By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Oddly enough, I couldn't help but think of the Postal Service motto when I saw this photo, a postcard from snowy scene in China -- a soldier posing with a dog (I'm assuming it's one of China's MWDs) in Heilongjiang Province on Jan. 29. The two were photographed at a military training exercise where the temperature dipped to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night..." It seems just as fitting here as a way of relaying the devotion and partnership inherent in the closest MWD teams.
Diving deeper into that partnership, on the side of the dog, at least, was this New York Times op-ed, "Dogs Are People, Too," written by Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, that I saw was circulating MWD handler Facebook groups. Berns and his colleagues have been training dogs to undergo MRI scans while completely conscious so they can look at their active brains. What they discovered is quite remarkable and possibly not all that surprising, depending on whether or not you believe a dog is capable of feelings of love -- beyond obedience, beyond a relationship based on need and survival.
"Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives)," Berns writes, "seem to have emotions just like us." Now this is hardly a revolutionary idea -- even Darwin wrote about his own dog and the clear indications he saw in the dog's behavior to indicate that canines are indeed emotional beings and possess the ability to very clearly express those emotions. But Berns's examination of the canine brain yielded some noteworthy results, or if one were making an argument, evidence.
Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.... Because of the overwhelming complexity of how different parts of the brain are connected to one another, it is not usually possible to pin a single cognitive function or emotion to a single brain region.... But the caudate may be an exception. Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy. Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty.
Berns writes on to discuss whether or not these findings should not only change the way we see dogs but also how we treat them ... but I thought the above finding is enough food for thought on its own.
ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
No, I am not talking about "Humor in Uniform"-type garrison guffaws stuff that I read in Reader's Digest as a child. Rather, I recently was discussing memories of the Iraq war in a personal exchange with my friend Andrew Exum. He noted, in an observation that he has given me permission to quote here, that:
When I was still Captain Exum, I was attached to the 22 SAS for 45 days in Baghdad, and our two units formally presented the one to the other: I told them about the Rangers and our heritage, and they did the same for the 22 SAS. They said that it was mandatory that each member of the SAS have a sense of humor. They then proceeded to explain that people who take themselves too seriously are the same people who begin to believe their own hype, lose their humility, and get sloppy and get themselves (and their men) killed. I've never forgotten that lesson and have tried to live by it ever sense.
Tom again: It occurred to me that I've never read much about this -- that is, the use of humor as a test of sanity and common sense in battle. Yeah, I know there are lots of examples. But anyone know of studies or analyses? Or rules like the SAS one cited by Ex?
Reading this casualty report yesterday (Tuesday), it occurred to me that we have been fighting in Afghanistan for about as long as our soldiers there can remember. They were 12, 10, maybe even 7 years old when the fighting began.
The four soldiers killed on Sunday west of Kandahar were from a specially trained team that engages Afghan women, reported Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer. One of them, Lt. Jennifer Moreno, 25, was saluted by the commander of the 75th Rangers as "a talented member of our team who lost her life while serving her country in one of the most dangerous environments in the world. Her bravery and self-sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the 75th Ranger Regiment."
This is the first statement I can remember from the Rangers about a female soldier, but I haven't gone looking closely at their statements, so I might have missed some.
On the other hand, I have read every single damn casualty statement released from the Pentagon for the last 12 years. I am not sure how long I will continue to do it. But I still feel like I shouldn't stop. Or maybe I can't.
"Pomposity and pretentiousness received very short shrift from him. When a general, a stickler for punctuality and held in no great affection, paid an official visit, Cubiss arranged for all the clocks in the camp to be put forward by five minutes. The great man arrived to find Cubiss, a picture of exasperation, tapping his watch."
This is from a good obituary in the Daily Telegraph of Brig. Malcolm Cubiss.
(HT to down-under PL)
RHQ The Prince of Wales's Own
By Nicholas Murray
Best Defense guest columnist
I've just read Professor Bruce Fleming's comments regarding PME during the furlough. I found interesting the similarity of his experience with mine. As we know, almost all PME civilian employees were deemed non-essential and sent home (though most have since returned to work). What struck me most was what has happened to the students' classes after civilian faculty were sent home: Some of the classes at the U.S. Naval Academy continued, some did not, depending on whether there was the expertise to continue teaching those subjects. At the Command and General Staff College, all of the classes continued despite the bulk of faculty being furloughed. How was it that one institution could seemingly carry on as normal while another felt it did not have sufficiently qualified faculty to continue, except in a few areas where the active-duty faculty could effectively cover?
To find out how CGSC managed this we need to look at what it does. Its main goal is to educate and develop leaders for joint operations and functions, as called for by the Goldwater-Nichols Act, and to teach critical and creative thinking in order to prepare officers for the longer term. As such, classes follow a graduate-school model of discussion seminars, led by an expert, where the free flow of ideas is the norm in a small-group seminar setting (one over 16 being the model).
The problem is, last week these classes were taught in groups as large as one over several hundred. And by whom, given that the civilian experts were deemed non-essential? But, I hear, CGSC is not a civilian graduate school, at least according to some, so the normal rules of graduate schooling don't matter.
The thing is, they do: CGSC is accredited both as a graduate school and for teaching joint operations. In fact, according to page 9 of CGSC's catalog, the school is a graduate degree granting college and it legally must maintain accreditation for its classes from the relevant civilian education authorities. This is true, whether or not all officers take a degree. Accreditation is important, because it establishes standards and best practices to ensure that students are getting a decent quality of education. Thus, accreditation is not simply a bar to get over every few years: it should be viewed as a pathway to the best education a school can provide.
Yet, CGSC chose to carry on as though nothing substantial changed. On the face of it, students continued to learn and the government got to save a bunch of money. What could be wrong with that? What does that have to do with accreditation? The answer to both questions is, more than it seems.
The civilians furloughed from the PME schools provide the bulk of the subject matter expertise for those institutions. This is certainly true at CGSC. This fact is important, because accreditation requires that faculty be qualified to a level higher than the classes they are teaching. Thus, for graduate classes, that typically means doctoral degrees are required. Of course, there are some active-duty personnel teaching in the PME system who possess such a qualification. However, the majority do not. This is not to question their ability or integrity, but it does raise an important issue: How can the classes remain accredited if people with the requisite level of qualifications are not teaching them? Remember, the USNA closed classes (as did many other PME schools) that did not have the required level of qualified instructor or expertise. CGSC did not.
There is another piece to this: the quality of education. Most research on education shows that the level of knowledge of the instructor closely relates to the learning outcomes of the student. This means classes at CGSC might well have been running but in all likelihood student outcomes were not the same; they were lower. Again, clearly this was recognized by the USNA and other PME schools, but seemingly not by CGSC.
CGSC's response to the furloughs was to carry on as though nothing actually changed. This indicates that it is more interested in appearing good than being good. I would welcome a response that explains how CGSC maintained the quality of ‘seminars' that went from a ratio of one instructor to 16 students to as many as one to 200-300 without the requisite expertise that was deemed necessary only a couple of weeks earlier.
The USNA (and other PME schools) made it clear through their actions that they care more about the actual quality of the education they provide to the students than does CGSC. I am led to the inevitable conclusion that CGSC is more interested in checking the box marked "success," rather than actually achieving it. This bodes ill for General Cone's vision of CGSC as Harvard on the Missouri.
Dr. Nicholas Murray is an associate professor in the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. This year he was awarded the Department of the Army Commander's Award for Civilian Service, and he was named Educator of the Year for History. He has previously published "Guess what? CGSC is even more broken than we thought! And it is getting worse" on Best Defense and "Officer Education: What Lessons Does the French Defeat in 1871 Have for the US Army Today?" in the Small Wars Journal. The views 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.
