August 03, 2003
An insider's view of the Pentagon
Today's op-ed pages contain this piece by a recently retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who spent the last three years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Under Secretariat for Policy. She started out as a Bush fan, but after seeing how decisions were made before, during, and after the invasion of Iraq, she's not any more. Check it out. Thanks to reader Melanie for the tip.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 03, 2003 to Iraq attack
Go read the article, loyal Kuffers. This is required reading. And it is a lot tougher than Charles' blurbs, she's accusing Bushco of treason.
I am a former Air Force intelligence officer and I was on the HQ Air Combat Command staff and had 5 temporary assignments in the Persian Gulf AOR. I can't dispute any of what Lt. Col. Kwistkowski asserts from her observations.
However, I would wrap up her three themes into one overriding theme that has less to do with the Office of the Sec Def and more to do with the culture of the military. The officer corps is gripped by careerism above all else. Every job, class, report, assignment, briefing, meeting, and social engagement is considered with an eye to how it will enhace a person's career and position them for promotion. Careerism has always existed, but it has grown much worse since the early 1990's. (For those looking for a corresponding political milestone, late Bush Sr. during the RIFs following the first Gulf War.)
The prized postion in any organization is that of the executive officer. The exec will work hard, but is not likely be deployed to the theater. They are the gatekeepers to the commander and can keep other officers, even those who outrank them, at an arm's distance from the commander. Few who disagree with the commander ever get access. As a result, the cliques are formed. The "Yes"-men/women become the trusted advisors and "go-to" performers. They enjoy rewards that prep them for advancement - schools, the right assignments, etc. The rest either relish their role as one of untouchables or hope that when the commander changes they can become one of the "in-crowd".
The result is a single point of view can dominate an organization. Data that is contrary to that point of view gets ignored. You must NEVER make the commander look bad. Another result is that frequently junior officers that are selected as an exec will progress rapidly through the ranks without ever having to leave the world of schools and staff work. As such, they are ususally exempt from field duty. The untouchables are the ones who actually deployed.
As you may guess, I was an untouchable. But I must in fairness say that many of the "go-to" people on staffs were very bright professional officers, good people in a bad system. Many times my former commanders' views, though unchallenged, were right. My chief criticism is that being right is not what motivates many military intelligence officers. They are motivated to not be wrong and to protect their career.
How does this relate to the link? The military culture in the officer corps is that of the "yes" man/woman. Commanders at the top of their organizations still work for somebody, the SECDEF and others. They want to remain the "go-to" guys and pleasing thier boss is what got them this far. The information that the Rummys, Wolfowitzs, Perles, Cohens, Bushs, Clintons, whoevers of the world want to hear is what they will provide. That is how they have been trained to act. To bring any news to the contrary is not a good career move.