The Foust vs. Broadwell feud: A few thoughts from a major at West Point
By Mike Erwin Best Defense guest commenter Audacity: Boldness or daring, especially with confident disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions. In this sense, audacity is associated with bravery and valor. Members of our Armed Forces have demonstrated audacity in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. But then there is another type ...
By Mike Erwin
By Mike Erwin
Best Defense guest commenter
Audacity: Boldness or daring, especially with confident disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions. In this sense, audacity is associated with bravery and valor. Members of our Armed Forces have demonstrated audacity in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
But then there is another type of audacity. Effrontery or insolence; shameless boldness. In some ways, this is 180 degrees different from the audacity described above. Some recent comments by Mr. Josh Foust in his Registan.com blog fall into this category. Although he reviewed All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, Mr. Foust proudly blogged that he did not actually purchase the book. Instead, he took pictures of what he deemed to be relevant pages. Mr. Foust went one step further and attempted to justify his decision to not buy the book because, “I find her marketing scheme of donating some of her proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project completely classless. Since I didn’t want to punish the WWP by not buying her book, I instead donated $100 to the project as an apology. And that’s way more than they would have gotten with a single extra book sale anyway.”
The first problem here is that Mr. Foust did such little research into what charity Paula Broadwell is supporting that he donated his money to a different organization. He read the words “wounded warriors” and didn’t even go to her webpage to learn more about that organization. If he took one minute to investigate, he would have learned why Paula’s decision to support Team Red, White and Blue (www.TeamRWB.org) is not a marketing ploy. He would have understood why it is personal and means a lot to her. For all readers out there who want to take that few minutes, I’d urge you to do so by following this link.
Problem number two for Mr. Foust is an even bigger one: misrepresenting someone without conducting due diligence. To use the phrase “a classless marketing scheme” without data or research to back it up is not only disrespectful, but it’s flat-out inaccurate. And followers of Mr. Foust’s blog should be alarmed as they traverse the ensuing paragraphs.
As the founder and director of Team Red, White and Blue, I have spent considerable time talking to Paula about the challenges this generation of veterans is facing. And I know how much she cares about making a difference. If Mr. Foust had spent some time looking into Paula’s involvement, he would have learned a few facts that might have prevented him from making such audacious, unfounded comments. So what else has Paula done or is she doing to support this generation of veterans?
Since she left active duty, Paula has continued to support those who serve and especially those who bear the wounds of serving. She’s an advisor to Service Nation. Until she left to embed in Afghanistan, she was a two-year board member of Carolina’s Freedom Foundation — which works to inspire patriotism and recognize those who have served, especially wounded warriors. Paula directly supports the North Carolina chapter of the USO and is now working with the USO at the national level; she is working with them on public service announcements and will write articles for their magazine, On Patrol.
But let’s bring it back to the past six weeks and All In. Prior to her airtime on high profile national media outlets to talk about the book, I have seen the email traffic where she has successfully requested to use some of that air time to discuss Team Red, White and Blue and our organization’s vision for support Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. This includes interviews on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Fox and Friends and Christine Amanpour’s show — to name a few. Her challenge to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show not only garnered a $20,000 donation from him, but also highlighted the role that physical fitness can play for wounded veterans to overcome the psychological wounds of war. Mr. Foust boasted about donating $100 and while that is a great gesture, it’s very different than the $20,000 that Paula has pledged to donate to Team RWB to match Jon Stewart — and the additional thousands of dollars her current and future book profits will provide for veteran support organizations. Mr. Foust’s research missed that.
Paula is consistently using national media platforms to draw attention to the critical issues amongst this generation of Veterans. Approximately half a million veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are struggling psychologically. For the United States to effectively support these men and women in the coming decades, we truly need to go “all in” to make it happen. We need to do a better job of connecting with these men and women, right in the communities where they live. We need to spend time with them, to learn their story and understand their sacrifice; and we need to inspire them to live a healthy lifestyle and exercise. Team RWB is an all-volunteer organization that is rising to meet these challenges head on. Progress is slow, and we have a long way to go, but earnest support from people like Paula Broadwell is making it possible. So please forgive my irritation at reading an uneducated blog post from Mr. Foust that somehow transforms passion and hard work into “classless” and “a marketing scheme.”
Instead of taking pictures of certain pages of All In, I would recommend that Mr. Foust actually buy the book, read it — and take notes about what real leadership looks like. I’m confident that he would learn something about the importance of relying on the facts before making an assessment — and about character.
Audacity. Mr. Foust has a lot of it. I’ll leave it to you to decide how to classify it.
Mike Erwin is the founder and director of Team Red, White and Blue. He is a Major in the Army and teaches psychology and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He holds a M.S. in Personality Psychology from the University of Michigan. Views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not reflect an official position of DOD, the Army or West Point.
Thomas E. Ricks is a former contributing editor to Foreign Policy. Twitter: @tomricks1
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