— Military Affairs —

April 18, 2012

A (Temporary) Gubernatorial "Deployment": Bravo, Governor

Monique Chartier

There probably isn't a single policy issue about which I agree with Governor Chafee. But this is a very good thing that he is doing.

Governor Chafee is visiting with Rhode Island troops deployed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan this week as part of a tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

"They were grateful to see a Rhode Islander, to see the governor come out and pay an interest in what they're doing in Kuwait, what they're doing here in Afghanistan," Gov. Chafee said Wednesday by satellite from Bagram Air Base. "I was surprised how grateful they were that someone was showing an interest and listening to the challenges they're facing."

The trip began with a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon before heading overseas.

February 17, 2012

After Criticism, Ship Naming Reverts to Tradition

Marc Comtois

A quick follow-up to my post last week on how Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has a high batting average when it comes to departing from naval ship naming conventions: apparently the complaints worked.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, under fire from Congress and veterans for naming ships after fellow Democrats and social activists, plans to announce another round of ship names in the near future that will be more traditional, a Pentagon official tells The Washington Times.

The official said Mr. Mabus has chosen names for five surface ships - three for war heroes and two for locations. Ships typically are named after states and cities.

“I think they would be more consistent with what most people would say traditions and naming conventions are,” the official said.

As proof, 5 new ships have been named and have followed convention.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next five Navy ships; three Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, the USS John Finn, the USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta, and two littoral combat ships (LCS), the USS Sioux City and the USS Omaha.

Mabus named the three destroyers after Navy and Marine Corps heroes whose actions occurred during different conflicts which spanned several decades, but were united in their uncommon valor. The littoral combat ships were named after two American communities.

December 12, 2011

Air Force Soldiers Remains Dumped In A Landfill

Patrick Laverty

This seemed like one of those articles that you read the headlines and think to yourself "Nah, it can't really be about something like that." The headlines read:

Air Force: Remains of service members went to landfill
Air Force dumped hundreds of remains of dead soldiers from Dover base into landfill: report

Pretty horrible, right? The Air Force is secretly taking the bodies of dead soldiers and dropping them in a mass grave. Well, not exactly. It's more that the Air Force seems to somehow end up with "bone and soft tissue" at their mortuary at the Dover Air Base in Delaware. I'm not exactly sure how parts of a soldier's body gets separated from the rest and I'm not sure I want to know. However, when the parts do get separated, unfortunately a bone is a bone is a bone. They can't look at one and very easily identify its original owner. Sometimes due to the nature of the death, it is impossible.

Was this just a careless or arrogant mistake by a couple lab workers somewhere, looking to short-circuit a process? It would seem not.

In total, more than 2,700 incinerated body parts were chucked, according to Air Force records - though that number may just be the tip of the iceberg.
and they have been doing this for the years "between 2004 and 2008".


One military widow told the Post that a mortuary official told her that the Air Force had been throwing cremated remains in landfills since at least 1996.

According to the Washington Post:

An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700.

Fortunately, this process has stopped and not because the information finally got out.

because [in 2008] a new leadership team that included Gen. Norton Schwartz, the current Air Force chief of staff, decided that burial at sea was more dignified.
The first such burial of 14 urns of unclaimed remains took place earlier this year, he said.

The articles also mention that sometimes the family members refuse to claim the additional remains or as mentioned, they are unidentifiable. So what do you do with body parts that go unclaimed or you don't know who they belong to? One thing I know you don't do is dump them in a landfill. I'd even argue that a burial at sea is inappropriate.

Fortunately, the United States has a place for these soldiers, Arlington National Cemetery. Even if other proper steps were not followed along the way, when the information finally gets out about the soldier's remains, if the final explanation is "We held a formal ceremony and they are respectfully buried at Arlington National Cemetery", I don't think many people would really have much of a problem with that result.

November 22, 2011

Kunis and Timberlake: Two Stars Who "Get it"

Marc Comtois

I'm hardly a regular consumer of celebrity culture, but the fact that Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis followed through with their promises to attend respective Marine Corps balls gives me hope that at least some of our contemporary Hollywood stars "get it." By all accounts, both were good dates.

Timberlake blogged about the experience and offered his thanks
To all of you that serve every day for us... Ensuring our freedom, I say: My deepest gratitude to you. I've met so many of my heroes... From Michael Jordan to Michael Jackson. And, nothing makes me feel more honor and pride than when I get to meet one of you. Last night changed my life and I will never forget it.

To people like me who get to benefit from this type of person... One with character and courage. With strength and bravery. With humility and honor... I say: Send your thanks. Do it however you can. Write a letter, type an email... Hell, buy 'em a beer next time you run into someone from our Armed Forces in a bar. When they say thank you for that drink that cost you 3 bucks, they'll mean it. They won't take it for granted and, they won't forget it.

Thank you Corporal Kelsey DeSantis. Thank you for inviting me. And, thank you for being my hero.

November 11, 2011

October 1, 2011

Via WPRO, John Loughlin Checks In From Iraq

Monique Chartier

John Loughlin, currently serving in Iraq, sent a letter to WPRO (was this via snail mail?), mainly describing his duties and schedule but also touching on living conditions. Below is an excerpt; inexplicably, WPRO did not put up the entire letter. I found his description of the living quarters especially enlightening. Keep in mind that Loughlin is an officer so presumably, the conditions for enlisted personnel are even more ... luxurious.

I live in basically a shipping container called a Containerized Housing Unit or “CHU.” It’s basically 8’ x 12’, has a wall locker, a bed and a small refrigerator. A typical work day begins at about 0500.

We are on a seven-day per week schedule, about 10 hours per day. I do get four hours off each Sunday, but that time is consumed doing my laundry and cleaning out the CHU.

I have about a 20 minute walk to my office which is located in the former Baath Party headquarters on Forward Operating Base or FOB Union III. We are a team of about 15 advisors who advise on everything from training to tactics. We have a tag-up to compare notes and then journey to Phoenix base to meet with the Iraqis. That’s a short journey via up-armored SUV, wearing what we call “full battle rattle.”

Full battle rattle consist of (gotta love the acronyms) IOTV, ACH with 9mil. Translated that’s the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, kind of like the flack vest of old, the Army Combat Helmet and the ever-present sidearm.