Yes, there was the Taranto raid, and Royal Navy aircraft crippling the Bismarck's rudder about seven months later. But did British naval aviation have any effect on World War II after 1941? I've been struck at how absent it is from the World War II histories. Of course, there was the Battle of the Atlantic, which was crucial -- but wasn't the most effective air work done by long-range RAF flights over the Western Approaches?
The war record is especially striking when you contrast it to the RAF saving the nation from possible invasion during the summer of 1940.
It is even more striking that as late as 1944, the Royal Navy's planners were arguing that the postwar British fleet should be built around the battleship, according to Eliot Cohen's Supreme Command, which I was re-reading this summer.
Today's essay question: Was the RAF more adaptive than the air wing of the Royal Navy? If so, why? Extra credit for good historical examples, double points for class antagonism.
Best Defense department of Marine culture, because the Marines have culture instead of doctrine
Many current and former Marines, as well as others, may be aware of the commandant calling for a crackdown on rowdy behavior in the barracks and his desire to institute new measures in the barracks across the Corps to "reawaken it morally and crack down on behavioral problems that are leading to Marines hurting themselves, their fellow Marines, civilians, and damaging the Corps' reputation."
In addition, the commandant further cited problems of sexual assault, hazing, drunken driving, fraternization, as well as the failure to maintain personal appearance standards among the issues he wants fixed (speaking of personal appearance, fortunately the current commandant wasn't around in my day to see my platoon come back aboard ship after trading various parts of uniforms with the Royal Thai Marines ... yea, I got a belt).
Do I, as someone that served through similar events (possibly worse) after the early post Vietnam wind-down, view what the commandant is requiring as too draconian and an overreaction to Marines settling into garrison after many years on a high-energy war tempo? I say not necessarily, because without a doubt the safety of our men and women in uniform is of the utmost importance, as adhering to high standards of conduct is a Corps tradition and is surprisingly expected by the public. But rather than dwell on the trivial, such as having personnel on duty wear an appropriate seasonal dress uniform, which is nothing new but rather a return to bygone days when this was normal practice, let me address a primary concern.
Let me remind all what makes the U.S. military, let alone the Corps, different than many of the world's militaries: It is our cadre of NCOs/petty officers that we ideally empower with trust and confidence to carry out duties and missions normally found performed by officers in foreign militaries. Therefore, when the commandant states that corporals and sergeants will no longer be promoted as a group, but individually, giving promotion a personal nature and meaning, that can only be a good thing and something that was done when I was promoted to those ranks prior to Vietnam.
However, if the Corps is going to talk-the-talk about NCOs being the backbone of the Corps, then it must walk-the-walk and allow its NCOs to supervise what goes on within the bounds of their authority among the rank and file, holding them accountable and correcting where necessary, while certainly making available 24/7 both staff non-commissioned and commissioned officers to assist and/or take over in resolving matters beyond their NCOs' experience level and/or authority when required, as well as pointing NCOs in the direction to arrive at the correct solution as opposed to doing it for them.
Unfortunately in my view, the commandant, by introducing security cameras in the barracks and having the barracks roamed by seniors beyond the normal staff duty and officer of the day routinely after hours, can create a climate that the Corps doesn't trust its corporals and sergeants to maintain authority along with good order and discipline. Odd, in a manner of thinking, since many have been carrying loaded weapons around 24/7, supervising other doing the same thing, among other things. Thus, I would recommend local commanders who know their Marines are the best informed to make decisions on how much further supervision, along with "health and comfort" inspections, are necessary within their command/unit. Although, it might not hurt to have a junior officer available after hours and on weekends periodically that is approachable for informal chats after hours, which is something I took upon myself to do once upon a time during the dark days immediately following our withdrawal from Vietnam.
In closing, I would caution that some further discussion take place in regard to what is and isn't necessary involving supervision, and would point out not using measures tantamount to spying and micromanagement. Because nothing drives young Marines crazier than boring, unimaginative garrison training and assigning make-busy tasks than superiors popping in and out of the barracks at all odd hours, displaying a lack of trust that may lead many living in the barracks to find homesteads elsewhere after sunset, under less ideal conditions, contributing to the very problems the commandant is trying to get under control.
"Rick" NFI is a retired Marine interested in seeing the spirit of Lt. Gen. John A. LeJeune's belief that the relationship between senior and subordinate should be one of mutual trust, within the framework of a father mentoring and guiding a son (or daughter) without hovering over him (or her).
by Brian Castner
Best Defense book reviewer
A version of this review first appeared in the August issue of Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute.
If you believe the media coverage and commentary, all of America is still waiting for the great fiction of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of last year's reviews of The Yellow Birds or Fobbit or Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk noted the supposed dearth of war novels to that point. In times past, America waited 11 years for A Farewell to Arms, 16 for Catch-22, and 15 for The Things They Carried. Now our culture wants to hear who won American Idol by the end of the episode, and even Anthony Swofford, who knows something about delayed gratification (his memoir, Jarhead, was published 12 years after the first Gulf War), says on the back cover of Fire and Forget, the new collection of short stories by military veteran writers, "I've been waiting for this book for a decade."
Is the wait finally over? Yes, according to Matt Gallagher, one of the collection's editors, who was impatient himself; he wrote a piece for The Atlantic in 2011 asking when a great novel from the long wars would finally be written.
"Iraq and Afghanistan fiction is in a much better place than it was when I wrote that article," he told me, before hedging, "It's just beginning. There's no one dominant story, no one clean narrative, to emerge from these postmodern, brushfire wars. There are many."
The form of Fire and Forget follows its function, then: 15 tales with varied perspectives, and while expected themes of struggle and disillusionment emerge, there is not a carbon copy to be found here. If you are a fan of literary Paris Review or The New Yorker short stories -- casual tragedy, slow reveals, ambiguous endings -- you will find familiar hardware in this collection, and for good reason. These are serious writers, more than half graduates of master's of fine arts programs, but unlike the traditional college student, these veterans bring a life experience to the form that is substantial and heart-breaking.
Perhaps fittingly, considering the post-traumatic stress disorder newspaper headlines, there are more stories here about the challenges of return than the horrors of war, more whiskey bottles flying than bullets. In a number of stories about surreal post-war moments, animals act as symbolic stand-ins for innocence, and thus are mercilessly shot, squashed, and buried. For me, the stories of in-country combat were a comparative relief from the grinding tales of heartache at home. At least we know how the firefight will end; we have no such certainty about those still laboring to reintegrate.
The winner for sheer visceral impact is Phil Klay, whose story of returning is so spot-on I wonder if he wrote it while still on the plane ride home. He gets everything pitch perfect, and not just the major points, such as wanting to go back to war right away, literally hours after landing. No, it was the small truths that returned me to my own homecoming: the unfamiliar softness of a wife's embrace after months of hard Humvees, the pleasant satisfaction of the first hangover. Klay remembers the details so the rest of us don't have to.
David Abrams, the author of Fobbit, tells the brutal story of a unit remembering fellow soldiers lost in combat, not with nostalgia but rather obscenity-laced efficiency. "This short story is more typical of what I normally write," Abrams told me. "It has more dramatic punch than . . . comedy veneer."
Siobhan Fallon's excellent story from the perspective of an Army wife is a breath of fresh air, one that comes early in the anthology and that honestly I could have used a little later. The veteran experience can feel insulated and claustrophobic, and Fallon's incongruence with the other pieces -- the only one not from the perspective of the solider or veteran (although Gallagher's contribution is half and half) -- begs the question, where is a piece about an Afghan family? An Iraqi interpreter? A new refugee? Instead, the Iraqis and Afghans in Fire and Forget are always "hajjis" or, in the words of contributor Ted Janis's protagonist, "[expletive] traitors."
