Monday, February 28, 2011

The Soul of the Army

No less an authority than George Washington believed, "discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all." More than all the new uniforms, UAV's or F-22s the Pentagon could buy, it depends on discipline for success. It is the glue that holds units together during tough training and deadly combat. This is why it is so disheartening to see signs of shakey discipline in the ranks.

After Michael Hastings's controversial article in Rolling Stone Magazine showing General Stanley McChrystal and his staff in an unflattering light led to the general's dismissal he has apparently become the reporter of refuge for disgruntled officers. His latest work alleges that Lt. Colonel Shawn Stroud illegally ordered Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes to use psychological operations techniques against selected politicians in an effort to "brain wash" them into supporting funding and troop increases.

A little bit of research seems to indicate that the incident boils down to a dispute over bureaucratic labels, organizational charts and an Army officer who should know better than to talk to anyone from Rolling Stone. Upon further questioning from the New York Times Holmes conceded that what he was asked to do was, "pretty innocuous."

Is this how warriors in war time behave? Is it too much to ask that military professionals handle disagreements like adults behind closed doors instead of slinking off to all too willing to give the Army another black eye? Discipline in the ranks is at least as important for Lt. Colonels as it is for Privates so before acting maybe Holmes should have asked himself, "What would George Washington do?"

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