haven't got a link to insert (though recommend Onion News Network, for the record).
15 September 2009
26 April 2007
17 April 2007
I'm running to an appointment (late as usual) and still too depressed to give this the analysis it deserves -- but it speaks for itself and deserves to be quoted in full:
Why I Declined To Serve
By John J. Sheehan
Monday, April 16, 2007; A17
Service to the nation is both a responsibility and an honor for every citizen presented with the opportunity. This is especially true in times of war and crisis. Today, because of the war in Iraq, this nation is in a crisis of confidence and is confused about its foreign policy direction, especially in the Middle East.
When asked whether I would like to be considered for the position of White House implementation manager for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I knew that it would be a difficult assignment, but also an honor, and that this was a serious task that needed to be done. I served as the military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense in the mid-1980s and more recently as commander in chief of the Atlantic Command during the Cuban and Haitian migrant operation and the reconstruction of Haiti. Based on my experience, I knew that a White House position of this nature would require interagency acceptance. Cabinet-level agencies, organizations and their leadership must buy in to the position's roles and responsibilities. Most important, Cabinet-level personalities must develop and accept a clear definition of the strategic approach to policy.
What I found in discussions with current and former members of this administration is that there is no agreed-upon strategic view of the Iraq problem or the region. In my view, there are essentially three strategies in play simultaneously.
The first I call "the Woody Hayes basic ground attack," which is basically gaining one yard -- or one city block -- at a time. Given unconstrained time and resources, one could control the outcome in Iraq and provide the necessary security to move on to the next stage of development.
The second strategy starts with security but adds benchmarks for both the U.S. and Iraqi participants and applies time constraints that should guide them toward a desired outcome. The value of this strategy is that everyone knows the quantifiable and measurable objectives that fit within an overall strategic framework.
The third strategy takes a larger view of the region and the desired end state. Simply put, where does Iraq fit in a larger regional context? The United States has and will continue to have strategic interests in the greater Middle East well after the Iraq crisis is resolved and, as a matter of national interest, will maintain forces in the region in some form. The Iraq invasion has created a real and existential crisis for nearly all Middle Eastern countries and created divisions among our traditional European allies, making cooperation on other issues more difficult. In the case of Iran, we have allowed Tehran to develop more policy options and tools than it had a few years ago. Iran is an ideological and destabilizing threat to its neighbors and, more important, to U.S. interests.
Of the three strategies in play, the third is the most important but, unfortunately, is the least developed and articulated by this administration.
The day-to-day work of the White House implementation manager overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan would require a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy resolving critical resource issues in a bureaucracy that, to date, has not functioned well. Activities such as the current surge operations should fit into an overall strategic framework. There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries. These interests will require a serious dialogue and partnership with countries that live in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. We cannot "shorthand" this issue with concepts such as the "democratization of the region" or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to "win," even as "victory" is not defined or is frequently redefined.
It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan -- and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position. These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of an additional individual to the White House staff. They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on board.
The writer is a retired Marine Corps general.
GEN Abizaid, you're a decently straight shooter. As our Comm at USMA--infamously to us--and just as punchy with the "the insurgency is NOT in its..."
Anything you'd care to say?
Because down here, a buddy just got a "counseling statement" for bringing up valid complaints about patient care at our hospital -- so we're still a little sketchy on the UCMJ thing, and really need you big-hitters to step up... Remember how you taught us, "the military should NEVER be used for political purposes" and all that? Please?
15 February 2007
About to blow my top (for the millionth time) looking at some of the garbage coming out of the House "debate" and the resulting pundit love-in.
On this issue, there happens to be a clear, unequivocal answer:
OPPOSING THE "SURGE" DOES NOT AFFECT TROOP MORALE.
OPPOSING DOD POLICY DOES NOT MEAN DISRESPECT FOR TROOPS.
SUPPORTING THE SURGE DOES NOT (necessarily) MEAN SUPPORTING THE TROOPS.
OPINIONS OF IRAQ POLICY ARE, in reality, IN NO WAY LINKED TO TROOP SUPPORT.
