Apr 29

(Today's guest post is by John Mikolajczyk. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

Everyone has an opinion on mass shootings, their causes, and their solutions. Among the endless sea of opinions on the subject, the belief that mass shootings are a common occurrence, increasing in frequency, and becoming more deadly, is perhaps one of the most widely held. Despite, as oft cited criminologist Dr. James Alan Fox (who specializes in mass murder) has said on multiple occasions, it not being true.

(For the purposes of this article, I will be defining a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more fatalities occur, although multiple definitions for “mass shooting” exist, most articles referenced here seem to use to this criteria.)

Capitalizing on this misguided belief, Attorney General Eric Holder was proud to announce during a lecture to a group of police chiefs in December of 2013, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had “prevented” 148 mass shootings and “other violent attacks” from January through November of that year and “hundreds” of attacks had been disrupted since the inception of it’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center in 2011.

That is quite the claim, considering the same man practically debunked his own statement a month earlier when in another speech to police chiefs he said there were an average of five “active shooting” incidents per year from 2000 to 2008. Adding that the annual average of “active shooting” incidents had tripled since then. An “active shooting,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, is a mass shooting or an attempted mass shooting (i.e. the Clackamas Town Center incident).

So before the FBI’s “Behavioral Threat Assessment Center” program began in 2011, there were five incidents a year, with no outside intervention taking place. Now, with FBI intervention stepping in, there are three times as many incidents a year in addition to 148 thwarted attacks in just 11 months? These numbers don’t reconcile.

How exactly does the Behavioral Threat Assessment Center prevent scores of mass shootings?

First, cases of “troubling behavior” (e.g. “bizarre behavior” coupled with an interest in firearms) are referred to the center by “federal, state, local and campus law enforcement, schools, businesses, and houses of worship.” Then center staff, composed of government law enforcement personnel and psychiatrists, evaluate the potential threat and sanction a course of action for how to proceed. However, Andre Simmons, the unit chief of the center, admits that most often the recommendation is merely a referral for mental health treatment.

Essentially, the FBI runs a mental health treatment referral center, distinguishable from the countless volunteer and state-run referral centers around the country only in that it is funded and staffed by US government personnel.

Also consider that we live in the age of “zero tolerance policies” in the American school system, where a doodle drawn by a bored tween can attract local law enforcement attention. In light of this and the current climate of fear (over the erroneous belief in mass shooting frequency mentioned earlier), it is easy to see how the FBI’s assessment center has been getting three new cases to consider every week.

Then again, all things considered, 148 mass shootings prevented sounds much better for the government law enforcement community than 148 mentally ill persons referred for treatment, right? But most likely this isn’t true.

John Mikolajczyk is currently an office administrator with a government healthcare agency and a part-time bookseller. He graduated in the top 10% of his class from Kean University with degrees in criminology and history. While at Kean, he was a standout Air Force ROTC cadet and student activist. He also received an award for “best undergraduate term paper” for his treatise on the theoretical costs of the Trojan War. In his spare time he enjoys reading, playing video games, creative writing, hiking, and walking his golden labrador.

Aug 07

(Today's guest post is by Don Gomez of the blog Carrying the Gun. He is an old enlisted infantryman and a new infantry officer. He tweets @dongomezjr. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

Although I have written extensively and passionately on the subject of the infantry in regards to gender integration, I’ve stayed away from getting sucked into tit-for-tat exchanges with so-and-so over the arguments for and against the whole thing. I’ve found that the main arguments have been, for the most part, exhausted. I’ve met no one who has argued that training standards should be lowered in order to allow women to serve in combat arms.

And then yesterday I saw this article by Rowan Scarborough pop up with fiery rage on social media and beyond: “Double Standard: Pentagon hints at changes to allow more women in ground combat.”

Whoa, I said to myself, what happened?

And then I read the article and realized nothing happened. The article is a lay-analysis of comments from key military leaders on the topic and interviews with folks who hold the strong belief that women do not belong in combat arms.

The article suggests that something has been discovered or something has changed. Nothing has changed. And I intend to show that right here.

