To reduce wrongful shootings, police can learn from our soldiers

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on September 4, 2017. It can also be found online here.

Sometimes, police must shoot to keep the peace. When used effectively, this results in safer cities. When done wrongfully, it inflames society.

The question is how police can best wield deadly force. The 2015 Colorado state law mandating local law enforcement report and review shootings is a good start. In Minneapolis, where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman, the acting chief has announced police must turn on body cameras for “any call.”

But this technological solution treats the symptoms of police shootings that countrywide cause roughly 1,000 civilian deaths each year.

The problem is deeper: to reduce wrongful shootings, cops should reinforce an ethical code that, like soldiers, accepts deadly risk as inherent to their professional responsibility. Continue reading “To reduce wrongful shootings, police can learn from our soldiers”

Why veterans do belong on university campuses like UCCS

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on August 30, 2017. It can also be found online here.

I’m a veteran and I belong on a university campus. Both today, as a dissertation student, and someday, as a professor.

Last week a vocal minority calling itself the “Social Justice Collective,” in an unsanctioned newsletter posted on bulletin boards at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, declared this is bad for everybody, that “in order to protect our academic institutions we must ban veterans from four-year universities.”

To be sure, like all broad-based groups, veterans aren’t perfect. And this newsletter’s particularly distasteful argument is easy enough to dismiss. But it does provide an opportunity for former soldiers and fellow citizens alike to evaluate and upend some of what this newsletter claims are fundamental incompatibilities. Continue reading “Why veterans do belong on university campuses like UCCS”

The Mike Flynn Problem is Actually a Profession of Arms Problem

*Note: This essay was originally published at War on the Rocks.

When twelve stars tell you to knock it off, there’s a problem.

At several points throughout this past presidential campaign, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn’s partisan political behavior, while legal, was so out-of-line for a member of the profession of arms that a trio of the nation’s elite retired officers reached out informally and publicly to tell Flynn to cease and desist. Flynn’s old commander and comrade, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, quietly urged restraint, and two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote open letters to mark their disapproval: Gen. Martin Dempsey explained to the American people that Flynn’s inappropriate actions violated the profession’s “apolitical tradition,” and Adm. Michael Mullen amplified the same sentiment, that “for retired senior officers to take leading and vocal roles as clearly partisan figures is a violation of the ethos and professionalism of apolitical military service.”

Yet, despite three enormous red-and-white flags waving “stop,” Flynn, as a commission-holding retired military officer, continued to violate these apolitical values — etched in code, written in policy, deep in history, and reinforced every two years by service-supported voting education and assistance programs — yet, when pressed in an interview about this very criticism, Flynn responded combatively: “What’s Marty Dempsey going to do?” While troubling on its own, Flynn’s defiance raises a larger, more important question: What’s the profession of arms going to do?

Read the rest at War on the Rocks.

Stars and Stripes, Forever?: Why New Zealand’s Flag Choice Matters

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

New Zealand is a small country of giants. My wife and I grew to love “the land of the long white cloud” while living in Wellington for two years, having been sent there for graduate school by the U.S. Army. Enamored so much, that my wife, without irony, still calls New Zealand “the place where dreams are made,” and it really did seem like a dream: Our first daughter was born there, we hiked the Milford Track, enjoyed flat whites and the All Blacks, grew to love wine, sheep, sea, sky and even acquired a taste for the rugged loveliness of Wellington’s windy coastline. Continue reading “Stars and Stripes, Forever?: Why New Zealand’s Flag Choice Matters”

A Very Unequal Dialogue: Debating Civil-Military Relations with Tom Ricks

*Note: What follows is the beginning of an essay of mine (“A Very Unequal Dialogue”) on the current state of civil-military relations, which is available in full over at The Best Defense. 

Tom disagrees with my recent assessment that the recent New America Foundation/Arizona State University Future of War Conference underrepresented the uniformed military, resulting in a stunted, unbalanced product.  In response, I’ll do three things; first, we’ll look at the numbers. Second, I’ll explain why this is imbalance undermines the conference’s efficacy.  Third, I’ll get into some personal anecdotes that describe how these civil-military themes play out at the individual level.  What a reader will find is that the civil-military gap is unacceptably wide in the intellectual sphere, and even the kindest expressions of gratitude cannot effectively bridge this expanse.  My takeaway from the Future of War Conference: the military is to be thanked and not heard. Continue reading “A Very Unequal Dialogue: Debating Civil-Military Relations with Tom Ricks”

An Ebola Manifesto for the Military Profession

Image of Camp Funston, Kansas (USA), US Army base, 1918 provided courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of Camp Funston, Kansas (USA), US Army base, 1918 provided courtesy of Wikipedia.


There are three conclusions for the military profession to be drawn from the present Ebola outbreak: the threat is enormous, but ultimately manageable; the desired ends are currently vastly under resourced; and the profession’s lack of intellectual focus on the outbreak may result in the nation bumbling towards unnecessary, potentially catastrophic, strategic shock. Continue reading “An Ebola Manifesto for the Military Profession”

On Ebola: Calculating Geostrategic Landpower Requirements

Image courtesy of the New York Times. Image courtesy of the New York Times.


In his famous 1998 set of BBC Radio Reith lectures, military historian Sir John Keegan described war as a “protean activity” that “changes form, often unpredictably” like a “disease” that “exhibits the capacity to mutate and mutates fastest in the face of efforts to control or eliminate it.”  Today, some have used similar themes in describing ISIS.  Columnist Maureen Doud has noted that ISIS “has rampaged like a flesh-eating virus through the region,” while her colleague at the New York Times, Tom Friedman, writes about ISIS that we can only “contain these organisms, until the natural antibodies from within emerge.”  And, ISIS certainly can seem like a horrible malady that will not end.  Particularly when coupled with all the writing on the 100th anniversary of WWI.  We’re told that our modern world bears many similarities to that of a century ago – Margaret MacMillan of Oxford has argued that we’re complacent, while Christopher Clark of Cambridge has assessed that we could be “sleepwalking” into another global conflagration.  When we think about war in our world, we can’t help but consider that ISIS might be a catalyst for a much larger war.

But it’s worth wondering – when we compare ISIS and the Ebola outbreak –  what is the more likely and more dangerous threat to the United States and world?  It has been estimated that ISIS numbers approximately 30-40,000, with roughly 100,000 supporters.  Consider that ISIS can only coerce so many people into their ranks – they are limited by what they can “infect” by religion and geography. Continue reading “On Ebola: Calculating Geostrategic Landpower Requirements”