There’s a lot going on for the Navy right now. We’re promised a substantial increase in ships, we’ve got a new strategy that calls out our near-peer adversaries, and we’re finally taking a hard look at how badly we run people into the ground.
But if you hit up Google News for some Navy news, you get a story criticizing the Secretary of the Navy for wearing a gun.
In Afghanistan. While he was visiting Marines.
I can assure you he probably didn’t wear it to look cool. Wearing a gun is a pain in the butt. It’s heavy, it catches on things, and in the hot desert you sweat like a pig on whatever body part it happens to be strapped to. You don’t wear or carry guns because you want to impress someone. You wear them because they might save your life.
Afghanistan is still not a safe place. It wasn’t safe for Alexander the Great, and it really hasn’t improved that much since then. Our enemies have targeted high level personnel before. I don’t blame Secretary Spencer for packing some heat. If I were in his shoes, I’d do the same thing.
Now, the comment on CNN came from Barbara Starr, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. She, like many others, seems to forget the military is not really about being a “Global Force for Good.” While that might appeal to someone young and starry eyed, the reality of military life is you spend a career finding ways to kill bad guys, who tend to want to make it hard for you to do so. Those bad guys don’t like you, and probably never will, so you have to keep them at bay. Ideally, you make lots of friends along the way, and try to keep the bad guys separate from the population they try and disappear into. That being said, those bad guys, in too many circumstances, aren’t going to come to your side. They won’t be persuaded that democracy is a good thing, or that isolating 50% of your population based on chromosomes might be holding you back. Nope! These people want you dead, just for being an American.
We’ve been missing this point for too many years now. Joining the military has become more about getting benefits and less about defending the nation. My dad saw this years ago, when the generation of reservists were suddenly called up to go to Iraq (in the early 90s), many were ill-prepared, having never really thought the Cold War would end and actual fighting would be required. That reserve integration was ultimately a success, but it paved the way toward raising the deployability of reservists for the future.
We need to get back to basics, and in the military, the basics is killing your enemy. Ideally, we don’t use blunt military power, because it’s raw, nasty, and leaves a lot of destruction in its path. But without that real capability, other nations will be quick to step into our place (see Ukraine, portions of Georgia, islands off the Philippines, etc.). A safe nation for its citizens depends fundamentally on the safety of its citizens from foreign invasion, which requires a credible military counter to threats from our enemies.
We shouldn’t shy away from that truth. In fact, we should study it and understand it, because only through understanding human violence can we hope to have lasting peace.
This post represents the views of the author and NOT those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other service. But I did hear that Secretary Mattis might enjoy killing ISIS members on occasion…
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