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MILITARY: Easy to advocate for commanders’ ‘accountability’

Letter by James A. Cathcart, University Place on Oct. 2, 2013 at 9:46 am with No Comments »
October 2, 2013 11:19 am

Re: “Force protection Job One in Afghanistan” (editorial, 10-2).

From the safety of an editor’s desk – unencumbered by any actual responsibility for the matters on which the writer opines – it is easy to advocate for the humiliating end of the careers of two capable general officers in the name of “accountability.”

The headline demonstrates an astonishing lack of understanding of the demands placed on our commanders in Afghanistan. Every military professional knows that mission accomplishment is “Job One,” and mission accomplishment in a combat environment means that there are going to be casualties.

As our troop strength draws down, the allocation of available forces to tasks “outside the wire” and to force security grows more difficult and compromises have to be made because there are never enough troops to fully guarantee both tasks. A smart enemy unconcerned with protection of their own forces will always be able to find a way to make high-visibility – but tactically irrelevant – demonstrations.

Given that the writer of the editorial is unlikely to know the competing demands placed upon the relieved generals by their superiors or the compromises they and their subordinates were forced to make in order to meet those demands, celebrating their disgrace in the name of accountability pretends to knowledge the writer doesn’t have.

After the battle of Minorca in 1756, the British hanged Admiral John Byng for being insufficiently aggressive in order to encourage their remaining commanders. Just what will this relief encourage?

(Cathcart is a retired Marine colonel.)

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