice it. I think many will give mission command lip service and then issue scads of fragmentary orders, undercutting the whole idea. We saw this in the report on the 2nd ACR's October maneuvers in Germany.
The response I get is that it is so hard because we have a "zero defects" Army. I don't think we do. We have a micromanaging Army. If there really were no tolerance for defects, wouldn't we see more reliefs for incompetence?
Also, contrary to some stray comments, the prospect of relief does not increase micromanagement. In my book, I argue that it actually decreases it. (But to understand that, Maj. Rod, you'd have to read the book, not just the comments on Amazon about it.)
"The British Army has been ordered to take an extended 25-day Christmas holiday or ‘work from home' in an attempt to cut its gas and electricity bills," reports a British newspaper. This reminds me of George Marshall as a Depression-era garrison commander encouraging his married troops to take time to plant vegetables.
Not so, Joe, responds the Ministry of Defence's blog. "To suggest the Christmas leave plan is a cost-cutting measure is not true. In recognition of the exceptionally busy year the Army has had, both on operations and at home -- including vital support to the London 2012 Olympics, fuel tanker drivers' strike and the Diamond Jubilee -- the usual Christmas leave period has been extended. Personnel who are essential to supporting operations will remain on task regardless of this leave period and there will be no impact on the mission in Afghanistan."
From that blog, I also learned that the Welsh regiment has a "goat major." That is different, apparently, from aging majors who are old goats.
This hit me: Not once, but twice recently, I have been seen someone in the military say that if he had a child about to deploy to Afghanistan, he would push him down the stairs or do something else to make him undeployable. Something is going on here, but I don't know exactly what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?
It makes me think that the new anti-war movement is inside the military.
This is worth reading. "Petraeus's experience over the past decade shows that generals are not immune to the strain. They get used up, too," writes Greg Jaffe. I have heard Petraeus' tour in Afghanistan referred to as his "fat Elvis" period, an unkind way of saying that he was tired and not on his A-game there.
I suspect that in Iraq, Petraeus tried to work with local factors as points of leverage, while in Afghanistan, his campaign against corruption worked against local factors. But I don't know the Afghan war well enough to assemble the evidence for that hunch. Can anyone enlighten me on this?
If the calamity howlers about gays in the military had been right, that is what would have happened the other day. But actually the first gay marriage at West Point went by very quietly.
For professional failings! That's a nice change from all the stuff about zipper problems and dancing naked on tables at Subic Bay. The Navy is now just one short of the record set in 2003, according to the official scorekeeper.
I'm finished with non-stop book touring, but still giving talks here and there. Tonight (Monday, 3 Dec.) at 7:30 I will be at the Hill Center in Washington, D.C., about 10 blocks southeast of the Capitol.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday, 4 Dec.) will find me in Richmond, Virginia, speaking at 5:30 the Jefferson Hotel at an event sponsored by the George C. Marshall Foundation.
Thence back to D.C. and a talk at the National War College at noon on Thursday, Dec. 6.
And no TV this week, if at all possible.
By the way, I think Best Defense commenters should resist the temptation to respond to partisan trolls. I feel like we have an infestation right now. They thrive on attention, irrationality, and incivility.
By Matt Pottinger
Best Defense lack of privacy correspondent
If we are to follow the policies implied by the U.S. government's handling of the Director Petraeus and General Allen cases, here's what we should do: Open up the personal email accounts of all 2.3 million U.S. military service members to the FBI and the Pentagon and let them have at it.
Just think of the benefits: We could complete the Afghanistan drawdown overnight because 99 percent of our troops would be sidelined by investigations into "potentially inappropriate" communications. We wouldn't have to keep clarifying the nuances of "rebalancing" versus "pivoting" toward Asia anymore -- all our ships would be stuck in port while sailors are queried about sending "flirtatious" messages. And we could avoid the fiscal cliff by laying off service members who, at some point in their lives, typed words that someone, somewhere, construed as "intimidating."
In all seriousness, the aspect of the Petraeus and Allen investigations that should most disturb Americans is our government's invasion of citizens' private email accounts on the thinnest of pretexts, its reading of every last message, and its sharing of the most lurid snippets -- regardless of their irrelevance -- with members of Congress and unnamed officials who, in turn, share context-free summaries with the press.
