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The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. In mid-September, while President Obama was fending off complaints that he should have done more, done less, or done something different about the overlapping crises in Iraq and Syria, he traveled to Central Command headquarters, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. There he addressed some of the men and women who would implement whatever the U. This was big enough news that many cable channels covered the speech live. When Obama got to the section of his speech announcing whether he planned to commit U. As soon as that was over, they went back to their smartphones and their laptops and their Cinnabons as the president droned on. But I decided to see the whole show.
If I were writing such a history now, I would call it Chickenhawk Nation , based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened to our military.
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Outsiders treat it both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules.
The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.
Americans admire the military as they do no other institution. Through the past two decades, respect for the courts, the schools, the press, Congress, organized religion, Big Business, and virtually every other institution in modern life has plummeted.
The one exception is the military. About one-third had comparable confidence in the medical system, and only 7 percent in Congress. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in , believing as he told me that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service.
He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. Moulton told me, as did many others with Iraq-era military experience, that if more members of Congress or the business and media elite had had children in uniform, the United States would probably not have gone to war in Iraq at all. Because he felt strongly enough about that failure of elite accountability, Moulton decided while in Iraq to get involved in politics after he left the military.
The Tragedy of the American Military
What Moulton described was desire for a kind of accountability. It is striking how rare accountability has been for our modern wars. Hillary Clinton paid a price for her vote to authorize the Iraq War, since that is what gave the barely known Barack Obama an opening to run against her in George W.
But those two are the exceptions. For our generals, our politicians, and most of our citizenry, there is almost no accountability or personal consequence for military failure. This is a dangerous development—and one whose dangers multiply the longer it persists. O urs is the best-equipped fighting force in history, and it is incomparably the most expensive. Yet repeatedly this force has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes.
Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war. Bilmes, of the Harvard Kennedy School, recently estimated that the total cost could be three to four times that much. Recall that while Congress was considering whether to authorize the Iraq War, the head of the White House economic council, Lawrence B.
Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U. When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.
The last war that ended up in circumstances remotely resembling what prewar planning would have considered a victory was the brief Gulf War of After the Vietnam War, the press and the public went too far in blaming the military for what was a top-to-bottom failure of strategy and execution. But the military itself recognized its own failings, and a whole generation of reformers looked to understand and change the culture. In , a military-intelligence veteran named Richard A.
Gabriel published, with Paul L. Savage, Crisis in Command: Three years later, a broadside called Self-Destruction: The Disintegration and Decay of the United States Army During the Vietnam Era , by a military officer writing under the pen name Cincinnatus later revealed to be a lieutenant colonel serving in the reserves as a military chaplain, Cecil B. Currey , linked problems in Vietnam to the ethical and intellectual shortcomings of the career military.
The book was hotly debated—but not dismissed. Today, you hear judgments like that frequently from within the military and occasionally from politicians—but only in private. William S.
He wrote recently:. Grant saved the Union; McClellan seemed almost to sabotage it—and he was only one of the Union generals Lincoln had to move out of the way.
Something similar was true in wars through Vietnam. Some leaders were good; others were bad.
Partly it is because legislators and even presidents recognize the sizable risks and limited payoffs of taking on the career military. When recent presidents have relieved officers of command, they have usually done so over allegations of sexual or financial misconduct, or other issues of personal discipline.
These include the cases of the two famous four-star generals who resigned rather than waiting for President Obama to dismiss them: Stanley A. The exception proving the rule occurred a dozen years ago, when a senior civilian official directly challenged a four-star general on his military competence. In that case, the general was right and the politicians were wrong.
Some of this PR shift is anthropological. Most reporters who cover the military are also fascinated by its processes and cannot help liking or at least respecting their subjects: And whether or not this was a conscious plan, the military gets a substantial PR boost from the modern practice of placing officers in mid-career assignments at think tanks, on congressional staffs, and in graduate programs across the country. Most cultures esteem the scholar-warrior, and these programs expose usually skeptical American elites to people like the young Colin Powell, who as a lieutenant colonel in his mids was a White House fellow after serving in Vietnam, and David Petraeus, who got his Ph.
