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Alumni Veterans Perspectives on Dartmouth Education and Military Service in Contemporary Conflicts

Alumni Veterans Perspectives on Dartmouth Education and Military Service in Contemporary Conflicts


– For the last portion of this panel I had invited alumni to campus to talk about their
military service experience and their Dartmouth education. I had the… I’ve had the pleasure to
teach two of these people. It’s been a long day,
so the plan at this time is that we will have
opening preliminary remarks from each of the speakers and then we’re going to
throw it open to discussion, and hopefully a broader discussion of military service at this moment. I first… When I took Don Pease’s
email out of my trash, in the email trash, and reread it again, I thought, “Okay, who would I invite?” I’d invite Stoney Portis. Major Stoney Portis read Homer with me in a community book group, and I knew very quickly that he was a force to be reckoned with. He graduated from West Point in 2004 and receive his master’s
of arts in liberal studies from Dartmouth in 2013. He was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Korea. As a company commander,
he and his cavalry troop were featured in Jake
Tapper’s Dartmouth ’91 book, “The Outpost: An Untold
Story of American Valor”, which recounts the 2009 battle in which Stoney’s outpost and his soldiers were surrounded and nearly overrun by more than 300 Taliban fighters. And Stoney described some of that battle one night in book group. So I’ve read the pages
of Jake Tapper’s book that talk about Stoney. You’re in the index. Stoney had taught courses in literature and cultural studies at West Point and is currently completing
his PhD in English at Duke University with a dissertation that looks
at world literatures of war. And he’s recently selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel. I’m glad he can join us today. Nate Fick took Roman history with me. I’m sure that’s made your career. (audience laughing) – I’m not laughing. (audience laughing)
Yes. – After graduating with a classics degree from Dartmouth in 1999 Nate served as a Marine infantry officer, including combat tours in
Afghanistan in 2001 to 2002, and Iraq in 2003. And his book “One Bullet Away” is necessary reading. He led a cybersecurity software
company for seven years and is currently a Dartmouth trustee. And he was, again, quickly on my list of people to invite, whose words I wanted to hear. If you notice, this panel today has been voices that
I wanted to hear from. Faculty, students, and now alumni. Ron Bucca is Special Forces, Green Beret, with multiple combat deployments to the Middle East and Africa. He has served with the 5th and is currently with the
20th Special Forces Group. He enlisted in the U.S. Army
following the events of 9/11 and the loss of his father. Ron holds a BSM in finance from Tulane, an MA, MALS program, in globalization from Dartmouth College, and an MBA from Columbia Business School. And he has just returned
from a deployment. And so I invited the three of them to talk about their Dartmouth education and their military service
in contemporary conflicts. And I now get to listen. Please, Stoney. – Thanks, Roberta. Well, you know, I’m working on my
dissertation right now at Duke, and so, what I’ve found is that I’ve got so many ideas
floating around my head that if I don’t write
them down, I forget them. So, if you’ll excuse me
for referring to this. I had deployed to Iraq
in 2006, ’07, and ’08, and to Afghanistan in 2009 and ’10 by the time that I had
arrived here in 2011. And when I had gone through
those five deployment years I arrived here with a full head of hair. (audience chuckling) And I left with the haircut
that you currently see thanks to Professor Pease. (audience laughing) I asked Roberta, I think it was yesterday or the day before, via email, I said, “Hey, I was thinking I
would wear my uniform, “but I’ve packed a suit and tie as well. “Do you have a preference
on what I should wear?” And she answered the question
exactly how I would expect a very deeply thinking
professor of classics to answer the question. And she said, “Well, “what would be most comfortable “for you to wear on Veteran’s Day? “I never would have
thought about it before.” This is still in her email,
and I’m paraphrasing. “I never would have
thought about it before, “but I suppose you have to navigate “these twin identities all the time.” And so, I appreciated the
email, and I thought about it. And I was walking over here
this morning in my suit I was talking to Allison,
my wife, and I said, “I’m going to wear my civilian clothes “for the first half the day,
I’ll wear it through lunch. “And then I’m going to go to the hotel, “and I’m going to change into my uniform “and wear my uniform for the second half “to see what happens.” Now, that’s not to degrade the uniform. It’s not to say that this is an experiment or that this is a gimmick, if you will, because it’s not. It’s instead to maybe
give me an opportunity to reflect on what that really means to navigate those two identities. And what I’ll tell you is
that when I walked over here I was much warmer and
much more comfortable in the civilian attire than I am now. And there’s some elements
of that discomfort that are both literal and figurative. For example, no one seemed to notice me when I was walking here this morning in my suit and tie. Allie and I stopped at Starbucks, and we got coffee, and we came up here. Whereas when I was in this I noticed heads turning. That’s probably an obvious. I certainly got a couple, “Thank you for your services,” out there. I got offered a cup of coffee. And my favorite was I had
