Almost certainly Stefan Flueckiger, who recently while drunk led French police on a high-speed car chase through Paris. Livin' large.
By Robert Goldich
Best Defense guest re-respondent
To "An African-American Academy Grad":
I am sorry you didn't like my posting. But don't tell me that when I said "all too many" African-American Academy football players I meant anything else than just that. I know what I said and that was what I meant. If I had thought -- which I manifestly did not, and do not -- that what I said was true of all African-American midshipmen, I would have said so.
I did not say what I said lightly. I have heard it from too many people for whom I have high respect and who are intimately familiar with the Naval Academy. My views are buttressed by a careful reading of, again, all too many accounts of various ways in which the mission of the Academy to commission Navy and Marine Corps officers of high quality has been compromised by excessive emphasis on football and football players of all races.
I could not agree with you more that we as a nation must progress in the long, slow, and painful process of making up for 250 years in which African-Americans were held in chains, often literally, and treated as property. And essential to that progress, in striving for diversity at the Naval Academy, is selecting midshipmen based on their potential to succeed as officers of the Navy and Marine Corps and not as football players. Otherwise we have what has been called the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. If we start calling anyone who calls attention to problems related to race "racist," we get nowhere.
I should emphasize that I am all in favor of vigorous programs of both intramural and intercollegiate athletics at the Naval Academy and the other service academies. Competitive athletics are an integral part of inculcating physical endurance and performance under high pressure, and washing out those who cannot do so, in preparation for commissioned service. This is true everywhere but it is especially true for the Marine Corps, and especially for Marine infantry officers. I don't question this at all.
Finally, I should also note that if I condemn any group of people in this sorry situation, it certainly isn't any midshipmen, African-American or otherwise. Rather, it's the almost entirely lily-white cohorts of retired senior naval officers who exert incredibly heavy pressure on the Academy and the Navy generally to carve out special niches for football players. The African-American recruiting situation I describe is only one of these niches.
Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images
By Gian Gentile
Best Defense guest respondent
A few comments in response to A.A. Cohen's summary and evaluation of the debate between John Nagl and I at Grinnell College in April. First, I appreciate Cohen taking the time to publish his comments, even though I disagree with much of what he says.
Cohen, in his summary of the debate, assumes -- wrongly, as my forthcoming book (Wrong Turn: America's Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency, July 2013) will argue based on primary evidence -- that there was a significant operational shift between the surge and what came before, and more importantly, that there were significant differences in the generalship of Casey and Petraeus. Cohen offers up the stock critique of Casey that suggests Casey was drawing down and heading for the door in Iraq by the end of 2006. Not true, and the primary evidence -- for example, documents of strategic planning and guidance by Casey -- shows that he was asking for additional brigades and that he saw a significant American presence in Iraq well through 2008 and beyond. Casey fully realized in early 2007 that before transition could resume, the Iraqi people needed to be "protected" and the violence produced by the sectarian civil war had to be checked. And for Casey, U.S. forces would continue to play a key role in checking the violence and in "protecting" the Iraqi people. Before Cohen rushes to judgment on this matter I would ask of him that he at least has a look at my book when it comes out in July, and then base his assessment on the argument that I make in it and the evidence that I marshal to support it. Unfortunately, the stock critique of Casey ultimately rests on faulty assumptions.
Cohen seems to suggest in his summary of the debate that I argued against maintaining the "capability" to do counterinsurgency operations in the future. I have never said or suggested that the U.S. Army should not have the "capability" to do counterinsurgency operations. What I have argued is that the most important capability the U.S. Army needs is to do combined, all-arms operations within a joint force, and this should be its priority. If the U.S. Army can perform the essential function of all-arms fighting, then it can easily shift in the direction to do counterinsurgency. But by building an army in the opposite way and having one that is optimized for COIN, then shifting to high end operations becomes much more difficult and costly in blood and treasure. Remember what Matthew Ridgway said after the Korean War: "the primary purpose of an army [is] to be ready to fight effectively at all times..."
In the concluding paragraph of Cohen's piece, he posits this about my arguments and the future of counterinsurgency:
...history indicates that engaging in counterinsurgency warfare is seldom a predetermined choice.
Oh no, good strategy is buried in the ground and dead with this kind of straight-jacketed thinking. Cohen dooms us to fight counterinsurgency wars in the future simply because they have been fought in the past, and even if good strategy says it makes no sense to fight them. Nagl, in the debate and in other published pieces, likes to proffer the term "unsatisfying wars" to describe counterinsurgency warfare. But I ask, if Augustine was right that the object of war is to produce a "glorious peace," and if a "satisfying" war does that (e.g., the United States in World War II or the American Civil War), then why would a state fight a war in the first place if it is "unsatisfying"? Isn't starting an "unsatisfying war" or continuing one with huge amounts of blood and treasure strategic incompetence of the first order?
The thinking of John Nagl and A.A. Cohen is reflective of military institutions that fight wars and become so enamored with operational frameworks that they cannot see their way to a higher position of strategy, and then objectively critique whether or not the type of operations employed by strategy are worth the investment spent to achieve policy aims. Instead, the best logic that Nagl and Cohen can offer is that these wars are "unsatisfying" and therefore we are forced to walk this "predetermined" path to fight them. So the tutoring that a "naysayer" like me receives is to get over it and accept the notion that the strategic "choice" has already been made.
As the last 11 years of American war in Afghanistan make clear, the United States has failed utterly at strategy since from the very start the core policy aim (as affirmed over and over again by U.S. presidents, cabinet members, and senior military officers) has been the destruction of al Qaeda. In order to achieve this very limited core policy aim, U.S. strategy has sought to employ a maximalist operational method of armed nation building, or in other words, counterinsurgency. The costs have been enormous for both the United States and Afghanistan, and the results are dubious at best. Has Afghanistan been an "unsatisfying" war for the United States? You bet, but I will be darned if I accept John Nagl's and A.A Cohen's premise that we are "predetermined" to fight more of them in the future simply because we have done so in the past.
Maybe we should when vital American interests dictate, but operational choice based on vital American interests and not predetermined operational action should be the hallmark of future American strategy. If we don't come off of this predetermined path as paved with signposts by Nagl and Cohen, Damascus is the next stop for American arms.
The author is a serving U.S. Army colonel. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
By "An African-American Academy Grad"
Best Defense guest respondent
Mr. Goldich, as an African-American, a former football player at the Academy, and a Marine Infantry Officer, I take great exception to your article, especially point number two. Your comments are totally out of line, misinformed, without merit or factual basis, and frankly, borderline 'racist.' You could have crafted a more plausible argument based on well-researched facts vice editorial commentary.
I, like many other African-Americans who have played football, had great service records, graduated, and have gone on to serve our great nation with distinction. We did it by not hiding behind a football program, but by holding and being held to the same standard as every other midshipman. If you want to attack the institution, at least get your facts straight and mount a coherent argument, but don't bring race into the argument. I get it, you used the disclaimer of 'all too many,' but you know that was a weak attempt at implying that all blacks that attend the Academy are academically weak and have bad behavior. I will admit, I wasn't the smartest midshipman, but I met the standard and I graduated on time. The day I graduated, my shipmates to the right and left of me were not African-American. So maybe they should not have been admitted into the Academy either due to their lack of academic prowess and shady behavior.
Mr. Goldich, don't diminish what many of my shipmates and I worked so hard for because of a loosely supported argument that is borderline racist because you failed to do the proper research to mount an articulate argument. It is 2013 and people are still writing crap like this that actually feeds into this stereotype . I get it, you have the right to write whatever you want. I respect that, but this is the very reason we, as a nation, cannot progress.
Mr. Ricks, I read your blog everyday because you post some really thought provoking pieces. However, I think an apology is in order for what was posted on behalf of Mr. Goldich. It was extremely offensive. He could have excluded point number two and still he would have been off base, but it would have been more palatable. Most of your articles call for action of some kind, on behalf of those the article is directed. I want to see if you are in fact fair, just, and hold yourself to the same standard -- or will there be silence on the net?
One of the great things about writing this blog is the reading suggestions made to me by readers. About a year ago, one of youse suggested David Fromkin's Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?. I finally got around to it and am really enjoying it.
For some time, the unspoken text of some in the West on China has been to avoid making some of the mistakes the British and French made in the late 19th century as Germany became Europe's leading economic power. In this view, the argument is that the British (primarily) stymied Germany instead of bringing it to the table where great power decisions were made.
But in reading this book, I began to wonder if we have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Fromkin, who also wrote the terrific A Peace to End All Peace, argues that Germany brought about its own fate: "the hostile encirclement that Germany so much feared was achieved by Germany itself." German leaders moved toward war in the belief that it was inevitable, and that not only brought it on, they did so in the belief that "Germany ought to launch a war as soon as possible precisely because the chances of winning it would be less every year."
To apply his observation to China: What, if by its own over-reaching, and through its cultural contempt for all things not Chinese, it is likely to provoke a reaction to its growing economic and military power? If that is a plausible possibility, it has huge implications for Western policy. Among other things, we'd need to consider whether the best policy is to give them enough rope.
A second thought: At the time it started World War I, Germany was the leading country in the world in technology, basic science, and perhaps in music. German often was the language of scholarly discourse. None of that applies to today's China. Yet another observation by Fromkin does evoke China a bit: "An advanced country inside a backward governmental structure, broadly humanist yet narrowly militarist, Germany was a land of paradoxes."
By Robert Goldich
Best Defense department of third rail issues
Gee, what a surprise -- Naval Academy football players doing something bad. This is not the Navy per se at all. It is the result of a perfect storm of rotten policies, all directed at making the Academy football team able to compete in Division I and win games generally. I wrote about this in a lengthy CRS report I did in 1997 on the service academies, but there are no indications that things have changed at all, except possibly to get worse. These policies, and a geographical factor, include:
The absence of one or two of these would probably tamp down these offenses, but there are so many negatives that it's hard to avoid incidents of this nature.
I read the Early Bird every day. I read the defense coverage in a bunch of newspapers and blogs. But I confess I did not know we still have troops based in Kosovo until I read this short item this morning in the Fayetteville Observer.
Commanding a unit there must be a real challenge. So today, I am sending out a Best Defense salute to those who serve there -- and help keep the place quiet. Well done, apparently.
By Jim Gourley
Best Defense all-star guest columnist team
This week's revelations of improprieties committed by the West Point Rugby team catalyzed diverse and heated arguments. Passions reached their apex when propelled by references to how harshly the cadets were punished and the transparency of the institution's administration of justice.
Tom himself was challenged on the dual proposition that the cadets should have lost the privilege of graduating on time with their classmates and that not conferring this punishment indicated that West Point is somehow failing in the character-development component of its mission. In his words, there is perhaps a mentality of "boys will be boys" rather than "We turn boys into men, and insist that they be gentlemen." The most fundamental and vital principles of the discussion were subsequently lost in the hail of slings and arrows -- specifically, the development of character in a group of young men who are now serving as front-line leaders in an Army that is still very much at war.
The official West Point statement on the matter is as innocuous in its characterization of the offenses as it is sterile in its description of the punishment. On the surface, it's fodder for both conspiracy theorists and detractors of the service academies. But we too easily forget that official statements are supposed to be no more than a surface treatment. As people who have lived the service academy experience know, still waters run deep. Those depths conceal a current of shame that runs through the character development and disciplinary systems. By this I do not mean that the service academies hide something that they feel ashamed of, rather that shame itself is a force so potent and entrenched in the system that it may well qualify as the greatest unspoken tradition of these institutions. There is no greater exhibit of this than the iconic punishment of "walking tours," forcing cadets to march in dress uniform with their rifles in public.
