USAF Shake-Up

Wow — I was shocked this morning to see that both the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General “Buzz” Moseley, and the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, resigned yesterday. (Story here.) Had I seen the news yesterday, I just would’ve been shocked a few hours earlier.

I consider it a great shame that General Moseley was forced to resign — I didn’t have many dealings with him when I was on the Air Staff,* but he always struck me as a straight-up guy. My fondest memory is of chatting with him in the little connecting hallway between the D and E rings of the Pentagon, where he urged me to insert some random Mandarin Chinese characters into a speech I’d written for Mr. Peter Teets — the Under Secretary at the time — just to see how Mr. Teets would react.

Mr. Wynne, on the other hand, I never understood. I had even fewer dealings with him than with Gen Moseley, but my observations from afar showed me a man who was possibly too smart for the practical realities of the job. I got that impression when, as one of his first initiatives as Secretary, he decided to update (or revamp, or otherwise tinker with) the Air Force Mission and focus less on the traditional elements of flying, fighting, and winning the nation’s wars than on delivering “sovereign options.” I still scratch my head over that one.

Of course, this difficult situation is made even worse by the fact that the Air Force has been without an Under Secretary for months now. (It’s similar to when I was there, and they tapped Mr. Michael Dominguez to be the Acting Secretary. I enjoyed writing for him; some of us thought he would make a good SecAF.) I saw this afternoon that the SecDef was going to recommend a new nominee to President Bush, but it will be exceedingly strange for someone to be nominated and confirmed for the last few months of the Presidential term. I suspect there will be another Acting SecAF for awhile; I wish them luck.

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*Full disclosure: I worked in the Secretary & Chief of Staff’s Executive Action Group from 2004 until my retirement in 2006.

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Memorial Day Tribute

For Memorial Day, here’s a link to a great rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” forwarded to us by a former boss (and supporter of the “Anti-Campaign”). As the oft-forwarded message said,

If you missed hearing the US Army Band and Chorus welcome Pope Benedict XVI at the White House Rose Garden ceremony on 15 April, get a load of these high school kids. At the conclusion listen to the high notes on the trumpet … played by a high school kid! One of the fathers recorded it, added some graphic enhancements to the recording, and posted it on the web…. Be prepared … it will definitely send a few chills down your spine.

Here’s the link. Enjoy, and remember the ultimate sacrifices that paid for our freedoms.

God Bless.

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New, just for fun, on the SWF: Space Strategists

One of the folks on Baen’s Bar posted a link to a list of the “Greatest Space Strategists In Military History,” featuring characters from some famous science fiction print and film franchises. So of course I cross-posted it in the “Space Warfare Strategy” portion of the Space Warfare Forum.

It fit right in, even though it’s 😉 just for fun.

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Space Strategy, Policy, Missiles

New in the Space Warfare Forum: Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado recently called for a new space strategy and space policy, as well as development of “a layer of space-based interceptors.” He made the statements last week at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

For more, see the New Call for Strategy & Space-Based Weapons thread in the Space Strategy section of the forum.

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Upcoming ASPJ Article

Sometimes I think I should stick with non-fiction. I received word that my brief article, “The Mission Matters Most” is scheduled to appear in the Fall issue of Air & Space Power Journal (the USAF’s professional journal).

A couple of years ago, ASPJ published my article, “How the Air Force Embraced ‘Partial Quality,'” which generated some discussion and eventually a review/rebuttal in the Fall 2007 issue. This new article is something of a rebuttal to the rebuttal, which is what “The Merge” section of the journal intends:

In air combat, “the merge” occurs when opposing aircraft meet and pass each other. Then they usually “mix it up.” In a similar spirit, Air and Space Power Journal’s “Merge” articles present contending ideas.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

I read with interest Randall Schwalbe’s critique …. [which] is well thought out but somewhat misses the point.

… Mr. Schwalbe made the statement [that] the “fundamental flaw” (p. 16) of my article was that I had confused “quality with process improvement.” That my article dealt with the way the USAF implemented quality improvement ideas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and attempted to show that the ideas themselves were sound but the execution flawed, did not seem to come through: my execution, apparently, was itself flawed.