Can this be clearer? OK, the rationale:
1. We troops support and defend the CONSTITUTION OF THE US, by law and oath.
Not any one leader.
Not a policy.
And SURE AS HELL not any ideology other than the things that keep our country free. Like political participation. Which requires debate and sometimes dissent.
2. We are not stupid.
For shit's sake commentators/pundits/speakers, PLEASE stop pretending we're too dense to know the difference between support for US and support for our MISSION.
WE are not our MISSION.
(Or would you like to call every Vietnam vet a quitter, failure, or stalemate-er?)
And while we're on the subject:
MANY Republicans in Congress and right-leaning commentators opposed multiple military missions in the 1990s.
Remember that? Was that treason? Was that stabbing troops in the back, blustering how we were on lame, pansy-ass UN missions thanks to our then-Commander In Chief?
They were "Clinton's humanitarian interventions" -- missions that were not terribly popular within the military, but missions we performed to the utmost of our ability once ordered by our Commander-In-Chief.
So, if you disagree on the separation of mission and troops:
A. All those leaders/pundits who criticized Clinton's "dabbling/busybody/frivolous" orders in support of UN/NATO missions in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo -- none of them supported the troops? Oh, how on earth could the GOP naysayers POSSIBLY have supported the military while declaring the peacekeeping/peace-enforcement missions faulty, a waste of time, the wrong use of military power, inept use-of-force...?...
B. If the "support troops=support mission=support troops" logic holds ONLY for Iraq missions but not for those in the 1990s, why?
Because only "war-war" gets that benefit, not police-actions? Sorry sister, we've been engaged in police actions in Iraq since 2003. What's the difference? More on that later, but the quick answer is, In police actions you actually have to worry about keeping order while also neutralizing/killing Bad Guys.
Or because only Republican Presidents get that magical Right-Of-Missions-Tied-To-Troops? If that's the case, then logic is dead and I need a drink.
C. Trump card:
Because so few of those with boots on the ground, who are tactically and strategically informed, and/or have high-leadership rank supported the mission!
Because many Iraq veterans, soldiers' wives, and soldiers themselves--having seen the mess up close and assessed the level of good versus harm we're doing--think current policy is flawed, and that "surging" is worse.
So, to claim that "Iraq-war dissidents don't support the troops" is to call many, many brave soldiers, veterans, and family members--who know more about war, and sacrificed infinitely more than 98% of media-darlings--either fools or traitors. Thanks guys, way to go.
Continuing with that thought:
If I am a traitor for raising my professional concerns with Policy X or Y, and why that policy will hurt America, then someone needs to seriously redefine what intelligence and/or military professionals are even here for.
Because as US Code stands at present,
My/Our duty is to give unbiased, non-political, straightforward opinions to Civilian Leadership, as the subject-matter-expert advisors.
Citizens' role is to give remotely informed feedback about what those leaders should or should not do. To be apathetic is to fail in that duty. To have an opinion of any sort is Constitutionally the right thing to do. Which every servicemember has sworn to defend.
Civilian Leaders' duty is to listen to the informed advice of military/intel/security professionals, and make the best decision based on that advice.
We troops must then execute those Civilian Leaders' orders.
We are still duty-bound to think independently and provide our Civilian Leadership with the most honest feedback possible. No matter how unwelcome or unpopular it is.
Stop abusing the whole concept of "supporting the troops" by tying it to ANYONE's political agenda.
14 February 2007
All these differing military opinions, crossed w/ personal opinions, shaded by location and recent experience. How do you represent them without (completely unhelpful) chaos?
Not sure. (This has been my major hang-up. I used to be a fairly confident person. Since my time in Iraq--which did not go well--I've begun second-guessing myself on just about everything. STUPID little things as well as Real Live Decisions. "Am I *sure* this email to [Friend] isn't too jumbled/harsh/cold/whatever? Can't allow another misjudgment.. maybe just won't send it..."It's a strange new sense of mental paralysis. Cognitively, I know many people deal with this and have overcome it, so this isn't about bitching and a pity-party for myself. But for full disclosure, part of the purpose of this blog is to force myself to commit something, ANYTHING to writing. One of those little steps, like having to choose a which of 5 salad dressings I want today, I don't know chaos! AAAAAUGH..)