A review of news conferences and congressional testimony shows that the top brass repeatedly use the word “validate” — not necessarily “retain” — when talking about ongoing studies of tasks to qualify for infantry, armored and special operations jobs.

In other words, some physical standards would be lowered for men and women on the argument that certain tasks are outdated or irrelevant.

Who did this review? And okay, the word ‘validate’ is used instead of ‘retain.’ So what? How does that necessarily lead to the conclusion that “in other words, some physical standards would be lowered for men and women on the arrangement that certain tasks are outdated or irrelevant?”

Standards need to be validated precisely because they have never been validated before because there was never a reason to validate them in the first place. How long does it take an average squad of infantrymen to fill 100 sandbags? We don’t know, because we never really had to test it. Men signed up for the infantry, learned some skills, passed some gates, drank the grog, and earned their crossed rifles.

Senior officers for the first time also are stressing the mental aspect of ground combat, not just physical strength and endurance. Analysts say that is another sign that the military is looking at different ways to ensure that women qualify.

For the first time? That’s wrong. When the services released their plans for integrating women into combat arms almost two months ago, they stated directly in their publicly released memos what they would be looking for. The Army, for example, writes:

1. TRADOC Analysis Center (TRAC) is conducting a study of institutional and cultural factors associated with integration of women into previously closed Military Occupational Specialties and units. The gender integration study draws upon literature reviews, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and process mapping to identify potential factors affecting integration. TRAC is also engaging Soldiers and leaders throughout the Army to ensure that their perspectives are evaluated. This study was initiated in January 2013 and is projected to close by January 2015.

The article then goes on to quote Robert Maginnis, a former artillery officer who is fervently against women in combat units. He just wrote a book titled “Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women Into Combat.” He says:

“It will begin as an ‘experiment,’ and meanwhile there will be a whittling away of standards — gender-norming — regarding what is required to graduate from certain schools, such as Army Rangers,” Mr. Maginnis said. “The administration and its ideological radical feminist soul mates are willing to accept less effectiveness at the point of the spear in order to put women into every last military occupational specialty.”

Nice. Mr. Maginnis states the future eroding of standards as fact. It is to be because he has predicted it. There is no use in arguing with someone with that kind of an opinion because it is absolutist. He has a firm belief and he has staked himself on it.

Scarborough then goes on to quote some key leaders and ends with what has now become an infamous quote from GEN Dempsey. Scarborough punches up the quote by making it seem like General Dempsey was slamming his fist on the table to the service branches, writing that they “had better have a good argument for keeping it [the standard.]“

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in January that if a standard keeps women out of a combat job, the military branch had better have a good argument for keeping it.

“If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, ‘Why is it that high?’” Gen. Dempsey said. “Does it really have to be that high? With the direct combat exclusion provision in place, we never had to have that conversation.”

Folks jumped on that line the moment it left the General’s lips. A few days later, aware of the negative backlash it was generating, General Dempsey penned a blog post clarifying what he meant:

I want to address some misperceptions about the decision to rescind the direct combat rule for women. Some fear that this decision will lower standards in our military. That is simply not the case. The services will carefully examine current standards to ensure we have them right, taking into consideration lessons learned from a decade of war and changes in equipment, tactics and technology. We will study each closed occupational field or unit to determine where women are able to serve.

Let me be clear: The standards will be gender-neutral — the same for men and women. This assessment will take time, and the Joint Chiefs and I are committed to making sure that this is done correctly.

Of course, opponents of women in combat arms would argue that the whole idea of “carefully examining current standards” is code for lowering standards to allow women in. And if that’s what you believe, there is nothing I can do for you. If you can’t take the CJCS at his word, than you are far beyond the wall.

This quote is perhaps my favorite in the article.

Apr 18

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime contributor Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.)