to go back up to my room real quick to get my wallet before I left, and Allie can verify that this is true, I was in the elevator and a coach comes in from
a visiting basketball team and he says, “Oh, third floor, please.” (audience laughing) He was entirely serious. And so I pressed the third floor. (audience laughing) And then by the time we got up there I think it dawned on him, “Oh, gosh, those are
tanks on his uniform.” (audience laughing) And he said, “Thank you for what you do.” I was like, I didn’t know if he meant
for the elevator ride or for my service, but you’re
welcome, and it’s an honor. But thinking about navigating
those twin identities, for me, that’s what the
Dartmouth experience and the Dartmouth education
really prepared me for. And what I’ll tell you is, earlier there was a conversation about the split or gap that occurred during the Vietnam War era between Dartmouth and the military. And I had a completely different
experience when I came. In fact, when I was accepted to Dartmouth, the Army had a cap on what they
would fund my education for. And they said, “We cannot
pay above this line “and Dartmouth is above it.” So I called Professor Pease, and I said, “Sir, thank you so much for
accepting me to your program. “Unfortunately, I’m not
going to be able to attend.” He said, “Why not?” Well, this is the cap, and
the Army can’t pay above that. And he said, “Don’t worry about it. “We’ll take care of it.” Not only did he personally work to reduce my tuition rate to meet that cap, but he reduced it well below the cap. And so, that people like Professor Pease are still getting personally involved with students that they see promise in, I’m very grateful for that, sir, and for that first impression, but then also for the impression that you beat into my head over the
course of the following two years with the numerous books in
classes that we took together, and I’m very grateful. And so when I think about those three educational experiences the first and foremost
is the MALS program. The Masters of Arts in Liberal
Studies program, for me, I was going to teach literature
at West Point after that, and I have since gone, I left. So, for me, I focused in cultural studies. And doing that, and
exposing me not only to a set of literature that
was both wide and deep in how it gave me a vocabulary not only to talk about my
military experience and my service but also think about what that means for me as an individual, and perhaps, even if I could
intuit my own identities. That’s what I would call is
the liberalization of the mind that you’re looking for, sir. And so I took that
experience to me as I taught literature at West Point. I took that experience as I taught pop cultural studies courses for the battalion that I
was the chief of staff of at Fort Lewis, Washington, before we went off to the Philippines, and to Korea, and to Thailand. Call it the gift that keeps on giving, but I think that that’s why we ask for ROTC programs to come, and we ask for veterans
to come and be students, is not because we’re
trying to militarize… I may be taking a quote from you here. We’re not trying to militarize the campus. We’re trying to liberalize the military. And I think that’s a good thing. Secondly is that the second education is this reading group that I stumbled into. I think at the time I hadn’t met Ron yet, and I didn’t really have
a peer out there in campus that had that same experience that I had. And I saw a pamphlet in a
flyer for your reading group that was meeting down
at the public library. And so I stumbled into there, and it was into a room of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans. And they were like, “What is
this punk doing in there?” And I walked down with, like, my tweed jacket and my flat cap, and they thought I was just
probably some snot-nosed kid. Then they gave me the opportunity to just sit and listen to them, and to be a part of that chorus of voices, and share in our experiences, and interpret those experiences in the challenges of coming home by thinking about the same
challenges that Odysseus faced when he tried to transverse
between Scylla and Charybdis. I think what really surprised me most near the end of that experience, Roberta, was when Jake Tapper was here
with his book release tour of “The Outpost”, telling that story, and I was there as part of that. And you and the entire group showed up. It wasn’t necessarily because
they wanted to hear the story. For me, I felt like because
they were there to support me. So there was that… There was that peer support that I don’t think I would
have experienced anywhere else that I’ve carried with me
through my current studies of Homer and what it means for coming home for the American military veteran, which maybe we can get to
during the conversation. Then last is just the greater community with people like Nathaniel
Fick and Ron Bucca, and the other student
veteran organizations, whether it was the Dartmouth
Undergraduate Veterans or Tuck’s organization. And that it is through
the civic-minded approach that there’s also a
different kind of education that extends well beyond the uniform and well beyond when we take this off. So carrying that with me as well. But I think I’m well beyond my
allotted five or 10 minutes, so I’ll pass the mic. – [Roberta] That’s fantastic, thank you. Thank you. (audience applauding) Wow, thank you. – Thank you. Stoney, it’s always a hard and insightful act to follow. Roberta, thank you for
pulling this together and for the invitation. It’s a real treat for me to be
here today back at Dartmouth and in the same room as two
of my professors from… It’s been more than 20
