More Comment & Discussion from May

(See T. Gilmore, pp. 48–53 , March 2018 Proceedings )

The United States needs to rethink black and white. The United States does not need to study and adapt to gray-zone strategies because the “gray zone” is too broad. The nation needs to better define what is routine competition (white) and war (black). It is said that Iran, as well as many other nation states and non-state actors, plays by different rules or no rules at all, but only because its rules do not align with U.S. rules. The United States has planned to fight a war in a very nice cookbook fashion and has published this for the world to understand and counter with actions that don’t follow the recipe.

I do not advocate major war. But the United States must define clearly what is war and counter with appropriate responses. Since the gray zone is nebulous and many yet undetermined acts will fit into it, the United States needs to shrink the gray zone and dictate the red lines that bound it.

—Captain James T. Rooney, U.S. Navy (Retired)

BEARDS CAN SAVE LIVES

(See B. Jacobson, p. 14 , April 2018 Proceedings )

Senior Chief Jacobson’s argument “Beards Can Save Lives” is overly simplistic and misguided. He suggests that military age males in an airport are easy to identify and vulnerable as terrorist targets due to the short hair and clean-shaven faces. To make it harder for a terrorist to pick out service members, his solution is to allow them to grow beards and have longer hair.

Applying this logic, it also would make sense to forbid service members to wear or carry any obvious military items such as packs, T-shirts, sweatshirts with unit or service logos and to keep service tattoos covered up.

I appreciate that when serving in country with foreign services it is necessary to be able to co-mingle not only with host-nation forces but the general population as well. The military has always understood the necessity of blending in—the reason we imitate local customs of dress and wear camouflage in combat instead of dress uniforms.

Military bearing, appearance, uniformity and leadership are proven strategic elements of a successful military organization. Allowing individual members of the military to create a subjective personal grooming standard is arbitrary and capricious and defies enforcement. When does “longer” become too long, when does failure to shave turn into a beard?

Chief Jacobson laments that “the U.S. military is one of the last to maintain strict hair and shave regulations; most foreign military services allow their male service members to more closely resemble those they are protecting.”

Military personnel accepted the inherent risks when they volunteered to serve. Attempting to look like something someone is not (civilian vs. military) to “blend in with the rest of society” insultingly suggests that they are not able to defend themselves.

America’s military is number one in the world for a reason: it sets the standard instead others follow.

—Chief Warrant Officer 4 John B. Carr, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

THE U.S. NEEDS AN ARCTIC FLEET

(See K. Eyer, p. 12 , April 2018 Proceedings )

Notwithstanding the repeated failure of entities such as the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program correctly to predict when, if ever, the Arctic will be ice-free, I agree with Captain Eyer‘s article that the U.S. should increase its presence in the Arctic.

However, I don’t agree that the Navy should fill this role. The Navy has enough to do in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Further, the Navy has very little experience operating in the Arctic and lacks the ships or equipment to do so.

However, one service does have extensive experience and equipment for Arctic operations—the U.S. Coast Guard. To act as our Arctic Fleet, the Coast Guard has requested three heavy and three medium icebreakers. The heavy breakers, and possibly the mediums, should be nuclear-powered, and whatever armament necessary should be installed.

One final point: Let’s not use LCS in our Arctic Fleet. The USS Little Rock (LCS-9) was trapped in the ice for three months and was just freed by a Canadian icebreaker—in Montreal, 1,500 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

—Mitchell R. Miller

LEST WE FORGET

(See A. Clift, p. 94, April 2018 Proceedings )

I certainly knew who Captain John V. Noel was because I was issued Knight’s Modern Seamanship as a swab at the Coast Guard Academy. And while I never met him personally, I later got to know him in letter exchanges.

My first piece ever published in Proceedings in the late seventies concerned certain chain of command issues prevalent at the time. Shortly thereafter, a complimentary Captain Noel wrote to me and asked if I would consider contributing to the next edition of Division Officer’s Guide. Pleased to be asked, I nevertheless allowed that I did not appreciate the creeping political correctness in service folkways. The captain forthrightly responded in salty terms that he did not either.

At Captain Noel’s invitation, I would assist in two further editions of the guide and two editions of Naval Terms Dictionary. But perhaps the greatest privilege was the lesson learned that he respected junior officers—and that when I got to his rank I should also.

—Captain Raymond J. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

ONE WAY OUT OF AFGHANISTAN

(See D. Dolan, pp. 34–26 , April 2018 Proceedings )

Here’s the problem. We can’t just leave Afghanistan because it is a tough problem. The last time we ignored that country, we got 9/11.

Israel has been fighting to protect its existence since it was formed in 1948—which sounds an unwinnable war. But if Israel gave up, the consequences would be horrible. Many Israelis view their constant state of—often low level—war as similar to mowing the grass. You never get rid of the grass but you have to keep it under control. The trick is to do this at the least cost possible.

Many of our military leaders have been brought up in the “decisive battle” theory of war, in which the desired endpoint is a clean victory with a final peace treaty, such as ended the U.S. War of Independence. But the recent success in Syria against ISIS shows a less-expensive way to combat insurgency and terrorists. The combination of U.S. air power (including unmanned aerial vehicles) and cooperating troops on the ground (Kurds) was successful in driving ISIS out of most of their territory in Syria. This is a better way to mow the grass.

—William Thayer

 

 
 

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