The United States has, without a doubt, the strongest military in the world. The U.S. military is based on its doctrine, leadership and technology. Although other countries, like China and Russia, could create havoc against the U.S. military, the U.S. military still retains a measure of strategic and technological superiority on a one-to-one scenario. However, the U.S. military is losing its edge and it has to do with failures in U.S. leadership. This loss in leadership has caused the U.S. military to lose its luster.
The most obvious example of the diminishing capability of the U.S. military is Bowe Bergdahl, who was dishonorably discharged and demoted to private for desertion and misbehavior. Technically, the military judge’s ruling must still be approved up the chain of command, but it is unlikely to be substantially changed.
Bowe Bergdahl admitted to deserting from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009. There is evidence his desertion resulted in serious injuries to fellow soldiers. A national debate about whether what he endured during his captivity by the Taliban was punishment for his crime or not rages on. That is a debate that will continue for years.
What is not in dispute is that Bowe Bergdahl deserted while in a combat zone. There is no ambiguity there, as he himself admitted as much as he entered his guilty plea. The fact that Bergdahl is not facing any jail time for desertion is proof enough that the U.S. military chain of command has broken down. There is just no excuse for desertion in a combat zone. That the chain of command is wondering if captivity by the Taliban is punishment enough proves, again, that the U.S. military has lost sight of its roots.
The issue is that the chain of command, from the top to the bottom, has devolved into the lowest common denominator. Honor and responsibility have given way to politics and niceties. There is no room for politics nor for politically correct debate in any military. Those are for the citizens and the political class to have. The role of the military is to safeguard the sovereignty of the country and protect its interests. Politics and social experiments do not belong in that role.
But Bergdahl is just one example of the U.S. military trend towards mediocrity over the last few years.
There are numerous soldiers, seamen, airmen and members of the officer’s core who have committed crimes in many jurisdictions. This weekend’s shooting in Texas is another example of the lowest common denominator taking over the U.S. military. Although the details are still sketchy, Devin Patrick Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for beating his wife and a child. Although the military sentenced Kelly to a year in the brig, the fact that Kelly was accepted into the military should raise some questions. But, if Bergdahl and Kelly were the only example to the failures of command then today’s discussion would be moot.
Consider the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collisions with commercial ships earlier this year. Two sophisticated military ships colliding with commercial ships is ludicrous by any standard. The U.S. Navy agrees, it produced a report recently stating that the two collisions “were avoidable.”
Multi-million-dollar ships – about $700 million for both ships – demand a professional crew not just because of their price tags, but because of the destructive power they possess. Yet, the two ships, in a span of a month, or two, collided with other ships. That is a clear failure in leadership, from the top to the watchman ensuring the ships do not collide with other shipping. That these collisions happened is not only a wakeup call for the country, but they should be alarm klaxons warning of dangerous seas ahead.
Bowe Berghdal is the result of a deteriorating U.S. military system. That Berghdal was effectively given a slap-on-the-wrist for desertion proves that the U.S. military command structure doesn’t understand how far down the U.S. military has deteriorated.