The Best Defense

If Obama had not acted on Libya…

If President Obama had not intervened in Libya a week ago, we would indeed probably now be looking at Benghazi as his Srebrenica -- except that his Cairo speech would have given him an additional load of responsibility, of seeming to bear false promises. It likely would have been an abiding blot on his presidency. For that reason alone, I think he had to intervene.

All the military grumbling I am hearing now about the need for strategic clarity reminds me of early in World War II, when Generals Marshall and Eisenhower could not see the need to land in North Africa, but FDR did, both to keep the Russians in the war and to convey to Americans that we were fighting the Germans. As it turned out, this was also the right move for tactical reasons, because the U.S. military needed to learn a lot, and it did in Africa and Sicily. Had it instead tried to go directly into France in 1943, when Nazi airpower was still strong, D-Day might well have been a disaster.  

These notes I get from military officers demanding clarity of goals and stated strategic purposes puzzle me. The nature of war is ambiguity and uncertainty. I worry that such demands are really a fancy form of shirking. It makes me wonder if before getting married, these complaining colonels draw up pre-nuptials that state:

1. How long the marriage is going to last, with a clear exit strategy of how it ends -- divorce, death, or other.

2. Detailed discussions of roles and responsibilities, including how much notice must be given to the spouse if an extramarital affair is to be undertaken.

3.  Description of the marriage's integration into the larger community.

4. Statement of how much time and emotion is to be devoted to the enterprise. 

As my hero Triumph says, I kid, I kid. But there is a serious point to be made: There is a basic contradiction here between these officers' insistence on clarity and the ambiguous and uncertain nature of warfare.

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The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dogs of the Week: Dogs walk for charity, a charity walk for dogs

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

Last weekend a Royal Air force team and their dogs took a sponsored-stroll to raise funds for charity. Starting at half past midnight on Saturday morning the determined group walked a whopping 37 miles following a predetermined route in order to raise "more than £14,000 for Help for Heroes and Children's Hospice South West." The press release posted by the RAF made it clear that: "All of the dogs are very friendly and can be approached by the public on route."

The incredible canines who made the journey were:

Campbell, a Springer Spaniel, is a Vehicle Search Dog who can search any type of vehicle [who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan]; Kontessa, a Shepherd, is a police dog and carries out very similar duties as civilian police dogs; Zeus, a Shepherd, is a Patrol Dog who patrols and guards RAF Lyneham and the Service Families Accommodation; Jack, a black Labrador, is a Drug Detection Dog.

A 37-mile walk over two days is no stroll in the park, and the officers -- both four-legged and the two-legged alike -- had to be physically up to the challenge in order to participate.

A British Forces News reporter caught up with the walkers along the way and spoke to Cpl. Chris Archard who called the walk as a bit of a "roller coaster." For while the first leg relatively easy, as the group moved into a more open area, the temperature dropped. Soon after the walkers encountered a series of hills that, as Archard described, appeared "to [grow] incredibly as we were walking them." The team, which carried on straight through the night, made it to their destination in one piece albeit tired and sweaty. This wasn't the first time the do-gooding dogs and their handlers had marched to raise money for a cause. After that first, long walk in 2009 Archard recalls, "we said never again, [but after] a year ... we thought, let's do it again."

And in news a little closer to home, here's a PSA for the DC area. America's VetDogs -- a nonprofit organization that matches up disabled Vets with specially trained dogs -- is sponsoring its first annual 5K Run/Walk in Annapolis, MD on Sunday, April 3. The group's goal is to generate the funds necessary to cover the cost of one of these remarkable canines -- $50,000. To register or for more information, you can visit their site or on facebook. "Every participant will receive a free shirt, a free raffle ticket, and free food and drinks after the race! The top three finishers in each age division will receive a beautiful medal." And I've been told there will be plenty of dogs on site...