Tough love

A retired Pentagon general who prefers to remain anonymous because of the election season shared these observations: In the military we have what we call "tough love," and when you ask strong, decisive people — women especially — to work in a demanding place like Pentagon, that’s what you get…and you are glad for it.  ...

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A retired Pentagon general who prefers to remain anonymous because of the election season shared these observations:

In the military we have what we call "tough love," and when you ask strong, decisive people -- women especially -- to work in a demanding place like Pentagon, that's what you get...and you are glad for it. 

"Tough love" isn't ingratitude or insolence; it's telling people and organizations what they need to here, versus what they think they might like to hear. In a real way, it is the highest form of flattery and respect; you don't bother to give to it to people and things that don't matter.

A retired Pentagon general who prefers to remain anonymous because of the election season shared these observations:

In the military we have what we call "tough love," and when you ask strong, decisive people — women especially — to work in a demanding place like Pentagon, that’s what you get…and you are glad for it. 

"Tough love" isn’t ingratitude or insolence; it’s telling people and organizations what they need to here, versus what they think they might like to hear. In a real way, it is the highest form of flattery and respect; you don’t bother to give to it to people and things that don’t matter.

The best leaders understand this, and that’s why they seek out people like Rosa instead of surrounding themselves with "yes-person" sycophants.

Remember that Rosa served in Bob Gates’s Pentagon, and he readily expressed admiration for the "brightest and most innovative" officers who published articles that critiqued "sometimes bluntly — the way the service does business; to include judgments about senior leadership, both military and civilian." Importantly, he added that he thought that this was "a sign of institutional vitality and health and strength."

I appreciate that some may find her military-style, no-nonsense directness unsettling, but that’s simply reflective of the national security world from whence she most recently came.

Unadorned and even unfiltered candor is expected and welcomed in the high-stakes business of national security where lives hang in the balance. At the same time, she is classy enough to "mea culpa" when appropriate.

That she continues to exhibit her special brand of tough love after she left the Pentagon should surprise no one. Let’s celebrate that she is who she is.

Sure, I don’t always agree with her, but I would never question her sincerity, patriotism, or her dedication to making this country better and safer. She is, believe me, an equal-opportunity critic, so if one party or another thinks she they have co-opted — or can co-opt — her as to her beliefs and principles, my warning is this: tighten your chinstrap.

Regardless, if you really want to bring into government the much-needed perspective of the nation’s most talented women, you can’t expect them to forever after be ideological Stepford wives who mindlessly spout campaign talking points like servile automatons. No one should want that.

And I believe (at least I’d like to believe) that both candidates would want there to be as many "Rosas" as possible because their candid and insightful feedback makes us all better…even when it stings.

Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow with the New America/Arizona State University Future of War Project. She served as a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department. Her most recent book is How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything. Twitter: @brooks_rosa

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