"...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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Second Amendment

With the horrific recent tragedy in Connecticut, the internet and media has been buzzing over discussions for and against gun control and or gun bans.  Some folks have even been so erudite as to acknowledge that we have a Second Amendment, and that it has something important and authoritative to add to the discussion.  It's always nice when our Bill of Rights is discussed by Americans, something that is rare these days in my opinion, even among those of us paid and sworn to defend it.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Here are a couple of my thoughts on the Second Amendment.  First, the argument that it is irrelevant because it deals with, and was intended for, militias...  The first part of the amendment gives the reasoning behind the right enshrined, ie because the Founders believed a militia was necessary for States to be secure, the people must have the ability to keep and bear Arms.  Now, we can agree or disagree with the reasoning behind the enshrined right, but the fact is the right of the people to keep and bear Arms is law.  Functionally, had the Second Amendment been written as, "Apples being pleasant to the sight and touch, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," nothing would change legally (ie Constitutionally, and independent of whether or not the government judiciary ruled correctly or not).  If it were written that way, we could likely all agree that the reasoning of the Founders would be suspect if not flat out wrong.  Apples have nothing at all to do with bearing arms.  Still, whether their reasoning was good or poor, the right was still codified into law.  People have the right to keep and bear Arms, and that right shall not be infringed, whatever your opinion on apples might be.  Again, the first part of the text provides the reasoning for the codified right, and the second part creates the law as a result.  It's not unlike the very preamble to the Constitution, that introduces the law of the Constitution by stating that the Constitution was created to form a "more perfect union."  You might disagree with the preamble's claim concerning a more perfect union, but that does not change the law of the Constitution.  The reasoning in the beginning does not change the law, as a result.  Here is a more modern example.  Assume that on a deployment as an aircraft commander, and as the ranking crew member, I told my crew, "Hey guys, because alcohol abuse is destroying crew cohesion on this deployment, alcohol is now prohibited and nobody on this crew will consume alcohol until this deployment is over."  My crew may disagree with my reasoning that alcohol is destroying crew cohesion, and perhaps nobody had consumed a drop of alcohol on the deployment and I had misdiagnosed the problem and solution...yet the order would still be in effect and would be law, regardless of how wrong my reasoning was.  The same goes with the Second Amendment.

As a result, it's not the reasoning but the law that the Founders laid down that matters.  In that law, they said the people have the right to keep and bear arms, and that the right would not be infringed.  They did not speak of militias (that was in their reasoning).  Had the Founders intended the right to only apply to militias (or apples), then the amendment would have said, "the right of militias to keep and bear arms..."  It does not.  It says the people.  There is no way to argue that the Second Amendment does not guarantee Americans the right to keep and bear arms without destroying language and engaging in deception (self or otherwise).

Another argument that is thrown around is that the Second Amendment was referring to muskets and not to AR-15s, and therefore it doesn't apply.  Again, basic common sense and the truth of words are instructive.  The text says nothing about the types of Arms, it simply says Arms.  Even at the time the amendment was being written, there were multiple types of weapons, or arms, employed by the continental army and the militias (ie the people).  What are arms?  They are weapons - and the text does not limit what kind of weapons the people have a right to keep and bear.

But of course many people will bring up "well should people be able to have a tank, or an RPG?"  In my view, those are Arms and the people have a right to own them if they can purchase them.  The reason I believe this is because the Second Amendment was not created to protect the rights of hunters or sport shooters.  It was created to protect the people from armies and, most importantly, the armies and forces of our own government.  In our post 911 world this argument gets lost and while many understand that is the purpose of the amendment, to protect the People from their own government when it becomes tyrannical and ignores the Constitution, still these folks won't want to publicly admit that fact.  In our post NDAA world where our political leaders admit to assassinating American citizens without charge or trial, where whistle blowing is prosecuted at record numbers, there is a real fear to speak the truth.  Even when that truth is more American than apple pie, and should be embraced by all Americans.  Such as the truth that our Second Amendment exists to protect us from our government.  Therefore, if our government is armed with the technology that can be, or is, used against American citizens, then the people have the right to Arms that can counteract and deter tyrannical aggression, assuming they have the resources to procure them.  While most citizens won't be able to afford a patriot missile battery, they can afford fully automatic weapons and RPGs.

And they have every right to own them.  The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As military personnel, we must truly think about the Second Amendment and our oaths to support and defend it.  History is instructive and teaches us that when tyranny comes, the troops will be ordered to disarm the people.  If you value America and your oath before God, you must be willing to refuse to violate the Constitution.  The "domestic enemy" of our oaths does not refer to criminals here at home (criminals do not harm our Constitution).  We in government service are the potential domestic enemies that we swore to defend our Constitution against.

For those of us who have raised our right hands, don't be a domestic enemy.  Instead, measure up to the example of Sgt May when he refused to disarm Americans during Hurricane Katrina.  And when the cowards chide you with warnings of how you will get in trouble, in an attempt to lessen the guilt they feel from being cowards, just realize that by having courage and doing right by America...you may come out on top.  Don't expect it, but it does happen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Cost of Integrity

"There is always a consequence to demonstrating integrity. There's a consequence to that. And we were willing to take that consequence,...otherwise if we compromise that, then we're no better than the enemy that we're fighting."

- Major General Antonio Taguba

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RainMan - The Big Johnson of BaseOps & My #1 Fan

I have previously blogged about a retired Lt Colonel who goes by the call sign RainMan, and how long after his retirement he still finds the time to mentor the young hopeful warrior wannabes around internet forums.  I think it's great to help the hopefuls and those who currently serve, and to share what you have learned, and to provide wisdom and insight to help make others better military officers.  It's a good conversation to be had.  Of course, adding to that conversation requires you having something worth sharing.

