Posts Tagged ‘military’

On Alliances

March 19, 2017

I was just thinking about Trumpsky’s comments. About how other countries should pay the US for defending them. About how much we pay for defense, and his rationale for spending more.
He’s a fool. You probably knew that, but maybe someone will explain.
The US, to the best of my knowledge, never spent a dime to benefit other nations.
Ponder that carefully.
The money was for our benefit primarily. If it also helped them, great.
Consider Germany; we spent quite a bit keeping folks like me there in the mid to late 20th Century, in my case on various hilltops waiting for the Soviets to roll across the border. So why did we do it?
Think how many men and women we had in the armed forces, how many machines we bought, and how much this nation spent fighting WWII. Just off the top of my head, I think we had around 7m people in the armed forces.
But not now. We don’t maintain a huge standing army, and that results in an enormous savings. I’ve seen it called the ‘peace dividend’.
Because we have allies. They have men and women in uniform, machines, ammunition, you name it. They maintain armies which allows us to keep ours relatively small.
Sure, we might want them to spend more, but even that has limits. If they expand their armed forces too much, the temptation is there to use them. Sort of what a number of American presidents have done, send troops to fight in wars against nations that had not attacked or even threatened the US.
What we’ve bought with our alliances (including NATO, whose nations are closest to our immediate threat, Russia) is peace and savings. Also security.
Someone should explain that to the guy who works more on his golf game than on governing.


Rapes in the Military, Added Observations

June 17, 2013

I think that perhaps the central thing of what I wrote yesterday is the different expectations from military and civilian populations.
As to assaults and brutality: it wasn’t common in the kind of unit I served it. There may well be more of that in other branches. But having been in that position, responsible for making the initial decisions, I can only say that there’s no checklist. At best, you don’t know what to do but you expect that if you do your best, your superiors up the chain of command will support you. I had that. But at worst, there may be pressure to suppress. Career-ending pressure, for officers. The pressure that will negate the investment in time and money and past decisions such that suddenly, through no fault of your own, you incur a black mark that will blight years of your remaining life. You go in one second from respected member of a profession to pariah.
The usual presumption you make, at least initially, is that your troops are innocent. You live with them, work with them in a closer environment than civilians know, and if it’s a close-combat unit such as infantry the bonds become as great or greater than family.
And you have no choice, none at all, in who the members of that family are. The great father in Washington puts the machinery in motion and it spits out a soldier. The rest of the people in the unit must then try to integrate that soldier into a profession where even in peacetime you must depend on the person next to you.
And if that soldier is a junior officer, say a lieutenant, they get tossed in to sink or swim. The people they now have ultimate responsibility for are likely not people they would have ever associated with before entering the military.
Rapes do happen in families; it’s not surprising that they can happen in military units. And it’s not surprising that a soldier might not know how to handle the closeness of a member of the opposite sex or even someone who might be homosexual. Or if a homosexual, being surrounded by a population that’s still mostly male. Or if lesbian, female.
Society tends to foster separation, even alienation. Military society insists on tight integration. Men have an association of like-minded men. You golf together. Play poker. Chase women (or men). Derive support from others who are basically like you are. Women do the same. OK, they may not be fans of playing poker.
The bully and the prospective victim now can’t escape each other. The pressures mount.
And so all the tensions of society get played out under physical and emotional pressures. By people who are young and untested and uneducated and inexperienced.
And untested officers, learning the job themselves, become the authority figure, the ‘parent’ in a sense. But not the parent of an infant. The parent of someone who might well be as old or even older than they are.
You may not, as an officer, closely associate with your troops. You are expected to associate only with your own kind, other officers. That breaks down in isolated units, but that’s still the ideal. And yet, you’re expected to know everything and to solve all the problems for a platoon of 30 people or perhaps a company or battery of perhaps 150. You have a staff of assistants, of course, but even so, it’s an impossible task. It’s a remnant of the days when nobles raised their own armies and commanded them in battle, and when soldiers were literally cannon-fodder.
But none of this can be taken into account, even though it should. Officers must always make the correct choice. Must decide if that ‘brother in arms’ is a rapist. Or a bully who’s bullying his own comrades to the point that they commit suicide. Or who will form a gang or similar loose association to do the same thing. Must decide if that complainant was innocent or somewhat complicit, and what that degree of innocence might be. As men work out society’s tensions, so do women. They work our their place in their tiny society, the pecking order if you will. Dominance, submission, the degrees of those things that will define their relationship. Soldiers, at bottom, are just people. Soldiers don’t have a checklist to follow either.
So the commander has to decide, how bad was the incident. A one man or woman jury, they decide who to believe and what to believe. There may be evidence, or not.
And a single misjudgment means that the judge and jury and prosecutor and evidence-gatherer can suddenly be the accused.
For officers up the chain, the lieutenant colonels and higher, they have much less of an excuse. They have the experience and education to make better decisions. But even generals can make misjudgments…or for that matter, even presidents.
The standard is perfection. For better or worse.
It might be better for society if our own civilian officials were held to the same standard.

