By KAT STAFFORD, JAMES LAPORTA, AARON MORRISON and HELEN WIEFFERING 2 hours ago
1 of 14 Reserve Marine Maj. Tyrone Collier visits the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near his home in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. When Collier was a newly minted second lieutenant and judge advocate, he recalls a salute to him from a Black enlisted Marine. But even after Collier acknowledged the gesture, the salute continued. Puzzled, Collier asked why the Marine held it for so long. “He said, ‘Sir, I just have to come clean with something. … We never see Black officers. We never see people like you and it makes me extraordinarily proud,’” Collier recalls. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
For Stephanie Davis, who grew up with little, the military was a path to the American dream, a realm where everyone would receive equal treatment. She joined the service in 1988 after finishing high school in Thomasville, Georgia, a small town said to be named for a soldier who fought in the War of 1812.
Over the course of decades, she steadily advanced, becoming a flight surgeon, commander of flight medicine at Fairchild Air Force Base and, eventually, a lieutenant colonel.
But many of her service colleagues, Davis says, saw her only as a Black woman. Or for the white resident colleagues who gave her the call sign of ABW – it was a joke, they insisted – an “angry black woman,” a classic racist trope.
White subordinates often refused to salute her or seemed uncomfortable taking orders from her, she says. Some patients refused to call her by her proper rank or even acknowledge her. She was attacked with racial slurs. And during her residency, she was the sole Black resident in a program with no Black faculty, staff or ancillary personnel.
Source: excerpts of AP report “Deep-rooted racism, discrimination permeate US military”, full text of which can be viewed at https://apnews.com/article/us-military-racism-discrimination-4e840e0acc7ef07fd635a312d9375413.
Note: These are excerpts of AP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
By Gregory D. Foster
Professor, National Defense University
June 28, 2020
We only pretend to build armed forces to confront the threats we face.
“Disruptive change” is probably the most rhetorically popular, yet intellectually vacuous, turn of phrase now in use throughout the U.S. defense establishment. For an inherently conservative, parochial institution whose conception of the future is dominated by its preference for a canonical past, disruptive change is an attractive meme meant to convey progressive imagery to audiences inside and outside who might otherwise be inclined to expose the institution’s well-established lack of imagination and originality.
What is seen as the blueprint for disruptive change is the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, promulgated by the Trump administration’s first Defense Secretary, James Mattis, and his Marine brother in arms, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. Together, they passed this ideological tract off as a legitimate strategy based on bona fide strategic thinking to indoctrinate the defense establishment and its bureaucratic and political disciples. Their successors and their successors’ subordinates have unquestioningly and unthinkingly endorsed the stultifying received truths of the document, so much so that any thought of meaningful transformative change within the institution, however much needed, seems frustratingly out of the question in the absence of some jolt to the system.
The NDS — here’s the unclassified summary — epitomizes the intellectual stagnation that pervades the military. It is predicated on the asserted “truths” that:
The U.S. military, in the years preceding the Trump administration, was emasculated and rendered largely impotent by forcing it to focus on frivolous, tangential threats and missions such as countering violent extremism.
The United States has been disadvantaged and is in danger of being unseated from its rightful position of primacy in all domains of warfare – land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace – by reformist powers bent on challenging U.S. global supremacy.
The world we face today and in the years ahead is defined by great-power competition (presumably involving the use of traditional, military-centered great-power means to achieve traditional great-power ends of superiority and dominance).
To properly compete in this great-power arena, our organizational, doctrinal, and technological emphases must be based, above all else, on “lethality” (meaning, by implication, killing power and destructive capacity fed by large-scale industrial innovation and sustained by big-war mobilization measures).
How woefully and dangerously outmoded, outdated, self-serving, self-deluding, and self-perpetuating such received truths are. This is Cold War redivivus; Old War become New War. One need only compare the rhetoric of misuse associated with the wars we conduct that don’t coincide with our idealized conception of war – be it Vietnam or the Global War on Terrorism – with the reality of the methods we use and the defense posture we maintain to prosecute such wars. And one need only compare great-power, big-war rhetoric with the realities today of pandemic disease, cyberattacks, climate-induced natural disasters, and violent, rogue-actor extremism.
We live today in a postmodern age defined, as with all conceptions of postmodernism, by irony and the need for fundamental redefinition of hallowed concepts and terms. Ironically speaking, old strengths (such as wealth, size, and population) have become new weaknesses; old advantages (such as technological superiority or expansive overseas presence) have become new disadvantages; old successes (like the end of the Cold War) have become new failures; old friends have become new enemies; and old forms of plenty (e.g., nuclear supremacy) have become new forms of scarcity (e.g., nuclear peace). Terms of reference once considered clear, immutable, and sacrosanct – war, peace, security, aggression, intervention, sovereignty, power – now beg for redefinition.
In the grand evolution of war in which we are unsuspectingly involved, we have passed from a deep historical period of “Hot War” dating to antiquity, in which the use of military force was the central element in the conduct of statecraft; to the prolonged period of Cold War familiar to us all, in which the non-use of force (at least against our principal adversary, the Soviet Union), and the attendant avoidance of large-scale war, was the defining element; to the present period of “New War,” in which the use of non-military power and non-traditional uses of the military are – or, to be more accurate, should be – at the heart of statecraft; to a yet-to-be-recognized, much less realized, period of “No War,” the normative strategic end-state we should be seeking, in which militaries as we have known them become essentially irrelevant. To reach such an idealized – many would say unrealistic and unrealizable – end-state, arguably will require as preconditions the attainment of denuclearization, delethalization, and ultimately demilitarization. Demilitarization can be brought about only by the military: not a militaristic military committed to the supernal mission of warfighting, but a military organized, equipped, trained, and deployed in dramatically new ways that redefine what militaries properly do.
