Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Tom is again handled gingerly in an official U.S. military pub — and that’s good

In the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, retired Army Col. George Reed, now at the University of San Diego, writes that, "Former Washington Post journalist and author Thomas Ricks launched a public salvo against the war colleges in a series of ForeignPolicy.com blogs where he actually called for their closure, describing them as both expensive and second-rate. While ...

willow monk/Flickr
willow monk/Flickr
willow monk/Flickr

In the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, retired Army Col. George Reed, now at the University of San Diego, writes that, "Former Washington Post journalist and author Thomas Ricks launched a public salvo against the war colleges in a series of ForeignPolicy.com blogs where he actually called for their closure, describing them as both expensive and second-rate. While his criticism is sometimes hyperbolic and tends to be disregarded by those within the system, he raises some good points and serves as a watchdog of sorts as evidenced by his recent accounting of personnel changes that resulted in the reduction of civilian professor positions at the Army War College."

I love how I always seem to get such arm's-length faint praise in official military publications -- Look, I ain't saying I like the guy, but you got to pay attention to part of maybe one or two things he says, sir.

As for closing costly and ineffective military institutions: Perhaps the thoughts do appear hyperbolic to those of small imagination. Yet in my experience, what seems unimaginable one year may become reality in another.

In the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, retired Army Col. George Reed, now at the University of San Diego, writes that, "Former Washington Post journalist and author Thomas Ricks launched a public salvo against the war colleges in a series of ForeignPolicy.com blogs where he actually called for their closure, describing them as both expensive and second-rate. While his criticism is sometimes hyperbolic and tends to be disregarded by those within the system, he raises some good points and serves as a watchdog of sorts as evidenced by his recent accounting of personnel changes that resulted in the reduction of civilian professor positions at the Army War College."

I love how I always seem to get such arm’s-length faint praise in official military publications — Look, I ain’t saying I like the guy, but you got to pay attention to part of maybe one or two things he says, sir.

As for closing costly and ineffective military institutions: Perhaps the thoughts do appear hyperbolic to those of small imagination. Yet in my experience, what seems unimaginable one year may become reality in another.

For me, the bottom line is a bit like our discussion of strategy the other day: If the military establishment begins to feel too comfortable with me, I would feel I was not playing my role. The founding fathers, in their wisdom, gave us an adversarial system. If I were bear-hugged by the U.S. military, sought out as a speaker who would be reassuring and not ruffle any bird colonels’ feathers, I would worry that I was not being sufficiently critical.

So I will take the uneasiness as a sign of health.

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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