Why is this? "I think veterans are still stuck in their own head," said Abrams. "And I think we Americans, to paint with a very broad brush, lead very insular lives. We don't naturally think about foreign policy. But for the purposes of this anthology, it's fine. Each of these works of art stand on their own."
True, and they do so well, but even the story from Andrew Slater, now a teacher of English at the American University in Erbil in northern Iraq, is about a U.S. soldier struggling with traumatic brain injury at home. Would he not have been the writer to bridge the gap? His story, though, is so troubling and thought-provoking that I wouldn't trade it and that's the point, isn't it? After 12 years of war, we're just starting to understand what happened to our own soldiers. Perhaps in time we'll reach across the gulf to those we were fighting -- with and against.
Brian Castner is a former U.S. Air Force captain and explosive ordnance disposal officer. He is the author of The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows (Doubleday, 2012). This review is reproduced here with the permission of its author.
"Gold Star Father," a Marine vet who lost a Marine son in our recent wars, mentioned this in a comment the other day:
I was tootling around a Big Box Store one day with my wife. I left the book section and moved on. Wife disappeared. I back tracked to find her at the book section taking all of Bush's memoir copies off the shelf and dropping them on the floor. I panicked for a second as I figured every camera in the store probably just targeted us. But, I kinda shrugged, watched her do it, and we moved on. She told me she did the same when Rummy's memoir hit the shelves.
Capt. Brad Hardy, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest rower
The desk next to me is vacant, the end result of the current government shutdown. My counterpart, a government civilian, is furloughed until further notice. This is the second time this year he has been sent home without pay.
I wonder why him and not me. I am an active-duty servicemember. Congress and the president have made a special allowance in the absence of a continuing resolution so that I may be paid regularly. I absolutely feel fortunate and my wife is breathing a little easier. And I'm sure that the spouses of those deployed now have one fewer worry on their minds.
But again, what makes me special while my civilian colleague draws the short stick? Where do we draw the line and force the military, as a piece of the federal government team, to shoulder at least some of the shutdown burden?
The reason may be that the military, for a number of theories, is a beatified, protected sect among American society. As such, not funding military pay checks is bad politics. Few in Washington want to be considered as anti-military, non-flag waving, unpatriotic, or overly inquisitive of how the military conducts its business. In general terms, supporting the military, at least financially, is the undeniable solution even if one finds the policy objectives murky or the actual conduct of war unnecessary or ham-fisted. And again, I'm not complaining about my continued compensation. Money is good. So are groceries. But by holding our place in society to a higher order than those who serve with commensurate dedication and vigor we may damage the very nature of what American uniformed service means. Furlough equity should be considered a part of professional military service.
We should dust off our copies of The Soldier and the State and consider that familiar phrase "profession of arms." A professional military, which we consider ourselves almost by dictum, must be under the objective control of civilian authority. In the American system, we subordinate ourselves to the civilian government in order to protect it (from us). However, by placing the military's pay at a higher priority than that of our civilians, we degrade this image of professionalism, selfless service, or any other tortured application of the Army Values we evoke to self-separate from society. The military is lionized and segregated as something monolithically special, elite, almost mystical and deified. So long as any narrative fits this ideal, most objective examinations to the contrary are rebuffed.
Consider the example of the WWII veteran "invasion" of their memorial in Washington, D.C. These vets and their occupation of an otherwise closed national park was largely applauded in the media despite being threatened with arrest. I wouldn't besmirch these veterans, just as so many wouldn't either. For many, their "Honor Flight" and trip to the capital may be the first and last time to witness the amazing memorial constructed to honor them. However, this act demonstrates, across generations and wars, just how high the pedestal the military is placed on. An unlikely but possibly criminal act can be glossed over as a stand against congressional gridlock and show of red-blooded patriotism. It's a dangerous, slippery slope. Just as no one wants to see an elderly man in a wheelchair blocked from his memorial or handcuffed, no one wants to see today's troops go unpaid.
There may not be an easy solution and one may not be necessary if the government is turned back on. But the pay caveat to the shutdown episode tells me that the profession of arms may be a myth, while the warrior class is alive, well, and paid off before others.
Captain Brad Hardy is a U.S. Army strategist. The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Army.
Got a tale of life in the trenches of the federal shutdown that you'd like to share? Send it along to Best Defense by email. The address is over on the right near the postage stamp-sized photo of Tom where it says "About This Blog."
The Early Bird, in which the Pentagon compiles most of the day's big military news stories, has not been coming since the shutdown began. Here's a substitute, the Canadian military's daily compilation. You see, their government hasn't been taken hostage by a bunch of right-wing nuts!
Bonus: The compilation is bilingual, which gives you an opportunity to polish your French. Hinky dinky parley voo?
My wife read somewhere that dogs are a species essentially created by man. Under this theory, dogs descend from wolves that were friendly enough to come near the campfire when thrown a bone, but smart enough to survive encounters with man. Over many thousand years, those friendly/smart genes multiplied and created the dog. Just two predators hanging out.
Above, two members of the 2nd ID hang out in Buhriz, Iraq, in 2007.
And with that, I am going to stack arms and let Rebecca take back her column. Here's a photo to think on that.
Best Defense guest columnist
The halls of the English department at the U.S. Naval Academy, where I am in my 27th year as a civilian professor, were almost free of midshipmen students on Tuesday, Oct. l, when I had to go in to sign my official furlough letter, the one informing me that I was out of work until and unless the government shutdown ends. The students weren't there because most of their classes had been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Civilian faculty were paid until noon, four hours for an "orderly shutdown." Though grim (no pay with little chance of restitution if the government ever gets going again), it seemed a bit like a party as well, all of us in weekend shorts and bright shirts rather than our usual suits and professional attire. But as non-essential civilian DOD employees, we professors were sent home, while our students, military and hence unaffected by the shutdown, killed time. We were told not to assign them other work during the shutdown, not to volunteer to come in to teach for free, and not to use military instructors to cover for us.
So classes were suspended in mid-stream. In my plebe Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature class, we'd reached Act II of Othello. It's a play I find essential for a military academy, about Othello's inability to switch from his "guy" world of the military, where he has served "in the tented field" since the age of seven(!), to the new world of Venice, city manners, and women that, hired by the Venetian senators as a mercenary admiral, he is suddenly thrust into. Now he's gone and married Desdemona, but his trusted warrior subordinate Iago tells him she's unfaithful. Othello is insecure (he's old and dark-skinned) and he believes in the band of brothers rather than his wife. The result is tragedy for all. Females and too great a reliance on the bros -- what can be more timely for USNA, racked by sexual assault scandals and toxic SAPR training?
But, hey, Congress thought otherwise. Students can't do much with only two acts out of five. Worse, all plebes go next week to see a performance of this play funded by outside sources, the Brady family, that every year pays to have an event meant to spark discussion of leadership issues. This funding is non-appropriated, so the show will go on. Only the audience won't have read it or discussed it. Too, as part of the deal funded by the Brady family, the London actors of the production were supposed to go into our classrooms during the week before to discuss and hold workshops. Now there are few classes for them to go into.
To be sure, not all of our classrooms are dark. The English Department, like almost all other USNA departments, is overwhelmingly (more than two-thirds) civilian; these are furloughed. And the few officers we have, with the exception of the Ph.D. permanent military professor, are junior officers who typically do not teach upper level courses: However, whatever they teach goes on. History is about the same proportion of military instructors to permanent civilians, while mathematics as another example is only about one-fifth military. Though the academy currently claims that military make up 44 percent of the faculty, this includes the temporary ensigns awaiting flight school dates and assigned as helpers to various departments, frequently physical education. Only the Leadership, Ethics and Law Department, with loads of professional courses, is overwhelmingly military, officers who come a few years and move on.