We typically spend three hours or so per day working directly with the Iraqi’s. I have found them to be extremely hospitable. They always break out the tea, and unlike US offices, there is no prohibition on smoking at ones desk – so the second hand smoke is thick.

We return to the FOB after these meetings, which the Army calls Key Leader Engagements to, reduce the data, compare notes and work on providing the benefit of our experience to the fledgling force.

The week is broken up by the reporting we have to make to higher headquarters. Last Friday, I briefed the three-star general on helicopter maintenance issues. I spent probably ten hours or so making sure my briefing was ready to go. This included rehearsals with my colleagues asking every conceivable question to make sure I was ready to brief and could field any question that might come up. Not unlike political prep for the Dan Yorke show. The three-star’s reaction was three words, (one for each star) "Thanks, good brief".

September 4, 2011

Proactively Defending Himself: The Congressman from the First District Responds

Monique Chartier

Further to Patrick's post and in response to my question,

You voted "No" on the following amendment.
An amendment numbered 38 printed in House Report 112-88 to require that the rules of engagement allow any military service personnel assigned to duty in a designated hostile fire area to have rules of engagement that fully protects their right to proactively defend themselves from hostile actions.

Please explain, without platitudes and with specificity, why you did so.

Congressman David Cicilline has sent the e-mail below, offered without editorial comment (in this post).

Dear Monique,

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding H.AMDT. 318 to H.R. 1540.

As you know, in May 2011, the House of Representatives debated the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, H.R. 1540. During this time, Representative John L. Mica (R-FL) offered H.AMDT. 318, an amendment that added language requiring the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the rules of engagement for members of the Armed Forces would "fully protect the members' right to bear arms; and authorize the members to fully defend themselves from hostile actions." This amendment passed the House by a vote of 260-160, and was included as part of the final bill that the House passed by a vote of 322-96. This bill now awaits further legislative action in the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

I joined 141 other Democrats and 18 Republicans in voting against this amendment because it does nothing to change existing rules of engagement for American service members. Our men and women in uniform already possess the right to bear arms whenever they are in harm's way. Furthermore, when they are instructed on the rules of engagement, our troops are explicitly told that nothing prevents them from using deadly force to defend themselves. That's why a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees all American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Wall Street Journal that H.AMDT. 318 "would likely not change a thing" about existing policy for the Armed Forces.

Americans are fortunate to live in a free and safe society because of the valiant efforts, brave actions, and immense sacrifices of the individuals who have served in our armed forces. We owe our troops, veterans, and their families our utmost gratitude and respect, in addition to exceptional care and benefits, which they earned defending our great nation and our way of life.

I strongly share your concern for the well-being of our troops and veterans, and I will fight in Congress to ensure our government fulfills its promises to all who serve. Our nation owes so much to the members of our military for their selfless sacrifices, and it is our responsibility to honor their generous acts of patriotism.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding H.AMDT. 318 to H.R. 1540. Your thoughts and opinions on this issue are of great value. Please feel free to use my office as a resource at any time, and visit www.cicilline.house.gov for up-to-date information on a wide range of issues before Congress.

I look forward to further correspondence with you on this and any other matter of concern you may have in the future.

September 1, 2011

A "Proactive" Question for Congressman Cicilline

Monique Chartier

Congressman Cicilline:

I turn to this forum to communicate with you because your Congressional website bars you from receiving e-mail from anyone outside of your district.

You voted "No" on the following amendment.

An amendment numbered 38 printed in House Report 112-88 to require that the rules of engagement allow any military service personnel assigned to duty in a designated hostile fire area to have rules of engagement that fully protects their right to proactively defend themselves from hostile actions.

Please explain, without platitudes and with specificity, why you did so. Only two reasons come to mind - either you don't wish our men and women to be able to defend themselves or you don't trust them to do so. But perhaps there is a third reason not readily apparent. If so, please advise it.

Your response can be directed to my e-mail address off on the left or, if you prefer, feel free to e-mail any of the other contributors.

Cicilline Votes To Not Allow Soldiers to Defend Themselves

Patrick Laverty

We're going to send you to war in hostile territory. We're going to put you in the line of fire with your life on the line. Will we let you defend yourself when the enemy is shooting at you? No. Or at least so says Congressman David Cicilline. (h/t Helen Glover)

An amendment numbered 38 printed in House Report 112-88 to require that the rules of engagement allow any military service personnel assigned to duty in a designated hostile fire area to have rules of engagement that fully protects their right to proactively defend themselves from hostile actions.

What's the problem there? Just the language "proactively defend themselves"? Isn't that what a war is? You go find the people you're fighting against and you kill or capture them. We hear reports of the US military seeing the enemy planting roadside bombs or entering schools and mosques, but according to some rules of engagement, they are not allowed to engage and "proactively defend themselves".

Fortunately, this amendment passed, but 142 Democrats (Cicilline, Barney Frank and Jim McGovern to name a few) and 18 Republicans voted against it.

To his credit, Congressman Jim Langevin voted in favor of the bill to let our military fight.

August 10, 2011

Anti-War Movement Hypocrites

Marc Comtois

As the loss of a helicopter full of special forces operatives reminds us, war means casualties. Unfortunately, they can't be eliminated and, as a nation, we need to be able to weather them and continue to support our troops in the war on terror. Our warriors deal with it every day while on the front lines. We can at least do the same from our couch and not let our soldiers, sailors and marines think that they are at war while "America is at the mall" as the saying goes.

But not everyone thinks--or thought--that way (especially during the Bush years). The anti-war left certainly made their presence known during Bush's two terms and used every casualty as another talking point against the war. These efforts played a large part in undermining the general public's approval of President Bush and helped get Barack Obama elected (along with his own anti-war rhetoric). Since then, President Obama hasn't been as anti-war as advertised and the anti-war left has certainly grumbled. But quietly. Did you know our war casualty rate is greater under President Obama than President Bush? (h/t)

Already, hundreds more American troops have been killed in Afghanistan during the less than three years of the Obama administration than during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration. According to the iCasualties.org Web site, whose count more or less tracks that of other sites devoted to these statistics, 630 American soldiers died in the Afghanistan operation in the years 2001 through 2008, when Mr. Bush was president, while 1097 American soldiers have died in the years 2009, 2010, and 2011. Even if you allocate the 30 or so American soldiers killed in January 2009 entirely to Mr. Bush, who was president until the January 20 inauguration, it is quite a record.

