Wednesday, June 14, 2006
How do Milbloggers view the home front?
My good friend Bill Crawford has asked me to pen a short essay on the view of the military towards those back here on the home front. As a serving member of the Reserve component, there are several salient issues which have to be addressed when discussing political-military relations. First, every member of the US military is taught that the civilian branch of our government always reigns supreme. That even though Air Force Chief of Staff General Moseley is my boss, it is actually HIS boss Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who wields ultimate control over our military. So, there is a fine line one must tread when analyzing how the military views those politicians who direct our actions. Furthermore, through the Constitution which we all swore to protect and defend- we realize that it is the political class that will always control our fates to one degree or another. Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice states that “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department…or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Clearly then, a professional member of the military must never demonstrate contempt to any of our duly elected representatives. This policy serves to maintain order in the ranks, and is a fundamental bulwark of our Republic. You will not hear long discourses by those in the military on nebulous concepts of “treason” or “summer patriots” or “chickenhawks”. The majority of those serving in the military have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in such polemics. What you will hear is a singular question. And that question is, “do the people back at home have a true and valid conception of what is happening overseas?” Many in the military blogger community are constantly surprised when they return Stateside at the end of their combat deployment. To them, we are engaged in a very difficult campaign, but one in which the United States has succeeded to a significant degree. The fact that: the homeland has not been attacked since 9/11; there have been two national elections in Iraq; one Constitutional ratification; as well as upcoming regional elections in that country. The fact that: thousands of schools; hospitals; and police stations have been built and refurbished; that every day, there are more Iraqi Interior Ministry and Army forces hitting the streets on patrol with our forces. The fact that there is now a functioning permanent Cabinet serving in Baghdad, with non-sectarian leaders holding the critical positions for Minister of Defense and National Security Advisor. These are all real and important achievements. Four years ago these actions would have been unimaginable events taking place within the despotism of Saddam Hussein and the heart of the Arab Middle East. Deservedly, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines rightfully believe they have made great sacrifices in the furtherance of a great and just cause. At the same time however, many are confused as to why grunts on the front lines of Baquba and Ramadi seem to possess a better overall strategic perspective on the war against terror than certain people back in Washington. From reading their blogs, it seems to them that a minority of politicians believe they have carte blanche to utter untrue statements about our forces- and this fills many with heartache and sadness. The overwhelming majority of our military forces around the world believe that we are winning. And that we will continue to win this war- as long as the political establishment continues its support for the mission. Today I listened to various sound clips from a certain politician, claiming that “our children are being sent to war with no plan for victory.” I am not sure which “child” she is talking about, as everyone who enlists has at least graduated from high school and is old enough to drive and vote. And as I just confirmed, there is a 38 page document on the White House website which lays out exactly what our plan for victory entails. It is entitled “Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” So many in the military community are simply puzzled as to the disconnect between what they observe, and what some in Washington and the media observe. Many media articles which portray our forces as inept or in over their heads indeed have insidious effects on the warfighter- and not because it weakens their own resolve. Instead, when the media publishes untrue statements, it gives succor to our vicious enemies, and demoralizes our families and the general populace of our country. The jihadists realize they can not beat us on the battlefield- at this stage they rarely engage our troops directly other than through improvised explosive devices. But they are crafty enough to realize that if they can cause as much violence and mayhem as possible, parts of the media and political class in Congress may exert pressure on the Administration to retreat on the precipice of victory. This is part of the strategy of our enemies- and is the greatest fear of those in the military. Many fear that as success in Mesopatamia is within our grasp, we will not follow through until final victory is attained. Many military bloggers believe that often times members of the media and partisan operatives portray our forces in a needleesly negative light. Furthermore, if we were to enact the policies of the “pull out now crowd” we would be faced with the following consequences: thousands of innocent civilians would be butchered throughout Iraq; Al-Qaeda would achieve its greatest victory; our allies would learn to no longer trust the word of the United States; Iran and its nuclear program would be emboldened; and sooner rather than later we would be hit on the streets of New York rather than Fallujah. Many in the military- who have been schooled in doctrine, strategy, and tactics realize that any counter insurgency operation is going to prove both difficult and slow. They only ask that those in the rear consistently tell the truth about them, rather than making their job more difficult and painful.