So Annapolis as a college has all but ground to a halt. In some departments, the military instructors are gathering lecture halls full of sections without professors and somehow filling the time. Civilians outside the classroom have been furloughed, too: You can't check books out of the library or get reference help, the registrar isn't there, the Academic Center isn't there, and the writing center (take your paper for help) isn't there -- except for a lone LT once in a while. Almost no professors, a non-functional library, and no academic support. Yet the weekend football game with Air Force will go on -- that too is non-appropriated funds, as is the coach's $1.5 million salary: That's what Annapolis is really about, after all.
Bruce Fleming has been an English Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy since 1987. He is the author of numerous books and articles on subjects ranging from literary Modernism and dance to political theory and military strategy, which are listed at www.brucefleming.net .
Got a tale of life during the federal shutdown that you'd like to share? Send it along to Best Defense by e-mail. The address is over on the right near the postage stamp-sized photo of Tom.
U.S. Naval Academy
By L. Lee
Best Defense guest columnist
We recently saw General Amos relieve two of his commanders for failing to protect an airbase in Afghanistan. He was right to do so, and I'm sure it was difficult to deliver such news to his colleagues of so many years.
I wonder now, though, if General Amos has the self-discipline to hold himself accountable, as well, in a matter involving military justice and what certainly appears to be an orchestrated effort by the commandant and his top legal advisors to burn and discredit a Marine Corps officer for filing an inspector general's complaint which exposes disturbing misconduct at the highest levels of the Marine Corps.
You are by now familiar with sad episode of Marines urinating on a dead Taliban member in Afghanistan. Those events were photographed and filmed. The misconduct involved was, of course, sent to senior Marine Corps commanders for handling and disposition. Whatever misjudgements committed by the Marines depicted in those images (and from the photos it appears there were many), they were still entitled to fair treatment and due process as the appropriate punishments were considered. After all, some charged with misconduct had been wounded in combat on multiple occasions, nonetheless re-enlisting to the dangerous and hard work asked of them and their brethren in faraway lands. Their commitment to one another continues to amaze. Because we know by now that Marines do not run across fields of fire to serve notions of baseball, apple pie, and the American flag. No sir, they do not. Not really. They do that most of all for one reason: for each other. That is why they fight: for each other. Even when they do things like this that we all wish they would not do.
My long-time friend and colleague Major James Weirick was assigned as a deputy staff judge advocate to help a lieutenant general navigate the disposition of these difficult cases. In the conduct of that job, to his chagrin, he ultimately observed and uncovered a pattern from the commandant and his senior lawyers revealing unlawful command influence, a failure to comply with legal discovery requirements, and preferential treatment given to the son of a former commandant while other Marines were placed on legal hold. Without valid legal justification, the commandant and his senior advisors refused to turn over documents establishing all of this misconduct. So, Major Weirick did what he was trained to do, and he spoke truth to power in order to compel them to comply with the rule of law. Specifically, he filed a complaint with the inspector general of the Department of Defense detailing their coordinated efforts to hide what had occurred. After the filing of that complaint, relevant documents were finally produced, although not without an effort by the commandant to first have the documents improperly and unlawfully characterized as "classified" to prevent their disclosure to inquiring criminal defense attorneys. Additionally, a lieutenant general has signed a sworn affidavit detailing that the commandant told him to "crush" the Marines involved in these desecration cases. For years, military appellate courts have deemed such directives from commanders as "unlawful command influence" decrying it as the "mortal enemy of military justice." And as well they should. Nobody, not even and especially the commandant of the Marine Corps, is permitted to deprive a Marine of due process by seeking pre-determined outcomes in a military justice setting. No matter the conduct, fairness must rule the process. Otherwise, it is a sham.
As a reward for his moral courage, Major Weirick was relieved of his duties, and yesterday was compared by the commandant's top civilian attorney (Robert Hogue) to the mentally unstable mass murderer who killed 12 people recently in the Washington Navy Yard. I have written the general counsel for the Department of the Navy in protest. My email to him has the hope of prompting what thus far has been completely absent from the commandant and his most senior legal advisors: accountability. The very thing all Marines are taught, and that which, on this issue, they have themselves avoided and worse, they have now improperly and wrongly assigned to someone else. It is shameful, and given the corrosive chilling effect it can have on the ability of junior officers across all disciplines to speak with candor to senior commanders, I hope it is something you will look into as you continue to hold military leaders accountable going forward. Because we all ought to expect that the commandant of the Marine Corps and his lawyers will serve the rule of law rather than trample upon it, and hang another Marine out to dry for doing the right thing.
L. Lee Thweatt is a former Marine Corps judge advocate, honorably discharged at the rank of captain, now in private law practice in Houston. While on active duty, he served as a trial counsel for various units within the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.
U.S. Marine Corps
By John R.
Schindler and Joan Johnson-Freese
Best Defense guest columnists
One of the perennial tensions in Professional Military Education (PME) is the role of civilian faculty at DOD learning institutions. Although all PME institutions employ civilians to teach, the specific part they play varies widely across colleges. While our own Naval War College employs a considerable number of civilians, some NWC teaching departments have few, and there is a spectrum of "types" within the general category of "civilian professors."
This issue was highlighted in a recent exchange on Best Defense about the Army's Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth. Professor Nicholas Murray's commentary revealed how CGSC's schedule is configured to the detriment of learning, and does not meet the real-world standards of any respected graduate-level academic program. Murray is a civilian academic with a Ph.D. in history from Oxford, and it's clear that his op-ed rankled some feathers in Kansas.
A response came quickly from Steve Boylan, a retired Army officer who serves on the CGSC faculty, who maintained that the institution is doing a good deal better than Prof. Murray had portrayed. While asserting that CGSC is getting along fine -- everything being "fine" is a common PME refrain -- Boylan made an odd assertion. He stated that the institution -- which, after all, bills itself as a college -- isn't really like civilian graduate schools, and perhaps should not be compared to them, as Prof. Murray had done.
Then came Boylan's most interesting admission, that the CGSC faculty is "a mix of active-duty officers and civilians (civilians are usually but not always retired lieutenant colonels and above)," which is more revealing than he perhaps intended. All war colleges have, in reality, several categories of faculty: serving military officers, former military officers now working as civilians, security practitioners with varying levels of academic training or experience, and civilians who possess academic qualifications (i.e. a Ph.D. or relevant terminal degree) and a professional record comparable to academics in civilian institutions. While there are exceptions, such as retired military officers with substantive Ph.D.s in the fields they are teaching and/or a strong research and publication record, they are relatively rare in PME. Given that Boylan's bio lists no experience teaching in higher education, and no terminal degree, one wonders his ability to assess the caliber of civilian faculty, much less how CGSC compares to civilian graduate schools.
Categorizing all non-active duty faculty as "civilian" faculty poses problems, since many of the "civilian" faculty are such only in a narrow, HR sense of the term, since they lack minimum qualifications to be teaching in any graduate-level program, and many undergraduate programs. Clearly, there are areas of study in PME institutions, perhaps most often in institutions like CGSC, such as military operations, defense budgeting, and the DOD planning process, where civilian academic skill sets do not fit the bill and retired officers fill those niches well. But the proportion of individuals with those skill sets versus academic credentials becomes important when PME institutions compare themselves to civilian graduate schools, for the purposes of such occasions as inspections, including schools such as Yale. There is clearly a need for the Pentagon to examine what being a "civilian professor" at our war colleges actually ought to mean.
