The idea that the United States national security leadership has not been up to snuff lately is no secret. In a series of probing articles, Liberty Nation has consistently revealed the truly disastrous planning and execution of withdrawal operations in Afghanistan. The ham-fisted approach to what could have been a measured and orderly withdrawal was anything but. On August 26, the “coordinated, synchronized and rehearsed” planning turned deadly as 11 Marines, one Army soldier, and one Navy Corpsman were killed by a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport.
When one courageous Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion (AITB) commander at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, took to social media to demand accountability from the senior military leadership for the mess they’ve made of the Afghanistan withdrawal, he was removed and will resign from the Corps. In a video posted on his social media following the news that a suicide bomber killed 13 of Scheller’s fellow service members, he demanded of the senior military leadership of the United States that they do what he was clearly willing to do – put your career and everything you hold dear on the line, be accountable.
Chain of Command Trust Issues
Lt. Col. Scheller was not some disgruntled low-level, poor performer. He was a commander of a battalion and a veteran of combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This officer was most assuredly in line for promotion to full colonel. He has 17 years of service, three short of eligibility for retirement pension and benefits. The field grade officer knew what was going to happen when he spoke out. In fact, when relieved of his command, he said:
“My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes. I appreciate the opportunities AITB command provided. America has many issues … but it’s my home … it’s where my three sons will become men. America is still the light shining in a fog of chaos. When my Marine Corps career comes to an end, I look forward to a new beginning. My life’s purpose is to make America the most lethal and effective foreign diplomacy instrument. While my days of hand-to-hand violence may be ending … I see a new light on the horizon.”
The chain of command is not simply a military tradition. Following the chain of command is a fundamental tenet of a successfully functioning armed force. Adhering fastidiously to it is critical to good order and discipline. When someone goes outside that chain to air a grievance, they do so at their peril. And consequently, as Fox News reported, “Scheller ‘was relieved of command by Colonel David Emmel, Commanding Officer of School of Infantry-East, due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,’ said Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger in a statement Friday [Aug. 27] evening.”
As the New York Post reported, Stenger went on to say, “There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.” But wait, that’s the equivalent of Catch 22, officers who use the “forum” to air their concerns depend on an essential trust in the leadership to be competent leaders; the very lack of trust which prompts Scheller’s and others’ concern. In an NBC News poll, 62% of those surveyed said they disapprove of how the commander-in-chief is handling the Afghanistan retreat. Only 25% approved.
A Failing Commander-in-Chief
“Today, President Biden’s overall approval has taken a turn for the worse due to his awful job performance rating on Afghanistan,’ said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, according to USA Today. ” You don’t have to be a national security wonk or Marine with combat experience to understand the mess Scheller was concerned about.”
Again, Lt. Col. Scheller isn’t the only messenger sounding the alarm that something is very wrong with our nation’s leadership at the highest level. Another military commander issued his own warning back in May. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier self-published a book, Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest and the Unmaking of the American Military. Writing for the Colorado Newsline, Case Woodruff explained Lohmeier’s book was a warning to the Defense Department leadership of a “current radical narrative about systemic racism in America” and an “overt support for the progressive, Marxist worldview.” This field-grade officer, too, was relieved of command and subsequently retired.
Rather than listening and attempting to understand these messengers, the institutional military relieved them of duty. This behavior has not always been the case among military men and their superiors. In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed large cuts in the military. General Douglas MacArthur marched into the Oval Office for what turned out to be a heated meeting. History.com recounts the exchange as MacArthur remembered it:
“[MacArthur] spoke recklessly and said something to the general effect that when we lost the next war, and an American boy, lying in the mud with an enemy bayonet through his belly and an enemy foot on his dying throat, spat out his last curse, ‘I wanted the name not to be MacArthur, but Roosevelt.’ After the outburst, MacArthur on the spot offered his resignation as Army chief of staff, but Roosevelt refused.”
But, alas, the current top leaders in the White House, the Pentagon, and at the combatant command level are no MacArthurs. And to borrow from James Thurber, Biden is as much like Franklin Roosevelt as the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion looks like Calvin Coolidge.* It’s time to stop firing and to start listening to those who dare to speak out against the current incompetent and sycophantic, yes-men masquerading as wartime leaders. We need officers like Scheller and Lohmeier who are willing to lay their careers on the line for their convictions.
*The actual quotation is from Thurber’s Fables for Our Time and reads, “Even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion looks like Calvin Coolidge.”
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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