By LTC Jason Dempsey, USA
Best Defense department of PME reform
The Scales and Kuehn discussion on PME has piqued a long-running interest of mine in the failures of professional military education (PME). While obviously I am more with Scales in my overall assessment of the system, I think Kuehn's piece helps frame the debate because it highlights some of the confusion over the purpose of PME. Specifically, it seems our colleges cannot decide whether they are in the business of training or educating. This confusion has led to a muddied curriculum and a faculty that is required to cover both educating and training, and which as a result fails to do either one very well. This was briefly mentioned in the panel comments, but I think deserves further elucidation as the root source of the failure of PME (and I'll limit my focus here to CGSC).
For starters, let's look at the faculty. These are typically officers on the verge of retirement who have been out of the operational force for several years and are interested in academia, but have not yet completed advanced degrees or had any classroom experience outside of the military system. This places them on the fringes of both the operational force and academia. Yet we ask them to cover both the 'core curriculum' and electives, essentially guaranteeing mediocrity in both areas. Kuehn's call for a renewed emphasis on the split between the core and electives portion of CGSC is refreshing, but doesn't go far enough.
The 'core curriculum' at our service colleges should be restructured with a singular focus on training officers for the command and/or staff responsibilities they are about to assume. This is largely the case now, but the focus should be similar to what occurs at the pre-command courses, where senior leaders rotate in to provide insights, mentorship, and current operational perspectives. At CGSC this would mean that commanders and their staffs at the brigade and battalion levels would be the ones rotating in to instruct and to facilitate scenario-driven staff exercises. This would ensure that students received the most relevant training available while reinforcing to the officer corps the importance of taking the time and effort to properly train the next generation.
As for the elective portion of PME, at least at CGSC, the list of offerings should be considered an outright embarrassment. Again, because of not understanding the difference between training and education, valuable time -- that could be spent broadening -- is instead spent on 'courses' that are mere recitations of doctrinal manuals or job descriptions and are about as far as you can get from anything broadening or academically rigorous ('Logistics for the Battalion XO', etc.). This is not to say that there are not great instructors and courses out there (the history departments are indeed strong, and I'd be remiss not to tip my hat to Don Connelly for carrying the torch for the study of civil-military relations). But, as Kuehn notes, these few good courses are drowned out in a curriculum that could only charitably be described as vo-tech for field grades. So long as we aren't kidding ourselves that this is a broadening experience or equivalent to education, fine, but if we are serious about the need to get officers to think critically and out of their comfort zone than it is this portion of PME that needs the most restructuring.
Personally, I'd be for replacing the elective periods with sending officers off to get one year graduate degrees -- let the experts in education educate, while the Army focuses on training. But in the end, no significant reforms will take place until we recognize the differences between training and education, and decide which our PME system should focus on.
Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey is a career infantry officer and a graduate of a couple levels of PME, including the infantry officers basic course, the amphibious warfare school at Quantico, and CGSC. He also holds a PhD from Columbia University and is the author of Our Army: Soldiers, Politics and American Civil-Military Relations.
The court-martial of Col. James Johnson III, once the high-flying commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is scheduled to begin next week in Germany. (His wife helpfully gave the investigatory report to the Fayetteville Observer.)
He faces 27 charges of false official statements, forgery, fraud, conduct unbecoming, adultery and such. I've been searching my memory and can't remember a similar case. The one that comes closest is the general who was based in Turkey, retired, and then about 15 years or so ago got recalled to active duty to face a similar set of charges.
One of my side projects this year has been reading the entire Bible cover-to-cover for the first time. Starting at the beginning and staying with it throughout, I find, makes the whole thing more coherent. (It also sometimes feels surprisingly current: "Damascus is waxed feeble, and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her." -- Jeremiah 49:24.) I mean, ripped from today's headlines.
The other day I was struck by Jeremiah 46:13, which offers an aside about the Lord telling the prophet that the "king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt." That passage reflects the larger fact that a big chunk of the Old Testament is about the Jews being squeezed between the Persians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Egyptians. In other words, about a small, endangered people facing the predations of empires.
This made me think about the revenge of the Melians, another small people who were caught between greater powers, and who also got squashed. What does it mean that the Old Testament, the bulk of the central book of our culture, is written from the point of view not of one of the great powers, but of a small nation that is eventually destroyed by them? Is this why we instinctively side with the rebels and against Darth Vader? If so, how does that unconsciously shape our strategic thinking? Are we inherently more likely to succeed when aiding rebels than we are when fighting them?
A general once told me that a small but significant percentage of soldiers in any unit are criminals at heart, and that one job of small unit leaders is to prevent them from spreading the rot to other members of the unit.
I thought of that when I read this article revealing that a sergeant and three other members of the National Guard pocketed some electronic gear at Wal-Mart in Joplin, Missouri, when sent there to provide aid after part of the town was smashed by a huge tornado May in 2011.
Speaking of criminal activity, the former command master chief of the USS Fort McHenry was sentenced to 60 days in the brig for assaulting crew members. He also supposedly has some issues with pawing the buttocks of female sailors.
MA2 Sean Brazas holding MWD Sicario at Yuma Proving Ground.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Shock and sadness rippled through the MWD world this week with the news that handler U.S. Navy Master at Arms 2nd Class Sean Brazas died on May 30th. He was killed by a single bullet while helping a fellow serviceman into a helicopter during "combat operations in Panjwa'l, Afghanistan." MA2 Brazas's working dog and partner, Sicario, was reportedly treated for heat exhaustion that day but was not injured in the attack.
Brazas is survived by his wife, Allie, and their 13-month-old daughter. Originally from Greensboro, NC, Brazas had just celebrated his 26th birthday on May 1, only days after arriving in Afghanistan.
