politicians, press & people need to get off the military’s back




“ … today’s soldiers receive awards for valor. 


But valor was taken for granted in the old armies, in the monk ranks.


It was virtue that was sought.



Maybe a soldier makes an act of sacrifice for his parents. Maybe he dedicates his life to the perfection of archery. Maybe he spent all of his off duty hours writing the nine million names of Buddha.


Or maybe performed great feats for the cause of truth.


In these cases he would be rewarded with a medallion from a general.”


Tibetan warrior monks versus today’s warriors




Our goal is not war.”



James Mattis







With the loss of 4 soldiers in Niger we begin the next round of “beat the crap out of the military until they say what

US Military awards for Valor

we want them to say” <someone fucked up and thank god you pointed it out to us>.


This is crazy.



All I know is my business guy perspective and from my business guy perspective this is crazy.


The politicians, the press and the people need to get off the military’s back.


Does anyone seriously believe the military leaders don’t care they lost 4 people?


Does anyone seriously believe the military leaders are sloppy with regard to the management of their people in all situations let alone ones in which there is likely chance of danger?


Does anyone seriously believe the military leaders don’t care even if it is some knucklehead who made a knucklehead decision?


We run around acting like they don’t care as much as we do, they aren’t as smart as we are <about what they should do> and that … well … anything less than perfection is unacceptable. It is almost like we, nonmilitary people, believe the consequences of war & battle are … well … supposed to be zero <zero $, zero lives, zero mistakes>.

Philosophically a nice thought, practically a pretty stupid unrealistic thought.


Which leads me to some business thoughts from a business guy for all the politicians, press & people out there yapping at the military:


Business 101: perfection is shit.


I know that the business world has gone batshit crazy over drilling down on each every mistake anyone has ever made on anything, but most sane business leaders realize that shit happens and as long as you know it wasn’t because of carelessness or sloppiness you don’t dwell too on things that didn’t end well.


4 soldiers died and it is quite possible that no one did anything wrong. This is called … uhm … war. The other guys have guns, they are not all students of Wil E Coyote military school and, as any business person can tell you, no plan ever withstands the onslaught of reality.


A truth: you can do everything right and someone can die. Get off their backs.



Business 101: looking at resources without context is shit <stupid>.


My management says “you spent $6k on that!!”


Uhm .



Yeah. $6k to support sales efforts in 50 countries.


That’s context.


That said.



People are screaming “we didn’t know US had 6,000 soldiers in Africa!! … this is empire building!! … military gone wild!!!”


Shut the fuck up people.


US has military in over 150 countries. Just accept that.

The number of active-duty U.S. military troops stationed overseas is a little below 200,000, about 15% of all active duty.  Just accept that.



The 6,000 in sub sahara Africa … uhm … some perspective please.

Africa is approximately the same size as 3 USAs <yeah … that big> and there are approximately 3000 counties in the USA so that would be 9,000 counties and … uh oh … 6000 soldiers. Yikes. That’s 2/3rds of a soldier in every county <the math isn’t exact but you get my point>.


People need to get a grip. Get off their backs.



Business 101: how you allocate resources really does impact results.


I will begin with a headline I wrote back in 2009 about Afghanistan:  You cut my estimate by 25% and I still have to win? (Uh Oh.)




“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”



Joe Biden




I file how politicians, and a lot of nonmilitary civilians, seem to handle military and resources somewhere in the absurd logic file <which is a really big fat file somewhere in the government filing cabinets>.


The Pentagon estimated they needed a certain amount of soldiers to achieve their objective. Sounds fair <not so fast my friends>. The government says … “well, no can do … we are gonna cut it … don’t worry … just by 25% … now go and win this sucker for America and freedom.”




In general this is crazy.


I hope the Pentagon pads their estimate a little. What I mean is … I hope they asked for 40,000 soldiers knowing they only needed 30,000 to reach the objective. In my world, if I had to cut 25% off my original estimate I am in one of two places:


  • I can do the job but I have absolutely no margin of error. None.


  • Can’t do the job unless you change the objective.


Unfortunately for the Pentagon we know the objective has remained the same. Win.


Oh, by the way, and win in 18 months <and unsaid. “oh, and by the way, win in 18 months and I really want all of the 30,000 to come back … ok?”>.


<note to everyone: there are days I bet the shooting range underneath the Pentagon is chockfull of more stars than you can imagine shooting out some major (or general) frustration.>


Oh, one more thing, yeah, I almost forgot … as the generals were heading out the door … one of the government goons called out … “hey guys. While you’re driving around that hospitable tourist trap called Afghanistan make sure you don’t shoot, or kill with any weapon we may have, any civilians.”



Here is a truth.


The box the military has been put in would make a private company put in the same situation say:


“Well, that request is unreasonable and I not only won’t do it but … well … I frankly can’t do it”.


It is a fact … I would have walked away from the job if it had been my company. The Pentagon doesn’t have that choice. And, you know, they may actually figure it out.


But that’s right.

This is the US Military. Our military has done some pretty impossible things before. They salute, maybe mumble amongst themselves a little, and do the fucking job <without whining, excuses or bitching to people>.




“The difficult we do immediately. The impossible take a little longer.”

