When my second son was still in diapers, I joined the Naval Reserves as a direct commission officer. The process was rigorous. There were interviews with recruiters and peer interviews with nurse corps officers. A physical exam and an investigation to determine if I was mentally fit to receive a secret clearance was initiated. After eight months, I received the call to duty.
My commission was authorized and I was sent to the uniform shop during officer training school to purchase my combat fatigues, khaki, and formal dress uniform. It was duly noted that my clearance was still a work in progress. The investigation had not concluded. This little conveyance was brought home in shock-and-awe fashion shortly thereafter when attending Fleet Hospital Operations and Training Command (FHOTC) at Camp Pendleton, California. A newly minted officer was sent home from the field. He had lied on his paperwork regarding a juvenile record involving an act of vandalism. Direct commissions are earned. The award of the same requires high ethics practically dating back to childhood.
For many years, service on behalf of my nation brought deep enrichment and appreciation for the culture of professionalism nurtured within our branches of service. On any given day, I could look at a chain of command and see myself (mostly at the bottom!) and where I stood with the leadership above me, all of the way to the Secretary of the Navy and on to the President of the United States as Commander in Chief. The C2 (command and control) environment not only worked effectively and efficiently, but it was also a guard against those with predatory personalities who wished to join our ranks.
We are told as journalists not to insert ourselves into the story. But the initial two paragraphs of a personal nature are written with purpose. You must completely understand my stance regarding the Islamic State.
While the Islamic State might show mirror aspects of legally recognized professional standing armies, it will never have our respect. It provides for a sub-state decentralized model for activation of its operations. Therein, lies the hydra for lack of accountability, unethical behavior, and our recognition of a lack of a (real and not contrived) state of war readiness.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has received too much press. His rank is not earned. You cannot GIVE yourself rank. It is earned when a jury of your peers convenes a board of inquiry. It is earned, when you have spent several years within one ranking designation which allows you to learn what is required prior to the award of the next rank.
His discipline is harsh against those who raise voice against his aggression.
This is a far cry from military justice, which requires a court martial with charges (and lesser included offenses) laid out based on the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). He also rapes women. Read my lips. He rapes women.
The decentralized model of operations required for transnational acts of terrorism allows for a recruitment program which does not vet for ethical behavior. Rather, recruits are probed for vulnerability and the psychological weaknesses required for manipulation. My best guess is that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a classic sociopath. There is no doubt he is above average intelligence. Yet he is hostis humani generis. He is an “enemy of mankind”. His recruiters seek out the psychologically weak and willing. No truly sane person would waste their life strolling up to Christian women and children on a playground and leave a mosaic of flesh on neighboring homes. No truly sane person would target innocent travelers lined up at the Belgium airport. And should we claim there is sanity involved, can we at least note these acts as completely dishonorable – hostis humani generis?
Would Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and any of his cohorts seek out a direct commission in the U.S. military (or perhaps, the Republic of Turkey), they would be dispatched home from training at the beginning point of a field investigation. They would be found psychologically unfit. And most likely, a bread crumb of criminal behavior dating from childhood would be easy enough to find. Abu Bakr probably stole bread from a blind person when he was eight years old. You get my drift.
But indeed, Islamic State provides for a sub-state decentralized model of operations. Fanned out across the nations are the recruiters. Mission does not begin with vision, as noted in our professional standing armies. Mission swirls around available recruits. Mission is not anchored with stewardship of process, the constraints of our treaties amongst each other, nor the satisfaction which comes from allowing our character to deepen by what is forged by military leadership. The Islamic State’s mission is anchored in maximum carnage for maximum gain.
In Islamic fashion, you should wish for your brother what you would wish for yourself. As a member of a uniformed military service in Turkey, Pakistan, or beyond, you should wish that your brother would cease to don suicide vests and kill the innocent. You should wish that your brother would not spend his idle hours building a Mother of Satan bomb. You should wish that your brother would not embark on some glorious notion of jihad which has less to do with glory and more to do with his lack of common sense. And you should wish that Islam did not have such a horrible public relations disaster on her hands each time we hear of the next kaboom, imagine a human torch, or mass grave in Palmyra.
So as a military member, working under a legally recognized chain of command, as a man or a woman who has taken an oath to protect and defend the sovereignty of your nation and your people, what is your part? It is quite simple. Follow orders. Do not wince when engaged in operations such as the ones being undertaken in Pakistan today. And most importantly, shed no tears for those you are asked to bring to justice.
Journalist note: I was the Commandant for this two-day training evolution