Highlighted Blog: US Army Combined Arms Center. Pick your model, CAC or UK FCO, both are excellent. Be sure to check out CAC’s blog and user stats page.

“As my friend the late Sheriff Gene Darnell always told me, the best politics is doing a good job.” – Representative Ike Skelton, D-MO, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee discussing improving the interagency process but raising the point that the deeds speak louder than words.

“It is not every day that a young US Army officer has the opportunity to interact with a sitting head of state who has both lead a revolution and fought a counterinsurgency. CGSC students and faculty had just that chance on Friday when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” – LTG Bill Caldwell sharing President Museveni’s five conditions and four phases for revolutionary war.

“[T]here is also increasingly broad recognition within the military that the expertise USAID brings with regard to providing effective and culturally-appropriate humanitarian assistance to foster long-term economic and political progress in the developing world will be decisive as the U.S. government strives to develop capabilities aimed at not only defeating ongoing insurgencies, but creating conditions in threatened nations that will be key to preempting future insurgencies.” – LTC David Menegon and Jeffrey Ashley, Ph.D., in Operational Design Prototype for USAID and DOD Synchronization: The Art of the Strategic Process for PRTs in Iraq.


Use Google as if it were January 2001.

Congratulations to Chris Albon, blogger at War and Health, for completing his comprehensives.

Survey of American Military Enlisted Personnel Political Attitudes and Behavior (Updated link)

From a friend and for your consideration:

You are invited to participate in a survey, entitled “Survey of American Military Enlisted Personnel Political Attitudes and Behavior.” The study is being conducted by Donald S. Inbody at The University of Texas at Austin. While we are primarily interested in active duty enlisted personnel, we will accept survey responses from officers and those who have left active service in the past few years.

The purpose of this study is to conduct research into the attitudes and thinking of American military personnel. Your participation in the survey will contribute to a better understanding of American military enlisted personnel. I estimate that it will take about ten minutes of your time to complete the questionnaire.

There will be no costs for participating, nor will you benefit from participating. All publications will exclude any information that will make it possible to identify you as a subject.

If you have any questions or would like us to email another person from your organization or update your email address, please call Donald Inbody at (512) 923-0704 or send an email to You may request a hard copy of the survey.

This study has been reviewed and approved by The University of Texas at Austin Institutional Review Board (IRB Number: 2007-06-0012). If you have questions about your rights as a study participant, or are dissatisfied at any time with any aspect of this study, you may contact – anonymously, if you wish – the Institutional Review Board by phone at (512) 471-8871 or email at

If you agree to participate please click here to take survey. Feel free to forward this survey to others.

America’s upper classes have gone AWOL

Peter A. Gudmundsson makes much the same argument I’ve been making in my presentations and papers on the expanding use of private military companies in the conduct of U.S. national security policy, Gudmundsson smartly puts the problem of disassociation of war from the upper class as a factor in presidential campaign discourse.

During this presidential campaign, voters will hear much about the divergent economic realities between "the rich" and "the middle class." Yet there is another partition in America that is less visible, but no less troubling. The great divide between the civilian and military communities leaves the nation and its electorate ill-equipped to make informed judgments about military and international affairs.

I recently returned from a trip to San Diego, during which I toured the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and spent two days at sea with the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz. To say the least, it renewed my respect for the professionalism, competence, dedication, and sacrifice of America’s men and women in uniform. I was deeply impressed by the vigor and apparent confidence with which they attend to their duties.

A quick glance at the troops I met immediately revealed a broad representation of America’s ethnic groups – a diversity that’s typical throughout America’s armed forces. Statistics reveal high standards of educational attainment and the near nonexistence of illegal drug use or criminal backgrounds. Many come from families in which military service is a common experience. Yet I can’t help concluding that the upper and upper-middle or "elite" social classes seem to be conspicuously absent.

