Best Defense

Reflections of a ‘2-pump chump’: Maybe this is why we never learn anything?

I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog for many years and have learned a great deal from it.

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By Capt. Kyle Staron, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest respondent

I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog for many years and have learned a great deal from it. The most growth springs from disagreeing with posts because they force a reaction which should be followed by reflection.

I underscore “should” because it is becoming clear to me that reflection is not the military’s strong suit. A cursory glimpse of your recent posts have borne this out: HereHere. and Here. If you want to go back further than a month, here.

Instead of contextualizing experience, the military merely defers to it. The recent post “On the ‘2-pump chump’: A response from an Army officer stationed in Baghdad” showcases this in above-average irony. The thesis of the post is that individual’s opinions are invalid unless they have direct experience with the subject about which they are opining.

Despite claiming that individual experience is the ultimate litmus test, the author goes on to say that he is “an avid student of military history.” Studying history allows us to reflect on the experience of others and gain from it. As per the author, history is of no value since you didn’t experience it, you cannot offer an opinion.

The pissing contest of experiences tends to send the argument down the drain as it ignores the original statement. Rather than debating the merits of a logical argument, it is seemingly easier to delegitimize the arguer. The “debate” becomes a rabbit hole of invalidating experiences rather than considering the thesis. It’s a logical fallacy with no backstop. As was stated earlier in the thread, how many deployments does a person need before they can hold an opinion? The author focuses on what jobs the arguer performed as a guidepost for the opinions they can entertain. But this is still unhelpful. I could come along and argue that if you performed a certain job, yet in a different province, your opinion is no longer valid.

Perhaps, by focusing on evidence and logic, rather than number of deployments and job titles, we could gain new insight and ideas.

The ‘2-Pump Chump’ phenomenon demonstrates the inability of the military to reflect in a much deeper way. If we were actually able to learn and improve, would we have people on their fourth or fifth stints to the same places with the same problems? In fact, experience seems to be a millstone of sorts. According to research, Army War College students score lower in the psychological realm of openness than the U.S. public. This trait is tied to accepting new information and new frames of reference. This means that the members of the military with the most experience are also less likely to consider that experience with new or fresh points of view.

We don’t do things the right way. We do things how we’ve always done them.

CPT KA Staron is an Army Civil Affairs Officer on his 2nd Pump to the CENTCOM AOR. This article represents his own views, which are not necessarily those of the Army, the Defense Department, or individuals with many more pumps. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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. @tomricks1

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