In April, just before the pair deployed, Brazas and Sicario went through the Inter-Service Advance Skills K9 course, the three-week, Marine-run training program based out of Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, AZ. Upon completion of the course the pair received high honors, claiming the Top Dog Award.
MA1 Jennifer Trambulo, an instructor at YPG, told me yesterday that, "Brazas made such an impact on all of us instructors ... He was so appreciative of all the people that helped him get K-9. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. He will never be forgotten."
One of Brazas's mentors, MA1 Shannon Golden, says Sean was a remarkably hard-working handler who "always had a smile on his face." She and Sean were stationed together in Guam a few years ago; he was there on kennel support. "The first time I met Sean was when he came over to find out how he could become a dog handler. He wanted to work with dogs so bad that he dedicated his off time to come over to the security department and work at the kennels."
Golden, who is currently deployed in Africa, spoke with me online late last night. She talked about Sean openly, and the fresh pain of her loss was palpable. Golden said that her first reaction to the news of Sean's death was anger. "I have to admit that I was very mad when I heard," she told me. "Even mad at him cause he told me earlier that he was gonna be fine, that 'I know him' and 'he's quick on his feet.'" But even in his death, Golden feels Sean's character shines through. That he was killed while assisting someone else, is to her just "typical Sean."
"He cared about everyone. He put his life on the line. I think even if he knew by helping that soldier to [the helicopter] things would turn out the way it did, he would still help the guy."
Tucked in the corner of MA2 Sean Brazas's Facebook page, under "favorite quotation," is a line by Will Rogers, American cowboy and 1920s vaudeville celebrity, that is now as painful as it is poignant to take in. It reads: "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Cpl. Keaton G. Coffey on deployment with his MWD, posted March 19.
Brazas's death comes too close on the heels of news of another canine handler killed in action only days earlier in Helmand, Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Keaton Coffey. According to the DoD release, he died on May 24th also "during combat operations." His dog, Denny, survived.
Cpl. Coffey only had three weeks left on his tour during his second deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. He was scheduled to return back to his base, Camp Pendleton. The 22-year-old native of Boring, OR, was to be married to in a wedding ceremony planned for this July.
Coffey is remembered as "gentle" and "compassionate." The principal of his high school, where as a senior he was elected student body president, told reporters that even as a young man he was "polite, respectful, kind, and considerate." Coffey's body was returned home to the United States in a flag-draped coffin arriving to Dover Air Force Base on May 26.
A service for Keaton Coffey will be held on June 4 after which he will be laid to rest in the Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon with full military honors. While funeral arrangements are still forthcoming, Sean Brazas will be laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery, alongside his grandfather who fought in WWII.
May has been a cruel month for the MWD community. But the close of this month saw not just an outpouring of grief but also of shared support, respect, and remembrance, with people honoring Coffey and Brazas by posting photos and memories online.
As word of Brazas's death first appeared on the Internet, the public Facebook group Military Working Dogs -- run by a group of former military handlers -- posted the information they had to offer, promising, "We will post more information as we receive it. Rest in peace, brother. We have the watch."
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.
Tech. Sgt. Justin Kitts, Facebook
Yale political scientist Nicholas Sambanis and a couple of his homeys had an article in Science magazine (May 18, 2012 issue) titled "Parochialism as a Central Challenge in Counterinsurgency."
I am pretty sure I don't understand the article well, because I am not familiar with the political science literature on parochialism. But I can read, and it seems to me that core conclusions of the article are that:
--Counterinsurgency is harder and more complex than it looks.
-- It was only partially responsible (at best) for the decrease in violence in Iraq in 2007.
--It didn't work in Afghanistan.
I think anyone who spent time on the ground in either war would find those conclusions uncontroversial.
My one problem with the article is that it assumes that the counterinsurgent desires peace, and that this is the goal of any counterinsurgency campaign. But I suspect that for many people, the central goal of the American COIN campaign in Iraq in 2007-08 was to extricate the U.S. military from Iraq in a way that didn't look like the Americans were just running away. I think that if that was indeed the case then, whatever ultimately happens in Iraq, then the 2007-08 COIN campaign succeeded.
(HT to JB)
David Rothkopf on the American search for enemies abroad: "The United States is a bit like a 375-pound, middle-aged man with a heart condition walking down a city street at night eating a Big Mac. He's sweating profusely because he's afraid he might get mugged. But the thing that's going to kill him is the burger."
There are many memorable lines in Henry Crumpton's new book The Art of Intelligence. Here are some of them:
--"I never met a North Korean diplomat who did not want porn, either for personal use or resale."
--His take on working with the FBI: "This was a tribe that valued oral stories and history. I came from a tribe that treasured the written intelligence report."
--Another difference between the FBI and the CIA was size: "The FBI's New York field officer had more agents than the CIA had operations officers -- for the entire planet."
--On British intelligence: "The British were good, but not as good as they thought or acted. One issue was their failure to realize the growing radical threat within their own borders."
--His reaction to the insistence of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's that the 9/11 attacks had to have been sponsored by a state, and probably by Iraq: "What is he smoking?"
--One reason we bungled the Iraq war: "Unlike in Afghanistan, we launched a war against the country of Iraq while utterly ignoring our most important ally -- the Iraqi people."
--An approach to personnel that likely will warm the hearts of Butch Bracknell, Andrew Person, and others who think our current personnel policies screwed up our current wars: "John and I wanted the officers providing HQS support to the field eventually to be assigned to the field themselves. We intentionally devised the personnel system for maximum service to the field. Our ops guys in HQS were supporting our ops guys in the field, and soon their roles would be reversed."
--The message the widow of CIA officer Mike Spann brought to him after Spann was killed during the invasion of Afghanistan: "Mike died doing exactly what he wanted. I am so proud of him. The mission is so important. You cannot waver. You must finish the job. You must not relent."
