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Firing on Air Force Kind of a Drag on Navy Career
January 8, 2013 9:36 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. Senate has declined to promote Captain Timothy W. Dorsey to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Dorsey, currently serving as Navy Reserve inspector general, was involved in one of the more bizarre friendly fire incidents in U.S. Military History, intentionally shooting down a U.S. Air Force jet during military exercises some 25 years ago.

On September 22, 1987, then Lieutenant Dorsey intentionally fired on and destroyed a U.S. Air Force RF-4C reconnaissance aircraft, forcing the two Air Force pilots to eject. While a subsequent investigation found Doresy guilty of committing an "illogical act" and the Navy banned him from flying, he continued to enjoy a long career in military intelligence. He was nominated for promotion on Febuary 9, 2012. The Department of Defense claims the Navy did not provide full information about Dorsey's past. Despite this recent hang-up in his career path, Dorsey looks forward to being confirmed by the Senate when his nomination is resubmitted.
posted by kjars (75 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
While a subsequent investigation found Doresy guilty of committing an "illogical act"

Highly.
posted by thelonius at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


rear admiral (lower half)

lolbutts
posted by DU at 9:40 AM on January 8, 2013 [23 favorites]


"Wait," says my brain, "He did this 25 years ago, as an O2, and has therefore been selected for promotion five times since then, surviving two drawdowns? How does that--"
His father, James Dorsey, had commanded the aircraft carrier USS America, and later attained three-star rank as a vice admiral.
"Ohhh, right."

I've never been a proponent of the zero-defect mentality that the military often has when it comes to officer promotions, but I've known a lot of people who were drummed out for rather less than actually shooting down a U.S. aircraft for no known reason. I'll let you guess how many of them had parents with stars on their shoulders.
posted by Etrigan at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2013 [58 favorites]


Dorsey, 25, was the least experienced fighter pilot aboard the Saratoga, with only 245 hours in an F-14`s cockpit and only three months aboard a carrier. But Dorsey had another kind of experience: His father is Rear Adm. James Dorsey, a former naval aviator, commander of the carrier USS America and now an assistant deputy chief of naval operations.
"Another kind of experience"—how arch.
posted by enn at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


rear admiral (lower half)

lolbutts


Heck, they used to call 'em "commode doors."
posted by rahnefan at 10:02 AM on January 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


While a subsequent investigation found Doresy guilty of committing an "illogical act"


Fascinating.

(damn you thelonius, stealing my thunder, raining on my parade, costing me medals... ;)
posted by djrock3k at 10:02 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Innocent? Officers and gentlemen, Captains all. Except for Finney and his one mistake. A long time ago, but they don't forget."
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, I remember this. In the account I read he wasn't actually part of the wargame in progress but actually flying picket duty around an aircraft carrier and should have never gotten the attack message. Of course, at that point, seeing an F-4 was like seeing a Chevy - pretty much every country had them.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:09 AM on January 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


And Dorsey admitted he had forgotten that the Phantom had refueled from an Illinois Air National Guard tanker only minutes before.

He must follow the General Jack D. Ripper philosophy on potential communist infiltration.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2013


He should have gone into politics like John McCain.
posted by OmieWise at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Interesting that the initial report states no one was hurt badly but in a later article the pilot of the downed F-4 has had his career somewhat altered due spine issues that required multiple surgeries.

I also see that the original news items has Dorsey apologizing to the co-pilot but not to the pilot, who received his apology only recently when Dorsey was up for nomination.
posted by linux at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2013


I can definitely see myself pulling some inexplicably dumb shit like this on a crappy day but that's why I don't have access to missiles at work.
posted by theodolite at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2013 [36 favorites]


But ya fuck one goat!
posted by Naberius at 10:34 AM on January 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


I have to side with Dorsey on this one. The primary thing they teach you in the military is to react instinctively and immediately to orders, under any and all circumstances. He was told to fire on the plane, and he fired. He really shouldn't have been grounded in the first place.

