“Insubordinate” Reactions

Retired Gen. Roger Brady's recent letter calling A-10 advocates "insubordinate" has touched a nerve. Photo: Stars and Stripes.
Retired Gen. Roger Brady’s recent letter calling A-10 advocates “insubordinate” has touched a nerve. Photo: Stars and Stripes.


As I wrote recently, I didn’t dig retired Gen. Roger Brady’s letter to the Air Force Times, in which he insisted airmen exercising their federally protected right to confer with Congress should be thought of as insubordinate renegades. 

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with a negative opinion of Brady’s anachronistic screed. As a long-time colleague colorfully phrased it to me offline, “if he’s going to get out of his recliner, put down his cup of warm milk, and contribute to the A-10 debate, he should come with something better than to tell everyone to shut up and color. We get that regularly from much more relevant sources.”

Those are tough words, but they’re par for the course in this unfortunate chapter of the unfolding A-10 saga.

Surveying the many insightful reactions to Brady’s caustic essay, there are few worth sharing for their learning value.

Posting at Air Force Times, user Jacob Bechtel responded, in part, with the following:

“Not insignificantly, the aircraft also provides jobs in congressional districts.”

Please indicate which air platform this does not apply to. You seem to imply this distinguishes the A-10 in some meaningful way from the other aircraft the Air Force uses. I await your follow-up article when you tell us about this mystery platform that doesn’t provide jobs in any Congressional District.

“What is missing from the discussion is a sense of good order and discipline.”

I agree, no General should be threatening [s]ervicemembers for contacting their Congressional representatives. 

“But this is not about free speech”

Well, someone clearly isn’t up on their Constitutional law. Because it is, any restriction on speech (especially speech of a political nature) is presumptively unconstitutional. “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights” – Supreme Court of The United States, and that is what we are talking about.

Even Walter Sobchak, who The Dude agrees is a "moron," is aware that the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint. Walter, it should be noted, is also a veteran who watched his buddies die face down in the muck so we could enjoy our basic freedoms.
Even Walter Sobchak, who The Dude agrees is a “moron,” is aware that the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint. Walter, it should be noted, is also a veteran who watched his buddies die face down in the muck so we could enjoy our basic freedoms.

Steve Phillips, also commenting at Air Force times, offered the following:

Might be the most ill informed letter to the editor ever published in the AF Times. The military has a strong tradition of making their views known to [C]ongress – and it has been, and continues to be, a strength not a weakness …  It’s embarrassing that a General officer believes what is in this letter and this is exactly why congress should be concerned about AF leadership.

One member of the JQP community presciently noted that Gen. Brady has displayed haughtiness on these same issues previously. In a Stars and Stripes article from 2007, Brady quipped, wistfully invoking how his training as a logistician informed his management of an ongoing drawdown, that it was: 

“a lot like managing parts, except these parts each have an e-mail account, an attitude and a [C]ongressional representative.”

That may have passed for dark humor in the corner office at the now-defunct Enron, but for airmen and families fighting for — and in the case of more than 40,000 in the drawdown Brady championed, losing — their livelihoods, this sort of talk has a serrated edge. It’s an insensitive comment that makes a speed bump out of the dignity of airmen, much in the same way Brady’s recent letter construed their individual agency as a nuisance.

My own view is that Brady’s role is a symptom of a bigger problem: absentee leadership. Gen. Mark Welsh has never addressed the treason debacle with airmen. He’s never affirmed to them their rights, roles, and responsibilities in this and other debates. By refusing to confront the situation and proactively discuss it with airmen, Welsh has left a vacuum of leadership, tacitly inviting self-nominated proxies to do his leading for him. Brady, sensing correctly that the service’s tone needs to be reset, is stepping forward in attempt to help, proving once again that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

However, even the best of intentions, if indeed he has them, can’t save Brady’s misguided ideas. The tone he wants to establish would not only lead to a catastrophic implosion of morale, good order, and discipline within the Air Force — ironically the very things he believes he’s rescuing — but his chosen approach is confounded by federal law, the Constitution, and the very values the service exists to vindicate. By parachuting into a hot debate unarmed with even a basic grasp of the problem or the authorized solutions, Brady has made things worse.

But until Welsh takes it upon himself to lead airmen through this moment, the mess Brady has created will have to do until the real mess gets here.


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