Full disclosures: I've never met the guy, but I share a publisher with Mr. Crumpton. And I hope my next book, out this fall, does as well as his -- which I hear is soon to be listed by the New York Times as the no. 2 bestseller in hardcover & electronic nonfiction.
While I was out Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times had a piece looking at how two West Point profs, Colonels Gian Gentile and Michael Meese, disagree over the future utility to the U.S. Army of counterinsurgency theory. Gentile says none. (The article is a bit confusing because it conflates belief in the value of the Iraq war with support for COIN theory. For example, contrary to what the reporter seems to think, one can easily believe a) we should not have gone to war in Iraq, b) that COIN worked, and c) but that nothing was gained in that war.)
My friend retired Col. Bob Killebrew responded from Belgium, where he was on a Waterlook/Arnhem staff ride, that, "The Germans would have agreed with Gentile: They didn't see a need for a counterinsurgency doctrine, either. When they were confronted with resistance, they just rounded up hostages and shot them."
I wrote nothing about the recent NATO summit -- and not a single reader asked how come. That's interesting because clearly the readers of this blog are interested in national security issues.
I suspect that you, like me, just found the whole thing boring. In fact, the main thing that interests me about Europe right now is its economic crisis, not its security pretenses.
That said, I still believe what one sage once told me about the purpose of NATO: "They keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."
By Jim Gourley
Best Defense no. 1 commenter
There is profound irony in the recent unfortunate remarks made by Major General Dana Pittard the week before Memorial Day. After attending the funeral service of a soldier who'd committed suicide, the 1st Armored Division commander issued a post on his official blog describing suicide as "an absolutely selfish act."
"I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess." He wrote. "Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us."
Pittard later retracted his statements with "deepest sincerity and respect," but he did not explicitly apologize. Just as notable was the absence of any remarks from senior army leadership disavowing that Pittard's comments in any way represent official army policy or views. Perhaps it would have mitigated the damage done by the ill-conceived remarks, but the fact that no one said anything -- especially so close to a time when we are about to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country -- may in fact be the bitter medicine we need to take.
The truth is that Pittard's comments actually do serve as a representation of the military's perception and approach to suicide in an indirect yet disturbing way. The remarks themselves were odious, but the loudest statement was the muted response from army leadership. It is incredible that, after a decade of war in Afghanistan, it was unclear to Pittard that such views are not only unacceptable but wholly incorrect. It is equally shocking that no other senior leader felt compelled to issue an immediate and damning response. It is not the case that Pittard's remarks are generally accepted as correct (though more than one senior leader likely agrees with them), but it is painfully evident that senior leaders have not determined what the correct perspective is. They certainly have not articulated it.
On the whole, Americans take off work for Memorial Day but they don't actually take the time to remember. We visit cemeteries and monuments to talk about the price of freedom, but we don't reflect on the cost of war. We hail those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but we don't consider how to account for the sacrifices of those who died by their own hand. It is a bureaucratic bridge too far for the army to ever establish a connection between combat events and an active duty service member's suicide in garrison, let alone the suicide of a veteran after separation. Yet countless are the mothers, fathers, spouses, and children who will say that these men and women "died over there" and "never really came home." That leaves us with the prospect that this weekend we'll remember fewer than ten percent of the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice over the last ten years. It's not something we like to talk about. So we don't.
This irony will be the enduring, tragic legacy of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have written about the issue at length on this blog. The Department of Defense, VA, and multiple independent researchers have made an exhaustive effort out of collecting data on combat trauma and suicide. Yet for all the statistical certainty with which we can speak about suicide among veterans and service members, we are paralyzed when it comes to determining how we feel about it as a country. The people we've lost to suicide knew how they felt when they joined the military. It's reasonable to assume most of them did not feel selfish. They definitely knew how they felt the moment they took their own lives.
The Pittard episode is an allegory for America's response to service member and veteran suicide. I neither believe him nor the majority of American citizens to be malevolent. Nor do I believe that the thoughts he expressed were motivated by cruelty. But cruelty does not require intent, and it is often the consequence of a neglectful or inconsiderate mindset. Having committed it accidentally, we view the cruelty as something best forgotten quickly. Pittard did exactly that, trying to move on without dwelling further on the past. He immediately followed his retraction with comments about this weekend's upcoming Memorial Day events at Fort Bliss, seemingly oblivious to any connection between the two. Like anyone else caught in a public gaffe, Pittard would like to carry on as if nothing happened.
In this way, he is the avatar for our collective discomfort with our treatment (or lack thereof) of those living with combat trauma. With the exception of a few landmark occasions like Memorial Day and September 11, this has been the standard practice of Americans for the last ten years. How ironic then that we should refer to combat trauma as an "invisible wound" and over 6,000 veteran suicides each year as the "unseen tragedy."
In that way, a nation's day of remembrance would take on an unbearable melancholy were its citizens brought to remember that the preponderance of its fallen service members died on home soil. By living in denial we protect the greater population from bearing that burden of remembrance. Therein lies the final irony of Pittard's remarks. Any rebuke of his momentary lapse in judgment would necessarily be an indictment of our decade of willful negligence. Maybe the senior leadership was hesitant to say that he does not speak for us because they know that he speaks from among us. In that regard, our silence is bred of shame.
Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images
This is your big chance. I expect to do an e-mail interview in the next few days with former CIA clandestine operator and counter-terror chief Henry Crumpton. It occurred to me that many of you, with all your varied experiences, probably would have better questions than me.
So send your questions along, and I will add them to my pile, and select the best 10.
The president was selling red meat at the Air Force Academy graduation yesterday. I guess this is part of running toward the center as the general election campaign begins.