These developments give me a grudging respect for the KGB. At least it had to expend real energy gathering the information it used to embarrass, compromise, and incriminate the citizens it spied on. U.S. investigators have it much easier. They have access to dossiers every bit as juicy as anything the Stasi ever compiled, but they hardly have to lift a finger to get them. Americans now compile their own dossiers in the form of email archives, social media accounts, phone and text-message logs, online medical records, and geo-location trails left by their smartphones. The deterrence of shoe leather? Not any more. All that investigators have to do is serve a subpoena on Facebook or Google or AT&T to get minute-by-minute records of the last decade or so of our lives. (Most Americans are probably unaware that investigators usually don't need warrants to read citizens' emails. Or to access our location data.).
One wonders how America's most important general, George Washington, would have performed for the country if his private correspondences had been read and spread by government agents and press back then. In 1758, while he was engaged to marry Martha, George wrote at least two love letters to Sally Fairfax, the wife of one of his longtime friends. To this day, historians debate the nature of George and Sally's relationship. There is no evidence the two ever slept together, but the letters surely would have created a scandal if they'd come to light during the American revolution. At best, they would have caused a serious distraction for the embattled general and his underdog army at a time when distractions could have meant defeat.
Washington understood as well as anyone the necessity of private words staying private. He knew that the fate of a new republic -- and not just his ego -- depended on his sustaining a good public image. After his retirement, he spent years censoring his letters of material that might undermine that goal. He even had his wife Martha burn their letters to one another after his death.
That option doesn't exist today. There's no furnace to pitch our emails into, no delete key that can erase our indelible digital scribblings. Numerous backup servers don't permit it. The most we can expect and demand is a government that helps protect our privacy rather than obliterate it.
Matt Pottinger served as an active-duty Marine from 2005-2010. He runs a small business in New York.
I was struck reading an article by retired Army Col. Charles Allen in the November issue of Armed Forces Journal that a 2007 Army study found that:
. . . soldiers who enlisted with moral waivers were more likely to have disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and to be discharged. But . . . such soldiers were also promoted faster in the infantry branch to noncommissioned officer (sergeant), more likely to re-enlist and received more commendations for valor than non-waivered enlistees.
From a recent e-mail I got: "I am exhausted -- it is now past 5:30am and I have to grab a couple of hours of sleep before flying to Kandahar."
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
This is the note I sent yesterday to Fox's spokesman, who seems to be in charge of making stuff up:
To clarify my comments for you: I did not apologize.
As it happened, I ran into Bret Baier as I emerged from the interview. We know each other from working at the Pentagon. He asked if I was serious in saying that Fox had hyped Bengahzi, and I said I was. We discussed that. It was a cordial exchange. (I wouldn't mention this private conversation except that you apparently are quoting my hallway conversations as part of your attack.)
Later, as I was leaving, the booker or producer (I am not sure what her title was) said she thought I had been rude. I said I might have been a bit snappish because I am tired of book tour. This was in no way an apology but rather an explanation of why I jumped a bit when the anchor began the segment with the assertion that pressure on the White House was building -- which it most clearly was not.
Mr. Clemente has not responded, as is his right. While he stews, I'm looking forward to heading northward and diving back into my books. Which brings me to today's subject. I've read a lot about Patton, but had never come across his reading list before. My ex-boss Nate Fick sent it along.
It is a good one, even though it was compiled by Patton's wife after his death as a list of his favorites. It is as old school, as you'd expect, but reflects his deep study of war. Here 'tis:
That's the worry of a smart, friendly foreign observer, who tells me that:
Some, if not many, of those still serving see well-paid second employment as a consultant or DoD contractor as part of their retirement package, a perk if you like. They do not wish to rock the boat in case it sinks and they can't climb in when they retire. There will be individual exceptions that disprove the rule, but this arrangement is, in the round, not good value for your tax-payers' dollars.
A friend familiar with the exercise that revealed serious combat weaknesses in an Army regiment comments:
1. Over 50 percent of the 2CR staffs' will transition out of the unit by March 2013 just three months prior to deployment -- nasty habit by the Army, most units do it just prior to deployment or right after redeployment -- meaning for all those officers trained up to now will not be deploying -- what a wasted effort and it is over and over, thus no institutional knowledge is ever developed. Now one has to retrain the new inbound ones in just three months.
