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April 25, 2008

Comfortably Dumb

Not long ago on a breezy morning I drove hell for leather through the sun dappled woods, scattering squirrels before me like autumn leaves on the ribbon of road before my squealing tires. As so often happens when I'm driving, I had one of those flashes of insight that seem so amazing at the moment they impact a quietly racing mind.

Later, of course, one wonders if they will survive thoughtful analysis? Were they really all that interesting, or did the early morning sunshine imbue yet another random cranial meandering with false luminescence?

I was driving my son's car, enjoying the feel of the tires hugging the road and the sensation of shifting gears once again after far too long behind the wheel of our mid-size automatic SUV. Strange how it made me feel so young again, the familiar feel of a smaller, manual transmission vehicle. It felt right. I felt connected to the road; not how I so often feel when driving our new car. Insulated, as though I'm floating a few inches above the highway, not really driving the car myself.

Sure, it's less of a hassle during rush hour. No more constant shifting of gears. No ache in the left knee sometimes when I am stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But the joy is gone. That is what hard work and the affluence that came with it purchase. Automatic transmissions. Fences. Larger yards. Gated communities. Insulation from the day to day inconveniences of life.

But also, the loss of joy and connectedness. Somewhere in the search for security, for freedom from inconvenience, from want, from ugliness, from the ups, downs, bumps, jostles, and random unpredictability of a life lived on the edge, we purchase a buffer zone for ourselves and our loved ones.

We became comfortably numb. Because you can't eliminate the lows without losing the highs too.

I hate numb. I want to feel alive, even with all the risks and inconveniences that entails. I have nothing against prosperity, but I don't wish to lose that sense of connectedness in my life. This is what I have seen so many people do: they become well to do and forget where they came from. They lose the relationship between work and rewards. Or more accurately their children do. It is easy to do. All of a sudden, they don't want to roll their sleeves up, get their hands dirty when the unglamorous jobs in life need doing. You see, they're special:

Buckethead John has the tale of a reserve Navy lieutenant who refused orders to go on an individual augment, including the reaction of another junior officer already forward on his own IA.

LT Weiner of WA has taken it upon herself to disgrace every other junior officer that has ever served in the Navy by violating some time-tested rules for JOs. She was ordered to go to Iraq as an IA, but has refused. This is not a conscientious objector issue, but rather appears that her motives are much more self-centered.

Clicking through to the original article, I am dumbfounded at the depth of this young woman's self-absorption:

Speaking publicly for the first time about it, Weiner says she was not against the war but the so-called "individual augmentee" program. In the past several years, that program has sent nearly 60,000 sailors from ships and bases to augment Army and Marine ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is not an against-the-war argument but a people-accountability argument," Weiner says. "I was proud to say I was a Navy officer. My problem is the way they are using us as IAs. It minimizes the job and training we do for the Navy."

It cannibalizes the Navy -- and Air Force -- to cover up a shortage of Army and Marine troops to fight the wars, she argues.

Her last good report was November 2007, this time newly assigned to a joint service unit of the Selective Service System in New Orleans.

"She is most strongly recommended for promotion and greater responsibility in the Naval Reserve," her commander wrote.

It all unraveled on Jan. 9 when she received orders to be called up.

She agonized over the policy and her own convictions, readiness and obligations as an officer. The job seemed to her a random call for a warm body.

"I was not afraid of dying; I was afraid of acting out of weakness," she said. "It would have been easier to just go along with it." Weiner was to report Jan. 28. She was depressed, and she tried to call local Navy lawyers for advice. "I was told they could do nothing because I'm a reservist" with her headquarters in New Orleans, she said.

She turned to GI Rights hot line, a nonprofit organization at www.objector.orgthat offers legal help to servicemen and women, especially to those refusing to go to war.

Weiner found a lawyer and filed a request for personal hardship. In a conference call, her commanding offer was angry at her, she said. "I never got to tell them why I was refusing to deploy," she said. He ordered her report to New Orleans.

Weiner said she refused to report while her request for exemption was in the pipeline. Counselors and lawyers seemed unfamiliar with how to handle officers refusing to report, having handled mostly Army enlisted personnel.

A Navy official tried to reach her at her parents' home. Weiner was told to report voluntarily or risk arrest and being transported in shackles.

"My dad said, 'We support you. They are trying to send you to an Army position in Iraq. I understand.' "

It's interesting. I received a phone call at the beginning of this week from the Marine Corps Family Team Building Center. It was a nice phone call, if a bit puzzling. They were checking up on my after my husband's recent deployment. One of the questions they asked was whether anyone had ever contacted me during his year long absence to offer any support.

I said, "No." Because no one did. It wasn't a big deal. He was in an Individual Augment billet. I decided not to post a rather heated comment here at VC just a few days ago. It was probably better not voiced, but what prompted it was a remark about people being "sent" off to war.

