Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The likely next chairman of the JCS on operational risk and career cowardice

Despite what you may have read about Gen. Cartwright, the smart money is on Adm. James Stavridis to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, which makes his comments in the May issue of the Marine Corps Gazette on operational risk and career cowardice all the more interesting. The enormous irony of the military ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Despite what you may have read about Gen. Cartwright, the smart money is on Adm. James Stavridis to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, which makes his comments in the May issue of the Marine Corps Gazette on operational risk and career cowardice all the more interesting.

The enormous irony of the military profession is that we are huge risk takers in what we do operationally -- flying airplanes on and off a carrier, driving a ship through a sea state five typhoon, walking point with your platoon in southern Afghanistan -- but publishing an article, posting a blog, or speaking to the media can scare us badly. We are happy to take personal risk or operational risk, but too many of us won't take career risk.

Despite what you may have read about Gen. Cartwright, the smart money is on Adm. James Stavridis to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, which makes his comments in the May issue of the Marine Corps Gazette on operational risk and career cowardice all the more interesting.

The enormous irony of the military profession is that we are huge risk takers in what we do operationally — flying airplanes on and off a carrier, driving a ship through a sea state five typhoon, walking point with your platoon in southern Afghanistan — but publishing an article, posting a blog, or speaking to the media can scare us badly. We are happy to take personal risk or operational risk, but too many of us won’t take career risk.

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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