Relatedly, the matter of tenure enters as a touchy subject because here, too, there is no standard policy across PME. In the Navy there is the oddity that both the Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School grant tenure to accomplished civilian faculty while the Naval War College does not. It considered a tenure policy a few years ago, and shelved the idea when retired military faculty objected to tenure qualifications they were unlikely to reach, but ostensibly is preparing to consider it again. The Air War College has flip-flopped on a tenure policy in recent years, including once giving tenure-track faculty the draconian option of giving up their tenure-track contract, or receiving a one-year contract -- with termination implied. It is difficult to explain, save in the narrowest HR sense, why some PME institutions grant tenure and others do not. It's clear that tenure ought to exist at any institutions that want to bill themselves as being on a par with civilian graduate schools. Moreover, tenure has a role to play across PME, one that occasionally bubbles to the surface.
Take the recent case of Bruce Fleming, professor of English at the Naval Academy. Fleming has been at Annapolis for a quarter-century and has a well-honed reputation as a gadfly, having written extensively, and not always in a complimentary fashion, about USNA's educational shortcomings -- something that, as a tenured professor, he has been free to do. Professor Fleming claimed that he was denied a raise by the Naval Academy in 2010 after publishing an unflattering editorial titled "The Academies' March Toward Mediocrity" in the New York Times. That claim was validated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the Naval Academy ordered to pay him a settlement. More recently, Fleming was suspended by the USNA for two days while he was under investigation when two female midshipmen objected to a poem he used in class.
The case remains under investigation, but Fleming maintains that Academy leadership is out to remove him, and his own department prevented this. He is fighting back, again filing a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, accusing USNA leadership of bias and misuse of sexual harassment rules to suspend him. Regardless of what happens in this matter -- we are staunch defenders of academic freedom in PME though we have no particular knowledge of this case nor do we know Prof. Fleming -- it's likely that Prof. Fleming only still has a job because he is tenured. It's safe to say that at any PME institution that hires its civilian faculty contractually, like our war colleges, his contract may not have been renewed, given his history of speaking out publicly about USNA issues. Though you would like to think otherwise, individuals like Professor Murray at CGSC sometimes bravely speak out at their own peril if administrators are thin-skinned and status-quo oriented.
Faculty tenure is important not just so that faculty can speak out regarding institutional shortcomings, but first and foremost to allow faculty to challenge students in classrooms without fear that bruised student egos will result in poor evaluations that can cost them their jobs. It is the specific job of faculty to challenge students, to make them defend their views, and challenge them with new, sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. Administrative fears ought not to be allowed to interfere with what is best for the students and therefore for the nation, which is a real consideration given PME's mission of educating our military leaders.
Does the Pentagon want its PME institutions, especially its war colleges, to be comparable to civilian graduate programs, as it says it does? If that's the case, it would be wise to better define who exactly are "civilian professors," as well as the hiring and retention rules they are employed under. Given that all PME institutions report to the Pentagon, these rules ought to be the same across the board as well. These would be excellent steps toward making PME better for its students and for the nation, across the board.
Joan Johnson-Freese is a professor of national security affairs, and former department chair, at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, and authored the 2013 book Educating America's Military. John R. Schindler is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and a fellow of the International History Institute at Boston University. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and not of the Naval War College, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
By Major Chris Heatherly, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
England. June 5, 1944: Allied troops were poised to invade Europe and defeat Nazi Germany. General Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces, wrote a simple, one-page letter clearly articulating the importance of their mission and his confidence of their victory in battle. Eisenhower directed his staff to provide a copy of this letter to every Allied servicemember taking part in D-Day.
Fast-forward some sixty years to Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad, Iraq, during the spring of 2004. The 1st Cavalry Division had just relieved the 1st Armored Division and the latter was in the midst of the long journey home through Kuwait to Germany. The tactical situation changed rapidly, requiring 1st Armored Division to cease redeployment operations and return to combat. The division's commanding general, then Major General Martin Dempsey (now chairman of the Joint Chiefs), issued a similar letter to his soldiers. Perhaps recalling Eisenhower's example during WWII, General Dempsey once again clearly and concisely explained why his division would remain in Iraq an additional 90 days beyond its planned departure. Additionally, General Dempsey called a group meeting of his subordinate commanders to personally explain the logic behind the division's recall and his plan to eventually redeploy home. I was present at that meeting, and still have my copy of General Dempsey's letter. There was no doubt in my mind as to the importance of our unit's extension or his commitment to our eventual redeployment.
Today, senior U.S. military leaders face another difficult battle, albeit one of budgets, ledgers, and accountants instead of improvised explosive devices, artillery shells, and bullets. Each uniformed service will reduce its personnel end strength, although exact numbers remain uncertain. The Air Force's anticipated loss is around 9,000 airmen, while the Navy and Marines stand to lose 1,700 and 15,000 more, respectively. General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, stated the Army will lose at least 80,000 soldiers over the next four years with the possibility of additional manpower reductions of 100,000 or greater. General Odierno did not mince words on the possibility of a drawdown, saying: "Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities."
To achieve these reductions, the Army publically announced new rounds of Selective Early Retirement Boards (SERB), Qualitative Management Programs (QMP), and Qualitative Service Programs (QSP) for officers and NCOs alike. For example, a SERB in August reviewed nearly 1,200 Army colonels and lieutenant colonels for early retirement. General Odierno ordered every colonel affected by this SERB be personally counseled by a lieutenant general. My concern, however, is the Army will not demonstrate the same hands-on approach when informing junior officers and NCOs their service is no longer required. As an institution, the Army must look beyond the immediate need to reduce personnel now and consider the long-term consequences of a poorly considered or executed drawdown plan. Simply stated, Army leaders must clearly explain to each departing soldier why they are being forced out regardless of rank, rationale, or reason.
Any decision on personnel reductions must consider the following facts. A significant portion of our soldiers are already distrustful of "Big Army." A 2012 Center for Army Leadership survey found that nearly 50 percent of the active and reserve soldiers polled believe "the Army no longer demonstrates that it is committed to me as much as it expects me to be committed." Of even greater worry is how this number has increased by 6 percent since the previous survey in 2010. Given the forthcoming reductions, this number will likely surpass the 50 percent mark by 2014. Separately, soldiers mustered from the Army may have fewer than 20 years of service, and thus no retirement benefits such as a pension, commissary access, or healthcare. Similarly, they will not enjoy the "golden parachutes" afforded to senior officers who may easily step into lucrative, high-paying jobs with private industry think tanks, lobbying organizations, or corporate America. Of additional concern is the state of the American economy, which is not as strong as it was during the last major drawdown following Desert Storm/Desert Shield. As of this writing, American unemployment stands at nearly 8 percent, with veteran unemployment rates slightly less. While the military is not responsible for the state of the economy, departing soldiers still face its associated difficulties. Military leaders must also account for the lack of military experience among U.S. citizens today with less than 1 percent of America in uniform and approximately 10 percent holding veteran status. The average American citizen is not informed on the details and particulars of the military in general, and the drawdown in particular. While Americans hold great respect for the military, they lack direct and frequent interaction with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The contact gap between soldier and society means one disgruntled veteran can have a disproportionate impact on future recruits. Recruiting America's youth to enlist in the military is a difficult task in the best of circumstances, a situation made worse if the Pentagon fumbles the pending drawdown.
I urge the General Odierno and other senior Army leaders to follow the examples of Generals Dempsey and Eisenhower to clearly explain how this reduction will work and the criteria employed by boards selecting soldiers for drawing down. Further, I recommend the Army chief of staff order senior commanders to conduct direct in-person, face-to-face exit counseling for every soldier mustered from the service.