A Navy admiral told me, "America is not at war. Its military is." He was acutely aware that a prominent segment of society had little but tax money invested in the outcome.

When I was at the U.S. Naval Academy a couple of years ago for a conference, I found Forestall Lecture speaker Admiral Timothy J. Keating’s observation on how the parking has changed since he was a midshipman. He said that back when he was a middie, the parking lot was full of Corvettes and Porsches. In 2005, he noted the lot was full of pickup trucks.  

The comment by the admiral in Gudmundsson is not unique. See this photo of a white board in this previous post.

So what to make of it? Here’s what Gudmundsson says:

No electorate can make informed decisions about the exercise of military power in a far-off theater if it lacks a reasonable measure of collective experience with military matters. And any society that restricts its information and analysis to the sound bites of "embedded" journalists and political pundits will find itself highly susceptible to the manipulations of partisan politicians and interest groups at either extreme of any debate. It is simply too difficult to separate hope from fear and fiction from fact….

It is only with an experienced and knowledgeable citizenry that we as a nation can prosecute sound strategy to achieve US policy goals while avoiding the pitfalls of failure and their attendant human, financial, and diplomatic costs.

I agree.

(H/T John Brown)

Somebody, Prove my theory

Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States and a good time to wonder something out loud. Actually, I’ve been saying this in meatspace for a while, but I don’t think I’ve put it on the blog yet.

As you think about our country’s veterans, ask yourself how many veterans you actually know. It’s very likely that you, as a reader of this blog, know (or are) a veteran: you are reading what some call a milblog after all.

Here’s my theory: more Americans know a mercenary, but don’t know it, than know a vet, adjusting for sheer numbers. In other words, contractors our "outside" in the public more than current or former serving members of America’s military.

I’d like to see a study that looks at how many people know a veteran and compare that to how many people know a contractor (i.e. merc). Like it or now, private security companies has brought back the citizen-soldier. The All-Volunteer Force, on the other hand, has created an increasingly insular sub-group distanced from the larger population on several levels.

The voluntarily association of contractors makes it easier for its members to slip in and out of military duty and into the role of your neighbor, your co-worker, that IT recruiting manager you worked with, the cop who’s a brother of a friend, or that dad you met at a BBQ.

No longer do you need need to live near a military base or work in the defense industry to meet someone sanctioned by the state to carry a weapon into a conflict zone. In other words, while the public is increasingly separated from serving military personnel, it is increasingly in contact with contractors but does not know it.

What to think about this? First, Congress and the media doesn’t care about the people who don’t officially wear a flag on their shoulder. Second, this indicates a depersonalization of war, an argument Kohn and Gelpi make. Third, the already scarce personal links between the public and its soldiers will continue to diminish as conflict is outsourced to machines.

With fewer Americans who know somebody presently serving or even directly impacted by the conflicts after 9/11, there is a redevelopment of a distinct and professional warrior class in the United States proficient in the conduct war that harkens back to professional mercenary soldiers of before. The modern All Volunteer Force (AVF) is far removed from the modern political and social spheres of power in the United States, leading to suggestions that non-veteran civilians may be more "interventionist" and simultaneously placing more constraints on the use of military force while at the same time the American citizen-soldier is increasingly an endangered species as soldiers and their families turn inward and focus on their own support networks. National Guard recruiting trends reinforce this point as they are increasingly drawn from the ranks of former military and not from the general public. It is likely robots will support and increase pressure on this trend, just as private security companies do.

Just something to think about on this Veteran’s Day.

(Major G, first round’s on me tonight, second round too if you’re reading this…)

Mash-up for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Returning to the lazy "I can’t make the time to comment on these individually" post, here’s the mash-up for today:

Dan at TDAXP has an interesting survey for bloggers. Please fill it out and help marginalize my response.

Christian at Defense Tech posts on RAND’s call for Web 2.0 approach for building COIN awareness and accessing and leveraging knowledge with the "integrated counterinsurgency operating network", of ICON. This deserves a post by itself, but I’m pressed for time, so I leave it to others to get into this.

The study, aptly titled “Byting Back: Regaining Information Superiority Against 21st Century Insurgents,” takes a novel, “web 2.0” approach to the problem of gaining information to fight an insurgency. RAND rightly states that the information requirements for conventional war – the basis upon which most of the Pentagon’s intelligence apparatus is based – are very different from those of a counterinsurgency.

“If winning war requires understanding the terrain, winning counterinsurgency requires understanding the human terrain: the population, from its top-level political structure to the individual citizen. A thorough and current understanding of individuals and their community can help rally support of the government by allowing the government to meet the needs of the local population. Because insurgents do not identify themselves as such on sight, knowledge at the individual level is often what it takes to make such necessary distinctions.”

The study suggests utilizing local “wikis” compiled by the population, security services and government officials; leveraging cell phone networks to push information and to potentially track insurgents; incorporating the use of video and voice recorders on individual weapons to compile information and lessons learned and the institution of a detailed government census of the population.

David Axe at War is Boring quotes Wired’s Clive Thompson on the makings of a suicide bomber… in Halo 3. Clive backed his way into the psychology of a suicide bomber inadvertently but ultimately his reasoning is the same as many asymmetric "warriors":

Because after all, the really elite Halo players don’t want to die. If they die too often, they won’t win the round, and if they don’t win the round, they won’t advance up the Xbox Live rankings. And for the elite players, it’s all about bragging rights.

I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I’m the underdog; I know I’m probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I’m poor.

Via MEMRI, hopefully this Egyptian won’t follow the lead of American broadcast efforts in the region:

Millionaire Egyptian Copt Najib Suwairis has announced his intention to set up two new satellite television channels aimed at dealing with the rise of religious conservatism in Egypt, both religious and social.

As Slate, MountainRunner friend Phil Carter lists the incentive programs the Army is using to hit their numbers. See also Phil’s post on his blog where he cites Gordon Lubold’s CSM article:

Barely one quarter of American youths aged 17-24 are eligible for military service because of medical conditions, drug/alcohol use, low aptitude scores, or criminal records. 11% of eligible youth are in college, leaving just 15% of the 17 to 24-year-old cohort (men and women) for the services to recruit from.

And for something completely different, via Andrew Sullivan, Ron Jeremy impersonating Britney Spears:

The Fraying of State

The freak out by some FSOs at State is impressive and less than an indictment of the corps than most make it out to be. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to fill only 48 posts, but releasing the announcement Friday night like a bit of bad news is no way to treat trusted and valued employees and patriots and a good way to rile the entire Department. But this bad form is not entirely surprising given her leadership over the last several years at Foggy Bottom, or in the years before as National Security Advisor. Her Cold War thinking is out of touch with the requirements of the post-Cold War world.

I understand and in some way agree with the FSO’s complaints. To them, neither the personnel system nor the bureaucracy as a whole really incentivizes going into a war zone. To really get attention, you should be a standout elsewhere, as Patricia highlights with the award to the Deputy Chief of Mission in Rome. It makes sense not to single out the outstanding State personnel working on PRT’s and outside the walls, you wouldn’t want to discriminate, would you Ms. Rice?

I’ll answer that for you, Ms. Rice. If you don’t put your Department on a war footing, funnel (and otherwise lobby for more) resources to support and develop critical areas, you can pretend business as usual and things are going swimmingly. Except now you’ve realized the seas are choppy and too few people brought their gear to take a dip.

Rice’s Transformational Diplomacy did not result in the great restructuring promised, arguably because of her limited world view. Reducing U.S. activities in Europe because guns aren’t going off there doesn’t prevent the bombs that are or the bomb plans being hatched.

Has Rice been in standing firm for more money to rightsize her Department to conform to modern requirements? That would have been the real transformation.

