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Mark Divine: "General" Malaise
Mark Divine: "General" Malaise


About the Author

LCDR Mark D. Divine is a Navy SEAL currently serving a one year recall in support of Operation Noble Eagle and the War on Terror. Divine was Honor graduate of SEAL training class 170, and has served for 14 years with the SEALs - 7 & 1/2 of which were on active duty at SEAL Team THREE, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE and Naval Special Warfare Group ONE. Most recently he was Executive Officer at Reserve SEAL Team ONE. After leaving Active Duty Mark started NavySEALs.com, which has become a leader on the web for Special Operations news and intelligence.

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May 10, 2004

By Mark Divine

[Sound off on the topics discussed in this article -- visit the Mark Divine Discussion Forum.]

BAGDHAD (May 8) -- The world stares transfixed to CNN, ABC, NBC, Al Jazeera or whatever Media-du Jour outfit blasting the images of the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib at the hands of a handful of US Army National Guard members. Here in Iraq, business continues. Special Forces, SEALs and a new unit called the Marine Corps SOCOM Detachment ONE working with the SEALS (More on them in future editorial) are busy ensuring that Baghdad does not become the next Beirut. The SOF mission: Get the bad guys before they get us. There are bountiful IED (Improvised Explosive Device) makers to capture before they kill another group of American soldiers carrying out their dangerous charge and Iraqi citizens on their way to market, Financiers to "roll up" with their bankrolls so that the anti-coalition force cells are hindered in their purchase of RPG’s, Demolitions and cell phones; and assassins, terrorist and many other variations of Islamo-fascist thugs to capture or kill to deny them the glory of fulfilling their charge from Allah to eradicate the world of infidels (read Americans).

The Special Operations soldiers are not alone in their successes here in Iraq. The US Marine Corps has, once again, proven itself to be the best fighting force in the history of mankind. The warrior ethic of the Marines is paralleled only by Special Operations Forces, and they manage to embed that spirit into 175,000 troops. A Herculean feat by all measures. The Fallujah Marines got it on with the insurgents inside Fallujah without hesitation, and could have eradicated the cancer from Fallujah once and for all. Alas, as the insurgents cheer "victory" in the streets because they "caused" the Marines to pull-out, the Marines display the professionalism of career warriors and resolutely carry out the wishes of the civilian leadership to prevent more bloodshed in the city - even while to a man they prayed they would be allowed to finish the job.

If you ask the Marines what they fight for – they will say they fight for the Corps first, then their fellow Marine. They will do nothing to dishonor the Corps. They will die trying to save a fellow Marine, and they will fight to the last man standing when pressed to the wall.

The Navy SEALs will also do nothing to dishonor their Navy and SEAL Teams. The SEALs have never left a man behind (wounded or dead), nor lost a SEAL to capture and imprisonment. SEALs will fight to the death, as demonstrated by Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts who was jolted out of his helo after the bird was hit with an RPG on a remote Afghanistan mountaintop. Predator feed later showed his heroic fight to the death against a cluster Taliban with AK-47’s and heavy machine guns. Absent his primary weapon, the M-4, he used his sidearm and frag grenades, and was down to his last few 9mm rounds when he was finally killed by the remaining Taliban he had not killed or wounded.

Warriors display an ethic that requires them to hold themselves to a higher standard than the average person. They actively practice the art of discipline – which is from the same root word as "disciple." They are disciples of the art and science of improving themselves daily – in mind, body and soul. They actively practice Honor. Honor is a way of life for Marines and SOF warriors. Not just a word, honor was displayed in action by Pat Tillman refusing to profit or gain personal glory from his decision to join the Army Rangers – even as a shocked media stumbled over themselves to interview him and offer book contracts. Honor is displayed daily in the selfless manner that Marines, SEALs or Green Berets accept responsibility for their screw-ups. No one is perfect, and fallibility is an accepted part of the human condition. Warriors understand this, and though they strive for a state of perfection, they do not expect that their actions will always be perfect. It is the intent that is important. Honor, discipline, integrity, courage, compassion – these are the calling cards of the warrior.

