How good is the U.S. military at determining who is fit for battle?
Ten years into the war in Afghanistan, and after nearly nine years of war in Iraq, we know that the defining injuries of these conflicts for our service members include traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. We also understand that the all-volunteer force is stretched thin and that multiple deployments to combat zones are routine.
What military physicians don’t have a good sense of, however, is how to tell whether a combat veteran is still qualified for the battlefield. And the tragedy this month in Afghanistan, where Army Staff Sgt.… Seguir leyendo »
Here we go again. President Obama made the same mistake Thursday in announcing his new military strategy that virtually all of his predecessors have made since the end of World War II. He said:
“Moreover, we have to remember the lessons of history. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past — after World War II, after Vietnam — when our military was left ill-prepared for the future. As commander in chief, I will not let that happen again. Not on my watch.”
Unfortunately, Obama’s plan does exactly that. It forgets the lessons of history. Some facts: Harry Truman seeking to never repeat the costs of World War II reduced the Army from 8 million soldiers to fewer than half a million.… Seguir leyendo »
Troops in Iraq will complete their withdrawal by the end of the year. Troops may no longer be stationed there, but they carry a piece of the war with them everywhere they go. While the nation may be moving on, for our troops, the Iraq War remains an ongoing battle as some work to overcome their injuries while others struggle to assimilate back into the workforce and with their families.
If you’ve turned on the television this month, you’ve seen the videos, sometimes more than once. A group of service members proudly marches into a gymnasium, salutes the U.S. flag, and then the troops are overwhelmed by the cheers and hugs of their friends and family members.… Seguir leyendo »
The failure of the US Congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on budget cuts now sets the stage for $1.2 trillion in automatic reductions to begin in January 2013. Should these cuts go into effect, the US Defense Department, which already must implement $450 billion in reductions over ten years, will take half the hit. But pushback has already begun, with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arguing that further reductions will impose “substantial risk” to America’s national security.
But, if history is a guide, global events, not deficit hawks or military promoters, will have the ultimate say over how far defense reductions go.… Seguir leyendo »
Top defense officials are grappling to find a unified position on whether to allow women in direct ground combat, as the Pentagon prepares a landmark report to Congress on the military's coed future.
In the wake of two wars in which women have exchanged fire with the enemy, the Pentagon is being pressed to scrap the ban on women serving below the brigade level in units whose main mission is direct ground combat. That means women may not be infantry members or Green Berets.
"It is the subject of ongoing discussions but not yet fully resolved," a senior Pentagon official said when asked whether Army Gen.… Seguir leyendo »
U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, 21, first made the news in August 2010 when, arguing that his Islamic faith contradicts serving in the American military, he filed for conscientious objector (CO) status. Referring to current American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pfc. Abdo asserted that a Muslim "is not allowed to participate in an Islamicly unjust war. Any Muslim who knows his religion ... should not participate in the U.S. military." Further, he wrote: "I cannot be a soldier in the U.S. Army and continue to remain true to Islam."
Simultaneously, Pfc. Abdo made anti-American statements during Pashto language class and listed the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, on his Facebook page as one of his "activities and interests."… Seguir leyendo »
The military relationship between the United States and China is one of the world’s most important. And yet, clouded by some misunderstanding and suspicion, it remains among the most challenging. There are issues on which we disagree and are tempted to confront each other. But there are crucial areas where our interests coincide, on which we must work together.
So we need to make the relationship better, by seeking strategic trust.
How do we do that?
First, we’ve got to keep talking. Dialogue is critical.
A good bit of misunderstanding between our militaries can be cleared up by reaching out to each other.… Seguir leyendo »
Jeremy Morlock, an American soldier who confessed to murdering three Afghan civilians in 2009 and 2010, was sentenced Wednesday to 24 years in prison by a military judge. Four more soldiers face murder charges, and an additional seven are being held for lesser crimes. Some say the actions of Morlock and other members of his so-called “kill team” stand as a moral indictment of the war effort, but they have it backward. The U.S. government recognizes wanton killing of civilians as a war crime and responds accordingly. Had Morlock been working for the jihadists, he would be hailed as a hero.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2001, I was an Air Force lieutenant colonel and A-10 fighter pilot stationed in Saudi Arabia, in charge of rescue operations for no-fly enforcement in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. Every time I went off base, I had to follow orders and put on a black Muslim abaya and head scarf. Military officials said this would show "cultural sensitivity" toward conservative Saudi leaders and guarantee "force protection" - this in a nation where women couldn't drive, vote or dress as they pleased.
To me, the abaya directive, with its different rules for male and female troops and the requirement that I don the garb of a faith not my own, violated the the U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
A NATO oil tanker truck was blown up by insurgents at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border last week, and while no one was injured, the incident temporarily closed the Khyber Pass, the main supply artery for Western troops in the Afghan theater. This has become an all-too-routine occurrence; in the last nine years some 1,000 Americans have been killed on fuel-related missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Until the Defense Department develops battlefield policies recognizing that energy efficiency contributes to military effectiveness, more blood will be shed, billions of dollars will be wasted, our enemies will have thousands of vulnerable fuel trucks for targets and our commanders will continue to be distracted by the task of overseeing fuel convoys.… Seguir leyendo »
I am an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer. I have deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan and have commanded infantry Marines in combat.
On Tuesday, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said he believes repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and allowing gay and lesbian Marines to serve openly could "cost Marines' lives" because of the "mistakes and inattention or distractions" that might ensue. I am not homosexual. And in this instance, I must respectfully disagree with my commandant.