No, instead she releases a memo Friday night for assignment to a country where the embassy (the old one, not the brand new one that’s still not online) is apparently not in a safe, as Rice admitted in her testimony to the House Oversight committee two weeks ago when she argued the International Zone isn’t safe. I know soldiers and Marines were smirking at that, as well as Rice’s own people.

In truth, it doesn’t matter if Rice is right or not about the safety of the IZ (although on the new embassy, I like this cite this quote: it’s like Fort Apache in the middle of Indian country, except this time the Indians have mortars.), the rebellion in State today is more an indictment of her leadership at State.

In short, Rice has not prepared her department for the mission she’s suddenly demanded. We’re now four years into Iraq, six years into Afghanistan, and her Department still hasn’t mobilized her Department for war to the extent that even a few months ago Crocker had to go public with staffing problems. State / DynCorp have messed up policing. State permitted (some, like me, might say encouraged) their security escorts to take an overly aggressive posture because of screwed up priorities. And State hasn’t intervened when American reconstruction contractors screw the Iraqi Government. I could go on but I’m bored with the list already. Apparently, Rice figured most of State didn’t have to deal with the little people. Perhaps that was Karen Hughes’ job, who, um, reports to Rice. (Great "job well done" speech by Rice, by the way. Not what I’d want from my tenure.)

No, Rice frames the "GWOT" (I prefer my superior acronym) in convenient post-detente Cold War terms, but she doesn’t grasp the need to conduct public diplomacy today that was so deep and integral to the pre-1960’s Cold War. Instead shielding herself, her people, and her processes (I won’t get started on Karen Hughes, except to ask will leaving position vacant make us better off or worse of than today?) Rice sits back. Rice has let DOD take the bulk of the mission and upsize to fill the holes left by her missing leadership. Rice, who ran away rather than announce the policy and take questions herself, is apparently now looking to whip State into shape as her department gets all sort of attention.

Yes, this whole thing speaks more to her leadership than to the panic of some FSOs who are just realizing they are part of a war. As for Rice, she’s terrified of being over there. Here’s a question: How often has Rice been to Iraq? How often was Rumsfeld and Gates? Those are numbers I want to see.

Update, what others are saying:

FPRI CivMil conference… watch it if you can

Due to circumstances, I haven’t been able to watch much of the FPRI webcast, but what I did catch was great. It has just resumed after the lunch break, but I’ll unfortunately be on the road/in & out of meetings, but I’ll watch what I can. Again, if you think on or discuss how the current wars are being fought and staffed, you are interested in civil-military relations whether you realize it or not. You are therefore someone who should watch this webcast and the upcoming keynote from Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO).

Mind the Gap: Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America

Too many people I speak with, from academics to laypeople and in between, do not understand American civil-military relations and their role U.S. foreign policy. Next week, the Foreign Policy Research Institute will webcast a conference on Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America, cosponsored by the Reserve Officers Association. It’s free and open to the public and apparently online audience members will be able to pose questions electronically.

Personally I won’t be able to see all of it due to standing Monday afternoon commitments, but Panels 1-3 are the lead issues for me right now (not to dismiss 4), so maybe I’ll catch most of it. I suggest you watch as well.

To register, click here.

The agenda for the webcast is below.

Continue reading “Mind the Gap: Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America

New Blogger on American Civil-Military Relations

New on the blogging scene is Don @ the CivMilBlog that’s “Dedicated entirely to civil-military relations, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers.”

Pundits and casual observers disregard the complex relationship between the military, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the public, and the media. The military is not an exclusive agent of the President, but, especially since WWII, an active and increasingly independent actor that is increasingly aware of its own power. To be sure, this does not mean the military is planning Dunlap’s Coup, but it does mean muscular posturing by the US takes many forms and has many more influences than many realize.

