Commentary Magazine


Topic: senior officer

RE: Judging Captain Honors

Max Boot puts his finger on the central point when he concludes that it’s Captain Owen Honors’s judgment — as a naval leader, not as a political actor — that was put in question by his ill-advised videos. But for the senior officers who decided to relieve him of command, I believe there is a deeper professional principle at work than reflexive, politically sensitive concern about the untoward sexual innuendo. In fact, I would call it a professional instinct more than a principle. Most officers recognize this intuitively: Honors’s failure of judgment — as the XO of a carrier — was not in making comedy videos with sexual connotations; it was in making comedy videos.

There is, naturally, levity in the Navy. But graduating to the carrier-command pipeline is tacitly understood to be the signal for an aviator to pack up his levity and put it in storage. In some things, the Navy can’t take a joke; command of the taxpayers’ most expensive, nuclear-powered weapon systems is one of them. An essential aspect of good judgment is choosing not to create unnecessary vulnerabilities to failure or reprimand on the job, either from a personal or an operational standpoint. Save the unnecessary vulnerabilities for your off-duty time. There are plenty of unavoidable ones lurking in the tasks you’ve actually been assigned.

The sense that Captain Honors’s fate wasn’t a political decision is a sound one. This was Navy discipline at work. It is always painful to have to discipline a senior officer; civilians might wonder if it was really necessary to act so summarily in Honors’s case. Hollywood tells us that misunderstood kids with attitudes often save the world between bouts of rebellion and self-expression. Does it really matter to be so serious?

But to the U.S. Navy, a carrier captain has the Navy’s unequaled nuclear-safety record in his keeping. And if you’ve ever witnessed flight operations on an aircraft carrier, and grasped that one man (or, someday, woman) is responsible for the safety and success of every aspect of that perilous, counterintuitive performance — all taking place a few decks above the nuclear reactors slicing through the water at 40-plus miles an hour — you may understand why the Navy regards a penchant for unsolicited comedy videos as a disqualifier.

Max Boot puts his finger on the central point when he concludes that it’s Captain Owen Honors’s judgment — as a naval leader, not as a political actor — that was put in question by his ill-advised videos. But for the senior officers who decided to relieve him of command, I believe there is a deeper professional principle at work than reflexive, politically sensitive concern about the untoward sexual innuendo. In fact, I would call it a professional instinct more than a principle. Most officers recognize this intuitively: Honors’s failure of judgment — as the XO of a carrier — was not in making comedy videos with sexual connotations; it was in making comedy videos.

There is, naturally, levity in the Navy. But graduating to the carrier-command pipeline is tacitly understood to be the signal for an aviator to pack up his levity and put it in storage. In some things, the Navy can’t take a joke; command of the taxpayers’ most expensive, nuclear-powered weapon systems is one of them. An essential aspect of good judgment is choosing not to create unnecessary vulnerabilities to failure or reprimand on the job, either from a personal or an operational standpoint. Save the unnecessary vulnerabilities for your off-duty time. There are plenty of unavoidable ones lurking in the tasks you’ve actually been assigned.

The sense that Captain Honors’s fate wasn’t a political decision is a sound one. This was Navy discipline at work. It is always painful to have to discipline a senior officer; civilians might wonder if it was really necessary to act so summarily in Honors’s case. Hollywood tells us that misunderstood kids with attitudes often save the world between bouts of rebellion and self-expression. Does it really matter to be so serious?

But to the U.S. Navy, a carrier captain has the Navy’s unequaled nuclear-safety record in his keeping. And if you’ve ever witnessed flight operations on an aircraft carrier, and grasped that one man (or, someday, woman) is responsible for the safety and success of every aspect of that perilous, counterintuitive performance — all taking place a few decks above the nuclear reactors slicing through the water at 40-plus miles an hour — you may understand why the Navy regards a penchant for unsolicited comedy videos as a disqualifier.

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“Count the Lies”

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

Read Less

Flotilla Incident — Constructive Criticism

When Israel is attacked — physically or rhetorically — the impulse of all friends of Israel (myself included) is to jump immediately and totally to its defense. That is a commendable impulse; certainly far preferable to the knee-jerk anti-Israel animus displayed by much of the world. But unflinching support for Israel’s right to defend itself should not preclude occasional criticism of the manner in which it exercises that right — just as being a supporter of the United States and its armed forces in general should not preclude one from criticizing specific operations, for instance the way in which the Iraq war was conducted from 2003 to 2007. Indeed, one can argue that those of us who were critical of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war ultimately helped to make possible the turnaround that occurred when President Bush jettisoned his senior war managers (Rumsfeld, Abizaid, Casey) and implemented the surge — a policy they had stubbornly and foolishly opposed.