2. The official responses are interesting in that based on CALLS article lead in -- the CALL writer got input from the OC-Ts and the O7s, who are the LTC/COL OC team leads to include the RGT Staff observers, so it was overall a fairly accurate picture. CALL based a reviewer at all CTCs -- if one goes back and reviews all DATE exercises -- and there have been two at JMRC, several at the NTC -- they ALL show similar issues. The Force has simply in ten years of COIN lost their basic conventional Army skill sets.
3. With each section it indicated what warfighter functions were being addressed and when it stated "All" then you know it just was not a pre-summary report, or a shortened report or a snap shot -- it was an overall assessment for the six warfighter functions. Yes, there were on occasions success, but few and far between -- was actually surprised at the official responses.
4. The underlying tone of the report reflects a serious lack of trust, serious micro-management, and a deep lack of communication, i.e. dialogue -- all items deeply embedded in mission command, but not spoken about in the report. Heard from the field that the OCs basically hit the check marks on a standard critique list -- also OCs tend to not cover the warm and fuzzy items in mission command, i.e. trust, dialogue, team building, as they themselves are not anchored in the necessary education/experience in mentoring those items.
Just a note -- all of the bloggers and those who used the term mission command and mission orders to include CALL's use of mission orders blow completely by what MC really is -- i.e. even the doctrinal side is confusing -- in ADP 5.0 mission orders emphasize Cmdrs intent -- in ADP 6.0 mission order is assumed to be the standard three orders that also have been issued FRAGOs, WARNOs and OPORDs.
If mission command is mentored correctly and the staffs are educated and trained in MC -- even when cut off from the RGT Cmdr, and even when things are going south individual units should and must adjust on the fly using independent decisionmaking -- follow the Cmdrs intent and drive on in the knowledge that the RGT Cmdr has allowed them to succeed even though he is nowhere to be seen or even heard on the radios.
You will notice in the CALL article that even while seeing some of the problems experienced right out of the mission command, ADP 6.0 really did not address them -- this goes to our current way we evaluate units. We have a series of organizations all calling themselves Mission Command Training Programs, but absolutely none of them mentor, none of them while using the term MC, and none mentor the core problem that jumps out of this CALL article -- the need for trust and dialogue in a fear free environment -- all fuzzy things which calls on one's confidence as a mentor, as you must be stable yourself in the areas of trust and dialogue."
Tom again: Meanwhile, a former 2nd SCR soldier writes in to say that the erosion was exceptional, and resulted from poor leadership:
I've been watching the comments here for a while, and I've finally decided to say something. I was a part of 2SCR for few years. Now when I first got to the unit, I was under exceptional leaders (2007). Towards the end of my time (2012), it eroded very, very quickly. I speak from personal experience when I say that the unit doesn't train to standard, it trains to time. Once we hit the time, it didn't matter if we met the standard. Basic soldiering skills are almost non-existent. One example is we did training on field maneuvers and we never went to the field to practice, we watched it on a powerpoint slide then checked the block as if it were done. Also, we never followed a training schedule. A false training schedule was put up every week, sent up, but we never even so much as glanced at it.
Overall, I think it is a shame. The unit definitely disheartened me from the military. For a long time I thought that the military values, the Soldier's Creed, the NCO creed were things people just pretended to be passionate about in boards and then threw it all away when they left. I think it is also eroding soldiers' values and work ethic. The only good thing I can say after walking away from this unit is that after all of the hate and rage I had, it brought me closer to Jesus Christ and God. I just hope and pray that people stop worrying and identifying with what is on their chest and realize what an immense honor and responsibility it is. The rank is honorable because of the responsibility you have to live up to. I just see a bunch of people who want the "honor" but not the responsibility, not realizing that you cannot have one without the other. My hopes and prayers are that people come home safely.