If we were to have a truly healthy state of civil-military relations, which we don’t, two of its cardinal defining elements would be a strategically effective (not just a militarily effective) military and a properly subordinated military-industrial complex that supports rather than dictates our military posture. In fact, in the cosmic international pecking order that differentiates superpowers from great powers, great powers from major powers, and major powers from minor powers, the possession of a strategically effective military is one of the principal indicators of standing and status. By any measure, the military we have today not only isn’t strategically effective, it isn’t even militarily effective. We don’t win wars. We don’t prevent wars. We certainly don’t eliminate wars. But we do feed escalation, provocation, and mirror imaging. Even if we were to claim a militarily effective military, we would have no choice but to admit that its defining features are all the things a truly strategically effective military wouldn’t be: disproportionately destructive, indiscriminately lethal, exorbitantly expensive, overly provocative and escalatory, unduly consumptive, largely alienated from society, and environmentally damaging.
At root, our problem derives from our prevailing frame of reference: Defense, narrowly conceived, dominates security, broadly conceived. Military power dominates non-military power. Wars of choice dominate wars of necessity, rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding. Tactics dominates strategy. Unilateralism (and the attendant felt need for self-sufficiency) dominates multilateralism (with the attendant imperative for collective decision-making and action). Conventional, high-intensity capabilities dominate unconventional, low-intensity capabilities. Technology dominates doctrine and force structure, and high technology dominates appropriate technology. Means dominate ends. And, finally, logistics dominates operations, after all is said and done.
Although we pretend to orient and structure our military around the threats we face, in point of fact our approach is very much capabilities-based; we have the military we want, and we insist on imposing that preferred force on the situations we face, invariably with unsatisfactory results. The ideal would be a state of affairs in which recognized vulnerabilities determine what our interests are; interests would determine what circumstances and actors constitute threats; those threats would be the basis for determining requirements; and those requirements would dictate the capabilities we seek to have on hand. In practice, the reality is just the opposite; our preferred capabilities determine everything else.
While we persist in the pursuit of capabilities for competing in a great-power world that satisfies our hunger for the heaviest, most expensive, most destructive and lethal armaments in the world, and that mollifies industrial actors that provide jobs and contribute big bucks to politicians, the threats we actually face today demand something quite different. The wars we face today are entirely wars of choice. No existing conflict, nor any reasonably to be anticipated, demands our involvement. And the wars we face are far removed from the total wars of the distant past and even farther removed from an idealized state of stable peace we have yet to seriously pursue, much less achieve. No, our wars occupy the space between limited war and violent peace; and the prime defining characteristics of these wars are twofold: they are asymmetric, hybrid wars; and, as such, they are inherently unwinnable.
So, pandemics, natural disasters, cyberattacks, and random acts of violent extremism are very real, very serious, very deadly, and very demanding. They are the threats we face and will continue to face in perpetuity. Traditional wars against China and Russia are unrealistic, highly unlikely fantasy. China and Russia, if they are to oppose us, will do so asymmetrically, as they already are; not symmetrically in a manner that would justify and legitimize our misplaced preparations and capabilities. Do we prepare for the most serious wars we won’t face or the most likely “wars” we will face? The answer should be more obvious than it is: not the former, but the latter.
To cope effectively with the actual threats that confront us, we must decide, for starters, what the military’s role properly ought to be: to serve itself (in the manner of a self-interested interest group); to serve the regime in power; to serve the state; or to serve society and even humanity (as grandiose as that might sound)? And no less must we decide what the military’s proper function ought to be: to prepare for and wage war; to secure and preserve peace; or something in between, like providing for the common defense, or preventing war, or providing for security? “All of the above” is too vague an answer, and “they’re all the same” is too simplistic. A military whose raison d’être is preparing for and waging war – the military we have – is demonstrably different from one that seeks to secure and preserve peace – the one we need.
The military we have is heavy, destructive, lethal, blunt, combat-oriented, technology-dominant, general purpose, unilaterally capable, provocative, escalatory, expensive (gluttonously so), and unsustainable. It is basically a hard-power warfighting machine, totally captive of and obsessed with its own warfighting/warfighter verbiage, useful primarily for tacit threatmaking based on ostensibly superior capabilities, and prepared – arguably – only for traditional, conventional war (even though deployed for a variety of missions).
The military we need would be quite the opposite: light, constructive, predominantly nonlethal, precise, noncombat-oriented, manpower-dominant, tailored, multilaterally-capable/-dependent, reassuring, de-escalatory, affordable, and sustainable. It would be a strategically effective force, designed to respond to a robust array of complex, most-frequently-occurring emergencies – peacekeeping, nation-building, humanitarian assistance, disaster response – that ultimately contribute most demonstrably to the overarching normative strategic aim of enduring global peace.
Should such sweeping, transformative overhaul ever become a reality? Yes – if peace is actually our ultimate aim. Could it take place? Unlikely – given the intellectual shortcomings of the defense establishment in particular, and the national security community in general. These are heretical, heterodox ideas that can take root and be acted upon only as an outgrowth of new thinking that is in inexcusably short supply in government and think tank thought factories. In the final analysis, though, the military will have to take the lead – and want to take the lead – in dramatically reforming itself because politicians have major vested interests, political and economic, in preserving the status quo and in letting the military dictate its own fate. Whether the military has the intellectual wherewithal to measure up to such a challenge is a matter for high hopes, but measured expectations. But if we are to produce a future that is better than the past, we shouldn’t give up on hope.
