Category Archives: Media vs. Military

General Gets Crucified, Congress Complains

Then-LTG Ron Lewis. Looks like he was a Master Aviator & combat vet before getting kicked upstairs.

Why does the military leak so badly that trusting a secret to the Pentagon is like trying to cross the Atlantic in a colander? Well, we give you Ron Lewis (Brigadier General, Retired) who has been in receipt of a number of Good Deals For Brass since making an ass out of himself on a world tour with then-Secdef Ash Carter. Carter selected Lewis as adviser for the same reason Carter did everything — affirmative action virtue signaling, which is what Carter did in lieu of leading the Department.

Lewis didn’t do anything many other officers and soldiers don’t do — got drunk, hit the whorehouses and had a few drinks (stories implied he got his ashes hauled, but that doesn’t seem to have happened), hit on the girls. Difference is, Joe Schmo gets this out of his system while he’s a 2LT or a PFC and a certain amount of juvenile carousing is excused. When you’re a fifty-something senior representative of the US military, you’re expected to conduct your whoremongering and carousing on a less-epic scale, and with an adult’s discretion.

Expectation of discretion is probably one of the greatest reason that many of the Army’s greatest combat leaders are terminal at Colonel and are never seriously considered for a star; Courtney Massengales are horrible, but only to their troops, and never embarrass their leaders. Lewis went too far and embarrassed Carter, and worse, he did it overseas, in Korea and EUCOM.

Had he been a Speedy Four working in a radio intercept battalion somewhere, he’d lose some stripes, spend a couple weeks extra duty on the First Sergeant’s $#!+ Detail Squad, and lose his clearance. The equivalent for Lewis was losing two stars — but his clearance, which is a key to cashing in through the revolving door between Pentagon and boardroom,  is inviolate, and that ticks off the reporters at Gannett:

Lewis endured a spectacular flame-out in November 2015 when he was fired from his job as the three-star officer and top military adviser to then-Defense secretary Ash Carter. Lewis had run up tabs at sex clubs on “Hooker Hill” in Seoul and Rome on his government credit card, drank excessively on a trip with Carter and had been overly friendly with young women, the Pentagon inspector general found.

“You are reprimanded for unprofessional conduct while serving in a position of great trust that impugns your personal and professional judgment,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn wrote in a letter to Lewis in December that was obtained by USA TODAY. “Specifically you engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior that included patronizing establishments of questionable character, drinking to excess in public venues, and inappropriately interacting with female civilian and military personnel.”

Carter canned him immediately, and the investigation dragged on for more than a year. The Army demoted him to one star, docked his pension by about $10,000, and filed the stinging letter of reprimand in his personnel file.

“Docked his pension” is simply the result of the demotion, it’s not an independent action. They can reduce any officer (or NCO) administratively to “the last rank in which he satisfactorily performed.”

The Army says, hey, we’re not going to strip him of clearance because Carter could have done it, but didn’t:

“Maj. Gen. Lewis was suspended from his job by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was under investigation by the Department of Defense for nearly a year,” said Army spokesman Michael Brady. “During that time, DOD allowed him to retain his clearance. Given that DOD deemed him fit to retain his clearance, and that there were no allegations of mishandling classified materials in their investigation, the Army did, in fact, recommend he be allowed to retain a clearance. However, the decision is not the Army’s to make.”

The problem with clearances is this: they are necessary for many kinds of employment; as t hey are processed by a government organization, they are very slow, inefficient, and expensive to get; therefore, private employers want to get people the military has already spent money to clear.

It is an article of faith in the government that the clearance system is effective, yet the system, developed from an earlier British system of “positive vetting” after some damaging spy scandals, has not prevented the continuation of spy scandals or exposed any spies. It does not prevent leaking to potential enemies through the media, an act that is not taken seriously by Pentagon bureaucrats or their leaders but that has cost billions.

Perhaps everybody should surrender his clearance on leaving government employment, and let employers start everyone from zero. Your clearance ultimately belongs not to you, but to the people of the nation. Perhaps they should be easier to get — and easier to revoke.

The Army’s recommendation comes in spite of an Army policy enacted late last year that triggered the suspension of clearances for senior officers under investigation for serious misconduct. That policy stemmed from the case of then-Maj. Gen. David Haight, the so-called “Swinging General,” whose serial philandering got him fired and demoted. But he was allowed to retain his security clearance several months until USA TODAY reported on his alternative lifestyle and raised questions about his access to sensitive material.

If there’s one thing the Army doesn’t need, it’s more sexual puritanism and top-down alcohol prohibition. The Army of 1941-45 drank, caroused, and fornicated its way from Operation Torch to Hitler’s own sitting room, while our opposite numbers were fueled as much by vodka and rapine as by their understandable thirst from revenge as they drank, caroused and fornicated from their banks of the Don to their enemies drowned in the Elbe. Handshakes and toasts all around on the meeting of the two great victorious armies.

But that’s okay, that was then and this is now. And now, the Elmer Gantries of America’s ever-sanctimonious Native Criminal Class, Congress, are going to enforce the New Puritanism. Yes, a bunch of people you wouldn’t trust to valet-park your pickup truck, have decided that the Army needs to Do As I Say, Not As I Do on the subject of booze and broads.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California on Armed Services Committee, said she would demand an explanation from the Army for its decision on Lewis. She also raised the case of the Army’s decision in the case of retired Maj. Gen. John Custer. USA TODAY reported on March 9 that in 2011, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, his four-star commander at the time and eventual chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, intervened to have a substantiated allegation of an improper relationship stricken from the record being considered by a board reviewing Custer’s fate.

It’s the Army, and different spanks for different ranks is part of the deal. The same way that Congress members can and do diddle their pages, rip off their donors and taxpayers, and conduct themselves generally like a crew from UMass-Amherst on Spring Break, with impunity. (Anybody remember the Congressman who hit a — parked, and lighted! — Capitol Police car in the wee hours of the morning, out of his mind on illegal hard drugs, and didn’t get charged? You remember his name — Kennedy).

“If these reports are accurate, I would certainly want hear from the Army about their rationale for this recommendation,” Speier said in a statement. “The official reprimand by the Army Vice Chief states that Gen. Lewis’ conduct impugns his personal and professional judgment, bringing significant discredit to the Department. Secretary Carter agreed and fired him. If that isn’t disqualifying for a position of trust that requires a security clearance, I don’t know what is.

“Coming so soon after the revelations about Major General Custer, it appears that the Army is simply unable to hold senior officers fully accountable for their misconduct and I think we need to look more closely at why that is,” Speier said.

One interesting fact about Rep. Speier: during her run in Congress, her net worth has increased enormously. In fact, since 2008 alone it’s more than doubled, and sits somewhere in the low tens of millions, not counting her happily-enriched-by-her-service hedge-fund husband. Ah, the sacrifices they make for the three-day weeks of a public servant!