Yesterday's Blue Plate Special was American exceptionalism, with all the trimmings. You can see how this Kennedy-esque stuff might drive both the isolationist right and the pacifist left nuts. I liked it better when he was channeling Lincoln:
" You would think folks understand a basic truth -- never bet against the United States of America. (Applause.) And one of the reasons is that the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs. It's one of the many examples of why America is exceptional. It's why I firmly believe that if we rise to this moment in history, if we meet our responsibilities, then -- just like the 20th century -- the 21st century will be another great American century. That's the future I see. That's the future you can build. (Applause.)
. . . I see an American century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs. That includes shaping the global institutions of the 20th century to meet the challenges of the 21st. As president, I've made it clear the United States does not fear the rise of peaceful, responsible emerging powers -- we welcome them. Because when more nations step up and contribute to peace and security, that doesn't undermine American power, it enhances it.
. . . And finally, I see an American century because of the character of our country -- the spirit that has always made us exceptional. That simple yet revolutionary idea -- there at our founding and in our hearts ever since -- that we have it in our power to make the world anew, to make the future what we will. It is that fundamental faith -- that American optimism -- which says no challenge is too great, no mission is too hard. It's the spirit that guides your class: "Never falter, never fail." (Applause.)
That is the essence of America, and there's nothing else like it anywhere in the world.
By Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, USA
Best Defense department of strategical and historical affairs
Now, obviously (given my own book which dealt heavily with the topic of veterans who falsely claim PTSD), I agree that there is room in the system for correction. Sometimes it is too easy to fool the VA, for example.
But just as with the machining tolerances within the extremely reliable AK-47, you need some slack in the system to ensure that everyone who should be taken care of actually is taken care of. The AK never jams because it is machined to a looser standard than our own Western, weapons. A little extra gas escapes, and because of this the weapon does not have the amazing accuracy of our weapons. But also because of this slack built into the system, you know that when you pick up an AK out of the dirt, that it WILL fire every single bullet in the magazine. An American weapon, picked up out of the dirt or dust or swamp, not so much. The American weapon must be clean, and well cared for, because there is no tolerance built into the system, which means some rounds won't fire, and that can be a bad thing.
Much the same might apply to the definitions of PTSD and how they are applied. Do we want the "perfect" system, which sometimes causes catastrophic jams, or do we want a system that has some leaks and inefficiencies, but works for 100 percent of the rounds you put through it?
In partial answer to a colleague's query, let me offer a short annotated bibliography.
Eric Dean, Shook Over Hell, Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War (Harvard University Press, 1997): This is a pretty decent book, although the author is not entirely conversant in the then-latest medical scholarship. Also, frankly, he could have done entirely without the opening and closing artificiality of examining PTSD from Vietnam. It was enough that he uncovered, and demonstrated the broad and then-well-known phenomena of "nostalgia." Essentially, from all contemporary descriptions, this was PTSD as it was diagnosed in the post-Civil War era in the United States. Given this evidence of widespread PTSD (including cases ending in suicide) in the Civil War generation, were they just softer than the Mexican-American War and War of 1812 generations?
Peter Barham, Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War (Yale University Press, 2004): The focus here is on those slackers and weak-willed types, the Edwardian Tommies who fought in the trenches of WWI for the British. Barham's work is dense, but readable, and discusses the evolution of attitudes towards these "slackers." (Or, as was the case with much of the military -- then and perhaps now -- who want to ignore the issue, the lack of evolution.) The work focuses upon asylums, mostly after the war.
Peter Leese, Shell Shock, Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War (Palgrave MacMillan, 2002): Covers much of the same ground, but more in depth on how the topic was dealt with during WWI, with only about 54 pages devoted to post-WWI period. Still, it's a shorter and somewhat more digestible book, so if you wanted just one book on the topic as it related to the British in WWI and after, I'd go with this one. Since Leese (writing from his faculty position in Krakow, Poland) and Barham (writing, then, in the UK) were writing at nearly the same time, their works overlap, but not excessively so, and they do not reference each other.
Now, on the changing of attitudes towards all veterans and their malaise, there has been some evolution. For a good multinational examination of the history, I recommend a fairly dense academic anthology: David Gerber, ed., Disabled Veterans in History (University of Michigan Press, 2000). Fascinating, if constrained by the nature of an anthology, I'll list just a few chapter titles and let you decide if you want the book. "Heroes and Misfits: The Troubled Social Reintegration of Disabled Veterans of World War II in The Best Years of Our Lives" by the editor, Gerber. Geoffrey Hudson, "Disabled Veterans and the State in Early Modern England." Isser Woloch, " 'A Sacred Debt': Veterans and the State in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France." etc.
Now, on the American side of the equation we have some pros and we have some cons. It is also an area where my personal interaction puts me in the middle, and so my analysis here must be balanced against my personal friendship with both, opposing, authors.
First, and foremost, are Jonathan Shay's books, Achilles in Vietnam and his later Odysseus in America. (Personal disclaimer: I know, and like, Jonathan. He has been to my house, broken bread with me and drunk my scotch. He is a good, honest, and truly dedicated health care provider who really cares about his patients, and the modern American fighting man.) Shay wrote, movingly, about the plight of men who had experienced serious combat in Vietnam and who, as a result, had "difficulties." He linked these stories with the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey, arguing that there is evidence, from his perspective as a psychiatrist, to argue that both tales contain evidence that PTSD is a part of the human condition. In other words, that it is a normal and predictable byproduct of what happens when large numbers of humans are exposed to extremes of violence. In his second book Shay was arguing for better psychological PRE-battle training, not just for compassionate reasons (his motivation), but for combat effectiveness (which he knew would appeal to the military). Shay is not a trained classical historian, or a historian at all. But his books contribute greatly to the literature and in the latter case provide at least one decent roadmap on how we might reduce PTSD before it occurs, instead of trying to treat it afterwards. How can that be wrong? Unfortunately, and perhaps sadly, it appears clear that in his first book he was taken for a ride by at least a couple of his patients at the Veterans Administration clinic where he worked who told him tales that he was not qualified to question or disbelieve. At least that was the contention of the other author/friend of mine, whom I also believe.