So Israel is now going through a period of reflection and self-criticism similar to that which occurred after the troubled 2006 campaign against Hezbollah. That resulted in a more successful operation against Hamas (Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009). I hope that the constructive criticisms that I — and other pro-Israel commentators — have lodged of the manner in which the Gaza flotilla was handled will lead Israeli policymakers to be more adept in dealing with similar challenges in the future. My critique (I wrote that the operation was morally and legally justified but handed a public-relations victory to Israel’s enemies) was actually mild compared with many of those heard in Israel itself. For instance, Ari Shavit — a respected Haaretz columnist who is a hawkish liberal – wrote:

During the 2006 war in Lebanon I concluded that my 15-year-old daughter could have conducted it more wisely than the Olmert-Peretz government. We’ve progressed. Today it’s clear to me that my 6-year-old son could do much better than our current government.

As another example, there is this comment made to Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, who is in Israel right now:

I happen to be around a lot of Israeli generals lately, and one I bumped into today said something very smart and self-aware: “Does everybody in the world think we’re bananas?” He did not let me respond before he said, “Wait, I know the answer: The whole world thinks we’re bananas.” I asked this general if this was a good thing or a bad thing. After all, Nixon seemed bananas and he achieved great things internationally. So did Menachem Begin. This is what the general said, however: “It’s one thing for people to think that you’re crazy, but it’s bad when they think you’re incompetent and crazy, and that’s the way we look.”

Unfortunately — and it pains me to say so because I want only the best for Israel — I think that unnamed general is right.

Those who continue to defend the handling of the Gaza flotilla make essentially three points: (a) there was no credible alternative; (b) Israel would get criticized no matter what it did; and (c) Israel cannot give the “international community” a veto over its right of self-defense.

Start with the first point. Knowledgeable Israeli commentators agree with me that there likely were alternative courses of action to stop the flotilla without sending a small group of naval commandos into the middle of a melee — a situation for which they were unprepared. The Jerusalem Post writes:

One question that needs to be asked is why the government approved the IDF’s plan to put troops on the ship via helicopter instead of perhaps sabotaging or diverting them. Flotilla 13, the naval commando unit that raided the ships, is expert in sabotage.

According to one former top navy officer, one option was to use tugboats to push the ships off course. Another option was to damage the ships’ propellers, prevent them from sailing into Gaza and forcing them to be towed to Ashdod.

A third option was to board the ships quietly and not by helicopter.

“There were several options that the IDF had before sending troops onto the ship,” the former senior officer explained, “It is not clear that those options were completely exhausted.”

In the Wall Street Journal today, Israeli security analyst Ronen Bergman (who, like I do, describes the operation as a “fiasco”) reminds us that such alternatives have been employed before:

In 1988, 131 members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who had been deported from the Palestinian Territories following the outbreak of the first intifada intended to set sail to Gaza from Limassol, Cyprus. Their boat, called Al Awda or the Ship of the Return, was accompanied by 200 journalists. ….

On Feb. 15, hours before it was due to set sail, the empty ship was blown up in Limassol harbor by a team of Mossad agents and frogmen from Flotilla 13 (the Israeli equivalent of Navy Seals). The team was led by Yoav Galant, then a young officer and today a major general in the IDF. The operation was a success. There were no casualties on either side and the PLO gave up on the idea of sailing to Gaza.

What about the argument that Israel would get criticized no matter what it did? That even if its agents sabotaged or disabled the pro-Hamas vessels without risking an open confrontation, it would still be pilloried? There is some truth to this, but there is criticism and then there is criticism. It would get a lot less blowback for such a low-profile operation than for a shoot-out on the high seas that left nine “peace activists” (actually pro-Hamas activists) dead.

Israel should be willing to risk international opprobrium when it faces a true existential threat. It needs, for example, to retaliate for Hamas rocket strikes, as it did with Operation Cast Lead. No state can allow its territory to be attacked with impunity. Israel also needs to seriously consider the possibility of bombing Iranian nuclear facilities no matter the denunciations that such an operation would inevitably bring; the potential payoff is worth the public-relations cost. But the Mavi Marmara was not an existential threat; it was not loaded with missiles or other weapons. It was a provocation, an act of political theater — and Israel should have been smart enough to avoid playing the part scripted by its enemies. Even letting the ship dock in Gaza would have done less damage to Israel than the manner in which it was stopped.

