Broken Military Reflects Failed Leadership genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfeld

In my Italian family, we often heard the expression, "when a fish goes bad, it starts with the head". Our interpretation of the saying was that bad leadership is the beginning of the demise of most entities...whether that is in a family, a company, or a country. Fred Kaplan has an article at Slate titled "How Bush Wrecked the Army" that caught my attention and led to my recollection of the above saying.

It also brought to mind a prior posting here at Thought Theater regarding the calls for the resignation or firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In that posting I questioned that strategy and suggested that it may well detract from the real problem...the failed leadership of the President. As Senator McCain has said on numerous occasions, Rumsfeld serves at the Presidents behest...and in that regard it seems to me that the President bears the responsibility for the failings of those he appoints. Unless the judgment of the President were to improve, the firing of Rumsfeld may provide some momentary sense of satisfaction...but it likely wouldn't alter the strategies that have led to the intense criticism of Secretary Rumsfeld. That reality clearly points to the responsibility we have when selecting our leaders.

The generals' revolt has spread inside the Pentagon, and the point of the spear is one of Donald Rumsfeld's most favored officers, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff.

The trumpet sounded last month, when Schoomaker refused to give Rumsfeld a detailed Army budget proposal for fiscal year 2008. The Air Force and Navy met the Aug. 15 deadline for submitting their program requests. But Schoomaker—in an unprecedented move—said he preferred not to.

[...] On Aug. 23, at a speech before the National Press Club, Schoomaker publicly threw down the gauntlet: "There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we cannot execute … a broken budget."

Units throughout the Army are so strained, generals say, that they're going to have to rely even more on the National Guard and Reserves, which are wildly overwhelmed themselves.

Meanwhile, to meet enlistment targets, the Army has raised the maximum age of recruits to 41, lowered their required aptitude scores, and—in another recent gulp—relaxed moral and disciplinary standards. The Army has always waived these standards to let in a small number of applicants. But since the Iraq war, this number has risen substantially. In 2001, just 10.07 percent of Army recruits were given moral waivers—i.e., were allowed into the Army, even though they had committed misdemeanors or had once-prohibited problems with drugs and alcohol, records of serious misconduct, or disqualifying medical conditions. By 2004, this number had risen to 11.98 percent. But in 2005, it soared to 15.02 percent. And as of April 2006, according to a fact sheet obtained from an Army officer, the number has leapt to 15.49 percent.

This is one reason so many Army officers, active and retired, have been so skeptical of the war all along—not so much because they oppose the war itself (though some do), but because they feared it would wreck the Army.

When I read these statistics, I couldn't help but recall the recent discharge of a gay linguistic specialist as well as the continued discharge of gays from the military. I find it outrageous that simply being gay is apparently far worse than allowing those with moral issues that could well harm the military to serve. To call this hypocrisy anything short of discrimination is absurd. This practice is nothing more than the arbitrary application of misguided prejudice and given the recently lowered standards it, in effect, relegates gays to a lesser standing than those convicted of crimes.

In broader terms, all of the above actions are a further indication of the failings of leadership. Looking at the budget issue, one is left to wonder if the needs expressed by our military leaders are being ignored because they point out what many have called an effort on the part of this administration to prosecute the current military efforts on the cheap...all the while disregarding the fact that such decisions may well endanger American soldiers.

While Republican leaders attempt to paint Democrats as weak on defense...going so far as to question their patriotism...their own Party leadership, apparently motivated by partisan political considerations, is willing to submit our military to lowered recruiting standards, expanded tours of duty, poor training, a lack of functional equipment, and the undoubtedly declining morale that comes with each. If that is how we measure patriotism, then we no longer understand its meaning.

This bureaucratic turbulence only reflects a broader dilemma that higher political authorities will soon have to address, whether they'd like to or not. Schoomaker's central complaint is that he doesn't have the money to maintain the Army's global missions. The president and the Congress can pony up the money (a lot more money) or scale back the missions. To do otherwise—to stay the course with inadequate resources—is to invite defeats and disasters.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 9:35 AM
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1 On September 26, 2006 at 1:37 PM, Oe wrote —

It's a coup. The US military is refusing orders(budget).

2 On September 26, 2006 at 3:49 PM, Soe wrote —

It looks like Rangel and the dems want to control the DOD Pentagon budget and arranged the US military coup(budget) against the Pentagon.

Foreign policy money is hard to get their hands on?

3 On September 26, 2006 at 9:59 PM, SnarkyShark wrote —

If things are to this point, it is every bit as bad as many of us have percieved it to be.

Bush has made us very vulnerable to terrorist, conventional or economic attack.

So much for standing in the front yard flipping off the neighbors and discharghing fire-arms while randomly beating the kids as being a winning foreign policy.

Go figure.

Can we know please tell the hill-billys to take a hike?

And can the Dean of Foggy Bottom U. please be sent packing back to the midwest from wence he came and be forcibly committed to a cocktail-weenie Detox center.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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