Such counseling must be taken seriously and not simply "pencil whipped" as so much rater counseling is often done. Leaders may assist soldiers to develop realistic exit strategies to ensure veterans secure follow-on employment and access to post-service benefits. Leaders should address the potential for continued public service with the National Guard, Army Reserves, or non-uniformed programs such as Troops to Teachers. The military faces fiscal realities beyond our control requiring difficult choices directly impacting soldiers and their families. That reality does not absolve Army leaders from the obligation to look each soldier in the eye, respectfully thank them for their service, and dutifully ensure they are prepared to transition from the military. This endeavor must go beyond Army speak ALARACTs, mass email messages, and PowerPoint presentations that do not leave the Capital Beltway.
Every soldier leaving the Army will reenter civilian society -- either as a positive example of the benefits of military service ... or an angry veteran more than willing to explain, in detail, how Uncle Sam gave them the shaft. Army Doctrine Publication 6-0, Mission Command, clearly states the Army's Mission Command philosophy is guided by the principle to "build cohesive teams through mutual trust." The looming drawdown is a sterling opportunity for Army leaders to demonstrate that trust with our currently serving soldiers to ensure a capable future force.
Major Christopher J. Heatherly enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 and earned his commission via Officer Candidate School in 1997. He has held a variety of assignments in special operations, Special Forces, armored, and cavalry units. His operational experience includes deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Kuwait, Mali, and Nigeria. He holds master's degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the School of Advanced Military Studies. The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Army.
It kind of surprised me. Why is Turkey doing this?
Bribes and prostitutes, kind of the ham and eggs of crime. Anyway, the captain of the USS Bonhomme Richard got escorted off his ship by Navy officials. This was a surprise because, from the little I know, he has a good reputation. BTW, this is related to the similar handling of the skipper of the USS Mustin the other day. You gots to wonder how many more shoes are gonna drop in the Pacific fleet.
Meanwhile, a "friend" of David Petraeus mailed a fake hand grenade to his New York City office.
Yow. This is good to see. I am weary of generals being relieved for zipper malfunctions and other personal issues, while all sorts of combat and professional incompetence are tolerated. For too long the message sent has been, you can do things that get troops killed, as long as you don't make the team "look bad."
To my knowledge (and I studied this issue for several years while writing The Generals), this is the first relief of an American general for combat incompetence since the firing of Army Maj. Gen. James Baldwin in 1971. That incident actually was pretty similar to what happened to the Marines at Camp Bastion: Baldwin commanded a division that had an outpost, Firebase Mary Ann, with poorly prepared defenses. It was raided by the Viet Cong, 30 American soldiers were killed and 82 were wounded, and Baldwin was blamed.
The Marine action is a major signal about enforcing accountability for the top ranks. It also sends a message to the troops that "different spanks for different ranks" will not occur here, with sergeants getting punished while generals escape reprimand.
All in all, I am pretty impressed. Youse?
I also was struck by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart's summary in British Generals in Blair's Wars of how he spent his time when the was the British commander in southern Iraq: 15 percent with his British forces, 20 percent with NGOs and other civilian authorities, 25 percent with Iraqis, and 40 percent with the forces of other nations: "It took that much effort to be able to understand them, and for them to understand me."
Stewart offers up what apparently was a hard-won lesson when commanding multinational forces that report back to different capitals: "Unless you have an independent manoeuvre unit that is unconstrained and whose rules of engagement you control, then you will not attain the rapidity of reaction and the freedom of manoeuvre you need on operations." In other words, don't fight unless you have a maneuver unit entirely under your control, along with the rules of engagement governing its actions.
All in all, I would say that this is the best new book on military affairs I've seen this year.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
I know, the comic hasn't been relevant, or funny, for many decades. Still, it seems kind of un-American for the U.S. military newspaper to fire the Army's most famous slacker (except on weekends, when it is still planned to appear).
I always thought ‘Beetle Bailey' was stuck in the Army of the 1950s, when the strip was started, and where the uniforms in the strip remain. ‘Doonesbury,' for the last decade, has done a much better job of evoking contemporary military life. (I know, "MajRod" and some others are still hatas. But perhaps they are stuck in the 1950s, too.)
British Generals in Blair's Wars offers some new views of, and information about, the Iraq war. It made me wish I had interviewed more Brits for my books Fiasco and The Gamble. On the other hand, I doubt they would have told me back then, in the thick of things, some of the things they say here. In sum, for the British, the Americans appear to have been friendly but often unthinking allies, rather painful to deal with.
Most startling to me in this volume was the revelation that L. Paul Bremer, III, the American proconsul in Baghdad in 2003-04, had officially requested the removal of the British commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart. This is discussed by Stewart and others. "I was charged with not killing enough people," he recalls. "The CPA asked for my removal." Another officer, Gen. (ret.) John McColl, adds that, "The demarche had gone from Bremer to Washington to London without the military commanders being consulted. Indeed, they, the [U.S.] military leadership, seemed to be content with the British approach."
In the spring of 2004, adds Col. (ret.) Alexander Alderson, when he and another British officer tried to brief U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan on counterinsurgency doctrine, the American officer pounded the table and stated that he was not going to face an insurgency. "Damn it," he shouted, according to Alderson, "we're warfighting."
I also was surprised to see Maj. Gen. (ret.) Jonathan Shaw's comment that the Americans decided in December 2006 on "the surge" in Iraq later the same winter without consulting the British: "This shift happened over Christmas 2006 after all our Whitehall briefs which had focused on transition and reductions in troop levels. I arrived with national orders to reduce our footprint, at a time when the US was increasing its."
But Colonel Alderson does note that as the surge occurred, "There was now a much greater level of coherency in what the US was trying to achieve." I had observed the same phenomenon in Iraq in 2007 and had tried to write about it in The Gamble, but did not summarize it as well as Alderson does in that one sentence.
(One more to come.)
Remember how the other day I worried that the risks of a nuclear incident were increasing as the quality of personnel in the U.S. nuclear force deteriorated?
Well, it turns out that at the beginning of September, the deputy commander of the U.S. nuclear force was suspended and is under investigation for issues related to gambling.
Well, do ya?
I've just finished reading most of British Generals in Blair's Wars, a fascinating volume, one of the most interesting I've read this year. As the title indicates, it is a compilation of talks and essays by generals who played various senior roles over the last 10 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The views are remarkably diverse. For example, some generals look to the Americans as an example of a military that was more adaptive than the British, while Gen. (ret.) Sir Michael Jackson calls the U.S. military "intellectually bankrupt." (That may be due to a time difference: Jackson led British forces in Kosovo in 1999, while others saw the U.S. Army and the Marines finally get their act together in Iraq eight long years later.) Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart, who served in Iraq, states as a given that "aside from the USA, there are no armed forces in the world that have all the capabilities needed to wage modern warfare." Gen. (ret.) John McColl, who was deputy commander of MNF-Iraq, also says enviously that American soldiers have more pride than do their British counterparts. He adds that he found the American military to be generous and open.
They also are candid about each other in ways that American generals rarely are in public. "The majority I would rate as fair," Lt. Gen. (ret.) Graeme Lamb, says of his peers, "a few I would gladly join and assault hell's gate, and some I wouldn't follow to the latrine."
The talk by Lamb, who did four tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, is for me the high point of the collection, in part because he addresses issues I spent much of the last three years contemplating as I wrote The Generals. He says that generalship is about three things: character, competence, and communication. "So do we select our generals on such criteria? Don't be daft, of course we don't. We pull them up through patronage, misplaced loyalty, self-promotion and a host of other rather tawdry reasons and, occasionally, on ability; but it is not always the brightest and the best that are selected for high office." The majority of people disagree with him, he notes, but adds that they "lack the balls to say so."