What most people outside of the academies don't realize is that, for every case in which a cadet or midshipman is discovered to have broken with the institution's principles, there are several more in which no wrongdoing is found. Some investigations even find fault with the accusers for making specious allegations. "Revenge accusations" and witch hunts are not common occurrences, but they are not uncommon, either. The standards of conduct and the threshold of suspicion are so sensitive that one need not hold a civil engineering degree to make a mountain out of a molehill. Investigations are therefore necessarily thorough and extremely uncomfortable processes. Compounding matters is that the guarantees of confidentiality in these schools are constructed of wicker. To paraphrase Churchill, rumors are able to get from the barracks to the chow hall before the truth can put its dress greys on. In institutions where the scripture of character is written in such absolutist verse, the court of public opinion can be less forgiving than a firing squad. For a first classman preparing to graduate, it ruins what ought to be a rare celebratory period in a cadet's life. Much care is and absolutely should be taken in these investigations as a measure of damage control, because damage is an unavoidable consequence of the process.
Though not clearly present, these intangibles nevertheless represent a genuine danger to the mission of character development. The sense of dread that your graduation is threatened, the public humiliation of being investigated, the awkward phone call home to your parents warning them of the situation and their consequent disappointment and worry contribute to an overwhelming sense of shame. It becomes a dynamic unto itself in these cases, and consequently must be considered as carefully as the existential circumstances by those in authority. Much has been written about the principle of shame in military culture, but of recent notoriety and also exceptionally relevant to this discussion are Steven Pressfield and Nancy Sherman. They take dynamically opposing views of shame. Pressfield is a zealous advocate of shame's utility in successful military units as "the shadow version of honor." He believes it is the stick of a loss of face to be used when the carrot of esteem fails. Sherman also sees a relationship between the two, but characterizes shame more as honor seen through a glass darkly. The polarity of their views highlights the unifying idea of crucial relevance. Whether you believe shame is a force for good or ill, its power cannot be taken for granted. It is a punishment unto itself, and can lead to other forms of self-castigation.
This leads to a more constructive view of the punishment as described in the context of character development. The postponement of graduation was suggested without an explanation of what end it would serve. A punishment should necessarily be instructive and inform better future behavior. According to the press release, the guilty parties received thorough attention. Like "hell," an "intense respect rehabilitation program, involving self-assessments, reflective journals, and role-model interviews, supervised by a mentor" is just a phrase. The reality is much worse. To be sure, no weekends were spent outside the cadet area in the making of these boys into men. Adding a delayed graduation on top of that is excessive, and ensures the wound inflicted by shame never heals properly. It makes for bitter graduates. In effect, you punish their receiving units more than them.
The effect of shame undoubtedly went even further. The impression made upon them by their officer leaders and how they handled the punishment will be indelible. That may be the most important lesson they learn out of all of this, because they will assuredly face the burden of administering punishment to future subordinates who commit grave offenses. How will they balance punishing the act and improving the person, and how will they negotiate these dilemmas in environments where reputation is as vital as body armor and shame mows down formations as easily as a mortar round? That should be the greatest measure of the institution's success or failure in "making men out of boys," for what other purpose is there in making them into men if not to maintain good order and discipline in a fighting force through a considerate application of justice? For those who were admonished, this was a profound -- indeed, the penultimate -- moment in their character development. It was the last influence West Point had on how they were shaped into leaders. How they were shaped into men will greatly inform the methods by which they go about shaping the boys (and girls) given to them: America's sons and daughters.
Jim Gourley is a 2002 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy . He now works as a journalist and writer. His first book is due out in July.
Some food for thought as questions about the Rugby team continue to surface...
Interesting to note that BG Rich Clark, 74th commandant of cadets, West Point, has served and led almost exclusively in Ranger and infantry units -- all male units. While this is not unusual for comm's at this particular time, it is concerning given USMA is a mixed gender officer training program.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of conducting many complex, joint special operations missions. Today's Ranger Regiment is the Army's premier direct-action raid force. Each of the four geographically dispersed Ranger battalions is always combat ready, mentally and physically tough, and prepared to fight our country's adversaries.
The Rangers are somewhat of a self-selecting group. While physically and mentally tough, if there is a problem with a soldier in a unit, they typically get rid of the soldier. They are not about leadership and character development, but developing physical and mental strength and endurance.
Celebrated and extolled are his credentials...
Rich is a warrior-leader with rock-solid credentials for competence and with a heart for Soldiers," Huntoon said. "He will excel as the commandant for cadets."
Is there a correlation between Rugby and Rangers?
Heard the faculty strongly opposed the comm's decision and punishment saying it undermines the entire respect mentorship program. And how were the rugby players' mentors selected? They volunteered as a query was sent out.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Over the holiday weekend I saw this image posted on a Facebook page that features a wonderful selection of eclectic and charming images from a worldwide archive of photos past. And though it's a little late, this photo taken in 1920 seemed a fitting Memorial Day tribute. The provided caption (somewhat bluntly mistranslated from the French) gets the basic information across. The man identified as Andrivet had lost the use of his legs and the dog, who appears to be pulling him along a Paris street, is called Paulo. But what caused Andrivet's injuries or what bonded this pair is not explained, though given the date, one could make a decent guess.
After a little digging, I found another photo of Andrivet and Paulo (likely taken the same day even) in a collection of old Popular Science magazines. While the details are still scant, the small clip dated May 1920 reports that during battle in Argonne both Andrivet and Paulo were wounded. The dog would make a full recovery but his master would not. And because he could no longer get around on his own, Paulo would pull Andrivet in this three-wheeled cart while the WWI veteran steered.
"Paulo," the article notes, "is an excellent motor, and he never stalls."
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Facebook/Photo Agency Meurisse circa 1920
By Andrew Bell and Kurt Sanger
Best Defense office of command climate change
The commandant of the Marine Corps recently issued a letter to all Marines regarding command climate. He wrote, "There is a disturbingly frequent correlation between Marines who act poorly and units with poor climates." The correlation has been identified in many of the high profile, negative incidents involving the military over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those involving sexual assault. It is also often present in underperforming units. The focus the commandant has placed on the issue will hopefully diminish all types of incidents.
A major obstacle presents itself in this area, however. As often as leadership raises command climate, the concept is poorly defined and its meaning is not uniform throughout the military. It is discussed in many publications, but there is no doctrinal definition. There is a different answer to what command climate is for virtually every servicemember.