Include Iraq, and the comparison tells a similar story: about 1,300 Americans killed in operations related to Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the first two and a half or so years we’ve had of the Obama administration, versus less than 600 American casualties in the first full three years of the George W. Bush administration.

It all raises at least two related questions. First, where are the antiwar protests? And second, where is the press?

Oh, the anti-war left is still out there, but the heat has certainly been turned down to simmer instead of boiling ever since President Obama took office--even as he's basically continued the same policies (Iraq drawdown, Guantanamo, Afghanistan build-up) they opposed so vociferously when President Bush was in office. They've given Obama a pass for purely partisan, political reasons. And they admit it:
In a phone interview, the national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, which organized some of the largest antiwar protests during the Bush administration, Michael McPhearson, said part of the explanation is political partisanship. A lot of the antiwar protesters, he said, were Democrats. “Once Obama got into office, they kind of demobilized themselves,” he said.

“Because he’s a Democrat, they don’t want to oppose him in the same way as they opposed Bush,” said Mr. McPhearson, who is also a former executive director of Veterans for Peace, and who said he voted for President Obama in 2008. “The politics of it allows him more breathing room when it comes to the wars.”....He said his group’s strategy now is to emphasize the cost of the wars and the Pentagon amid Washington’s focus on trimming the deficit.

Convenient time to shift focus, isn't it? In the end, the proof is in the pudding: during the Bush years, the anti-war left's primary goal was to use anti-war rhetoric to undermine the Bush Presidency for partisan, political reasons, most of which had little to do with the war. If they were sincere in their opposition to the war, they would still be out there protesting President Obama's war policies at the same level they did President Bush's. Doesn't moral consistency require you to muster the same level of opposition against the same policies, regardless of who is conducting them? Of course, that assumes you are, or were, sincere in your stated beliefs and not just looking to use the casualties of war to score cheap political points.

May 30, 2011

The Sacrifice of the Young

Marc Comtois

Yesterday, Mark Patinkin remembered Holly Charette, killed in Iraq in 2005.


Holly Charette liked make-up, Britney Spears and the Marines. She liked cheesecake, Tinker Bell and the United States of America. She loved her friends and, most of all, her family.

She died serving her country.

She was 21 years old.

As Patinkin noted earlier in his column, the faces of our war veteran's are changing in this country: they are getting younger. For a couple decades we were fortunate in that we memorialized those who had given their lives many years ago: in World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Now, in addition to these, we remember those who are our age or younger. Somehow--not to take anything away from the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy, fought in the Pacific or in winters of Korea or jungles of Vietnam--the youth of these most recent heroes personalizes their sacrifice more. It makes them seem less remote, less like some distant, historical black-and-white newsreel from "the old days." In truth, as we memorialize them today, we are confronted with feelings more consistent with those felt by Americans who have remembered their war dead throughout our nation's past. We mourn our neighbors and friends, not just their--or our--grandfathers or great uncles. As ever, young people have fought and died for their country. Never forget.

May 15, 2011

From a State Collapsing to a Country Rebuilding

Justin Katz

I thought it worth taking a moment to note that former RI House minority whip and Congressional candidate John Loughlin left today for a military tour of duty in Iraq, for which he's come out of retirement to help train Iraqis in the political process.

I had a cup of coffee with Loughlin the other day in Providence, at a table directly next to House Speaker Gordon Fox and GoLocalProv founder Josh Fenton. The juxtaposition of the two pairings emphasized what, exactly, John is escaping for the rest of the year.

He'll be back in December, though, with plenty of time to regrow his hair before the campaign season begins in earnest!

March 4, 2011

Harvard Brings Back ROTC

Marc Comtois

Unlike at least one of their Ivy League counterparts, Harvard is backing up their previous rhetoric and bringing ROTC (Navy) back onto the campus.

On Friday, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus are scheduled to sign an agreement that will establish the Naval ROTC’s formal presence on the Cambridge campus, the university announced Thursday.

Under the agreement, a director of Naval ROTC at Harvard will be appointed, and the university will resume funding the program, which will be given office space and access to athletic fields and classrooms.

Harvard cadets will still train, as they have for years, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also located in Cambridge, just outside Boston. Currently, 20 Harvard students participate in ROTC, including 10 involved in Naval ROTC.

Harvard is the first elite school to agree to rescind its ban since December, when Congress issued its decision about the military policy on gays.

Faust said the "renewed relationship" affirms the armed forces’ vital role in "securing our freedoms."

"It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in doing so advances our commitment to both learning and service," she said in a press release.

Mabus said the agreement would make the military better and the nation stronger because "with exposure comes understanding, and through understanding comes strength."

I get that Vietnam caused a serious rift but always thought that DA-DT was an all-too convenient excuse to keep on, keepin' on with this wrongheaded policy. Regardless of that, Harvard has done the right thing. As for our own Ivy League "installation," Brown students can participate in ROTC at Providence College and there is an ongoing debate over allowing ROTC back on campus.

December 23, 2010

Does No More DADT mean Yes to Campus ROTC...

Carroll Andrew Morse

...because it seems to in many places, but according to a characterization put forth by Dan Berrett of the online publication Inside Higher Ed, at least one local institution seems to be dragging its heels...

Officials at Brown University did not go as far as others in predicting a return of ROTC. Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs at Brown University, said via e-mail: "The repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell will likely stimulate additional conversation about ROTC on the Brown campus, a conversation that has occurred from time to time among the university's alumni, students, faculty and administrators. The university welcomes conversation on this and other important social and political questions." She added, however, that "the university's decision to phase out Air Force ROTC (1971) and Naval ROTC (1972) centered on academic issues, including whether ROTC units should have departmental status and whether courses offered by those units should carry academic credit. Those issues are matters for faculty discussion. Any academic issues raised by a potential return of ROTC instruction at Brown would require a vote of the faculty."
Hearing an official spokesperson stake out the position that bureaucratic hurdles are a primary consideration in deciding whether formal learning can be expanded into areas that would help bring students with diverse interests together within an academic community does not strike me as the best advancement of the proud traditions of Brown University.

