What Happens When Military Leaders Call For Dissent? Considering McRaven And Goldfein

The Long March
Retired Adm. William McRaven, left, and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, right.
DoD photos

Retired Adm. William McRaven, a career SEAL and a former JSOC commander, followed the stripping of a security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan by asking the president to do the same to him. “Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John,” McRaven wrote. “He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.”


So, he wrote, “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

I am a bit ambivalent about McRaven’s action. I generally think it is better for retired flag officers to stay out of politics. But this is a case where politics intruded into professional judgement—that is, Trump is angry with Brennan over that former official’s statements that were within the purview of his job.

Meantime, in an entirely positive move for military professionalism, Gen. David Goldfein, the chief of staff the Air Force, saluted an internal critic of the service’s personnel policy and asked him to keep it up. He even offered him a job, writing, “If you are up for it, I have a place for you to help Secretary Heather Wilson and me with a complete re-examination of our officer promotion system to ensure we are selecting the very best in our ranks for promotion and key responsibilities.”

"Just walk it off," is typically the go-to solution for a scrape, a light sprain, or some other superficial injury.

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Syrians threw potatoes and yelled at United States armored vehicles on Monday as U.S. troops drove through the northeast border town of Qamishli, after Trump vowed to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

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(Reuters) - In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldier Greg Walker drove to a checkpoint just outside of Baghdad's Green Zone with his Kurdish bodyguard, Azaz. When he stepped out of his SUV, three Iraqi guards turned him around at gunpoint.

As he walked back to the vehicle, he heard an AK-47 being racked and a hail of cursing in Arabic and Kurdish. He turned to see Azaz facing off with the Iraqis.

"Let us through or I'll kill you all," Walker recalled his Kurdish bodyguard telling the Iraqi soldiers, who he described as "terrified."

He thought to himself: "This is the kind of ally and friend I want."

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The winner of an Army competition searching for innovative technology for troops would let soldiers see their enemies through walls.

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The U.S. military has pulled about 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. and coalition military commander said Monday.

"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."

"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.

The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.

Separately, the U.S. military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Oct. 19.

"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.

So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.

After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. military has increased both air and ground attacks.

In September, U.S. military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.

However, the president has also repeatedly vowed to bring U.S. troops home from the post 9/11 wars. Most recently, he approved withdrawing most U.S. troops from Syria.

On Monday, Esper said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan are very different, so the Afghans and other U.S. allies "should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria."