Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Officer Corps Stands Up... part way

You heard it here, first.

You heard it here in 2004, and 2005, when no one else even mentioned the two words "Officer Corps" together, let alone seemed willing to discuss the Bush Administration's relentless war against professionalism. Its drive to harass and chivvy and intimidate and quash the skilled men and women -- not only of the US military, but also the Civil Service, the Intelligence Services and the Justice Department.

Gradually, even the obstinate must see, and so some pundits have been adding their own voices, though never putting all the pieces together. And never cogently enough to crystallize this as THE political issue of our time. The one that could sink the Bush Cabal and seal the coffin on the trumped-up and unnecessarily divisive so-called "culture war."

An issue so powerful and overwhelmingly proved that it would make a perfect test for every "ostrich conservative." Either they wake up and realize that their party has been hijacked by monsters - and do something about it - or recognize that they have made an open choice to side with political monsters against the decent men and women who defend this country and make it work.

It is as simple as that.

And now...

And now things seem finally to be rolling. Ostriches, take note.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Rumbles in military hint at change

Published on: 04/30/07

Time and again, President Bush has tried to hide his incompetence behind our men and women in uniform. Repeatedly, criticism of his policies has been distorted into an attack on the troops; too often, questions about his strategy have been brushed aside with claims that his policy had been dictated by his generals.

Even now, with the House and Senate trying to force a change of direction, the White House accuses Congress of trying to "micromanage our commanders and generals," redefining the debate as a disagreement between Congress and the military, not with the president.

I think that game is about to end. I think President Bush is losing the American military, and that while he wrangles with Congress over deadlines, in the end it will be the military that forces dramatic changes in policy in Iraq.

Signs of that change abound. When the White House recently asked five retired four-star generals to serve as a so-called "war czar" overseeing our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, all five declined, a remarkable sign of disgust among those with a culture of service.

"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan said in explaining his refusal to consider the post.

That sense of a military establishment finally losing patience is also reflected in the behavior of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates has refused to toe the party line, asserting an independence that the Bush White House must find maddening. While the president was in Washington condemning Democrats for undercutting the troops, Gates was in Iraq announcing that the debate in Congress "probably has had a positive impact — at least I hope it has in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment."

Adm. William Fallon, the head of Central Command, signaled a similar change by banning use of the term "long war" to describe our struggle in the Middle East. "The idea that we are going to be involved in a 'Long War' at the current level of operations is not likely and unhelpful," a spokesman explained.

Perhaps the most telling signal, however, came in a devastating critique published last week in Armed Forces Journal by an active-duty Army lieutenant colonel, Paul Yingling.

The piece, headlined "A Failure of Generalship," is nominally an attack on today's military leadership, which itself is extraordinary. The main thrust of Yingling's argument is that too many generals have stood mute while civilian leaders misled the nation about what is really happening in Iraq, repeating a mistake that led to disaster in Vietnam.

"While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage," Yingling writes. "In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters," and even though that has begun to change, "they may have waited too long."

Yingling has served two tours of duty in Iraq. As a graduate of the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies, he had already been identified as one of the service's best and brightest, and he has made clear his intent to stay in the Army. With this critique, he has placed that career and his chance at a general's stars in severe jeopardy, but his willingness to take that risk will echo through the ranks as an example of the moral courage he finds absent in many of his superiors.

All these signs point to a storm gathering within the military, especially as the strains imposed on the Army by the surge become more apparent. In that regard, it is interesting to note that Army Gen. David Petraeus, commanding officer of U.S. forces in Iraq, has recently and repeatedly stressed his intention to provide the American public an honest assessment of progress or failure by September. By then, he suggests, the effects of the surge and the willingness of the Iraqi government to reform will be more apparent.

Last week, Petraeus was asked whether that assessment could conceivably include telling the president that things aren't working and the troops should come home.

"I have an obligation to some wonderful young men and women in uniform ... who are serving in Iraq, and who deserve a forthright assessment from the folks at the top ... and that's what I'm going to provide," Petraeus said.

Gates and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, have joined Petraeus in setting September as an crucial time of reassessment. In other words, while Congress and the president wrangle about deadlines, a deadline of sorts may already have been set."


Oh... but this is still so mild, so tepid. And so long as the dems ignore the crying need and opportunity, they share the blame.


Xactiphyn said...