It pissed me off, because my husband wasn't "sent" to Iraq. He asked to go. More accurately, he had to go out of his way (essentially find himself a job) to get over there. I've seen many Marines and Army and civilian contractors do that, just because they thought they ought to be doing their part. It certainly wasn't going to do him any good career-wise. He is what they call 'terminal': i.e., close to retirement. He couldn't care less what anyone thinks of him, or what goes onto his fitrep at this point. He just did what he thought was the right thing, and the job he went over there to do was not a job that used his full talents, or one that was glamorous, or even one he was 'trained for'.

If you ask me (not that anyone did) I think he was bored out of his mind for most of the 12 months he was over there. But the job needed to be done, and grown ups eat their vegetables. Someone has to do the unglamorous jobs in life. Unless, of course, you are Lieutenant Sabrina M. Weiner, United States Navy.

What in the hell was she thinking? Serving the Constitution? People are already saying that the Army and Marine Corps are at war and the Air Force and Navy are not. This blog has tried - and tried hard, because we know there are good people like BillT over there right now, not to be one of the snarkers in that chorus. People like Lt. Weiner don't help the Navy's reputation, and I say that as someone whose father and father in law were career officers. 60,000 other Navy men and women have done their duty, but she is a special case. Except that, in talking to my husband, there are apparently others who have a problem serving outside their service and outside their occupational specialty in time of war. Lex (despite being doomed to spend his days as a Nasal Radiator rather than as one of the Few and the Loud) gets it exactly right:

There’s a world of difference between volunteering for hard service or a bad deal and doing what you’re told to do, just like there’s a reason they’re called “orders” and not “do you wannas”. The oath of office says that we’ll support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, but it doesn’t guarantee we’ll get to do that from the deck of a warship. That’s life in the fleet - sometimes things suck. Best to shut up, ruck up and get it over with. Orders are orders - misery is optional.

When did Americans become so rigid, so precious, so unadaptable? What happened to the can-do spirit the world once admired?

Over at the Castle, John Donovan highlights a remarkable speech by SecDef Robert Gates. He begins with a history lesson:


The relatively unknown Major General Fox Connor was a mentor to both General's Eisenhower and Marshall, and was highly thought of by General of the Armies "Blackjack" Pershing.

One of his enduring legacies (and one enshrined in the Powell Doctrine) was his three principles of war for a democracy:

· Never fight unless you have to;
· Never fight alone;
· And never fight for long.

This topic was the subject of a lecture that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, on Monday, 21 April. In this lecture, he discussed the current fights in Iraq and Afghanistan using those principle as the lens of his discussion.

He does not offer answers, as much as he offers insight, and he says to the audience of cadets and faculty:

In discussing Fox Conner's three axioms, I've raised questions and provided few, if any, answers, and that's the point. It is important that you think about all this, not just at the Academy but throughout your military careers, and come to your own conclusions.

Emphasis mine.

Ah yes. The Powell Doctrine. Or more accurately if one can discount the media cant, the Weinburger Doctrine. More simply put, democracies have no business waging wars.

As my husband likes to say, it's a concept. If only we lived in a world where such luxuries were possible. Gates' speech is really a miracle of subtlety. I commend it to you, as John does, it its entirety. It is almost certain to be misreported, because (like the war itself) it doesn't have a pat message that can be easily encapsulated in a neat little catchphrase. It urges you to think:

Consider the conflicts today. Afghanistan is widely viewed as a war of necessity – striking back at the staging ground of the perpetrators of the September 11th attack. The Iraq campaign, while justified in my view, is seen differently by many people. Two weeks ago I testified, in front of the Congress on the Iraq War. I observed that we were attacked, at home in 2001, from Afghanistan. And we are at war in Afghanistan today, in no small measure, because we mistakenly turned out backs on Afghanistan after the Soviet troops left in the late 1980s.

We made a strategic mistake in the endgame of that war. If we get the endgame wrong in Iraq, I told the Congress, the consequences will be far worse.

Truth to tell, it's a hard sell to say we must sustain the fight in Iraq right now and continue to absorb the high financial and human cost of the struggle, in order to avoid an even uglier fight or even greater danger to our country in the future. But we have Afghanistan to remind us that these are not just hypothetical risks.

Conner's axiom – never fight unless you have to – looms over policy discussions today over rogue nations like Iran that support terrorism; that is a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia and, in my judgment, is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. And in fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat – either directly or through nuclear proliferation.

And then there's the threat posed by violent jihadist networks. The doctrine of preemption has been criticized in many quarters, but it is an answer to legitimate questions. With the possibility of proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical materials, and the willingness of terrorists to use them without warning, can we wait to respond until after a catastrophic attack is either imminent or has already occurred? Given the importance of public opinion and public support, how does one justify military action to prevent something that might happen tomorrow or several years down the road? While "never fight unless you have to" does not preclude preemption, after our experience with flawed information regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, how high must the threshold of confidence in our intelligence have to be to justify at home and abroad a preemptive or preventive war?