The other, critical work on the topic of modern, or at least post-Vietnam PTSD, is also by a man I call friend. B.G. Burkett, a former stockbroker from Texas, was an entirely normal Vietnam vet who, by his own admission, spent an entirely uneventful year in Vietnam doing base work. He was annoyed, then moved to anger, by the phenomena of fake veterans who were stealing the headlines in the 80s and 90s for their misbehavior. So, unlike many others, B.G. started doing the hard research work to expose these fakes, expose the problems of the media (who are supposed to be skeptical from the outset) falling for obvious fakes, and the VA and psychiatry's complicity in expanding and enabling fakes to claim VA benefits for combat they never saw. The end result of his 80-90 percent useful efforts (my highest rating) was the standout self-published book, Stolen Valor. In which, for example, B.G. convincingly exposes the fakes that Jonathan fell for, as well as a whole host of fakes who fooled journalists and the VA system.
It was his work that inspired my own research techniques and methods when uncovering the personality at the core of the No Gun Ri story, Ed Daily.
Finally, two great works which, together, give you the history of both the psychology and the psychiatry, as well as the history, of the developing treatments for combat veterans dealing with their memories of war.
Edgar Jones and Simon Wessely, Shell Shock to PTSD, Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War (Psychology Press, East Sussex, 2005) actually dips back a little further, with accounts going back to the Crimean, but mostly starting with the Boer War. It is a solid, if stolid, multi-national examination, albeit with a 75 percent tilt towards diagnoses and treatment as it related to British/Commonwealth forces. It can be a bit of heavy-going, and if you've already read everything else on the list to this point, you could skip this one. Alternately, just read this one and skip the others. But if you do so, understanding will be a little thin. At least that would be the case without the last, and best, of the lot.
Ben Shephard, A War of Nerves, Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century, (Harvard, 2001): Without a doubt one of the most fascinating works I've read. Shephard writes in an easy, engaging, and yet detailed "voice" on the topic of the changes, over time, to the diagnoses applied to those "mentally softer" Tommies and Doughboys of WWI, the weak-willed and selfish Tommies and GI's of WWII, and the Grunts of Vietnam. (Again, to be absolutely clear, I am using these terms sarcastically, and if you are historically astute, a tad ironically. Shephard never said such things.) Fairly equally balanced between the U.S. and the U.K., what is really interesting in this book is that Shephard delves into the history of the psychiatrists themselves. How did the "DSM" (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), first published in 1952, updated as "DSM II" in 1968, and so on, come to be? What were the "inside baseball" things going on within the field of psychiatry, as well as the political implications of the actions and motivations of the most prominent psychiatrists in, say, 1967, and how did these affect the definitions and descriptions of the "disorder" (originally known as "Post-Vietnam Stress Disorder" but then later, for political and other reasons, renamed PTSD and now, again, changed to PTS or PTSS)? All fascinating stuff, and probably your one-stop shop to learn about the answers to all of your questions.
Hope this is useful.
LTC Robert Bateman, has written books and articles on military history and military theory, as well as immeasurable amounts of snarky commentary in every outlet from Armor magazine to Parameters, from the Marine Corps Gazette to USNI Proceedings. He was once an honest infantryman, but is now a strategist, serving in England after a recent one-year vacation in Afghanistan.
"The last surviving dependent of the Revolutionary War continued to receive benefits until 1911," according to a book on the Bonus March I've been reading. In other words, the last dependent of a Revolutionary War veteran died just over 100 years ago.
By Gary Schaub Jr.
Best Defense department of VME (veterans of military education)
What sort of senior military officers are the U.S. military creating with its system of professional military education (PME)?
If one were to examine the curricula of the war colleges, one would likely discover three types of military professionals that they are attempting to develop: service professionals, joint professionals, and national security professionals. Unfortunately, the difference between these three types of professionals is vast and expecting an officer to master all three in 10 months is a tall order. The faculties and services ought to recognize this and use it as an opportunity to revamp the war college system, re-instituting the differentiated missions that Admirals Leahy and King and Generals Marshall and Arnold envisioned in the aftermath of the Second World War.
A military professional is an officer who is an expert in the management of violence. This is not the same as being an expert in the application of violence. Although many war college students have been "operators" and "trigger-pullers" for substantial portions of their careers, and have achieved their current rank by demonstrating their mastery of tactical engagement and command of those immediately engaged in tactical applications of force, this is not what their service expects of them once they reach the rank of lieutenant colonel or colonel.
What is expected is that these officers will become service professionals: that they will possess a broad understanding of their service's enduring mission and be able to utilize their leadership skills to forcefully advocate their service's positions in the joint, interagency, and public arena. These expectations are the legacy of the services' historical missions and level of ambition. They can be seen in the emphasis that each service's war college is expected to bring to its service's mission and capabilities within its curriculum and other activities, such as producing opinion pieces to be circulated by the command's public affairs bureaus.
It is also expected that these officers will become joint professionals. Such officers are familiar with the missions of the other services, their unique capabilities and ability to contribute to the fight, and the processes by which these are de-conflicted and integrated to increase military efficiency and battlefield effectiveness. This type of professionalism has become increasingly important in the post-Goldwater-Nichols era, as senior civilian and military leaders have struggled to overcome service parochialism, and the services have made substantial changes to ensure that their officers "grow up joint." Each war college is certified by the Joint Staff to award JPME (Joint PME) Phase II credit to its officers upon completion of the course and many are on the way to phasing out JPME Phase I topics as these are integrated into their respective command and staff courses. This evolution has not been natural and the faculties of the war colleges are to be commended for their degree of devotion to enhancing this aspect of the SDE experience.