Even were there a common understanding, there are no DOD-wide metrics through which unit performance and climate are correlated. In an informal survey of service academies and professional military schools conducted last summer, we found that there are no separate courses on developing command climate. If it is addressed academically, it is done in the context of leadership studies.
Command climate is not exclusively a product of leadership, and the two concepts must be examined independently to be properly understood. Focusing on leadership ignores group dynamics, the influence of non-leaders and non-traditional leaders, and the development of "sub-climates" in small units. What is acceptable in a platoon could differ from what is acceptable in a squad or fire team; those differences are shaped by more than unit leaders.
This is not to diminish the role of the leader in creating a command climate. He or she will have more influence than anyone. However, an organization that expects its climate to be controlled by its leader without accounting for other variables does not fully understand climate, especially when the organization has leaders who frequently change duty stations, or may get injured or killed. A leader has failed when the unit cannot thrive in his or her absence.
Every organization has a climate, whether it is an infantry platoon, a high school baseball team, or a kindergarten class. The climate helps define what behavior and actions will and will not be acceptable to the members of the organization. In the armed forces, it is generally accepted that a healthy command climate is necessary for an effective and efficient unit. A good one can be a cost-free force multiplier; a poor one can cause servicemembers to make catastrophic decisions. For this reason alone, command climate requires careful study and attention by the military.
To emphasize the importance of command climate and its hidden impacts, research of the military's experience in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that healthy command climates mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress and improve resiliency. While the links between climate and effectiveness seem obvious, the connection between climate, PTS, and resiliency demonstrates that climate has second order effects. This should elevate the urgency with which command climate is examined so that it can be designed deliberately instead of allowing it to grow of its own accord.
Command climate is a vital element for individual, unit, and organizational effectiveness and well-being. It is a subject that deserves examination by security theorists and practitioners. As we continue to advance the concept of command climate development as a separate field of study, we hope to be joined by the service academies and professional military schools in this worthy effort.
Andrew Bell is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Duke University and a predoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University. He has served as an active duty Air Force officer and is a major in the Air Force Reserve.
Kurt Sanger is a major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps, and is an incoming National Security Law LL.M. candidate at Georgetown University. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense or any other organization.
By A. A. Cohen
Best Defense intellectual pugilistics correspondent
Warrior-profs Gian Gentile and John Nagl, the two best-known heavyweight contenders in the national security debate surrounding irregular warfare, squared off a few weeks ago at Grinnell College in the wilds of Iowa on the merits of counterinsurgency and the future of Afghanistan.
The moderated 60-minute debate was kicked off with a three-word question: "Is COIN dead?"
In this corner, Gentile, who has for years passionately opposed the very notion that counterinsurgency worked in Iraq (the "Surge," along with Petraeusism, seem to be his two pet peeves), let alone in Afghanistan, fired at his rival from the position: "The idea that nation-building can be achieved at a reasonable cost of blood and treasure is dead." Translation: COIN is not feasible for America -- ergo, COIN is dead.
Gentile propped up his argument by attacking what he describes as the "COIN narrative" of the past decade, about which many "gripping tales" have been written, but without any of these amounting to true, objective, "good history." Gentile charged that there was no significant change in generalship or strategy between George Casey and David Petraeus in Iraq, and that the level of violence there was bound to drop when it did, regardless of the change of command and of the deployment of some 30,000 additional troops. Nagl parried by citing RAND and other research that concludes the contrary. Recall as well that General Casey was intent on drawing down U.S. forces, not surging them as Petraeus sought to do in order to establish a semblance of order and security prior to withdrawing from Iraq.
Nagl's first response to the moderator's question was an expected zinger: Counter-insurgency cannot be dead for as long as insurgency is alive and well. Obvious perhaps, but this full-body slam was a good reminder that shedding the capability would not make future needs for it disappear. Alas, what I wish he had mentioned, too, was that in this debate again, military doctrine was being deliberately confounded with matters of foreign policy. The United States has not conducted a nuclear (atomic) strike since Nagasaki, and the intention to strike again in such a fashion is absent, but the United States continues to maintain a nuclear capability and doctrine.
Gentile scored his few real points, I believe, on the issue that counterinsurgency operations on their own do not yield lasting strategic results. True, but those operations constitute an important piece of the puzzle. It is the role of statecraft to bring about stabilizing watersheds. And what Gentile may wish to acknowledge is that counterinsurgency operations, costly as they may be, will often be required to afford the time, the space, and the conditions that are needed to enable statecraft to run its course.
While Gentile and Nagl disagreed on many points of evidence, ultimately, their conclusions did not appear to be altogether different. Both contenders agreed that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic error, and that the price of a fully resourced counterinsurgency campaign will rarely (Gentile: will never) justify the unsatisfying prize. Nagl takes the match on style and substance... and of course, because he cited Galula.
Gentile's obsession with naysaying is certainly understandable; we can all relate to his fear that should the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq go down in history as a victory, it will be tempting for our elected leaders and their advisors to wish to repeat similar adventures again. But the point is moot; history indicates that engaging in counterinsurgency warfare is seldom a predetermined choice.
(Watch the debate.)
A.A. Cohen served in Afghanistan. He is a senior infantry officer in the Canadian Army and the author of Galula: The Life and Writings of the French Officer who Defined the Art of Counterinsurgency.
Here, in its entirety, is the statement sent to me this morning.
The following captures the actions taken by United States Military Academy (USMA) Leadership from point of notification of a derogatory email chain generated on the Men's Cadet Rugby Team through the adjudication of punishment under the Cadet Disciplinary Code:
In April 2013, United States Military Academy (USMA) Leadership was made aware of an inappropriate email chain internally circulated within the Cadet Rugby Team. USMA Leadership immediately appointed an Investigating Officer (IO) with orders to investigate pursuant to Army Regulation 15-6 an email chain, the culture of the Men's Cadet Rugby Team, any actions or behaviors that would suggest a hostile team environment or culture of disrespect towards women, or any other potentially inappropriate conduct/culture.