And furthermore, are members of the Brown community really going to accept the proposition that the jokers at Harvard and Yale can figure out how to put together a program for students that Brown University can't?

Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies has a balanced take on what returning ROTC to campus involves in a Washington Post op-ed available here.

September 17, 2009

Unilateral appeasement

Donald B. Hawthorne

No missile shield for Poland and Czech Republic and the Iranian missile threat is downgraded.

Unilateral appeasement, plain and simple, to countries who wish America ill will. Furthermore, an action taken without realizing any simultaneous concessions from Russia on Iran, Georgia, and other Eastern European countries. Yet another example of how Obama coddles tyrants and abandons friends.

Yes, Lenin would be impressed, as I am sure Putin is.

Glenn Reynolds: "It really is like Jimmy Carter all over again. Well, actually that’s looking like a best-case scenario these days..."

Simply appalling.


Jennifer Rubin:

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real: you know American foreign policy is unraveling when France is the stern international voice of sanity on Iran and Israel...

Unfortunately, the American president is not so clear. In fact, he is doing his best to be unclear—about what America will settle for and how far we will go with the charade of negotiations. Obama imagines that this buys time, but his procrastination is designed only to delay and delay the moment at which he will be obligated to take decisive action. ("Not yet—we’re still talking!") And the Iranians happily accept the gift of time to continue developing their nuclear program, hoping to reach the point at which their nuclear program becomes a fait accompli.

Obama imagines that by shrinking from conflict and reducing America’s profile he will somehow endear himself to our adversaries. But all he is doing is ceding American leadership and signaling to our adversaries that they need not fear a robust response, even a rhetorical one, from the U.S.


Rubin continues:

Just when you think the Obama administration’s foreign policy cannot get more feckless or timid, the Obama team tops itself...

One hardly knows where to begin. George W. Bush established, as even the Times concedes, "a special relationship" with Eastern Europe. After all, these are countries that emerged from the yoke of Communism and struggled to establish new market-based economies that avoided the errors of their Western socialist neighbors. And these countries again and again demonstrated their pro-American bona fides. The missile shield was intended as a check against Russian aggression and a symbol of their robust relationship with the U.S.

So much for that. Obama is in the business of kowtowing to the world’s bullies. Russia didn’t like the missile shield, so no more missile shield. Do we think we "got something" for this? I'd be shocked if we did, given the obvious willingness of the U.S. to prostrate itself before rivals.

What do our Eastern European friends have to say? They are not pleased...

The administration that promised to restore our standing in the world is on quite a roll. Open hostility toward Israel. Bullying Honduras. Reneging on promises to Eastern Europe. A strange policy indeed that dumps on our friends in the vain effort to incur the goodwill of our enemies. And if one is a "realist," not a fabulist, it should be apparent that this is a losing proposition. We will lose our friends and gain nothing. Weakness and the betrayal of our allies do not ameliorate tensions with our adversaries. We had a Cold War topped off by the Carter administration to prove that. But Obama’s never been very good at history.

Speaking of not knowing history, Obama announced this decision on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.

Senator Jon Kyl comments.



Even more.

July 28, 2009

"The Way We Get By"

Marc Comtois

The Maine Troop Greeters have been welcoming our troops to Bangor, Maine for over 6 years (actually, longer, since they have been active since the first Gulf War) and have earned a soft spot in the hearts of many military families:

For a town not especially known for its military presence (as compared with places like San Diego and Norfolk, Va.), Bangor is part of the military community's vernacular because of the men and women, many of them veterans themselves, who make it their lives’ work to stand in a line and greet all the troops who pass through BIA. The airport is usually the last refueling stop for flights leaving the country and the first one for flights returning from abroad, making the landscaping outside BIA the first spot of American soil troops walk across after a year or more in Iraq....The troop greeters aren't known for welcoming service members in a city like Norfolk. They are known for surprising the troops where they least expect it, during their brief stop at a place called Bangor, Maine.
A documentary, "The Way We Get By" (which has earned rave reviews), profiles three of the greeters and shows the import of what they do for both the troops they meet and themselves:
Beginning as a seemingly idiosyncratic story about troop greeters - a group of senior citizens who gather daily at a small airport to thank American soldiers departing and returning from Iraq, the film quickly turns into a moving, unsettling and compassionate story about aging, loneliness, war and mortality.

When its three subjects aren't at the airport, they wrestle with their own problems: failing health, depression, mounting debt. Joan, a grandmother of eight, has a deep connection to the soldiers she meets. The sanguine Jerry keeps his spirits up even as his personal problems mount. And the veteran Bill, who clearly has trouble taking care of himself, finds himself contemplating his own death. Seeking out the telling detail rather than offering sweeping generalizations, the film carefully builds stories of heartbreak and redemption, reminding us how our culture casts our elders, and too often our soldiers, aside.

The film helps us remember that giving is a gift itself and that life requires a purpose. Most importantly, it reminds us that lasting and meaningful reward is gained when we focus on a purpose that lay outside of our own immediate needs and desires.

July 1, 2009

You Go, Girls

Marc Comtois

"Girls With Guns Get It" (H/T):

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army and Marines found it useful to send a female soldier along on raids, as it was less disruptive to have a woman search the female civilians. There was no shortage of volunteers for this duty. The marines, as is their custom, saw more opportunities in this. Thus the marines began sending...all-female teams (3-5 women) [called] Lionesses.


The marines also noticed that the female troops were better at picking up useful information in general. This is something Western police forces noted, in the last few decades, as women were allowed to work in all areas of police work, including detectives and crime scene investigators. Iraqi men were also intimidated by female soldiers and marines. In the macho Arab world, an assertive female with an assault rifle is sort of a man's worst nightmare. So many otherwise reticent Iraqi men, opened up to the female troops, and provided information. Women also had an easier time detecting a lie (something husbands often learn the hard way.)