I am a gun owner. Nothing ostentatious, just a single action .22, a gift from my father. I keep it for recreation, home invasion, and the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

When I was five, I saw my first real gun. My dad knew that with guns in the house, gun safety was a necessity. My education was limited to “stay away” and “find an adult”. As I aged/grew older, so did my education. Always, there was an emphasis on danger and respect. It was more than the simple, “this is not a toy” speech, but an explanation of what a gun can do and why it exists. My father made sure there was no confusion. Exposure was progressive. I’m not sure when, but I was finally allowed to handle a gun under supervision after a professionally licensed safety course at a firing range.

I have no intention of ever using my gun on someone. I have been angry and never considered the gun as an option. I have been severely depressed and still never considered the gun an option. I was at home once when someone tried to break in. At that point, the gun became an option; though it never came to that as the burglar ran off after realizing I was home. The only time my gun leaves the house is if I am taking it to the range, and even then it is unloaded. I keep the ammunition and firearm in separate locked boxes as per state law for transporting firearms. I have never fired my gun anywhere other than at a range and I have no intention doing otherwise.

With all the above mentioned; I consider myself a responsible gun owner. As such, I believe I have demonstrated the right to own a firearm. As have scores of Americans who use them at work, for sport, and for recreation. But dangerous people have challenged this right by doing stupid and terrible things.

I understand the motives propelling those who want to reform or even abolish the second amendment. The simple truth is, without guns, there would be no gun deaths. While I will not speculate on how getting rid of guns would affect the statistics on clubbings or knife inflicted injuries, what I will say is that what we need isn’t to get rid of the second amendment, but to better define it and enforce it. Because too much freedom is no better than removing freedom. At this moment in time we have so much freedom we lead the world in non-war gun deaths, which isn’t a tribute to freedom, but to chaos.

The truth is: I don’t trust you. I trust me because I know I know how to responsibly use a firearm. I trust certain members of my family because they’ve demonstrated proper use of a firearm through years of safe use. Some of my fraternity members I don’t trust... And I don’t trust most of you, because I don’t know you or what training you’ve had. Plus, guns are potentially dangerous to me and those I love. And me having a gun doesn’t make me feel safer about you having a gun.

Eddy Izzard had a set of jokes based on the motto “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” in his show Dressed to Kill. While meant as comedy, there’s some truth ringing through the laughs. I have no real answers to the riddle. Only a suggestion that we make gun legislation an issue again rather than avoiding the fact that firearms are constantly finding themselves in dangerous hands. And while people do kill people, guns help.

Apr 18

(Today's guest post is by Austin Bodetti. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.)

When my friend asked me, “Austin, there was a shooting in Newtown—did you hear?” I thought that he was joking. It would have been a very strange joke. “No, seriously,” he said. Brian was not joking.

December 14 was a long day, and I would have a long week, but I never stopped checking Wikipedia’s daily updates on the Syrian civil war, which I have done since 2011. On December 14, twenty-eight people died in Newtown. That same day, the Syrian Arab Army executed at least one hundred. The next day, it executed another 131 along with 171 on Christmas. Today, December 29, three hundred more Syrian civilians are dead. Dozens of them are children, including infants.

It is always the same: every day in the Syrian Arab Republic, there is an average of one to two hundred civilian casualties, and none are the result of a down-and-outer with his sporting rifle.

It makes little difference to parents whether their children die from a madman or a mortar. Either way, their daughter is dead, their son is dead, the memories are dead, and they may pray if religious, but their child is dead either way. To these parents and anyone who saw what happened, especially anyone who saw a firefighter carrying a body no bigger than his arms, what happens here matters more than over there, yet Syria is off everyone else’s emotional map: for Americans from the President to my neighbor, dead children suddenly matter when they die on American soil or—in my neighbor’s case—a few miles from your house.

In his televised address given the day of the shooting, the President made an offer: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” He meant tragedies here, not in Syria, which is somewhere over there, but the President had made two moves toward the Free Syrian Army (FSA) only days before. On the 3rd, he threatened military action if the Syrian Army deployed chemical weapons, which are apparently worse than shelling the Damascus suburbs. On the 11th, he recognized the FSA as the true government of Syria. The Syrian Army has spent the last week assembling its chemical weapons anyway, and awe-inspiring American recognition has accomplished little for the FSA and the three thousand or so civilians who have died since December 11.

