"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Response to JB (Loyal Dissent, Choice, Motivations)

Instead of commenting to JBMoore, I've decided to make a blog post in response. His comment is very insightful and can be viewed here. JB is obviously no stranger to human nature and politics and raises some questions that touch on my motivations and the choice we all must make when weighing risk and benefit in our conduct.

I think it's somewhat inaccurate to say I enjoy these fights. It is true that I have one of those natures that questions and as a younger man I enjoyed debate and conflict and became very comfortable with being one against many. I grew up on stories of my father doing the right thing and risking his job to defend people against pressures above him. Of course those stories were viewed through childhood goggles and my old man was also successful in the system so I'm sure he tempered his behavior (unlike his father who was also enlisted in the Army Air Corps but who got kicked out for hitting an officer with his weapon, or so the story goes). Whatever my filter and whatever the objective reality, doing the right thing (for people or for mission) while risking yourself was the theme that encapsulated what it meant to be a leader in my view. For those reasons, I do take pride in fighting the good fight but as I've gotten older I've lost the lust for conflict. People who knew me when I was younger may find it hard to believe, but I don't seek conflict these days and haven't for years. I have too many other interests and I learned long ago that you can't change human nature or teach values to grown men. I don't seek battles as I may have at one time, but I also don't shy away from them when they're brought to me. I don't enjoy these battles detailed in my blog and they have taken a toll. I have been scared at moments but mostly I've been tired. But I simply shift my perspective and I re-calibrate and bounce back. I'd be very happy to never have another fight but I don't believe I'm paid by the taxpayer to be comfortable and collect a check when there are real systemic problems that threaten our ability to conduct our nation's business. Losing fourteen years of service is a risk. But I was never guaranteed a retirement (a fact I must remind myself of the closer I get to one) and retiring and spending my remaining years reflecting on a life of irresponsible conflict avoidance risks the moral authority I'll need for later goals (ministry and pro-bono legal activism).

This blog was born from what I perceive to be a real crisis not only in my service but in our greater culture. I think our society has lost its integrity in great measure and perception over reality seems to be the currency of the day in business, government, and media. Truth has lost its appeal it seems to me. I don't know how long we can exist as a world power under such conditions and I think the evidence suggests those days are coming to an end. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. As far as my purview, I was specifically incensed about the way my service conducted itself regarding the F-22/UAV debate, the rightful claim from our Sec Def that we weren't properly committed to our nation's wars, and the culture of perception over reality I saw coloring that discussion. It was comments along these lines that led to the academic freedom violation and my acquisition of powerful "friends" who put me in their crosshairs and who have far more to do with my troubles than a traffic ticket, in my opinion.

So for me, the choice is to do my job and correct problems in the most effective way possible. I am more willing to give up a job and a retirement than I am to give up my pride and moral authority. My pride and moral authority have taken hits and I'm not perfect but I want to guard what remains closely.

But I've made good life decisions to make it easier for me to do so. My wife is strong, smart, and successful. She's one of the most successful young lawyers in the country. She's also dedicated to making this world better than she found it and she supports me. My greatest accomplishment was staying true to my ideals for a companion and it's a great help. We have no children. I personally wouldn't be able to risk as I do if I had to support a family so children aren't an option until I'm financially set. As for finances, I've made smart choices, lived well below my means, invested a lot, and sold all before the bubble burst. I saw the writing on the wall. In short, I've crafted my life so I can continue to live it in a way that makes me proud. I don't need the Air Force. I appreciate the paycheck and the chance for a retirement but I don't need it. I continue to serve,...to serve. I've been very fortunate.

We have such a rich heritage of American service and sacrifice in this country and my small battles, and my limited capabilities, are nothing compared to average Americans that have come before. Forget the great names, just the average American of greater generations. I feel it's my responsibility to build on that service in my own life. It's so easy to sell out and profit from the system in this country. Such people think they're so smart and politically savvy but the "game" is simple and I have no doubt that I could have easily risen to the top of a political enterprise if that was my goal. But that's not fulfilling to me. That's the industrious stupid who climb a ladder only to find nothing of value at the top...had they thought about that prior to their ascent, perhaps they would have figured that out before they got so high up that continuing the climb seemed the only option. I'm sure some if not most never figure it out.

But I don't have all the answers and my approach may not be the best one and I would love to have some "mentor" show me how I could be more effective...but that hasn't happened and I doubt it will. Regardless, I know this. It's a team effort and my approach provides opportunities for others to move the ball because I raise the issue if nothing else. I'm reminded of college life team sports... With my group of buddies I was the opener when we were out on the town. My brash opening might work for me, or it might not. But even when it didn't, nine times out of ten it did for my more timid buddy who would step up to the plate and say, "I'm sorry about my buddy,..." It's a team effort and I play a part even if I'm just the opener.

I appreciate your kindred spirit and your comments. You're also right about another thing. The good fight isn't about winning...it's about the fight. We're outnumbered and outgunned but that doesn't matter. Thanks again for posting.

1 comment:

  1. I'm as big a fan of moral authority as anyone. However, I do know this: Never Mention the Constitution to a Cop.

    Who needs moral authority when you have handcuffs, and the PBA'a lawyers?