Tomorrow (that's Wednesday, if you are keeping score at home) Nov. 28, I'll be at the First Division Museum, just outside Chicago. The whole thing kicks off at 7:30 pm. I'm looking forward to it in part because two commanders of the Big Red One, Terry de la Mesa Allen and William DePuy, are discussed at some length in my book. Oddly similar men -- terrific combat commanders who got in hot water with their superiors.
If you can't make it, here are some substitutes: I did a discussion on FireDogLake over the weekend of my new book. And right here is my discussion with Kojo Nnamdi and his listeners, an informed bunch. I also was ranting on Howard Kurtz's CNN show on Sunday. Help, I am becoming critical of the media!
Maybe I am getting cranky as I go into my third week of book tour. I was on Fox News yesterday morning and said (as I had indicated beforehand that I would) that the whole Benghazi story has been hyped. The anchor pushed back, so I defended my position. My view -- that Fox is openly supportive of the Republican Party, and that the Benghazi incident was hyped in part because it occurred near the end of the presidential campaign -- induced heart flutters in some quarters.
I was surprised that they cut me off instead of doing the manly thing and riding to the sound of the guns. Whattabunchawimps. It reminded me of something that Col. Nathan R. Jessup once said. Or, as a defense reporter commented to me yesterday, "The story is not about Benghazi, it's about how Fox can't tolerate criticism."
Some guy apparently claiming to be a spokesman for Fox misinformed the Hollywood Reporter that I apologized afterwards. Unfortunately the Hollywood Reporter didn't ask for specifics, or even ask me about it -- and I am not hard to find. (Dude, that's an automatic F in Journalism 101.)
Finally: Okay, no network is responsible for the hateful comments made by its viewers. But for what it is worth, here is a sampling of e-mails I got from supporters of Fox. I was surprised at how few wished to engage on the facts and instead just spewed nasty thoughts.
This was from Donna: "What a sleazel Tom Ricks is spreading is Obamaganda! Guess he thinks his opinions, etc. are so superior to half the country that he will say and do anything."
From Thomas: "You just showed what a liberal ass looks like with his pants down. What an idiot!"
Jim wrote, "I saw your Fox News interview on the HuffPost portion on my AOL page. I thought your 'performance' was really arrogant. Smug assholes like you is why I don't watch the news anymore. You guys have divided up into either Obama bashers or Obama ass kissers. As for what happened in Bhengazi [sic] it is obvious the Fox News reporter you smartassed to does not know what happened there. You know what though? You don't know what happened either. I think it deserves a little scrutiny instead of a 'happens all the time' attitude that you offered in your bullshit appearance on Fox."
From LH: "Shove off commie."
By Maj. Ryan Kranc
Best Defense guest contributor
Combat deployments are but one of many contributing factors but not the factor. I suspect ARFORGEN cycles have had a bit of an impact and suspect lowered entry standards during a period of time in the last decade is likely a contributing factor as well. Many of the suicidal ideations or self-harm are made by soldiers with no deployment history. However, when you peel back the onion you find a history of sexual assaults, physical and mental abuse, or behavioral issues, many of which predate their service.
Thomas Joiner's interpersonal-psychology theory posits three prerequisites for suicidal behaviors:
1. Individuals perceive themselves as a burden to others
2. They exhibit a disenchanted sense of belongingness
3. They possess the capability to employ lethal means to facilitate their death "as a result of earlier experiences that have habituated them to pain and fear"
So we find that if people have acquired a capability to kill (to include a mindset that allows them to kill), don't feel part of a team, and feel as if they place unnecessary strains on others they are more inclined to engage in suicidal ideation, suicidal gestures, or suicide completion. The military clearly gives a stronger acquired capability to kill over other professions.
The belongingness and burdensomeness aspects have puzzled me for quite some time. The monthly stats paint a picture lending to a theory. If you look at the overall trends, our greatest spikes occur during leave and PCS densities -- a time when soldiers burden their families with a myriad of change (kids' schools, moving stresses, anxiety of new jobs for both the soldier and spouse, new friends for the kids, etc.). Not only that, the soldiers departing leave an established team, a system they know well, and in some cases a team they deployed with. At a bare minimum, there's 2 or 3 years of familiarity that fractures quickly. They have to find a new belonging, a new team, and no one is ever certain that they'll have things as good as they understand it to be right now.
Stigmatization of mental health issues remains a touchy subject and can't be ruled out as a possible contributing factor. While we may be better off at ventilating avenues for assistance than we once were, we still have a ways to go. The fact is that some people still do feel stigmatized in asking for help. We, as an Army, need to continue to work on supplementing words with actions in this regard.
Lastly, I'm no psychologist or social scientist -- I'm a dumb cavalryman who researched this issue for my Master's project for 18 months. I've also seen this issue from the aspects of a platoon leader, commander, staff officer, peer, friend, mentor, outpatient, and subordinate. Many units have sought different means to evaluate wellness within their organization focusing on the five dimensions of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (spiritual, social, family, emotional, and physical). It is entirely possible (and probably likely) that there may not be a "one size fits all" solution to this issue. Further, maintaining an open mind while surveying and evaluating causation is incredibly important so as not to become susceptible to confirmation bias. Complicated issues have multi-faceted and complicated causes.
Ryan T. Kranc is a cavalryman in the United States Army currently assigned as the Regimental Operations Officer for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin and the National Training Center, California. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
The lessons of the Petraeus mess, are I think, that people have a breaking point, and that he hit his after four combat tours and many years of stress. Also, I think that retiring from the military after 40 years of service and earning 4 stars is more disorienting than we realize.
But I fear that the Army -- especially its generals -- will conclude that:
--Petraeus was too smart for his own good. So don't try for a PhD in a good civilian university, see where it leads? Thinking critically is overrated.
--So are new ideas.
--Talking to reporters always will cost you down the road. So hold the media at arm's length. Or more. Don't engage unless ordered to do so.
--You can be mediocre as long as you keep your pants on.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
It is rare to see the New York Times carry an opinion article as disastrously bad as the one about David Petraeus by Lucian K. Truscott IV that ran yesterday. Some articles contain a mistake or two, but this entire thing is a mistake. Truscott is free to be a fool, but here he makes the Times look foolish. You have to wonder what the editors were thinking.
Truscott unknowingly displays his ignorance when he mocks Petraeus' beribboned uniform, admonishing that, "I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he's not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars." He contrasts Petraeus with the men who won World War II.
What Truscott IV doesn't seem to know is that some fine World War II generals, including one Lucian K. Truscott Jr., were much more into natty military tailoring than Petraeus ever has been. As Rick Atkinson, who unlike LKT IV, actually knows a lot about World War II, once wrote, "In uniform, Truscott was almost foppish: enameled helmet, silk scarf, red leather jacket, riding breeches." I would propose that LKT IV owes Petraeus an apology. (Grandpa's leather jacket clashed with his yellow silk scarf, by the way.)
But wait, it gets worse. Truscott on the Iraq war is positively bizarre. He says it wasn't a "real war" at all. I wonder if he travelled to Iraq at all in 2006-07, when things got really interesting in Baghdad. He also accuses Petraeus of prolonging the war in Iraq, which is wrong-headed because Petraeus' handling of the war in 2007-08 set the stage for the U.S. military to withdraw from the country. These are Truscott's words: "Think of how many tens of thousands of lives could have been saved by ending those conflicts much earlier and sending Dave and his merry band of Doonesbury generals to the showers."
Is it possible to retract an op-ed?
A friend writes:
"If Israel is on the cusp of preempting Iran, it would be a very smart thing to crush Iran's surrogates on the border and neutralize prepositioned weapons that might be brought to bear when the gloves come off with the Farsi folks. At least, this is what I would do in advance of an attack on Iran. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
Another friend suggested that if this analysis is correct, then southern Lebanon will be next.
Last week I had a series of appearances in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. A couple of observations from that trip:
--Tax increases are not anathema, as least to the people to came to my talks. When the person introducing me at the Seattle Library mentioned that a recent approval of a tax increase would keep open more library branches on weekends, there was a round of hearty applause. I heard the same sentiments from people in LA about the recent vote in their state to raise revenues, I think for education.
--Nor is a draft out of the question to these people. To my surprise, the same crowd in Seattle that applauded the tax hike also warmly welcomed my suggestion that the country would benefit from having some sort of draft.