The book would be even more candid except that the Ministry of Defence refused to allow the editors to publish the remarks of generals still on active duty. "Indeed, even this book has had chapters by serving officers withdrawn on orders of the MOD, including a chapter by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on the difficulties of making strategy in the twenty-first century." All told, six chapters were ordered withdrawn.
(More to come.)
Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, and people who understand how the U.S. military really works talk personnel policy. In other words, if you want to change how our military works, change who gets promoted, and when.
In that vein, a young Marine officer writes:
I'm not sure if you have seen this or not, but it appears as though the Marine Corps is experimenting with a new concept that will allow Marines to take a break from active service to pursue their own desires with a guarantee of returning to active service afterwards. It's called the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP). Link to the MARADMIN is here.
I'm a company grade officer (CGO) in the Marine Corps and have recently started working in the newly minted "Unmanned Aerial Systems Officer" field. Having experience in this field should open many doors for careers outside of the military. Knowing this, I've been following the thread of postings through your blog over the last year and, like many others, I too have been wrestling with the decision to stay with the Corps after this tour of duty. While it is yet to be seen how the CIPP will play out, the start of this program demonstrates that Headquarters Marine Corps is concerned about all this talk over the retention of quality CGOs. For me personally, having an opportunity like this would make me more likely to stay with the Marines despite many of the concerns expressed by the CGOs that have contributed to your blog in the past.
Navy Visual News Service
I'm often struck by how alert, observant, and intelligent military working dogs look. The photo above offers one example. You can imagine the dog is saying to the soldier, "Dude, did you hear that sound?" or "Are you really sure you want to go through that door?" Or even, "Hey man, before you go through that door, aren't you supposed to follow procedure and communicate with your squad leader?" (In my experience, dogs like humans to follow predictable routines.)
In the photo below, from Okinawa in 1945, the Marine and his dog look equally worried, even stressed. The caption says the dog detected a Japanese machine gun nest waiting in ambush.
By Kalev I. Sepp
Best Defense office of COIN best practices
As the Vietnam War drew longer and bloodier, a wry joke went around that the statistics-minded McNamara ordered his staff to collect all the numerical data reported from the war zone, feed it into a computer, and ask it, "When will we win the war?" The computer clicked and whirred, and finally replied, "You won three years ago."
The numbers-crunching by analysts that worked when hunting U-boats, optimizing bombing patterns of industrial centers, and even calculating outcomes of hypothetical nuclear wars, seemed to have no relevance combating guerrillas in a "people's war." Intuitive masters of insurgency and counterinsurgency, like Lawrence, Mao, Galula, Templer, and Kilcullen, seemed to be the only viable sources of "how-to" guidance to deal with armed rebellion and revolutionary warfare.
Now, the RAND Corporation has produced a revealing and convincing study that makes numbers an analytic tool for irregular warfare believable. RAND has researched and written on counterinsurgency, or COIN, for five decades, and that experience shows well.
Paths to Victory: Lessons from Modern Insurgencies builds on RAND's already notable Victory has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency. The same team of authors -- Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, and Beth Grill, joined for this edition by Molly Dunigan -- expand the number of case studies from 30 to 71, and begin earlier, in 1944, carrying their examination to the present day.
This is impressive enough. The 48 pages of summaries of insurgencies ranging from Greece and Malaya to Nagorno-Karabakh (in Azerbaijan, 1992-94) are valuable reading by themselves. Duly excluding coups and ongoing conflicts, and including only state vs. non-state combatants, the list still takes in fights in every type of terrain (mountains, jungles, deserts, cities), among all cultures (Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Far East, et alia), and with all militaries (both the insurgent and counterinsurgent forces).
What is more remarkable is the depth and detail of the authors' painstaking analyses of these counterinsurgencies, and their extensive findings. These lists will likely ring true with veterans of all ranks of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, whether they planned national-level campaigns on a general staff, or patrolled streets and mountain trails with a rifle squad.
Holding to their stated purpose -- to discern "what strategies and approaches give the government the best chance of prevailing" in an insurgency -- the authors generate 24 COIN concepts that either strongly or minimally support a positive outcome for a government fighting rebels. The "strong" concepts may seem obvious, like border control and criticality of intelligence. The surprise is which concepts are rated as minimally helpful, such as the supposedly essential tenets of democracy, amnesty, and "putting a local face on it."
There are also extensive lists of effective practices utilized in winning counterinsurgency struggles (a significant and sophisticated improvement over this writer's own 2005 list of "Best Practices in Counterinsurgency" in Military Review). One of the most common is government action to effect "tangible support reduction" to the insurgency from the population and any external power. Conversely, the authors' analyses show that the "crush them" approach by a government -- escalating repression and collective punishment -- has seen success in only one out of three campaigns.
Given the ongoing debates about how the United States might come to the aid of an ally fighting an insurgency in the future, Paths to Victory identifies 28 historical cases of a major external power contributing its own forces to the counterinsurgent side. In a half-and-half split, the major power contribution in 13 fights was limited to advisors, special operations forces, and air power. The other 15 involved large-scale troop commitments by the major power. However, further analysis of those cases shows that externally supported COIN forces were no more effective than wholly indigenous forces. This may lead to a re-evaluation of the decision to commit main-force U.S. and NATO units in Afghanistan in 2002, after the Taliban had been defeated by Afghan rebel armies aided by 400 able Special Forces troops and Central Intelligence Agency officers, and compelling U.S. air power.
To persuade the reader that their conclusions are well grounded, the authors devote much of Paths to Victory to explaining the thorough methodological processes they employed in their research. Liberal arts majors need to brace themselves for entry into the realm of bivariate relations, factor stacking, and "fuzzy" versus "crisp" sets of qualitative comparative analysis (QCA's to the initiated). The reward is worth the reading, though, in the numerous well-drawn charts and scorecards that illuminate the findings, and could readily serve as tools for evaluating future COIN engagements.
Paths to Victory has two additional merits. The authors establish and use straightforward, broad definitions of counterinsurgency terms (or "victory"). They don't bend word meanings to fit their results, or vice versa. They also avoid epistemological judgment of any given COIN theory or doctrine. It would've detracted from the presentation of their pragmatic findings. However, the military thinkers concerned with those theories and doctrines -- such as the team hard at work on the next version of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency -- will find fresh perspectives on COIN in Paths to Victory. The numbers often tell a surprising story. Understanding them may be crucial to prevailing in the kind of wars the United States is most likely to fight.
Dr. Kalev I. Sepp lectures on defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, was co-author of the Iraq War "COIN Survey," and earned his Combat Infantryman's Badge in the Salvadoran Civil War.
During my time as a company commander, I have lived according to a strict moral, ethical code based on principles and standards. I will now pay for my adherence to the culture, regulations, guidance, and principles upon which have been built the tenets of my ideology. This lesson I wish to share as it encapsulates some of the ongoing junior officer dissent that has been a common feature of Best Defense articles.
The groundwork: graduated on the Commandant's List for Officer Basic Course and Captains Career Course, was the second-best platoon leader, recently rated as the best staff officer in my parent battalion, and am a finalist for a noteworthy scholarship. Not my opinion, but those on my ratings.
Over the last eight months, I have led a company in Afghanistan to conduct various engineer missions. An active-duty company deployed on its own to fall under a National Guard battalion under an active-duty engineer brigade.
I know my interpersonal skills are not mature and I do not work well with others. I grew up in Airborne and Ranger units that demand a high output from each officer. This mentality has been embedded in my psyche and I cannot extinguish its flames. The driving factor to my unraveling has been this lacking. Not an existence of toxic leadership, just hard accountability for actions, to include my own.