The justification for the boarding was that Israel couldn’t allow the Gaza blockade to be broken. I’m sympathetic to the need to maintain the blockade (which Israel has every right to do), but as Ronen Bergman points out, Israel has let other ships breach the blockade before without catastrophic consequences:

In August 2006 two ships carrying peace activists and food aid set out to Gaza, again from Cyprus. Under instructions from then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the vessels were boarded at sea without resistance. After a search uncovered no weapons, the ships were permitted to continue on toward the Strip. The Israeli naval forces went home, Hamas declared victory, and that was that.

The ultimate irony here is that the Israeli boarding was meant to prevent a recurrence of such Hamas aid convoys. Yet the shooting aboard the Mavi Marama has had the opposite effect — by handing an unearned propaganda victory to Israel’s enemies, it is encouraging them to repeat the same tactics. Three more ships are being readied for another Gaza flotilla. If and when they do sail, I trust that the Israeli government will learn from experience and not walk into another trap set by its enemies.

When Israel is attacked — physically or rhetorically — the impulse of all friends of Israel (myself included) is to jump immediately and totally to its defense. That is a commendable impulse; certainly far preferable to the knee-jerk anti-Israel animus displayed by much of the world. But unflinching support for Israel’s right to defend itself should not preclude occasional criticism of the manner in which it exercises that right — just as being a supporter of the United States and its armed forces in general should not preclude one from criticizing specific operations, for instance the way in which the Iraq war was conducted from 2003 to 2007. Indeed, one can argue that those of us who were critical of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war ultimately helped to make possible the turnaround that occurred when President Bush jettisoned his senior war managers (Rumsfeld, Abizaid, Casey) and implemented the surge — a policy they had stubbornly and foolishly opposed.

So Israel is now going through a period of reflection and self-criticism similar to that which occurred after the troubled 2006 campaign against Hezbollah. That resulted in a more successful operation against Hamas (Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009). I hope that the constructive criticisms that I — and other pro-Israel commentators — have lodged of the manner in which the Gaza flotilla was handled will lead Israeli policymakers to be more adept in dealing with similar challenges in the future. My critique (I wrote that the operation was morally and legally justified but handed a public-relations victory to Israel’s enemies) was actually mild compared with many of those heard in Israel itself. For instance, Ari Shavit — a respected Haaretz columnist who is a hawkish liberal – wrote:

During the 2006 war in Lebanon I concluded that my 15-year-old daughter could have conducted it more wisely than the Olmert-Peretz government. We’ve progressed. Today it’s clear to me that my 6-year-old son could do much better than our current government.

As another example, there is this comment made to Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, who is in Israel right now:

I happen to be around a lot of Israeli generals lately, and one I bumped into today said something very smart and self-aware: “Does everybody in the world think we’re bananas?” He did not let me respond before he said, “Wait, I know the answer: The whole world thinks we’re bananas.” I asked this general if this was a good thing or a bad thing. After all, Nixon seemed bananas and he achieved great things internationally. So did Menachem Begin. This is what the general said, however: “It’s one thing for people to think that you’re crazy, but it’s bad when they think you’re incompetent and crazy, and that’s the way we look.”

Unfortunately — and it pains me to say so because I want only the best for Israel — I think that unnamed general is right.

Those who continue to defend the handling of the Gaza flotilla make essentially three points: (a) there was no credible alternative; (b) Israel would get criticized no matter what it did; and (c) Israel cannot give the “international community” a veto over its right of self-defense.

Start with the first point. Knowledgeable Israeli commentators agree with me that there likely were alternative courses of action to stop the flotilla without sending a small group of naval commandos into the middle of a melee — a situation for which they were unprepared. The Jerusalem Post writes:

One question that needs to be asked is why the government approved the IDF’s plan to put troops on the ship via helicopter instead of perhaps sabotaging or diverting them. Flotilla 13, the naval commando unit that raided the ships, is expert in sabotage.

According to one former top navy officer, one option was to use tugboats to push the ships off course. Another option was to damage the ships’ propellers, prevent them from sailing into Gaza and forcing them to be towed to Ashdod.

A third option was to board the ships quietly and not by helicopter.

“There were several options that the IDF had before sending troops onto the ship,” the former senior officer explained, “It is not clear that those options were completely exhausted.”

In the Wall Street Journal today, Israeli security analyst Ronen Bergman (who, like I do, describes the operation as a “fiasco”) reminds us that such alternatives have been employed before:

In 1988, 131 members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who had been deported from the Palestinian Territories following the outbreak of the first intifada intended to set sail to Gaza from Limassol, Cyprus. Their boat, called Al Awda or the Ship of the Return, was accompanied by 200 journalists. ….