Finally, the war colleges expect to acquaint their officers with the broader aspects of strategy at the national level of decision making. Such national security professionalism entails knowledge of each of the "instruments of power" (diplomatic, information, military, and economic -- "the DIME"), what these bring to the fight, the agencies that wield these other means, and the processes by which they are integrated to achieve national objectives. These colonels are expected to be knowledgeable about the national security strategy of the United States, its global and regional interests, the other actors whose behavior will affect the exercise of American power, and the larger global context within which all of this activity occurs. They are now expected to also acquire a more than superficial acquaintance with the culture of a particular region as well as language skills.
The attempt to cover all three aspects of military professionalism produces a curriculum and an experience that is, at times, a mile wide and an inch deep. Most core courses are designed as surveys, highlighting a topic of the day with little attempt to integrate these into an overarching framework that would show how the various pieces fit together. Such integration is left to the individual student. The inability of the hard working faculties of these institutions to reconcile these levels of military professionalism in the curriculum -- and amongst themselves -- often makes the whole of the PME experience less than the sum of its parts.
Even more important than these needlessly discrete buckets of knowledge, war colleges expect to inculcate the ability to recognize and frame problems within a complex and ambiguous environment, to think creatively about solutions to these problems, and to critically evaluate the solutions proffered -- as well as arguments put forth on other topics.
In short, war colleges are charged to make their students into nimble-minded, creative, and knowledgeable experts in service, joint, and national security affairs. Within 10 months. A long-time veteran of the PME world has called this a game of inches and asking these officers -- fine, intelligent, hard working, dedicated patriots all -- to master 3 levels of perspective during their year out of the fight is often a bridge too far.
The result is that the vast majority of officers come to the war college as proto-service professionals and graduate as joint professionals. As they complete their careers in uniform, it is likely that this is sufficient. Only a minority can be truly said to have mastered national security professionalism and it is here that the American profession of arms misses an opportunity to produce a deep bench of general officers that can effectively bridge the gap between virtuosity in operations and the achievement of policy objectives. The dialogue over American strategic thought of the past decade suggests that this is the area where our general officer corps has often fallen short.
A war college education cannot be all things to all students. Choices must be made. Yet virtue could be made of this necessity if the services returned to the idea of functional differentiation that had characterized the war colleges in past eras, where national colleges focused on joint and national security professionalism, and the service war colleges emphasized service and joint professionalism. This could enhance the war college experience for all concerned and produce better colonels (and generals) than at present.
Although vociferously denied, it is well-known that there is a pecking order amongst the war colleges that often has more to do with perception and interservice rivalries rather than rigor or quality of education. Yet perception affects reality in the promotion system and under such a scheme, the services' leadership could acknowledge, indeed encourage and utilize, the informal sorting of careers that occurs in war college selection today.
It is not rocket science to determine which O-5s and O-6s are of the type likely to be promoted to be general officers by the time they reach this stage of their career. Indeed, most officers are well-aware of their potential for future promotions after they graduate from the war college. The services could more explicitly use this knowledge to better populate billets in the senior levels of the officer corps with officers who are expected to be service, joint, or national security professionals. Officers expected to remain in senior service billets or service billets in a joint setting, such as a combatant command, could be directed to their service's war college. Officers expected to take joint jobs could be assigned to a sister service's war college. Finally, officers whose service records indicate a better-than-the-average chance of being promoted into the general officer corps could be assigned to National War College. This would return National to its position as the capstone of the PME system and encourage the JCS leadership to ensure that it is appropriately manned and resourced. (It would also require additional safeguards for the civilian faculty to ensure that they could enforce rigor without fear of offending future general officers, as Howard Wiarda suggests in his book, Military Brass vs. Civilian Academics at the National War College: A Clash of Cultures.)
Such a system might have many salutary effects. It could make selection to war college more competitive, thereby opening the way for more discriminating entrance criteria. It could facilitate greater focus within the seminar environment as well as within the curriculum.
Finally, it could result in a cohort of colonels and general officer corps that possess deeper expertise in the areas that they will address in the remainder of their careers, thereby enhancing the effectiveness and proficiency of our military leadership. It could also assist the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the J-7 of the Joint Staff, and the service's education (and training) commands in their efforts to tailor curriculum requirements and direct resources most effectively. All of this would enhance the profession of arms in the United States and perhaps serve as an example to our allies as they reflect upon their PME systems.
In an environment where the services will have to do more with less, tailoring war college education and officer career paths to the prerequisites for senior leadership at the service, joint, and national security levels has much to commend it.
Dr. Gary Schaub, Jr. is a tenured senior researcher at the Centre for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen. From December 2003 until November 2011, he was an assistant professor of strategy at the Air War College and a visiting assistant professor at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. The views expressed here are those of the author and not those of his current or former employers. As another academic year comes to an end, he wishes his former students and colleagues well.
Just when you think Pakistan couldn't make a stupider move, it does. Dissing Obama in his hometown was a dumbass play. Oddly, no American president probably had more initial sympathy for Pakistan, which Obama visited as a student. (He had Pakistani roommates at college, he said, and learned to cook Pakistani dishes from them.) Yet it looks like the Pakistani government has managed to piss him off.
Yesterday he pointedly left Pakistan out of the countries he thanked for help in Afghanistan: "I want to welcome the presence of President Karzai, as well as officials from central Asia and Russia -- nations that have an important perspective and that continue to provide critical transit for ISAF supplies."
It's kind of like hearing the neighbors arguing late at night -- you can hear the shouts, but can't quite make out the meaning. That is, I don't quite understand the inside baseball here, but The American Conservative sets out to demolish neoconservative icon Leo Strauss:
Strauss was at best a mediocre scholar whose thought expressed a confused bipolarity between a very German and ahistorical Grecophilia on the one hand and a scattered, dogmatic, and unsophisticated apology for an American version of liberal universalism on the other.
This is the equivalent of one soldier calling another "a lardass REMF fobbit liberal." Why do I mention this obscure intellectual squabble in this blog? Because there are those who contend that followers of Strauss at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the Bush administration were instrumental in getting the United States to invade Iraq.
I dunno what happened but for a time over the weekend I was unable to see any comments on this blog (and on other FP blogs). This is bad. Your comments make this blog. I've complained to the authorities.
One thing a good book, whether a biography or novel, can do is take you partway into another time or place and give you a feel for them.
By that measure, George Garrett's The Old Army Game , about the American occupation force in Trieste, Italy, in the early 1950s, is a good novel. I'd never heard of Garrett until I saw a reference to him the other day as a good chronicler of the Army of the 1950s -- what the historian Brian Linn calls "Elvis's Army."
I found his style a bit noir-ish, but enjoyed much of it. One of my favorite passages is a new artillery battery commander introducing himself to his troops:
"I'll be a son-of-a bitch! You freaking guys! You are without a doubt the crummiest collection of decayed humankind I have ever laid eyes on, so help me God. We deserve each other. If you want to be soldiers, try it. See if I care. First Sergeant, take charge of this so-called battery. I'm going to get drunk."
The whole battery cheered him.
Here are some of his best lines:
--". . . common sense is as hard to find in the Army as anywhere, maybe harder."
--"If you've got to loaf, loaf gracefully."
--"Old-timers are the guys who always seem to have dry socks and cigarettes even in a rainstorm."
--"Most of the brains in the world are busy working on new ways to hurt people."
--"When it's plain ordinary garrison work, then it's a matter of knowing when to goof off and when not to."
--"There's nothing like having a lot of athletes to screw up an outfit."
--"Stitch was yellow all right, but not in the usual way. Not the way most people might think. He was trigger-happy yellow, the way I figured. He would be the kind of guy who would shoot prisoners in combat when he didn't have to. . . . . You would never want to stick him out on your perimeter defense with a machine gun. He would be blasting away at shadows all night and nobody would get any sleep."
--"I put on the best-looking uniform I had. . . . locating every ribbon my records said I was entitled to wear. (That's the one time you really need them -- at a court-martial.)"
CNAS, the little think tank where I hang my hat, picked a new president yesterday: Richard Fontaine. He is a smart, even-keeled guy who used to be the foreign policy advisor to Sen. John McCain.
But I don't think picking Fontaine is a make-nice-with-Republicans move. Rather, I think that Fontaine is a young, energetic guy who cares about national security, understands the unusual culture of CNAS, and would make a good president of the place. He is also a great listener, an unusual quality in Washington.
As a bonus, the selection of Fontaine will flummox those who contend that CNAS is a stalking horse for Obama administration policies. Plus, I continue my streak of reporting to someone about half my age, which is fun.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
As a Red Sox fan, I've never had anything nice to say about the Yankees -- not even when Johnny Damon joined their ball club. But last week the New York baseball team finally did something worthy of celebration: On May 12, before taking the field to play the Seattle Mariners, the team honored former handler Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey and her now retired working dog, Rex, in a pre-game ceremony at home plate.
Cpl. Leavey and Sgt. Rex journey to Yankee Stadium started earlier this spring when Mindy Levine, the wife of the team's president, read about the pair and their two tours together in Iraq, during which both dog and handler suffered serious injuries. (It was for her service with Rex that Leavey received the Purple Heart, which sadly was stolen while she and Rex were recuperating.) The Levines were so moved by the story that they took it upon themselves to reach out to Leavey, even paying for her trip to pick up Rex from his home base Camp Pemblton in California when Leavey's petition to adopt her former partner was finally approved.
When Rex and Leavey trotted out to home plate on game day, they were presented with an autographed jersey and a Tiffany & Co. charm engraved with Rex's name by Yankees players Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez. At the end of the tribute, "Marine Capt. Eric Tausch surprised Leavey with a Purple Heart -- a replacement for [the one that had been] stolen."
The crowd rose to its feet and gave Leavey and Rex a standing ovation.
We've been following MWD Rex's career pretty closely -- from the new book about his first tour in Iraq, to his recent adoption by Leavey -- and though he's become something of a national celebrity, Rex has been enjoying a more ordinary existence as a housedog with Leavey in Rockland Country, NY. "He's just living the retired life," [she] said of her robust companion. "Wake up, eat breakfast, lounge around the yard and play with your toys. He can do whatever he wants."
Not that civilian life is putting Rex off his war-dog guard. When A-Rod jogged out to present Leavey with the Tiffany heart, the third baseman got a little too near Rex's handler and the dog "jumped up in front of Leavey, causing A-Rod to jump back before reaching home plate." Good eye, Rex.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
From a recent talk by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I wonder if you have to be an old Sovietologist to think like this:
Now here's the other side of that coin. And it's something that folks don't often think about. The truth of the matter is that if you're the president of the United States, you may not want a secretary of State and a secretary of Defense to get along famously, and who are on exactly the same page, because if you've got Defense and State on different sides of an issue, then the president is in the position of kind of the Chinese menu. He can take a little from column A and a little from column B.
But if the two of them are on exactly the same page, it's not a trivial matter for the president to ignore the recommendations of both the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense.
(HT to KP)
Longtime grasshoppers know I am a big fan of the commentary of David Ignatius. So, no surprise, I think he is right in his comments on how Pakistan has blown it over the last decade:
Pakistan is losing the best chance in its history to gain political control over all of its territory -- including the warlike tribal areas along the frontier.