And so long as the dems ignore the crying need and opportunity, they share the blame.

I largely agree, but there are so many fish in Bush' barrel, it is hard to shoot all of them.

Also, the public never seems to engage in an debate unless the specifics are perfectly clear. I think everyone on this blog understands that the attorney firings are just a single example of where Bush got caught purging all that are not loyal and partisan enough.

In general, I've been very happy with congress these past few months.

JuhnDonn said...

Maybe I'm just plain stupid, but with all the mud on the President and BushCo. in general, why are the old guard press and the political opposition all tiptoeing around the last few years? It's like an entire family hushing things up about 'Uncle George touching children' or some such. Sure, they'll say that other's in 'the family' are wrong but they don't dare show the dirty laundry. WTF?

JuhnDonn said...

Oh yeah, here's the link to A failure in generalship
By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling

Anonymous said...

I largely agree, but there are so many fish in Bush' barrel, it is hard to shoot all of them.

Why use a gun when you can take a wide-reaching net and hang them all out to dry?

Subpoena the whole administration.

RandomSequence said...

Why the timidity?

My take: we live in a fantasy world of American toughness. We've actually been "Organization Men" since the '30's. A bunch of wimps conditioned by the grinding poverty of the thirties and the military training of the forties to be "team players" (or in other words, followers).

Even the French from time to time get out in the streets to burn cars, block highways, and otherwise show their displeasure with the system. Most of us, however, are afraid to rock the boat.

We fantasize that we're cowboys, even though we're mostly cubicle workers, afraid to question anything or hurt anyones feelings.

You're not seeing timidity. You're seeing "American Courage" in action. When military men, men trained to kill, are too "intimidated" by their bosses to stand up to them in order to protect their country and the lives of their countrymen, you know what "American Courage" is. A far cry from the nineteenth century.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but amusing.... XKCD's interpretative map of the social web.
Note clever features like the Sea of Memes and the cardinal rose.

Anonymous said...

Ugh.. here's the URL.

David Brin said...

RandomS this is one reason I like my community. So many bright and well educated people to disagree with!

In the case of your message above, I cannot see a single thing that I deem to be true, even glancingly. Sorry!

Dig it. 9/11 happened precisely - no more and no less - because many weak ego'd people who follow rival memes or nations always face a quandary over how to explain the vast levels of American success, happiness, prosperity, luck, creativity and freedom.

Instead of pondering the possibility that the Anglo-American branch of the Enlightenment, emphasizing rule-constrained competitiveness, might simply know some better ways to live, they almost universally swerve - as if by reflex - to the Standard Alternative Explanation.

"Americans made a devil's bargain. They bought all those sybarite pleasures and decadent lives by trading away something precious.” From the Confederacy to the adversaries of WWI and WWII, to the Cold War to the culture clash with militant Islam, and many other times, the answer is always that “urban Americans have given up their soul or manhood.”

And many WITHIN our society grab for this smug model, too. Rural salt-of the-Earth types or counterculture leftists, united in disdain for those decadent, smooth urbanites. Because it makes them feel superior to the masses, to their sheep-piggy neighbors. What a cliche!

Not that I don't have criticisms of my neighbors! I got plenty! They are the ones who let the “2” in the date terrify them and drive them into turning away from the future. My biggest complaint.

But I hate cliches. Especially ones that were so decisively disproved on a single day, by the heroes of New York and UA 93. No manhood or guts? Hah!


ALSO... I lived in France for two years, and I can tell you that your interpretation of student-worker violent solidarity - those riots you admire - is diametrically opposite to the truth. Individualism? In France?

Yes. They like to think so. But every opinion is group thought and by the numbers, taken from party scripture. Yes, we are starting to look that way over here, too! But we did NOT seem as perfectly rote-partisan when I lived in Europe in the 80s and 90s. Not until Culture War came along.

Dig it. I lived next to the University of Paris. Once every two weeks or so, I saw a single free-thinking student who was not wearing dark brown or black. One. Maybe each fortnight. She might add a daring colored scarf to “the uniform.” That's it. The rest of the time? All black. Everybody. All the time. Give me a $#$# break.


As for the officers taking so long to fight back and tyranny by Bushite fratboy dopes, well, careful what you wish for. Don't you DARE wish for them to be free and easy about resisting civilian authority!