On Feb. 15, hours before it was due to set sail, the empty ship was blown up in Limassol harbor by a team of Mossad agents and frogmen from Flotilla 13 (the Israeli equivalent of Navy Seals). The team was led by Yoav Galant, then a young officer and today a major general in the IDF. The operation was a success. There were no casualties on either side and the PLO gave up on the idea of sailing to Gaza.

What about the argument that Israel would get criticized no matter what it did? That even if its agents sabotaged or disabled the pro-Hamas vessels without risking an open confrontation, it would still be pilloried? There is some truth to this, but there is criticism and then there is criticism. It would get a lot less blowback for such a low-profile operation than for a shoot-out on the high seas that left nine “peace activists” (actually pro-Hamas activists) dead.

Israel should be willing to risk international opprobrium when it faces a true existential threat. It needs, for example, to retaliate for Hamas rocket strikes, as it did with Operation Cast Lead. No state can allow its territory to be attacked with impunity. Israel also needs to seriously consider the possibility of bombing Iranian nuclear facilities no matter the denunciations that such an operation would inevitably bring; the potential payoff is worth the public-relations cost. But the Mavi Marmara was not an existential threat; it was not loaded with missiles or other weapons. It was a provocation, an act of political theater — and Israel should have been smart enough to avoid playing the part scripted by its enemies. Even letting the ship dock in Gaza would have done less damage to Israel than the manner in which it was stopped.

The justification for the boarding was that Israel couldn’t allow the Gaza blockade to be broken. I’m sympathetic to the need to maintain the blockade (which Israel has every right to do), but as Ronen Bergman points out, Israel has let other ships breach the blockade before without catastrophic consequences:

In August 2006 two ships carrying peace activists and food aid set out to Gaza, again from Cyprus. Under instructions from then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the vessels were boarded at sea without resistance. After a search uncovered no weapons, the ships were permitted to continue on toward the Strip. The Israeli naval forces went home, Hamas declared victory, and that was that.

The ultimate irony here is that the Israeli boarding was meant to prevent a recurrence of such Hamas aid convoys. Yet the shooting aboard the Mavi Marama has had the opposite effect — by handing an unearned propaganda victory to Israel’s enemies, it is encouraging them to repeat the same tactics. Three more ships are being readied for another Gaza flotilla. If and when they do sail, I trust that the Israeli government will learn from experience and not walk into another trap set by its enemies.

Read Less

When the Telling Starts

Most advocates want to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) about fairness and feelings, but for those in the military, that’s not what it’s about. Nor is it about military readiness. This is probably clearest to senior military officers, who have careers of unit leadership, administration, and policy implementation behind them. One can have every sympathy for gays and still oppose the repeal of DADT, because what it portends in daily practice is administering a forced accommodation to gay behavior.

Gays can already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT isn’t about allowing them to. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture. The course of hands-off neutrality is not an option in these realms; their unique character is to require affirmative policy. Civilians should start by understanding this. The quiescent tolerance they think of in relation to their own lives must translate, in the military, into endorsement and administration of an explicit position. These matters are hard for most people to discuss without emotion, and the tendency of both sides is to focus on what offends them. But it’s essential to understand that no form of offense felt by either side makes the administrative consequences of repealing DADT go away. They are inevitable.

Arguments against repealing DADT usually focus on the hazards of unit-level social interactions, and that’s a valid concern. But rules already exist for dealing with misconduct in the ranks; that aspect of adjustment won’t be the most difficult. The central question, rather, is whether having gays serve openly is a priority that justifies all the adjustments the military will have to make. Those adjustments will be necessary in two principal areas: military society, which includes family life and family-oriented services, and military administration. Intersecting with both of them is the prospect of lawsuits, guaranteed by the robust history of gay-activist litigation in government and the private sector.

Family life on military bases can’t help absorbing the impact of openly acknowledged gay romance, which will play out on sports fields, in base theaters, in recreation facilities, and at the exchanges and commissaries. To deny that this is an issue is merely to take a side. Policy questions will arise for everything from base-housing eligibility for gay couples to gay-themed marketing in the exchange department stores. Ignoring the concerns of military spouses and parents about this would defeat the very purpose of family services, but advocates would argue, and not without justification, that gay service members have an equal entitlement in this regard.

Administering the uniformed military, meanwhile, will have its own set of issues. One basic issue must come to a head: whether eligibility for promotion or command will be contingent on explicit support for homosexuality. The issue will be forced by lawsuit if by no other means. A 20-year veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be comfortable, for example, endorsing “Gay Pride Month” or participating in scheduled military celebrations of it. He may be charged by a gay subordinate with creating a hostile work environment or ordered by a senior officer to get onboard with gay-pride celebrations. Perhaps his chain of command would back him up and force the issue to a higher level. The serious question remains: what does this have to do with warfighting readiness?