I'll be adding milbloggers from perspectives as diverse as possible to my blogroll, hopefully sooner than later. Many are views from those deployed in Iraq. Representing, of course, a key array of perspectives that don't get anywhere near sufficient coverage in the MSM.
Americans, liberal and conservative, need to see be able to see a small bit of the raw, visceral experience of being out on a mission, a bullet's flight away from heroism or death--trying to remain hard, duty-bound to the mission, while also keeping a sense of humanity/self/compassion, however inappropriate they feel any given second.
Americans also need to see how inglorious the whole experience is. LOTS of "bored to death" moments with generous helpings of "confused". With bits of pure terror, reflex and gut-wrenching loss. But no cavalry charges, no prizes for advancing to the game's next level, no cool Hans Zimmer soundtrack, and sure-as-hell no "Game Over -- Play Again?"
That's where the shit hits the fan, so to speak, and the most direct perspective to observe.
I haven't been in that world, directly anyway, since 2003.
My perspective, next post.
Posted by OverAnalyst @ 16:56
I'm not used to the brevity of good blogging. Haven't written much except my own chicken-scratch journaling since the days of "research papers" and X000-minimum word essays.
But the discipline of concisely conveying a single point is something I look forward to working toward.
Last post discussed the Problem #1 with a "military blog" -- the lack of a coherent "military opinion." Or more specifically, the strange dynamic between the military's fairly common values (respect, discipline, physical/mental/moral toughness, and service/sacrifice) and the individual experience and opinions that each recruit or officer brings from home -- with the added twist of VASTLY different personal experiences while in uniform, which reinforce those values or cause doubt/disillusionment.
Even concerning strategy and tactics, the study of the military is more of an Art than a Science. And hell, even medical doctors--as a profession grounded in fairly inflexible scientific knowledge of the human body and cellular behavior--seemingly can't agree on a single drug or treatment. It is ridiculous to believe that even generals, having studied the same military history, will glean from their studies the same lessons on how to proceed. (and in fact, on Iraq policy their opinions have varied greatly, often diverging from official policy, and often not agreeing with the majority of grunts' ideas). That's the military. At the very top letters the monolithic bureaucracy seeps into everything. But on any practical level, the idea of "One Magical Solution Troops Believe In" is about as reasonable as finding One Scientific Consensus on the origin of life.
So nobody, whatever their credentials, can claim to speak with all certainty for "the troops". Including me.
THIS MEANS YOU TOO.
Posted by OverAnalyst @ 16:23
The idea was good. The intent was there. The desire was there. But HOLY FREAKIN SHIIIIT this whole idea of "running commentary from soldiers' perspective" turned out a billion times trickier than I thought. Not unlike a certain war effort that's now outlasted our war with any of the Axis Powers...
I was injured in Iraq in 2003. I'm still being treated for the same injury, due to some FUN Catch-22s in the military medical system. That's a separate rant with a separate blog. The only significance here is that it seems to take so...much...EFFORT to get the simplest things done. And for we who missed the Web2.0/MySpace generation, putting thoughts online in a public domain is intimidating. But a valid thought is no good if repressed, so here we go again.
Major issues to work through along the way:
1. Obviously, there is no "military opinion" -- the notion is stupid. Opinions on most issues all over the board. We are not the Borg (though assimilation is helpful, and resistance can often be futile). I'm surprised how many of my civilian friends, even the super-educated ones, assumed the Full Metal Jacket-style "break recruits completely, to re-make/sculpt/brainwash them" indoctrination was still the norm. That doesn't fly anymore; leaders can actually get in Heap Big Trouble for "hazing". The idea is to get people to a faster/more disciplined/more organized version of who they were when they came in.