The IO completed the investigation in May 2013. Cadets on the team were found to have violated the Cadet Disciplinary Code for Unsatisfactory Behavior, Error in Judgment, Failure to Perform a Duty, and a violation of the General Article for actions which tend to reflect discredit on the Corps of Cadets and the United States Army. Maximum allowable punishment under the Cadet Disciplinary Code was administered. Further actions taken included temporary disbandment of the Men's Cadet Rugby Team. The investigation did not find any evidence of sexual assault and there was no evidence or indication of inappropriate pictures of female cadets. All Cadets were required to complete an intense respect rehabilitation program, involving self-assessments, reflective journals, and role-model interviews, supervised by a mentor. Having completed the prescribed punishment Class of 2013, Cadets graduated.
An extensive legal review was conducted and found no legal objection to the investigation. The intent of this program was not only to punish the offenders, but to address the cultural issues with their actions and the incompatibility of these actions to the Army Values.
I called Lt. Webster Wright, the chief spokesman for West Point, with some follow-up questions. He said that the brunt of punishment landed on the 14 members of the team who were about to graduate. They all graduated and are now commissioned officers of the U.S. Army. I asked why their commissionings weren't delayed by three months, which has been done in the past, and he said that was considered but rejected. This makes me wonder if the message sent was "boys will be boys," rather than, "We turn boys into men, and insist that they be gentlemen."
The disbandment of the team is of uncertain duration. The investigation into "the atmosphere of the team" continues, and it is possible that the team won't be allowed to play next season, Lt. Col. Wright said: "We'll have to see how they do in the remedial training,"
I also hear through the grapevine that West Point received a query about this situation from the White House on Friday, and responded yesterday (Tuesday) morning.
By Wes Morgan
Best Defense guest respondent
I think you're incorrect in taking the conclusion away from Fivecoat's article that the Army isn't promoting commanders with combat experience, or surge-era officers with combat experience. What the Army isn't doing is promoting division commanders, specifically, with those experiences (and to me it seems like it has shown a bias in recent years toward promoting Afghanistan division commanders over Iraq division commanders). It is promoting lots of officers who commanded brigades and battalions under those very division commanders. Just look at the Army's colonel and brigadier general promotion lists over the past couple of years -- the amount of downrange experience in them is huge.
So a good question to ask would be: Why are those tactical-level commanders being promoted and the operational-level commanders not? I don't know, but here are a couple ideas.
One, the optimistic idea from an institutional standpoint, is that those division commanders in the ‘06-‘08 surge period did not perform as well as their subordinates, and as a result the Army has not rewarded them because it recognizes that it should promote those who have done well in these wars, not just those who have been there.
Why might division commanders have done less well? Maybe because their subordinates had already accumulated a bunch of Iraq and Afghanistan experience in lower-level units, while they were already brigadier generals or post-command colonels by the time they started going to war and never "got" the war in the way that guys who commanded battalions downrange did.
Or maybe the nature of the Iraq campaign in the surge period (as opposed to the early years in Iraq when a lot of division commanders were promoted, like Petraeus, Odierno, Dempsey, and Chiarelli) lent itself more to battalion and brigade commanders standing out and proving their abilities because it was a devolved, lower-level fight and brigades were much more empowered than in ‘03-‘05, and division commanders didn't have as important of a role to play anymore or couldn't figure out their role. While working on Michael Gordon and Mick Trainor's history of the Iraq War, The Endgame, one thing I learned is that some of the division commanders in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 were much slower to embrace key developments like the Sunni Awakening movement than either their subordinate deputy commanders and brigade commanders or their superiors. It would be smart of the Army not to promote guys like that.
A second, a more pessimistic idea: Maybe the Army is promoting officers who were really good battalion and brigade commanders, and then some of the same officers are not turning out to be good division commanders. Maybe these wars have churned out a lot of really great tacticians but have not been preparing commanders well for operational-level command in wars where the operational level is complex, hard to define, and perhaps even absent, so when these guys hit two-star, they don't shine like they did at battalion and brigade.
Third: Maybe the two-stars with combat experience who are being promoted are ones who served in other jobs besides division command. Just look at the many one-stars and two-stars who served in SOF and advisor roles downrange who have continued to be promoted. That's an article in itself: the spread of SOF commanders with lots of experience downrange into various key non-SOF jobs in the Army, like deputy commanders of regular Army divisions, and also the spread of senior infantry officers into key slots in the SOF world via the Ranger Regiment and its hugely expanded role in the most secret SOF task forces in these wars.
It's also worth pointing out that a higher proportion of officers who commanded divisions in the Afghan war have continued to rise than Iraq division commanders. All three corps-level commanders in Afghanistan commanded divisions there -- Rodriguez, Terry, and Milley -- and the Army's new vice chief, Campbell, was a division commander there.
What does that mean? Have better division commanders been sent to Afghanistan? Does Afghanistan lend itself better to the division role because of the bigger distances and greater air and other support resources required by tactical-level units in the fight? Or is that, compared to the division commanders in the ‘07-‘08 Iraq surge period, those in the 2009-‘11 Afghanistan surge period had more on-the-ground experience as brigade commanders and division deputy commanders and therefore did better jobs?
An important takeaway from all this, I think, is that while it's important to promote commanders with combat experience, it's a bad idea to promote them just because they have combat experience -- it is successful experience, not just experience, that you want to reward. If the Army just promoted every division commander who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, that would be disturbing, because as you may have noticed, a lot of things have not gone right on some of those commanders' watches.
Wesley Morgan helped Michael R. Gordon and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bernard E. Trainor write The Endgame, and is now writing a book for Random House on the American military experience in Afghanistan's Pech valley. Since 2007 he has embedded with twenty U.S., British, and Afghan combat battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The headline on the local news story proclaims, "Celebrating 100 years on guard in Sault Ste. Marie."
I wonder what the 49th Field Artillery Regiment was guarding against? I know it adjoins Michigan, but what if Minnesotans were trying to sneak into Canada to find work in the wheatfields? I can see how the combination of Prince, Jesse Ventura, and Michelle Bachman could be scary. But that towed artillery piece would look good in a Prince show.