Bush and Barack Obama and whose mid-career academic stint was at Harvard Business School , told me recently.
Fewer and fewer people know anyone in the military. Citizens notice when crime is going up, or school quality is going down, or the water is unsafe to drink, or when other public functions are not working as they should. Not enough citizens are made to notice when things go wrong, or right, with the military.
The country thinks too rarely, and too highly, of the 1 percent under fire in our name. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat.
We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. Scales, in this issue. In an America connected to its military, such questions of strategy and implementation would be at least as familiar as, say, the problems with the Common Core education standards.
Those technological breakthroughs that do make their way to the battlefield may prove to be strategic liabilities in the long run. During the years in which the United States has enjoyed a near-monopoly on weaponized drones, for example, they have killed individuals or small groups at the price of antagonizing whole societies.
When the monopoly ends, which is inevitable, the very openness of the United States will make it uniquely vulnerable to the cheap, swarming weapons others will deploy. The cost of defense, meanwhile, goes up and up and up, with little political resistance and barely any public discussion.
After adjustments for inflation, the United States will spend about 50 percent more on the military this year than its average through the Cold War and Vietnam War. It will spend about as much as the next 10 nations combined—three to five times as much as China, depending on how you count, and seven to nine times as much as Russia. The world as a whole spends about 2 percent of its total income on its militaries; the United States, about 4 percent.
Here is just one newsworthy example that illustrates the broad and depressingly intractable tendencies of weapons development and spending: These planes were relatively cheap, pared to their essentials, easy to maintain, and designed to do a specific thing very well. For the F, that was to be fast, highly maneuverable, and deadly in air-to-air combat. The A needed to be heavily armored, so it could absorb opposing fire; designed to fly as slowly as possible over the battlefield, rather than as rapidly, so that it could stay in range to do damage rather than roaring through; and built around one very powerful gun.
There are physical devices that seem the pure expression of a function. The Eames chair, a classic No. The A, generally known not as the Thunderbolt but as the Warthog, fills that role in the modern military.
It is rugged; it is inexpensive; it can shred enemy tanks and convoys by firing up to 70 rounds a second of armor-piercing, inch-long depleted-uranium shells. The weapon in whose name the A is being phased out is its opposite in almost every way. In automotive terms, it would be a Lamborghini rather than a pickup truck or a flying tank. In air-travel terms, the first-class sleeper compartment on Singapore Airlines rather than advance-purchase Economy Plus or even business class on United.
These comparisons seem ridiculous, but they are fair. The A shows the pattern. According to figures from the aircraft analyst Richard L. A Predator drone costs about two-thirds as much. Other fighter, bomber, and multipurpose planes cost much more: The simplicity of design allows it to spend more of its time flying instead of being in the shop. One measure of the gap in coverage: An aircraft that was intended to be inexpensive, adaptable, and reliable has become the most expensive in history, and among the hardest to keep out of the shop.
The federal official who made the project a symbol of a new, transparent, rigorously data-dependent approach to awarding contracts ended up serving time in federal prison for corruption involving projects with Boeing. For the record, the Pentagon and the lead contractors stoutly defend the plane and say that its teething problems will be over soon—and that anyway, it is the plane of the future, and the A is an aging relic of the past.
We have posted reports here on the A, pro and con, so you can see whether you are convinced. In theory, the F would show common purpose among the military services, since the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps would all get their own custom-tailored versions of the plane.
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In fact, a plane designed to do many contradictory things—to be strong enough to survive Navy aircraft-carrier landings, yet light and maneuverable enough to excel as an Air Force dogfighter, and meanwhile able to take off and land straight up and down, like a helicopter, to reach marines in tight combat circumstances—has unsurprisingly done none of them as well as promised.
In theory, the F was meant to knit U. In fact, the delays, cost overruns, and mechanical problems of the airplane have made it a contentious political issue in customer countries from Canada and Holland to Italy and Australia. The country where the airplane has least been a public issue is the United States. Neither man mentioned the F, and I am still looking for evidence that President Obama has talked about it in any of his speeches.