--Overall, I sensed a kind of nostalgia for the days when government worked, and a fingers-crossed belief that it still can. It is amazing how potholed California's highways have become. One woman says she has her wheels realigned every three months.
--There sure didn't seem to be any recession in Seattle or San Francisco. But LA's Westwood neighborhood had a surprising number of vacant storefronts. I don't know LA well enough to interpret the significance of that. Real estate is the most local of businesses. I remember a smart guy telling me he only invested in commercial real estate on the north side of Orlando and stayed away from the city's south side, which he said was a whole different market, one distorted by Disney World's force field.
OK, I have finished Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery. It has been a long time since a single book gave me so much to think and blog about.
His bottom line is that military might rests on economic power, especially in the industrial era. But he says that the British Navy could have done better in World War II.
He lists three major errors in the Royal Navy's understanding of conflict in the mid-20th century:
--They overvalued the power of battleships and underestimated the threat to surface ships presented by aircraft and submarines.
--They neglected the major naval lesson of World War I, which was that the submarine had forever altered the nature of maritime combat.
--They didn't really understand the best role for aircraft carriers, which they saw more as scouting vessels for battleships than as the striking arm of the fleet.
The result was that during World War II the British Navy was the biggest navy in the world, so it wasn't so much weak as it was irrelevant to the tasks at hand.
This is an interesting warning to those who believe we don't really need to think as long as we are strong. I wonder if our military establishment today resembles the Royal Navy of 1938 more than we understand -- that is, big, powerful, and irrelevant. That's my scary thought for the day.
By Oriana Skylar Mastro
Best Defense Office of Sinology
It seems like every week I go to a talk or some type of meeting in which the participants argue that if the United States and China could just sit down and talk to each other, we could dispel all misunderstandings and mitigate the tension that has been a central part of our bilateral relationship since 2009. If I'm lucky, it is usually an American talking about how our policies worry China and then a Chinese strategist that articulates what the United States could do to reassure China. The other day I went to one such talk at IISS in which Michael Pillsbury played the role of the American urging a deeper understanding of Chinese strategic thinking and Lanxin Xiang urged the Obama administration to take steps to address China's concerns about the re-balancing.
While I believe that diplomacy and dialogue is important to the health of the relationship, many of problems the U.S. currently faces vis-à-vis China are not because of some miscommunication, but because of a serious conflict of interest. This is usually where someone chimes in that we have a lot we can cooperate on. Yes, fine. But the bottom line is this: China would feel less vulnerable if the U.S. reduced its presence and influence in Asia, and we aren't going anywhere. This affects all aspects of the relationship. For example, when I tell my Chinese colleagues that the U.S. isn't purposely creating conflict between China and its neighbors to undermine China's rise, they don't believe me. When Chinese interlocutors tell me that China would never use force to resolve its territorial disputes with Taiwan, Japan, India, Vietnam or the Philippines, I don't believe them. And as long as Chinese behavior doesn't change, my level of trust won't either.
If Chinese strategists, academics, and public intellectuals are any indication, I shouldn't hold my breath. Today, when Dr. Xiang was asked if China understands that the re-balancing was partly in response to an increase in Chinese assertiveness in Asia, he said it wasn't convincing. I have never heard a Chinese strategist admit that concern about China's rise is understandable, that maybe other countries have a point in their critiques of Chinese behavior. When meeting with a Chinese delegation just yesterday, I asked if there was anything China could do to mitigate regional concerns. Blank stares. And then the standard: 'China is only being defensive, is peaceful, and any negative regional views are the result of malevolent U.S. re-balancing strategy.'
Exchange and dialogue are critical. I believe that my time living in China and the fact that I speak Mandarin help me better understand international issues from China's perspective. But that doesn't mean that I always agree with China's policies or trust Beijing to do what's in U.S. national interest. Enough already about how if we just exchanged views all would be well. If both sides truly were honest, we would admit that in a frank dialogue, we probably wouldn't like what we heard anyways.
Oriana Skylar Mastro is a PhD candidate at Princeton university and a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). She also is an officer in the Air Force Reserve. In a previous incarnation, she worked for a hydroelectric valve company in Beijing as a translator. This is the standard disclaimer about how her views are her own and don't represent those of any organization or government agency.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.