L-R: RADM Green, GEN Scot (7-Days In May) LTC Vindman
Yesterday, I wrote of what I perceived of a deep rot in the Military, as exemplified by Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, defying the sitting President of these United States.
At the end, I identified a significant issue worth further exploration, the “oddity” of such a young, relatively low ranking Commissioned Officer publicly defying The President. As I also mentioned, this does not appear to be a “one of” type event. There are a number of disturbing things happening in our Armed Forces that do not bode well for a future where these United States are involved in a high intensity, existential fight with Russia, China or both.
It’s not as if there haven’t been warnings. Back in 2014, William S. Lind wrote an interesting piece in The American Conservative. His lead paragraph is thought provoking
The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.
Lind is correct. Where are the military thinkers? Lind divides the problem into two categories, Substantive and Structural. You can read his entire treatise HERE: An Officer Corps That Can’t Score
My focus for the second of my series on this subject is Lind’s “Substantive” category, specifically the moral part. He writes,
Substantively, at the moral level—Colonel Boyd’s highest and most powerful level—our officers live in a bubble. Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry. Senior officers’ bubbles, created by vast, sycophantic staffs, rival Xerxes’s court. Woe betide the ignorant courtier who tells the god-king something he doesn’t want to hear. (I know—I’ve done it, often.)
Where does such an attitude come from? Although anecdotal, it would seem it is coming from all places, the military institutions that we charge with being the models for accessing, training and most importantly, instilling the American Warrior Ethos in those who like Joshua Chamberlain, would lead their countrymen in future battles.
Case in point, West Point Cadet, later Army Second Lieutenant, Spencer Rapone. The short version: In May 2016, The United States Military Academy At West Point, managed to graduate and allow to be commissioned (there’s that word again) a former Ranger Battalion Soldier, Spencer Rapone. At his Academy Graduation , Rapone wore a Che Guevara T-shirt under his full dress coat, posing for pictures showing the t-shirt underneath. He also had turned his dress cap over to reveal a hand written message, “Communism will win.” Both pictures made the rounds on twitter, causing some significant angst at senior levels of the Army.
Under pressure, Rapone subsequently resigned from the Army that June, with an “Other Than Honorable Discharge.” Red State’s Managing Editor did some great reporting on this whole debacle
How did someone with Rapone’s open and notorious, anti-American attitudes get screened, recruited, put through a 4-year grinder that supposedly weeds out those who are unsuited and ultimately gain the President’s “special trust and confidence in [his] patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities?” What went wrong?
Colonel Boyd above, provided a peek at that answer at the strategic level. Another officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Heffington, U.S. Army (Retired) talks to us at ground level. Heffington was an assistant professor at West Point while Rapone was there as a Cadet. After Rapone’s social media outing, Heffington wrote a public letter describing his assessment of significant issues at West Point.
LTC Heffington pointed out that discipline and standards were “almost nonexistent.” He also stated that respect for the Honor Code had degraded to the point that the faculty and staff are routinely intimidated by the Academy’s senior leadership when reporting violations. He sums up with
It is not so much that West Point’s leadership defends his [Rapone’s] views (Prof. Hosein did, however); it is that West Point’s senior leaders are infected with apathy: they simply do not want to deal with any problem, regardless of how grievous a violation of standards and/or discipline it may be. They are so reticent to separate problematic cadets (undoubtedly due to the “developmental model” that now exists at USMA) that someone like Rapone can easily slip through the cracks. In other words, West Point’s leaders choose the easier wrong over the harder right.
You can read the entire letter HERE: Exclusive: Former West Point professor’s letter exposes corruption, cheating and failing standards [Full letter]
My colleague and good friend Stu Cvrk, has done a great analysis on the situation at my Alma Mater.
Cvrk, recaps the issue with Rapone and adds two other questionable situations, one a rape accusation against the Army quarterback and four other cadets accused of running a drug ring. I’m sure that my colleague could come up with a few instances at the Naval Academy…and the Air Force Academy too.
This problem has been festering for a long time. However, it has accelerated since 2008 and the election of a first term senator from Illinois, who up until then, had never, ever had any position of personal responsibility, made it much worse.
Like many of whom are of President Obama’s political persuasion, the Military was at best, a tool to promote his leftist agenda. At worst, it stood as one of the solid pillars supporting the greatness that is America. Like the Boy Scouts and the Churches, the Military was a respected, moral force for good. As such, the leftists believe it needs to be subverted. It needs to be turned into just another source of government jobs occupied by folks who vote Democrat.
How do they accomplish that? One way is that they turn each Military Academy into just another college, albeit with strange clothes. The Military Academies are some of the most important pillars that underpin our Armed Forces. This directed effort to weaken them, makes them less “special.” Once that gets to a certain point, the American Taxpayers will start asking serious questions. They will ask why they must pay for the service Academies, when other commissioning sources provide the same or better quality.
At that point, how do we form the requisite moral fiber for aspiring officers? How to we instill the proper warrior ethos, the principles of Duty, Honor, Country into the future leaders of our fine Servicemen and Women? Every mother of a son or daughter eligible to be sent off to war should worry about this. There will come a time, likely in the not so distant future, where we will have to fight and win an existential war with either Russia, China, or both. Who will lead our troops to victory and bring them home alive?
Our technology and superior logistics won’t enable us to do a “20 Days to Baghdad.” It will be a brutal fight and that technology and logistics will only carry us so far. It will take American troops led by a well trained Officer Corps that has the mettle: physical, mental and moral, to lead them successfully, to make the tough decisions, to be the selfless leaders…and bring back home alive. What is the answer? Stay tuned.