PJ Lifestyle has just posted my latest piece, a response to James Fallows’ cover story this month in The Atlantic.

Fallows makes a long argument and although my response is also pretty long there are a couple points I wasn’t able to get to.
One of the things Fallows laments is that producers of television and movies "lack the comfortable closeness with the military that would allow them to question its competence as it would any other institution."
While there may be something to that argument – has any actor at any point in the last 30 years ever worn a beret correctly on screen? – it also begs a number of other questions. What other institutions are being questioned in popular culture?
I don’t recall too many movies or television shows criticizing or poking fun at the EPA (aside from Ghostbusters). What about the Department of Education? Did I miss the last big-budget IRS movie?
We lack a "comfortable closeness," of the kind Fallows describes, with any number of our government institutions and some of them – the TSA for example – we’d rather see more hands-off.
The other point I didn’t address in my piece is the notion that the "professional military’s leadership and judgement" hasn’t been subject to criticism since 9/11. To support this idea he quotes Tom Ricks, who says "hundreds of Army generals were deployed to the field, and the available evidence indicates that not one was relieved by the military brass for combat ineffectiveness."
This sounds a lot like an argument. Not a single general was relieved for combat ineffectiveness – although some were relieved for other misconduct – so there must be something fishy going on. But when you delve into Ricks’ argument a bit moreyou’ll find that, aside from General Tommy Franks and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, he can’t find any generals he thinks should have been relieved. And the evidence for relieving those two is, perhaps, based mostly on hindsight.
Ricks’ analysis also puts the lie to Fallows’ claim that our military in the post-9/11 era has been immune to criticism. Ricks’ entire raison d’etre is to criticize the military, and in his writings and at his blogyou find no shortage of others willing to do the same. He is infamous in the military for writing things that either get people fired or get them in trouble. And I have a much longer story about his performance at a press symposium during my year at Command and General Staff College that I’ll write about another day.
Fallows is a great writer, and his essay has inspired a lot of thoughtful analysis in the weeks since it was posted. But there is so much about the military he just gets plain wrong. No doubt that is in part due to the fact that he, as Audie Cockings recently wrote, has no cred.
I encourage you to read Fallows’ argument and mine and make up your own mind.
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