And who can forget the Algonquin Rifles from which the regiment is descended? One of the great names, along with the British army's old Royal American Regiment.
That is, rating female cadets on Facebook, and subsequent acts? Could these be the "unforeseen circumstances" that at the last minute kept the West Point rugby team out of the collegiate championship tournament?
Apparently. Rugby magazine reports that "the reason for the withdrawal at this late stage is due to an internal matter at West Point that has seen the team suspended from rugby activities for the foreseeable future."
Which leads one to wonder: The offense was grave enough that the cadets involved are not allowed to play rugby. Yet they last weekend apparently still were deemed acceptable to become commissioned officers of the U.S. Army. Would it have been possible to hold off commissioning until the situation is resolved?
Kind of makes you wonder whether the military academy's superintendent and commandant heard the secretary of defense's speech at West Point on Saturday about fostering "a culture of respect and dignity" in the military. Over the long weekend I e-mailed a query to the West Point public affairs office asking for info, and then called again this morning just after nine and left a message saying I had some questions about the rugby team, but I haven't heard back yet.
U.S. Military Academy
By Donna McAleer
Best Defense guest columnist
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Claire McCaskill (MO) have become the faces and voices of outrage and action over the crisis of sexual assault in the military. The reason why two civilian female senators who never wore a uniform have done so is because, as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, they had to. Why? Because on this crime issue, the military's senior command has failed.
That is one of the most difficult sentences I have ever written. As a West Point graduate and former Army Military Police Officer, as much as I would like to deny it, as bitter as that sentence is, it is the truth.
Sexual assaults are notoriously underreported crimes, although in fairness, not just within the military. With respect to the services, in 2010, the DOD estimated that more than 19,000 assaults occurred. In 2012, the estimate jumped 34 percent to 26,000, of which approximately 12,000 women and 14,000 men were assaulted. That amounts to 70 assaults per day. DOD derived these estimates from its bi-annual Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members (WGRA).
Such data make it difficult to properly measure progress addressing the problem because of insufficient prior data. It is hoped these numbers indicate more confidence in a reporting procedure and not an increase in assaults. Regardless, the numbers are too high.
Nearly 10 years of data as reported by DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, particularly the last four, raise an alarming question: Is the chain of command and UCMJ working properly?
Representatives Loretta Sanchez (CA) and Louise Slaughter (NY) began addressing sexual assaults in the military more than 17 years ago on the House Armed Services Committee. Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), founded in 2007, has worked tirelessly with legislators on both sides of the aisle and victims to help victims of military sexual assault present their accusations without prejudice. Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Jon Tester (MT), Barbara Boxer (CA), and Patty Murray (WA), and Representatives Mike Turner (OH), Bill Braley (IA), Niki Tsongas (MA), and Chellie Pingree (ME) are among others continuing reform efforts introducing bipartisan and bi-cameral legislation to support victims and prosecute perpetrators.
Coalition building, bipartisan legislation, veterans-led initiatives, a force stretched thin by 12 years of war, a database of more than 230,000 women serving in various combat theaters, documentary films such as The Invisible War and Miss Representation, lawsuits, a technology-driven global economy that provides instant information, and a concomitant media barrage that increased awareness have brought this crisis front and center to the nation.
Here's the good: Senior service commanders have put in place regulations that better protect victims and attempt to reduce sexual assault crimes in the military. These include:
In addition, the DOD-wide SAPR Strategic Plan focuses on prevention and reporting of sex crimes through training. The act included provisions for "guaranteed confidentiality between victims and victims' advocates, access to legal assistance of survivors, document retention, and expedited transfers from military installations if requested by victims." These parameters, authorized by Congress in 2011, enable DOD to establish increased parity with existing civilian jurisdictions.
Last year, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta required a higher level of commander (colonel and above) to decide how sex assault cases are handled. And with additional provisions in the 2013 NDAA, Special Victim Units within each military branch for the investigation and prosecution of such offenses were established. On May 15, 2013, President Obama signed an order making a number of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, "that included downgrading the maximum sentence for rape in the military from a capital crime to life in prison."
Here's the bad: Absent is a focus on the perpetrator, institutional accountability, and prosecution of violent sex crimes.
DOD has not developed and implemented a policy that creates a tangible, visible deterrent to perpetrators through consistent prosecutions or other severely negative consequences to one's military careers. I am confident the military can do this. Precedents exist. For example, a deterrence model was used by the services to effectively reduce drunk driving and illegal drug use.
Despite existing data, many in the military have advocated keeping the disposition of sexual assault cases within the chain of command, claiming it erodes command authority. How?
Under the Military Justice Improvement Act, the legislation proposed by Senator Gillibrand, discretion on whether to prosecute sexual assaults and other crimes punishable by more than a year in prison would be given to military prosecutors (law professionals) instead of commanding officers whose background, and more importantly, responsibilities, necessarily give them little time to devote to such serious issues as sexual assaults, which degrade unit morale and cohesion.
The military has to recognize that solely focusing on the command integrity issue and expecting the present structure to result in adequate enforcement and prevention is delusional.
The most telling examples happened earlier this year when two Air Force generals overturned the court-martial convictions of two officers -- one without comment! What message does that tell enlisted personnel or junior officers when in a situation where a superior is making untoward sexual advances? I'll tell you: It turns the concept of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on its head.
No American institution is as historically respected, disciplined, honor-bound, and committed to assessments based on individual competences and character as is our military. While many I know and served with at all ranks are committed to live and uphold the core values of loyalty, respect, selfless service, and personal courage, others in leadership positions have failed to do so. Tradition and history will no longer suffice.
I have a daughter. Both my husband and I proudly served in the Army, and we have told our daughter of our experiences. I want my daughter (and all children) to consider serving in the military. But how can I ask her to enter the military knowing that her chances of being sexually assaulted are one in three, compared to one in six in the civilian world? Women in the military are more likely to be assaulted by another servicemember than killed in combat.
Sexual assault is a crime. It undermines cohesion, it degrades readiness, it affects recruiting, and it goes against the basic American values that the military defends. I recognize it will always exist, but our military has to do better.
