- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Major Tom Mcilwaine, Queen’s Royal Hussars
Best Defense guest columnist
Question Set Eight — Do we get to choose if we are involved? This question strays onto uncomfortable territory, particularly for armies which are subject to civilian political oversight. Put brutally, we go where we are told to go.
But do we really tell politicians the whole truth about what we do — how hard it is and how uncertain? Or do we suggest to them an element of control over the process of warmaking that is not really there? If we were more honest with our political leaders, might they not realize that going to war should be the very last resort of politics, not merely another policy choice? And does our current COIN philosophy help to disguise the very real difficulties that we face in the current operating environment by suggesting that if we just get the force ratios right, drink enough tea, and so on, then all will be well? Might it actually be a bit more complicated and complex than that? Culturally, how does the military’s can-do attitude reinforce this dynamic? We won’t say no, and we won’t say it can’t be done.