This brings me to an unpleasant topic. As I tout the traits of the warriors, and am proud to include myself in that breed that is increasingly rare to find in our society, I must point out that not all military members in Iraq, or the US Military, are warriors. The most glaring disparity is with our US Army conventional and National Guard forces. Those who read this from the Army who hail from units that have bucked the inertia in the system and have risen above the malaise – I applaud you. It must be a gargantuan task to shine in a broken, low-morale and malaise-ridden system.

I hold out as my glaring example the one-star general in charge at Abu Ghraib prison. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was wholly and completely responsible for every action in that prison – whether she knew about it or not. The fact that she claims she knew nothing is only more proof that she was completely incompetent and that the place was out of control. Her actions, or lack thereof, have placed the entire 1 1/5 year efforts of two hundred thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines (and coalition partners) at risk of being rendered meaningless. The enormous personal effort by the soldiers and civilian volunteers to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqi’s has been dashed by a single incident of amazing cruelty and insensitivity to the mission of the United States in Iraq. Of course those that perpetrated the actual acts are trailer trash to the extreme. They do not represent the American Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine. They are anathema to the warrior.

However, it was the US Army that recruited them, trained them, and sent them into a combat zone ill prepared to handle the role professionally. Additionally, it was the US Army that put a leader with no HONOR in charge of them. BG Karpinski should have (1). Known every detail of what was happening under her charge; (2) Taken immediate corrective action at the first sign of prisoner mistreatment; (3) If there was ANY question about what was or was not acceptable interrogation practice she should have gone to the DOD for answers, and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld if she did not get them in a timely manner. (4) Finally, upon learning of the magnitude of the failures on her watch, she should have immediately accepted responsibility and proffered her resignation.

What is the root of the general malaise in the US Army? Here is one possible answer: too many chiefs, and not enough Indians. The Army has, incredibly, ONE General Officer for every 1,000 soldiers. Of course the Army is not alone with this top-heavy structure, but I think it has affected them the worst. Today’s Army Generals do the work of yesterday’s Colonels. And they are comparable to the Captains of our WWI and WWII Army in terms of their responsibilities and accountability.

A one-star General is the "spin-master" for CENTCOM. As General Mark Kimmit becomes a known figure for his nightly presence on Fox, does anyone stop to wonder what a one-star is doing as a liaison to the media – why can’t a COL from the JTF-7 staff do it, as was done by MAC V during the much larger Vietnam War? Why can’t a suitable flag officer take some time to do a daily situational awareness brief like was done during the first phase of the war? How many Generals do we pay to prepare power point briefs that a Captain or LTCOL could prepare (or a good Master Sergeant).

A top-heavy structure will tip any vessel. The Army vessel is tipping and its masts are submerged. Abu Ghraib is just one of the symptoms. Institutional paralysis in dealing with large-scale transformation is another. Last year Secretary Rumsfeld stated that he would like SOF to become more like the Agency, the Marines to become more like SOF, and the Army to become more like the Marines. That is a tall order for the Army, which has been struggling to define itself since the Vietnam war. It is one of the primary reasons that he called up General Peter Schoomaker, a retired Special Forces officer who once led USSOCOM, as Chief of Staff of the Army. General Schoomaker needs to clean house if he hopes to make any progress. War requires a different breed of senior officer – one not afraid to take risks, and one willing to own up to his or her mistakes…in a word, he needs warriors.

There has been a reluctance to view the War on Terror in the context of a World War. If we have not figured it out yet, that is exactly what it is – a Global War for the future of our youth. It is time the US Army gets on board with the program and cleans house of the General Officers like BG Karpinski, starts acting more like the Marine Corps and becomes part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

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© 2004 Mark Divine. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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