No simple answers here. And no comfortable ones. And Gates goes on to address the important issue of integrity; of standing up for what one believes in, but more importantly, of how one goes about doing that within a military framework with honor:

More broadly, if as an officer – listen to me very carefully – if as an officer you don't tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then you've done yourself and the institution a disservice. This admonition goes back beyond the roots of our own republic. Sir Francis Bacon was a 17th century jurist and philosopher as well as a confidante of the senior minister of England's King James. He gave this advice to a protégé looking to follow in his steps at court: “Remember well the great trust you have undertaken; you are as a continual sentinel, always to stand upon your watch to give [the king] true intelligence. If you flatter him, you betray him.” Remember that. If you flatter him, you betray him.

In Marshall's case, he was able to forge a bond of trust with Roosevelt not only because his civilian boss could count on his candor, because once a decision was made, FDR could also count on Marshall to do his utmost to carry out a policy – even if he disagreed with it – and make it work. This is important because the two men clashed time and again in the years that followed, ranging from yet more matters of war production to whether the allies should defer an invasion on the mainland of Europe.

Consider the situation in mid-1940. The Germans had just overrun France and the battle of Britain was about to begin. FDR believed that rushing arms and equipment to Britain, including half of America's bomber production, should be the top priority in order to save our ally. Marshall believed that rearming America should come first. Roosevelt overruled Marshall and others, and came down on what most historians believe is the correct decision – to do what was necessary to keep England alive.

The significant thing is what did not happen next. There was a powerful domestic constituency for Marshall's position among a whole host of newspapers and congressmen and lobbies, and yet Marshall did not exploit and use them. There were no overtures to friendly congressional committee chairmen, no leaks to sympathetic reporters, no ghostwritten editorials in newspapers, no coalition-building with advocacy groups. Marshall and his colleagues made the policy work and kept England alive.

In the ensuing decades, a large permanent military establishment emerged as a result of the Cold War – an establishment that forged deep ties to the Congress and to industry. And over the years, senior officers have from time to time been tempted to use these ties to do end runs around the civilian leadership, particularly during disputes over purchase of large major weapons systems. This temptation should and must be resisted.

Marshall has been recognized as a textbook model for the way military officers should handle disagreements with superiors and in particular with the civilians vested with control of the armed forces under our Constitution. So your duties as an officer are:

· To provide blunt and candid advice always;
· To keep disagreements private;
· And to implement faithfully decisions that go against you.

As with Fox Conner's lessons of war, these principles are a solid starting point for dealing with issues of candor, dissent and duty. But like Conner's axioms, applying these principles to the situations military leaders face today and in the future is a good deal more complicated.

Gates closes with words that echo an argument I made long ago during the brouhaha over another Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. It was argued at that time that Secretary Rumsfeld had ruthlessly crushed dissent within the Pentagon; that full Generals were "afraid" to cross him.

I remember that controversy, because I argued vigorously that any General who was so attached to his stars that he forgot who he was there to protect was unworthy of that rank. Officers are, first and foremost, leaders of men and women. I am an officer's daughter. Officers have the privileges of rank, not because they are in any way special, but because they are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the welfare and safety of the ranks beneath them. It is, at times, a crushing responsibility. If they fail in this responsibility, they are relieved and even court martialed, often for things they themselves did not do wrong, but merely failed to know about, prevent or detect. They bear responsibility not just for their own actions, but for the actions of those under their command.

Probably the single most difficult attribute to develop in a leader is sound judgment, but when I have seen this quality in an officer it is almost always grounded in a firm set of personal values:

Here at West Point, as at every university and company in America, there's a focus on teamwork, consensus-building and collaboration. Yet make no mistake, the time will come when you must stand alone in making a difficult, unpopular decision, or when you must challenge the opinion of superiors or tell them that you can't get the job done with the time and the resources available – a difficult charge in an organization built on a “can-do” ethos; or a time when you will know that what superiors are telling the press or the Congress or the American people is inaccurate. There will be moments when your entire career is at risk. What will you do? What will you do?

These are difficult questions that you should be thinking about, both here at West Point and over the course of your career. There are no easy answers.

But if you follow the dictates of your conscience and the courage of your convictions while being respectfully candid with your superiors while encouraging candor in others, you will be in good stead for the challenges you will face as officers and leaders in the years ahead.

Defend your integrity as you would your life. If you do this, I am confident when you face these tough dilemmas, you will, in fact, know the right thing to do.