The shooting is a tragedy, and I, like the President, hope to prevent more of these tragedies, but not in the United States of America and here only…unless the hundred-casualty-a-day massacres in Syria, not to mention what the Syrian Army did to boys my age, Jack Pinto’s age, and younger in the early days of the civil war, are collateral damage of some internal problem. When I hear stories of sons burying their fathers and more often of fathers burying their sons, when an FSA rebel, now deceased, has just time enough to write me, “My friends are dying faster than I can make them,” and when two dozen children dead is nothing new to a country thousands of miles away, it looks bigger than an internal problem.

Remember Newtown, but never forget that children died not only on the other side of the state but also on the other side of the world, where a debate on gun control and some kind words from the President were too little to save them.

Apr 10

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime contributor Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.)

I think I saw him first: a man lying face down on a street corner. I hit my partner in the shoulder.

We were dazed on the ride back to station. Working for an ambulance company that only did facility transfers, we were at the extreme edge of the company’s service area, returning from taking an invalid woman back to her Los Angeles home. It was a difficult transport, just toward the end, because the only access to her home was seven flights of stairs. We muscled our patient to her bed, made sure she was comfortable and taken care of, and trudged back to our ambulance.

Our radio barely worked we were so far from the repeater. My paperwork was done so there was nothing for me to do. I remember leaning my head on the window and looking staring down at the moving pavement. I stared so long I was becoming nauseous. So I adjusted and looked forward. That’s when I saw him.

“Yeah, I see him,” he said.

We were both that mix between excited and panicked. This looked like an unconscious person. A true emergency. True emergencies are something we rarely saw.

My partner radioed the location and situation in as he pulled over. The dispatcher sounded excited too. “Really?” I could hear her ask as I grabbed my clipboard and the jump kit with our supplies. I left the sliding door on the side open. My partner had yet to leave driver’s seat when I reached the patient.

As I knelt, I heard what sounded like a zipper followed by metal very quickly hitting the side of our ambulance. Thunk thunk thunk. Three, maybe more. My kneeling went to me falling on my ass and scurrying backwards. I’m not sure how I got into the ambulance but I remember falling backwards as my partner hit the gas and peering out the back to see who shot at us.

My partner radioed it in. He was yelling into the microphone. I remember telling him, “Shit. I left the jump kit.”

We were interviewed by police on what happened, paramedics checked us out, and our supervisor came to pick us up. They weren’t sure if the ambulance would become evidence since it had seven new holes in it. Either way, the company didn’t want us working for the rest of the day. Our supervisor kept asking if we wanted to talk to someone, a counselor to assess us for PTSD. But I didn’t feel traumatized, I felt dumb.

Scene safety is the first thing they teach you as an EMT. As a first responder, you’re no good to anyone if you’re hurt or dead. You, in fact, become another patient and are then risking someone else who has to retrieve and treat you. I knew this. Coupled with the years of situation awareness lessons [link post] from a paranoid (or ironically erudite) father, I shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.

Unfortunately, our patient was dead by the time police secured the area. An officer told me they probably shot at us because our uniforms. No one contacted me as to whether the shooter or shooters were caught.

I didn’t stay with that transport company much longer. Not because of the incident; I wanted to work for a 911 company, not an EMT company transferring the elderly from place to place. One where I could do primarily emergency response. I wanted more experience.

And I checked the scene for safety on every call.

Feb 20

(Today's guest post is by Austin Bodetti, who attends the Hopkins school in New Haven and has an avid interest in military history. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

From the Vietnam War to the Wars on Drugs and Terror, the United States of America has never stopped searching for pitched battles (i.e. guaranteed victories), yet even the most decisive of these battles mean nothing in terms of counterinsurgency. After the Tết Offensive, the Việt Cộng (vc) ceased to be a problem for the United States Army, but the US Army ceased to have popular support. Today is no different: the Battle of Baghdad and Fall of Kabul yielded similar results to Tết in the long term. Among all the lessons that the Vietnam War, Iraq War, and War in Afghanistan offer, nowhere in American history is there an example of the opposite, a case where guerillas had the means to defeat the counterinsurgent in pitched battle. Exceptions in warfare fall, as always, to the French.

