23 September 2003

As I noted on Saturday,

In my personal opinion as a veteran and former commanding officer, the military needs to clean up its act concerning nonconsensual heterosexual conduct that inherently impairs military order and discipline before expending any energy or resources on consensual homosexual conduct that does not otherwise impair military order and discipline. It could start by closing all of the military academies, which incubate improper attitudes and conduct in a self-perpetuating fashion.

The commission investigating the most-recent reports of rapes at the Air Force Academy (and, based on conversations with fellow officers while I was on active duty, Colorado Springs is not the worst offender among the three) issued its final report (PDF, 6.01mb) yesterday. Several newspapers have summarized the report, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Denver Post. The articles and report indicate a serious failure of officership and officer training impacting my generation of officers—those of us who began training after Vietnam and before Beirut/Grenada.

I remain unconvinced of the continuing need for the military academies. The education offered there is now perhaps roughly equivalent to that at the average main state university campus, such as the University of Colorado, the University of Maryland, and the State University of New York at Binghampton. Perhaps only, because it does a very poor job of preparing graduates for rigorous graduate schools in the core disciplines; a majority of the instructors do not have a terminal degree, which is highly unusual for any four-year college program these days, and the curriculum is extremely rigid. In any event, unlike the early 19th century, there is no longer a shortage of college-educated 22-year-old men and women that justifies the academies strictly on educational grounds.

Instead, the justification must be on officership grounds. When I was on active duty, I didn't see it, and based on the buck-passing and obtuseness among the academy graduates in the senior leadership today (my contemporaries and slight seniors) see it even less. The real problem for ROTC and OTS graduates—leaving aside the snobbery, all too similar to that based on one's law school, with even less justification—has been adaptation to active duty while also trying to learn the substance of one's job. As an alternative to the academy system, commission officers only through ROTC and OTS. Then send the new O-1s (2d Lieutenants and Ensigns) to three months of additional readiness training at the now-available academy campuses. Include the training and education, ordinarily delayed until one has been on duty for about five years, provided through company-grade professional military education (a seven-to-nine-week course), such as Squadron Officer School. That would both give the new officers a chance to assimilate the skills and knowledge they supposedly get later on and allow the later schools to spend more time on academics and research (in which they are now seriously deficient).

<SARCASM> And, if political indoctrination is still considered necessary, that puts all of the new officers in one place for easy, umm, access by senior leadership. </SARCASM> Uh-oh—I may just have shot my program for liberalizing the officer corps in the foot…

What's the connection to publishing? How many books are published every year with important characters who are military officers? And how many of those characters bear more than passing resemblance to either the reality of or aspirations for the officer corps? (From what I've seen, less than ten percent.) If nothing else, the commission's report should indicate a serious lack of openness about officer preparation and education. That cannot be good for either literature or society as a whole, particularly when one considers that the closest that most civilians ever get to depiction of an officer is fictional portraits. On screen, these range from Lt Wolfe (Platoon) and Lt(jg) Roberts (Mister Roberts); to Maj Major and Capt Danby (Catch-22); to Lt Col Kilgore (Apocalypse Now); to Col Casey (Seven Days in May), Capt Queeg (The Caine Mutiny), and Col Trautman (Rambo); to BG Ripper and Gen Turgidson (Dr. Strangelove), LGs Bradley and Patton (Patton), and Gen Scott (Seven Days in May again). Things are not much better in print. In military-oriented fiction—whether set in the present day or not—it is difficult to find anything other than jingoism (Starship Troopers), irrelevance (The General's Daughter), or a morass of incompetence/venality, perhaps surrounding one hypercompetent officer (On Basilisk Station). Whether on screen or in print, these are not realistic, not believable, and most often not even well-suited to fiction. War is too important to be left to the marketing department.