Small Wars Journal


Tom Ricks quotes "the likely next chairman of the JCS" on operational risk and career cowardice - excerpted from the May issue of the Marine Corps Gazette:

"The enormous irony of the military profession is that we are huge risk takers in what we do operationally -- flying airplanes on and off a carrier, driving a ship through a sea state five typhoon, walking point with your platoon in southern Afghanistan -- but publishing an article, posting a blog, or speaking to the media can scare us badly. We are happy to take personal risk or operational risk, but too many of us won't take career risk."

The author is Admiral James Stavridis, Commander, U.S. European Command.



Fri, 05/06/2011 - 12:47pm

Since posting this, I found out from the Gazette that a general officer did respond to my letter. His response should be out in the June edition.

Umar Al-Mokhtār

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:38pm

I too have to wonder exactly what implication Anon is making. The Marine Corps is a very "squared away" service by and large, particularly when compared to other organizations. Squared away does not, nor ever has, implied perfection. Nautically it means to put something away or place it in order. Its non-nautical meaning is more along the lines of being prepared or ready for business or tasks at hand by having the proper knowledge, skill and equipment to handle ones assignment or station.

Peters issue has nothing to do with the Corps either being squared away or not and is focused primarily on senior leaderships seeming inability in taking any action to respond to the issues raised by more junior folks, ones which could impact both leadership and morale across the Corps, although that probably has not changed much since November 12th, 1775.


Thu, 05/05/2011 - 10:15am

What organization is perfect? I think all the services are suffering from a risk averse mindset and the centralizing influence of technology. Fortunately, though, I think this is worst in the Corps in the non-operational BS than in operational issues.

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 7:31am

Implication is that all is not quite right in the Marines Corps according to your comments. You are lifting the tent flap to what we all thought was the most perfect military organization, again, per Marine Corps propaganda. We wish you the best and hope the Corps does not come down to hard on you but since they are not reading your comments I guess you will be okay!! :-)


Thu, 05/05/2011 - 1:29am

And your implication is what? The service is not squared away or I am not sufficiently squared away? Pray tell. And who are you and from what angle are you coming at this?

Anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:06am

Wow. I thought the Marines were the squared away service. Or at least that is what their propaganda would lead one to believe.


Wed, 05/04/2011 - 11:59pm

My platoon commander when I went through The Basic School said something to the effect of, "People talk a lot about giving their lives for their country, but very few will give their career for their country." Good news is that the senior leadership isn't reading or doesn't care. I've put out some pretty unvarnished stuff, from calling out a "failure of institutional leadership" to writing the following Letter to the Editor of the Gazette. No one has called me on the carpet, or even acknowledged my existence. So, does it really matter?

"Your advertisements announce that the Gazette is "read by every Marine general." Perhaps this should be changed to "every Marine general has a subscription to the Gazette." If every general officer read the Gazette, surely one would have acted on or rebutted the parade of articles pointing out the troubling trend of risk aversion, micromanagement, and flawed approaches to safety and training. Maj Liston's letter to the editor, 2ndLt McGill's article "MarineNet," and the tenth "Attritionist Letter" (tellingly anonymous), are only the latest in this chorus, yet these flawed approaches continue to be directed from on high. So I ask, are the generals actually reading these cries for sanity, or is the Gazette an extension of the echo chamber that our battalion-level spaces and below have become: everyone nodding their heads that things are out of hand, but no one able to affect the madness inflicted from on high? If they aren't reading and aren't acting on what their junior leaders are telling them loud and clear, or at least entering the dialogue with an alternative, enlightening viewpoint, there is little point in continuing to publish articles on issues that cannot be affected below the battalion-level in these pages."