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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

Flattery is betrayal

In response to the On Leadership question: Can Americans handle the painful truth about government budget deficits -- that getting them under control will require both tax increases and cuts in government services -- or will they reject any leader who dares to deliver it? What's a leader to do?

In April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the rounds to speak to military leaders at the Senior Service Colleges and future leaders at West Point. At that point, he was establishing his priorities for the Fiscal Year 2011 DOD budget, which would cut several military service programs and refocus efforts to ensure relevance in defense issues.

In his role as the principal defense policy advisor to the president, Secretary Gates was making tough calls, not only to our president but also to the over two million members (uniformed and civilian) of the Department of Defense. He delivered this message:

"Sir Francis Bacon was a 17th century jurist and philosopher as well as a confidante of the senior minister of England's King James. He gave this advice to a protégé looking to follow in his steps at court: 'Remember well the great trust you have undertaken; you are as a continual sentinel, always to stand upon your watch to give [the king] true intelligence. If you flatter him, you betray him.' Remember that. If you flatter him, you betray him."

As public servants, we demean and betray our citizens if we do not provide them with the brutal facts and truths. We expect candor and professional advice from our military leaders and, I believe, that no matter how uncomfortable it may be, we deserve to hear the same from civilian leaders.

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  February 4, 2010; 6:23 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Colonel Allen, I have nothing but respect for you and the other members of the armed forces. I mean that. You are willing to put yourself in harm’s way to protect me and our nation. In return, both I and our nation must make every effort to treat your patriotism with the respect it deserves. In particular, your life and safety should not be put in jeopardy for trivial or political reasons. An example: we invaded Iraq either with faulty intelligence, or cynical political calculation. In either case, those responsible for 4,000 avoidable American deaths (saying nothing of Iraqi deaths) should face CRIMINAL charges and be tried publically. It speaks volumes for America and its’ media that there has been NO unstoppable public outcry for minimal public disclosure. We have apparently learned NOTHING from Vietnam and apparently are learning NOTHING from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by: shadowmagician | February 4, 2010 12:16 PM
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