Gregory D. Foster is a professor at the National Defense University, a West Point graduate, and a decorated Vietnam War veteran. The views expressed here are his own. Full bio
Source: Defense One “The Military We Have Vs. The Military We Need”
Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Patrick Tucker
May 20, 2020
What’s needed, Griffin says, is more research into how to use weapons of various strengths in other kinds of combat.
Could lasers aboard aircraft like the F-35 shoot down enemy missiles as they launch? The Pentagon has batted around the idea for decades. But on Wednesday, its top scientists said he doesn’t think it’s practical, and said the Defense Department will put its research resources elsewhere.
“I want to put an end to that discussion. We’re not investing in airborne platforms for shooting down adversary missiles” with directed energy, said Mike Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering.
The idea of mounting a laser or other directed-energy weapon on a fighter jet or drone for missile defense has surfaced and disappeared various times. Early last year, it resurfaced in the 2019 Missile Defense Review, the bible for U.S. missile defense. “Developing scalable, efficient, and compact high energy laser technology, and integrating it onto an airborne platform holds the potential to provide a future cost-effective capability to destroy boosting missiles in the early part of the trajectory,” reads the Review, the bible for U.S. missile defense. “Doing so would leverage technological advances made earlier in DoD’s Airborne Laser Program, including for example advances in beam propagation and beam control. MDA is developing a Low-Power Laser Demonstrator to evaluate the technologies necessary for mounting a laser on an unmanned airborne platform to track and destroy missiles in their boost-phase.”
But Griffin said at a Washington Space Business Roundtable digital event that while satellite-mounted lasers might eventually prove useful for missile defense, he was “extremely skeptical” about putting them on aircraft for that purpose. (He did not comment on the prospect of using them aboard aircraft to defend the plane itself or for air-to-air combat.)
“It can be and has been done as an experiment, but as a weapons system, to equip an airplane with the kinds of lasers we think are necessary in terms of their power level, all their support requirements, and then get the plane to altitudes where atmospheric turbulence can be mitigated appropriately, that combination of things does not go on one platform,” he said. “So we’re not spending money on that.”
Recently, the Defense Department has shelved some of its most ambitious laser plans in order to focus on getting fiber lasers up to a power level where they will actually be useful. The Army is fielding a 250- to 300-kilowatt laser aboard a ground vehicle. Griffin said that that power level is “getting big enough to be worthy of consideration as a weapon in certain applications.”
What’s needed now, said Griffin, is more study of concepts of operation for lasers of different power levels in combat. “We have not invested enough in understanding lethality, different modes of lethality for directed energy. We’ve not invested enough in the operational studies of, If I gave a warfighter a weapon of x number of kilowatts, you know, how and in what circumstances could you use it? Where is it better than a kinetic weapon? Where is it not? The operational assessments have just not received as much attention as they should.”
Source: Defense One “DOD’s Top Scientist Shoots Down Airborne Lasers for Missile Defense”
Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Kevin Baron, Executive Editor
April 7, 2020 4:10 PM ET
Acting Navy Secretary Modly’s Trumpian approach to the military and his firing of a carrier captain has gone over like a lead anchor. Now members of Congress are calling for his own firing.
Jim Mattis must be rolling in his political grave. The Marine general-turned-defense secretary did everything in his power to keep the military out of the spotlight and disconnected to Trump’s firebrand version of American politics. He and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford kept their peers off the airwaves, off cable news, and off public stages to prevent reporters from pressing them on Trump’s red-hot tweets and sudden policy turns. They took a lot of heat for it, but it certainly did the job.
That was then, this is now. Since last summer, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has lived up to his promise to re-engage with the public and the media. That’s a good thing. He and 4-star officers across the military have become television regulars once again, especially during the coronavirus crisis. Esper and his new team are holding several on-record, on-camera briefings each day. They are sometimes too brief, but they are on-camera, regular, and do much more to inform the public than any Pentagon leadership team since Trump took office. They should be commended for returning to the podium to fulfill that responsibility to the public they serve.
But under Esper, something else has happened. Senior defense officials and uniformed military commanders also have begun to appear on right-wing talk shows, like Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt. That’s not taking care to avoid partisan politics; that’s feeding them up to the lions in the Colosseum.
Hannity, who in early March called warnings about the coronavirus a Democratic-media “hoax” to take down the president, was broadcasting on March 30 dockside in front of the USNS Mercy in New York. His on-air guests were Capt. James O’Brien, of the USNS Comfort, and Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command. It’s extremely rare for military personnel to appear on cable opinion shows like that. Perhaps the Pentagon just wanted to bring a public health warning about COVID-19 to an audience who has been told to disregard it.
Then, later last week, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly fired Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, for writing a blistering letter to his superiors that embarrassed Navy leadership and the Trump administration. Overnight, Modly went from being a near-unknown to being a historically consequential service secretary.
On Friday, the morning after Modly announced his decision, which touched off a frenzy of controversy and criticism, the acting secretary took to conservative Hugh Hewitt’s soft-gloved radio show. It was a calculated move, intended to shape the public narrative and avoid tough questions. Hewitt opened the segment by saying he wanted to ask Modly about the incident but meekly added, “If it’s an inappropriate question, just say so.” Modly then proceeded to trash Crozier. He said the 28-year officer had become “overwhelmed” as he made his case to Hewitt’s audience of loyal Trump supporters.
