Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a professor of law at the University of Tennessee, has a very good reading on the morale in today’s military. I’ve heard the exact same thing from serving officers in the DC area.
— BUDDY CHECKER! (@Buddy_Checker) September 1, 2021
Reynolds: Our military’s civilian leadership is corrupt and incompetent. The brass commands respect neither among the citizenry nor the forces it commands. Mid-level officers are in a rage — a dangerous phenomenon that in many other nations triggers insurrections and coups.
Blessedly, our institutions retain enough strength to prevent such outcomes here. That said, we need to tend to those institutions more carefully, if we want them to continue to work.
According to Rasmussen, more than half of Americans rate President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan as “poor.” His approval numbers have plummeted, and a majority of voters don’t trust administration reports on Afghanistan.
The Taliban and their Chinese allies have been mocking the United States on social media, while Beijing also openly threatens Taiwan, gloating that after the military humiliation of Afghanistan, Washington wouldn’t dare defend that island nation against invasion.
Biden’s stilted, disjointed speeches and clumsily scripted meetings with the families of dead service members haven’t helped. Nor has Vice President Kamala Harris impressed, with an awkward mission to Southeast Asia that merely underscored her unfitness to take over as president, if needed.
Meanwhile, the military command has failed miserably. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has become the butt of jokes. A group of retired senior officers has called on him, and on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, to resign. Milley, who found time to lecture us on the dangers of “white rage” last summer, has lately vanished from sight.
Meanwhile, the officers who actually do things are furious. A series of encrypted messages leaked to the media shows officers on the ground in Kabul blasting their orders, complaining that they were being forced to leave Americans behind. “We are f–king abandoning American citizens,” wrote a colonel with the 82d Airborne detachment there. Regular troops were reportedly apoplectic that they weren’t allowed to go rescue US citizens, as British and French forces did.
As this debacle unfolds, the field- and company-grade officers — captains through colonels — are complaining about a double standard in military management: If they screw up even a little, their careers are over. But when the generals screw up, there are no consequences, even when lives or billions of dollars are wasted; then they retire to fat contractor paychecks.
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller resigned his commission after Kabul to demand accountability from his superiors. He couldn’t stay, he said, because he had lost trust and confidence in them. His words have been echoed, publicly and in private, by many others of similar rank. (I received an e-mail from a serving general making the same points.)
This is against the background of endless loose talk by our high political leaders about “coups,” “insurrections” and “sedition.” The laughable Capitol “riot” certainly didn’t rise to that level, but in a show of insecurity, the Capitol was ringed by 25,000 troops, several times as many as were sent to rescue Americans from Kabul. Banana republic stuff…
Generally speaking, a nation where the civilian leadership fears its citizens and has lost the nation’s confidence, and where the senior military leadership has lost the confidence of those down the chain of command, is a nation in trouble.