… more salient to this discussion, the commercial success of Toyota, Ford, or Motorola, etc., is not the best argument for convincing the military that these new tools and techniques are germane to their mission. Obviously I did not make that point clear enough in my original article, so let me reiterate: for the rank-and-file to see Lean or any other improvement effort as vital to their service’s continued success, these efforts must be adapted to the core military mission as much as (if not more than) they are adapted to ancillary functions.

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More on Wiretaps, and the War

The House voted, but they didn’t go with the bipartisan Senate version of the intelligence bill. From the Wall Street Journal (emphasis in original), a glimpse of why the House version is almost unbelievably bad:

By requiring prior court approval to gather foreign intelligence from foreign targets on foreign soil, the House measure would also further involve unelected judges in warfighting decisions. By the way, since when do foreign targets have a right to any court review under the U.S. Constitution?

Now the House and Senate get to see if they can come to terms with each other. We can only hope they keep national security in mind while they do so.
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This is a great round-up of Democratic sentiment on the Iraq campaign of the Terror War (some will dismiss it because it was rounded up by President Bush’s former Senior Advisor, Karl Rove):

In September, Mrs. Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus “the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.” This week, she said “we’ll be right back at square one” in Iraq by this summer.

In December, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to admit progress, arguing, “The surge hasn’t accomplished its goals.” He said a month earlier there was “no progress being made in Iraq” and “it is not getting better, it is getting worse.”

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Feb. 9 if she was worried that the gains of the last year might be lost, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot back: “There haven’t been gains . . . This is a failure.” Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told the Associated Press the same month that the surge “has failed.”

It indeed seems as if “Democrats appear to have an ideological investment in things going badly in Iraq.”

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Gotta Love Those Speeches

As a speechwriter, I look at speeches by prominent people from time to time, as well as the reporting about speeches. I probably don’t do it as often as I should. Then again, I don’t do a lot of things as often as I should; and some things I shouldn’t do, I do more often than I should.*

Anyway, some comments on recent speechifying.

1. Why can’t people be bothered to look up Bible quotes?

Tuesday Senator Obama gave a speech in which he attempted to … well, we’re not sure what he was trying to do, but his prepared text seemed to talk a lot about race. Others will dissect the delivered speech in more detail than we will, but this quote in the prepared text stuck out: “Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us.” Notwithstanding that it wasn’t presented as a direct quote, that’s not what Scripture says. (To be extra-inclusive, the text continues: “Let us be our sister’s keeper.” That’s not in Scripture either.) There are Scriptural references to bearing one another’s burdens that might point in that direction, but in the main that reference was just incorrect.

I remember hearing President Clinton give a speech in which he smashed two of the Beatitudes together; i.e., he joined the first half of one verse with the second half of another. It’s hard to tell if these kinds of thing are poetic license, laziness, ignorance, or a mild form of disrespect.

2. Historical ignorance, or ignoring history?

Senator Obama’s speech started with the opening of the Preamble: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” The text continued,

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

Notwithstanding that many if not most of the delegates had been born in the colonies rather than having crossed the ocean to become colonists, this passage and the entire speech missed the key historical point that the Constitution did not “launch” our democratic experiment — it re-launched it. The “more perfect union” was specifically intended to be “more perfect” than the previous attempt; i.e., “more perfect” than the Articles of Confederation.

3. Words are important, as are the thoughts and actions behind them.

From an excellent commentary, “The Obama Bargain,” by Shelby Steele in The Wall Street Journal (emphasis in original),

… nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama’s political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday — for 20 years — in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage (“God damn America”).

How does one “transcend” race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

So, what Senator Obama said in his long — very long — speech may have been noteworthy, but it doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of looking beyond the words.

4. Eyewitnesses to history are just like eyewitnesses to any event: they see things differently.

Yesterday, on the 5th anniversary of the coalition’s invasion of Iraq, President Bush gave a speech at the Pentagon. He said “removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision,” that the success of recent operations marks “a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror,” and that “The costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq.”

The same day, Senator Obama, front-runner for the Democratic nomination, gave a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He said, “Here is the stark reality: there is a security gap in this country — a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions.” From those words, and his previous statements on the war, it seems clear why Senator Obama gave his talk near, but not at, Fort Bragg.

