Copyright by John T. Reed
Defense Secretary Robert Gates made comments in April, 2008 that sound a lot like what I have been saying in these articles at this Web site. That’s not to say he got the idea from me. I would not know about that. Rather, he is a consummate insider saying similar things to what I am saying as a consummate outsider.
However, on 5/13/09 Gates revealed that he is just another sleazy politician when he said he had compete confidence in General Stanley A. McChrystal. McChrystal was the main liar in the Pat Tillman cover-up. The Army’s own inquiry recommended that McChrystal be disciplined. He was not. Quite the contrary, on 5/11/09 he was promoted to four-star general, the highest rank in the U.S. military, and promoted to the most sought after job in the U.S. military, Afghanistan commander.
See my articles:
Gates was an Air Force officer as a young man just as I was an Army officer in my early 20s. He is three years older than I am and he is a graduate of William and Mary College. I graduated from West Point. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army in 1968; Gates, in 1967.
He made two pertinent speeches in mid-April, 2008: one to young officers at the Air Forces’s Air University at Maxwell, Air Force Base in Alabama and the other to cadets at West Point.
Among his comments:
Air Force resisting drones
Gates complained that the military ground forces and civilian leaders want more unmanned aircraft like the Predator drone but that the Air Force [and I presume Navy and Marine air divisions as well] prefer piloted aircraft.
Gates described his efforts to get more unmanned drones as “like pulling teeth.” I have a suggestion: Take them away from the Air Force, Navy, and Marines and let the Army own and control the drones and their budgets. As I said in one of my articles at this Web site, you can tell the men from the boys by the size of their toys and lovers of piloted aircraft, in which the pilots get to strut around as heroes, want their toys. The show-offs of the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds will not soon be flying unmanned jets.
Gates did not quite go this far but I will. The Air Force is more interested in playing the part of fighter and bomber pilots than they are in the real military needs of the current and likely future wars. I heard this crap back when I was in the military 40 years ago. Back then, the Air Force did not like troop-carrier planes—not glamorous enough. They only wanted armed aircraft in which they could be heroes. Troop carriers, like the C-141s, make Army paratroopers the heroes. It’s not about national defense. It’s about showing off.
Innovation versus careerism
At Maxwell, Gates also urged the young Air Force officers to think innovatively and worry less about their careers than about adapting to a changing world. Many of the military articles at this Web site are about those issues. See the complete list at www.johntreed.com/military.html. (You can see the complete Gates speech at Maxwell at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1231.)
I denounce careerists in many of my articles. A careerist is someone who places his own personal career advancement above all else including accomplishment of the mission and the welfare of his subordinates and who, when he feels it’s necessary, lies, cheats, and steals to get promotions.
Did Gates say that Air Force officers are doing that? No. Secretaries of Defense do not say such things. But by saying they should think innovatively and worry less about their careers than about adapting to a changing world he was damned well implying that they have not been innovative enough and that too many of them have, indeed, been placing their own career advancement ahead of the needs of the national defense.
‘Fearless, thoughtful but loyal dissent’
At West Point, he told the cadets to “take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it.” (You can read the full transcript of the speech at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1233)
I have said that here as well. Specifically, I said that military officers have a duty to tell their superiors when we are not pursuing a war correctly. If the superiors do not change, I said, the officer has a duty to privately climb the chain of command repeating his advice. If no one in the entire chain of command will listen, he has a duty to resign in protest and continue his efforts to correct the situation outside the military. If he still cannot find anyone who will listen and make the desired changes, he can go become a hedge fund manager. He has done this duty.
I also noted that as far as I can tell, no service academy graduate has ever done that in the history of the U.S. military. The closest I can come to finding such an officer is General Billy Mitchell, a non-service-academy graduate who was courtmarialed then forced out of the Army for his dissent. (Among other things, he said that a plane could sink a ship, which the Navy said was not true. The military told him to shut up. He refused saying it was a matter of national interest.) After he died, the military honored him by naming a World War II bomber after him among other things.
Again, Gates did not tell the cadets that Army officers were currently “fearful” and unwilling to express “thoughtful but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it,” but he sure as hell would not have said what he did unless he were extremely unhappy about the level of fearlessness and thoughtful, but loyal dissent in the U.S. Army officer corps. For those readers who have never been in the U.S. Army officer corps, the level of moral fearlessness is zero, as is the level of dissent of any kind.
‘Defend your integrity as you would your life’
Gates also admonished the cadets to, “Defend your integrity as you would your life.” That’s Secretary of Defense talk for, “You guys need to end this U.S. military officer habit of lying routinely in official business.” See my article, “Is military integrity a contradiction in terms?”
But then Gates expressed complete confidence in General McChrystal, indicating that Gates’ words at West Point were just the usual “do as I say not as I do” hypocrisy. If Gates would defend his integrity as he would his career, then we would have something.
My car insurance company, USAA, which was started by Army officers and whose members are primarily military officers cancelled my homeowners insurance and refused to offer me umbrella liability insurance because of my Web site articles. Since Gates is a former Air Force officer, chances are that he, too, is a member of USAA. And now he has posted speeches saying many of the same things that I said at his Web site. No doubt USAA will be canceling his insurance momentarily as well.