The appearance calmed no nerves. And it drew out harsh rebukes from some of the most senior retired naval officers in the country in support of Crozier for speaking out for the safety of his crew.
“He made the right choice,” said Adm. James Stavridis, former commander of NATO and supreme allied commander-Europe, who also commanded the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. “I was deeply surprised the Navy removed him.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Modly made “a really bad decision.” Mullen rarely comments on the news, but he spoke to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Ignatius, a left-leaning foreign policy columnist, is a former foreign correspondent who knows a thing or two about the Navy. Last year, the service named a destroyer after his father, Navy Secretary Paul Ignatius. The columnist reported that Modly had privately told friends that it was Trump who wanted Crozier fired. Later on Saturday, Trump said he thought Crozier’s letter was “terrible,” speaking at a White House press conference.
By Sunday morning’s talk shows, Esper was being asked about Crozier, Modly, and his commander in chief as much as the coronavirus whose infection is accelerating within the armed forces. Esper protected Modly and the president.
Ray Mabus, Navy secretary under President Barack Obama, tweeted on Sunday, “This comes from the top. We have a #commanderinchief who pardons convicted war criminals, calls people ‘my generals,’ sends Navy ships on missions to fight a non existent (sic) surge in drugs evidently in an effort to distract from #COVID & fires anyone who doesn’t agree all the time w/bizarre theories & actions. Our military, like our national government has no overall plan on #COVID. Firing CO sends chilling signal to other commanders.”
On Monday morning, Modly’s true partisan colors emerged. The acting secretary flew to Guam and went aboard the Roosevelt. By the time Washington’s morning coffee was poured, a partial transcript of his speech to the crew leaked; later, a recording was posted by Task & Purpose.
Modly’s desperately rambling speech to the aircraft carrier crew is more than 15 minutes of jaw-dropping media-hating by a conspiracy-mongering Trump appointee. Modly completely trashes Crozier, who is still an active duty U.S. Navy officer, and tries to turn an aircraft carrier crew against their former commander while demanding their loyalty.
Modly even compared Crozier to China.
“No one at my level has been ignoring the situation here, from the very beginning,” Modly said. Modly repeated his version of events, and his allegations that Crozier was wrong to claim his concerns were not being heeded in Washington before he sent the letter, which revealed “sensitive information.”
“If he didn’t think that information was going to get out into the public, in this information age that we live in, then he was a) either too naive or too stupid to be commanding officer of a ship like this,” the acting secretary said, over the ship’s crackling public address system.
When Modly said it, a crew member can be heard reacting with surprise, saying, “What the fuck?”
“The alternate is he did it on purpose,” Modly continues, again implying with no evidence that Crozier directly leaked the email to the press.
“It was betrayal,” Modly said, over and over on the loudspeaker, trying to turn the crew against the captain they cheered off the ship just days earlier. “Because he did that, he put it in the public forum and it’s now become a big controversy back in Washington, D.C., and across the country about a martyr [commanding officer] who wasn’t getting the help he needed and therefore had to go through the chain of the command — a chain of command that goes through the media.”
He continued: “There is no, no situation where you go to the media, because the media has an agenda, and the agenda that they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit. And I’m sorry that’s the way the country is now, but it’s the truth. And so they use it to divide us. They use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you.”
Modly tells the crew that their duty is to ask how to help each other and “not to complain.” He uses more profanity.
He then says the global pandemic is the fault of “a big authoritarian regime called China” for hiding the truth and putting the world at risk to protect themselves and their reputations. To which, he says, “We don’t do that in the Navy.”
The irony is obvious, but it apparently wasn’t to Modly, who said Crozier only caused a panic on Guam and elsewhere with his letter.
“Think about that, when you cheer the man off the ship who exposed you to that. I understand you love the guy, it’s good that you love him but you’re not required to love him.”
Nobody is required to love acting Navy secretaries, either. By midday on Monday, at least one member of Congress had called for Modly’s immediate removal from office.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said Modly’s remarks to the crew were “completely inappropriate. Our dedicated sailors deserve better from their leadership.”
“Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time. Secretary Esper should immediately fire him,” said Rep. Elaine Laura, D-Va., who represents Norfolk, headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet, and is vice chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.
Modly is a welcome reminder that even at the Pentagon, political appointees are partisan political animals. The idea that the military should stay out of politics and obey civilian authority is one thing. It’s in the Constitution, it’s American tradition, and it’s a fundamental characteristic of democracy. But it applies to the military leaders in uniform. The idea that the political appointees in charge of the Defense Department are somehow also apolitical, or somehow different than, less beholden to, or less responsible for the White House and this president’s views is pure fiction.
Mabus, Obama’s Navy secretary, wrote me on Monday, saying, “This is where the politicization of the military has come to under this administration. Either you become a full fledged defender of Trump, regardless of the harm to the military, or you lose your job. Evidently no one is allowed to tell the truth if it conflicts with what Trump is saying.”
Every defense secretary is a political appointee. So is the deputy defense secretary, who runs the budget. And so are the service secretaries, like Modly. Their return to public accountability through media appearances is appreciated. But when political appointees tell U.S. troops that they should not trust their fellow American journalists, and wrongly tell them that journalists have left or right political agendas, that’s an entirely different threat to democracy. Appointees pledge an oath to defend the Constitution, including the free press.
