The U.S. Army is in a jam. Not the good kind that is sticky and fun to smear on toast or significant others.
No, it is suffering from a wound. That wound isn't Iraq. Iraq was the bullet that hit the body. No, it is bleeding intelligence out like a 21st Level Paladin does on his first date with the Prom Queen.
Over the past year, many of the intellectual elite of the U.S. Army have been quietly leaving, finding fresher fields in the DC defense establishment, in government service, and in the Think Tanks. Where money flows freely, where human beings work normal days, and where people only shoot at you if you "give them lip" or are hunting with the VP.
The opening began when Colonel H.R. McMaster, the spearpoint of officership for his generation (men and women who became officers in the mid-years of the Reagan Administration, who served as lieutenants and captains in Panama and Desert Storm, as majors in the Balkans, and as warplanners and battalion commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq), was passed over for Brigadier General.
So what, you say.
McMaster's first, and then second, bypassing for the coveted star of a general was a sign and a warning from the Organization Men who run the military. "Don't color outside the lines." "Don't be too famous, or smart, or original, or too ANYTHING." "It is ok to think outside the box (insert small box here) but not outside the box around the box."
Suddenly, when McMaster, holder of the Silver Star for his decisive leadership at the Battle of 73 Easting in 1991, bestselling historian for his Dereliction of Duty (the best single work on the failure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to fulfill their duty by stopping the esculation of the Vietnam War), and one of the most highly respected officers (by his men and his peers) in uniform, was passed over for promotion, a chill spread throughout the intellectual core of the U.S. Army.
If McMaster was shunned, what hope is there for me?
The answer is that there was no hope. The Organization Men had won. Officers who sold the company product, who towed the company barge, who mindlessly repeated the company line, would be rewarded. Those who could do 100 pushups in 2 minutes...those were officers who should be generals! Graduate degrees? Boy, you tryin' to git smart on us? We'uns don't cotton to no brain-ifying in this here Army.
I walked. I walked in at 18, a day before I graduated high school in rural Arkansas. I wanted to "shoot guns and jump out of airplanes." And I walked out at 43. Private to Lieutenant Colonel. The Army was good to me, I had no complaints.
But there was a limit. McMaster found it. Others discovered it as well. As did I.