More and more these days, I see America drifting down the easy path where we expect all privileges but no responsibilities. The idea that, as Philip Carter argues in the linked piece, one might have to do one's duty in a job one disagrees with, seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

The Powell Doctrine is, in my unvarnished opinion (though Gates didn't spell it out and it may not be his opinion, I will) the easy path. The perfect conditions for war are unlikely ever to exist in this imperfect world:

- broad international support
- clear (and sustainable) domestic support
- fully foreseeable consequences and exit strategy
- all risks/costs fully/frankly analyzed

And even if they did at the beginning of any military action, things change. As the old axiom states, no plan long survives contact with the enemy. Or these days, being hacked to death by our own press corps.

And yet our enemies do not fight under the same constraints. We exist in the affluent world, wrapped (as it were) in cotton wool, insulated from the accidental bumps and jarring discords of life by our standard of living. And so exigencies like forcing a young Navy Lieutenant to serve outside of her chosen occupational specialty during time of war seem intolerable to us, while half a world away our enemies are willing to strap explosives to women and children, if that is what it takes to win.

We have become comfortably dumb. Some of us, perhaps wilfully so.

Posted by Cassandra at April 25, 2008 07:06 AM

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But if you follow the dictates of your conscience and the courage of your convictions while being respectfully candid with your superiors while encouraging candor in others, you will be in good stead for the challenges you will face as officers and leaders in the years ahead.

Defend your integrity as you would your life. If you do this, I am confident when you face these tough dilemmas, you will, in fact, know the right thing to do."

Excellent, as usual.

Posted by: Ministry of Love at April 25, 2008 12:02 PM

"...exigencies like forcing a young Navy Lieutenant to serve outside of her chosen occupational specialty during time of war..."

--per 5 October 1962
87th Cong., 2d sess.
(Public Law 87-751)
[emphasis mine]
"I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Hmmm.....gee, I just don't see anything in there that says, "When I feel like it." or "As long as it's within my job field." This woman is as full of shite as the trolls that inhabit this website. Comfortably dumb, indeed. And deliberately so, IMHO.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 25, 2008 12:24 PM

This admonition goes back beyond the roots of our own republic. Sir Francis Bacon was a 17th century jurist and philosopher as well as a confidante of the senior minister of England's King James. He gave this advice to a protégé looking to follow in his steps at court: “Remember well the great trust you have undertaken; you are as a continual sentinel, always to stand upon your watch to give [the king] true intelligence. If you flatter him, you betray him.” Remember that. If you flatter him, you betray him.

That's really good advice.

If you ask me (not that anyone did) I think he was bored out of his mind for most of the 12 months he was over there.

I'd have to go along with that. :)

Thank him, though, for going to such lengths to find a way to serve.

Posted by: Grim at April 25, 2008 12:34 PM

Gates isn't saying anything any officer doesn't know in his or her heart to be true, and this is what they are taught from the moment they enter the service.

But by the time the media twist things around, the Evil Darth Rummy has 'intimidated' General officers with a guaranteed retirement into neglecting their sworn duty and we are to feel sorry for them because the press tell us to.

And if you believe that one, there's a lovely bridge in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 25, 2008 12:37 PM

I've seen that bridge....it ain't that lovely.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 25, 2008 12:39 PM

OH, and the ones we *should* believe are the brave truth tellers who go against their sworn oaths, or who can't understand that when you work for a large cabinet department, you don't get to undermine policy by releasing classified documents just because that major policy decision didn't go your way. Because they're "honorable".

Posted by: Cassandra at April 25, 2008 12:40 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 04/25/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at April 25, 2008 01:13 PM

I think that a great deal of the trouble stems from the thought our current society has that "if it feels good, its good; and if it feels bad, its bad". It shows up in our current political discourse, and it shows up in the inability for people to compromise or disagree on friendly terms, rather than go straight for the hate.

Anyhow, this inability to get things done because it is distasteful, uncomfortable, or 'disagree' is a sad lesson that our current generations have learned and internalized.

Posted by: Kevin L at April 25, 2008 01:26 PM

I actually feel sorry for this young woman for several reasons:

1) She has probably torpedoed her career in the Reserves. A "less than honorable discharge" could be in the making. Although as an officer, it's more likely a Court Martial with administrative release. "Being at this time in a state of war..."
Theoretically, you could be hung for this. Or spend time at Leavenworth making small rocks from big rocks.

2) I'm sure there are other officers who "feel" the same way, but did their duty anyways. If she manages to stay in, I think she will be badly treated by most other officers and professional non-coms, because she has shown no respect for the service or the chain of command.

3) This will follow her all the days of her life. Really. If you recall some years ago (during the second term of B. Clinton), a young woman Air Force officer was being groomed to be a B-52 pilot (the first) who was qualified to fly with nuclear weapons. She was bounced out for a relationship with the husband of a non-com junior to her. I wonder if she ever got a plush airline job, because I kinda wonder if even the airlines would trust her? A lot of airline pilots are ex-military or, still reservists. Likewise, this will follow Wiener (Whiner) the rest of her life.