Modly ignores the parting advice of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican serving under a Democratic president, who in his final press conference thanked the Pentagon press corps for exposing potentially embarrassing issues in the military, including unsafe conditions at Walter Reed hospital and problems procuring life-saving M-RAP vehicles, so that he could right those wrongs.
“When I first took office, I worried that relations between the Pentagon, the military and the press, while always difficult, were mostly characterized by mutual suspicion and resentment” Gates said. “So I made it a point when speaking to military officers, from cadets to generals, to remind them that a vigorous, inquisitive and even skeptical press was a critically important guarantor of freedom under the Constitution and not to be treated as the enemy.”
Source: Defense One “So Much for Keeping the Military Out of Politics”
Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Tadd Sholtis March 18, 2019
(This reblogger’s note: This article tells us US military’s modern decision-making process, i.e. a democratic process of decision made by people lacking professional expertise. No wonder the US has lost so many wars.)
Embracing political process—not avoiding arguments—is the path to better decisions
Last month, the RAND Corporation issued a report intended to help the Department of Defense “understand the current character of interservice competition and how service culture impacts the ways in which the military services posture themselves to secure institutional relevance.” DoD’s Office of Net Assessment sponsored the study, whose authors somehow concluded that the department’s premier strategists needed someone to read Carl Builder’s Masks of War for them.
Builder’s 30-year-old RAND study found that each service’s distinct character and culture inform its strategic outlook and make it resistant to rational changes or compromises that challenge that outlook. Builder and the RAND analysts who dusted off his thinking are right to emphasize the importance of culture. But culture alone cannot explain why our military services have trouble with change today.
When the unit of analysis is a branch of the military, everything that informs service culture—history and myth, tribes and traditions—clearly informs service decisions. For example, because the modern Marine Corps was forged in the carnage of battles where help from other services was lacking, organic fire support for Marine units is now a service mantra. This is how the Navy’s Army ends up with its own Air Force, among other peculiarities of America’s selectively joint fighting force.
When we look at how uniformed officers engage with civilian leaders in the executive branch and Congress, however, service masks of war become less important than the concept of best military advice (BMA). BMA is by definition an up-and-out perspective that seeks to separate internally developed recommendations from higher-level political decisions.
An often ignored byproduct of BMA is a broader skepticism toward making decisions in a collaborative or transparent way. Rather than culture-fueled rivalries, the expansion of BMA into a broader neglect of political dialogue inside or outside the ranks may be the larger factor promoting bad decisions and eroding the credibility needed to enact good decisions.
BMA: Politics as a problem
Military leaders and many civilian observers often frame BMA as the best way to assert the principle of civilian control: generals advise; secretaries and presidents decide. Others view BMA as something that cannot be disentangled from civilian decision-making, since the expansive role of military operations in U.S. foreign policy and the relative popularity and expertise of military leaders makes it difficult for elected officials to ignore their generals. Still others argue that BMA is calculated to win support for the military’s preferred options by painting them as informed, rational, and altruistic reflections of hard realities, in contrast to the presumably naïve, emotional, and partisan positions of civilians.
Was thinking about the application of “best military advice” at DOD today, and recalled a conversation in which an official tut-tutted: in an era or great power competition, is arguing about BMA really the fight civilians want to prioritize…. https://t.co/tZDNuDagqA
— Loren DeJonge Schulman (@LorenRaeDeJ) March 6, 2019
What all these perspectives on BMA have in common is the military’s actual or rhetorical retreat from political process. In this view, if policy is a football, a military staff marches down the field to carry the ball to the red zone. Then the policy is handed off to a squad of politicians and civilian appointees, whose job is to score by aligning BMA with national objectives, other instruments of national power, and political will.
If the ball makes it in the end zone, the pols can take the credit. If the pols don’t deliver, no one can argue that the military squad didn’t do its best to put them in scoring position. Either way, military officials are shielded from the consequences of anything that happens in the political red zone.
While this metaphor oversimplifies the reality of senior officers who always have at least one foot in the political ring, it underscores the attractiveness of BMA as the one mask of war that rules them all. It also suggests how BMA can inform military discourse not only up the chain of command but down and outside it as well.
Fundamentally, BMA is not a simple deference to civilian authority. It is a philosophy that a military leader in the position to offer BMA can avoid or end any argument by asserting that they have played their full part in the political process. They have provided their best advice, and if there are other, better ideas then eventually someone else will voice them, and decision-makers will choose.
Insurgencies within services: Air Force fighters
The problem with BMA’s aversion to arguing as a leadership style is that more and more U.S. military personnel want to argue. They expect their leaders to follow them into arguments and remain open to persuasion and compromise. A leader who abandons argument becomes difficult to distinguish from a leader who has abandoned his (and it’s almost always his) followers.
There are many examples of how avoiding arguments has eroded trust within the military services. Many soldiers and Marines question why their excellence in combat and strategies their commanders endorse have failed to move America close to anything that could be described as success in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sailors are worried about the Navy’s handling of fleet safety concerns. No one seems happy that military families needed to get reporters and Congress involved in fixing military housing issues. But for a short case study of the BMA phenomenon, we’ll focus on what has happened within the Air Force’s fighter community.
In Builder’s analysis, the Air Force’s strategic outlook is driven by the now familiar boys-with-toys mentality that considers aerospace technology and innovation as the best path toward gaining and maintaining U.S. military advantage. That facade has cracked in recent years, however, as senior officers who prefer to stay out of the political red zone have unintentionally fed insurgencies among Airmen who want to play politics, or feel they need to with leaders who equate a narrowly informed position with BMA.