Donna McAleer is a West Point graduate, army veteran, award-winning author, speaker, and member of the Defense Advisory Council on Women in the Military (DACOWITS).
I don't agree with everything he writes, but nonetheless am really pleased to see Fivecoat's article, because it is exactly the type of work I hoped my book The Generals would provoke. I thought that Gen. Brown's articles in ARMY magazine might launch such a discussion, but that magazine shied away from engaging, without explaining why. Maybe it just isn't interested in the future of the U.S. Army.
Most of all, I am fascinated by Fivecoat's finding (on p. 74) that leading a division in combat seems to have hurt one's chances of promotion. That worries me. What does it mean? That discovery of his indicates that the Army of the Iraq-Afghanistan era is out of step from the historical tradition that, for an officer, time in combat is the royal road to advancement. I can't think of other wars in which service in combat hurt an officer's chance of promotion. It is, as Fivecoat kind of (but not quite) says, worrisome evidence that the Army for close to a decade persisted in using a peacetime promotion system in wartime.
In additional to breaking new ground intellectually, it is also a courageous piece. It is one thing for me, a civilian author, to question the quality of American generalship in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is quite another thing for an active duty lieutenant colonel to do so, especially since the Army's official histories have tiptoed around the issue of the failings of senior leadership in our recent wars. (I mean, did the authors of On Point II even read the articles Military Review was publishing then?) Fivecoat writes, "I agree with Mr. Ricks's assessment that there was plenty of good and bad generalship exhibited in both theaters."
A few final observations:
Bottom line: Go read the article.
By Emile Simpson
Best Defense White House correspondent
I thought President Obama's speech at NDU on Thursday was a conceptual car crash -- a collision between two incompatible desires to aggregate, or disaggregate, threats.
He spent half the speech saying he wants to end a war, not have endless conflict, and not blur boundaries. But he spent the other half of the speech veering from identifying the enemy as al Qaeda, then its franchises, then just terrorists in general, and saying these terrorists hide at the ends of the earth.
Seems to me completely muddled: If you want to target networks and disaggregate threats, fine, I agree with that, but one would be forgiven for thinking any jihadist under the sun is still the enemy here, which is plainly aggregating threats to the extent that one will never narrow an enemy down enough to defeat militarily, so cannot therefore "end" the war.
For me this wasn't a speech about drones, but about war, and despite, ironically, agreeing with what I think Obama was trying to say (i.e. disaggregate threats, move away from endless war), the way in which the concept of war here is (mis)applied seems to me to do the opposite.
The reality is that the administration is locked in to using the concept of war as a legal idea to justify the use of force in self defense, but that the legal concept of war today doesn't match the military concept.
It just seems to me that it simply does not make sense for Obama to want to move away from a global war on terror, and then describe what he wants to do as an alternative precisely as a war against terrorists all over the world.
And this is in the major counterterrorism speech of the second term, regarding a conflict whose conceptual deficiency has been glaringly clear for 10 years, and yet nothing changes. Really quite disappointing.
Emile Simpson served in the British Army as an infantry officer in the Gurkhas from 2006 to 2012. He deployed to southern Afghanistan three times and is the author of War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics (Columbia, 2012).
Win McNamee/Getty Images
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Call of Duty -- the popular video game series featuring many, many different warzone scenarios -- has a new game on the horizon: Call of Duty: Ghosts. In the official recently released trailer, an ethereal score swells against flashes of a post-apocalyptic terrain of vivid land- and seascapes. It is the new, new world of modern warfare. Within the first few seconds a new character is revealed -- a SEAL team service dog.
Where older versions of this game may have featured dogs as bloodthirsty obstacles, this time the canine fighter is on the side of good. The dog has its own role in this game, key to the way players strategize.
There are a number of promotional videos out there providing background on the serious lengths game designers went to amp up the gamer's experience, improving the game's scale and artistry. In the "Tech Comparison" video, creators discuss how they took "high res scans" of an actual SEAL dog, showing footage of a dog outfitted in motion-capture gear as he takes down a decoy and jumps up on high platforms. Their quest for war-dog authenticity was diligent: "Every detail is replicated," the voice-over says, "right down to the scars on the [dog's] nose and that tattoo inside the ear."
And that authenticity is going to deliver in the gamer's experience, creators promise. Yahoo! Games reports that the dog in Call of Duty: Ghosts will have his "own artificial intelligence and will apparently play a notable role in the game as part of the squad, who sniffs out dangers and aids the team."
News of an elite MWD's inclusion in this upcoming version of the game, scheduled for release in November, has created an Internet stir this week. And not that we should be surprised, but this dog already has his own (fake) twitter feed. As of this morning, @CollarDuty has some 19,000 followers. Though, with a bio line that reads, "I hate cats..." and with tweets like "SQUIRREL!" I don't think we'll be seeing any SEAL dog secrets revealed via Twitter.
But the game, well, that actually looks pretty cool.
Hat Tip: The guys over at MWD on FB and DL.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
By "A. Naval Officer"
Best Defense guest columnist
I'd like to offer you my thoughts on this based on my experience in command. Not many folks know this, but as LT, I lost my deployment roommate to suicide about two weeks after we came home from our first deployment.
Years later, when I was about to take command, there was an unusual spike in the number of suicides in our wing. I remembered what happened when I was a LT, so I asked my wife to help me talk to the entire command about suicide. We had outside people come in and talk about the standard "warning signs" and all, but it personally wasn't enough. After the Q&A, I kept the entire command in place and opened up. I told them the story about my roommate, how he did it, when he did it, why he did it, who he left behind. I explained the emotions I went through, and I told them about emotions I watched my skipper go through. The second-guessing, the rage, the guilt. I told them that I never wanted anyone in the room to have to bear that pain, and I never wanted to be the one to tell a family member that their husband or wife or son or daughter took his or her own life. I explained that I felt 100 percent responsible to everyone in that room, not just because Navy regs told me so, but because it was honestly in my heart. I explained that if I was willing to open up that way to them, then I also had to be willing to follow through and that my office was open, my house was open, any time of day, for someone in need. I had a very strong CMC who felt the same way, and he helped to spread that level of commitment down, through the chief's mess. I didn't want it to become "intrusive." I simply wanted people to be willing to ask for help.
