The Cost of Speaking Out

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Troops assigned to the International Security Assistance Force gather in Kabul Feb. 5 for the weekly memorial service to honor those killed in Afghanistan

So what happens to a military officer who speaks out against the grain? It’s an apt question, given Army Lieut. Colonel Daniel Davis’ recent treatise (or was it a screed?) in Armed Forces Journal on what he perceives as the U.S.’s failing effort in Afghanistan.

It certainly has generated lots of back-and-forthing:

“I did read the article,” Lieut. General Curtis Scaparrotti, a top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Wednesday. But he took issue with any suggestion that the effort to train Afghan troops, so American forces can leave by 2015, is faltering. “They’re going to be good enough as we build them to secure their country and to counter the insurgency that they’re dealing with now.”

But over at his NightWatch blog, ex-longtime Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John McCreary thinks, on balance, Davis is more right than wrong. “Davis confirmed judgments published by NightWatch during the past several years — that NATO forces control mainly the ground they physically occupy; Afghan forces will remain loyal until they must defend themselves at which time they plan to change sides, regardless of the ethical virtues of the central government and the quality of their training; and that Taliban and other anti-Kabul forces are biding time until NATO departs, at which time they will reclaim the land they own.”

What does igniting a controversy like this do to a military officer’s career? Bill Murphy Jr. tries to answer that question over at Stars and Stripes:

“…Bureaucracies do not like dissidents and whistleblowers,” said retired Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, now a senior national security studies fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. “There is very little you can do to change that. … I don’t think this is specific to the military.”