His most recent post, American Political Development and American Civil-Military Relations, looks to put American civil-military relations into context. In this post, he scratches at the apparent paradox of American embedding of “an autarchic, fundamentally illiberal institution (the military) inside a larger liberal democratic institution (the United States).” Remember that this uniquely American civil-military relationship was intended by our insurgent Founders. Wary of a standing military, their concern over the potential abuse a standing military could affect on our own population as well as the potential of politicization of that military for personal gain, they wrote into the Constitution a division of responsibilities for Congress and President. Over the years, additional powers were assumed by each side. It looks like Don will explore these over time.

If you’re interested in an updated civ-mil reading list, in addition to Don’s post & blog, I suggest the following:

“No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA”

General Barry R. McCaffrey’s testimony before the the House Armed Services Committee is an excellent summary of the problems were facing today and the real hit America’s national security is taking. It speaks for itself and it should be read.

From a summary he released as his testimony is not yet available from the Committee (h/t Kat):

…the purpose of my testimony is not to talk about the ongoing tactical operations in CENTCOM — but instead the disastrous state of America’s ground combat forces. Congress has been missing-in-action during the past several years while undebated and misguided strategies were implemented by former Secretary Rumsfeld and his team of arrogant and inexperienced civilian associates in the Pentagon. The JCS failed to protect the Armed Forces from bad judgment and illegal orders. They have gotten us in a terrible strategic position of vulnerability. The Army is starting to crack under the strain of lack of resources, lack of political support and leadership from both the Administration and this Congress, and isolation from the American people who have now walked away from the war.

No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA. There is only rhetoric and posturing from the rest of our government and the national legislature. Where is the shared sacrifice of 300 million Americans in the wealthiest nation in history? Where is the tax supplement to pay for a $12 billion a month war? Where are the political leaders calling publicly for America’s parents and teachers to send their sons and daughters to fight “the long war on terror?” Where is the political energy to increase the size of our Marine Corps and US Army? Where is the willingness of Congress to implement a modern “lend-lease program” to give our Afghan and Iraqi allies the tools of war they need to protect their own people? Where is the mobilization of America’s massive industrial capacity to fix the disastrous state of our ground combat military equipment?

Recent and related post (among many on MountainRunner): If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Continue reading ““No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA”

Monday Mash-Up for July 30, 2007

If you want another example of America’s failure to understand the importance of building a bigger and badder Internet infrastructure (hell the report I referenced misses the fundamental requirement!), compare the US e-Government initiative and the UK’s. It isn’t pretty.

“Universal internet access is vital if we are not only to avoid social divisions over the new economy but to create a knowledge economy of the future which is for everyone. Because it’s likely that the internet will be as ubiquitous and as normal as electricity is today. For business. Or for individuals.” – former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000

There are advantages to technology, although this example doesn’t include a resolution, in “the F-16 Does What?” segment Noah Schachtman clipped from Michael Yon’s post from .

Bourbon and Lawndarts and SWJ (don’t skip the comments on SWJ’s post) both have good posts on passing up H.R. McMaster, author of the superb Dereliction of Duty and COIN expert, for a promotion.

Foreign Policy cites the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey showing Muslim support for suicide terrorism is waning. Think the attack on Iraqi soccer fans will be included in a public diplomacy campaign? What about an information operation?

Jason at ArmchairGeneralist also looks at American readiness today, another installment in his ongoing series titled “They’re Breaking My Army.”

Phil Carter posts on the growing girth of Americans and asks about its impact on recruiting in the future.

Paul Kretkowski at the Beacon posted his comments on the DNI Open Source Conference.

Steve Aftergood of FAS noted the Army has revisited its manual on Civil Affairs.

Lastly, adding to my earlier post IEDs as a Weapons of Strategic Influence, Noah writes on JIEDDO’s “strategic flaw” using an insider study (Word doc).

However, what the paper concludes, ultimately, is that the American effort against improvised bombs has been an “unsatisfactory performance [with] an incomplete strategy.”  What’s more, the JIEDDO-led struggle against the hand-made explosives has a “strategic flaw” that may keep the U.S. from ever gaining the upper hand on the bombers, Adamson notes: The lack of authority to knock bureaucratic heads.  He recommends instead establishing a separate, Executive Branch agency with a “laser-like concentration on the hostile use of IEDs.”   

Ideally, every element of the U.S. government would be teaming up to fight IEDs, Adamson writes.  Spies would be uncovering rings of bombers; FBI investigators would be helping examine forensic evidence; diplomats would be applying political pressure to catch bombers; other countries could even be chipping in, offering their own experience with improvised explosives. 

In practice, however, such coordination has been uneven, at best. The  “IA [interagency] process lacks a comprehensive strategy for defeating the global IED threat.”  Outside of the military, few agencies have viewed bomb-beating “as essential to their collective or unilateral missions.”  So they have given the problem short shrift.  For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms decided that, “due to resource constraints, [it] could not support greater involvement with DOD’s [the Department of Defense’s] IED effort,” Adamson notes.  Same goes for the nation’s spies.  “Internal reform and mission overload in the IC [intelligence community] cripple[d] its capacity for additional effort.”

Evolution of American Civil-Military Relations in Four Quotes

On appropriations, General Walker, Chief of Army Finance, to a Congressional committee in 1924:

I think it would. I think when the budget has once been approved by the President and transmitted to Congress, it is his budget estimate and no officer or official of the War Department would have any right to come up here and attempt to get a single dollar more than…contained in the estimate.

On allegiance, General George Marshall on loyalty to the President and not Congress in 1940:

I submit to you…the impossibility of developing an efficient army if decisions which are purely military in nature are continually subjected to investigation, cross examination, debate, ridicule, and public discussion by pressure groups, and by individuals with only a superficial knowledge of military matters, or the actual facts in the particular case. I submit that there is a clear line of demarcation between the democratic freedom of discussion which we are determined to preserve and a destructive procedure which promotes discontent and destroys confidence in the army.

On oversight, Admiral Nimitz testifying during the National Security Act hearings in 1946:

Senator, it is my impression that the Constitution of the United States charges the Congress with the furnishing of armed forces. It charges the President with their use.

The Congress, in the furnishing of the armed forces, is entitled to every bit of information that it needs, and I perceive no objection whatever in the writing into this bill of the kind of safeguards you have in mind; because it is the Congress that makes provision for the armed forces and they should certainly have the right to every bit of information that they think they need in making appropriations.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Naval Academy commencement in 2007:

As officers, you will have a responsibility to communicate to those below you that the American military must be non-political and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems.

Source for the first three: The Pentagon and the Presidency

After reading these quotes, consider Congressional pressure on the Navy, the Air Force, and more.

Playing politics with soldiers

From Phil Carter:

[T]he California National Guard is alone among the 50 states in not providing state-funded tuition assistance to its National Guard troops. Although soldiers can still get the reserve GI Bill, this state offers no separate benefit to make up the difference between that amount and UC/CSU tuition, nor any separate GI Bill-like benefits of its own. 

Why is this? Impotent politicians are taking out their frustrations on the Guard, according to the Times:

State Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena) chairs the Senate Education Committee, which has scuttled attempts by the California Guard to get tuition assistance for members. College aid ought to be based on financial need, not on membership in a group, Scott said, and if the federal government deploys the Guard overseas, then it should give members the same educational benefits as enlisted men and women, who can get more than $1,000 a month for school.

“It’s the federal government that’s made the decision to go to war,” Scott said.

How much would this cost?

All it would take, Guard officials say, is $3 million a year, a negligible sum in the state’s $130-billion proposed budget.

Politicians’ distance from the military, as one Republican Assemblyman rightly noted, is a central reason for this childish and short-sighted behavior.  

Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), who retired last month from the Guard after 24 years, said the Legislature is out of touch with the military.