The lioness teams proved capable in combat, as sometimes these peacekeeping missions ran into firefights or ambushes. But the main advantage of having a team of women along was the greater amount of intelligence collected. In addition, the female marines also made it easier to establish friendly relationships in neighborhoods and villages. This provided a more long term source of information.

June 6, 2009

This Mission of D-Day Continues

Justin Katz

Ocean State Republican has posted video and text of President Reagan's 1984 D-Day speech:

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

Take special note of this passage:

... Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose — to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

Presence is not occupation; that's a notion some among our countrymen don't seem to comprehend in their distrust of their fellows.

November 11, 2008

Thank you

Donald B. Hawthorne

A deep-felt thank you to our veterans and to our troops currently serving our country. And to your families who support you.

The freedoms we enjoy today are a result of your sacrifice and for that we salute you from the bottom of our hearts.

Having come of age in the latter years of the Viet Nam conflict, I recall how large segments of our society showed overt disdain for veterans. For that reason, I now find this day to be particularly poignant.

God bless all of you and your families.

April 16, 2008

The Cost of War

Justin Katz

I know there's no direct connection, but I couldn't help but think of those complaints about the cost of the Iraq war to the state when I read this bit of rare positive news:

A California aerospace company is scouting locations in Rhode Island in order to open a facility to build armored boats by the end of the year.

Kelly Space & Technology is looking for a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot building to accommodate manufacturing operations and engineering offices, according to chief executive officer Michael J. Gallo. The company has opened an office in Warwick near T.F. Green Airport and has one employee evaluating potential sites, Gallo said. ...

... Gallo, a native of Fitchburg, Mass., also was drawn by Rhode Island's expertise in the boat-building industry and the defense contractors in the state and nearby.

The company also was attracted by assistance from the state's Business Innovation Factory, a nonprofit company that includes government officials and that seeks to support experimentation and innovation.

March 13, 2008

Fallon vs. Spitzer: Which is the Most Consequential Story?

Mac Owens

I know that the resignation of a combatant commander who has publicly challenged the policies of his commander-in-chief is not nearly as riveting as the resignation of an arrogant, self-righteous, nanny-state Democratic governor who seeks out sex with prostitutes, but in the greater scheme of things, the former story is more consequential.

On Tuesday, Admiral William Fallon, commander of US Central Command, stepped down after an article in Esquire made it very clear that he was actively undermining the Bush adminstration policy in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran.

In a piece posted on the Daily Standard website of The Weekly Standard, I address this issue. I contend that as commander of CENTCOM, Fallon acted in a way that exceeded his authority and had Fallon not stepped down, the president would have been perfectly justified in firing him, just as Abraham Lincoln fired Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, as Franklin Roosevelt fired Rear Admiral James O. Richardson, and Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

I suppose this would be a bigger story if it weren't for the Gov. Whoremonger scandal. Let's see: politician's sex scandal or civil-military relations crisis--which would the press prefer to cover? Sigh!

January 19, 2008

Sen. Reed Suffering from Fonzi Syndrome*

Marc Comtois

Senator Jack Reed is in Iraq assessing the situation.

While revising his earlier view of the surge strategy — too small and too gradual to work, he said when Mr. Bush proposed it last January — Reed said he stands by his prescription for the path ahead in Iraq: a U.S. declaration of policy that fixes a date to begin reducing U.S. forces in Iraq and shifts their mission from combat to counterterrorism, and the training and support of Iraqi troops.
Ahh yes, "revising his earlier view." That's one way of saying "I was wrong."

*Fonzi Syndrome, sometimes called the Fonzi Factor.

November 21, 2007

Even Those Who Think Iraq is a Tragedy Should Resist Offering Commentary That is a Farce

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the Washington Post, John Podesta, Lawrence J. Korb and Brian Katulis make a case against the success of the American military surge in Iraq that includes this sentence (h/t Mickey Kaus)…

But the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq.
Isn't this the liberal internationalist's way of saying that we must let the villages be destroyed in order to save them?

Even Those Who Think Iraq is a Tragedy Should Resist Offering Commentary That is a Farce

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the Washington Post, John Podesta, Lawrence J. Korb and Brian Katulis make a case against the success of the American military surge in Iraq that includes this sentence (h/t Mickey Kaus)…

But the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq.
Isn't this the liberal internationalist's way of saying that we must let the villages be destroyed in order to save them?

November 12, 2007

Well Done, Veterans

Mac Owens

I apologize for a paucity of posts lately. Of course, some people might think that fewer things by me is not such a bad thing. In any event, my light posting has to do with the old adage about alligators and draining the swamp.

Today is, of course, Veterans Day. I have a piece on the topic today at NRO. It is here. In it, I use the recent Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair at The New Republic to make the case that the press is predisposed to believe the worst about American troops. This is something that began with Vietnam.

Saturday was also the 232nd birthday of the Marine Corps. I always receive a birthday greeting from one of my old colleagues, Jack Higgins. When I do, I am reminded that Jack and the other Marines with whom I served in Vietnam were the best men I have ever known. I will never forget them, or the ones who didn’t make it back.

The Marine birthday ball at the Hyatt in Newport was spectacular. BTW, so was my date. What can I say? The heavenly Doreen always makes me look awfully good. Semper Fi, Marines.

November 8, 2007

Guess Who's One of Only Six States To Fully Tax Military Pensions

Carroll Andrew Morse

In discussing an Ohio proposal to exempt military pensions from the state income tax, the Toledo Blade names Rhode Island as one of only five states imposing an income tax on military pensions…

With one of its members now on military duty and another about to return to Iraq, [the Ohio House] suddenly fast-tracked a proposal - just in time for Veteran's Day - affecting nearly 39,000 military retirees that has languished in the chamber for months.

Ohio is one of just five states imposing income taxes on pensions earned from military service. The bill now heads to the Senate….

Only Ohio, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Nebraska still tax at least some portion of military pensions.

…but I don't think the Blade story has it quite right.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Rhode Island is one of six states (the five listed above, plus Minnesota) allowing no exemption at all for income received in the form of a military pension. There are 12 states that fully exempt military pensions from their income taxes, another 21 that exempt at least some portion of military pensions, 2 that have some form of general income exemption for retirees, and 9 states that have no income tax to be exempted from.