The alternative is that every fighter pilot (and rifleman and sailor, etc.) starts mulling everything over.
posted by Nahum Tate at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Can someone explain why it seems like the sequence of events started with:

A> Let's have some war games.
B> Sounds good, we're going to put real bullets in our guns though ok?
A> Promise not use them?
B> Of course we won't shoot you!
A> Let's go!

i mean....... what did you think was going to happen eventually?

Or is this standard procedure and pilots are really expected to differentiate like that all the time? It's baffling to me to be honest.
posted by ish__ at 10:39 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't every Navy flyboy relish the opportunity to shoot down an Air Force puke? They must've given him a special medal in a private ceremony.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:39 AM on January 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The alternative is that every fighter pilot (and rifleman and sailor, etc.) starts mulling everything over.

A chilling vision of thinking before killing. Thanks for this reminder of the horror we avoid.
posted by DU at 10:39 AM on January 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


I'm reminded of the USS William Porter, which during a WWII training exercise fired a live torpedo at the battleship Iowa. President Roosevelt was on board Iowa at the time. Porter's crew failed to immediately notify Iowa that they had done this. Afterwards Iowa trained its guns on Porter, just in case it had gone rogue.

Shortly thereafter Porter's entire crew was arrested for a while. The ship was then assigned to the Pacific, where one of her drunken crewmen shelled the home of his base commandant with a 5" cannon.

At least Dorsey only had one friendly fire incident under his belt, one which did not involve shooting at the President of the United States. The Navy's done worse.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


If I was doing a live fire training exercise, and I was told to fire upon my fellow soldiers, you better believe I would mull that over.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I think our firing on Miami Beach can best be termed ill timed."

Cmdr. USS Codfish. (aka: Bob Newhart)
posted by Trochanter at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nahum Tate: "He was told to fire on the plane, and he fired. He really shouldn't have been grounded in the first place."

Except that: "Navy pilots interviewed by the Air Force said the phrase is used routinely during air combat exercises off the Saratoga."
posted by exogenous at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2013


> I'm reminded of the USS William Porter,

Whoa, her sinking was a weird twist of bad luck.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2013


Of course, at that point, seeing an F-4 was like seeing a Chevy - pretty much every country had them.

More countries had F-4's than Chevys by some margin, I'd wager. Especially in the 1980's.
posted by Brockles at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2013


God, give the guy a break people! He made one itty-biity little mistake. Sure, he destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of govenment property, nearly killed two people, and crippled one of them for life, but is that really any reason to question his judgement?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is impossible for me to believe that the US military doesn't have engagement rules that cover the explicit transition from an exercise to live combat status. Even if it's true that he'd never heard "red and free" in an exercise before, I still can't believe that there is no other explicit indication that he should have been waiting for before switching to the real thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2013


Wasn't this a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode? Probably involving Wesley; not as the hapless pilot, but his friend? Probably from Season 8.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ejection Seat Trivia

Martin-Baker, the company that makes the ejection seats, has a club whose membership is determined by successful use.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


More countries had F-4's than Chevys by some margin, I'd wager. Especially in the 1980's.

The F-4 had just finished refueling from an American tanker aircraft. Which is why it would be "illogical" to consider it an enemy aircraft.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wedgies, wet willies, or even the dreaded rear admiral...
posted by jonp72 at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the USS William Porter, which during a WWII training exercise fired a live torpedo at the battleship Iowa.

That was just the cherry on top of the screwup cake for the Porter.

Here's a good summary of the err, monumental career of the USS FAIL (WTF-579), err, I mean USS William D. Porter (DD-579)
posted by eriko at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm torn on this -- on the one hand, what Nahum Tate said, and as well this was in the Med just a few years behind the first Gulf of Sidra incident (and a few ahead of the second). And still on the same hand, you had dozens of Cold War pilot defections (though none since Vietnam for our side) and ultimately, the defect here seems to have been one of communications and training, so above his pay grade as they say.

On the other hand there were plenty who suffered the wrath of the system and destroyed careers for much, much less.
posted by dhartung at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2013


If I was doing a live fire training exercise, and I was told to fire upon my fellow soldiers, you better believe I would mull that over.