I wrote on this topic at some length last year, and refer you to my earlier piece for a summary of relevant incidents. The precedent has been set in foreign militaries and in U.S. civilian life for litigating a host of issues if DADT is repealed. Most gays in the military will want to serve quietly and with honor, as they do now, but repealing DADT will nevertheless open the door for legal activists to recruit plaintiffs. It will also create a set of time-consuming administrative and policy dilemmas that don’t exist under DADT.

We must recognize, moreover, that for the purpose of administering anti-discrimination policies, being gay is not like being black or female. People only have to know you’re gay — only have to be “polled” for their opinion — if you choose to make it clear. Repealing DADT isn’t about gays serving; it’s about gays “telling,” regardless of what others want to know. The respectful silence the others can maintain in civilian life, the tolerance by avoidance that lubricates social amity — these are precisely the options the military, with its top-down governance and institutional unity, withholds from its members.

Why must soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have this reckoning concerning each other? That’s the question each American voter needs to ask himself, as he considers what his purpose is in requiring, for service members and their families, a reckoning the rest of us can choose not to face.

Most advocates want to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) about fairness and feelings, but for those in the military, that’s not what it’s about. Nor is it about military readiness. This is probably clearest to senior military officers, who have careers of unit leadership, administration, and policy implementation behind them. One can have every sympathy for gays and still oppose the repeal of DADT, because what it portends in daily practice is administering a forced accommodation to gay behavior.

Gays can already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT isn’t about allowing them to. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture. The course of hands-off neutrality is not an option in these realms; their unique character is to require affirmative policy. Civilians should start by understanding this. The quiescent tolerance they think of in relation to their own lives must translate, in the military, into endorsement and administration of an explicit position. These matters are hard for most people to discuss without emotion, and the tendency of both sides is to focus on what offends them. But it’s essential to understand that no form of offense felt by either side makes the administrative consequences of repealing DADT go away. They are inevitable.

Arguments against repealing DADT usually focus on the hazards of unit-level social interactions, and that’s a valid concern. But rules already exist for dealing with misconduct in the ranks; that aspect of adjustment won’t be the most difficult. The central question, rather, is whether having gays serve openly is a priority that justifies all the adjustments the military will have to make. Those adjustments will be necessary in two principal areas: military society, which includes family life and family-oriented services, and military administration. Intersecting with both of them is the prospect of lawsuits, guaranteed by the robust history of gay-activist litigation in government and the private sector.

Family life on military bases can’t help absorbing the impact of openly acknowledged gay romance, which will play out on sports fields, in base theaters, in recreation facilities, and at the exchanges and commissaries. To deny that this is an issue is merely to take a side. Policy questions will arise for everything from base-housing eligibility for gay couples to gay-themed marketing in the exchange department stores. Ignoring the concerns of military spouses and parents about this would defeat the very purpose of family services, but advocates would argue, and not without justification, that gay service members have an equal entitlement in this regard.

Administering the uniformed military, meanwhile, will have its own set of issues. One basic issue must come to a head: whether eligibility for promotion or command will be contingent on explicit support for homosexuality. The issue will be forced by lawsuit if by no other means. A 20-year veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be comfortable, for example, endorsing “Gay Pride Month” or participating in scheduled military celebrations of it. He may be charged by a gay subordinate with creating a hostile work environment or ordered by a senior officer to get onboard with gay-pride celebrations. Perhaps his chain of command would back him up and force the issue to a higher level. The serious question remains: what does this have to do with warfighting readiness?

I wrote on this topic at some length last year, and refer you to my earlier piece for a summary of relevant incidents. The precedent has been set in foreign militaries and in U.S. civilian life for litigating a host of issues if DADT is repealed. Most gays in the military will want to serve quietly and with honor, as they do now, but repealing DADT will nevertheless open the door for legal activists to recruit plaintiffs. It will also create a set of time-consuming administrative and policy dilemmas that don’t exist under DADT.

We must recognize, moreover, that for the purpose of administering anti-discrimination policies, being gay is not like being black or female. People only have to know you’re gay — only have to be “polled” for their opinion — if you choose to make it clear. Repealing DADT isn’t about gays serving; it’s about gays “telling,” regardless of what others want to know. The respectful silence the others can maintain in civilian life, the tolerance by avoidance that lubricates social amity — these are precisely the options the military, with its top-down governance and institutional unity, withholds from its members.

