Best Defense

The annals of chickenshit: They do it to get a sense of control over the situation

Here’s another take on the reflective belts controversy, which says we should focus less on the belts and more on the number of billets for general officers.  Meantime, the mysteriously named commenter named "_B_" offered this astute analysis last Friday of why we see enforcement of petty regulations and such on bases in combat zones: ...

David Davies / Flickr
David Davies / Flickr

Here’s another take on the reflective belts controversy, which says we should focus less on the belts and more on the number of billets for general officers. 

Meantime, the mysteriously named commenter named "_B_" offered this astute analysis last Friday of why we see enforcement of petty regulations and such on bases in combat zones:

"When you can’t accomplish the important, the petty becomes important.

I was in South-Central Iraq in 2008, on a multinational FOB which had been getting rocketed fairly regularly. A conventional brigade showed up; they were living in tents due to lack of CHU space, and highly vulnerable to IDF. They did not go out on a single raid that I know of to get the guys who were lighting the FOB up (fortunately, others did.) The only times those guys went outside the wire, it was to ferry their senior leadership across the province for unproductive key leader engagements (they killed an Iraqi police guy with an MRAP while going through a checkpoint on one of those field trips.) You know what their senior leadership’s priorities were? Doing away with takeout trays at the DFAC (since, according to the brigade’s CSM, the local nationals working on base were sneaking food out to feed to the insurgents) and enforcing ludicrous uniform standards (all brigade personnel had to wear gloves outside-in August-to avoid sunburning their hands, and noncompliance meant an Article 15.) I had to pry their CSM off one of my junior guys at breakfast one morning-we’d just come back in the wire after being out all night, and he didn’t like my dude’s uniform.

The main issue is this–a LOT of the senior leadership is lost in the sauce, has no idea what’s going on or how to accomplish anything concrete. So, they attempt to make themselves feel like they’re in control of the situation via a) imposing ludicrous chickenshit on those below them, and b) spending most of their time liaising with other senior Americans, doing coordination meetings, briefings, etc., etc., etc. That way, they feel like they are in control of their environment, and never have to encounter anything which would suggest differently. All this is done at the expense of their subordinates and of the war in general, but that’s ok."

(HT to "Soldier’s Diary")

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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