Would you rather be the guy who fired on an unknown attacker or the guy who let the Libyans kill 150 sailors on your carrier? As I pointed out, the article I read when this first happened suggested he wasn't part of the exercise and, given that we've sold F-4's to every third world dictator to come down the pike (and a lot of them were spent the late 70's and early 80's not staying bought).

The F-4 had just finished refueling from an American tanker aircraft. Which is why it would be "illogical" to consider it an enemy aircraft.

True, but they all pretty much look the same, so once you stop paying attention to that plane are you sure the next F-4 you see is the same F-4?

A wiser course of action would have probably been to do this sort of thing off the eastern seaboard some 4800 miles away from anything that posed a threat to a carrier group and was loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, et al.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:12 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the story about the USS William Porter:

Roosevelt, meanwhile, had learned of the incoming torpedo threat and asked his Secret Service attendee to move his wheelchair to the side of the battleship, so he could see.
posted by echo target at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


True, but they all pretty much look the same, so once you stop paying attention to that plane are you sure the next F-4 you see is the same F-4?

Yeah, I agree, that could be confusing, but I thought Dorsey followed the same F-4 (kept it within sight) following the tanker refuelling.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 AM on January 8, 2013


RF-4C cost: $2,260,000.

Oops, just put it on my tab.
posted by various at 11:20 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So looking at the Porter story - how much of a threat would a torpedo have been to one of the big 4 battleships? I was always under the impression that they could pretty much shrug off a torpedo or two.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ejection seat trivia: addendum. The Martin Baker was packed in a U-shape bag, more or less snuggled around what amounts to a mortar tube, on which the seat assembly is affixed. The pilot is shot out of a mortor, in other words, when he decides to exit his aircraft. This is the best of his options at the time. Getting run over by an aircraft carrier, being shot down with friendly fire, or captured and tortured are pretty much anti-climacted episodes in a pilot's career.

That's why they get paid the big bucks.

I'm sure Dorsey's gotten it all out of his system by now, and won't shoot down any more of our aircraft. Besides, he said he was sorry.
posted by mule98J at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Martin-Baker, the company that makes the ejection seats, has a club whose membership is determined by successful use."

There's also a club for those who used them unsuccessfully, but it doesn't look as good on the promotional materials.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


God, I love Phantom F-4's.

What a moron.
posted by Skygazer at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also a club for those who used them unsuccessfully, but it doesn't look as good on the promotional materials.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:31 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


Eponysterical!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:35 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Getting run over by an aircraft carrier

Record for lowest successful ejection was by a British Navy flier (LT Bruce Macfarlane/Mackfarlane) , after a failed take-off from the HMS Albion. Said he saw the water close over his cockpit before pulling the handle and successfully ejecting from 10 to 20 feet below sea level. Plane got run over and appeared as wreckage behind the stern.

He wasn't the only one:
We had learned in survival training that a ditched aircraft normally sinks at about 10 feet per second, and after 100 feet, crew survival is highly unlikely. I figured I had about 10 seconds if I were going to get out of this mess alive. It appeared that only a miracle could save me now. I had just run out of altitude and airspeed, and was about out of ideas, too.

The ejection seat seemed the only chance, albeit a slim one. In the history of Naval Aviation, only a handful of pilots had ever attempted, much less survived, an underwater ejection. It was theoretically possible in the A-7, but no one had yet tested it.

There was also the chance I might eject directly into the Connie's passing steel hull or even worse, into one of her massive propellers. The odds for survival were grim and getting worse each second.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


At this point it seems like drag would be a bigger drag on this guy's career than firing on the Air Force.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2013


You mean like him dressing in women's clothes?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2013


God, I love Phantom F-4's.

They are the best looking airplane ever made ever, forever and ever, amen.

The planes these days just don't have any style in comparison.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So apparently there is at least one employer who doesn't Google you before offering you a job.
posted by miyabo at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The primary thing they teach you in the military is to react instinctively and immediately to orders, under any and all circumstances. He was told to fire on the plane, and he fired. He really shouldn't have been grounded in the first place.

The military I was in taught me to not just blindly follow orders. But to think. A thinking person operating in war game who just saw the plane he was pursuing refueling with a friendly aircraft probably does not blast that plane out of the sky.

He absolutely should have been grounded. Forever isn't long enough.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:06 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


True, but they all pretty much look the same, so once you stop paying attention to that plane are you sure the next F-4 you see is the same F-4?

Point taken, but doesn't Dorsey himself say he just didn't remember the previous plane refueling as opposed to he wasn't sure it was the same plane?
posted by IvoShandor at 12:08 PM on January 8, 2013


They are the best looking airplane ever made ever, forever and ever, amen.

Yeah that gorgeous McDonnell Douglas lineage that carried over to the also beautiful, IMHO, F-15 Eagle, was a knockout.

The planes these days just don't have any style in comparison.

Boeing and Northrup-Grumman kinda killed that style and took all the artistry out when McDonnell Douglas was taken over (by Boeing) and they started making those freaky boxy flying stealth contraptions, the F-117, the F-22, the F-35 that are all about the tiny radar image and require freaking supercomputer grade avionics to keep them in the air and deal with the wicked complex flying characteristics.

Back in my day, Fighter Planes had radar signatures. AND WE LIKED IT!
posted by Skygazer at 12:13 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


> They are the best looking airplane ever made ever, forever and ever, amen.

The Saab Draken is classier, imho.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:19 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Roosevelt, meanwhile, had learned of the incoming torpedo threat and asked his Secret Service attendee to move his wheelchair to the side of the battleship, so he could see.

FDR was essentially a real-world Havelock Vetinari.
posted by Scientist at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Burhanistan: "The Saab Draken is classier, imho."
Now that you brought up SAAB, I am compelled to post the Flying Barrel.
posted by brokkr at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Flying Barrel seems so sensible, and vaguely amusing, like most Swedes, until you realize just how no nonsense and all-business they can be.

The Drakken, looks like it's part Dragon...
posted by Skygazer at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Saab Draken is classier, imho.

The Viggen is far better than the Draken.

But still no Phantom.

best thing in the world is to be an airplane geek/navy brat at a naval air station. I got so I could identify all the planes by sound, and I was only 6....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:45 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lately, I've been appreciating the lines on the rather pretty Eurofighter Typhoon.

Although sometimes that over-developed delta wing is bit too much...
posted by Skygazer at 12:55 PM on January 8, 2013


The military I was in taught me to not just blindly follow orders. But to think.

I was in the infantry. Basic training was essentially teaching us how to march and shoot and--more importantly--giving us a bunch of stupid and/or impossible stuff to do so that we'd (painfully) learn to simply execute with all haste any lawful order. Yeah, you're not going to shoot on a crowd of civilians but anything not-too-close to that is going to be done with unthinking vigor. That's how the military works. That's how the military has worked since the beginning of recorded time, because it has to be that way. A split second of contemplation can mean dead friendlies (and there would be no end to the second-guessing there).

I know here on Metafilter we'd like to envision an army of philosopher-monks wielding deadly force with great justice. That would be the most ineffectual military force of all time.

(And believe me, I'm not pro-war. The terrifyingly automatic deadliness of the military is exactly why you don't go unleashing it unless absolutely necessary.)
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:02 PM on January 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


re: USS Wiliam D. Porter, part of the linked story doesn't make sense for me.

Over on the Willie Dee, Captain Walter watched the fireworks display with admiration and envy. Thinking about career redemption and breaking the hard luck spell, the captain sent his impatient crew to battle stations, and they began to shoot down the balloons that, missed by the IOWA, had drifted into the W.D. Porter's vicinity.

Down on the torpedo mounts, the W.D. Porter's crews watched, waited and prepared to take practice shoots at the big battleship, which, even at 6000 yards seemed to blot out the horizon


The American ships were doing an antiaircraft exercise, so why on earth would Porter be setting up a practice torpedo shot at a friendly? Who was this meant to impress? Would an observer on another ship three miles away even see anything during a torpedo exercise?
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:11 PM on January 8, 2013


Basic training was essentially teaching us how to march and shoot and--more importantly--giving us a bunch of stupid and/or impossible stuff to do so that we'd (painfully) learn to simply execute with all haste any lawful order.

lawful
lawful
lawful

See, we already have an interval between "Do it!" and "Done!" because we allow -- encourage, even -- service members to think "Is this a legal order I am following?"