Pakistan has squandered the opportunity presented by having a large U.S.-led army just over the border in Afghanistan. Rather than work with the United States to stabilize a lawless sanctuary full of warlords and terrorists, the Pakistanis decided to play games with these outlaw groups. As a result, Pakistan and its neighbors will be less secure, probably for decades. . . . The Pakistanis lost a chance over the past decade to build and secure their country. It won't come back again in this form. That's a small problem for the United States and its allies, but a big problem for Pakistan.
By John Kuehn
Best Defense guest respondent
Tom asked me to write this as an "insider's view" of someone who has taught students (and been a student) in the professional military education (PME) system of the United States since 1996. Since then, I have spent 12 years teaching.
There is much discussion these days that PME is a mess, in part because of the post-9/11 wars, and in part because of more deep seated institutional problems. Tom, Bob Scales, and others have directed the attention of the public (and some military leaders) to the system in place today. As a professor of history at the Army's Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my informed take is that PME is not as bad as some people think, especially in regards to its faculty. On the other hand, it is not as valued by policy makers, either those in uniform or civilians, as one would wish -- and it is especially denigrated by those folks in the Pentagon who work for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Joint Staff, or in joint lingo, the J-staff.
Let me start with the bad news first. Former Congressman Ike Skelton, the patron saint and founder of the modern PME system -- as it was reformed and institutionalized in the Goldwater-Nichols Act -- must be appalled at how his vision for PME is being undermined. The real problem facing us has to do with revisions to the Officer Professional Military Education Programs instruction and policy (I'm referring here to the OPMEP, CJCS 1800 series. I understand the Joint Staff has some kooky notion about changing the 4-1 student to faculty ration to 5-1 in the OPMEP. 4-1 right now works out to about 15 students to one instructor in the classroom because of all the "non-teaching or barely teaching" staff that get counted as faculty or partial faculty. This ain't right. The move toward 5-1 must be killed -- it goes in the other direction from the best graduate education practices for resident education. Our problems, no matter what the quality of the faculty, will increase substantially. Additionally, the J-staff continues prevaricate about assigning key JDAL billets to joint faculty at the PME schools, to include the active duty officers of other services -- for example navy officers assigned as faculty at CGSC. Joint education will never be properly valued if a joint tour in a PME billet is not valuable enough to be coded that way.
It has been stated that, "The [PME] faculties are too often weak and superficial." The good news is that this is very far from the truth when it comes to teaching faculty (faculty whose primary job involves classroom instruction). I can speak directly to the issue of the faculty at CGSC and SAMS, which is as strong as I have seen it in my sixteen years of association with CGSC. One problem is an out of control curriculum that the faculty, oddly, have little control over their own delivery and content. It is a large faculty, so that does mean that the quality varies, but CGSC's history department, for example, is probably the most talented military history department in the PME Diaspora (despite including me), and maybe even in the world. I know Naval War College's faculty less well (although I lecture on occasion for their Fleet Seminar Program). Naval War College, I think we can agree, has a first rate faculty, despite the fact that the Navy seems to value PME the least. This is a fascinating paradox.
If I were king, CGSC would go back to its pre-9/11 days "legacy structure" of one term of required primarily Army-focused, in-class content for a core course and resume its lengthier two elective terms model for the last five months of instruction. Overall, for the entire PME system I would also create a tenure track for all Ph.D. faculty. For active duty faculty I would institute competitive selection with the heads of the various colleges, with the Commandant at Fort Leavenworth having the "right of refusal" for sister service faculty who were not of the best quality. Records would be screened before nominations were made. Until we value the faculty at these institutions, how can we possibly value their product? Resident course attendance would be a universally competitive process so that we avoid what I like to call "the no major left behind" syndrome. But resident attendance should never be a year off, "a sabbatical from a grateful nation," as a colleague of mine terms it. It should be rigorous and those who attend must be professional in understanding this is not a gift, but an opportunity for them to better serve their country by developing their intellect.
John T. Kuehn has taught military history at CGSC since 2003 and retired from the Navy as a commander in 2004. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Kansas State University in 2007. He graduated with distinction from Naval Postgraduate School in 1988. He won the Society of Military History Moncado Prize in 2010 and is the author of Agents of Innovation (2008), Eyewitness Pacific Theater (with D.M. Giangreco, 2008), and numerous articles and editorials.
Reading Six Weeks persuaded me to buy R.C. Sherriff's play Journey's End, which I'd never read. I liked it especially because it is unique to the circumstances of its war-British class differences, trench warfare, losses by years of attrition. The entire thing takes place in an underground bunker. I doubt that it could be "updated," for example, into a drama about the Vietnam War. The concerns, the histories, the values of the soldiers involved are just too different. I suspect that when it came out it was a shocker, but now it seems like half the war movies we've seen since.
Lines I liked:
Osborne: "Where do the men sleep?"
Hardy: "I don't know. The sergeant-major sees to that."
Osborne: "It rather reminds you of bear-baiting -- or cock-fighting -- to sit and watch a boy drink himself unconscious."
Osborne: "We are, generally, just waiting for something to happen. When anything happens, it happens quickly. Then we just start waiting again."
Stanhope: "There's not a man left who was here when I came." (I suspect he kind of means himself, too -- he is physically present, but spiritually with his dead comrades of the previous four years.)
Faulkner, the writer of Mississippi, famously said that the past isn't dead, it is not even past. Turns out he was more right than he knew: He is still with us, and just got promoted by the Marines to lieutenant general. Maybe he can hang out with my favorite U.S. admiral, Julius Caesar. If you think I am joking, click on that last link.
I don't know General Faulkner, but I have met John Toolan, whom I interviewed when I was writing 'Fiasco.' I was impressed to see him promoted as well, to CG IMEF. He is exactly the kind of sober, tough leader you'd like to see leading your son or daughter in combat. I can remember almost word-for-word his comments on fighting in Fallujah.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.