My good friend and colleague Bonchie had a good article out the other day, urging us folks on the American team to settle down and relax. His point; Army Lieutenant Colonel Vindman has testified to nothing new one way or another regarding the now infamous phone call between the Presidents of the United States and Ukraine. He further points out that we may do ourselves harm by going after him.
For the most part, I agree. Moreover, I’ve made it a personal policy of mine to never denigrate another man’s valor…unless I was actually on the scene of the incident. My only comment in that regard, is that LTC Vindman appears to have a “very light rack,” for 22 years of service during a time of U.S. armed combat. Another colleague of mine, Streiff has deftly handled that aspect in this well turned article.
Having determined the above, it took me quite a while to come to the conclusion that I should weigh in on this matter. The retired Infantry Colonel in me cannot let this gross lack of judgement and conduct unbecoming a Commissioned Officer, pass without some comment.
As I pointed out on the David Webb show earlier today, focusing on whether or not LTC Vindman should have worn his uniform to testify, is akin to “pole vaulting over mouse turds.” It’s a minor issue at best. The most Vindman could get convicted of in that regard, is if he got nailed on another charge and “bringing discredit to the uniform” while committing that bad act, became part of the aggravating circumstances.
As I told Webb, the thing we should be focusing on, is the fact that a mid grade officer in the United States Army, has openly and notoriously inserted himself into a conflict between the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives—but one half of the Legislative Branch. He has done this two different ways and quite frankly, I cannot determine which is the more egregious.
First of all, it appears that he violated an order from President Trump to not testify before the House Committee. He did so in the most dramatic method possible, parading through the halls of Congress in his uniform, appearing to desire the most attention possible for his act of defiance. It’s of note that the left leaning New York Times and other publications were fully aware of his service record and reviewed it loudly and in hagiographical fashion, even before he had actually arrived to testify, surely an orchestrated public diplomacy event.
There are some who claim that he is under no obligation to obey an unlawful order. They would be correct. However, this isn’t a case of being ordered to murder a prisoner in the heat of battle. This is a conflict between the President of these United States and one part of the Legislative Branch regarding what may or may not be regarded as “Executive Privilege,” and thus exempt from Congressional subpoena. LTC Vindman’s proper course when reviewing said subpoena, would to have been to inform his chain of command in his National Security Council position and seek guidance, while informing the Army liaison of said actions.
By doing so, he would have properly and effectively extricated himself from this fight. The House committee would have undoubtably gone to court and at some time during that process, the issue would be resolved. In no case would Vindman have been put at risk for following that path. Instead, in his arrogance (more on that later) he decided that he was qualified to determine whose authority was prime in this circumstance. He decided to take sides in a fight between the Executive and the House, coming down in favor of the House. That will likely cost him—and rightly so.
The second manner LTC Vindman lost his way has to do with arrogance and its parent, ego. LTC Vindman apparently has both in spades and that is the likely and proximate cause for this display of poor judgement. If you go back to his leaked introductory statement and other pieces of his “testimony,” he makes no statement whatsoever that says President Trump did anything remotely illegal. He never claims at any time, that he heard President Trump demand a quid pro quo for arms aid to Ukraine, although it would be well within US Law and Treaty to do such.
Vindman’s opening statement was long on self congratulatory prose and very short on substance relating to the matter at hand. The few substantive items all appeared to be that Vindman disagreed with President Trump on policy and technique, which is fine as far as it goes, except for the totally unprofessional and possibly illegal way he handled that disagreement.
I would really like to chat with Vindman’s previous military commanders and supervisors. It appears he wasn’t raised right. He apparently cannot understand the difference between command positions—those who get to decide things and staff positions—those who advise the deciders. In his case, he appears to believe that his opinion outweighs The President’s.
Based on his opening statement, his major beef is that President Trump wasn’t doing it the way Vindman wanted him to. Guess what there young Lieutenant Colonel. Somebody should have told you this a long time ago. You are the Staff Officer, not the Commander—certainly not the Commander In Chief. Your job is to advise. Once The Boss makes his decision, your job is to salute, about face, move out and get it done. If you have a beef with a decision, then resign. As a military officer, you don’t get to insert yourself into a food fight between The President and Congress. Somebody should have squared you away on this simple concept a long time ago.
Right now, the U.S Military has a good reputation with the American public. We are well respected. The Army needs to get out ahead of this now and initiate an Article 15-6 Investigation on LTC Vindman’s actions. The last thing my beloved Army needs is to get a reputation of taking sides in political fights.
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.
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