Truth to power


There is not much of a tradition of speaking “truth to power” in the military, any military, making the occasions when it happens both rare and valuable.

The latest incident, in the US involves armour officer Lt. Col. Daniel Davis. Writing in the much respected Armed Forces Journal, Davis says he spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with US troops and their Afghan partners. “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground,” he says in Truth, lies and Afghanistan. “Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.”

He is not the first to note the disconnect between the “situation on the ground” and wishful thinking in the military command and political sphere. Two books that aver the same message is General Rupert Smith’s “The Utility of Force – The Art of War in the Modern World”, (Penguin, London, 2006) and “Victory among people: Lessons from countering insurgency and stabilising fragile states” by General David Richards and Dr Greg Mills [editors] (Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, London, 2011)

A strong lament, made by all, is that Western politicians and military leaders have decidedly failed NATO’s soldiers in Afghanistan for a decade by NOT determining an end-state. Thus NATO’s policy, strategy and action there lack foundation. There is no “strategic narrative” and as a result Western publics see their soldiers dying for nothing.

Speaking to Stars & Stripes, an official periodical, Davis said “I ultimately felt a moral obligation to take action and do all in my power and ability — within the confines of Army regulations — to try and help those who had no voice,” adding that he struggled with whether he should be a “team player” for the greater good or whether honour, integrity and personal courage required him to act. “I know it sounds corny to some but that is genuinely what I believe.”

Davis writes with gravitas, I urge you to read what he has to say.