Streetwise Professor

January 17, 2010

Farce Protection

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 4:39 pm

The Department of Defense released a report on the Fort Hood shootings.  The public version of the Report is deeply disappointing.  There is no discussion of the key issue: namely, the role that political correctness played in permitting Major Hasan to be advanced in rank, and assigned to counsel soldiers despite (a) the plain-as-the-nose-on-his-face evidence of his radicalization and his sympathy with jihadism, and (b) his p*ss poor performance.

There is evidently a restricted annex to the report that discusses how Hasan was retained and advanced in the Army. This annex evidently blames eight superiors for letting Hasan slide:

The review found that Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, repeatedly failed to meet basic officer standards for physical fitness, appearance and work ethic, but that superiors allowed his medical career to advance.

“Had those failings been properly adjudicated, he wouldn’t have progressed,” and could have been forced out of the armed services, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review’s findings had not been made public.

Instead, the investigation found that for much of Hasan’s career, supervisors were blinded by his resume, believing they had found a rare medical officer: someone with a stellar undergraduate record, prior service in the infantry and intimate knowledge of the Islamic faith.

“The Army thought it had hit the trifecta,” the official said.

. . . .

During his residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, from 2003 to 2007, Hasan was counseled about improperly discussing his religion, the official familiar with the review said. “The feedback he got seemed to be effective,” the official said. “[The proselytizing] stopped.”

But Hasan was a difficult person to work with and at other times pushed back forcefully against counseling. At one point, the review found, a supervisor insisted that he see a Muslim psychiatrist.

Hasan refused, saying his religious views were none of the Army’s business. The supervisor backed down, a decision the review found was a mistake.

Following his Walter Reed residency, Hasan won a military fellowship to continue his studies for two more years. But the review concludes that the honor was intended for high-achieving doctors, so Hasan should instead have been sent into the field or pushed to correct his conduct and behavior.

Despite the failings, the review did not conclude that it was a mistake to send Hasan to Ft. Hood and found no clues that he would become violent. [Emphasis added.]

All this raises the question: Why?  Why was he allowed to slide despite PPP?  Why was he given an honor for high-achievers, when he was an underperformer?  Why was his stridency overlooked?

Political correctness is one obvious candidate answer, but nothing in the public reporting on the issue suggests that the military has confronted that issue head on.

Indeed, one of those co-chairing the group that authored the report, retired Admiral Vern Clark, was specifically asked about this at a press conference. (Starting about the 34:45 mark of the video.)  Clark was obviously peeved at the question, and refused to answer anything about his “personal views” on the conclusions rendered in the restricted annex.  The committee co-chair, former Secretary of the Army Togo West, said such questions were “out of bounds.”

This suggests that the military is still not willing to confront honestly issues of PC; they are certainly unwilling to do so publicly.  Indeed, the press conference provides additional evidence of their refusal to deal honestly with this issue.  At another point in the press conference, West was asked “isn’t the immediate problem Islamic self-radicalization?”  (25:15 mark.)  West refused to acknowledge this, saying that “the immediate problem is any kind of self-radicalization,”  and said that “we” are concerned with actions, not motivations.  He then discussed a hypothetical about a radical fundamentalist Christian.

Well, the whole point of this exercise was supposedly how to improve the military’s ability to identify threats.  And in a world of scarce resources, prioritizing threats is essential.  Observing motivation is an important element in both identifying and prioritizing threats.  So is paying attention to obvious empirical evidence, such as the disproportionate (not exclusive, but disproportionate) representation of radical Muslims among those who have committed terrorist acts–including terrorist acts directed against the US military by Americans, e.g., the individual who threw a grenade into a tent of officers during the Iraq invasion, and the shooter at the Arkansas recruiting station.

West’s response refuses to acknowledge these realities.  Indeed, he seems at pains to suppress any discussion of them.  Instead, he adopts an attitude that reflects the same mindset as the Department of Homeland Security’s warnings that the gravest threat of domestic terrorism comes from disaffected right wingers; a two handed, “radical Muslims on the one hand, radical Christians on the other hand” attitude.  This does not inspire confidence that the issue of political correctness has been identified and addressed.  Instead, it strongly suggests that political correctness is still in the saddle.

I would also suggest that the whole concept of “self-radicalization” is a politically correct dodge.  It is clear that there were other individuals who contributed to Hasan’s radicalization.  He made choices to become radical, but he did not do so in a vacuum.  The phrase “self-radicalization” makes it sound like something going on completely within somebody’s head, and therefore difficult for outsiders to observe or understand.  It suggests that observing an individual’s associations and contacts are not useful in identifying risks.  How convenient.

So, maybe there is something in the restricted annex that deals honestly with the role that political correctness played in giving Hasan multiple passes, and with how to address the particular risks associated with Islamic terrorism.  But the responses (verbal and non-verbal) of Clark and West both strongly suggest that these issues are indeed, to use West’s words, “out of bounds.”

The whole point of this exercise was supposed to be about how to improve force protection.  Indeed, the title of the damn report is “Protecting the Force.”  Pray tell, how is refusing to grapple with difficult issues contributing to protection of our service personnel?  Thus, rather than getting at the root of the issue, it seems that this report will hang it on the oversights of a few field grade officers.  Moreover, the public report and statements of its authors strong suggest that there was no serious effort to ask whether these oversights were the predictable consequence of careerist pressures directly traceable to an atmosphere of political correctness in which anyone raising questions about the potential dangers posed by a Muslim officer faced career crucifixion.

This is of a piece with the administration’s immediate response to the Xmas junkbomber and myriad other actions.  It does not make us–or our military personnel–any safer.  To the contrary, it creates risks.  We–and our servicemen and -women–deserve far better.

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