More money?

If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,    And all we know most distant and most dear,Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,    Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer? ~Gentleman Ranker, Rudyard Kipling

For the first time in my Army career, and really for the first time in my professional career, I wish I were making more money. The time I’ve been away from home for the last 4 years has taken a toll. Things that I’ve needed to do at home have fallen by the wayside during deployments, Permanent Change of Station moves, and long schools.  I just returned from 8 weeks of Army education, only to be reminded that one of my cars is in massive need of maintenance. This car sat for 3 years while I was in Germany, then endured the ridiculous winters of Fort Drum, assaulted by ice and copious amounts of road salt. Then there was the pernicious effects of amoral auto-parts dealers who take advantage of the wives of deployed Army husbands by intentionally damaging parts of the car during routine oil changes in order to garner more business. Yes, that last part happened.

My weeks at work are too long, and too inflexible. I cannot simply take a day off as most can at jobs in which they’ve earned days off. I have to go through the military leave process, a process in which a supervisor of commander has ultimate authority. There is no right to a day off in the Army. because of the extreme operational tempo and lack of manpower, things like doctor appointments, car maintenance, and simply enjoying life often go by the wayside. Sometimes I find myself so busy multitasking, that I wake up at 0300 a.m.  thinking about these things, unable to fall back asleep. There are a million things to be done at work and at home.

This morning I jumped in my wife’s car and found the battery dead. Either that or the starter’s gone. I tried charging the battery from my other car, but this failed. It did however drain my other car’s battery. Yesterday I tried to bring my car in for a brake job and an oil change and was told I’d have to bring it to the dealership on Friday. On the way back the engine began overheating. Pretty sure the coolant evaporated from the car sitting in the Hawaii sun for 8 weeks while I was gone. Guess I should have checked. A black comedy of failure.

And for the first time, I wanted more money than what a full-time job was providing me. I wake up at 0430 every workday. I’m doing physical training at 0600. I get home at 1730. I get home earlier than many others do.  I do this 5 days a week, and if I go to the field, I may work 30 or more consecutive 12 hour shifts, all without the luxury of returning to my own bed after shift or even sipping a simple beer. I’ve spent months and years away from home and things deteriorated while I was gone. Frankly, I’m tired of it. One young Lieutenant in my office is worked to the bone.  I actually feel the scope of my responsibilities and performance outstrip what I am paid. But that’s not really why I want more money. I want to make more money so I don’t have to worry everyday. I want to make more money so I can concentrate on my job.  Plus I’d like to have some energy to enjoy my off-time. Right now my time off is spent just as a starving man spends his time when he finds a pile of food: He gorges himself on what he’s lacked for so long. For me, I’ve lacked significant decompression time. So I do none of the things I used to do. When I first arrived at my unit, I experienced severe burnout, the likes of which I have never felt in my life. I lost all interest in reading the news, in politics, in anything to do with the Army. I’d just returned from Afghanistan a few months prior, and moving to Hawaii added a huge amount of stress. A person is expected to perform flawlessly when they show up to a new unit. I’ve never seen it work that way, though. And I work at one of the busiest units I have ever seen. So many of the people around me are burned out. Many officers want to leave the Army, an unusual phenomena as from my experience officers are usually happy-go-lucky, All Army types. Lifers, so to speak.

I get my first look at E7 in June of next year. But the centralized board promotion system for senior NCOs often seems like a crap shoot. E7 would be a significant pay increase. I hope I make it, though maybe that rank is too much for me based on my time in the Army. In any case, some say that the minute money is the reason for being a Soldier, it’s time to leave. Not sure I agree, but I understand the point.

At this point, the military is taking more from me than I feel I’m getting. I need for freedom and flexibility, not only more money. At the 8 week school from where I just returned, I need to do  “risk assessment” paperwork and send it up through the chain of command, just so I could go hiking on the mountain trails a few miles away from my barracks. Supervisors everywhere in the Army need to inspect Soldiers’ cars before every long weekend, filling out paperwork to document the inspection. I need to do online training and fill out paperwork just to drive beyond a certain distance from my post. That’s not freedom to me.

Military discipline is enforced first and foremost by the employment of fear. This, too, takes a toll. One grows weary of worrying about walking on the grass, having his hair touching his ears, or being one minute late to a formation. And in the Army, these things take precedence over many important skills that a Soldier may have.

Pride, envy, cooperation and competition

I graduate next week from the Army’s Advanced Leadership Course. I’ll have been here 56 days at that point.  I’ve learned a lot, and was successful; I graduated on the Commandant’s List, which is the top 20% academically of the over 200 NCOs in my class. The cadre evaluated our oral and written communication skills, as well as critical thinking and leadership ability.

