The U.S. Military Needs to Listen – Not Just Talk

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The Washington Post‘s opinion section thought enough of recent remarks made by the Navy’s top spokesman to make them the lead item on its front page Easter morning.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the chief of naval information, discussed a Battleland favorite: the drifting apart of U.S. society from the military forces that defend it. He says the military is partly to blame, and needs to engage more honestly with its citizenry:

It troubles me to see military doctrine, plans and operational memoranda that refer to public communication as some sort of weapon that can be fired downrange. It is not. Rather, it is an obligation to explain ourselves, to put into context what we are doing and why. We live in a participatory culture, a post-audience world. People don’t just want access to information anymore. They want access to conversation. They want to be heard. To take part in that conversation and guide it, at times, requires a humility that we don’t always possess. It requires us to listen as well as speak, to solicit as well as inform, to admit our shortcomings and accept sometimes brutally frank feedback.

We asked Kirby, who had served as spokesman for Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, why he had taken on the issue. “I felt that we in the military had, through time and the press of war, allowed ourselves to become distant from American society, and maybe even to become comfortable in that distance. And I think that’s dangerous,” he responded. “It’s important to remember that we are public servants, first and foremost, and that we owe the public our gratitude as much as they believe they owe us theirs.”

Full thing’s worth a read, here.