The reason we're taught to follow orders isn't because they need to be accomplished fast. It's because sometimes we're going to have to tell people to do something incredibly fucking stupid, at least from a self-preservation standpoint. You need to be able to tell Private Snuffy to run up the hill and throw a grenade into the bunker, despite you and Snuffy both damn well knowing that he'll likely get killed before he gets close enough. But even if he does, your support team can use the distraction to flank the bunker.
posted by Etrigan at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


> The Viggen is far better than the Draken.

Ah, the Viggen is purty, but you can already see the cold logic of computer design creeping in there (as in the Phantom), blotting out all human flourishes.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2013


I think the story is a convenient excuse to play politics. Packing the military chain of command is probably just as much a presidential pass time as choosing new judges.

Honestly, I have to question the judgement of any career military officer.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:50 PM on January 8, 2013


I’m quite bemused that the Senate or any politicians get any say at all in the promotion of military officers. Coming from the Westminster system, this seems highly odd to say the least. Do their politics get checked? Does the committee get stacked by one party, who then seek out party loyalists for senior brass? Crazy system.
posted by wilful at 4:16 PM on January 8, 2013


I’m quite bemused that the Senate or any politicians get any say at all in the promotion of military officers.

Civilian control of the military is extremely important. Giving the military free rein to choose its own commanding officers increases the odds of producing a Generalissimo. The US is a very long way from producing a General Franco, but this is one of the checks and balances that keeps that possibility remote.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:31 PM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Needs the "nepotism" tag. No way his career would have continued as well as it has without his family connections.
posted by arcticseal at 4:31 PM on January 8, 2013


"Wasn't this a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode?"

The hero of Starship Troopers is demoted and then resigns because of a fatal accident in a live-fire training exercise, but rejoins and is eventually promoted to lieutenant...
posted by mbrubeck at 4:43 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skygazer: "God, I love Phantom F-4's."

Me too. Nothing like the sound of a Phantom in the morning, low and slow over the treeline, just before he lets the napalm loose. One morning a Phantom driver rolled over on his back so he could wave to us after he did his thing. We would have waved back, but we were busy cowering.

Lawful orders is the correct phrase. Soldier are not robots. The training is so that you can do what you have to do when you are too scared to think about what's about to happen no matter what you do. Once you get the hang of it, it's all about not letting the guy next to you die for a mistake you made, or for doing a job you were supposed to do. The only thing worse than standing up under fire is telling somebody else to do it. Infantry guys have a whole bunch of pithy one-liners. Tips of the iceberg. We all get off on the Henry V speech, brings a tear to the eye.

Friendly fire: there's a special place in Hell for this kind of thing. Pieces of work such as Dorsey seem to be immune from nightly previews, though. I hope the Cosmic Muffin is keeping track of all these clowns. Down at the enlisted level, mistakes like this are sort of self-policing.

Most people know about our 58K (&change) dead guys during what people are fond of calling "the Vietnam Era." I believe most people are unaware that another 60K military folks (who never set foot in South East Asia) died during that same era from non-combat related activity. Military life is dangerous.
posted by mule98J at 5:06 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I’m quite bemused that the Senate or any politicians get any say at all in the promotion of military officers.

Well, it's a lot more technocratic than it sounds. The Constitution gives military commissioning authority to the President, but for quite some time the "advice and consent" clause requiring Senate approval (as with judges, ambassadors, the cabinet, etc.) has applied for majors and lt. commanders on up. (10 USC § 531) The promotion process, though, begins with a military-internal selection board, and there's a fair number of explicit rules about time-in-service and so forth creating hoops that must be jumped through. When this board is finished it submits a report (a list of names, basically) to the SECNAV and thence to the President, who in turn submits the list to the Senate. There it must pass the Senate Armed Services Committee before surviving a floor vote by the committee of the whole.

According to this Congressional Research Office report, the entire process was almost always pro forma until about 20 years ago when there were some problems with carrying out Congressional reform mandates as well as the embarrassment of the Tailhook scandal.