Ok, so that doesn't always work, but does at least establish what's expected and, for most, a sense of common purpose, teamwork, pragmatic courage (or fatalism), some degree of pride in self, pride in country (regardless of policy opinions) and for lack of better words, getting shit done. The West Point motto "Duty, Honor, Country" can sound cheesy and over-the-top, but if you think about it -- doesn't it take an over-the-top reason to provide enough motivation to put up with all the crazy shit we do? It's sure as hell not for the money.
Posted by OverAnalyst @ 16:14
18 September 2006
It's taking too damn long to transcribe my notes. Especially with all those "WTF?!"s splattered in the juicy parts. Please check back soon...
16 September 2006
HOOOAH! yut yut objective
That was to honor The Onion's "Ask a..." feature, which initially inspired this: "Ask an unintellible soldier" heh heh.
Although now that I'm slowly transitioning to civilianhood, I realize that translating into that "gruntspeak" is no longer important. Now I need to start remembering "powder room" for latrine (and not "head" either... silly Navy), proper words instead of hastily improvised sounds (in most situations anyway), and that not everybody finds fart-jokes as hilarious as my former soldiers always seemed to.
I've loved many things about my time in the army so far. Contrary to public opinion, boot camp doesn't include brainwashing, and most soldiers are unique, relatively "normal" 18-25-year-olds. Except for the deployment parts, this can be a great place. I don't buy the standard-issued line here that "you'll never find comraderie like this again"--because I know plenty of teams on "the outside" are damn close. Not to mention the fact that some military units are as dysfunctional as they come...with god-awful results now that everybody's exhausted and the leadership's guard is down.
It was good as a bored 18-year-old to have something bigger than myself to believe in, bust my ass for. And for a while, every aspect of the lifestyle seemed to relate directly to the ability to someday, somehow, help someone else. I think most of us join for that. For some, the financial incentives carry more weight than for others, but it'd be crazy to do this for the money. I calculated one time that dividing my salary by the actual hours worked yielded around $3 an hour. Dear Uncle Sam would go broke if it had to pay us for overtime. (OK-- I know this much debt implies "broke plus" regardless) But quaint as they seem, the "duty, honor, and country" that used to mean quite a bit in the army were an appealing set to live by. Life was extremely busy but pleasantly simple.
Recent events have been far more disappointing. My morale crashed hard in 2003, though as a leader I did everything I could to "fake it" so it wouldn't cloud my ability to take care of my guys. Now overall morale is suffering too. Many Americans don't realize that there isn't a single person in the military that makes policy. Generals can "advise" after 25+ years of service, and they make up only around 4% of actual "troops" (and seemingly 96se% of public or TV interviews). But even those 4% of our power-elites can't make a single strategic decision. That's up to the civilian leadership, whose orders we are all bound to obey. Which causes huge conflicts when those orders conflict with what most troops know about war, motivations, and our own capabilities. But objecting in public is (pretty much) prohibited by UCMJ. Those of us willing to "fall on our sword" over one point or another are very rare. Some of us would gladly if it would do any good; but with so many heads yapping away already, who'd listen to a random 25-year-old--even one who happens to be in uniform with first-hand information?
So. A few of us are trying to connect with this blog. I hope it becomes a resource to cut through some of the spin and bullshit. I have no political agenda, other than trying to get us out of the mess we're in globally. With so many standard doors of communication now slammed shit, the only option left seems this "baby step" of citizen-to-citizensoldier communication.
Any relevant points will be passed either to senior leaders we know in the military, or senior leaders' aides we know in DC. Or, they'll stay right here if you'd prefer. Bottom line: the US military in theory belongs to you. We swear to "uphold and defend the Constitution" -- which means our loyalty must first be to the American people and our rule-of-law, not any one office or leader. And, since the US has chosen to use the military to affect "the world"--then all non-citizens have a stake in our actions too. So please take a baby-step to fixing this FUBAR situation and send a random question or comment. Thanks and sincere best wishes.
Posted by OverAnalyst @ 22:49