Senator Clinton, also in the running for the Democratic nomination, gave remarks to supporters and said, “We cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.” Her remarks also wouldn’t go over well at a military base — which is probably the point.

In contrast, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain gave a statement that “Americans should be proud that they led the way in removing a vicious, predatory dictator and opening the possibility of a free and stable Iraq.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that folks looking at events from different ends of the political spectrum will see them in different ways. Be that as it may, it’s easy to tell, between the leading contenders for the Presidency, who has victory in mind.

Which leads finally to this: Presidential candidates who have no military experience need to understand a few things about the military.

1. We’re very dedicated to the well-being of the country, so much so that we put it ahead of our own (and often our families’).
2. We believe we’ve been fighting on the side of truth and justice; you’re welcome to believe otherwise, but don’t try to convince us we’ve been wrong and then say you’re the best person to lead us.
3. We don’t like to lose.

In other words, Senator Obama saying “I will end this war” (as quoted in this story) will never be as compelling to a military audience as saying, “We will do whatever it takes to win this war.”

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*For the uncertain, that’s a deliberate paraphrase of St. Paul. More an allusion than a quote, it works with or without attribution.

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The Paramount Importance of Defense

Some who know me may think I’m referring to the Clemson Tigers in their quest for a first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title, but no. (The Tigers haven’t been to the ACC finals longer than I’ve been alive, so it was great to see them get that far; and though it would’ve been terrific to see them win, it just wasn’t to be. And not because of their defense.)

No, this post refers to a new Anti-Candidate position posted in the “General Interest” forum area today, the Anti-Candidate Position on Defense:

National defense is the paramount responsibility of the government, the key thing that people cannot do for themselves.

Contrary to the best intentions of diplomats and the most pleasant dreams of optimists, the world remains a dangerous place. So we agree with Sun Tzu — Master Sun — that, in the opening words of The Art of War, “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.”

There’s more, of course, and there’s also the overall Anti-Campaign thread.

As one friend wrote us yesterday, “We’ve got quite a candidate/potential candidate field for this election. It’s a shame the United States public doesn’t have anyone it can truly trust and for which to vote. Another barren election-scape….” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the Anti-Campaign.

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Congrats to Vandenberg Launch Team

According to Spaceflight Now, “The inaugural launch of an Atlas 5 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base occurred as scheduled this morning, thundering skyward at 3:02 a.m. local time (6:02 a.m. EDT) carrying a classified national security satellite.”

That’s good news to wake up to. Congratulations to the launch team and the NRO! Keep up the good work, and thanks for keeping us safe and secure.

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Read the Oath, Sen. Obama: It Says Protect and Defend

An old boss sent me this link to a brief video of Senator Obama declaring how he would reduce our nation’s readiness. I put a thread in the Space Warfare Forum about one of his comments, but here I’d like to address his naive comments about nuclear weapons.

(First, I find it appalling that he would “institute an independent … board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.” In other words, plainly he does not trust the military, even in the person of the Secretary of Defense — whom he would appoint — and other appointees — whom he would appoint — who would oversee the QDR. But, in his defense, there’s no reason he should know much about what the QDR is or how it works, since he hasn’t been in the Senate very long. And by all accounts, considering how little work he accomplished there, he actually wasn’t in the Senate as long as he’s been a Senator.)

Now, the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” To use an overworked but still apt analogy, good luck putting that djinn back in the bottle.

As one who actually did grunt work in the field of nonproliferation (on the space technology side), I’m all for halting the spread of nuclear technologies in order to keep tyrants and crackpot ideologues from getting nukes. But what’s this happy horse manure about “hair trigger alert” and deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals? Perhaps it’s a good thing that a career civilian like the Senator doesn’t know about the safeguards in our nuclear command and control system, although it sounds as if he doesn’t believe they exist — or perhaps doesn’t trust them. But it seems almost shameful that someone who wants to be the Commander in Chief should be so unaware of how thin our nuclear arsenal has become over the last few years, as we’ve taken weapon systems offline (e.g., Peacekeeper) and not replaced them, that he would wish to cut it even more.

This is dangerous enough rhetoric, but I shudder to think how dangerous the world would be if he got the chance to put his ideas into action.

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