The commandant cites the importance of cohesion within small combat units and warns against its disruption by allowing homosexuals to stop concealing their identities.… Seguir leyendo »
After 17 years, "don't ask, don't tell" may finally be on its way out. Even if the Senate resists the latest efforts to end the policy, it appears that most members of the military - from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on down - support the law's repeal.
But there's one part of the military where resistance is greater than in any other: the United States Marine Corps.
That is clear from early reports about a survey sent to 400,000 active duty and reserve service members on "don't ask, don't tell" that will be officially released next month.… Seguir leyendo »
A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted the Obama administration’s emergency request for a stay against a lower court order lifting the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members.
The decision will strike some people as odd, since popular belief holds that the president, who has said he opposes the law, can make the policy go away by simply letting the lower court order stand. In fact, the administration is required to comply with the law and defend it in court, regardless of Mr. Obama’s personal views.
Fortunately, there is another, seemingly contradictory step the White House could take that would not only make its position clear, but deal a significant blow to the law’s prospects: while continuing to appeal the ruling, the administration could inform the courts that it believes “don’t ask, don’t tell” is unconstitutional.… Seguir leyendo »
Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Snyder v. Phelps, a case about the nature and scope of basic rights -- those of free speech vs. those of privacy. But this case is fundamentally about wrongs and the law's imperfect ability to redress them.
The facts of the case are well known. Matthew Snyder, a Marine lance corporal from Westminster, Md., was killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2006. The Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church traveled more than 1,000 miles to Maryland to picket his funeral and draw attention to their view that society and the military are too tolerant of homosexuality.… Seguir leyendo »
For the past six months, we led a bipartisan panel of former national security and military leaders in reviewing the document laying out the Defense Department's plans for the next 20 years. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released this year was prepared by a Pentagon focused on responding to the threats America faces and winning the wars in which America is engaged. We had some compliments and some criticisms of the QDR, as well as suggestions for crafting a broader longer-term vision for America's military and national power.
The issues in our report are sufficiently serious that we believe an explicit warning is appropriate.… Seguir leyendo »
La cultura estadounidense está saturada de imaginería, vocabulario, recuerdos y fantasías de carácter militar. Su militarismo no nació durante las guerras mundiales o en la guerra fría, sino que se remonta al origen de la propia República.
Muchos de los dirigentes de la insurrección antibritánica habían servido a la metrópoli en la guerra contra Francia anterior a la Revolución Americana. Aun siendo de gran importancia, esta fue un incidente dentro de la pugna europea por el continente americano, que precisaba de un esfuerzo bélico permanente. La nueva República dejó claro que su Ejército controlaría dicho continente, y desde el principio su Armada asumió una misión de alcance mundial.… Seguir leyendo »
Even on Memorial Day, when the nation stops to honor and remember the fallen men and women in uniform who served in wars past and present, it is easy for the U.S. military to remain an abstraction. The troops toil at distant bases and fight far-away battles, becoming real to their fellow citizens mainly when they lug giant rucksacks through America's airports at the beginning and end of their leaves.
It is particularly easy to forget that the majority of the men and women fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are just a few years removed from high school. As a military reporter, I've had the chance to see them as they really are, in those odd moments between boredom and heroism, when they're waiting for a helicopter, killing time on outposts or starting to bump down a road that may or may not be laden with explosives.… Seguir leyendo »
Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote a letter last month urging Congress to delay legislation that would end the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military until after Dec. 1, when the results of a 10-month Pentagon working-group review are due. While the request is reasonable, it is the military that will pay the highest price if Congress does not act now.
"Don't ask, don't tell" is both a federal law and a Pentagon policy. The law ties the military's hands on this issue. If Congress fails to repeal it, the Pentagon's study process will be compromised because the Defense Department will not have the authority to implement its own recommendations.… Seguir leyendo »
¿Qué debe hacer un país cuando, teniendo intereses y obligaciones en todo el mundo, se enfrenta a multitud de desafíos externos y amenazas potenciales?
Pues quizá tenga que pensar más y con más coherencia que antes. Quizá necesite respirar hondo, tragar saliva y tomar decisiones difíciles. Quizá, para mantener simplemente sus intereses fundamentales, tenga que ser bastante despiadado. Quizá ese país -y está claro que me refiero a los Estados Unidos del atribulado mundo actual- necesite reevaluar su posición y su futuro en el ámbito internacional.
Hace unos días, el Pentágono presentó el Resumen Cuatrienal de Defensa a que le obliga el Congreso: un exhaustivo informe que, realizado por los más perspicaces expertos en planificación de la defensa, indica dónde es más probable que estén los principales desafíos del país en materia de seguridad, apuntando, por tanto, qué decisiones habrá que tomar, tanto en lo tocante a prioridades regionales como al gasto en armamento.… Seguir leyendo »
When the Pentagon's top brass announced last week that they no longer believe military unit cohesion suffers from the presence of openly gay men or women in the ranks, they effectively transformed a policy question into a legal one, to which the answer is clear: Congress can no longer mandate discrimination in the armed forces on the basis of sexual orientation.
In the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law criminalizing same-gender sexual relations, reasoning that such conduct was part of a constitutionally protected liberty interest. The court also suggested that the Texas statute was vulnerable to challenge as a denial of equal protection of the laws.… Seguir leyendo »