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.

What the Profession of Arms Can Take from Michael Flynn’s Example

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

I would never actively cheer an administrational death, but, paraphrasing Clarence Darrow, I did smile a bit while reading Michael Flynn’s resignation in the newspaper. It wasn’t for any personal ill will or partisan reason (my stance on political neutrality is well documented), but my grin formed because Flynn’s actions in retirement have directly contradicted two pillars of the Profession of Arms—its apolitical tradition and truth-telling character. And the end of his short tenure as national security advisor provides the Profession a ponderous moment to reflect on what Flynn hath wrought. Continue reading “What the Profession of Arms Can Take from Michael Flynn’s Example”

Strategists: The Next Generation

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

Strategists evolve, shaped by the times they live in, prisoners of the problems of the day. And so, just as warfare constantly changes, so must strategists. So what will mold future strategists? Continue reading “Strategists: The Next Generation”

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”

Follow the Yellow Brick Wall: The Reasons Why Military Officers Do Not Write

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

Why don’t military officers write? I recently suggested that more professional wordsmithing would be a positive development, and found myself derided in response by another officer who dismissed the opinion as “publicationism.” But as professionals holding an arsenal of ideas and equipped with experience – shouldn’t we want to be Publicationists? Warfare is ever changing, and so it is the military professional’s obligation to share novel and useful ideas about war. Indeed, the quality of the professional hinges on this point – would you willingly choose a doctor or lawyer who doesn’t regularly, personally engage with cutting edge, expert knowledge? Equally, officers who do not meaningfully participate in this idea-exchanging process fail the spirit of their military commission. Continue reading “Follow the Yellow Brick Wall: The Reasons Why Military Officers Do Not Write”

Should retired generals be allowed to “cash in” and keep their commissions?

Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

 

Should retired generals and admirals be allowed to “cash in” and keep their commissions?  I realize this is thin ice, but as a commissioned officer and member of the Profession of Arms, I think there’s something to talk about here. Continue reading “Should retired generals be allowed to “cash in” and keep their commissions?”

The Value of the Historical Staff Ride

The Staff Ride and other Center of Military History resources can be found here. The Staff Ride and other Center of Military History resources can be found here.

Having just returned from a historical staff ride to Gettysburg, there are still some things fresh in mind that seem worth sharing.  There are generally three phases to a historical staff ride: preliminary study, an in-depth site visit, and an integration (or reflection) period.  The step which connects the site visit to the reflection is the most important, as this is when memories are formed and lessons stored for future use.  What follows are some thoughts I offer cadets at the start of the reflection period to help enable this connection along (Note: the use of “you” – this is typically directed toward cadets). Continue reading “The Value of the Historical Staff Ride”