Only 13 of the state’s 120 lawmakers have military experience, and Devore said that since the closure of many bases in recent decades, most Californians have no regular contact with the military.

And some lawmakers are reluctant to do anything that could be viewed as support for the war in Iraq, he said.

My great state of California must realign its priorities and understand the full implications of this lack of action. The federal government isn’t the one being punished, it the men and women who serve, the communities they live in, and the economy as a whole. But this is clearly too big of a picture of some to come to grips with.

Monday Mash-up

On the evolution of Robocop, see Danger Room:

Discussing War Powers

The Council on Foreign Relations issued a backgrounder on American civil-military relations. No, I’m sorry, that’s not what the backgrounder purports to be about, although it should. Robert McMahon wrote on the “different responsibilities” Congress and the President (it should still be an upper case “P” people) have in waging war but completely ignores some of the most important oversight powers of Congress.

Continue reading “Discussing War Powers

Readings on civil-military relations

Last month I posted a reading list on civil-military relations on the Smart Power Blog that is now cross posted here. 

Civil-Military Relations 

The importance of understanding and establishing “proper” civil-military relations can’t be understated both at home and in the troubled regions. The relationship between civilian and military leaderships dictates and is dictated by the freedom of the people. This relationship, in a democracy especially, is special and paramount and yet too many do not understand or get it.

Why post on this? It is important to understand civil-military relations in an age where people:

  • Question whether public diplomacy and the management and projection of America’s image should be owned by the military
  • Conflate military and civilian decision making
  • Do not understand why the military accepts “bad” orders

The list above could go on, but I’ll stop and hope you add your own reasons in the comment section.

Below is a brief list of suggested resources to help understand the nature of US civil-military relations:

  • Warriors and Politicians is an excellent book that looks at the unique c-m relationship in the United States. Charlie examines how the military, under dual / dueling masters of the Executive and Legislative branches, developed over the two plus centuries after the Revolution and within parameters established by Founding Fathers, many of whom were military veterans, were wary of a standing army. (Also worthwhile is his more detailed discussion about US Secretaries of Defense in SecDef.)
  • Issues of Democracy: a 1997 US Information Agency (USIA) publication on the importance of civil-military relations in democracy.
  • Center for Civil-Military Relations: it is noteworthy that it is the military itself that dedicates substantial resources to understanding the importance of civil-military relations while the civilian educational system fails to teach the same. (Note the forthcoming book on the CCMR site, Reforming Intelligence, is about Intel and not the military per se.)
  • The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012: published in 1992 and revised over the years, Charles Dunlap’s original portrayal of what happens when the US military decides to protect American society is scary. Turkey’s military is known for intervening over the years to protect Kamalism and I’ve heard some in the US question why the US military doesn’t do the same. Read this to understand the importance of a subordinate military.
  • H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (a valuable read. McMaster is one of the new whiz kids working with Petraeus in Iraq)

If you really want to go academic, then the following will round out the essential reading list:

When a general writes a column, is opinion or “local news”?

A Georgia newspaper published the first of what is to be a biweekly column by the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Major General Rick Lynch, on the first page of the second section. What’s interesting is not the message, but that online the column is categorized as “Local News” instead of an opinion piece. (Editor & Publisher wrote that it’s labeled as “story”, but so are Op-Eds. It’s the categorization between the byline and title that counts here.)

What’s the big deal? Well, is it really news? Did contributors Lt. Col Randy Martin, Fort Stewart public affairs officer, and 1st Lieutenant Allie Chase ghost-write the piece?

This is how General Lynch opens his piece:

I’ve asked the Savannah Morning News to allow me to write about Iraq, my personal observations here and your 3rd Infantry Division. So, about every two weeks, I plan to write a column so that you have a better understanding of what is really going on.

From Editor & Publisher:

“I’m on the fence about this, my first reaction is that we need to get this man’s view in the paper,” Catron admitted. “This is a viewpoint from someone who was there and that is how we looked at it. We will start off and see where it goes. I knew it would be controversial.”