Rapes in the Military

June 17, 2013

I’ve been following this story, and it’s time for me to comment.
I don’t know the facts of any individual case, but I’ve been a soldier. Twenty one years, as a matter of fact, now retired.
And now senior officials, politicians and some uniformed politicians, all are wailing and gnashing their teeth and probably beating their breasts to a chorus of mea culpa.
It’s not at all what the media would have you believe.
Not just the military that has a problem with this; I was duty officer when a rape occurred in the barracks, in Germany, and I reported the victim’s statement, took other statements, all the things I was expected to do. But because the victim was a German national, the two rapists (soldiers) were tried in German courts. And found not guilty, because the traumatized victim had not wanted to wait for police, she had just wanted to go home. So after initial reports were taken, I drafted a driver from the unit, gave him my keys, and he drove her home in my car. I had no grounds to keep her there and simple humanity made me understand that I would only make matters worse if I insisted on her remaining. FWIW, my CO concurred in my decision; I informed him, made a recommendation, and he concurred.
And because she hadn’t waited for the police to arrive (they didn’t get there for six hours or more), that was enough. A German court released the two rapists despite the physical evidence that I, and the unit commander, had collected after he arrived.
There was no question that we’d attempted to subvert justice in any way. Indeed, the Polizei were quite complimentary about the actions we’d taken. They were understanding and even friendly to those of us who had done the investigations we’d done.
It’s not as straightforward as reports would have you believe, and military officials who have to follow due process aren’t really sweeping things under the rug in nearly as many cases as media reports say.
The fact that the victim says she reported an incident and nothing happened doesn’t make it so. Sometimes, the story she tells later isn’t the one she told initially. Sometimes the evidence doesn’t support her story. Or there is no evidence. Sometimes when due process is followed and evidence is gathered according to rules, those rules don’t support a charge or conviction. And of course, sometimes justice isn’t done and coverups probably do happen.
But it’s not always black-and-white as to which course of action should be followed. Reports to the media don’t have to follow the rules of evidence that a court demands.
Do you really think every complaint to civilian authorities or police results in a charge or conviction of rape or sexual assault? What percentage of rapes that get reported to your local police go to court? How many of them result in conviction?
Based on what I’ve read, I’d guess that military officials are just as efficient as civilian authority in most cases. Even when, as in my case, we’ve never been trained to act as cops. We act as best we can while applying our best judgment. And no one, not the Supreme Court even, can do more than that.
But somehow, military officers or officials are held to a standard of perfection. If a civilian woman doesn’t get the justice she demands in a statement to the local TV station, do people demand the mayor and chief of police resign or be convicted of dereliction of duty?
Nonsense. That only happens if the officials are military. Civilian women cannot blame the mayor if he fails to protect them, but military women CAN and DO blame a commander for just that failure. Different standards apply due to differences between civil and military organizations and authority. Few if any recognize that fact. Certainly no media organization or reporter will ever include that in their report.
I think this needs to be explained. I am not condoning any misbehavior that might occur nor any effort to conceal anything. Certainly not. But before you issue a blanket condemnation, you should know what the facts are, as much as any nonparticipant ever can know.
Journalists will do that, the blanket condemnation. They have a vested interest in sensationalism.
But the rest of us should think first.
We owe that to our military, the same ones who interpose themselves between our enemies and our citizens. We have a duty to them just as they have a duty to us.