Predicting the Future with General Conway
June 12, 2009
Ed. Note: This post is from Jarrod Chlapowski, a U.S. Army veteran who recently joined the Human Rights Campaign to consult on ending the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Having been trained as a Korean linguist and cryptologic voice interceptor, he served in Korea, supporting the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion on more than 300 sensitive reconnaissance operation missions. Chlapowski chose not to re-enlist in the Army because of the excessive burden of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.
At his speech today before the National Press Club 'Marine Corps Operations: Today and in 2025', Commandant of the Marine Corps General James T. Conway stated that a). DADT is a law; b). the military - specifically the Marine Corps - will follow the law if DADT is repealed; and c). there's a lot on the DOD's plate right now, and Conway would hope whoever is making the decisions regarding repeal of DADT would recognize that fact. These bullets match almost verbatim some of Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen's own statements regarding DADT (two wars going on for six years, etc., etc.) , and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughhead has stated "The position I have on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': It's the law of the land. We abide by the law of the land." In other words, the Pentagon is not ready to deal with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' publicly unless and until it is forced to by law. Which of course isn't likely to happen any time soon without the Pentagon's support. So, nothing new, unfortunately, even though one can presume a 2025 Marine Corps will be one without DADT. What does General Conway say about future Marine operations? First, Conway believes one of the primary issues the Marine Corps faces is meeting the demands of a military focused on counter-insurgency while still maintaining the ability to fight a conventional war. More specifically, training marines to function in a swarm-like mentality that has been proven effective in counter-insurgency missions can cause decreased focus on training necessary to fight the more traditional ground wars of foxholes and front lines. Finding a compromise between the two training styles is indeed a heavy workload, and may give some pause in pursuing repeal of DADT. Keep in mind, however, that this has been an ongoing debate since we experienced one of our first encounters with asymmetrical warfare in Vietnam, and is likely not going to be solved anytime soon. Second, Conway expects the Marines to be completely withdrawn from Iraq by Spring of 2010, barring any unforeseen difficulties. Now, unless proliferation issues in North Korea and/or Iran force us into full-scale conflict, this means we will only have one war left that supposedly is a deterrent to repealing DADT. Perhaps now is a good time to prepare for possible repeal? The Q&A session also provides interesting tidbits, such as the average rank of the Marine Corps (67 percent junior enlisted) and the most common cause of casualties in Afghanistan - 80% IED's. What's the easiest way to prevent IED casualties? A good relationship with the local populace, Conway says, as they will be more likely to point out IED's, make it difficult for the 'bad guys' to set up IED's in the first place, and provide better intelligence. What's required to set up that good relationship? You got it: linguists. And yet somehow it is in the best interest of the military to fire Dan Choi, Jason Knight, Stephen Benjamin, Alastair Gamble, Robert Hicks, Ian Finkenbinder, etc. etc, etc. Conway ended the Q&A stating "the safest place in the world is within a battalion of marines." One would hope that battalion includes a few linguists, gay or otherwise.