Do their politics get checked? Does the committee get stacked by one party, who then seek out party loyalists for senior brass?

I think in general the US military is pretty good (by law) about burying actual party politics -- with a few notable exceptions at the topmost level. For the most part Congress is also subsumed with a hands-off policy deferring to the technocratic self-management approach. That's not to say the system in place now couldn't fall victim to more partisan interference, but I really doubt it could change much in that direction without a huge outcry.
posted by dhartung at 6:05 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mule98J: Me too. Nothing like the sound of a Phantom in the morning, low and slow over the treeline, just before he lets the napalm loose. One morning a Phantom driver rolled over on his back so he could wave to us after he did his thing. We would have waved back, but we were busy cowering.

Admittedly, "love" for the F-4 Phantom (or any military plane), is a complicated and layered sort of thing that with areas in the aesthetic, the form that negotiates the crafts aerodynamism, the engineering, the speed, the power, the interface between man and machine, the visceral vicarious identification and thrill, even the historical, but the political, militaristic gung-ho celebration of it's ability to deliver horrifically terrible ordinance is one aspect I don't buy into, and there's definitely a fine line there between geek-love or chickenhawk-ish cowardliness.
posted by Skygazer at 6:40 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Giving the military free rein to choose its own commanding officers increases the odds of producing a Generalissimo. The US is a very long way from producing a General Franco, but this is one of the checks and balances that keeps that possibility remote.

Hardly. The US' history of generals with undue political influence in the past 60 years is way higher than any comparable western society.
posted by wilful at 7:25 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are no comparable Western societies! USA! USA! USA! USA!

/chugs a beer, fires a gun in the air
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:39 PM on January 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The US' history of generals with undue political influence in the past 60 years is way higher than any comparable western society.

I'm not so sure. When it comes to undue influence over civilian government Canadian General Rick Hillier went at least as far over the line as someone like Petraeus, perhaps further. He was publicly criticizing government policy in strong terms even while standing on the same stage as the Prime Minister, and he was too popular with the public and the troops to easily be forced into retirement. It might seem like the US has it worse than other countries only because civil-military relations in other countries are not well covered in the US media (why would they be?).

It's not until you go a bit further back in history that you get the really disturbing American Generals like MacArthur and LeMay. I'm glad we've never had anything like that here.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:26 PM on January 8, 2013


>are not well covered in the US media
pssst, here's a bit of insider info for you - metafilter isn't a US only website and not all of us are yanks


In Australia, I am one of those people that keep closely up to date with current affairs. I cannot name the current Australian CDF, or any other currently serving military officer (apart from my cousin in the army (though I admit I could name the past two, Cosgrove and Houston).
posted by wilful at 8:56 PM on January 8, 2013


the really disturbing American Generals like MacArthur and LeMay

Both of whom were forced into retirement. Though recruited for political campaigns, both failed to gain office. While I concede wilful's general point about influence, the system did work in ways that reinforced civilian control.
posted by dhartung at 10:19 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are no comparable Western societies! USA! USA! USA! USA!

USA is Best Korea!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, the RF-4C... "One pass and haul ass!"
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:44 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


They must've given him a special medal in a private ceremony.

Probably never has to pay for a beer again in Norfolk.
posted by e1c at 5:48 AM on January 9, 2013


According to this Congressional Research Office report, the entire process was almost always pro forma until about 20 years ago when there were some problems with carrying out Congressional reform mandates as well as the embarrassment of the Tailhook scandal.

One of the notable exceptions was when the Air Force wanted to promote Jimmy Stewart (who legitimately made Colonel while flying 20 bomber sorties over Germany in WWII) to Brigadier General in the Reserves, and the Senate expressed concern that it was just a PR thing. Stewart offered to remove his name from the list (since the Senate was holding up the entire list, not just his promotion), but the Air Force convinced the nay-sayers that he was legitimately doing the same things that any other Reserve Colonel would be doing to get promoted, including commanding an Air Reserve Base in Georgia.

He was later promoted to Major General by Presidential fiat, but that one was a publicity stunt, as it was more than a decade after his retirement from the Reserves and concurrent with his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
posted by Etrigan at 7:04 AM on January 9, 2013


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