For now, the reprimand is the Army’s final word on Lewis. And it is one that dresses him down emphatically.

In it, Allyn slams Lewis for binge drinking, saying he drank “enough to impact your memory and exercise of good judgment.” Allyn cites incidents in Korea, Italy and, the worst, in Hawaii in 2015. “During this visit, after consuming an unknown amount of alcohol, you made inappropriate advances toward a female non-commissioned officer,” Allyn wrote. “Additionally, in Malaysia, witnesses observed you interacting with a subordinate female civilian in a manner inappropriate for a senior leader.”

The inspector general’s conclusions “raise serious concerns about your fitness as a senior leader in the U.S. Army, and your conduct over the period addressed by the investigation has brought significant discredit to the Department,” Allyn continued. “Although no one has questioned your competence, the investigation exposed flaws in your character.”

via Army says general’s drunken escapades shouldn’t affect his secret clearance.

Frankly, we’d rather have a guy with competence and “flaws in his character,” especially flaws as seen by Representative Gantry Speier, than some bozo who got his stars by staying clear of every fight and never offending the perpetually offended — the traditional pathway to high rank in the peacetime US Army, which is why the first 2-3 years of an American war are often spent in a quest for a general who will fight.

So, the guy goes to bars. He might even have been in a bar fight. Is that a negative? Depends.

We were hiring him to mentor Sunday School teachers, right?

On the other hand, he also knew the rules before he hopped the Ash-n-trash VIP jet to the fleshpots of Europe and Asia. So maybe he’s not the right guy to be a general, but not for the reasons that rich-makler’s-wife Jackie Speier, whose knowledge of military officers consists solely of abusing them in committee hearings, thinks.

The guy you want? It’s the guy who gets his carouse on, but uses such discretion, and inspires such intense loyalty in his men, that Elmer Gantry in his many manifestations can’t prove it and can’t solicit or suborn testimony to it.

To paraphrase Jean Lartéguy, “That is the man for whom I should like to fight.”


For anyone interested in more on Ron Lewis’s firing:

  • Jonn Lilyea at This Ain’t Hell, a superior military blog. (Reading between the lines, it looks like Lewis’s real problem was that he hit on an enlisted woman that a female military officer had already chosen as her own).
  • One of Lilyea’s commenters: “He could not have been too bright to use a government credit card in Korea and really dumb to pay the high prices at Hooker Hill when there is more cost effective pussy at the MI compound club.” D’oh! Target! Some of the other comments are worthwhile, too.
  • A more smart-ass take on Lewis’s rise and fall (attributing the rise to his youth as “a Chicago street kid”) at
  • The whole report is here (.pdf), and Lewis seems to have hanged himself. The worst of the charges seems to have been lying about using the government card. He even signed a form that he did not use the card at the off-limits Candy Bar in Itaewon, knowing that was false (!!). He used the government card in a Rome titty bar because he had no personal credit card, and his personal debit card was declined. (Suggests there’s something more there).
  • But the report does seem to confirm that what got him caught was none of this, but irritating a subordinate female officer who “asked the female enlisted Service member to leave MG Lewis’ hotel room with her, and warned MG Lewis that he was “being really stupid” and that the female enlisted Service member needed to come with her and stay in her room that night.” The enlisted woman and Lewis did not have sex, according to each of them interviewed individually.

Lesson to all: (1) don’t lie to investigators; (2) do your thinking with Head Nº 1; (3) exercise extreme caution around female subordinates — especially the ones that have a proprietary interest in your other female subordinates.

How Many Foreign-Born Terrorists?

President Trump spawned a series of news stories calling him a liar when he said at an address to Congress in Joint Session that “the vast majority” of terrorists convicted for planning or carrying out terrorist attacks in the USA were “from outside of our country.” Here’s what he said (from the official WH transcript), with the key sentence highlighted:

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

Now, you might expect his political opponents to zero in on his prescriptions, but instead, they accused him of making up his facts.

In an “AP Fact Check,” AP reporters Calvin Woodward and Christopher Rugaber write:

THE FACTS: It’s unclear what Justice Department data he’s citing, but the most recent government information that has come out doesn’t back up his claim. Just over half the people Trump talks about were actually born in the United States, according to Homeland Security Department research revealed last week. That report said of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to attempt or carry out an attack in the U.S., just over half were native-born citizens.

If they were making the claims about the same thing, they can’t both be telling the truth, right? And if they’re making the claims about different things, while the Associated (with terrorists) Press is asserting they’re addressing the same thing, then it’s the AP that’s lying, right?

But they’re not done calling Mr Trump a liar.

Even the attacks Trump singled out weren’t entirely the work of foreigners. Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his Pakistani wife killed 14 people in the deadly 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, was born in Chicago.

It’s true that in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, the FBI’s primary concern was with terrorists from overseas feared to be plotting attacks in the United States. But that’s no longer the case.

Now, we’re far afield from the supposed fact check, but today’s reporters just can’t get over themselves as opinion columnists, can they?

The FBI and the Justice Department have been preoccupied with violent extremists from inside the U.S. who are inspired by the calls to violence and mayhem of the Islamic State group.

Actually, that’s quite mistaken. For the eight years of the Obama Administration, the DOJ was preoccupied with the “right-wing terrorist extremists” from the list created as a fund-raising measure by the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose main objective is ensuring that Morris Dees and his heirs and assigns be towards the right side of the continuum on a line that begins with “Poverty” and ends with “Bill Gates.” So far, so good, as frightened donors have made Dees worth tens of millions.

Infidel! I keeeel you! I am native American terrorist — from Jeff’s workbench!

But you can’t keep the donors frightened unless the steel curtain of Fascism is ever descending on the United States. (And the whole racket would stop if said curtain ever actually arrived).

So, what else will they do to obfuscate the fact that their fact check has yet to produce contrary facts? Let’s try a little time travel, Associated (with terrorists) Press style.

The Justice Department has prosecuted scores of IS-related cases since 2014, and many of the defendants are U.S. citizens.

And note: they’re now comparing “since-2014” oranges to those “since-9/11” apples. Why would they do that?

Or they grow up to be reporters! And lie to their moms that they play piano in a whorehouse.

There are two possibilities. (1) They are so innumerate that they do not realize 2001 ≠ 2014. That sounds prima facie ridiculous, but we’ve known some reporters, and most of them couldn’t compute a 15% bar tip with the help of a staff of black ladies with slide rules. So, it’s possible. Or, (2), they do know 2001 ≠ 2014, and they’re trying to lie about whether the President lied.

The DHS document Woodward and Rugaber are going on about appears to be a draft leaked to the press by its author, a friend to the press, not the President. “Just over half of the people Trump talks about” were actually born in the United States, but what people did Mr Trump talk about? “individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11″. They are quoting a document addressing something different: “Individuals inspired by foreign terrorists,” and moreover, a document written, as we will see, by someone who didn’t even have a handle on the hundreds of terrorism prosecutions that have taken place in the last decade and a half.

