Monday, March 07, 2016

The Sad Truth About Illegal Orders

I hope that by now everyone is familiar with Trump's statement concerning illegal orders from the last debate. If not, take a moment to watch;

If your IT department won't let you watch video, here it the transcript;
BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding.

This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last — two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly...


... that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine — can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?


TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

BAIER: Even targeting terrorists’ families?

TRUMP: Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center, and his family gets sent back to where they were going — and I think most of you know where they went — and, by the way, it wasn’t Iraq — but they went back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening. The wife knew exactly what was happening.

They left two days early, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went, and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right?

Applause. Let that sink in.

Citizens of a free republic are applauding a man who is telling everyone two things that should disgust anyone who took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States...".
1. The CINC will issue illegal orders.
2. His military will gladly follow those illegal orders.
3. Citizens applaud 1 & 2.


There has been a lot of huff'n and puff'n from many who presently or once wore the uniform, including your humble blogg'r, roughly of, "We will not. No one will follow those illegal orders. We will just refuse." The more I've thought about it, the more I think my initial instinct is wrong. 

That might be an internal dialog, but once a senior officer looks you in the eye, and even if you make a protest says, "The JAG stated ..." or "The Justice Department ruled that ... ", there are very few who will resist. Anyone below 4-stars that does refuse will simply be fired and someone will step forward to execute the order in their place within minutes. That one person will have a clear conscience, but will also have a dead-end career, professional exile, and nothing will actually have changed. 

In the main, orders will be followed.

Why? Rosa Brooks outlined why rather well;
Military resistance is no safeguard against a future president — Trump or anyone else — who’s determined to have his way.

Laws can be manipulated, and they can be changed, especially when a president wants them manipulated or changed. The U.S. military has a strong rule-of-law culture, but it also has a strong commitment to civilian control of the armed forces. Generally speaking, that’s good, but it also means that officers rarely respond with a flat-out “No” when senior civilian officials start playing fast and loose with the law. The armed forces have a duty to disobey manifestly unlawful orders, but when top civilian lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department overrule the military’s interpretation of the law, few service members persist in their opposition.
If history and social psychology have taught us anything, it’s that most people, civilian and military alike, will go along with the instructions of those they perceive as authority figures, no matter what horrors they have to witness or carry out — and for the most part, that’s precisely what happened after 9/11. Although it was CIA rather than military personnel who were implicated in many of the most egregious post-9/11 abuses, military officers went along with plenty of bad actions and sometimes instigated them.
We’ve seen similar dynamics in recent debates about controversial Obama administration practices. Several military leaders have questioned the legality, morality and strategic wisdom of secret U.S. drone strikes outside of traditional battlefields, particularly when the targets are U.S. citizens. But just as they did under President Obama’s predecessor, Justice Department lawyers have provided memos offering legal justifications , muting any military resistance. U.S. military intervention in Syria is also arguably illegal under international law, and numerous lawyers in the armed forces have expressed private concerns about this and about the legality of current U.S. action under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. But here again, don’t expect a mutiny or a coup.
Read it all. She has a sober, and from my point of view, the correct reading of the landscape.

I would like to think I would do the right thing, but you know what - if for some reason I got called back, I'd just be a Commander. This isn't a Field Grade, Company Grade, or Senior NCO issue. This is a General Officer and Flag Officer (GOFO) issue.

What if there were push back at the GOFO level? There would be delays, there might be resignations. At the tactical level, there might even be some misdirection to delay or avoid - but it would be executed until contrary orders came down the chain.

The odds of the above scenario playing out is rather small. I have come to believe this; there is nothing that our GOFO community have done in peace that would lead me to think that there would be any concerted effort to stand up and say, "No." in times of crisis.

This has a long pedigree. Did anyone in uniform in '41 stand up when American citizens of Japanese extraction were rounded up and their property liquidated? No.

Today, how does a careerist mindset that defends failed programs like an industry spokesman, not a customer, then in a much more stressful and dangerous situation, turn to make an even more professionally ending moment by saying, "No?" Point to me an exception.

The last GOFO that stood out front, and this wasn't even an illegal order case, was General Shinseki, USA (Ret) right before the invasion of Iraq. All he did was to speak what he believed was the best military advice and let history judge his decision. That was over a dozen years ago. Before him was Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, USN (Ret) during the F-111 battle - but besides that I'm drawing a blank.

Tell me where I am wrong. Tell me who I am overlooking. 

It is good and right that we defer to our civilian leadership, but have we taken it too far? Standing up is just not our style, but have we taken that so far that we are happy that the American public thinks its military's officers will mindlessly follow any order? Is that something we are proud of? Do they have any reason to think otherwise? 

You get what you promote, and this is what we have. 

A stand-up personality type tends to not get to those exalted 3-star and 4-star levels, and it has nothing to do with performance in the field. Brave warfighters seem to wilt under political, media, and social pressure - strange but true. 

Need more data points? Remember all those brave senior officers who stood up in the face of the scapegoating of junior officers in the early 1990s Tailhook? Of course you don't. There are more examples out there.

We have a different culture at our senior levels. Leave and be quite. Don't be disgraced, and don't do anything that will keep you off various boards of directors and senior positions out there in industry that will pay big bucks for your connections in DC.

Don't burn bridges, they are paved with gold. Don't be "that guy" who you wind up seeing quoted in InfoWars.

A little too cynical? Yes, it is - perhaps. This is not a blanket swipe - but it does outline an objective observation of an average.

In the end analysis, the fault is not with the military, and unquestionably not with the Company Grade Officers, Field Grade Officers, or Noncommissioned Officers - and we can even give a pass to the GOFO that with exceptionally rare exceptions are just good people in hard jobs doing what they can to serve their nation like everyone else. No,it is the fault of the American people for electing those who issue the orders to the military. 

That is why who is CINC is so important. The guy at the top, regardless of who he is, holds the position of General Washington and draws on that personal capital. On a subconscious level, that still means a lot in the US military. It should. It is what makes us unique. In spite of all the sniping, a humble and meek nature for 3-stars and 4-stars is a feature, not a bug. It is only open for abuse with abusive and corrupt civilian leadership.

Pause and ponder.

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