I’m letting the mail cool because so much of it is so angry. From military pilots, active duty and retired, there are frustrated elaborations on the theme laid out by the former F-15 pilot I quoted in this early post. That is, a complaint that media, investigators, and civilian pilots are unfairly pointing the finger at one Air Force pilot and a larger military flying culture, before all the evidence is in and without taking into account the special demands of the military flying life. From civilian pilots and a growing number of civilian air-traffic controllers, an opposite perspective about self-indulgence and entitlement on the military side.
I’ll selectively quote from these messages in a little while, when I can find a way to do so without seeming just to promote a flame war. For now I’ll use the episode as the occasion for a more positive look at dealing with different senses of duty and responsibility across the civil-military divide.
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Early this year the magazine published my Chickenhawk Nation piece, officially called “The Tragedy of the American Military.” In the following weeks I published several dozen rounds of reader response pro and con; you can see a list of some of those entries at the end of this post.
Two months ago I went to the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island, to make my case—and in specific to explain why I thought a Chickenhawk culture, in which the rest of America “is willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously,” was a threat to long-term military values despite its guise of unquestioning support. Charles Edel, a Naval War College professor who had become a friend back when we were both living in Beijing (he was there as a Luce scholar), had suggested the visit. Even if he weren’t a friend, I would mention and recommend his book about foreign policy two centuries ago, which has surprising resonance with the present. It is Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic.
The video below is of my full evening appearance at the Naval War College. I strongly suggest starting around time 42:00. That’s when I am wrapping up my opening discussion by saying: I have a few ideas about bridging this divide. But what about you? If you agree with me that it’s a problem, what do you think should be done?
Over the next half hour I heard a lot of good ideas, plus a few bad ones, all of them evidence of much more serious involvement with the question that we see in the daily press or have heard from any candidates. I think you will find the Q&A portion worthwhile.
For your reference and for the record, here are some earlier exchanges on the Chickenhawk front: