Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

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Weekend Reader: Army Cuts, Afghan Interpreters, and a Little H.G. Wells

by Janine Davidson
April 25, 2014

army soldier night vision A U.S. Army soldier from 3/1 AD Task Force Bulldog uses his night vision equipment before an early morning joint patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers in a village in Kherwar district in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan, May 22, 2012. (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters)


A difficult time for Army’s mid-career officers and senior NCOs… the Army announces that it will identify at least 2,000 current captains and majors for early retirement. Roughly 19,000 will be screened in total. This follows programs targeted at cutting senior NCOs, whose pace accelerated rapidly  this year. Nearly all those being screened have seen multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

…But not exactly an easy time for cadets and new LTs. On the other end of the spectrum, aspiring officers are now thinking hard about the prospect of a peacetime force – and the lack of a combat service patch. As Col. Robert Killebrew at CNAS observes, “It’s not so much a thirst for glory as a professional impulse. When you’re a soldier, if the game is going to be played, you want to be there.” But as Maj. Crispin Burke points out, the West Point class of 1976 felt the same way – including newly minted 2nd Lt. Ray Odierno.  And anyway, officers compete for promotion among their peer groups, none of whom will have the level of combat experience of those of the last decade.

Visa applications matter of life-and-death for Afghan interpreters. Congress has raised the authorization on Afghan visas to 8,750 – but only 1,982 have been issued. The same thing happened in Iraq: only 6,500 out of 25,000 were issued before authorization expired. Rusty Bradley in War on the Rocks and Paul Solotaroff in Men’s Journal both make passionate cases for the safe emigration of these interpreters, whose lives and families are in grave danger from the Taliban. But as Solotaroff writes, “Every foreign service officer has to do a rotation as a visa stamper, and none of them wants to be the guy who lets a hijacker in.” Yet in Bradley’s view, “We trusted them with mission details, automatic weapons, and our lives…Who could be more deserving of the right to live, work, and enjoy our freedoms than them?”

“It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you, Mr. Stalin.” Off topic but too strange not to note: a fascinating 1934 interview between H.G. Wells and Joseph Stalin, published at the time in the New Statesman. The wide-ranging conversation dwells especially on Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (contemporary to the time) – and receives Stalin’s qualified praise.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Bradford

    COL Killebrew – it’s a thirst for glory.

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