Why must soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have this reckoning concerning each other? That’s the question each American voter needs to ask himself, as he considers what his purpose is in requiring, for service members and their families, a reckoning the rest of us can choose not to face.

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Affirmative Action at the CIA

A thoughtful reader, Orlando Jackson, suggests that in criticizing affirmative action at the CIA, I am trying to have it two ways. On the one hand, he writes, “you and critics, want the CIA to ‘connect the dots’ via a better enabled HUMINT [human intelligence]. Yet, on the other hand, you critique them when they work towards this end” by bringing in people who speak Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, and you dismiss the value of recruiting “non-white agents to operate in the predominately non-white world of al-Qaeda.”

These would be valid points if Mr. Orlando were accurately capturing what is going on. But as best we can tell, the CIA’s affirmative-action program has never been tailored toward bringing in operatives who speak the languages and/or otherwise resemble al-Qaeda terrorists. Rather, it has been oriented toward the politically-correct goal of creating a workforce that more closely resembles America (or the EEOC’s version of America)–in other words, bringing in more Hispanics, blacks, women, the disabled, and Pacific Islanders.

This is not idle speculation on my part. I wrote about it in detail back in 2005 in What Became of the CIA. Here is a relevant excerpt:

By 1995, under John Deutch, Clinton’s second director, the effort to remake the agency in the name of “diversity” had intensified markedly. Deutch began his tenure by advancing a “strategic diversity plan” and installing a forty-year-old Pentagon official, Nora Slatkin, in the agency’s executive-director slot to carry it out. Slatkin soon formed a Human Resources Oversight Council (HROC) aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities.” The need for such measures, according to HROC, was clear from its own study of shortfalls in “recruiting, hiring, and advancement”:

[M]inorities in the agency’s workforce — particularly Hispanics and Asian-Pacific employees — remain underrepresented when compared with Civilian Labor Force (CLF) guidelines determined by the 1990 census. Hispanic employees in FY 1995 accounted for 2.3 percent of the agency workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Hispanics nationwide account for 8.1 percent of the nation’s workforce. Asian-Pacific employees comprised only 1.7 percent of the agency’s workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Asian-Pacific minorities comprise 2.8 percent of the nation’s workforce.

To reduce these statistical discrepancies, Slatkin declared “a goal that one out of every three officers hired in fiscal years 1995-97 be of Hispanic or Asian-Pacific origin.” She moved no less aggressively to alter the ethnic and sexual complexion of the CIA’s higher levels. In just six months, she was able to report, “42 percent of officers selected for senior assignments ha[d] been women or minorities”. . . .

By 1999, the agency’s top leaders were actively engaged in the campaign for greater diversity, or, in plain English, quotas. Clinton’s third director, George Tenet, issued a major statement deploring the fact that “[m]inorities, women, and people with disabilities still are underrepresented in the agency’s mid-level and senior officer positions,” and asserting his determination to end this state of affairs. It was, he said, incumbent on “supervisors and managers” at all levels to understand that diversity is “one of the most powerful tools we have to help make the world a safer place,” and he declared that they would be held accountable for “ensuring that this agency and community are inclusive institutions.” 

By all means, let’s have a CIA whose composition more closely resembles that of our adversaries. But unless things have changed radically since George Tenet resigned, that is not what affirmative action in the intelligence world is all about.

A thoughtful reader, Orlando Jackson, suggests that in criticizing affirmative action at the CIA, I am trying to have it two ways. On the one hand, he writes, “you and critics, want the CIA to ‘connect the dots’ via a better enabled HUMINT [human intelligence]. Yet, on the other hand, you critique them when they work towards this end” by bringing in people who speak Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, and you dismiss the value of recruiting “non-white agents to operate in the predominately non-white world of al-Qaeda.”

These would be valid points if Mr. Orlando were accurately capturing what is going on. But as best we can tell, the CIA’s affirmative-action program has never been tailored toward bringing in operatives who speak the languages and/or otherwise resemble al-Qaeda terrorists. Rather, it has been oriented toward the politically-correct goal of creating a workforce that more closely resembles America (or the EEOC’s version of America)–in other words, bringing in more Hispanics, blacks, women, the disabled, and Pacific Islanders.

This is not idle speculation on my part. I wrote about it in detail back in 2005 in What Became of the CIA. Here is a relevant excerpt:

By 1995, under John Deutch, Clinton’s second director, the effort to remake the agency in the name of “diversity” had intensified markedly. Deutch began his tenure by advancing a “strategic diversity plan” and installing a forty-year-old Pentagon official, Nora Slatkin, in the agency’s executive-director slot to carry it out. Slatkin soon formed a Human Resources Oversight Council (HROC) aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities.” The need for such measures, according to HROC, was clear from its own study of shortfalls in “recruiting, hiring, and advancement”:

[M]inorities in the agency’s workforce — particularly Hispanics and Asian-Pacific employees — remain underrepresented when compared with Civilian Labor Force (CLF) guidelines determined by the 1990 census. Hispanic employees in FY 1995 accounted for 2.3 percent of the agency workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Hispanics nationwide account for 8.1 percent of the nation’s workforce. Asian-Pacific employees comprised only 1.7 percent of the agency’s workforce; CLF guidelines indicate Asian-Pacific minorities comprise 2.8 percent of the nation’s workforce.

To reduce these statistical discrepancies, Slatkin declared “a goal that one out of every three officers hired in fiscal years 1995-97 be of Hispanic or Asian-Pacific origin.” She moved no less aggressively to alter the ethnic and sexual complexion of the CIA’s higher levels. In just six months, she was able to report, “42 percent of officers selected for senior assignments ha[d] been women or minorities”. . . .

By 1999, the agency’s top leaders were actively engaged in the campaign for greater diversity, or, in plain English, quotas. Clinton’s third director, George Tenet, issued a major statement deploring the fact that “[m]inorities, women, and people with disabilities still are underrepresented in the agency’s mid-level and senior officer positions,” and asserting his determination to end this state of affairs. It was, he said, incumbent on “supervisors and managers” at all levels to understand that diversity is “one of the most powerful tools we have to help make the world a safer place,” and he declared that they would be held accountable for “ensuring that this agency and community are inclusive institutions.” 

By all means, let’s have a CIA whose composition more closely resembles that of our adversaries. But unless things have changed radically since George Tenet resigned, that is not what affirmative action in the intelligence world is all about.

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Another World Bank Triumph

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports:

The World Bank on Wednesday announced the resignation of Suzanne Rich Folsom as director of its anticorruption unit, or INT. “She was not forced out, she was not asked to leave,” said external relations chief Marwan Muasher.”

After detailing “$569 million worth of corrupted bank projects in India” Ms. Folsom was indeed forced out, and she should wear her ejection as a badge of honor. She’s the latest in a string of World Bank employees made to pay for the mortal sin of being honorable and the venial sin of being American. As head of the INT, Ms. Folsom had her hands full. (Imagine someone trying to expose the oil-for-food scandal from inside the UN in real-time, and you’ll get some idea.) The Journal piece details the sundry attempts to block her efforts and malign her character, and notes:

All of this might seem farcical were the stakes not so high. If the India report and others we’ve disclosed are anything to go by, at least some of these loans will go to projects in which nine of 10 dollars are either squandered or stolen by corrupt officials and middlemen, and where filthy, half-built hospitals are certified as completed to project specifications. That ought to matter to a “bank” that purports to have the interests of the world’s poor at heart and whose annual lending portfolio tops $30 billion.

Through the railroading of former Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, senior officer Shaha Riza, and now Susan Folsom, the World Bank has achieved something akin to, say, the NYPD purging its own internal affairs unit. Time and again the international community that decries American unilateralism squashes American cooperation in attempts to help strengthen and improve the institutions of multilateral policy. It seems the World Bank’s doors are now open and ready for business.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports:

The World Bank on Wednesday announced the resignation of Suzanne Rich Folsom as director of its anticorruption unit, or INT. “She was not forced out, she was not asked to leave,” said external relations chief Marwan Muasher.”

After detailing “$569 million worth of corrupted bank projects in India” Ms. Folsom was indeed forced out, and she should wear her ejection as a badge of honor. She’s the latest in a string of World Bank employees made to pay for the mortal sin of being honorable and the venial sin of being American. As head of the INT, Ms. Folsom had her hands full. (Imagine someone trying to expose the oil-for-food scandal from inside the UN in real-time, and you’ll get some idea.) The Journal piece details the sundry attempts to block her efforts and malign her character, and notes:

All of this might seem farcical were the stakes not so high. If the India report and others we’ve disclosed are anything to go by, at least some of these loans will go to projects in which nine of 10 dollars are either squandered or stolen by corrupt officials and middlemen, and where filthy, half-built hospitals are certified as completed to project specifications. That ought to matter to a “bank” that purports to have the interests of the world’s poor at heart and whose annual lending portfolio tops $30 billion.