In other countries, the F can be cast as another annoying American intrusion. Here, it is protected by supplier contracts that have been spread as broadly as possible. Cost overruns sound bad if someone else is getting the extra money. They can be good if they are creating business for your company or jobs in your congressional district. Every participant in the military-contracting process understands this logic: In the late s, a coalition of so-called cheap hawks in Congress tried to cut funding for the B-2 bomber.
They got nowhere after it became clear that work for the project was being carried out in 46 states and no fewer than congressional districts of total. The difference between then and now is that in , Northrop, the main contractor for the plane, had to release previously classified data to demonstrate how broadly the dollars were being spread. Whatever its technical challenges, the F is a triumph of political engineering, and on a global scale.
For a piquant illustration of the difference that political engineering can make, consider the case of Bernie Sanders—former Socialist mayor of Burlington, current Independent senator from Vermont, possible candidate from the left in the next presidential race. In principle, he thinks the F is a bad choice. As Vermont goes, so goes the nation.
The next big project the Air Force is considering is the Long Range Strike Bomber, a successor to the B-1 and B-2 whose specifications include an ability to do bombing runs deep into China. A step so wildly reckless that the U. Politicians say that national security is their first and most sacred duty, but they do not act as if this is so.
The most recent defense budget passed the House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 61 to zero, with similarly one-sided debate before the vote. This is the same House of Representatives that cannot pass a long-term Highway Trust Fund bill that both parties support. He and others said that this deference was one reason so little serious oversight of the military took place. Hammes, a retired Marine Corps colonel who has a doctorate in modern history from Oxford, told me that instead of applying critical judgment to military programs, or even regarding national defense as any kind of sacred duty, politicians have come to view it simply as a teat.
Hart did so I was part of the group, along with Andrew J. Every White House is swamped with recommendations and requests, and it responds only to those it considers most urgent—which defense reform obviously was not. Romney pointed out that the Navy had fewer ships than it did before World War I.
We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
J im Webb is a decorated Vietnam veteran, an author, a former Democratic senator, and a likely presidential candidate. Webb meant that ambitious officers notice how many of their mentors and predecessors move after retirement into board positions, consultancies, or operational roles with defense contractors. Of course, the modern military advertises itself as a place where young people who have lacked the chance or money for higher education can develop valuable skills, plus earn GI Bill benefits for post-service studies.
The harshest ones came not from people who mistrusted the military but from those who, like Webb, had devoted much of their lives to it. Of course it was the most revered American warrior of the 20th century, Dwight D.
Eisenhower, who warned most urgently that business and politics would corrupt the military, and vice versa. Everyone has heard of this speech. Not enough people have actually read it and been exposed to what would now be considered its dangerously antimilitary views.
E very institution has problems, and at every stage of U. But because so small a sliver of the population has a direct stake in the consequences of military action, the normal democratic feedbacks do not work. Nagl told me. Nagl is a West Point graduate and Rhodes Scholar who was a combat commander in Iraq and has written two influential books about the modern military. He left the Army as a lieutenant colonel and now, in his late 40s, is the head of the Haverford prep school, near Philadelphia.
The American public is completely willing to let this professional class of volunteers serve where they should, for wise purpose.
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This gives the president much greater freedom of action to make decisions in the national interest, with troops who will salute sharply and do what needs to be done. I like and respect Nagl, but I completely disagree.
Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. Prior to cadet forces in schools existed as the junior division of the Officers' Training Corps framework, but in Combined Cadet Force was formed covering cadets affiliated to all three services.
CCFs are still occasionally referred to as "The Corps". On 12 May , the Secretary of State for War, Jonathan Peel , sent out a circular letter to the public schools and universities inviting them to form units of the Volunteer Corps. Felsted already had an armed drill contingent at the time of the War Office letter under the command of Sgt. Major Rogers RM; its claim on these grounds to be the oldest school corps was upheld by Field Marshal Earl Roberts in a letter to the Headmaster of The CCF movement is dominated by the independent sector with contingents still being based in independent schools with only around 60 in state schools.