The Air Force’s infamous decision to retire the A-10 Warthog offers a case in point. In retrospect, the move is remembered as a kind of validation of Builder’s thesis. In this telling, the Air Force wanted a new, sleek, fast fighter, the F-35. To pay for it, the service proposed to chuck the A-10, an aging, slow, ugly titanium bathtub that started as a tank killer but became a mainstay of air support to ground troops.
But the A-10 debate actually started as a textbook case of BMA. The joint community had committed to buying the F-35 for future wars. Under spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act, the Air Force only had money and people to operate three fighter fleets: its F-22 and F-15 air superiority fighters, its multi-role F-16 fighters, and the older and more highly specialized A-10s. If one fleet had to go to make way for F-35s, then the rational choice was the A-10.
The Air Force’s position against the A-10 was not just a case of fighter pilots employing a BMA argument against sister services or civilian leaders, however. It was a case of fighter pilots using BMA to take on themselves.
Some of the most prominent critics of the move were part of the tribe: former Navy pilot Sen. John McCain; former A-10 pilot Martha McSally, who was elected to the House of Representatives in part on a platform focused on saving the plane; and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose husband was an A-10 pilot. Warthog pilots flocked to social media to oppose the decision, leading rather than lagging the soldiers and Marines who piled on to the issue.
In January 2015, Maj. Gen. James Post, the vice commander of Air Combat Command, told an audience of fighter pilots they would be “committing treason” if they lobbied Congress to keep the A-10. While Post’s outburst may have been unthinking, the crafted apology he issued after his removal was telling: “The objective of my comment was simply meant to focus the attention of the audience on working within the command’s constraints.” In other words, the decision should be interpreted as fiscally informed BMA, not as a political debate.
The A-10 had been tactical airpower’s darling in two wars in Iraq and a third in Afghanistan. Pilots’ careers were centered on mastering the aircraft and the close air support mission. Yet the Air Force’s decision arrived without much prior dialogue with affected Airmen and with no clear plan for preserving careers or warfighting expertise. The reaction from the A-10 community was predictable, so why did the Air Force fail to lead with concern for its own?
Drawing from Builder and the more recent RAND report’s findings about internal battles among Air Force specialties, we could ignore the BMA themes in the debate and conclude that this was a conflict of tribes within the tribe. One side was fighter pilots devoted to keeping the skies safe for other airplanes. They were opposed by more marginal fighter pilots devoted to using firepower to support troops on the ground. Since the air superiority tribe was more powerful, it could move forward with plans to divest the A-10 and brand the close air support tribe as traitors.
The tribal interpretation doesn’t hold up, however, when we look at both older and newer controversies within the smaller air superiority community itself.
In 2010, the Air Force’s investigation into a crash that killed a respected F-22 Raptor pilot, Capt. Jeff Haney, lasted six months and was held from public release for another five months. The report’s findings failed to convince a small but growing number of pilots who had concerns about the jet’s safety, which they aired on 60 Minutes on the advice of Congressman Adam Kinzinger, himself an Air Force pilot. Only months of additional investigation—which notably involved many F-22 pilots and maintainers in a comprehensive, collaborative search for a root cause—was able to restore confidence in the aircraft.
More recently, the Air Force flagged its intent to supplement an investment in new F-35s with the purchase of less advanced F-15Xs. Once again, the backlash has emerged from within the tribe, notably from the Heritage Foundation’s J.V. Venable, a former F-16 pilot, and from retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, a former F-15 pilot.
Beyond BMA: Communicate, decide, communicate
There’s a long tradition of dissent within the U.S. military, but the nature and frequency of the kind of intraservice insurgencies seen in the Air Force—and the wider breakdown in political dialogue on military matters elsewhere—suggest that something has changed.
The military services Builder examined at the end of the Cold War were different from today’s branches in three important ways. First, almost all U.S. military personnel are volunteers with no recollection of a draft. Second, most of them have been at war for the entire length of their service. Third, they have access to social media networks that provide information and personal connections extending well beyond traditional unit or community boundaries. They know how war works, they will find out what you don’t tell them, they will address real or perceived injustices at the speed of tweets, and if necessary they will vote with their feet.
Today’s troops have real experiences and real power that merit real respect. That respect is not demonstrated by making a major decision in an echo chamber then garnishing it with a public assertion that it was made on behalf of the troops. Instead, leaders earn respect by involving troops in major decisions. This level of involvement transcends thorough staff work, because staff officers mostly serve to inform and advance the professional judgments of generals. Now and in the future, generals need to think more deeply and more transparently about how they advance a position that best approximates the collective judgment of the men and women they command, with significant deviations explained. In other words, generals will need to treat decision-making as a political process even before it reaches civilian leaders.
BMA has enshrined a two-step flow of information: decide, then communicate. Military leaders decide what their BMA will be and communicate that to civilian leaders and their military personnel. Civilians make their decision and communicate that back to the military and to the public.
As the world moves us beyond BMA, legitimate decisions on important and complex issues can only emerge from a process that involves a three-step flow: communicate, decide, communicate. We will need to replace or supplement internal bureaucracy with the messy external engagements that characterize political life: listening tours, debates, surveys, public investigations, and much more.
Above all, military leaders must be willing to see that the best military advice is not the unsullied ideas in their heads. The best military advice is the idea that’s been thrown into the world and kicked around by challenges and compromises until it is no longer recognizable but still stands. The best military advice—the really best military advice—belongs to us all.