In some way, shape or form, Rhode Island should get with the 33 states exempting at least some portion of military pensions from the state income tax. It would be the very least we could do as a community to help take care of the soldiers and sailors who've volunteered to help protect our country.

August 30, 2007

U.S. Marines Didn't Commit War Crimes in Haditha, U.S. Press Disappointed

Marc Comtois

I heard a story on NPR this morning about the trial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich--a leader of the Marine squad accused of killing 24 civilians in Haditha a year and a half ago. (NPR also included multiple excerpts from an interview that Wuterich gave to CBS' Scott Pelly---here's the text version of the NPR report). All in all, it was a decent job of telling the story, but there was something missing. The story didn't include this:

Since May, charges against two infantrymen and a Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman. Prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings violated the American military code of justice.
That from the NY Times (h/t). It makes it a little more clear that maybe, just maybe, the war crimes charges were a little tenuous to begin with. Now, there were certainly some problems. One officer has been convicted because his actions delayed the investigation months after the incident. But while there appears to have been negligence up the chain-of-command, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (USCMJ) is a different ruleset than U.S. criminal law and gives fighting men leeway in these matters.
Experts on military law said the difficulty in prosecuting the marines for murder is understandable, given that action taken in combat is often given immunity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“One could view this as a case crumbling around the prosecutor’s feet, or one could see this as the unique U.C.M.J. system of justice in operation,” said Gary D. Solis, a former Marine judge who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center and at West Point.

Prosecuting the Haditha case was especially difficult because the killings were not thoroughly investigated when they first occurred. Months later, when the details came to light, there were no bodies to examine, no Iraqi witnesses to testify, no damning forensic evidence.

On the other hand, some scholars said the spate of dismissals has left them wondering what to think of the young enlisted marines who, illegally or not, clearly killed unarmed people in a combat zone.

“It certainly erodes that sense that what they did was wrong,” Elizabeth L. Hillman, a legal historian who teaches military law at Rutgers University School of Law at Camden, said of the outcomes so far. “When the story broke, it seemed like we understood what happened; there didn’t seem to be much doubt. But we didn’t know.”

Walter B. Huffman, a former Army judge advocate general, said it was not uncommon in military criminal proceedings to see charges against troops involved in a single episode to fall away under closer examination of evidence, winnowing culpability to just one or two defendants.

In the first place, this is a story about predispositions. Some of us are predisposed to give the military the benefit of the doubt in these matters, other are not. What is egregious, though, is when the individuals are exonerated and are not still given the benefit of the doubt. Witness the disappointment in the Times piece.
If the legal problems that have thwarted the prosecutors in other cases are repeated this time, there is a possibility that no marine will be convicted for what happened in Haditha....

Regardless of what happened to charges against the other defendants, there is still great public pressure on the Marine Corps to investigate and punish any wrongdoing in a case in which so many civilians died.

It seems that what the Times really wants is to criminalize war and those who prosecuted it: from the Commander-in-chief on down. Surprised?

August 25, 2007

More on the president's VFW speech

Mac Owens

"Sophisticated" writers and policiticans continue to criticize the president's invocation of Vietnam during a speech last week before the VFW. As everyone knows, he argued that a premature withdrawal from Iraq would lead to the same sort of bloodbath as ocurred in Vietnam after the US Congress perpetrated the most shameful act in American history--literally pulling the rug out from under a US ally faced with a threat to its very existence.

One Democrat who has not joined the chorus of howels is my friend and fellow Marine infantry veteran of Vietnam, Jim Webb. Maybe that's because of an op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in April of 2000. Speaking of the final offensive that led to the North Vietnamese victory, Webb placed a great deal of the blame on the "Watergate" Congress. Webb wrote:

"This Congress was elected in November 1974, only months after Nixon's resignation, and it was dominated by a fresh group of antiwar Democrats. One of the first actions of the new Congress was to vote down a supplemental appropriation for the beleaguered South Vietnamese that would have provided $800 million in military aid, including much-needed ammunition, spare parts and medical supplies.

"This vote was a horrendous blow, in both emotional and practical
terms, to the country that had trusted American judgment for more than
a decade of intense conflict. It was also a clear indication that
Washington was abandoning the South Vietnamese even as the North
Vietnamese continued to enjoy the support of the Soviet Union, China
and other Eastern bloc nations. The vote's impact was hardly lost on
North Vietnamese military planners, who began the final offensive only
five weeks later, as the South Vietnamese were attempting to adjust
their military defenses.

"Finally, the aftermath of Saigon's fall is rarely dealt with at all.
A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had
not been seen since World War II. Two million Vietnamese fled their
country — usually by boat — with untold thousands losing their lives
in the process. This was the first such diaspora in Vietnam's long and
frequently tragic history. Inside Vietnam a million of the South's
best young leaders were sent to re-education camps; more than 50,000
perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as
18 years. An apartheid system was put into place that punished those
who had been loyal to the United States, as well as their families, in
matters of education, employment and housing. The Soviet Union made
Vietnam a client state until its own demise, pumping billions of
dollars into the country and keeping extensive naval and air bases at
Cam Ranh Bay."

Good stuff. I hope Jim will argue that the president is correct, at least with regard to his Iraq-Vietnam analogy.

August 23, 2007

The President, Iraq and Vietnam

Mac Owens

The president has taken a lot of heat for his reference to Vietnam in yesterday's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. it appears to be the case that he is the only person in the United States who is not permitted to refer to Vietnam when speaking about Iraq. My take on the reaction to his VFW speech is here on NRO. The title of the NRO piece refers, of course, to Bugs Bunny's second best known line: "What a maroon."

April 5, 2007

Langevin Stuck in November '06

Marc Comtois

I had a chance to hear a portion of Dan Yorke's interview with Congressman Jim Langevin yesterday afternoon. When asked about Iraq, Rep. Langevin continued to trumpet the line that things are getting worse in Iraq and that the "surge" won't work. They've already made up their minds and this unwillingness to reassess the situation when things may actually be changing is indicative of the quandary the Democratic Congress finds itself in.

