Friday, January 1, 2010
Boycott Tom Ricks. Like a lot of people, I've still been reading his blog in spite of how angry it makes me (and if you don't know why, Schmedlap has a great post on why he took Tom off his blogroll). This has been difficult road for me as Fiasco was a very influential book in my life and helped direct what I wanted to do after I left the Army. But enough is enough.
Tom couldn't have timed this post any better - at least in regard to my establishing a resolution for 2010. I'll put this as succinctly as possible for you Tom: you weren't right. At least by this argument. In his "shut down the service academies" series, he has raised a number of issues that could improve how those institutions produce better officers. But in his (yet another) unreleased report, the statements are damning to both USMA grads and scholarship ROTC grads because they are getting out of the service "at an unacceptable rate." First of all, that statement isn't aimed at USMA alone, but his beloved ROTC as well, so how on earth does that prove his point? And the last part of this post talks about the decline in officer quality due to the increased percentage of OCS-commissioned officers. I'm not going to refute any of the findings in this "report" (especially since there are only a few sentences quoted), but it takes a unique level of idiocy to think this proves that USMA should be shut down. Call me crazy, but if the graduates of the most expensive commissioning institutions are getting out in droves and that is causing a decline in officer quality, then maybe the problem isn't with the commissioning sources but how the Active Army retains those graduates.
And how does one define "unacceptable rate"? The Army (and other services) make a deal with those it educates: we'll pay for school and you owe us time that we think benefits both parties. If the Army thinks it is getting screwed because West Pointers and ROTC grads are getting out before they should, then the Army needs to make their active commitment longer. It's that simple. Or make Army service more acceptable over the length of a career.
I say that last bit because it simply isn't for most junior officers. Like many of my cohort, of my six-year Army career, I spent three of those years in theater. To say nothing of time spent away from home doing training at home station and at training centers. I don't have any regrets about doing those things, but I certainly couldn't have kept that pace up for another fourteen years. Especially considering that if I had stayed in I would have been guaranteed a fourth tour in a combat zone within eighteen months of my return from my third. And the impact? My kids had no idea who I was by the time I got out and it destroyed my marriage. If you were to survey the year groups of officers around mine, you would find my story to be the norm, not the exception.
So yes, we got out in droves. We all had a great education payed for by the taxpayers. The Army received years of combat service out of us in return. I'll say that again: years of combat service. Everyone wins. Does the future look a little bleak for both parties? It sure does - the effects of that blistering pace of operational use will be felt by me for the rest of my life, just as the Army is going to struggle to maintain an adequate officer corps until it rethinks how it does business.
Maybe Tom thinks that because the Army paid all that money for us, we should have to give more. I've given a lot (and I've given so little compared to so many) so I think he's about as wrong as one can be. And I, like many, still contribute to our national defense - just not in the ways that we used to.
I don't like to write negative posts, but this just had to be said. The Best Defense has been a shining example of how to make poor arguments about things the writer knows nothing about. I highly doubt Tom reads this blog, but if he does I have one piece of advice for him: stop blogging. It is destroying your legacy and you are making yourself irrelevant to serious discussion. I'm sure he disagrees with me on that, but it doesn't really matter. Whether or not he continues to blog is of no consequence to me. In the interest of stemming the proliferation of grey hairs on my head, I certainly won't ever read his stuff again.