RainMan certainly shares a lot.  He shares his view that women ruined the Air Force, that the oath of office we are required to take is bullshit, that we shouldn't serve out of principle, and he equates risk for the national defense in combat with risk to one's own personal ambitious career progression (he is fond of using the phrase "notch the threat" when discussing queepy self serving career decisions).

While he shares his views on a forum that is known to question the kool-aid and check-the-box requirements of the service (and the leadership that prizes such externalities over common sense), still RainMan enjoys some kind of internet social status while being the poster child for exactly what plagues our service.  He enjoys this online status because 1) he has actual combat experience and 2) the hopefuls are those who rightfully aspire to also one day defend their nation in combat and because 3) larger America has a real morality crisis, and so his audience is receptive to a "hero" that encourages cowardice.  So many who talk about what is wrong with our service do so on the "bro level" behind closed doors, and when those doors open, they silence their criticisms and feedback and do their part to further the problem.  Such people are considered "those who get it" sadly, because they talk the talk when talking isn't risky, yet don't walk the walk.

Combat experience is RainMan's ace of spades.  But combat is just one small part of being an officer and it's a very poor indicator of character or value.  I've flown a great many combat missions myself, killed many of the enemy, been shot at, and in all my combat experience I have never once witnessed anybody who wasn't eager to get into the fight.  I'm glad to know that our military is producing those thirsting to protect our brothers on the ground, and to remove those on the battlefield who would do our nation harm.  But combat experience doesn't require a person to be principled, or particularly intelligent, or to have any real character.  Armies around the world have been populated with riff raff that fixed bayonets and bravely charged, and even the fascist Adolf Hitler acted with courage in World War I and was awarded two Iron Cross decorations for his combat contributions (he was shot in the leg in one incident, and he suffered wounds after a chemical attack in another).  Again, combat is a very poor indicator of the quality of a man and his leadership potential.  Principle, character, and intelligence are required for those who wish to help lead America's military outside of combat, and to assist in preparing it to be ready to take on our enemies in the future, and to provide unfettered and honest information to our elected representatives despite corporate and other non-public interests.  This is where RainMan fails miserably.  It can also be argued that this character disease is the culprit behind the serious challenges our service faces today, as recent articles concerning scandal after scandal from leadership indicate.  Unfortunately, RainMan spends considerable time trying to instill and bolster the same cowardice and lack of character in those who serve today, and in those who hope to serve tomorrow, encouraging them to drink the same cowardly saltwater that leaves our service thirsty.  He finds a receptive and parched audience.

RainMan is the Big Johnson of BaseOps.  He is a caricature like the tiny man from the 80s t-shirt line, working to create an image of "cool" - he has a motorcycle, he uses fighter pilot lingo in every day communication, he insults women (including young cadets), refers to himself as an "Iron Ass Reagan Baby," tells all who will listen that he was a real deal football player growing up, talks tough and touts his combat time.  Beyond that, he sprinkles his unsupported conclusions around as though they are infallible, despite his frequent lack of support or evidence, and works overtime from his retirement home to justify his shortcomings with youngsters who will agree or worship him.  He finds an unprincipled audience eager to listen, and the cultural reasons are far greater than any one particular online military forum.  Reference this forum poll where the majority of respondents admit that had they been ordered to fix bayonets and herd 70,000 American citizens onto trains to send them off to concentration camps (as was done in the 1940s by order of President Roosevelt), that they would have done so despite their American neighbors having not been charged or tried for any crime.  The cowardice of the clay makes RainMan's work to sculpt our service with unprincipled men of inferior character, quite easy.

I will give him credit for his combat time.  It's good that he role models hanging it out for America.  But it bears repeating that combat is a small contribution, and miniscule compared to the negative contributions of RainMan's cyber role modeling.  Like the Big Johnson caricatures, the stick figure image of the tough guy fighter pilot who's "been there and done that" cannot sufficiently disguise the fact that underneath his bravado, RainMan is actually a small pale little kid trying to look cool.  The courage checkbox doesn't change that fact.

RainMan dazzles his audience with his unremarkable contributions with one hand, and with the other hand encourages officers to look out for their career over doing what is right for the service or the country.  He suggests that officers "play the game" (because a nuclear equipped profession is a game, right?), that airmen never stand up for principle, and he provides a continuous reminder that the oath to the Constitution is just some silly muttering of words that officers should ignore.  He purports to be a fan of Robin Olds, and while it is true that RainMan has mastered the art of digital swagger from his computer keyboard to impress the youngsters long after his retirement, it's also true that RainMan hasn't yet figured out what made General Olds great.  Character.  Instead, RainMan treats military service and the role of a military officer as if he's back playing football.  He's on the team and that is all that anybody needs to know.  Thinking and character not required.  Just run the ball where you're told (even if it's into your own end zone) and enjoy the after party.

My contempt for RainMan and his efforts to weaken our service aside, I should be gentle with RainMan.  He remains my number one fan, even after having me banned from the BaseOps.Net forum because he couldn't handle the feedback I gave him there.  He expected the same adoration and idolization that he typically gets from the youngsters and the less accomplished pilots, and so he didn't appreciate my feedback.  He has been smarting ever since, and never passes up an opportunity to make some ridiculous claims about your humble blogger.  I think I touched a nerve.  Yet even after I was banned from the BaseOps conversation (after they had read my blog and invited me over there to discuss), they still love to talk about "PYB.edu."  Since my banning, they have referred to your humble blogger dozens of times, with RainMan himself bringing up my blog in the majority of those instances.  One moment RainMan is telling others to stop talking about this blog, and in the next he's the one bringing it up.  It's a love hate relationship, and the mark of a real fan.  It makes me all warm inside.

So, thanks for being my number one fan, RainMan.