A Gates Team at the Pentagon

A Gates Team at the Pentagon by David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion. BLUF:

"Leon Panetta, the new defense secretary, will lead a team that is collegial and congenial, two qualities Gates prized. The question is whether its members have the toughness to say no to Pentagon bureaucracies that excel at logrolling and political horse-trading. Gates’s secret was his ability to impose accountability, and, with his barbed wisecracks, to scare subordinates into following his orders. This skill will be hard to replicate."

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As you both have noted the comments about heads rolling are sad and inappropriate, but the worst part is our leadership isn't countering this banter by explaining to the American people that this happens in war and the better units are more aggressive and will assume more risk, and risk means just that, RISK. We saw the same debate when a Platoon from the 173d was almost overrun. The Platoon defeated the attack, but took some casualties and then their parents went on a witch hunt. I wonder how the media would react if we were taking as many casualties as we were during Korea and Vietnam? Maybe they would be overwhelmed it, maybe they would be some common place they wouldn't be news? The good news is that we aren't taking a lot casualties (relatively speaking to other wars), so when we have a tragic incident like this the media can dwell on it.

Our guys are doing missions like this multiple times each night weather permitting, and we owe them the upmost thanks and respect for what they're doing. The last thing they need is a media circus that misrepresents what happened. That is simple exploitation for personal gain from a tragic incident.

The assumption that the downing of a helicopter must be a screw-up, otherwise we'd be invincible, underlines the unreal expectations that the military's propaganda has built and one of the reasons why our execution cannot keep up with the expectations. It is a huge victory that we have gotten this far into this war, flying as many helo sorties as we have, with so few shootdowns and other crashes. The ridiculous commentary about lasers, escorts, etc, by people in the press and blogosphere shows that Americans expect invincibility and infallibility, mostly through technological wizardry. God help us if we have to go up against someone with real capabilities.

Although this is about how Dr. Gates left a team in place and an explanation of the Cartwright situation I cannot help but read these pieces without noticing how some in the press view military operations (or use them to illustrate their points even when they hardly know the first thing about such operations). Again, the going in assumption by some in the press is the the tragic downing of the Chinook requires heads to roll. Let's see what the investigation reveals before embarking on the witch hunt. The results may reveal something of course, but that should not be our going in assumption. (and of course Ignatius conveniently forgets to mention the 3 Airmen and 5 Soldiers and 8 Afghans also killed). Excerpt:

"Gates managed to find a balance between supporting the troops and holding senior officers accountable. This will be a challenge for Panetta, whose initial reaction to theDecember 2009 suicide bombing of a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, was to fend off what some CIA officers said was well-deserved criticism of agency members’ tradecraft. Will he take action once the field investigation is completed into the downing of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan that killed 22 Navy SEALs?"