Before the us Army fought the VC, the French Far-East Expeditionary Corps (CEFEO), led by Henri Eugène Navarre 1953–4, fought the Việt Minh. Navarre lacked the tactical genius of opponent Võ Nguyên Giáp; unlike the previous commander in chief Raoul Albin Louis Salan, Navarre had little experience in leadership. He was an intelligence officer thrown the job of leading four hundred thousand Frenchmen, Indochinese, and North Africans, and he blamed his problems on communists in Paris, who blamed the First Indochina War on him. It was this unremarkable man whom the French Fourth Republic and its American ally expected to succeed where six of France’s best generals had failed. It was he who would fail most remarkably of all.

The French high command proposed to Navarre a project that Salan had begun. In 1953’s Operation Castor, Salan had captured a large piece of Việt-Minh territory, where he established a sixteen-square-mile stronghold in a ravine outside the city Điện Biên Phủ. This base had two airstrips, enough artillery to flatten Vietnam, and a 10,800-man garrison, largely legionnaires and paratroopers.Para commander Marcel ‘Bruno’ Bigeard declared, ‘Dien Bien Phu est imprenable!’ and each of Navarre’s American advisors agreed. When Giáp attacked Điện Biên Phủ—he would have to attack since it was the honorable, French thing to do—the cefeo would be so ready that all Giáp’s men might die on the spot. The Americans liked this idea.

Neither the Americans nor Navarre expected Giáp to be an admirer of Napoléon Bonaparte, who first earned fame dragging artillery a few miles across the Alps. Giáp dragged his artillery all the way from Beijing. He shelled the French March through May 1954, when they surrendered…legionnaires, paras, and all. Giáp’s artillery, what ensured his victory, did not cross the Sino–Vietnamese border on his back. Thousands of peasants, communist and nationalist alike, offered to carry ammunition and food hundreds of miles by truck, by bicycle, and most often by foot. Plus, Giáp had forty-eight thousand soldiers, all volunteers, to the cefeo’s 10,800 professionals.

The French had better soldiers. They had better weapons. They even had Bigeard, called the greatest para in history. Decades later, Giáp would write the book People’s War, People’s Army: The Viet Cong Insurrection Manual for Underdeveloped Countries, where he described how guerillas could defeat a Western country as long as they had popular support. This support the French lacked, and five thousand reinforcements airdropped by Central-Intelligence-Agency pilots were never going to get it. The situation became so dire that the CIA proposed Operation Vulture: the US Air Force would nuke Việt-Minh positions around Điện Biên Phủ with British and French support. The French agreed. The British, who have long understood the nuances of counterinsurgency, did not. They saw that the First Indochina War was no Malayan Emergency, which the British had quelled by promising the Malays independence. The French had refused independence to the Khmers, the Laos, and the Vietnamese for the Indochina War’s eight years, and turning Điện Biên Phủ into Hiroshima would change nothing.

Like Giáp, Navarre wrote a book about his experience, where he blamed the defeat not on his own errors and those of the French in general but on communists in Paris, who continued to haunt him till his death in 1983. Bigeard, on the other hand, applied the lessons from the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in French Algeria, where he earned the love of civilians (Arab as well as French) and the respect of his enemy. Somehow, America has spent the last sixty years studying Điện Biên Phủ without learning to do the same.

Dec 05

(Today's guest post is by Matthew Timothy Bradley, a graduate student. Matthew does not claim to be an expert on the Sahel, military matters, or diplomacy, but he did once spend an afternoon in the custody of the Burkinabé military and he reads a lot. Follow Matthew on Twitter, Facebook or GooglePlus.

If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

Any native of the Sahel is by definition a tough creature, but the honey badger is the toughest of them all. In addition to raiding bee hives, the honey badger's hobbies include eating cobras and attacking Cape buffaloes. But as tough as he might be, the honey badger still can't manage to stop the jackal from feeding on his kills when the jackal puts his mind to it.