US Army

(actually not originally their quote)



They say nothing and, yet, the politicians, the press, the people run around pointing fingers , demanding explanations and seeking all the imperfections of war <but calling them mistakes>.


This is crazy.



Let them do the impossible jobs we ask of them. Get off their backs.





Would I figure out a way of cutting the military budget? Yeah. I would try <note: I would actually do a one-time ‘military tax’ and then have the military publicly manage the budget created from that tax – see addendum below>.


But that doesn’t mean I don’t have huge respect for people who serve in the military.

I sometimes believe a lot of that respect is driven by how my military friends discuss courage, valor & values versus the non-military people.  As well as maybe, because of my career, I have a better sense of what society values versus what a soldier values <and how that is often misaligned>.




I do not doubt that a soldier finds pride in a chest full of awards & medals.

But I also tend to believe they are more proud of simply the uniform … unadorned. The uniform itself is often the most important award.


But that really isn’t the point today.


While I tend to believe we give too much lip service to how much we appreciate those who choose to serve and too little heartfelt gratitude and respect for those who choose to serve … I wonder how society would view today’s military if they were rewarded with medallions based on virtuistic behavior and not just awards for valor <thereby showing people that choosing to serve is deeper than simply picking up a gun and showing courage>.


Or how about this?


I wonder how society would view today’s leaders, business and government, if they were rewarded with medallions based on virtue and virtuistic behavior.




No bonuses for results <because that is expected> and awards only for things beyond ‘job responsibility performance.’


Imagine if these would be awards that were a measure of their character and not just of their behavior <or talents>.


Sigh. Not gonna happen but what a nice thought.


We need to get off of the military’s back. I will not argue that civilian oversight is a valuable check & balance but we have a slightly absurd way of implementing that check & balance. And we better get a better grip on it because Trump’s misguided belligerent bluster with regard to war, ‘use of military strength’ and “my generals <they would actually be ‘our generals’> is putting the military in a wretched position.


We are demanding they play a President management, restraining, role. That is not their job.

We are demanding them to be military, and generals, and … yet … they are wearing suits. Yeah. That last sentence is one we don’t talk about enough.


Suits versus uniforms.


Here is why military in a civilian job is … well … not as straightforward as you would think.

You wear your job … and how you are addressed.

For example … when John Kelly steps up to a White House podium in a suit he speaks not as a general but as a Chief of Staff. When Jim Mattis speaks out in a suit he speaks not as a general but a civilian representing generals <military>.

I am not suggesting they don’t deserve respect but when I am in a business meeting with retired military I have my conversations as business people, assessing business tasks at hand and whether we, as business people, will do what needs to be done. I cannot afford to look at a medal … its business.  Trump calls them “my generals” and … well … they are our civilian public servants.


That’s it.

I am done ranting about this.


I am not ex-military but I know Marines. I know National Guard who went overseas. I know some Navy & Air Force people.


I admit it.

I love these people.

I cannot imagine a better group of people fighting in the name of our country. The people in the Pentagon would amaze you with not only their smarts <the military academies are no University of Vermont – apology to my Catamount friends – but … you get the point>. And their ability using common sense to distill things down is amazing.


So they are smart and have good common sense. Nice mix.


We often ask them to do the impossible. And you know what? I bet they either do it or come close.


Or they will do their damndest to do it.


So let’s all try to keep this in mind and keep things in perspective and … well … get off their backs.


Bottom line. In my mind. Get politics out of the way, suggest media have some perspective and allow the military to do its job. Because our good guys are pretty good at what they signed up to do.



========== BUDGET IDEA ADDENDUM =================


Year after year we haggle over annual military budgets and all we end up doing is funding a great military operation in need of investment spending.

That’s stupid.


What would I do?

Just as I would have done with the Iraq War <but Bush decided to not do> I would go to the American people with a specific number needed and a specific one-time tax to get the money. I would treat the upgrade need as a specific project with specific objectives for which the military will offer specific updates to the American people showing what their money is being spent on and what is happening.


Why do I believe that will work?


  1. The current budget is big enough. I may be interested in tightening the screws a little on current Pentagon budget management but, in general, they have enough money. Tell the people that because it sounds reasonable.



  1. People are fine with paying one-time costs … especially for something as important as the military. In addition it sets the military up for future “ask American people for specific project funding” asks. And you know what? If people cannot be convinced to invest in it maybe, just maybe, the military should go back to the drawing board. But I have to tell you … in my experience … the senior military personnel are better than 99% of business people at outlining needs & wants and rationale.



  1. To a certain extent the military should involve the everyday people more often. We often talk about the wealth inequality gap in America, well, there is an increasing gap between military and everyday people. Military people, and families, and associated services are becoming increasingly cocooned. This does not benefit the military nor does it benefit the everyday citizen. Both groups are made up of some incredibly patriotic people who have the best intentions for America … it would behoove America if they interacted more often.



  1. Lastly, military strategies are changing. And while my idea is about budgeting and asking for money it bleeds into the military sharing with people how conflicts will be conducted. This benefits both the military and the everyday schmuck like me. It sets better expectations and stops people from defining military by movies and past military historical events.



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