By Jim Gourley
Best Defense chief military culture correspondent
Back in 2011,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey wondered aloud at a National Guard
leadership conference why the U.S. military had scored the highest among
Americans polled on what institutions they trusted most. "Maybe if I knew
what it would take to screw it up, I could avoid it," he said.
The numbers haven't
wavered outside of statistical error since then. Despite highly unfavorable
public opinion of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, polls by Gallup and Pew back in June showed public confidence in the
military holding above 75 percent. The implication appears to be that no one
blames the military for failing to achieve distinct victory. It leads one to
wonder just what the American people will blame the military for. In the last
year, the military has run some of the biggest governmental scandals this side
of the fiscal cliff. To recap, by service:
sexual assault fiascos, one of which by a sexual assault prevention officer
A massive cheating
conspiracy among nuclear missile officers
The discovery they
lied about the severity of a B-2 crash years ago
A bribery scandal involving top-ranking officers, high-level
security clearances, millions of contract dollars, hookers, and Lady Gaga
officers cheating on their tests (what is it about cheating on nuke exams?)
command influence of a trial by the commandant
tampering with evidence in a trial by the commandant
reprisals against the press for covering the commandant's indiscretions ...
probably enacted by the commandant
A recruiting fraud
scandal running up a $100 million tab
The discovery that
a four-star general turned the National Security Agency into the biggest
American diplomatic catastrophe since Dick Cheney.
sexual indiscretion among senior officers is so rampant that it's futile to try
to parse out cases among each service.
Then there's the massive waste occurring in the Defense Department's accounting
systems. But with tens of billions involved, there's plenty for everyone to lay
claim to. Dempsey's question almost deserves a comedic rephrasing. "What's
a military gotta do around here to lose the public trust?" Or is it
perhaps that we've run out of other places to put it, and it's going to rest
with the military no matter what?