Oops.

She got bad advice, however she rationalizes this decision.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 25, 2008 01:34 PM

Along the lines of Don's comments I also wonder where people get the idea that they can pick and choose. Even in the corporate world an employee who tried to claim that an assigned task is beneath them would be getting a pink slip. Yes, the reference would be unhelpful, and might tend to hurt you downstream.

I think it might be that people have an overblown sense of entitlement. Sorry LT, you are not owed a job to your liking. In fact you have pretty much guaranteed you will never get that job that you think you are worth. LT I hate to tell you this, you are worth what I am willing to pay doing what I deem fit.

It's that little thing called free will. If your not willing, feel free to hit the road.

Posted by: Allen at April 25, 2008 02:36 PM

"She is most strongly recommended for promotion and greater responsibility in the Naval Reserve"...

And by her actions has shown that she lacks the maturity to cope with that "greater responsibility."

Getting a *Walks-On-Water* OER usually means you know where the subsurface rocks lie -- not that you're capable of hopping out of the boat and emulating a waterbug...

...there are good people like BillT...

Owwwwww -- a shot right to my poor, curmudgeonly reputation!

Posted by: BillT at April 25, 2008 04:58 PM

Secretary Gates got it right. Signing/swearing the oath...well, your ass is ours. That technicality aside, his plea to listen to your heart and do what is right is curious to me. I thought that's the way it was supposed to work. Ah, youth; shit, they know everything.

Posted by: 'Uigi at April 25, 2008 05:48 PM

Well Bill, I'd have said all the nice things I really think about you, but I didn't want to encourage you :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 25, 2008 05:53 PM

But I'm incorrigible precisely *because* I'm encouragable...

Posted by: BillT at April 26, 2008 01:41 AM

If you only fight when you have to, then you'll be using those nukes when you have to as well. And they'll be in the same vicinity to each other.

Or you can fight now by an advanced initiative choice and avoid having to use nukes because we don't "have" to fight.

It all depends on how big a crater people want to see made on the Earth's crust.

A few hundred thousand IED craters or a couple of dozen kilometer sized craters?

It's interesting to see the loyalty question being brought up in relation to military expediency and chain of command. I wrote on my blog on the subject of a pro-war person turning against the war and the President and how this was destructive criticism instead of constructive.

How does a staff officer, to use that analogy, work to better the Admiral’s plans and goals by telling the Admiral he should just quit because his government, his advisers, his staff, except for that specific staff officer, are all not telling the truth about the war progress and benefits? If you aren’t willing to obey or accept the leadership’s decisions, then any criticism you create will be destructive. Since it is now no longer a team environment in which the staff works with the admiral, but a destructively competitive war environment in which the staff officer must now win against the Admiral in order to be proven right.

That’s the difference in the end. Even when people like me didn’t like Bush’s actions, we wouldn’t agree to destroy his plans simply because we disagreed. Nor would we tell Bush to do things that are counter to his goals and the goals of the Presidency’s mission in Iraq. We, or I, are not the President, he is. Even though some of his actions are stuck on stubborn and pretty naive, there’s nothing to be done about it except to try to give him a better alternative. The “Loyal Opposition”, which only ever really included Republicans, were supposed to adopt a similar view of the President’s policies in war. Obviously “supposed to” and “in reality” are two different things.

Destructive criticism doesn’t give a better alternative. What it does is say “my way or the highway”. That’s not conducive to teamwork and it sure as heck won’t increase the chances for success in Iraq.

More details and background here

We exist in the affluent world, wrapped (as it were) in cotton wool, insulated from the accidental bumps and jarring discords of life by our standard of living.

Bookworm reminded me of Aesop's the Tortoise and the Hare fable. America is the Hare in that we have a jump start on most nations, cultures, and people because of historical sacrifices by the people that built this nation up. But this creates a sense of entitlement, safety, a belief in our own invulnerability that motivates the Hare to take a nap before the race has ended. Then up comes the slow Jihadist with their low tech weapons and sorry arsed maintained tools to hack the rich and opulent Hare's head off and carry it to the finish line.

We have become comfortably dumb. Some of us, perhaps wilfully so.

It is like the Knowledge of Good and Evil. You can either refuse it and live without free will or you can accept it, the free will that goes with it, but also the evil that goes with it as well. Civilization has many benefits, but the one detriment it eventually produces is decadence, weakness, and spoiled men and women.

I mentioned David Weber here before. One of the reasons I like his stories is because he would often create and describe characters with real integrity and how they would handle difficult military judgments in his stories. Such decisions complete with the full panoply of politics, human flaws, and war time exisgencies helped pierce the MSM's illusions and propaganda operations.

It helps when you have seen the real deal, when attempting to discern the fakes. Always useful against media and Democrat claims that a general or dissident soldier has "integrity" or "courage" for speaking "truth" to Rummy's or Bush's power.

Along the lines of Don's comments I also wonder where people get the idea that they can pick and choose.

I think they get the "idea" because they think it will work to their benefit. Of course, they either got bad advice or they got played.

No traitor, not even Benedict Arnold, did what they did cause they thought it was a "bad thing" to do...

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 26, 2008 03:03 AM

No traitor, not even Benedict Arnold, did what they did cause they thought it was a "bad thing" to do...

...although most knew it was an *illegal* thing to do, and took considerable pains to avoid being caught.

Posted by: BillT at April 26, 2008 12:55 PM

It is basic Pavlovian behavioral conditioning and human sociology if you ask me.

People tend to behave as part of a herd wherein the Alphas are the ones with the initiative to take risks and do things that the herd is afraid of doing.

Once the herd sees that their leader has succeeded in doing something, then it becomes a lot easier for the herd to emulate the action by following.

It is a "herd instinct" which you can see in any number of human sociological groups numbering more than a couple of strangers. In any human group that don't know each other well, the first guy to speak up usually breaks the ice.

Bank robbers can hold hundreds hostage because the herd instinct won't allow a mass rush of the robbers unless an individual starts it and looks like he is succeeding. Since an individual will have a very low chance of succeeding against bank robbers armed with firearms or with numbers more than 2, the "herd rush" never really activates even if an individual takes the initiative to do something proactive.

This is why leading from the front and setting an example is so important in improving military efficiency. Most people just won't get up off their arse and do something unless they see somebody else doing it first. If the leadership doesn't follow the rules and constantly violates it and takes kickbacks, then the rest of the unit sure as heck ain't going to want to upset the status quo by holding themselves to higher or different standards.

All this applies to treason and traitors in a very simple fashion. Once you get a couple of traitors that are "leading the charge" and actually benefiting from their treason, then you get biggazillions of more traitors cropping up like Dragonteeth. Why? Because the herd instinct has been activated.

While killing the leader of a Brownian Motion mob that is gathering can disperse the mob, you need something else entirely once that mob starts moving in the herd stampede mode. Then killing individuals won't do jack, cause the Brownian Motion of the mob has superseded any 'individual' initiative.

This is often similar to (a Germanic tribe) Sweboz barbarian horde that launches a berserk charge with no unit cohesion or discipline or chain of command. Killing leaders, nobles, or individuals selectively in that charge does absolutely nothing because often the nobles and leaders are the only ones that can call a halt to the blood frenzied charge.

To move a herd in a different direction, one must use sheepdogs or some kind of mass psychological weapon or deterrence. Killing single traitors is no longer all that effective any more once the mob has smelled the blood of treason prospering.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 26, 2008 03:44 PM

This post is exactly why I don't read you on a daily basis. There's just not enough time in the day as I know I'll get drawn into another thoughtful analysis of something in our culture that's been eating at me.

Sec. Gates gives a good speech and he picked a good audience. I've been retired from the army for 12 years and served with officers of both stripes, but the ones who were fast friends then and continue in friendship today are those who appreciated candor and guarded their integrity at all times. I was privilged to work with officers from all branches who believe in duty, honor, country. The few who were out for themselves were rarely successful and did a lot of harm to the attitudes of everyone who came in contact with them. I was blessed to serve with a majority of the other type.

Posted by: James at April 27, 2008 03:28 PM

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2008/04/re-comfortably-dumb.html

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at April 29, 2008 01:04 AM

There is more to this than just saying that this officer did not follow lawful orders.

For starters commissioned officers do not take an oath to obey orders from the president. Commissioned officers are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. That is an important distinction and is supposed to prevent American officers from being little nazis just following orders.

There is also a problem with putting people in charge who are not trained for their appointed duties.

In 1994, an MC-130H crashed in Iraq because leaders didn't do their jobs. The last I heard, there weren't any generals fired for that mess.

http://www.cargolaw.com/2005nightmare_c130.html#the-feature

Don't forget the shootdown of the Blackhawk helicopters in Norther Iraq. Bad policy by Air Force generals and sent an unqualified AWACS commander out on a real world mission and the result was that two USAF F-15s shot down two US Army Blackhawks. There was no excuse for that action. The F-15 pilots were given a soft slap and the unqualified individual was given a hard kick in the fanny. Not one general or colonel who created the mess in the first place was called to task.

There is more to the lack of training and improper utilization of reservists and guardsman than most realize.

Posted by: Dave at April 29, 2008 09:41 PM

I am not about to comment on that incident without reading up on it, and in any event that incident has little, if any, bearing on this story. This young woman wasn't being asked to fly an F-15.

