Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

REMFs (IV): a Navy officer’s ancillary observation

I’ve been learning from this discussion of what constitutes a front-line soldier in our current wars. Here’s an observation in a different direction from my CNAS colleague Cmdr. Herb Carmen, a naval aviator who most recently commanded those high-morale video pioneers, the VAW-116 Sun Kings, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.  Looking at your post about ...

576593_091119_RicksPlanesMountain2.jpg
576593_091119_RicksPlanesMountain2.jpg

I've been learning from this discussion of what constitutes a front-line soldier in our current wars.

Here's an observation in a different direction from my CNAS colleague Cmdr. Herb Carmen, a naval aviator who most recently commanded those high-morale video pioneers, the VAW-116 Sun Kings, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. 

I’ve been learning from this discussion of what constitutes a front-line soldier in our current wars.

Here’s an observation in a different direction from my CNAS colleague Cmdr. Herb Carmen, a naval aviator who most recently commanded those high-morale video pioneers, the VAW-116 Sun Kings, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. 

Looking at your post about the smackdown video today fits my own reflection. The real heart of the matter isn’t whether someone is unworthy because they are a JAG officer or a combat support soldier or a “black shoe” or a Hawkeye pilot. And it’s okay for anyone to identify with their micro-community and culture.  After all, it’s simply pride in one’s service and experiences.

What I’m learning quickly, by working at CNAS and not being in a uniform, is that the guy with the beard or the intern may have just as an important perspective as the guy who just arrived from command. The most unassuming fellow passenger on the Metro might be a senior executive. The guy in cargo shorts I just shared a sea story with just might be a new Assistant Secretary at the Pentagon, or he might be the guy at the bike store who knows about the local trails.

It’s not who says what, but what they say. And the problem with this video is that one guest attacks and the other counterattacks. At that point, the battle of ideas is over. So it’s irrelevant that one guest is a POW and the other is a JAG officer. They’ve both lost me because they use their attacks on one another’s service as an argument of ideas. I’m sorry, but I’d much rather have Andrew school me on Rupert Smith than have someone say I have nothing to add to the strategic dialogue in Afghanistan because I wear gold sleeves on my uniform.

(The “Andrew” here is Andrew Exum, better known as Abu Muqawama. Who you calling a mook?)

I agree with Herb’s conclusion that in the TV debate, both sides failed in the war of ideas. But then, TV generally is not a medium for serious discussion. More importantly, I endorse his notion that it is substance, not appearances, that in the end are important. As General Al Gray used to say, “Don’t look good — be good.”

mashleymorgan/Flickr

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. Twitter: @tomricks1

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