This month's Marine anniversary coverage includes historian Skip Bartlett's look back at the legendary Gunner Henry Lewis Hulbert . The model for the fictional Edward Hawkes in John W. Thomason's 1925 classic Fix Bayonets and Other Stories , Hulbert had a colorful career that spanned service in Samoa (where he earned the Medal of Honor) at the turn of the century to the bloody trenches of the St. Mihel salient in 1918. His exploits seem tailor-made for the silver screen, and it's a wonder that some Hollywood mogul has never seized the opportunity to put his story before a larger audience.
While Gunner Hulbert would feel at home today with his Leatherneck successors in Iraq and Afghanistan, he might face a tougher adjustment in garrison. Captain Brian Donlon explains in "Where's the Special Trust and Confidence?" that while Marines in combat are given great responsibility and encouraged to display individual initiative, once back home they are subject to policies that are, in his words, "risk-averse, centralized, inward-focused, and possessing an intolerance of defects." He worries these garrison procedures will, over time, have an adverse effect on Marines and perhaps diminish their decisiveness in combat. The author points out that this is not a new issue, reminding us that more than 50 years ago Marine Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr. also tackled this issue in the pages of Proceedings . His article "Special Trust and Confidence" appeared in May 1956 ( reprinted in full on our blog at blog.usni.org ) and criticized what he called "administrative thick-headedness" for taking the place of "individual discretion and common sense." Agree or disagree, Captain Donlon's article is sure to generate discussion and USNI offers an additional avenue for joining the debate. Our Web site now gives readers the capability to immediately comment on stories, offering those of you who don't make it into our comment and discussion section in the print version another way to enter the forum.
As we go to press, suicide/homicide bombers have killed scores of people in Pakistani cities, including an attack on army headquarters in Rawalpindi, and the Pakistani army launched a campaign against Taliban insurgents in South Waziristan. Well, guess where T. X. Hammes, William "Mac" McCallister, and John Collins, authors in this issue of "Afghanistan: Connecting Assumptions and Strategy," say the United States should shift its attention? You guessed it: Pakistan. These strategic thinkers identify here six assumptions about the Afghan war that never quite materialized and recommend a set of six replacements that should be considered now by the Obama administration.
We are also pleased this month to announce the General Prize winners for 2009 . First prize this year goes to Kirk Ross. In the November 2008 issue, he reported from the ground in Afghanistan on the events that unfolded earlier in the year during the Battle of Jugroom Fort, in "Where Marines Could Be Marines." Kirk, who paid his own way overseas, purchased all the gear he needed from his own pocket, and was his own photographer, just wanted "to get the story right" from the battlefields of the Garmsir District. His article is a stunning tribute to the brave Marines of Battalion Landing Team 1/6. Second prize goes to Commander Jerry Hendrix for his April 2009 article "Buy Fords, Not Ferraris," which continues to generate buzz in the halls of the Pentagon. Our two third prize winners are the controversial "Fear and Loathing in the Post-Naval Era" by Barrett Tillman (June 2009) and "On the Verge of a Game-Changer" by Andrew Erickson and David Yang (May 2009). These authors are the Independent Forum at its best. Bravo Zulu to all our winners.