And the active forces do jobs all the time for which they haven't received specific training. So do civilians. I do it all the time and I'm in a high tech field. The world would not function if everyone demanded special training before they would even consider taking on new responsibilities. I, in particular, would never had taken, nor succeeded at, a single one of the jobs I have held in my adult life.

Every single one of them has involved on the job training, often exclusively self-administered.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 29, 2008 10:06 PM

Gee, Dave, by your reasoning, then MH, a fully trained and qualified MP of 9 years, should never have been assigned to ride a desk at the base general's building manning the emergency ops center, coordinating JrROTC tour groups, decoding the base CG's email, etc. for four years - during a time of peace, no less. But he was. And he did so with honor and distinction - even though it set him back two years for promotion (because he was no longer in his primary MOS). He did so because he was ordered to, and because 9 years prior he had sworn an oath to obey the orders of those appointed over him. Period.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 29, 2008 10:30 PM

My point is that unqualified individuals in critical positions or supervisory positions lead to serious problems.

Fighter pilots tell everyone that they are the best in the world. In the Blackhawk shootdown, the fighter pilots did not close to visual range on their initial passes. The AWACS commander was not qualified in his position and he authorized the F-15 pilots to shoot without visual identification. That was wrong.

The F-15 pilots were critized for not making a positive identification of their targets before shooting them down but did not face courts martial. No one asked why an unqualified officer was commanding the AWACS that day. The reason was because the Air Force determined it was cheaper to have mid-level officers and NCOs working on the AWACS rather than the senior individuals then working on the system. The Air Force canned the senior AWACS members and put unqualified individuals on the plane instead.

My point is that individuals assigned to tasks that they don't have a clue about can result in tragic outcomes. Bad force management policies in our kindler and gentler military are causing problems.

In my last Air Force job there were plenty of unqualified and uninterested individuals in responsible positions. They botched things up by the numbers. The Air Force bosses said that the assigned individuals could do the job and then those same bosses took no responsibility for the mess that resulted.

Weiner should have reported for duty. There is no doubt about that. But she should have also been able to protest the assignement. So instead of being a job that she thought she couldn't do she could have been given an assignement that would have worked.

Posted by: Dave at April 30, 2008 06:51 PM

I'm sorry, Dave, I just don't understand how handling money, ""They were going to have me negotiate money transactions with Iraqi warlords. A woman of Jewish and East Asian descent to try to talk to men about money in a country where women aren't always allowed to handle money," is beyond her skill abilities as an officer in the Navy - especially in the negotiation department.
And quite frankly comments such as these, "The job seemed to her a random call for a warm body." and "My dad said, 'We support you. They are trying to send you to an Army position in Iraq. I understand.'" stink of disdain for that which is *beneath her Officer's training* -- "My problem is the way they are using us as IAs. It minimizes the job and training we do for the Navy."
IMO, these statements reek of a *better than thou* attitude. This woman voluntarily swore an oath. Part of that oath was to execute the orders of those above her. Yes, she has the right to her opinion of those orders, and she has the right to voice that opinion - through the proper channels - but after that, she has the obligation to follow those orders. Period.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 30, 2008 09:21 PM

Exactly.

As I understand her objection, her fear was not that she would not be able to do the job, but that her special talents as a Naval officer were not called for in that position (IOW, any schmuck could do this job - why should *I* have to go?). It also, frankly, smacks of second-guessing decisions that go waaaaaaay beyond her pay grade.

Ummm... screw that. My husband is a Colonel and he didn't have that attitude. Like her, he may have all sort of opinions, but he understands that if everyone in the armed forces thought their opinions were more important than the orders they were issued, not a hell of a lot would get done.

She is a Lieutenant. And I have no use for officers suffering from delusions of grandeur who haven't figured out that the first responsibility of an officer is to lead by example.

Well, actually she did set an example.

It just happened to be the wrong one.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2008 05:53 AM

"And I have no use for officers suffering from delusions of grandeur who haven't figured out that the first responsibility of an officer is to lead by example."
Ahhh, there's that leadership quality issue again.

I'd not be overly surprised that the odd Ensign might still be grappling with the concept. But an O3 ought to have it down pat, if that is, they will ever have it. And if not, time to pay the piper before the mast and be done with the service. Argghhh!

Posted by: bthun at May 1, 2008 08:41 AM

You can refuse the orders of the President or your superiors. You just have to pay the price of being executed for cowardice in the face of the enemy or court martial for disobeying a direct order, if the ultimate decision goes against you when you are proven wrong and your superiors proven right.

Whether you should risk such a rightful and risky punishment cause you don't like doing an Iraqi Army job, is going to be your decision.

