December 13, 2011

Your Dumb Government at Work

Distinguished scholar and strategist Steve Metz
complained earlier today on his Twitter account that he had cancelled a presentation he was scheduled to give at the British International Studies Association conference in Edinburgh, Scotland because EUCOM regulations stipulate he must first ... wait for it ... go through SERE training before traveling to western Europe. (Now, I know some of you possibly think it prudent that civilian scholars at U.S. military colleges go through Survival Evasion Resistance Escape training before wandering into some neighborhoods in Glasgow, but this is Edinburgh we're talking about.) 

Although the SERE training in question is not the hellish full two-week course but rather the one-day course, this is absurd nonetheless. Just yesterday, I met with a collection of junior U.S. Army officers, and we all agreed that U.S. military personnel -- and officers in particular, because they are often de facto ambassadors for the United States -- were better at their jobs if they had traveled widely or, even better, had lived abroad. But it can be a nightmare for U.S. military personnel to travel internationally, such have we elevated force protection to ridiculous importance. (One U.S. Navy officer related that six of his fellow officers were traveling on a trip to India with a U.S. university and needed signatures from four separate flag officers to do so!)

The bottom line here is that if we are willing to send young men and women to fight and die in Helmand Province, we should go out of our way to be accomodating when U.S. military personnel want to broaden their experiences by traveling to countries with which we are not at war. Stupid regulations designed to cover someone's fourth point of contact do not serve the broader interests of the United States.