HOW HAVE WE COME TO THIS?
Air Force Major General James Post recently told Air Force officers that any A-10 pilot communicating the virtues of the A-10 to a member of Congress is committing “treason,”
THERE IS A DIRE NEED FOR SUNLIGHT WHERE THE MILITARY ARE CONCERNED
The first reaction of virtually any senior military officer when confronted by a criticism, or indeed any tricky situation for which he doesn’t have a prepared response, seems to be to attempt to classify it—and thus deprive the critic of ammunition. Caution rather than candor is a characteristic of the culture of our current club of generals. The generals are decidedly Japanese in that regard. The relevant Japanese proverb is:
The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
If information is power—whether enough power is another matter—then the theory is that a lack of it will neutralize any and all opposition regardless of the validity of the underlying criticism. It is an approach which is largely successful—at great cost to the integrity of the individuals and the institutions concerned.
It works because U.S. media, by and large, only cover an issue when fresh information is forthcoming. They take the word ‘news’ literally. If it isn’t new they don’t care. The most egregious issues can fester away in plain sight, but once covered once (albeit much repeated to the point of excess) will receive no further attention. The concept of staying with a story until the wrong in question is righted seems to be plain out of fashion. This is such a fundamental flaw that it boggles the mind but somehow—like so much which is wrong—we take it for granted.
Given the enormous reach of the military to classify information at will, this privilege is much abused, but helps to explain why our MICC—Military Industrial Congressional Complex—is systemically corrupt in so many ways. It is not just financially corrupt—the figures speak for themselves—but the prevailing careerism and lack of integrity that pervades the culture is just plain disgusting. It has lead to vaster corporate profits—which benefit only a few—unending wars, unprecedented costs, and indescribable human misery.
Yes, we do need defense contractors—and doubtless some are honorable people who are doing their best both for this Great Nation and their corporations, but their prevailing culture is focused far more on profit that patriotism—and results in a pattern of behavior and blatant dishonesty which, in a just world, would be considered criminal.
I have had first hand experience of this behavior. When, about a dozen years ago, I wrote a series of reports for a congressman (at his request) pointing out the obvious flaws and limitations of the wheeled Stryker armored vehicle, which was being touted by the Army as being suitable for “the full spectrum of war” (clearly untrue) . The reaction was not to rebut my charges point by point (they couldn’t) but to force everyone involved with the project to sign an additional non-disclosure agreement—and thus keep everything not just secret, but super-secret.
The Chief of Staff of the Army at the time was General Shinseki. After my comments, I was memorably told by the Vice Chief of Staff, General Jack Keane: “Victor, you can’t go head to head with the Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
I did and I have no regrets. Someone has to tell truth to power—and sometimes you have to do what feels right. I try. I don’t pretend I always do.
As for General Shinseki, he went on to demonstrate his true caliber and mettle as head of the Veterans Administration. The sad state of the VA after five years of his governance and his forced resignation constitute sufficient comment.
Classifying everything didn’t make the limitations of the Stryker—and the associated costs in blood and treasure go away—but it dampened down the criticism and saved the generals some embarrassment.
The Stryker has never been used as originally intended—as the core of a C-130 air-transportable brigade strength fire-fighting force (a good idea, incidentally) but by dint of up-armoring it, significantly improving its communication capabilities, adding a double hull, and fighting it cautiously, it has delivered tolerable but limited utility at vast cost to the public purse. As to the details of such egregious waste, needless to say these are classified. Once again,a general’s mistakes have been covered up by throwing public money—and lives—at the problem.
The most serious problem with the Stryker—which is that, being wheeled, it is not all-terrain capable, has not been resolved—and can’t be. Here, we are talking about a matter of physics and ground pressure. Tracks were invented for a reason. They spread the ground pressure and allow heavy armored vehicles to go just about anywhere. In contrast—where a heavy vehicle is concerned—wheels tend to get stuck in soft, difficult, or boggy ground. In short, they largely need roads. As a consequence, heavy wheeled vehicles tend to be road-bound and for the Army that employs them to be predictable.
If surprise is the ultimate tactical advantage for a warfighter, predictability is a truly devastating disadvantage. To be road-bound is a profound tactical limitation.
The toll that IEDs have taken on our predictable road-bound soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrates this point fully—and tragically.
This pervasive lack of intellectual honesty where the Pentagon culture is concerned is a pattern of behavior which president after president—the president having the authority as Commander-In-chief—could and should do something drastic about.
Somehow they never do. All power corrupts and presidents like their secrets too. Also, generals look formidable in their uniforms and medals, and going up against them tends to be politically unpopular. Presidents tend to follow a policy of live and let live.
Some would call that politically expedient. Others might call it moral cowardice.
Democracy does not thrive on secrecy. It needs sunlight to survive. There is a serious lack of it over the Pentagon. In moral terms, it is, indeed, the Dark Side.
The Air Force was part of the Army during WW II and Lieutenant General ‘Pete’ Quesada, unusually for an Air Force general, was assiduous in endeavoring to integrate ground and air. His efforts helped to ensure the success of the D-Day invasion and saved countless lives—tens of thousands—and probably a great deal more.
After the war, General Quesada’s Air Force colleagues called him a “traitor” and did everything possible to try and sabotage his career.
Two-thirds of a century later, nothing seems to have changed except now we lose wars at prodigious cost with alarming consistency.
We boast that we win all the battles—untrue, though we win most at the tactical level—but somehow the final results rarely reflect that.
Could it be that our definition of ‘battle’ is different to that of the enemy? We think in terms of big battles and ferocious firefights where American firepower and the courage of our troops win the day. Our enemies are content to harry us, bleed us, confine us, limit us tactically, and out-wait us. It is a strategy which has been employed successfully against us since the Korean War and which we seem either unable or unwilling to encounter. The MICC doesn’t seem to want to. The current American Way of War—the most expensive in history—is extremely profitable.
The Air Force’s hatred of the Close Air Support mission (and its many variations) is legendary, and many fine young Americans have been killed or injured as a consequence.
A very strong case can now now be made that the Air Force should not exist as an independent service any more. Certainly, those aspects that need to be integrated tactically with ground forces—such as CAS—should revert to the Army.
Will anything happen to Major General Post for attempting to deprive Congress of information which members are entirely entitled to?
If the past is any guide, probably not. Reprehensible behavior by generals is disturbingly common and the club of generals tends to rally round when it happens.
By the way, it is important—vital—not to confuse the fighting soldier, marine, or sailor, with the MICC. The former deserve our full support. The latter needs to be investigated and broken up.
Both our Armed Services and our defense industry contain many fine people, and are truly remarkable in many ways, but the core of the system, the Pentagon, the MICC—the Military Industrial Congressional Complex—is rotten.
VOR words 1,392.