Today is a federal holiday in observance of Veterans Day and we should all pause a moment to reflect on the sacrifices our veterans have made. But today is also an opportunity to reflect on the current state of civil-military relations. In today’s New York Times, Tom Ricks addresses this and notes:
[T]oday, politicians are so fearful of being accused of “criticizing our troops” that they fail to scrutinize the performance of those who lead them.
That is a serious problem.
But it goes beyond scrutiny of a military leader’s execution of a particular strategy, which does occur occasionally. More importantly, scrutiny from politicians and others should include hard questions about a given strategy’s likelihood of success, even if the execution is flawless.
Instead, whenever someone raises a point of clarification about how COIN is supposed to work in a country like Afghanistan, or even whether it worked as well as advertised in Iraq, that person risks being lumped together with reflexive critics of all things military.
An angry blogger will invoke MoveOn.org‘s execrable General Betray-us ad, and — voila — the person trying to make a point about the wise deployment of strategic assets (and, yes, whether the particular mission in question is worth risking the lives of American soldiers in the first place) is portrayed as somehow hating the troops.
On the contrary, they value the troops more than those who harbor doubts but remain silent.
When politicians step out and ask serious questions, despite the certain counter-assault and character assassination, they deserve respect. It is, after all, their job. And when they duck that responsibility out of fear that a legion of angry bloggers will call them names, they deserve our scorn.