The fact that she has not been punished in the fashion I have described, not yet I suppose, perhaps vindicates her risk vs rewards judgment.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2008 05:16 PM

The fact that she has not been punished in the fashion I have described, not yet I suppose, perhaps vindicates her risk vs rewards judgment.

But she's still a disobedient coward with no sense of loyalty or higher values.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2008 05:18 PM

To address Dave's concerns. If he is worried about incompetent people being put into positions of power while at the same time saying the navy ensign should have lodged a protest over her assignment, then doesn't this mean that we have an incompetent making an incompetent judgment about her own assignment?

If the problem is incompetents being put in positions of authority, then how is listening to the ensign, the one being put into a position of authority, going to do anything? Will her protests that she is "unqualified" for this work be accurate when she is already recognized as incompetent for the task? Can you be qualified to determine how competent you are at a task when it is recognized that you are already incompetent at the task?

The logic doesn't parse.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2008 05:21 PM

My problem is the way they are using us as IAs. It minimizes the job and training we do for the Navy."

The Navy's job is to defend the United States from all enemies, foreign or domestic, with a specialized intent on pirates on open water ways.

If she was complaining that being in Iraq takes her from shooting up Somalian pirates and indonesian islamic jihadists on waves, there might be some accuracy and integrity with her calls. So far, though, it just looks like she wants to stay on the water floating around while other people get to fight America's enemies.

Weiner found a lawyer and filed a request for personal hardship. In a conference call, her commanding offer was angry at her, she said. "I never got to tell them why I was refusing to deploy," she said.

Maybe cause she called the hotline up before talking to her superiors had something to do with that "I never got to tell them" part, eh.

When did Americans become so rigid, so precious, so unadaptable? What happened to the can-do spirit the world once admired?

Somebody secured the nation from internal and external enemies, that's what happened. When people no longer felt any threat or lack of security, they now felt they had time for luxuries and relaxation. That attitude, once transfered across to the next generation, creates weird things.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2008 05:28 PM

"The fact that she has not been punished in the fashion I have described, not yet I suppose, perhaps vindicates her risk vs rewards judgment."

"But she's still a disobedient coward with no sense of loyalty or higher values."

Ymar, I start to worry about you when you comment on your own comment.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at May 2, 2008 12:46 PM

Careful DL Sly...

From my days walking to and from the Old Exec Office bldg in DC I learned (the hard way) that one should never interrupt a person who is carrying all sides of a conversation. =%^}

Posted by: bthun at May 2, 2008 01:25 PM

Watch it there... I resemble that remark :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2008 01:27 PM

I suppose I should qualify that last with the acknowledgment that I do enjoy listening to the conversations... Especially those of our hostess and her court of villains.

Did that suffice as a recovery? =8^}

Posted by: bthun at May 2, 2008 01:31 PM

Since Sly was giving poor Ymar a hard time, I figured I'd twist your tail a bit :p

We ladies tease b/c we care... heh. It's a sign of affection.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 2, 2008 01:48 PM

But, but.....the little voices said they only talk to me!
*pout*
0>;~{

Posted by: DL Sly at May 2, 2008 02:58 PM

No pouting allowed, Doc-Lady Sly, particularly if pouting aloud.

You've got to *flounce* to show pert dismay...

Posted by: BillT at May 2, 2008 03:50 PM

"But, but.....the little voices said they only talk to me!"
Fear not those little voices, you have some distance to go to be certified as world caliber crazy...

Since it's Friday, nearing beer-thirty and I've managed to run off the repair force with my cattle prod, I'll propose this cautionary tale to all who would, after a little inebriation, dive head first into a Friday afternoon monologue.

And for later this evening, when the lights are turned low, a little good crazy, just because...

Cheers.

Posted by: bthun at May 2, 2008 04:26 PM

Sorry, bthun, but when it comes to that song, there's only one -- complete with pops, cracks and white noise.

Posted by: DL Sly at May 2, 2008 10:09 PM

Granted, Miss Patsy's version is the gold standard. But as they say round heah, Lorrie ain't no slouch.

Posted by: bthun at May 3, 2008 07:52 AM

Watch it there... I resemble that remark :p

Lol

one should never interrupt a person who is carrying all sides of a conversation. =%^}
Posted by: bthun at May 2, 2008 01:25 PM
Watch it there... I resemble that remark :p-Cass

I figured I'd twist your tail a bit-Cass

I think you were twisting your own marmoset's tail with that comment, given your numerous "Total Characters", Cass ; )

Ymar, I start to worry about you when you comment on your own comment.
0>;~}

You haven't seen nothing yet.

Wait until you see me start translating Leftist or Socialist positions to people that don't quite understand this socialist person that came over to debate them.

Then I'll really be on all sides of the party.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 3, 2008 12:22 PM

Then I'll really be on all sides of the party.

You are meanink all sides uff the *Party*, da?

Posted by: BillT at May 3, 2008 02:39 PM

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