A total reflex devotion to civil authority is the proudest legacy of George Marshall.

The very fact that George W Bush has FORCED so many officers to start pondering resistance may be the greatest crime and damage done by the neocon monsters. Be chilled that it came to this.

Andrew S. Taylor said...

Hello Mr. Brin,

As a New Yorker, I appreciate your defense of us urban folk. a former resident of Paris, couldn't you be a little more nuanced on the France-bashing? Or at least provide an example of "groupthink" more meaningful than the fashion choices of university students? Especially when, come winter-time in NYC, everyone is dressed in much the same color-scheme you describe in Paris....

And as for the reasons for the attacks of 9/11 - am I mistaken or are you making the claim that envy was the motivation for the attacks? Because that, IMO, is really messed up. I humbly submit that, pro-Enlightenment as I am, "rule-constrained competitiveness" is not soley responsible for the anger certain nations and/or groups direct against the U.S.

I must also admit to agreeing with RandomS re: the social timidity of "organization men."

RandomSequence said...


Oh, I wouldn't give Europeans props on individualism. But they have less self-delusion regarding it. That is what I feel a need to point out. Our national mythology is particularly disconnected from reality. We are no more individualistic, moral, or courageous than anyone else.

And of course you have to give credit to the folks on 9/11 who recognized they weren't going to come out of it alive, and decided to do something - that is courageous. But in day to day living, Americans show little courage or individuality, on top of a lack of solidarity. We have to face that, and not expect a fountain of courage to suddenly erupt and save us - it's simply not there. It wasn't there in 33 in Germany, when the center-right gave Hitler the Enabling Act.

We are little different from the cowardice that most (but not all) Germans showed at that time. It's one of the universals of middle class life - keeping your head down and not rocking the boat.

To summarize: 1) We are no more individualistic or courageous than people of any other developed nation. 2) We happen to live under a particular amount of self-delusion regarding that (as are the French, but less so the Germans after their comeuppance).


Polar cities in the far distant future to house remnants of humankind
who survive the apocalypse of devastating global warming? The casual
reader might think I am an alarmist or a mere scare-monger, but I am
neither. I am a visionary.

Polar cities are proposed sustainable polar retreats designed to house
human beings in the future, in the event that global warming causes
the central and middle regions of the Earth to become uninhabitable
for a long period of time. Although they have not been built yet, some
futurists have been giving considerable thought to the concepts

I know, I know, the very thought of "polar cities" sounds like some
science-fiction movie you don't want to see. But it might be
instructive to think about such sustainable Artic and Antartic
communities for the future of humankind. If worse come to worse, and
things fall apart, perhaps by the year 2500 or the year 3000, we must
might need polar cities. And perhaps the time to start thinking about
them, and designing and planning them (and maybe even building, or
pre-building them), is now.

Here is more food for thought, from an entry in Wikipedia:
"High-population-density cities, to be built in the polar regions,
with sustainable energy and transportation infrastructures, will
require substantial nearby agriculture. Boreal soils are largely poor
in key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, but nitrogen-fixing
plants (such as the various alders in the Artic region) with the
proper symbiotic microbes and mycorrhizal fungi can likely remedy such
poverty without the need for petroleum-derived fertilizers. Regional
probiotic soil improvement should perhaps rank high on any polar
cities priority list. James Lovelock's notion of a widely distributed
almanac of science knowledge and post-industrial survival skills also
appears to have value."

Oh, I know it's fashionable to mock global warming alarmists and doom
and gloom futurists with no credentials except a keyboard and a blog,
but there's a method to the madness of thinking about polar cities.
Maybe, just maybe, if enough people hear about the concept of polar
cities and realize how serious such a possibility is, maybe, just
maybe, they will get off their tuches and start thinking hard and fast
about how we humans are causing climate change by our lifestyles and
inventions and gadgets and need for cars and airplanes and trains and
ships and factories and coal-burning plants across the globe -- and
then maybe it won't be fashionable to mock global warming alarmists

The future does not look good. But we can do something now. No, not
building polar cities now. That's for the future to decide. What we
can do now is stop what we are doing now and start planning in a more
sane way for the future of the species. If we even care. I do. We must
stop all human acitivity that is responsible for emitting carbon
dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere. Now. It's getting later earlier
and earlier, I tell you.

June 27, 2007 9:13 PM