But one thing in particular bothered me after a few weeks here. The competition between members of my platoon after about two weeks degenerated into back-biting and jealousy. One person told me that he felt our instructor showed favoritism toward me because on several occasions the instructor indicated to the class that I was doing well. I tried to quell the subtle and growing animosity by some by remaining humble and being helpful to them whenever I could. This mostly worked except for a few, who became particularly spiteful when they learned they were not chosen for Commandant’s List. I myself did not make it a goal to be on the list, only to do the best I could on each project and to project a personality and skill that would make people want me on their team, should they have to choose. The Commandant’s List was not only a construction of the cadre, but also of peer reports on the most capable in the class.

To be sure, there were many in the class who did not express jealousy or envy, which I find to be one of the most repugnant emotions in existence, particularly when displayed by men. Jealousy is an open admission of weakness and lack of self-confidence. if I find it growing in myself, I smash it down and look in the mirror to see the ways I can improve myself as opposed to wasting energy picking at someone else. Of course there are times that criticism of others is valid and needed. but tact and courtesy should be employed in those cases.

Looking back at my younger days and considering the effects of competition, I realize one of the reasons I did not perform well in junior high school was that I hated competition with strangers. I preferred a feeling of cooperation and camaraderie. Perhaps it was because I was searching for a family, a clan. At some point I had to toughen up. I began lifting weights and became very physically active. Slowly, my aversion to competition faded.

The first really difficult thing I ever did as an adult was attend the US Border Patrol Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. There, I was surrounded by people who’d had much more exposure to competition than I. Many people at the Academy were military veterans; I had a college degree and worked at a corner store at that point. Certainly nothing that challenged me, or made me take pride in myself. In the first half of my time in the Academy, I struggled. I didn’t put in the needed study time that’s required to learn a foreign language, as well as federal law. But at some point, things clicked, and I shot up in my class ranking in language skill. That was a turning point in my life. Never again was I to struggle in any academic setting.

Colonel Jeff Cooper said that pride was a key component in a good soldier. I agree. Pride drives us to despise being last. But I still place a high degree of importance on sportsmanship and humility. When we lose, we should gracefully give credit to our competition. This builds the team, the clan, the family. In the end we make ourselves more successful in doing this. Too much pride breeds envy, the feeling that somehow we deserve more than perhaps we do.

Quick post on the Islamic State

Won’t have time to delve deeply into the problem of the rampaging Islamic State. Suffice for now to say that my way of dealing with them will surprise many. What to do? Ignore them for a year or so. Force Europe to do something. Europe will do something. Don’t doubt that in the secret cabinet meetings in Berlin and London, the discussion orbits around how to get America to do what is both distasteful and needed. Per usual. Then they can point fingers when things get nasty.

I’ve said before, time to pull back and let the kids go to bed without supper. Deprivation feeds appreciation.

I yet live

I’m still here. Currently at the Army’s Advanced Leader’s Course in Arizona. Needless to say, I have a lot of writing and explaining to do, as to my whereabouts in the last two months. That’s all forthcoming. For now, let’s just say from time to time the monks of old found it necessary to withdraw from the world to reflect on their own beliefs. 

Posts to begin anew in a couple of weeks when I’m back home. Until then, keep being skeptical of modernity.

Blogs, Democracy, free speech, and The Joker

 

Recently, I banned a commentator from this blog. It was the first time that I’ve ever had to do this. And I recently boycotted another blog, which I have commented on for several years, and run by a friend of mine,because the same person I banned trolled there to the extant that the posts were monopolized by hatefulness, repeated and unwarranted antisemitism, as well as personal attacks on other frequenters of the blog. I declared that I would no longer comment on the blog until the offender was banned.

Several people who frequent my blog expressed disgust at the offender, who goes by the screen name, apollonian. Some hinted that I should ban him, and another poster stopped posting after apollonian stated he hoped they “suffered”. That’s when I decided to deploy the ban hammer.

I felt badly about boycotting my friend’s blog. First, I like several of the other posters, who also comment on this blog. I learn a lot from them. I do not blog and comment on other blogs because I think I know everything, even though my blog covers a wide variety of topics–more than on which anyone could be called an expert. I blog and comment to learn. Sometimes I will have a growing interest in a topic, and blogging becomes a way to learn by teaching, which is widely considered an excellent way to learn. Mostly I blog to make myself less stupid. Secondly, I felt badly because in some way it could appear that I am trying to force my friend’s hand in banning someone he does not wish to ban (he has a no ban rule).  However this is not the case. It is perfectly accepted practice to walk out of public forums in protest to what one party feels is an abuse of the forum itself. All the way from town hall meetings, to UN councils, this is standard practice.