Through the railroading of former Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, senior officer Shaha Riza, and now Susan Folsom, the World Bank has achieved something akin to, say, the NYPD purging its own internal affairs unit. Time and again the international community that decries American unilateralism squashes American cooperation in attempts to help strengthen and improve the institutions of multilateral policy. It seems the World Bank’s doors are now open and ready for business.

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Command Performance

The recent spate of appointments of admirals to top “joint” jobs within the U.S. armed forces is, so to speak, making waves within the military. The Army feels especially miffed that, at a time when it is carrying the major burden of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its representation in the most senior jobs is as low as it’s ever been.

As an Associated Press article notes, “Of the U.S. military’s nine combat commands, only two are run by Army generals, and that number will be cut in half when Bryan Brown retires next month as the senior officer at U.S. Special Operations Command.”

General Brown, a veteran of Army Special Operations Forces, is being replaced by Admiral Eric Olson, a veteran SEAL. At the same time, Admiral Mike Mullen, the current Chief of Naval Operations (i.e., the Navy chief of staff), has been nominated to replace Marine General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; his deputy will be Marine General James Cartwright.

In other personnel shifts, Admiral James Stavridis became head of Southern Command last fall, while more recently Admiral Timothy Keating has become head of Pacific Command. The latter is a traditional Navy billet. But what really rankles the Army is that Keating’s predecessor, Admiral William Fallon, has taken over Central Command (covering the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia), whose leadership traditionally has rotated between the Army and Marine Corps. Of the nine unified combatant commands, the Army will be left with just one—European Command, where General Bantz Craddock is the boss.

Read More

The recent spate of appointments of admirals to top “joint” jobs within the U.S. armed forces is, so to speak, making waves within the military. The Army feels especially miffed that, at a time when it is carrying the major burden of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its representation in the most senior jobs is as low as it’s ever been.

As an Associated Press article notes, “Of the U.S. military’s nine combat commands, only two are run by Army generals, and that number will be cut in half when Bryan Brown retires next month as the senior officer at U.S. Special Operations Command.”

General Brown, a veteran of Army Special Operations Forces, is being replaced by Admiral Eric Olson, a veteran SEAL. At the same time, Admiral Mike Mullen, the current Chief of Naval Operations (i.e., the Navy chief of staff), has been nominated to replace Marine General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; his deputy will be Marine General James Cartwright.

In other personnel shifts, Admiral James Stavridis became head of Southern Command last fall, while more recently Admiral Timothy Keating has become head of Pacific Command. The latter is a traditional Navy billet. But what really rankles the Army is that Keating’s predecessor, Admiral William Fallon, has taken over Central Command (covering the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia), whose leadership traditionally has rotated between the Army and Marine Corps. Of the nine unified combatant commands, the Army will be left with just one—European Command, where General Bantz Craddock is the boss.

Suspicious souls within the Army are starting to wonder if there is a conspiracy against the men and women in green, perhaps a holdover from the tenure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was intensely suspicious of the Army for not being in synch with his high-tech (and highly misguided) plans to “transform” the armed forces. Or perhaps, some self-flagellating Army officers speculate, this is a sign that their service isn’t doing a good job of producing competent senior leaders.

Both explanations are plausible. But it’s also possible that there may be less here than meets the eye.

Consider that the Army at the moment holds the two most important combat commands in the entire U.S. armed forces. General David Petraeus is the senior commander in Iraq, while General Dan McNeill is the senior commander in Afghanistan. Neither position is as publicly prestigious as that of combatant commander. But those jobs are of much greater actual significance at the moment than running, say, Southern Command (with responsibility for Latin America). They are probably even more significant than running Central Command—which may be why Defense Secretary Robert Gates felt free to appoint an admiral to that position, knowing that our land wars would still be run by army four-stars.

These trends also tend to go in cycles. Not long ago the Army was grousing not about Navy admirals but about Marine Corps generals, said to be “overrepresented” in senior Army ranks. Marines, for their part, were upset that two Army generals—Tommy Franks and John Abizaid—had taken successive charge of Centcom. Many wondered why a leatherneck (such as the eminently qualified Lieutenant General Jim Mattis) wasn’t picked.

My sense—and it’s only a sense, since I have no inside information—is that the top jobs are filled nowadays based more on personal qualifications than on service politics. It’s who you know and what your reputation is that count, rather than which uniform you wear. And since the top jobs are so political, it’s often the most astute political infighter, rather than the most brilliant and inspired leader, who gets the appointment.

But the recent appointments do seem to reflect a decline in intra-service parochialism—precisely what the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act was supposed to accomplish. So the latest appointments should not occasion too much grinding of teeth, even in the Army. After all, before long the other services may well be complaining about too many green-suiters at the top.

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