Thank You Melissa for pointing me to this article written by Ms. Courtney Martin at The American Prospect. The link to The American Prospect and the article that she wrote is included below. This post is also being forwarded to the editor as a response to the article that Ms. Martin wrote.
Within the article, the author argues that the Military still has two distinct challenges facing it, and that we have neglected and are woefully missing the point on them. Ms. Martin, however, has completely missed the point as to how the Military functions.
She argues that Military Officers will not engage in public discourse about National Strategy and Policy. That we are still locked into our old mindset of not joining the debate on what the United States should do about situations like Afghanistan and Iraq.
"In the next breath, however, Heverly told me that moral questions and big-picture strategy aren't his area of expertise. Soldiers are still taught to talk only about "what they know." The enduring authoritarian structure and culture of the Army -- and the entire military for that matter -- leaves precious resources like Heverly sharing these stories and thoughts at the gym with buddies or at the pub, not playing a role in influencing policy."
Ms. Martin, with all due respect, you are missing the point completely. If we go back to Samuel Huntington's seminal work, The Soldier and the State, you might begin to understand the complexities. We are a nation founded upon civilian control of the Military. It is a hallmark of our society that many have fought and died to preserve over the many years of our great Nation. Our elected and appointed civilian leadership engages in National Policy decisions, and for good reason. Throughout history, and even amongst the nations of the world today, nations that do not have this buffer between their military and policy formulation have a high degree of military influence over their government. This has also led to a high occurence of military take-overs of the legitimate government. That is not what the United States stands for.
That is not to say that we do not have a voice though. The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs has an expressed duty and responsibillity to be the senior military advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States. The President also routinely confers with his Unified and Sub-Unified Commands. A perfect example of this is the assessment that General McChrystal just sent to President Obama. He was asked to complete an assessment of the mission in Afghanistan for the National Command Authority. He did just that and now it is being evaluated along with other elements of the National Leadership. All of these elements are taken into account when deciding what strategy is best for Afghanistan and our Nation. That does not sound like an organization that is unable to give its opinion.
Secondly, Ms. Martin states that this problem with listening to subordinates permeates the entire Military.
"The Army boasts about its intention to train "agile and adaptive leaders who are creative and critical thinkers," but there is still no mechanism by which those who make the orders listen to those who follow them. Soldiers, even at surprisingly high ranks, are trained to see the trees, not the forest. They are conditioned to not talk back or question the wisdom of those in authority."
I don't have another expert such as Samuel Huntington to espouse in this response, but I do have twelve years of active service as an Infantry Leader to use for examples. First, I have witnessed time and time again, Brigade and Battalion Commanders personally discoursing with officer and enlisted Soldiers about issues, challenges, missions, and operations; and then taking that input and making immediate changes to the way our units were operating. Secondly, organizations such as unit professional development centers have begun around the Army focusing on training Soldiers in leadership, academics, personal growth, and how to think through complex problems. I have just spent the last twenty-one months learning how to think about complex and complicated problems at the Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies. Not once, did speaker/professor/Army leader tell me WHAT to think.
In the last nine months at the School of Advanced Military Studies, the entire focus has been on providing us the tools to understand complex, complicated, and ambigious problems; to understand the theory of transformation between what is the actual situation and the desired situation; and, finally, how to achieve that transformation. Put quite simply, it is all about the big picture visualization to insure we are solving the right problem, the right way. No lingering in the trees without realizing you are in the forest.
Within the Military, at every level, Soldiers understand that their opinion and ideas matter. They are not afraid to put them forward, and routinely do so to the great benefit of the unit. At the highest levels of the Military, this occurs again between our Military Leaders and the Civilian Leadership of our Country. These are not the actions of an organization that is afraid of discourse. But, rather one that is built upon it, and at the sametime, understands it's critical place within our Nation. An overlooked brain trust? No, not at all! Our Soldiers are the strength and the intelligence of our Military!
God Bless America
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