Situation Report

Petraeus is sorry; Why the Marines; British invasion; African visitors; China’s J-20 weaps; Civilian subjugation, and more.

By Kevin Baron Petraeus apologizes, his way. Without specifically mentioning the extramarital affair that cost him his job and public reputation as one of the most beloved military officers of the past 100 years, retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director, apologized publicly for "such a mistake." His career broken, for now Petraeus’ penchant for ...

By Kevin Baron

Petraeus apologizes, his way. Without specifically mentioning the extramarital affair that cost him his job and public reputation as one of the most beloved military officers of the past 100 years, retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director, apologized publicly for "such a mistake." His career broken, for now Petraeus’ penchant for stagecraft seems intact. The man who loved to court Washington’s elite elected to deliver his first public mea culpa in a speech to ROTC students on the other side of the continent, in Los Angeles. "Needless to say," he said, after an introductory standing ovation, "I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago. I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters." The general said Tuesday’s event, an ROTC dinner at the University of Southern California, was "not about me," and then spoke about the difficulties of transitioning from the military back in to civilian life.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report, where nobody’s perfect. Gordon Lubold is still on vacation. I’m Kevin Baron, and in my day job I’m also the author of The E-Ring, FP’s blog about the Pentagon’s power corridors. Follow me on Twitter @FPBaron and email me at Sign up for Situation Report here or just ask and I’ll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. That off-beat, interesting, entertaining and poignant bit of information you know about? We call that candy. We like candy.

The British are coming…to the Pentagon. U.S. and U.K. military leaders are in talks at the Pentagon this week in what are billed as the first serious strategic discussions between the "special" allies in some time. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about what’s on the table at the summit, which is being hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, among others, has the meeting on his Wednesday schedule, we’re told.

The Africans are coming, too. Four African presidents and prime ministers scheduled to meet with President Obama on Thursday also will meet Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon, press secretary George Little confirmed for us. Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde will visit "the building," where Africa is appearing on many a radar screen, thanks to Mali, the spread of terrorism, drone warfare, and post-Arab awakening destabilization fears. On Friday, the group will talk democracy at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Marine Corps identity crisis? Even though Commandant Jim Amos has been telling the world for years he wants the Marines to return to their amphibious roots, the top Marine officer in charge of the Pentagon’s important four-year review seems to think the Marine Corps has another future: the air.
From a sea base, inland.
"I think it’s Brigadier General Jim Mattis launching off the Pakistan coast, striking deep into southern Afghanistan. No amphibious vehicles crossed a beach in that operation," said Maj. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, at the Defense Writers’ Group, an occasional breakfast for top defense officials to meet reporters in Washington, organized by the Center for Media and Security.

Can the Marines survive? Whether by air or by sea, the idea of massive formations of Marines invading anything, one officer says, is no longer a serious one. Not when drones, missiles and other over-the-horizon weapons are able to knock on enemy doors long before the Marines need to come kicking them down. "There’s an elephant walking around the Pentagon these days and everyone is trying to ignore it. No one wants to talk about the fact that land forces, as currently organized, are becoming increasingly irrelevant," writes Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman, deputy executive assistant, Expeditionary Warfare Division, U.S. Navy, in a bold article on With today’s precision-guided weapon technology — see: Air-Sea Battle — large forces maneuvering across any battlefield will "only play a secondary role. Land forces will no longer win wars. Computers, missiles, planes, and drones will."
Every Marine a JTAC. "To operate in small teams that can coordinate a massive precision-engagement campaign, Marines will have to change the way they fight and train. The ethos of ‘every Marine a rifleman’ will shift to ‘every Marine a JTAC,’ or joint terminal air controller.
Still clinging to WWII.
Freeman argues the technology challenges the very purpose of maintaining a modern Marine Corps, at all. "If the door is going to be kicked in by a cruise missile, an unmanned aircraft, or other platform delivering precision munitions, why does the Marine Corps insist on maintaining such a large amphibious forcible entry capability based around the same Marine who stormed ashore at Tarawa?"
Not special enough. For Freeman, the Marines blew it by resisting the request to form special operations units earlier in the past decade. Indeed, a common phrase heard across the Corps and in the Pentagon was that the Marines, by virtue of what they do, already were a special operations force. "The future of the Marine Corps is as a special operations force that functions in a sustained combat mode." 

China’s J-20 ready for weaps test? In a new video on "the Chinese internet" (yes, that’s a thing), Killer Apps’ John Reed says that China’s first alleged stealth jet appears ready for weapons testing. The video shows doors opening, missile rack out, then doors closing again with the missile still outside — something the F-22 Raptor can’t do. It still doesn’t mean the J-20 is actually "stealthy," and it’s taken two years from the first rollout of a shell on a runway to this point. But if you’re into Chinese fighter jets, today’s your lucky day.

Airmen fall for online "sextortion" scam. We’ll start this one by letting Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol’s lead sentence speak for itself: "You should really think twice if an attractive woman you’ve never met asks you to perform a sex act in front of a webcam." Alas, some airmen did not, and scammers in the Philippines and Singapore got an eyeful of American sexiness — and then threatened to post the videos on social media sites unless the airmen paid up. "Multiple incidents of sextortion involving USAF members have been reported in Japan, South Korea and Alaska, one in Portugal, and one in Guam," an Air Forc
e investigative office reported, according to Schogol.

"Militaristic civilians" rapped for coziness with power. An instructor of future military leaders charges that the military, its civilians, and defense contractors are guilty of being dazzled by the military’s powerful role in foreign policy. NDU’s Greg Foster said not enough people question the military’s assumptions. As the Boston Globe reports: "If you want to be a recognized, credible, card-carrying member of the national security community what you have to do is buy into the received truths of the establishment and continue to perpetuate that stuff," said Foster. "This is what I call civilian subjugation to the military."
Globe’s Bender gets a blog.
The notable rant was brought to us by Bryan Bender, longtime military reporter for the Boston Globe. Bender, who has a book out this fall about an Iraq war veteran’s search for a World War II pilot’s remains, has gone short-form, having just launched a new blog on called War and Peace. Check it out, and good luck, Bender!

Credit where due. About that fancy graphic about drone strikes we featured yesterday — Alice Ross at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism wanted us to share that while the data came from them, the graphic and art was built and designed by others. "We feel duty-bound to point out that the stunning animation isn’t ours. It was actually the work of Pitch Interactive, and was built mainly using the Bureau’s data, except for the ‘high value target’ category, which was drawn from the New America Foundation’s drone-tracking work." Thanks for the clarification, Alice!

Great journalists read FP. Spotted in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s tips for foreign, military and conflict reporting: "I would recommend Foreign Policy." We agree. (And proudly note that Rajiv works for our parent company, the Washington Post.)

Af-Pak Good Enough

  • WSJ: Afghanistan Says Pakistan Ties Are Fraying
  • NBC: Pakistan intelligence agency claims Afghanistan supports Taliban splinter groups
  • AP: Joint NATO-Afghan Operation Kills More Than 20 Insurgents

You say Burma, I say Burma

  • Reuters: Myanmar general lauds army’s democratic role as troops patrol
  • BBC: Aung San Suu Kyi attends Burma’s Armed Forces Day

Yapping SEALs

  • CBS: Ex-SEAL: Americans know too much about bin Laden raid
  • Examiner: Bin Laden shooter dispute: Esquire interview sparks SEAL Team 6 controversy


  • AP: McCain, other US senators to tour Mexico border
  • GovExec: Pentagon Hopes to Reduce Furlough Days
  • News12 Westchester: Furloughs possible for West Point employees
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