Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A review of how your Best Defense comments have changed in recent months

Here’s a summary of how the tone and content of comments on this blog have changed in recent months, written by Paul Lynch, a smart retired Australian journalist. As I understand it, he was going to cover the Bay of Pigs landing until his editor found out there wasn’t going to be any air cover. ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Here's a summary of how the tone and content of comments on this blog have changed in recent months, written by Paul Lynch, a smart retired Australian journalist. As I understand it, he was going to cover the Bay of Pigs landing until his editor found out there wasn't going to be any air cover.

I am not sure I agree with everything here, but I do think he is right in sensing that the feel of the comments has changed toward skepticism, even pessimism, since the beginning of the Libyan intervention.

By Paul Lynch
Best Defense reviewer of Best Defense

Here’s a summary of how the tone and content of comments on this blog have changed in recent months, written by Paul Lynch, a smart retired Australian journalist. As I understand it, he was going to cover the Bay of Pigs landing until his editor found out there wasn’t going to be any air cover.

I am not sure I agree with everything here, but I do think he is right in sensing that the feel of the comments has changed toward skepticism, even pessimism, since the beginning of the Libyan intervention.

By Paul Lynch
Best Defense reviewer of Best Defense

1. It’s a good deal less aspirational. There seems less hope that things will ever be fixed on any aspirational level.

2. It seems much more mechanical and amoral. The governor of, say, Pennsylvania is giving us trouble? Here are the best ways to take him out, in detail. heavy on the acronyms. 

3. There has been an almost total disappearance of the Panglossian all things are for the best in the best of all possible worlds stuff. Nothing much other than continuing bungles seems expected. Occasional signs that some military thing is working brings cheer to your readers, but not widely. Nothing suggests military leaders are trusted all that much. “Gold Star Father” might well be the hinge person in modifying your readers’ tones and interests. 

4. Unlike much of the current blogosphere commentary, there is very little blame for Obama. Certainly no concerted blame. Of course, people write in from time to time to say he’s a bungler or a twit, sometimes abusively. They attract little agreement. This does not suggest to me that your readers are usually Obama fanciers. I think it means that they think serious problems in the Defence area lie elsewhere, probably within the military administration. Ever seen in Best Defense (strange spelling, that: possibly due to the loss of one character in metal type fonts sent from Britain on the high Cs) praise for or support of Mullen? He seems to get a free ride. There is praise for Gates, which often seems extravagant. His occasional and honourable awkward honesties are disregarded.

5. Nobody sticks up for senior levels of the Pentagon, not even on the “they might not be very good but they’re doing the best they can” level. Nobody sticks up for the fast-rotating Afghanistan command. Nobody sticks up for whatever the troops do in Iraq these days, or even seems interested in what that is. 

6. There is manifested frequently a deepening level of understanding of diplomatic realities in troubled parts of the world, a lot of that seemingly from people who acquired it during their years of military service. Sending soldiers abroad does bring knowledge back. The knowledgeable don’t seem to think their understandings are held widely enough. There is zero sympathy and understanding for what the State Department faces, or does. During the current national budget-slashing debate, nobody suggests anything’s wrong in slashing the State budget. More surprisingly, nobody stands valiantly against cutting the Defence one. Perhaps this is because Defence bloat is widely recognised and dislike. Perhaps it’s thought that nobody would dare touch it — other than to send more money.  

7. I am distressed by the degree to which important issues are not being discussed on the blog. Nothing, in my view, is more important to your nation in Afghanistan than the extent and progress of training Afghans to defend their own nation Some BD readers know quite a lot about this. There aren’t enough eleven-foot poles out there to permit them to consider this an issue. You present from time to time evidence that the military would much rather stay there than leave. Forever. 

8. I think it’s some weeks and it may be some months since anybody wrote in saying that there’s value for the nation or the world in the current Afghanistan and Iraq postings. I don’t claim to read your blog every day or comprehensively, but if this lack is not total, it’s certainly usual, and strikingly so.

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

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.