A Memorandum of Understanding, setting out what the MOD and each school are expected to provide, is under development. In January , the proposal was shelved, and all funding was to remain in place, as well as removing the requirement of CEP cadets having to pay an annual fee. CCF Contingents are part of the CCF, but are also part of their own school and as such are semi-autonomous organisations, run by internal school or school-related staff, supported by armed forces personnel.
Army sections may wear their own capbadge, this might consist of the school or college logo or crest. However, Army headgear is worn with this capbadge. They may be issued with combat uniform if required and some schools have No 1 uniform for senior cadets [ citation needed ]. Number 3 uniform is normally the parade uniform for the CCF RN and consists of a white Shirt, black tie, blue trousers,  and blue heavy wool jersey, worn with plain black shoes, a Brassard should be worn on the right arm, displaying qualification badges.
This uniform is fire retardant and consists of a blue shirt, blue trousers, blue heavy wool jersey, beret, with CCF badge and black boots.
Royal Marines sections wear the bronzed Royal Marines badge with a red "tombstone" backing on a blue beret with MTP Multi-Terrain Pattern clothing, and either brown or black boots. All cadets wear a rank slide with the word "CADET" in embroidered red capital letters at the top, any rank is then shown underneath in black. Cadets may be given permission to wear a stable belt of CCF, school, or affiliated unit pattern. RAF cadets wear a version of the No. In October the under-secretary of state for defence gave details of the total number of CCF sections, and the number present in state schools.
Most Cadet ranks are standard non-commissioned ranks, prefixed by "Cadet", for day-to-day administration the "Cadet" prefix is often omitted. Some contingents may have Junior and sometimes Senior Under Officers. The "Cadet" prefix is omitted from all ranks during the day-to-day running of activities. Cadet Warrant Officers are to be addressed as "Warrant Officer" and all other cadets by their rank, "Flight Sergeant", "Sergeant" or "Corporal", as the case may be.
The Naval Cadet that is in command of the naval section can also be called Coxswain. Army cadets ranks share associated regiment's equivalent rank title e. Corporal in the Royal Artillery becomes Bombardier. Pupils normally join at the age of 13 or 14 Year 9 , with both sexes able to take part.
CCF officers are usually teachers or other school staff and are not members of the armed forces, as such they are not subject to military law, but are subject to CCF Regulations  they are always subordinate to officers in the Armed Forces whether Regular or Reserve . Although they are civilians, they retain their rank as a courtesy and are employed by the school to instruct and assist in the running of the Contingent.
These are adult volunteers who may instruct in either a specialist first aid, signals, etc. They receive no pay for time spent with cadets but may claim reimbursement for expenses at the Contingent Commander's discretion.
Many are members of the academic or support staff at the school. Whilst not holding a commission. Contingents may appoint at least two SIs initially [ citation needed ]. Since the introduction of the Cadet Forces Commission all ranks have been substantive but do not indicate membership of the armed forces. The different sections have different syllabuses with a degree of overlap.
All the sections learn drill and all cadets are trained to fire the L98A2 5. There are also opportunities to fire the. Cadets in the Royal Navy section receive instruction in boat-work and other naval subjects including flying with the Fleet Air Arm.
The Royal Marines section, although a part of the Navy, tend to train independently, covering battle drills, weapons handling and marksmanship, fieldcraft, camouflage and concealment and the history of the Royal Marines. The Army section follows the Army Proficiency Certificate APC subjects such as drill and turnout, skill at arms, shooting, map and compass, fieldcraft and first aid.
RAF section cadets are given the opportunity to fly in both powered aircraft, most notably the Grob Tutor and Vigilant and in unpowered gliders such as the Grob Viking ; their training and flying courses are identical to those available to members of the Air Training Corps.
As well as that the Cadets can also be involved in a multitude of battle training and tactics as well as opportunities to fly in various aircraft from the RAF and allied nations.
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