Mr Trump did mention three incidents: Boston, San Berdardino and 9/11. Woodward and Rugaber seem to consider his claim invalidated by the fact that one of the 24 perpetrators identified in those crimes was native-born. In Associated (with terrorists) Press math, 23 out of 24 is not the vast majority. We don’t expect Woodhead and Rugburns or whatever to do the percents, so we will: in AP math, 95.8% is not “the vast majority”. (95.8333 repeating 3 for the pedants among you).

Oddly enough, though, the President was not working off the leaked phony-baloney memo written by some disloyal apparatchik trying to make him look bad, but from what he said he was: “data provided by the Department of Justice”.

Now, you probably think that it was unfair of the president to use DOJ data that was not available to the stalwarts of the press. Except, he didn’t. He used DOJ reports previously sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senator Ted Cruz in their capacity (in Sessions’s case, his previous capacity) as heads of relevant Senate committees. Which were so secret that they were posted on Sessions’s (now shut down) Senate website. On 13 January 2016. Where a reporter could have found it… if only the Associated Press had one.

Having downloaded it, being an actual reporter, Patrick Poole posted it today on Scribd. And now, we’re posting it here for your convenience (we got the file direct from Patrick’s Scribd):


Now, there are 580 terrorists and supporters — convicted ones, on that list; and that’s just cases that are final and not sealed through the end of 2014. The list doesn’t include a breakdown of who was native born and who was not, but other analysts (including Poole) have done the math, and behold! At least 380 of these 580 were just doing the terrorism Americans won’t do.

Patrick also found that one Subcommittee had broken it all down:

When the staff of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest examined the open-source data for the 580 cases, this is what they found:

Using this list, the Subcommittee conducted open-source research and determined that at least 380 of the 580 were foreign-born (71 were confirmed natural-born, and the remaining 129 are not known).  Of the 380 foreign-born, at least 24 were initially admitted to the United States as refugees, and at least 33 had overstayed their visas. Additionally, of those born abroad, at least 62 were from Pakistan, 28 were from Lebanon, 22 were Palestinian, 21 were from Somalia, 20 were from Yemen, 19 were from Iraq, 16 were from Jordan, 17 were from Egypt, and 10 were from Afghanistan.

So Trump is correct: 380 of 580 (65.5%, or just under 2/3) were in fact foreign born.

It is no mystery, contra the Associated Press, where this data came from. And as you can note, all of these cases involved Category I, II, and III terrorism offenses.

That notwithstanding, some in the media and terrorism industry began throwing out other terrorism numbers from a number of difference sources with no reference to the Justice Department data cited by President Trump…

Poole’s article deserves to have you Read The Whole Thing™.  Some of the reporters’ fearless beating of strawman piñatas has to be seen to be believed, including an appearance by an even-wronger-than-his-usual-wrong Thpenther Ackerman, the “military and defense” reporter and Internet Tough Guy™ who totes would have signed up sometime during the last 15+ years of war, if only he hadn’t been 4F on account of moral and physical cowardice. If you’re ever wondering whether Thpenther is lying, there’s a reliable tell: his lips move.

And he’s what a reporter is, in this Year of Our Lord 2017. So are the AP’s two fact-free fact checkers, Wooddud and Rugbugger, the Marquises of Mathlessness, the Khans of Confusion, the Imperators of Innumeracy.

Lord love a duck.

Exit thought: these are just terrorism cases. Boy howdy, if you could see the espionage and counterintelligence case statistics, which for obvious reasons are never going to see the light of day in our lifetimes, you’d see another whole cohort of immigrants (and asylees, and refugees, etc.) who ought not have been.

Literature of War: The Land Ironclads (H.G. Wells)

Wells is remembered today primarily for his imaginative science fiction novels The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, both absolute milestones in the developing field. He’s less well known for his shallow socialist politics, and his works that tend towards the didactic, like In the Time of the Meteor and Things to Come did not hold up nearly as well.

But his short story The Land Ironcladsalthough much less developed than his novels, describes a near-future war with the prescience normally associated with his French counterpart Jules Verne; the decisive weapon of this war is the Land Ironclad, which is now known to the world as a Tank. But he published the story in 1903, a dozen years before tank development began; one wonders if this story was known to, and influenced, the builders of the early armored fighting vehicles. Consider this: the word “tank” was originally a cover name, to conceal the fact that the British were developing a “Landship” or “Land Dreadnought.’ Did they get the idea from Wells? Or was it just one of those ideas whose time was coming, at the hand of one man if not another?

Like Verne, Wells gets some details of his imagined machine wrong (the “footed” wheels he describes were actually used on some WWI field pieces, but tanks had the caterpillar track; and tanks would run on Otto-cycle internal combustion engines, not steam) but others were very interesting. The Land Ironclads come up to solve a problem of… trench warfare. (And recall, this story predates not only the Great War but also the Russo-Japanese War, often held up as an example military officer botched the chance to learn from. Consider his description of how a group of riflemen would work inside the Land Ironclad.

The riflemen each occupied a small cabin of peculiar construction and these cabins were slung along the sides of and before and behind the great main framework, in a manner suggestive of the slinging of the seats of an Irish jaunting-car. Their rifles, however, were very different pieces of apparatus from the simple mechanisms in the hands of their adversaries.

These were in the first place automatic, ejected their cartridges and loaded again from a magazine each time they fired, until the ammunition store was at an end, and they had the most remarkable sights imaginable, sights which threw a bright little camera-obscura picture into the light-tight box in which the rifleman sat below. This camera-obscura picture was marked with two crossed lines, and whatever was covered by the intersection of these two lines, that the rifle hit. The sighting was ingeniously contrived. The rifleman stood at the table with a thing like an elaborately of a draughtsman’s dividers in his hand, and he opened and closed these dividers, so that they were always at the apparent height—if it was an ordinary-sized man—of the man he wanted to kill. A little twisted strand of wire like an electric-light wire ran from this implement up to the gun, and as the dividers opened and shut the sights went up and down. Changes in the clearness of the atmosphere, due to changes of moisture, were met by an ingenious use of that meteorologically sensitive substance, catgut, and when the land ironclad moved forward the sites got a compensatory deflection in the direction of its motion. The riflemen stood up in his pitch-dark chamber and watched the little picture before him. One hand held the dividers for judging distance, and the other grasped a big knob like a door-handle. As he pushed this knob about the rifle above swung to correspond, and the picture passed to and fro like an agitated panorama. When he saw a man he wanted to shoot he brought him up to the cross-lines, and then pressed a finger upon a little push like an electric bell-push, conveniently placed in the center of the knob. Then the man was shot. If by any chance the rifleman missed his target he moved the knob a trifle, or readjusted his dividers, pressed the push, and got him the second time.

This rifle and its sights protruded from a porthole, exactly like a great number of other portholes that ran in a triple row under the eaves of the cover of the land ironclad. Each porthole displayed a rifle and sight in dummy, so that the real ones could only be hit by a chance shot, and if one was, then the young man below said “Pshaw!” turned on an electric light, lowered the injured instrument into his camera, replaced the injured part, or put up a new rifle if the injury was considerable.

Do not mistake this, though, for being all technology and no drama and humanity. Here, for instance, is the portrait Wells paints in a paragraph of a Land Ironclad captain and his crew:

He was a young man, healthy enough but by no means sun-tanned, and of a type of feature and expression that prevails in His Majesty’s Navy: alert, intelligent, quiet. He and his engineers and his riflemen all went about their work, calm and reasonable men. They had none of that flapping strenuousness of the half-wit in a hurry, that excessive strain upon the blood-vessels, that hysteria of effort which is so frequently regarded as the proper state of mind for heroic deeds.

And the whole theme of the story is not, as you might think, man versus machine, but more what sort of man would fight in these machines (“devitalized townsmen”) and what sort would do without (“brutes,” “cunning, elementary louts,” from “our open-air life”).

For these reasons alone we could recommend The Land Ironclads, and advise you to go Read The Whole Thing™. But the very best part of it, which we shall not spoil for you, is Wells’s portrait of his point of view character, the War Correspondent (who is never named, beyond that). If you believe that the schism between soldier and scribe is a new thing, do read this story.

As an little something extra, here is a Librivox recording of the story, so you can listen instead of read.

May this Christmas bring war only in fiction, science or otherwise!

Why Veterans Hate the Media, #3,298

newspaper-fishwrapDean Bacquet, the editor of the New York Times who was brought in from LA as part of a minor reshuffle when star Times reporter Jayson Blair was exposed as a fabulist (and his editors as complicit, if not also culpable, in his fabrications) a decade-plus ago, was recently asked why people don’t trust the media, in reference to the present political campaign.

Bacquet is evidently not an introspective or even self-aware man, so he was unable to meet a direct question with a direct answer. His basic point seems to have been that there’s something wrong with the public, that they’re not ready to accept the received wisdom of the reporter class: and he used as his illustration, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign in 2004.

The Swift Boat story is a perfect model, actually, of what the interviewer was asking him about;
Bacquet and his Timesmen, like his predecessor Blair, are so committed to The Narrative that they’re completely unaware that their Narrative is untrue, and the veterans’ group that he condemned (as something any right-thinking person would abjure, naturally!) had the right of it, and Bacquet’s Times (both of them, LA and New York) the wrong. Mark Hemingway in The Weekly Standard sets him straight, with this propitious overture…

Ok. Let me stop Baquet right there.

Hemingway goes on at some length to recount the truth. We were also there in 2004, in daily contact with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth leaders (later, Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth) and can vouch for Hemingway’s recollection. And he winds up, a bit:

And so we have the editor of the New York Times citing the Swift Vets as “just false” in the process of wondering why Americans don’t trust the media in the Age of Trump. The answer is that media organizations such as the Times eroded all their credibility trying to elect previous Democratic candidates by telling readers things were definitively false when readers damn well knew that there were substantive facts they were actively choosing to ignore. In fact, “Swift Vets” is now some sort of media pejorative, even though the term is an Orwellian attempt [to] recast and simplify events so as to obscure discomfiting and politically consequential debates that New York Times editors don’t want to have.

If Baquet wants to know why it’s difficult to cover Trump, he should consider the actual facts of the Swift Boat Vets and whether or not the media’s handling of such episodes have undermined their institutional credibility. If you have been sounding the alarm that the media are no longer credible, as some of us have been doing for a while now, then it was only a matter of time before a mountebank such as Trump came along and exploited this lack of trust. And it won’t be the last, unless the media clean up their act and start acting like a press that at least makes a good faith effort not to throw an election every four years.

There’s more to it, including depth on why the Vets were telling the truth and the Times lying, so do go Read The Whole Thing™.

Los Angeles Times Reporter James Rainey, who worked with Bacquet to try to counter the Swift Boat veteran truth with the Times Narrative™ of lies, is still working for the Times, in the fine tradition of journalism.

He is… we are not making this up… their media critic. Mote, beam, etc., some assembly required.

Why don’t people trust you any more? Forsooth, it is a mystery, Dean.

Fitness: The Army, Doing it Wrong

The biggest key to Army fitness testing, is it has to be something that dumb people with no equipment can measure. Seriously.

The biggest key to Army fitness testing, is it has to be something that dumb people with no equipment can measure. Seriously.

A reader suggested the linked item at Mark “Rip” Rippetoe’s Starting Strength blog. Rip gives a platform to Major Ryan Long, who asks:  Why does the Army want me weak?

Why, indeed? Long had spent the previous two years (his article is from 2010) as a Phys Ed instructor at school: the United States Military Academy, to be precise. And he found some pathologies in Army fitness culture.

I encounter a common theme with the active duty military folks: lifting weights isn’t entirely compatible with military culture and combat-related fitness. I feel compelled to share my thoughts on why Starting Strength is exactly what we need.

The US Army has a strong focus on low-intensity cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness.

Semi-annually soldiers must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) consisting of 2 minutes of pushups, 2 minutes of sit ups, followed by a 2-mile run on a flat road or track.

See Table 1 for passing and maximum performance standards by age and gender. The minimum standards are disappointing while the maximum standards are quite achievable.

Physical training (PT) is usually given only minimal attention and is often the first victim of a busy training schedule.  Additionally, unit commanders are required to regularly brief their combat readiness, one measure of which is APFT performance. As a result, PT becomes APFT-centric and our soldiers rarely improve anything….

This fanciful illustration reflects what the Army really believes, institutionally: that the best runner is the best prepared for combat.

This fanciful illustration reflects what the Army really believes, institutionally: that the best runner is the best prepared for combat.

What the PT Test often yields, in our experience, is a sort of runnerocracy where the fastest 2-miler is the fittest guy, period. (We were once one of those guys with an eleven-something two miler. It seems a century ago. Well, it was in the last century). So in combat it turns out maybe we’ve been training for the wrong thing:

Most combat operations are not done at the limit of a soldier’s low-intensity capacity, because we don’t go out and do a 6-mile dismounted patrol as fast as we can, at least not intentionally. …. Combat is usually conducted at either the very low or very high ends of the spectrum. I strongly believe, through personal experience, that high-intensity training is the key to survivability and performance on the battle field

But even the mismeasure of fitness that comes from the PT Test, and the mistraining that results, isn’t the whole problem. You’re about to meet the weird Army weight control system that punishes soldiers for extra muscle:

But if a Soldier buys in to the above – lifts heavy weights and eats to support that recovery – there is an additional hurdle: the Army “Tape Test.” The US Army uses height and weight to screen for obesity, similar to the body mass index or BMI assessment.

In fact, the Army height/weight table is keyed to the rigid BMI standards. You’re overweight at BMI 25, and the Army only lets the fit off the hook with a bizarre tape test, one that is designed not for accuracy but for (1) not requiring any expensive equipment and (2) capable of being executed by a first sergeant, operations sergeant, or sergeant major with an IQ of 75. (Why we have any NCOs with an IQ of 75 is a question for another time).

At my considerable height of 5’4” I am only allowed to weigh up to 158 pounds, and yes, I get taped. Fortunately the only punishment for exceeding this 90s-small weight is a body fat analysis done by measuring the Soldier’s neck and abdominal circumference (and hips also in the case of women). These measurements, along with height, are used to approximate body composition. As long as body composition remains below the maximum body fat percentage (20% men and 30% women ages 17-20) then the Soldier is free to weigh in excess of the weight threshold. Too many Soldiers see the act of being taped as a personal failure and strive to avoid it.

And the Army’s answer to a soldier who is over, fit or not — run more, do more cardio, get a runner’s build.

height weight screening

Think about professional athletes. Who would not be over on BMI? The scale doesn’t cover heavyweight boxers, but the world cruiserweight champion, Russian Denis Lebedev, is overweight, says the Army. About half of American football players are over. It doesn’t cover NBA centers, but if you extrapolate, Shaquille O’Neal would be way over at 7’1″ and 325. To find a champion who isn’t “Army fat,” you have to go to cycling (Lance Armstrong, 5’10” and 165) or straight to running (Usain Bolt, 6’5″ and 207). On the other hand, female pro athletes often come in below the Army standard. (Example: Elena Delle Donne, WNBA MVP, is 6’5″ and 187, but she’s built like a lean man).

Running is a good measure of one thing -- running. The only way to prepare for long walks with a ruck, is long walks with a ruck, but strength training is better prep for that than running is.

Running is a good measure of one thing — running. The only way to prepare for long walks with a ruck, is long walks with a ruck, but strength training is better prep for that than running is. Meanwhile, running Army brass wants a return to the prewar “running culture.”

So here comes a story declaring that the Army is way fat and out of shape based on, of course, the percent of soldiers whose computerized health records screened as eligible to be taped (about 8%, presumably including MAJ Long, if he hasn’t joined us in the Elysian Fields of retirement yet).

The story is in Military Times and is written by one Andrew Tilghman. A few words about Tilghman, who sells himself (on LinkedIn) as a “storyteller”  (in a profile that seems aimed at getting him PR moonlighting work for Beltway Bandits) and someone who has “10+ years’ experience with military and defense-related issues.” Where did he get all this experience? For example, “[w]orking from the Pentagon pressroom for the past five years…”

Oooooh. Can we touch him? (No. Don’t touch. Don’t even point). When MAJ Long was going through Ranger School, Tilghman was going through Columbia Journalism School. So he’s a sucker for whatever Someone in the Pentagon tells him, and here’s what they tell him:

About 7.8 percent of the military — roughly one in every 13 troops — is clinically overweight, defined by a body mass-index greater than 25. This rate has crept upward since 2001, when it was just 1.6 percent, or one in 60, according to Defense Department data obtained by Military Times. And it’s highest among women, blacks, Hispanics and older service members.

“Defense Department data obtained by Military Times,” is Tilghman’s self-important way of saying, “a Press Release handout I picked up from the boxes in the Pentagon press room,” because that’s exactly what he has got.

From that data point, he twists the data to clickbait extremes:

  • Today’s military is fatter than ever.
  • For the first time in years, the Pentagon has disclosed data indicating the number of troops its deems overweight

Well, none of your reporter Johnnies asked, did you?

  • raising big questions about the health, fitness and readiness of today’s force.
  • others say obesity can be a life-and-death issue on the battlefield.

And the answer is always available from the running acolytes, in this case the current Sergeant Major of the Army (and not the worst; that would have been the couple of ’em that went to prison):

“If I have to climb up to the top of a mountain in Nuristan, in Afghanistan, and if I have someone who is classified as clinically obese, they are potentially going to be a liability for me on that patrol,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the military’s top noncommissioned officer and the senior enlisted adviser to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Troxell said today’s force is combat ready, but he believes the obesity trends are troubling, and demand careful consideration from senior leaders. “I don’t think it’s a clear readiness concern right now.  But I think it’s something that needs our attention. And we really have to look across our services at what we’re doing every morning or every day to prepare the men and women for what could be the worst day of their life,” Troxell said in a recent interview.

Translation: we runners think everybody should run more.

Would you rather be wounded and dependent on a drag to safety by running SMA Troxell, or iron-pumping MAJ Long? What Troxell and the rest of the Army overhead don’t want to admit is that the original impetus and lasting enforcement of the Army height and weight standards gives a pseudoscientific gloss to what commanders really want, which is a way to get fat troops to slim down so the units don’t look bad. That’s all.

Does anyone remember when the Army first imposed height-weight standards, and why? We do. In the 1970s, Soviet officers were invited to observe NATO exercises in Germany. One of the Soviet senior generals, a man of no mean wit, observed to his counterpart, “Bathrobe” Bernard Rogers, then SACEUR (one of the lean, gangly running guys), that “In our army, all the generals are fat, but the sergeants are skinny. In your army, all the generals are skinny, but all the sergeants are fat!” Rogers was white with fury at the Russian’s joke, and soon we had height-weight tables and tape tests.

Like many well-credentialed but poorly-educated journalists, Tilghman also confuses the linguistic concept of gender with the biological concept of sex, but that’s the least of his sins. After a brief aside in which Pentagon health officials try to teach him some of the ways in which this data — computer derived from health records by simply applying the BMI calculation to reported height and weight — isn’t the clarion of Armageddon he wants it to be, he goes back to the quotable Troxell:

In the 90s we were a running culture. If you weren’t running, you weren’t training. And we were doing a lot of foot marching and things like that. As 9/11 happened and we started doing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the operational tempo rose for service members, I think more and more we started slowing down. We started doing more walking. Obviously in the Army and Marines, we started doing more walking with heavy loads, and moving over rough and uneven terrain, which in itself was developing muscles that we weren’t developing before. So now we were going from looking like runners to these block-y looking football players.

He says that like it’s a bad thing. And Troxell blames the new generation:

The men and women that are coming in today weren’t doing the things as they were growing up that I was doing when I was growing up, such as playing outside until dark, racing with my friends from one crack in the cement to another crack in the cement. More and more, young men and women are attracted to things that happen indoors and allow them be on a couch, like playing video games. Men and women are growing up differently. There is less physical activities and more mental activities.

Let’s see what (the fitness site created by steroidal cycling champ Lance Armstrong) says about BMI:

Kinesiology professor Sue Beckham, PhD of the University of Texas at Arlington, asserts that BMI is not useful in assessing athletic muscular individuals and is not a good indicator of changes in body composition. A 2007 study of male and female college athletes published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine” concluded that BMI incorrectly classifies athletes with normal body fat as overweight and that separate standards should be established for athletic populations.

Livestrong suggests that the better measure is Body Composition, which is Total Body Mass minus Fat Free Mass, but would require more high-tech measurement techniques (and possibly, smarter first sergeants and sergeant majors, a non-starter).

The CDC says more bluntly:

A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.

So why does the Army use it? Because it can enable the Tilghmans of the world to write clickbait articles? Or, for the same reason the drunk looks for the keys under the streetlight instead of in the dark alley where he lost ’em?

Hey, you can read Tilghman at Military Times. Or you can read The Duffle Blog about the APFT. The result is the same. But one writer is aware he’s having you on. And if you’re going to read one link from this long story, go to Major Ryan Long’s article at Starting Strength and Read The Whole Thing™.


Insight on the Media from Australia in 1969

RAR Soldiers in Vietnam. Note slightly different uniforms from Yanks, plus they're armed with SLRs. (Many Aussies also used M16s, especially on reconnaissance patrols, etc.).

RAR Soldiers in Vietnam. Note slightly different uniforms from Yanks, plus they’re armed with SLRs. (Many Aussies also used M16s, especially on reconnaissance patrols, etc., but the standard rifle was the 7.62mm SLR).

In 1969, Major D.K. Atkinson of the Australian Army suggested that Vietnam might be “The Unwinnable War” in the pages of the RMCS Journal, the professional magazine of the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, UK. (Now — God help us — an institute of defense management). His British peers at the college, and the journal editor, had pestered him for insights about Vietnam. Turns out, he had them — he was straight off a tour in-country as an operations officer with the Royal Australian Regiment — but he also had insights that are just as functionally utilitarian today. For example, one of the downsides of a free press:

It is the lack of definition of terms and a lack of public education in the United States and in Australia which may prevent us from winning. Peace is an attractive word to everyone but does the word mean the same thing to a Communist Party member and to the well-meaning clergyman marching beside him in the same demonstration? It is in this field that national mass communications media can he of the greatest assistance, or do the most harm. At the moment. through either deliberate editorial policy, ignorance. or a plain desire to make money. the press inhibits our capacity to win.

An example of distorted reporting was the Viet Cong Tet offensive in January and February 1968. The majority of enemy objectives were known and allied forces were redeployed to meet the threat approxi- mately one week prior to the offensive. The 1st Australian Task Force moved from its normal base area in Phuoc Tuy province to cover approaches to Bien Hoa approximately 100 kilometres away. The ofiensive was a military disaster for the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. Returning from the operation after three weeks we had our first opportunity to read the world press. There was no doubt that by incompetent. inaccurate and hysterical reporting we s u l k e d a propa- ganda defeat. A typical example of the irresponsibility of the press was a front page headline in a Melbourne paper – ‘Australian Battalion Wiped Out.’ The three paragraph report gave details of a supposed action in which 7 RAR had been lost. The last sentence admitted that the report was unconfirmed. In fact, the battalion had five men killed.

He goes on to describe actions in country, including a day-long fight when an Australian unit thought it had latched on to a local force VC company, but had actually come to grips with a main force NVA battalion.

And he goes out with another poke at the media:

One of the first Viet Cong acts in the attack on Saigon was the ruthless massacre of the families of South Vietnamese soldiers in a barracks there. Presumably this act of terrorism was designed to further destroy the morale of the army. I saw many photographs of buildings full of slaughtered women and children; of soldiers crying over the dead babies in their arms. I didn’t see any of these pictures published in the national press. What I did see was the photograph of the Police Chief summarily executing a Viet Cong. It was not a nice picture and was extensively used in anti-war propaganda. But what that picture did show was the hate, the fury, the ruthless determination of these people to rid their country of the terrorists, stand-over men and murderers that are the Viet Cong.

Maybe one of our down-undrian readers can explain what a “stand-over man” is.

In the end, of course, the USA, Australia, and most of all the RVN all lost. Re-education camps, Montagnard massacres, and the Boat People all lay ahead.

The quotes are from Australian Army Journal, No. 253 (June, 1970), in which Maj. Atkinson’s article is reprinted on pp. 3-8. (Here’s a link to the magazine in .pdf).

NPR Journalist Killed in Afghanistan

In a typically dishonest article, NPR, National Public Radio, a state-controlled broadcaster, reported on the death of one of its own this week. NPR’s David Gilkey was killed by a Taiban RPG, along with an NPR interpreter, Zabihullah Tamanna, whom NPR didn’t see fit to eulogize beyond the mere mention of his name — quite enough for a wog, if you’re NPR — and the Afghan wog, er, soldier driving Gilkey’s HMMWV, whose name NPR not only didn’t mention, but didn’t even record. Because wog.

In a classic example of absence of self-awareness despite unflinching self-regard, NPR’s Greg Myre writes:

David and [fellow NPRnik Tom Bowman] spent the past several years embedding with Afghan forces to see if they were up to the job of defeating the Taliban.

And two career journalists are going to decide this exactly how?

It’s a critical story that has largely been ignored. After 15 years of U.S. involvement in the Afghan war, the conflict has disappeared from the front pages in the U.S., and American interest has waned.

Indeed. Funny how that waning of media interest seems traceable to the same date as the coronation of NPR’s candidate for President in 2009. Well, strange coincidences abound these days.

The story does raise some questions:

  1. How come these guys have such a hard time remembering their indigenous assistants? Have they put on a halo that’s two sizes too small? and,
  2. When the Taliban kill an NPR journalist, is it “friendly fire”? and,
  3. Why does a taxpayer-funded official propaganda radio network need a photographer? That’s what Gilkey was.


A Tale of Terrorism and Recognition

Purple Heart (this one was won by a Lieutenant in WWI who went on to be a General. It's our PH file photo).

Purple Heart (this one was won by a Lieutenant in WWI who went on to be a General. It’s our PH file photo).

It’s no secret that the Government, in its current iteration, has little interest in recognizing Islamic terrorism for what it is. This comes from many things, including an academic fascianation with the “other,” and a conviction that every conflict everywhere stems from something the US did: the old “why do they hate us?” story.

They hate us ’cause we don’t submit to them. It’s not deep and you don’t need a PhD to understand it (indeed, a PhD may be an impediment to understanding such simple things).

Its strategy towards Islamic terrorism everywhere — and most of the terrorism in the world is Islamic, from Israel to Chechnya to the Phillipines, to right here in the USA — is to fight it just enough to dodge charges of supporting it, while denying it even exists as a thing.

That’s how you get a government that pauses its Magical Mea Culpa Tour just long enough to advance the Iranian mullahs, defend their Saudi brethren, and demean the efforts of those who fought it and died.

They still think that Nidal Hassan’s jihad was “workplace violence” best addressed by taking guns away from folks who did not do it, and used the same line in relation to the Sudden Jihad Syndrome strike against military soft-targets in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015. The social-engineer suits who are running the services dry of lubrication, like the cars turned in during Cash for Clunkers, fought hard against recognizing these victims of terrorism as, well, victims of terrorism.

Back in April, with respect to the Chattanooga victims, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of the Navy (“Hey, how about USS Kardashian next?”) Ray Mabus, finally folded and the four Marine victims’ nexts of kin were presented with their Marines’ Purple Hearts. Two other victims, a wounded Marine and a slain sailor, had private presentations in January.

The decision had been telegraphed as early as December, after FBI director James Comey made it clear that the shooter had been radicalized by a local mosque and thereafter had been in communication with Anwar Al-Awlaki.

The part the media left out of this presentation was the ugly bit: had the Navy persisted in not awarding the medals (and ancillary veterans’ benefits that accrue to combat casualties), Congress was prepared to step in and force the issue. The Pentagon opposed the presentation of Purple Hearts to the 2009 Fort Hood victims until Congress directed it be done in the National Defense Authorization Act; the victims and their survivors finally received their medals from grudging officialdom in April, 2015.

“The Obama Pentagon fought tooth and nail against that,” [Sen. Ted] Cruz [R-TX] said in an interview…. “They insisted the attack was workplace violence. And they refused for nearly five years to award those Purple Hearts.”

“And each one of those family members, I took the opportunity to look them in the eyes, to thank them for their service and their family member’s service and simply to say I’m sorry this took five years for this to happen,” Cruz said.

Cruz and his Tennessee counterparts were prepared to do for the Chattanooga Marines what they, and a bipartisan group of Congressmen and Senators, did for the Ft Hood soldiers. It’s  amazing — astonishing really — that we still have senior officials, defense officials no less, who take the side of Islamic terrorists. And give that we have senior officials that disjointed from reality, we suppose it’s amazing that they actually gave in this time and didn’t make Cruz and his allies go through all the motions again.

About that Movie that Caused the Benghazi Attack

Would you trust your diplomatic Mission to this guy?

Would you trust your diplomatic Mission to this guy?

Just about everybody who’s anybody in the foreign policy and national security establishment, or “the Blob,” as former campaign van driver and novelist manqué turned Presidential foreign-policy mind-meld Ben Rhodes calls it, has had something to say about the spectacularly revealing Ben Rhodes profile in the New York Times Magazine.

David Samuels of the Times seems to have conducted the interview the way Times journalists usually do with Administration grandees: on his knees, breathlessly counterposed to the his dehiscent slide fastener of his interviewee’s trousers.

Despite his claim to be outside it,  Rhodes is a card-carrying Beltway Blob made guy, by dint of his position (which he probably owes to having a brother who’s head of CBS “News”). He is a Deputy National Security Advisor on the National Security Council and has nothing but contempt for people who actually have studied, practiced, or (in the instant case) implemented foreign policy, especially not when it comes down to kinetics.

Conversely, nobody is asking, say, retired special operations sergeants and former defense contractors what they think, but why shouldn’t we stick our oar in? Everyone else is.

And right now, everybody is talking about how Rhodes admits that the Iran “deal” was built on myth and sold with lies.

Rhodes’s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.”

This is the first admission that groups like Ploughshares and the Iran Project are under de facto Administration control — or maybe it’s the other way around.

He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents. ….

In fact, Rhodes’s passion seems to derive … from his own sense of the urgency of radically reorienting American policy in the Middle East in order to make the prospect of American involvement in the region’s future wars a lot less likely. When I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin campaign being run by a different administration is something that scares him, he admitted that it does.

But there was another glimpse behind Rhodes’s Beltway Blob kimono suggested by that article, aside from whatever Samuels glimpsed through that zipper while achieving his own mind meld with his special friend and interviewee. And it ties into past articles, like this one at, oddly enough, the New York Times: Rhodes describes in the recent, Samuels story how he makes a lie into news. Bear that in mind when you see who the author was of the Administration’s, and then-Secretary of State Clinton’s, pathetic and fabricated claim that the Benghazi attack was a reaction to a YouTube video. Yep, it was Rhodes. Here’s the Times’s Michael D. Shear (another Beltway Blob made guy?) in April, 2014:

The email from Mr. Rhodes includes goals for Ms. Rice’s appearances on the shows and advice on how to discuss the subject of the protests that were raging in Libya and at other American diplomatic posts in the Middle East.

Among the goals that Mr. Rhodes identified: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” In a section called “Top-lines,” Mr. Rhodes added: “Since we began to see protests in response to this Internet video, the president has directed the Administration to take a number of steps. His top priority has been the safety and security of all Americans serving abroad.”

(For the record, the attack was a deliberate attack the extremist al-Qaeda linked militia. The extremists themselves had been suppressed by Qaddhfi, but were turned loose by the quixotic and purposeless war the Administration launched in Libya for reasons that still lack an explanation, except for the general tilt of Obama, Jarrett, Donilon, Rice, Power, Rhodes et al. towards Islamist extremists, and against American interests).

In another point in Samuels’ fluff piece, Rhodes, the self-described Holden Caulfield of the NYU MFA program, is described as having no ego. In the midst of a post that is probably enough for any pshrink to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder in both Rhodes and his interviewer.

Finally, this puts a new light on the various incompatible Hillary Clinton statements about the Benghazi disaster that somehow eventuated on her disinterested and mendacious watch. She herself may have been spun by Rhodes and his small army of suckling and spewing mouths, a group which may well include Clinton eminènce grise Simple Sid Blumenthal.

Yeah, the Army Personnel System is AFU. But…

Officer RanksThe Army personnel system is like the ancient Chinese mandarin system, except that it sucks even at producing mandarins. This should not be news to anybody. Certainly the best and the brightest — hell, even the dull and the dimmest — have been firing cannonades against DOPMA and “up-or-out” since Gabriel and Savage teed up Crisis in Command in the 1970s, and probably earlier. But along comes The Atlantic, commissioning retired general David Barno and some social (i.e., pseudo) scientist to write a jeremiad against the personnel system.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s like one of our VA or TSA stories. Expecting anything other than inept and counter-mission performance from any stumblebum government bureaucracy will end in tears.

Still, Barno and whatserface try.

Let’s start with a spoiled Millennial MI officer who’s all a-whine that the Army is not seeing to his emotional needs:

Jost arrived at West Point during the summer of 2004, nearly three years after the 9/11 attacks. The nation and the Army were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Jost took Chinese language classes to fulfill his single year of required language at the academy, and a summer program in China cemented his love of the Chinese language and culture. According to Jost, he gave up his vacation time nearly every summer to study in China, and graduated with a double major in Chinese and International Relations.
West Point cadets line up at their graduation ceremony in Michie Stadium. (Mike Groll / AP)
Jost excelled in his studies. He was academically ranked seventh out of 972 cadets in his graduating class, and was commissioned as a military intelligence officer. He won a Rotary scholarship for a graduate degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He became proficient in Mandarin, and earned a master’s degree in Chinese studies after a year of intense study. Now it was time to join the Army and use his education.

It would be the last time Jost used his Chinese until leaving the service five years later.

Awwwwww, someone call that (now former) officer a Waaahmbulance. The Army didn’t dispose itself for one millennial’s ultimate self-actualization. Quel horreur! 

turkish water pipe

Sometimes, the Army is like a Turkish water pipe. The more you suck, the higher you go.

These Officer Selfie stories make up a good part of the long thumbsucker. Along with Jost, we meet a woman whose life was ruined, ruined, because she could only serve in combat as an attack helicopter pilot, when she really wanted to be an infantry officer. The whole attack-helicopter thing was a sideline for her, and her ambition for higher rank quickly drove her out of the cockpit into pursuit of other avenues towards fame and promotion, all collapsing in a Hindenburg FOOM when she and her officer husband didn’t get matching His & Hers assignments.

The promotion system, Barno and whatserface note, holds back officers of superior ability. Its Industrial Age men-as-interchangeable-cogs ethos has long been abandoned by industry, which can be even more dynamic (and even more focused on superficial, short-term results than the military, which is already too focused on knob-polishing for ticket-punching transient leaders). But it is an ill wind that blows no good, and that same personnel friction also holds back the toxic leader. We all know the type: the narcissistic careerist for whom military service is a love sonnet to self, the one who inverts the officer code of “the mission, the men, and me” to “me, me, me, then the mission, and bleep the men if they can’t take a joke.”

An example of the article’s focus on careerist vs. competent officers is its concern for officers’ graduate-school opportunities. In fact, the Army at least has numerous pathways to grad school and one of their selected whiners went directly from West Point to grad school, as noted above, but he wanted more grad school and he didn’t want to wait for it.  We have very seldom seen an officer apply his grad school effectively to the only real reason we need officers, combat leadership. In fact, officers who have led sports teams seem to do much better, on average, than their more intelligent supposed “betters.” (We make fun of colonels who majored in football, here, but it’s probably a better preparation for leadership than any graduate degree, although history and anything highly quantitative — like an MBA — have their applications). In our experience, the paid grad-school thing is mostly just a benefit that accrues to the individual officer, and that he or she takes “up or out” with him and may used to plus up a post-military civilian salary.

As an aside: that Barno seemingly wants to elevate such officers makes us wonder what stripe of leader he was. A friend writes, in introducing this article to us:

The two authors are currently prominent participants in think tank events around town focusing on military and defense. LTG Barno has some actual basis for what he asserts, having actually carried a rifle and rucksack on behalf of America. Dr, Bensahel apparently learned what she knows by reading books and being a member of the chattering class.

Full disclosure: LTG Barno and I, when we were captains over 30 years ago, were classmates (which does NOT translate to friends) in an Army course. While I recall him, I doubt that he would recall me.

So, is there nothing of value in Barno and whatsername’s report? No. They do manage to get in a good condemnation of up-or-out, the Original Sin in DOPMA which drives much of the ticket-punching, short-term, superficial activity of toxic leasers.

Quoting the RAND Corp:

While breaking new ground (permanent grade tables, single promotion system, augmentation of reserve officers into regular status), DOPMA [of 1980] was basically evolutionary, extending the existing paradigm (grade controls, promotion opportunity and timing objectives, up-or-out, and uniformity across the services) that was established after World War II.

They also note that, unlike civilian businesses, there’s no way to military leadership except the DOPMA-dictated process of plodding apprenticeship:

This legacy system is woefully archaic in the 21st century—and far removed from the best talent-management practices of the private sector. It may well be the last untransformed segment of an otherwise modern, flexible, and adaptable U.S. military. Yet the personnel system touches every single person in the military every single day of their career—and determines how much they are paid, where they live, what kind of jobs they perform, and how often they move or get promoted. Neither officers nor enlisted troops have any substantial input in how they fit into this system—nor how to maximize their talents for the greater good.

The U.S. military is largely a closed-loop system for talent. Lateral entry is nearly nonexistent outside of unique specialties such as medicine. The four-star generals and admirals who will be the chairman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in 2035 are serving in uniform today as majors or lieutenant commanders with somewhere between 10 and 16 years of service. Even the members of the JCS in 2045 are already serving in uniform, just starting out as ensigns and lieutenants, most with fewer than four years of service. Losing talented, experienced, and innovative leaders in the first 10 years of their military careers means that those leaders will not be available to serve in ever-more senior military leadership positions during the next the 20 or 30 years. This problem deserves rapt attention because getting the quality of the force wrong—unknowingly keeping in less capable leaders while losing the best and brightest talent—could have debilitating effects on fighting and winning the complex wars of the future.

It’s actually worse than they suggest, because it’s extremely hard for officers to choose and change branches. The signal or QM officer who burns to lead infantry units is practically a wachword, and there’s no way for him to do it, because we decided who was going to be an infantry officer when he was 17 or 21 years old, and that’s that. There’s little traffic  and few pathways between the officer and NCO ranks — given our educated enlisted corps these days, there should be more traffic on those paths, and it should be bidirectional. There are still restrictions on Reservists coming on to active duty, and there is no possibility for an officer to opt to take a few years in the reserves, perhaps to raise children or to bank some money for their future education. Sure, you can leave active duty and take a reserve or Guard commission, but you’re passing through one of the personnel system’s beloved one-way diodes on its busy wiring diagram: there is no return.

The personnel system’s drag isn’t just applied to the most ambitious officers (whom Barno and whatsername conflate with the best), either. The byzantine system is a huge brake on everything the Army does. Around the time of the Gulf War we were shocked to discover that the Army, admittedly larger then, had approximately 50,000 enlisted personnel clerks, almost 10% of its active duty strength. Companies with thousands of employees employ single digits of personnel in their HR departments: these clerks are 99.9% superfluous, and exist to serve the organization; while their assigments might be merely orthogonal to the mission, their practical effect is negative because they bear down so much on everything the service does.

Finally, one goal of DOPMA is not mentioned by Barno and whatsername, even though it is one of the few that the act actually met: removing partisanship from officer selection and promotion. This article does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of an organized campaign in support of an initiatiave by SecDef Ash Carter, whose objective is to remove these requirements from both DOD civilian and officer billets. This would allow free and unlimited hiring and firing — and it would allow the even more rapid advancement of the one kind of officer proven to beat the DOPMA system: the political suck-up.

Whatever new Frankensteinian abomination flows from this, they will call it progress.