On November 16th in Ouagadougou the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, hosted tripartite talks with leadership from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and Ansar Dine, the two insurgent groups responsible for the ejection of government military and security forces from northern Mali early this spring.

Ansar Dine is the jackal to the MNLA's honey badger. Iyad Ag Ghaly founded the Ansar Dine after being denied a seat at the MNLA leadership table, and this spring Ansar Dine waited for the MNLA to do the hard work of evicting the inhabitants of Malian army garrisons before following on their heels to raise their black flag and impose sharia.

But Ansar Dine has nothing on Compaore, former friend and confidant of the most inspiring world leader you have never heard of, Thomas Sankara. The reason you have never heard of him is because his life and legacy were curtailed by an assassination organized by Compaore. When I visited Burkina Faso in the summer of 2010, I was told by a number of Burkinabé that Sankara and Compaore had been family friends and that Compaore's education had been subsidized by the Sankaras. I have yet to find documentation confirming that this was in fact the case, but I believe it fair to say that the circulation of the tale speaks a great truth regarding Compaore's reputation and integrity (such as they are).

A military confrontation in northern Mali seems imminent regardless of the outcome of the talks in Ouagadougou. But a military solution to the problem seems far less likely. To be sure, the in-the-works ECOWAS force should be able to wrest control of the Niger River basin from the MNLA, Ansar Dine, and the MUJAO. Running the three to ground in the arid region north of there is another matter, though admittedly one of lesser importance in the big picture. Larger concerns to my mind include the very real possibility of retaliatory attacks by Ansar Dine and the MUJAO in Bamako and other ECOWAS-member capitals (à la al-Shabab's attacks in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya's role in AMISOM) and the adoption of a Global War on Terror paradigm in the region in the wake of the return of government control in northern Mali.

The people of Burkina Faso have a tough row to hoe as is. Their country is the kind of place many Americans would never live, but as someone who has visited both Burkina Faso and Ohio I would much rather live in Ouagadougou than in Columbus, but I digress. Despite the fact that the majority of Burkinabé are better global citizens than squeaky-clean Middle Americans—their consumer choices amount to fonio vs. rice rather than new flat screen versus vacation abroad, so their carbon footprint is helping offset ours, and their political duties don't include paying the taxes which underwrite a nuclear arsenal which has helped keep the world under constant threat of annihilation for going on seven decades now—they have received very little in the way of acknowledgment from the U.S. or any other nation over the course of their country's half century existence, not to mention material support. So seeing War on Terror money being spent there in a manner which might end up turning Burkinabé into the targets of reprisal attacks by Islamists is a tough pill to swallow.

There is no good reason to believe that the security situation in northern Mali is going to improve in the absence of military leverage. But hard power doesn't have to mean dumb power. At this point it is still possible for the Malian government to accept that the MNLA may have legitimate political grievances and to cease rhetoric which paints the secular MNLA as a jihadi movement and for foreign governments to be at pains that foreign internal defense not turn into the creation of a future military dictatorship.

The jackals are waiting in the wings regardless.

Nov 27

(Today's guest post is by an anonymous soldier. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

In October the Defense Department’s number two official, Ashton Carter, visited some of the United States’ nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait and thanked them for their service and sacrifice before--from what can be construed from news reports--totally failing in trying to describe why these soldiers were forced to sit in the Kuwait desert away from their families and undertaking no real mission or purpose. (For the full article.)

From the average citizen, the words “thank you for your service” are the best connection a civilian can often think of to bridge the gap between their own and the military world. But from Ashton Carter, it just doesn’t cut it. Carter totally failed in his explanation of why we are keeping thousands of troops in Kuwait.  And what Carter may not know is that the bulk of those troops are being drawn from Army National Guard units, taken away from civilian jobs and civilian lives to sit in the desert for a year.