The idealized version of my profession of arms is that we are a highly-skilled, efficient group of individuals with thick skin that weather the stress, emotions, fear, and boredom contributing to an overall mission. However little or insignificant each part, each part only exists out of necessity.
The lesson that I learned relating to the aforementioned comments is this: We are a bureaucratic organization with rules, regulations, and doctrine that are sound and have been well researched, but we continue to flounder due to the lacking personalities and void of accountability. Understanding the art and science of warfare is enforced in schools, not in our formations.
A commander requires a multitude of support, services, and plans to achieve success in a highly amorphous environment. I have required the same in my own environment. Although I have not approached the people responsible for the lack of information, plans, etc., with the utmost dignity, I am the one who will suffer. I am the one who is suffering.
My personal battle has been with peers on battalion and brigade staffs. When I do not receive the information that I require, I demand it as it is required for success. The demanding is my unraveling. I have found myself in a pitched battle with officers junior to me calling me "bro," saying that I do not have tact, and then going to tell their respective commander that I do not play nice. I didn't know that I had to play nice. I thought I was selected as a commander to achieve a mission within my higher commander's intent.
I have achieved every mission with success, no loss of life or limb, no lost sensitive items, drug/alcohol problems, sexual harassment, or loss of equipment. We are more capable now that I had ever imagined achieving the effects required in the operating environment.
No one wants an angry boss, but the boss is paid to get the productivity that the occupation demands. There is a delicate balance and I have failed to achieve that balance with my peers.
Perhaps this is why the top percentage is leaving the military. Not spouse careers, salary, benefits, upward mobility, or awards. Existing with other peers who do one-third the amount of significant output may be the real factor. At least that is my factor.
The questions rolling through my thoughts at the moment are these: Why should I lead a group of soldiers when my peers fail to contribute significantly? When I hold others accountable for their actions, why am I the one who will suffer on my broadening opportunity, promotion, and selection for schools?
I view the civilian world as a group of individuals working towards their own goal of a higher paycheck, a 40-hour workweek, minimal stress after punching out for the day, and long weekends without cell phone calls, recall formations, or deployments.
Accountability is not lost within the Army today, it is misplaced. The subpar performers will continue to get promoted, attend schools, and enjoy a paycheck every 15 days.
Thanks for listening.
"A Captain in Afghanistan" is just that. This is an expression of his personal views and does not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Army, or of battalion staff officers.
Lewandowski, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
Earlier this month, the Army Times reported that Combatives, the Army's program for teaching hand-to-hand combat, was being scaled back from four multitiered intensive training courses to a single two-week master trainer course. These cuts, on top of a de facto moratorium on Combatives competitions, effectively mark the end of Army Combatives as a major program. The dissolution of Combatives is endemic of a larger problem throughout the military -- the fact that training for compliance is overwhelmingly favored over training for effect.
For many leaders, the reduction in Combatives certification requirements seems like a godsend. No longer must commanders send capable soldiers and NCOs to Combatives courses for weeks at a time. They now need only send a single NCO, and in two weeks he or she can provide all soldiers in the unit with the required training at the minimum standard. That commander can update the unit's spreadsheet to show "Combatives training" as "green" for another a year. For a brigade support battalion or aviation maintenance company, hand-to-hand combat skills appear useless, and Combatives training takes valuable time away from soldiers executing their assigned duties within the unit.
In the view of many commanders, all training is simply a form of regulation compliance. Training tasks are dictated by a plethora of protocols specifying what is to be trained and how often. Everything from equal opportunity training to cold weather injury prevention is prescribed at the Army level, and every unit is required to maintain extensive name-by-name records. The core theory behind this compliance-oriented training is that there are only two kinds of soldiers in a unit: those who have received the training to the minimum standard, and those who have not.
In certain tasks, providing soldiers the minimum standard of training in accordance with clear, published, specifications is the best and most effective method. However, there is a disturbing trend in which more and more training is being treated as "regulation compliance." Reporting the results of training on a spreadsheet or PowerPoint slide captures the effect of training only in the most narrow, linear sense. It treats the soldier who sleeps in the back of the classroom and the soldier practicing until his/her hands are callused as one and the same. Effective military training has an incredible transformative power that cannot be articulated within a slide deck -- such as when a squad finally develops the camaraderie to be a high-functioning team, when a young soldier understands that his/her responsibilities aren't a burden but a source of pride, or when a young lieutenant finds the courage to lead by example. Training has the power to do more than alter a slide -- it can alter a soldier.
Combatives training is a sterling example of transformative training. The basic Combatives course is 40 hours of instruction almost always done as consecutive eight-hour days. The course curriculum is physically demanding, with virtually no conventional classroom time. It is extremely taxing on soldiers' bodies and minds. To graduate Combative level I, students engage in roughly two hours active fighting against one another. Students also must execute a "clinch drill" in which the soldier closes with and takes down a trained instructor who, meanwhile, is actively striking the student in the head and body. The instructors wear boxing gloves but the only protective equipment for most soldiers is a mouthpiece. The vast majority of students report these two aspects of the course -- the active combat against other students and being hit full force while achieving the clinch -- as the two most harrowing, yet rewarding, aspects of the course.
This type of intensive training offers each individual soldier an unscripted version of combat. Virtually no other training pits individual soldiers against a reactive, intelligent, aggressive enemy. National Training Center rotations, field problems, and tactical lanes all are structured as plays, where the "enemy" is actors following a pre-written script. This type of structured training is important for testing systems and equipment, but as the military has seen over the past 12 years, the enemy doesn't behave like an actor following a script. The enemy is innovative, aggressive, and at times inscrutable. In short, the enemy on the battlefield behaves much like a Combatives opponent. This is because Combatives, at its core, is warfare -- human beings vying for dominance of an environment. Combatives training puts soldiers in an emotional state very similar to what they face in combat -- and it trains them to function through it.
Combatives training develops the hard-nosed, gritty, courageous mentality every soldier, regardless of function or position, needs to possess. Soldiers who pass the Combatives course know how to keep functioning when their bodies tell them to stop; they know how to fall back on their training when fear starts to set in, and how to swallow their pride and move forward when they've had a setback. Combatives course graduates are the best mechanics, operations NCOs, and infantrymen -- not because Combatives gives them more skills in their respective duties, but because it teaches them to execute their duties to a higher level or performance. These types of results -- producing soldiers who become more capable in every aspect of their careers -- are what intensive, effects-oriented training can achieve.
It is telling that the Army views a program like Combatives, for which the benefits are real but unquantifiable, as disposable. It is indicative of a move away from training for effect, and toward a "train to the test" Army. The heart of the problem, and its solution, lies with commanders who expect and demand compliance with every single published standard. Leadership is setting priorities -- choosing to execute some training and not others. Superiors must support their subordinates' efforts to conduct the training that will produce the most mission-effective unit, not the most effective slide deck. This is an easy idea to espouse, but when the time comes, a commander will have to stand in front of his or her superior and explain that cold weather injury prevention, or traffic safety training, is going to be staying at "zero soldiers trained" for the foreseeable future. In the culture of the Army today, that is an act of moral courage.
Leadership is choosing a course of action and leading subordinates in its execution. It means looking for training that transforms soldiers and units. When every training task becomes a priority, then nothing is a priority. If the Army continues to sell out effective training in favor of expedient training, we have to ask ourselves: What kind of soldiers will we be sending into the next war?
Paul Lewandowski is an active duty Military Police captain and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. He represented Fort Riley at the 2011 All Army Combatives Championships. This essay represents his personal views and are not necessarily those of the MP Corps, the U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Sander/DVIDS
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.