Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Interesting Fallows post on Robert Gates

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Worth reading. Here’s a snippet:

… two speeches early this week by the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, about what he thinks is wrong with the culture of the professional military.

Gates starts out miles ahead simply by not being the man he replaced at the Pentagon, the odious Donald Rumsfeld. And even though Gates has implemented essentially the same Administration policy and administered the same gigantic budget that Rumsfeld left him, he has defended and explained his policies in ways suggesting that he has noticed, thought about, and attempted to address opposing views. This is in contrast to the haughty sneering-away of opposition so familiar from the Rumsfeld days.

In back-to-back speeches this Monday to the Air Force leadership at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and then to the Army leadership at West Point, Gates revived what had always been the best part of Rumsfeld’s approach in the Pentagon. This was a willingness to challenge the cautious, yes-man aspects of today’s professional military culture. Rumsfeld gave all such questioning a bad name by his contemptuous disregard for professional military judgment in the runup to the Iraq war. But Gates still had a point — and he made it in a surprising way.

The surprise was Gates’s invocation of the late Air Force colonel John Boyd as an example of the qualities he wanted to see more of in the professional military.

Boyd — whom I met in 1979 and spoke with frequently** until his death 18 years later — is usually invoked by military careerists as exemplifying what they wanted to see less of. He was fearless, impolitic, impolite, self-taught, bullying, and tremendously creative and insightful. (For details, see Robert Coram’s wonderful biography, Boyd.) Eons ago, Richard Cheney, in his incarnations as Congressman and Defense Secretary, went out of his way to listen to Boyd. If he had remembered anything about Boyd and his emphasis on the “moral” elements of combat before going into Iraq, America’s strategic situation would look different today. But many military careerists absolutely despised Boyd — perhaps responding to his view of them.

Imagine, therefore, the amazement of the Bush Administration’s current Secretary of Defense praising Boyd in a speech to the Air Force brass, thus (as described by Boyd’s friend Chet Richards): …

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2008 at 3:01 pm

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