The rationale behind this deployment in Kuwait lies in a DoD strategy to keep thousands of troops in certain ‘strategic lily pads’ throughout the Middle East for a presence in those countries even while the U.S. shifts focus to Asia. Kuwait was perhaps the most notable example, as after the withdrawal from Iraq, thousands of troops were stationed in Kuwait and this report sought to keep a baseline of 13,500 troops there. A large number of those are currently Army National Guard soldiers instead of active duty ones.

So what’s with the National Guard?

The military reserve (which includes the Army and Air National Guard, as well as the reserve component of each service) used to be what was termed a “strategic reserve,” meaning, effectively, that if World War III broke out, they would be called upon to augment the active duty forces. In Vietnam the National Guard existed, but was not deployed, because the Army was able to draft people directly to the regular Army and send them to the front lines. With an all-volunteer and extremely expensive military, the reserve became a cheap way to augment active duty troops and was called-up heavily during Desert Storm in 1991. And in the recent years it has been used extensively throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the last decade, the reserve has become an “operational reserve” meaning that they are continually called up to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering the size, complexity and intensity of these wars, it is understandable that reservists have been mobilized. But Iraq is over, and there are only 60,000 service members left in Afghanistan. So why are so many reservists populating Kuwait? Why aren’t they being brought home so the deployments be done by active duty soldiers?

Well, the Defense Department sees the National Guard as a cheap way to maintain its strength. They only have to pay reserve soldiers active duty pay when they need to, and otherwise, can force them to fend for themselves in the civilian world, where their unemployment rate far exceeds that of the average citizen. They don’t have to provide nearly the training or equipping budget. Furthermore, with these basic missions the Army can ensure that the National Guard keeps its skill level moderately high and doesn’t return to its joke status of the 1980s when its only operational experience was that of returning Vietnam veterans from active duty.

The frank language of the 2013 DOD budget makes it clear, “Today’s Citizen Warriors have made a conscious decision to serve, with full knowledge that their decisions mean periodic recalls to active duty under arduous and hazardous conditions.” (2013 DOD budget summary)

Bottom line: They plan to keep deploying reservists as long as they want to. Their basic argument boils down to, “We will, because we can. You signed up for it, we will use you however we please.”

This, I would argue, is not a sustainable model and is one of the most callous pieces of bureaucratic crap I have ever read, even from the Defense Department. Nor is it a just use of our nation’s most precious resource. The Army is at least trying to think this one through, as reported in August in the Army Times. According to the article, the Army is “working hard to reach a balance in training that allows units to achieve their required readiness while remaining acceptable to families and employers.” Great idea, however, I do not believe the Army is capable of coming up with a solution that benefits anyone other than the Army.

Reservists signed up to serve, and are uniformly proud of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, bogus, involuntary activations to serve on useless deployments will drive them away. At least, it will drive away the good ones worth having.

It also does not account for civilian employers. Let me be honest about what I have seen: the Pentagon is staffed by careerist officers, political appointees and civilians who think war is a chess game to be played from a desk. They think soldiers are an input, a commodity resource. They are disconnected from reality. In their mind, USERRA rights, which prevent discrimination in hiring, promotion and firing against reservists, actually prevent discrimination against reservists and allow them to create elaborate training schedules that encompass weekdays and extra training in the summertime.

Reality check: soldiers have to have real jobs (or should), and in a rough economy, these Pentagon policy makers are totally blind to the job discrimination that reservists face. If you run a company, and you know a reservist will be deployed every five years, and you look on his resume and he hasn’t been deployed in the last 3, would you hire him?  If you have five candidates for a job, and one is in the National Guard, this means you know he will, at a minimum, be gone for two weeks every year, and probably want to take a vacation at some point too. Would you hire him?

The military will keep deploying our military reservists as long as we let them. They will hold ceremonies and say, “Thank you for your service” and keep shipping soldiers over to sit in Kuwait or Africa and then cutting off their benefits as soon as they get back home so they can get their “cost effective returns on significant DOD investment.” (This gem of a phrase was also included in the 2013 budget referring to the reservists.)

But does that make it just?