After that, I had sailors come talk to the CMC and me and open up. Not just about suicide, but about anything on their minds. We had others who we encouraged to speak with us when we went for a walk down the flight line or the across the flight deck on the ship. We also knew the "tough" guys well enough to break through their exterior when we could tell they needed help. We just felt like it was an important part of knowing our folks. I also saw it as my responsibility as "The Old Man" and as someone who had been affected by suicide earlier in my career. It was just how the CMC and I operated.
So I didn't really think about it much, until my wife brought up an old story almost five years after I was in command. A sailor came to me with some very personal issues that were obviously affecting his performance at work. They were issues that the CMC and I could not solve for him, but we helped him get help. Not just get help, but helped make sure he got the right help. Ultimately, it resulted in his separation from the Navy. I remember thinking, "He's a good kid" and that really it was in his best interest and the Navy's best interest. When my wife brought the story up again recently, it was in the context of suicide in the military. She said, "You know that you saved that kid's life, don't you?" When she replayed the scenario with me a few times, I realized she was right.
But I've found it is a different leadership challenge when it comes to preventing sexual assault, particularly during my last deployment, which was in the desert. We could try to connect with our sailors when talking about sexual assault, enforce a buddy system, explain how to watch out for each other and how alcohol can increase risk, conduct walkthroughs of spaces, and make sure exterior lights were on throughout the night. Senior executives from the Department visited us in theater and told us what steps we could take to try to prevent sexual assault and we took the advice on board. But in the end, all we could do is try because things were external to what we could influence and we lived in a dynamic, transient environment. A sexual assault could happen to any one of our folks, male or female. The criminal could be someone from outside the military, outside the command. Or far worse, inside the command. I never felt that "try" was good enough, but I also did not want to give the impression that we were already victimized by the fear of a sexual assault. I could only hope the phone didn't ring. It never did.
Even if my phone didn't ring, it didn't mean a sexual assault didn't happen on my watch. Restricted reporting, while it protects the victim, doesn't alert the unit commander. As much effort as we put into looking out for our shipmates, there may very well have been an unreported sexual assault or an assault reported using a restricted report. How would I ever know if we had failed? How would we ever know if we could have done something differently or if our own command climate was a factor? How could we position ourselves to prevent the next assault? How would I even know that a victim wasn't comfortable reporting a crime to me? Or why?
The author is a 23-year Navy captain. A former squadron commander, he has deployed to OIF and OEF aboard ship and boots on the ground. He is married to a mental health professional and is a supporter of military families.
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
Todd Greentree, who served as director of the RC-South initiatives group in Kandahar during 2010-2011, offers these recommendations in an article in the Journal of Strategic Studies:
(1) Prepare above all to assist a government through political action and economic development while helping it protect its population from security threats, without taking the job over.
(2) Commit early and decisively, but for the long-term, with clear political and military aims; trying to combat an industrial strength insurgency is much harder, takes longer, and is likely to be unsustainable.
(3) Create organizational arrangements tailored to the specific situation and scale of threat, and are capable of adapting rapidly.
(4) Establish clear lines of authority sufficient to achieve unity of effort, while maximizing unity of command the closer the situation is to war.
(5) Integrate civilian and military efforts at all levels.
(6) In pursuing campaign plans and programs maintain focus on political purpose.
(7) Educate a cadre of civilian and military officials from multiple organizations and elaborate a shared civil-military doctrine.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dayton Mitchell/Released
The hits just keep on coming. Yesterday brought news that a sergeant first class at West Point has been charged with videotaping at least a dozen female cadets, some of them while they were in the shower or in other states of undress.
Bonus fact from reporter Thom Shanker, who broke the story: "The Army made no announcement of the charges against Sergeant McClendon, but it provided details after The New York Times learned of the inquiry from people with ties to West Point who said they were alarmed by the allegations and wanted to learn of the academy's plans to investigate and prevent future violations."
Amazing how the chain of command keeps on blaming those at the bottom. Maybe it is time to issue some mirrors to the four stars and three stars?
By "A. Marine Officer"
Best Defense guest columnist
1/9 CO likely deserved to be relieved. The Div CG relieved the battalion commander, the company commander, and the battalion gunner (a chief warrant officer weapons expert). Gunners are responsible for weapons training and employment advice. I haven't heard a peep about the investigation, but it stands to reason that if the Gunner went down, it was an ammo handling issue. If it was a training issue such as safe ammo handling, the CO has to go, and I'm cool with that.
The problem is that there is ZERO fricking information coming out of HQMC explaining ANY of this stuff. Nobody knows what to make of it, so nobody knows how to tighten up their units. That feeds conspiracy theories and loss of confidence in leadership because their actions start to look random and unprincipled. Everyone is cool with a CMC when he fires a commander who screws up -- DUI, banging a sergeant, etc. Everyone knows the deal. These mystery reliefs are harder to stomach. Amos doesn't know it, but he OWES us an explanation as to why he's firing O5s and O6s and hasn't cut a general officer loose on his watch yet. That Gurganus is still drawing a paycheck makes my blood boil.
I really earnestly and truly believe Amos is losing the faith of the Marine Corps. There isn't much support for him that I've heard. People see him flailing and taking folks down with him, not being intellectually honest, not having a whole lot of good ideas or success. His resignation would be good for the service. Paxton could ascend to the service chief level, they could find some suitable aviator (Guts Robling, perhaps?) to be ACMC, and all would be right with the world again. When Dunford is done at ISAF, they can either make him the chairman or move him to an open COCOM like SOUTHCOM if the timing lined up. Dunford is the heir apparent as CMC but a COCOM job would suit him better, I think. I'd follow Dunford to hell. I'm agnostic about the rest, but both Paxton and Robling have good reputations.
"A. Marine Officer" is just that. This article does not necessarily represent the views of the commandant of the Marine Corps, the Navy Department, the Defense Department, or the U.S. government. But ask a battalion or regimental commander what they think.
MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.