They have staked their political fortunes to the popular perception of Iraq--it's bad and getting worse--that they believe got them elected to a majority last November. After years of calling for change in strategy and finally getting their wish with General Petraeus' new plan, they've now moved the goalposts and said, "Sorry, it's too late." Whether it is or isn't too late is still a question, but one that can't be answered by just saying so. The reality is that the recent successes in Baghdad are an example of how there is an inherent problem in trying to manage a war legislatively. The situation "on the ground" can change quickly. Washington bureaucracy: not so much.

The Wall Street Journal's Dan Henninger has a piece that contrasts the military vs. legislative reality (here's his source). A sample:

On Jan. 23 Gen. Petraeus offered the Senate Armed Services Committee an outline of the surge. By Feb. 8, U.S. paratroopers and engineers in Baghdad had quickly put together 10 Joint Security Stations, the new command centers to be operated with Iraq's security forces...On Feb. 10, Gen. Petraeus arrived to take command of these forces in Baghdad. In the second week of February, U.S. troops conducted 20,000 patrols compared to 7,400 the week before.

On Feb. 16, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, 246-182, to oppose the mission. Nancy Pelosi: "The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success."

...On March 4, 600 U.S. and 550 Iraqi forces commenced house-to-house searches in Sadr City's Jamil neighborhood. Also in early March, with little fanfare, U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested 16 individuals connected with the Jaysh al-Mahdi cell, suspected of sectarian kidnappings and killings.

On March 23, the House voted 218-212 to remove these U.S. forces by August's end, 2008.

It's not quite three months since the surge began in Iraq, and some early assessments of the operation have emerged. They are positive. Keep in mind that this strategy emerged from military reassessment over the past year, led largely by Gen. Petraeus; this isn't a pick-up team.

But the Democrats are locked into a narrative of predetermined failure in Iraq. Henninger recommends a way out:
If the Iraq surge is succeeding, the Democrats' surge should stand down. If a year from now the Petraeus plan is foundering, the Democrats will have plenty of time to hang it around the GOP's neck by demanding a legitimate withdrawal date--November 2008. But not now.

March 25, 2007

Copperheads, Then and Now

Mac Owens

While recovering from surgery recently, I had the good fortune to read a fine new book about political dissent in the North during the Civil War. The book, Copperheads: The Rise an Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North, by journalist-turned-academic-historian Jennifer Weber, shines the spotlight on the “Peace Democrats,” who did everything they could to obstruct the Union war effort during the Rebellion. In so doing, she corrects a number of claims that have become part of the conventional wisdom. The historical record aside, what struck me the most were the similarities between the rhetoric and actions of the Copperheads a century and a half ago and Democratic opponents of the Iraq war today.

In contradistinction to the claims of many earlier historians, Weber argues persuasively that the Northern anti-war movement was far from a peripheral phenomenon. Disaffection with the war in the North was widespread, and the influence of the Peace Democrats on the Democratic party was substantial. During the election of 1864, the Copperheads wrote the platform of the Democratic party, and one of their own, Rep. George H. Pendleton of Ohio, was the party’s candidate for vice president. Until Farragut’s victory at Mobile Bay, Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, and Sheridan’s success in driving the Confederates from the Shenandoah Valley in the late summer and fall of 1864, hostility toward the war was so profound in the North that Lincoln believed he would lose the election.

Weber demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the actions of the Copperheads materially damaged the ability of the Lincoln administration to prosecute the war. Weber persuasively refutes the view of earlier historians such as the late Frank Klement, who argued that what Lincoln called the Copperhead “fire in the rear” was mostly “a fairy tale,” a “figment of Republican imagination,” made up of “lies, conjecture and political malignancy.” The fact is that Peace Democrats actively interfered with recruiting and encouraged desertion. Indeed, they generated so much opposition to conscription that the Army was forced to divert resources from the battlefield to the hotbeds of Copperhead activity in order to maintain order. Many Copperheads actively supported the Confederate cause, materially as well as rhetorically.

In the long run, the Democratic party was badly hurt by the Copperheads. Their actions radically politicized Union soldiers, turning into stalwart Republicans many who had strongly supported the Democratic party’s opposition to emancipation as a goal of the war. As the Democrats were reminded for many years after the war, the Copperheads had made a powerful enemy of the Union veterans.

The fact is that many Union soldiers came to despise the Copperheads more than they disdained the Rebels. In the words of an assistant surgeon of an Iowa regiment, “it is a common saying here that if we are whipped, it will be by Northern votes, not by Southern bullets. The army regard the result of the late [fall 1862] elections as at least prolonging the war.”

Weber quotes the response of a group of Indiana soldiers to letters from Copperhead “friends” back home:

Your letter shows you to be a cowardly traitor. No traitor can be my friend; if you cannot renounce your allegiance to the Copperhead scoundrels and own your allegiance to the Government which has always protected you, you are my enemy, and I wish you were in the ranks of my open, avowed, and manly enemies, that I might put a ball through your black heart, and send your soul to the Arch Rebel himself.

It is certain that the Union soldiers tired of hearing from the Copperheads that the Rebels could not be defeated. They surely tired of being described by the Copperheads as instruments of a tyrannical administration trampling the legitimate rights of the Southern states. The soldiers seemed to understand fairly quickly that the Copperheads preferred Lincoln’s failure to the country’s success. They also recognized that the Copperheads offered no viable alternative to Lincoln’s policy except to stop the war. Does any of this sound familiar?

Today, Democratic opponents of the Iraq war echo the rhetoric of the Copperheads. As Lincoln was a bloodthirsty tyrant, trampling the rights of Southerners and Northerners alike, President Bush is the world’s worst terrorist, comparable to Hitler.

These words of the La Crosse Democrat responding to Lincoln’s re-nomination could just as easily have been written about Bush: “May God Almighty forbid that we are to have two terms of the rottenest, most stinking, ruin working smallpox ever conceived by fiends or mortals…” The recent lament of left-wing bloggers that Vice President Dick Cheney was not killed in a suicide bombing attempt in Pakistan echoes the incendiary language of Copperhead editorialist Brick Pomeroy who hoped that if Lincoln were re-elected, “some bold hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.”