There’s a difference between getting his view on paper and making it “news”. In the print edition it’s labeled “commentary” (print circulation: 50,000), but online it’s “local news”, but perhaps that will change soon.

Catron said Monday that Lynch is not paid for the column, adding that at least three newsroom staffers have complained. “They were objecting to it and there is a valued argument there,” she said, noting that one of those who objected was the paper’s military reporter, who could not immediately be reached for comment. “Our military reporter is quite concerned, and we are not finished talking about it.”

There are many parallels with news stations broadcasting stories passed of as news but made by government agencies and private firms highlighting the benefits of some program or product.

I think it’s a good public affairs move for the general to reach out, but does the way the newspaper is positioning harm the intent? What if the general wrote only a small bit or none of the story at all and just signed off on what the PAO(s) wrote?

If the general’s article is local news, then shouldn’t Frank Rich’s column, especially yesterday’s damning “Sunday in the Market With McCain” (subscription required), be listed as news as well?

What do you think?

Eddie, we’re glad you’re back

Eddie returns from a slumber and comments on the Iranian hostage taking and civil-military relations, ending with:

A similar attitude may be hard to envision in America, but the lack of faith in public officials and the nation as a whole is alarming, to a degree that it could be reasonable to compare it only slightly favorably to the Vietnam debacle and the “malaise” diagnosis of Jimmy Carter. Adam Elkus notes that 1/3 of Americans suspect ulterior motives behind 9/11, prominently USG support and/or acquiescence.  Scandal after scandal in Washington from the compounding disgrace of Katrina to pressuring US attorneys to pursue partisan political charges against the opposition only make this “crisis of confidence” more acute.  Again, like the British, Americans are not innocent here; much of this has gone on with their rudimentary knowledge (from torture to flawed intelligence) and they can no longer reasonably claim to have been “misled.”  

Yet in spite of all this, the prospect of military personnel held hostage by a foreign power raises the reasonable specter of enraged Americans across the partisan divide demanding action (even some of those who don’t buy the official line on 9/11).  

Unless….  The military’s halo of truth, honor and courage is long due to be removed regardless.  Public worship of the military is incorrectly placed and certainly emboldens the political and institutional failure to punish disastrously poor leadership from the likes of General Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, Peter Pace, George Casey and others.  It prevents hard questions about tactics, direction and accountability to be asked in any meaningful fashion. 

The continuing use of abuse and torture by US forces or their private proxies, the fatalistic acceptance of ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the constant lying to the American people for the past 4 years (marching up to Capitol Hill and other public platforms on a routine basis and claiming ”we’re winning”) and the propensity to “support the troops at any costs” are helping to rot the core of the US Army, just as much as extended, repeated deployments. 

In due time, it is likely that political operatives will begin to use military leaders and by extension, the military itself, as scapegoats for the failing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.  That’s strike one.  Strike Two will be drastic public disillusionment after the likely failure of the “Surge”.  Strike Three is a nightmare in itself; the kidnap, torture and execution of American soldiers in Iraq.  Insurgents have been trying this for years now, but their chances for success have to be increasing with the vulnerability of lightly manned outposts emphasized by the military in Baghdad.  The propaganda effects of such a tragedy are almost too terrible to imagine, but its reasonable to expect that after years of failure the American people will turn even further against the war.  Even if Strike Three were not to unfold, the negative light fostered by Strike One & the disgrace of Strike Two are alone enough to scuttle the love affair with the military. If and when American troops are captured by Iranians or another nation, it is thus likely a casual indifference like in Britain could ensue or worse, a desperate public push to “bring them home” at whatever costs.

Fixing the frayed bonds between society, the military and the government will require a full, honest effort from all sides.  Nothing less than the continued ability to pursue national policies and goals on a sustainable level abroad and at home is at stake.