Even in democratic forums, not everyone is welcome.  Democracy is not the abolition of common sense in exchange for tolerating all behavior. Democracy is rule of the majority, and to say it is anything else is to expect too much. Democracy is quickly hijacked by forces of idiocy and evil when those on the other side view force as inherently evil.  Some people refuse to ban others from blogs out of a “democratic spirit”. In the case of apollonian, this kind of thinking is like Batman letting the Joker run Gotham out of a sense of fairness, while everyone is begging the Dark Knight to take action.  The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Rises,  are two of my favorite movies of all time, for several reasons.  They analyze very well how democracy needs someone who’s going to step up, even when it means they won”t be popular and what can happen when envy takes hold and the mob rules.

And besides, a blog or forum is not a democracy. Allowing people who are disruptive, hateful, or senseless to run rampant out of a sense of ideology just ruins the experience for everyone else. I used to play a lot of table top wargames while growing up. Entire summer days were spent in this manner, and everyone had fun. If someone showed up that lessened the fun for everyone else, that person wouldn’t get invited back. A blog should not be taken so seriously as to equate to the politics of a nation. No one’s freedom is being denied them when they get banned from a blog.

We can see what this attitude of “open mindedness” has wrought for America. For decades now, those who fundamentally opposed what made America so strong, its industrial and military might, its meritocracy, its familial bonds, those people have been allowed to run rampant and spread the propaganda that all ideas and cultures have equal value.  But I’m going with Carlyle’s Great Man Theory. Great societies are not created and maintained by the random actions of a directionless populace. At some point, the Imperator is called to do his duty. That man is the one others look to emulate and set the example. America was fortunate enough to have been founded by a quiver full of great men who knew that liberty requires action. I believe the Founding Fathers would be appalled at the level of tolerance we show in America. Even Jefferson, that man of the people, knew when crushing action was needed, just as is recorded when he decided to take a military course against the Barbary Pirates. Jefferson writes:

protect our commerce & chastise their insolence—by sinking, burning or destroying their ships & Vessels wherever you shall find them

 

Boko Haram is nothing new

For almost three years, myself and other intelligence analysts, working in a 10th Mountain Division battalion S2 (Security and Intelligence) produced multiple unclassified briefs for the commander concerning the Nigerian Terrorist organization known as Boko Haram.

Boko Haram recently made headlines for holding over 200 school girls captive and threatening to sell them in to slavery. 

Boko Haram was ignored by the media and the State Department, because it was not politically expedient to mention that yet another Islamist terror organization was growing in power. This year in particular Boko Haram set fired to several villages in Nigeria, destroying hundreds of houses and killing dozens of people. Boko Haram’s destruction of a Nigerian air force base in December went almost unnoticed by the media. In one report, I noted that the Nigerian government was incapable of annihilating Boko Haram and that the violence was growing more intense, despite the Nigerian government’s attempts to destroy the terror group. The group even drove an armored personnel carrier during an attack.

Yet the US State Department waited for years to place Boko Haram on its list of terror organizations. It certainly wouldn’t have fit the “al-Qaeda is on the run” narrative” that was so popular at the time, to announce to the world that a powerful terrorist group had arisen in Africa, especially during the time that America was busy obliterating the Libyan government and handing over that country’s hinterlands to brigands and jihadists, cheering the fall of Mubarak in Egypt only to see chaos reign there after his fall, and then seeing US representatives slain in the Benghazi debacle.

Sadly, this isn’t the half of the African and Asian stories, where multiple democracies are falling to pieces. The American withdrawal from the world is leaving a vacuum in its wake. As much as many dream that the world is a better place without a strong hegemon, The Coming Anarchy will see it differently. We need not, and we should not, endeavor to fix every problem with democracy, for democracy, like pie, is only as tasty as its ingredients. But the chaos that even now has begun to swallow Africa and parts of Asia will result in the deaths of thousands, and quite possibly millions. Doing something when we have the chance to stop mass killings is the responsibility of those that are given much. To do otherwise is decadence and cowardice.

Mangina alert

How many times do I have to repeat it? This type of behavior will not get a guy more access to sex. Even the slingers of cliche know it: Girls like bad boys. Bad boys are more likely to shoot a home intruder brandishing a crowbar in the face than meekly negotiate an unsatisfactory resolution.

As Mark Steyn asked. Can we trade these guys for the girls held captive by Boko Haram?