Anti-war Democrats make a big deal of “supporting the troops.” But such expressions ring hollow in light of Democratic efforts to hamstring the ability of the United States to achieve its objectives in Iraq. And all too often, the mask of the antiwar politician or activist slips, revealing what opponents of the war really think about the American soldier.

For instance, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Charles Rangel have suggested that soldiers fighting in Iraq are there because they are not smart enough to do anything else. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois has suggested a similarity between the conduct of U.S. troops in Iraq and that of Nazi soldiers in World War II. His Illinois colleagues, Sen. Barack Obama, claimed that the lives of soldiers lost in Iraq were “wasted.” And recently William Arkin, a military analyst writing online for the Washington Post, said of American soldiers that they are “mercenaries” who had little business taking critics of the war to task.

The Copperheads often abandoned all decency in their pursuit of American defeat in the Civil War. One Connecticut Copperhead told his neighbors that he hoped that all the men who went to fight for the Union cause would “leave their Bones to Bleach on the soil” of the South. The heirs of the Copperheads in today’s Democratic party are animated by the same perverted spirit with regard to the war in Iraq. Nothing captures the essence of today’s depraved Copperhead perspective better than the following email, which unfortunately is only one example of the sort of communication I have received all too often in response to articles of mine over the past few months.

Dear Mr. Owens

You write, "It is hard to conduct military operations when a chorus of eunuchs is describing every action we take as a violation of everything that America stands for, a quagmire in which we are doomed to failure, and a waste of American lives."

But Mr. Owens, I believe that those three beliefs are true. On what grounds can I be barred from speaking them in public? Because speaking them will undermine American goals in Iraq? Bless you, sir, that's what I want to do in the first place. I am confident that U.S. forces will be driven from Iraq, and for that reason I am rather enjoying the war.

But doesn't hoping that American forces are driven from Iraq necessarily mean hoping that Americans soldiers will be killed there? Yes it does. Your soldiers are just a bunch of poor, dumb suckers that have been swindled out of their right to choose between good and evil. Quite a few of them are or will be swindled out of their eyes, legs, arms and lives. I didn't swindle them. President Bush did. If you're going to blame me for cheering their misery, what must you do to President Bush, whose policies are the cause of that misery?

Union soldiers voted overwhelmingly for Lincoln in 1864, abandoning the once-beloved George McClellan because of the perception that he had become a tool of the Copperheads. After Vietnam, veterans left the Democratic party in droves. I was one of them. The Democratic party seems poised to repeat its experience in both the Civil War and Vietnam.

The Democrats seem to believe that they are tapping into growing anti–Iraq War sentiment in the military. They might cite evidence of military antipathy towards the war reflected in, for example, the recent CBS Sixty Minutes segment entitled “Dissension in the Ranks.” But the Democrats are whistling past the graveyard. The Sixty Minutes segment was predicated on an unscientific Army Times poll, orchestrated by activists who now oppose the war. The fact remains that most active duty and National Guard personnel still support American objectives in Iraq. They may be frustrated by the perceived incompetence of higher-ups and disturbed by a lack of progress in the war, but it has always been thus among soldiers. The word “snafu” began as a World War II vintage acronym: “situation normal, all f****d up.”

Union soldiers could support the goals of the war and criticize the incompetence of their leaders in the same breath. But today’s soldiers, like their Union counterparts a century and a half ago, are tired of hearing that everything is the fault of their own government from people who invoke Gitmo and Abu Ghraib but rarely censure the enemy, and who certainly offer no constructive alternative to the current course of action.

The late nineteenth century Democratic party paid a high price for the influence of the Copperheads during the Civil War, permitting Republicans to “wave the bloody shirt” of rebellion and to vilify the party with the charge of disunion and treason. If its leaders are not careful, today’s Democratic party may well pay the same sort of price for the actions of its anti-war base, which is doing its best to continue the Copperhead legacy.

This piece first appeared on National Review Online on March 19.

March 13, 2007

Time to End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Marc Comtois

I have to confess that I haven't really put a lot of thought into "Don't ask, don't tell," over the last few years. Now, comes this story about General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that he supports the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts "are immoral," akin to a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.

Responding to a question about a Clinton-era policy that is coming under renewed scrutiny amid fears of future U.S. troop shortages, Pace said the Pentagon should not "condone" immoral behavior by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. He said his views were based on his personal "upbringing," in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral...

Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University who was instrumental in helping the Pentagon craft the "don't ask, don't tell" law, said it is unusual for a top commander to use morality as a justification for the policy. But he said he has repeatedly heard enlisted members use that reasoning when opposing gays in the military.

"With the enlisted, it's a question of cohesion, but morality is something they always bring up," said Moskos, who declined to comment specifically on Pace's remarks.

I respect General Pace's personal feelings on the matter and Moskos brings up the reason for which I've tended to support the current, "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Now, however, I think that "Don't ask, don't tell" has served its purpose. It was useful because it served as a pragmatic bridge between two different military generations. The older generation of officers, like Pace, understandably call on their personal experience and collective belief that having homosexuals in the ranks is disruptive to overall morale. They know that they would have been uncomfortable working alongside homosexuals and project this onto today's fighting men and women.

Today's soldiers, sailors and marines have grown up in a different time. I certainly don't have any particular insight into the attitudes of today's enlisted or officers. However, I think it's safe to say that they reflect the attitudes of their Gen X / Gen Y generation, who have grown up in an era of total exposure to homosexuals and the gay lifestyle. Thus, I think that most simply don't think it's a big deal to work with or be around homosexuals. They've probably done it already and their non-military peers do it every day.

Is the military a different entity than society in general? You bet. That is why "Don't ask, don't tell" was such an important policy. It was in no way an ideologically pure way to deal with the real issue, but it bought the military some time to acclimate itself to the broader cultural change in attitude towards homosexuals.

In a different time, African-Americans and Japanese-Americans had to prove their patriotism and fighting ability in a segregated military environment. Gay men and women also want to serve their country and, once they prove (if they haven't already) that they can do the job, I think that straight men and women in the military will accept them within their ranks.

Addendum: Incidentally, I agree with Pace on the adultery point. As Jonah Goldberg so eloquently put it, we don't "need to 'liberate' our troops so they can be free to boink other men's wives and other women's husbands," whether they're gay or not, I'd add.