Col. Tadd Sholtis (USAF) is the author of “Military Strategy as Public Discourse: America’s War in Afghanistan” (2014) and the editor of the Words at War blog.
The opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
This article appeared originally at Words at War.
Source: realcleardefense.com “Really Best Military Advice”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout.
March 15, 2020 | Educate!
After the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) found a reasonable basis to believe that U.S. military and CIA leaders committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Team Trump threatened to ban ICC judges and prosecutors from the U.S. and warned it would impose economic sanctions on the Court if it launched an investigation.
Apparently succumbing to the U.S. threats, in April 2019, the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber refused to authorize the investigation that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had requested.
But in an unprecedented decision, the Appeals Chamber unanimously overruled the Pretrial Chamber on March 5, 2020, and ordered a formal investigation of U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials for war crimes, including torture, committed in the “war on terror.”
Once again, the Trump administration is threatening the International Criminal Court. Following the Appeals Chamber’s decision, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body.” He added, “The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, so-called court.”
Pompeo is likely referring to the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, enacted during the George W. Bush administration after it removed the U.S.’s signature from the ICC’s Rome Statute. Often called the “Hague Invasion Act,” it says that if a U.S. or allied national is detained by the ICC, the U.S. military can use armed force to extricate the individual. Although this provision has not yet been utilized, the potential for its use is frightening.
Even if a country is not a party to the Rome Statute, its nationals can still be tried in the ICC if the crimes took place in the territory of a country that is a party. Thus, although the United States has not ratified the Rome Statute, the ICC still has jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. nationals in the territory of Afghanistan.
The impunity that U.S. officials have enjoyed for their international crimes may finally be coming to an end.
“Countries must fully cooperate with this investigation and not submit to any authoritarian tactics by the Trump administration to sabotage it,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Project, said. Responding to Pompeo’s threats, Dakwar noted, “No one except the world’s most brutal regimes win when the United States tries to impugn and sabotage international institutions established to hold human rights abusers accountable.”
Prosecutor Found the U.S. Had a Policy of Torture
Bensouda found the alleged crimes by the CIA and U.S. military “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” but were “part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.” She noted there was “reason to believe” that crimes were “committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies … which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan.”
The Pretrial Chamber agreed with Bensouda that there were reasonable grounds to believe that, pursuant to a U.S. policy, members of the CIA had committed war crimes. They included torture and cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence against those held in detention facilities in the territory of States Parties to the Rome Statute, including Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
But the Pretrial Chamber denied Bensouda’s request for an investigation “in the interests of justice” due to the “extremely limited” prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution because of an anticipated lack of cooperation from U.S. and Afghan authorities.
The Appeals Chamber Approves War Crimes Investigation
In its groundbreaking decision, the Appeals Chamber authorized the prosecutor to initiate an investigation “in relation to alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan and are sufficiently linked to the situation and were committed on the territory of other States Parties in the period since 1 July 2002.”
It is not necessary that the criminal acts or apprehension of victims took place in the territory of Afghanistan. For example, if a person suspected of being a member of or associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban was allegedly tortured or apprehended outside of Afghanistan, the war crime of torture could still be investigated.
The Appeals Chamber noted the Pretrial Chamber’s agreement with the prosecutor that there was a reasonable factual basis and jurisdiction for an investigation. But the Appeals Chamber held that the Rome Statute did not authorize the Pretrial Chamber to make a finding that an investigation recommended by the prosecutor would not serve the interests of justice.
Moreover, the Appeals Chamber concluded that the Pretrial Chamber “did not properly assess the interests of justice” because its reasoning was “cursory” and “speculative,” and there was no indication that it “considered the gravity of the crimes and the interests of the victims.”
In addition, the Appeals Chamber ruled that the investigation will not be restricted to the factual information the prosecutor uncovered during her preliminary examination. The investigation won’t be limited to incidents the prosecutor identified or even to incidents “closely linked” to them. Affirming “the independence of the Prosecutor,” the Appeals Chamber gave her wide berth to conduct the investigation.
The ICC operates under the principle of “complementarity.” That means the Court will assume jurisdiction over a case only if the home country of the accused is unable or unwilling to hold him legally accountable.
If the U.S. government had prosecuted Bush administration officials for their war crimes during the “war on terror,” the ICC would not now take jurisdiction. But after Barack Obama said, “Generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards,” his administration refused to prosecute those implicated in the torture and willful killings of detainees during the Bush administration.
Torture Victims Hope for Accountability
Bensouda interviewed thousands of victims during her preliminary examination. About 100 of them joined her appeal of the Pretrial Chamber’s ruling. Victims and their lawyers hailed the Appeals Chamber’s decision and expressed hope that those responsible will finally be held accountable.
One appellant is Ahmed Rabbani, a Pakistani taxi driver who was taken to Afghanistan and described being tortured for 540 days by U.S. actors. He is represented by the human rights organization Reprieve. “If the people who tortured me are investigated and prosecuted, I will be very happy. I would ask just one thing from them: an apology,” Rabbani said. “If they are willing to compensate me with $1 million for each year I have spent here, that will not be enough. I am still going through suffering and torture at present. But I would be happy with just three words: ‘We are sorry.’”
The ACLU represents Khaled El Masri, Suleiman Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud, who described the torture they suffered in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008. “This decision vindicates the rule of law and gives hope to the thousands of victims seeking accountability when domestic courts and authorities have failed them,” the ACLU’s Dakwar said.
Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and ICC Victims Legal Representative, also welcomed the decision because it provides hope that justice is available to everyone. “For more than 15 years, like too many other victims of the U.S. torture program, Sharqawi Al-Hajj and Guled Duran have suffered physically and mentally in unlawful U.S. detention, while former senior U.S. officials have enjoyed impunity,” Gallagher said. “In authorizing this critical and much-delayed investigation into crimes in and related to Afghanistan, the Court made clear that political interference in judicial proceedings will not be tolerated.”
But in light of the Appeals Chamber’s landmark decision holding that U.S. officials will be investigated for war crimes, we can expect escalating threats and retaliation against the ICC by the Trump administration.
Source: Popular Resistance “Team Trump Failed To Bully ICC Into Dropping War Crimes Probe”
Note: This is Popular Resistance’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
US military’s environment is so poor that it has difficulties to recruit scientists and engineers as proved by its design of useless Zumwalt destroyer, LCS and troublesome F-35. That is not the only problem now. Business Insider says in its report “The military’s ‘war for talent’ is affecting what the Navy’s future ships will look like” 9 hours ago that US military finds that recruitment of skilled soldiers one of its main challenges now.
That is really bizarre. With such a high budget, it cannot afford competitive pays for skilled mercenaries.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Business Insider’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.businessinsider.com/military-recruiting-efforts-affecting-future-navy-ship-designs-2020-2.
Time’s report “Gun On the Air Force’s F-35 Has ‘Unacceptable’ Accuracy, Pentagon Testing Office Says” yesterday says that Pentagon Testing Office found lots of flaws in F-35 in its latest assessment of F-35
The report says, “The number of software deficiencies totaled 873 as of November, according to the report obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its release as soon as Friday. That’s down from 917 in September 2018, when the jet entered the intense combat testing required before full production, including 15 Category 1 items.”
“‘Although the program office is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number’ and leaving ‘many significant’ ones to address, the assessment said.”
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Time’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://time.com/5774422/f-35-military-jet-assessment/.
Forbes’ article “Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats” begins by saying, “In January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released its unclassified assessment of China’s military capabilities, with the telling subtitle: ‘Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win.’ As DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained: ‘China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region.’ He went on to emphasize: ‘…the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapons systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world.’”
The writer of the article blames former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for ceasing production of stealth fighter F-22 as he predicted that China would not have any stealth fighter jet by 2020 but why did he no change his mind to regard China’s military development as a “threat” when China tested its J-20 stealth fighter for the first time when he visited China in 2011? Because he was arrogant and did not believe that China would succeed in satisfactorily developing J-20 by 2020.
Now, Pentagon has changed its mind and begun to take China’s military development seriously. However, the US lacks funds to substantially increase its military budget. With much smaller budget, China is still able to catch up with and surpass the US. What if it substantially increase its budget? China has lots of funds to do so.
How can the US stop its own decline and China’s rise?
Think about that.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Forbes’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davedeptula/2019/02/11/building-the-air-force-we-need/amp/.
Popularresistance.org’s article “West Point Professor Builds A Case Against The U.S. Army” on December 12, 2019 summarizes US whistleblower West Point Prof. Tim Bakken’s new book “The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military” on the culture and system of rules of US military that has spread to US politicians and general public and US military’s destructive and counterproductive nature in having perpetrated senseless one-sided slaughters on the world. Such culture and system have been the reasons for the 75 years of US lost wars since the end of World War II.
As it is too long an article I only give some excerpts of the article below:
West Point Professor Tim Bakken’s new book The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military traces a path of corruption, barbarism, violence, and unaccountability that makes its way from the United States’ military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs) to the top ranks of the U.S. military and U.S. governmental policy, and from there into a broader U.S. culture that, in turn, supports the subculture of the military and its leaders.
The U.S. Congress and presidents have ceded tremendous power to generals. The State Department and even the U.S. Institute of Peace are subservient to the military. The corporate media and the public help maintain this arrangement with their eagerness to denounce anyone who opposes the generals. Even opposing giving free weapons to Ukraine is now quasi-treasonous.
Bakken describes a culture and a system of rules at West Point that encourage lying, that turn lying into a requirement of loyalty, and make loyalty the highest value. Major General Samuel Koster, to take just one of many examples in this book, lied about his troops slaughtering 500 innocent civilians, and was then rewarded with being made superintendent at West Point. Lying moves a career upward, something Colin Powell, for example, knew and practiced for many years prior to his Destroy-Iraq Farce at the United Nations.
“A survey of the top echelon of military leadership indicates widespread criminality,” Bakken writes, before running through such a survey. The military’s approach to sexual crimes by top officers is, as recounted by Bakken, quite fittingly compared by him to the behavior of the Catholic Church.
One way in which violence spreads from the military to U.S. society is through the violence of veterans, who disproportionately make up the list of mass shooters. Just this week, there have been two shootings on U.S. Navy bases in the U.S., both of them by men trained by the U.S. military, one of them a Saudi man training in Florida to fly airplanes (as well as training to prop up the most brutal dictatorship on earth) — all of which seems to highlight the zombie-like repetitive and counterproductive nature of militarism. Bakken cites a study that in 2018 found that Dallas police officers who were veterans were much more likely to fire their guns while on duty, and that nearly a third of all officers involved in a shooting were veterans. In 2017 a West Point student apparently prepared for a mass shooting at West Point that was prevented.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on popularresistance.org’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://popularresistance.org/west-point-professor-builds-a-case-against-the-u-s-army/.