The military doesn’t know anything. The military knows best.
It goes without saying that the level of contention between the White House and Congress — particularly now since Republicans achieved a majority in both houses — hasn’t been this high in recent history. It seems that no issue, the least of which our military procurements, is without conflict. The latest episode being a speech made by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX 13th District), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, at the American Enterprise Institute, where he discussed the latest Congressional military procurement moves in spite of the wishes of the Armed Forces.
In his speech, the Congressman defended what he and others believed was Congress’s “proper role in defense.” Such procurements, said the Congressman, were “a judgement call.”“The House and Senate appropriations committee and Armed Services Committee went through the arguments and believed the math did not add up,” referring to the Pentagon’s decision to postpone the refurbishment of Army tanks until a later date, deciding to ignore the military’s request and move ahead with that refurbishment. Events overseas seem to have vindicated the Congressman: “It turns out, last month, the U.S. Army sent 101 tanks back to Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.” Example after example, Congressman Thornberry made the case for the legislature’s strategic wisdom over that of the military’s force requirements. Apparently, Congress has better military planners than the Pentagon.
Congressman Thornberry’s speech wouldn’t be so intriguing if it weren’t for the words of another member of the legislature, those of Senator Lindsey Graham. On numerous occasions, the Senator condemned the Administration for the departure of military forces from Iraq, one of which was a press release in November. “‘Whether it was leaving a residual force behind in Iraq or assisting the Free Syrian Army at a time when it would have been most beneficial, our failing strategies in Iraq and Syria are President Obama’s fault. On numerous occasions he has chosen to ignore sound military advice.’” Disregard the fact that the withdrawal of forces was settled upon during the Bush administration, or that the Iraqi government, not the Obama administration, ultimately decided not to extend the US Status of Forces Agreement, I find the neck-snapping contradiction of Congress’s confidence in our Armed Forces’ judgment both disturbing and sad.
And, of course, these contradictions are a matter of political convenience. In a hyper-partisan political environment, all points, even those bordering on lies, are used against the other side, and not even our military is protected from this collateral damage. I just wish that our Congress would have more respect for our military than to throw its assessment in the garbage one day, then turn around and call it gold the next.
Originally published at frankrcastillo.tumblr.com on January 20, 2015.