years now, I’m sorry to say. But it’s a real honor to be here with you. I guess I wanted to make
just a couple of points, and make them fairly
quickly, since I think the most compelling parts of these things is always the discussion in the room. But before I make my two
points let me just say I really identify with what Stoney said about this sort of tug of
which world do I belong in. I think many of us feel that
even after we’re out for good. And I feel it most acutely, of all places, in the departure lounge at airports, where one of the many little acts of societal contrition for having ignored what our military’s been
doing for a couple of decades is allowing military members
to board the plane first. My blood pressure goes
up every single time when I’m standing there anonymously as a dude in jeans, or a
business guy in a suit, and I watch the mother traveling
alone with small children, and I see the older person,
maybe with a walker, and there go a couple of
18-year-old buck privates hopping on the plane first, and it just… It just pisses me off every time. (audience laughing) Navigating that kind of, you know, betwixt and between, is hard. The two things that I would offer just by way of personal perspective. One, I was at Dartmouth as a undergraduate in the peacetime ’90s. I don’t think it’s that we as a community thought
well of military service, or thought ill of military service. I just think we didn’t think about it. It wasn’t really on
the radar at that time. Bill Clinton was in the White House, and the tech economy was booming, and 9/11 was effectively unimaginable. And so, I joined a peacetime
military in the 1990s, and it was sort of a little bit of a lark. I didn’t want to… President Hanlon’s here,
which I really appreciate. Thank you. And something that I
think we’ve spent time on, I know we’ve done it as a board, and I know we’ve done it in
other parts of this community, but people come into Dartmouth, first-year students come into Dartmouth with a thousand interests, and too many of them leave on four tracks. There’s this funneling effect into investment banking,
and management consulting, and medical school, a law school. If you really want to do one
of those four things, great. More power to you. But if you’re just defaulting
to it because it’s easy then I think we need to combat that. So in the ’90s we just didn’t
think about military service. And so, I didn’t want to do
one of those four things. I frankly, probably,
wasn’t creative enough or bold enough to cut my
own path in some other way. And the military felt
like an interesting way to pursue some interests that I did have, like leadership, like the
outdoors, like athletics. I mean, it was a proxy for
all these other things. So I spent a couple of
years as an infantry officer in the pre-9/11 peacetime military. And then obviously it all changed, and had a very busy few years after that in the combat military before trying to reintegrate. I went to grad school and had a handful of
jobs after grad school. I think the… It’s easy to maybe, I don’t know, romanticize or pontificate about the value of a
liberal arts education even in a place like a
combat infantry unit. And most of the comparisons
are maybe overdrawn. But I will say that a couple of things that
really seemed to matter. My Marines were always
hungry for information. It was sort of the adage that people will follow you
through the gates of hell if you tell them why. Being able to paint
some context for people in those very fluid, uncertain, fast moving and frightening
situations where you can say, “Hey, guys,
here’s some of the threads “behind what we’re doing, some of the why. “And I don’t have all the answers “but here’s just a little
bit more perspective “to help us all understand
what’s going on here.” I always found my Marines to be both grateful for that and
also really responsive to it. That’s maybe one argument in favor of having an officer corps that has places like
Dartmouth represented in it. The second thing that I wanted to say, just again by way of
conversation starter, was people ask me all the time in the course of my current job… I went to business
school after the Marines. People say, “What was
it about business school “that really equipped you for this, “for these kind of growth CEO roles?” And I kind of look at them blankly because maybe I was a bad
business school student, but I didn’t pick up very
much in business school. I got a little bit of a network but there are other ways to do that. I picked up a vocabulary but frankly could have
read that in a book. The thing I really got
from business school was when things in my business were cratering I never laid in bed at night
and looked at the ceiling and said, “If only I had an
MBA I would know what to do.” So I got that maybe, whatever
sense of self came from that. I think that building and
running a business, for me, takes me back to the things
you, that I learned, at least, as a junior officer in the Marines. The notion of galvanizing
a team to do something hard and then keeping your
head as things come apart, because that’s what… That’s what happens in life. Things come apart. One of the real distinctions that I think became apparent for me very viscerally was the difference between legal authority and moral authority. You look at Major Portis in his uniform, and imagine if all of us
had the equivalent of this where our place in the
organization sat on our collar, and we had our resume stapled
to the outside of our jacket. But that’s what a military uniform is. There’s a lot of moral authority
vested in this uniform. People in the military respond
to that, they really do. But they respond to it
a lot more in peace time than they do in combat. I’m guessing both of these guys, I don’t want to put words in
anyone’s mouth, but I’m… You’d be hard pressed, by the way, to find a pair of Dartmouth
graduates since Vietnam who have more close quarters
firefight experience than these two. This is… This is a humbling place for me to sit. But the difference between
legal and moral authority, it’s very strong invested in
this hierarchical institution, and it matters in peace time but it doesn’t matter
a whole lot in combat. What matters in combat
is the moral authority. And the leaders to whom a
lot of moral authority accrue are the leaders who, in my
experience, did two things. One, they knew their jobs. And two, they took care of
the people in their charge. And if you know your job, and
you take care of your people, then you accrue a lot of moral authority. That’s the currency you’re
trading when the chips are down. I think that living that experience in the military is invaluable. Because too many people
fall back on their title or their resume, and the real capital that
I think we’re all spending in our human interactions,
certainly professionally, and probably personally too,
is that moral authority. And the heroes in life, in my experience, are somehow the people
with no legal authority who get lots of moral authority. The young people, the junior people, the disenfranchised people
who, for whatever reason, are really good and really take care, they’re empathetic and
take care of their teams, and they have an immense
amount of moral authority. And the goats are the people who have all the legal authority, but they just don’t have
the moral authority. We all know who they are. Life in a combat unit makes those distinctions very stark. So… Thank you. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Roberta. – [Roberta] You have
to go after those two. – (chuckles) I know. It’s a tall order to fill. Thanks, everyone, for braving
the snowstorm coming in here. As Roberta mentioned, my
journey begins with 9/11. I grew up very much blue collar family. My father was a New York City firefighter. He had served in Vietnam. My grandfather and uncles
had served in World War II, Iwo Jima, Battle of the Bulge. I had a respect for the military but it was never really in the plans. And then fast forward to 9/11. My father’s a New York City firefighter that responds to the South Tower. Unfortunately, we lose him that day. I wind up working a
little bit at Ground Zero before finishing college and then deciding to join the military. So a very visceral reaction to the events and to what I wanted to do and why I joined the military. At that point, from then on, it was pedal to the metal, 100 miles per hour. Both mentally and physically,
becoming a Green Beret, serving in combat, multiple combat tours, and as these, everyone, all the combat vets in
the room can attest to, it very much becomes about survivability and getting through the next
obstacle and the next obstacle. And you don’t really get
time to reflect or slow down. We talked about Dartmouth
being a bubble earlier with kind of a negative connotation. But for me it was very much positive. Fast forward to 2012 when
I show up to Dartmouth, and I’m forced to take a breath. I come off a combat tour in Iraq. At that time we’d closed down the country for
the first time, I guess. I thought that chapter
in my life had closed. And I show up here and, you know, the town
essentially shuts down at 9:00 PM. You’re forced to say, “okay,
I’m sitting here with myself. “I have to self-reflect.” And then I have to meet
new people, and interact. For me, this was a positive
bubble in the sense of you’ve so much intellectual horsepower and just, like, academic vigor here that you can’t find elsewhere. And it’s aside from the hustle and bustle of Cambridge, of the city. And it allowed me to reconnect, to reconnect with society,
to reconnect with myself, to reconnect with reading, quite honestly. The army functions at, I think, an eighth grade reading level. That was a little bit of a challenge. Long nights in Baker-Berry to get those academic
skills back up to par. But I’ll forever be grateful for Dartmouth and the opportunity it allotted. Combat, I think, gave me the confidence to understand that I could go
to a school like Dartmouth, and I could meet the
challenge that it presented. But it was Don Pease, the
MALS program, Jim Wright, that really afforded me the opportunity and helped me realize
that it could happen. Yeah, that’s pretty much why I’m so grateful to be here today. (audience applauding) – I would like us to have this discussion. Now, if this were a war stories class we’d all have read the same text so we could all riff on a
particular text that we read. But the hope was that we could
actually have a discussion to end the day. So I’m going to open it for any questions. Does anybody have any
questions or comments? Oh. Two hands. Vitalya. – I think I’ll… – Defer to.
– Defer, yeah. (audience laughing) – Thank you. Thanks to all of you for your service. And Stoney, I had a full head of hair when I arrived here too. (audience laughing) You’ve each spoken really powerfully about what benefits you derive from the institutions that you belong to, Dartmouth and the military. What we know today is that trust in institutions is eroding rapidly in this country, especially amongst the younger generation. Do you have any sense of why, given what you’ve taken
away from institutions, and why might this be happening? – Gentlemen.
– Yeah, I’ll… (audience laughing) I was walking through Harlem last week and there was some graffiti on the wall. And it said, “Too many
humans, not enough soul.” And it kind of made me sit
there and think about that. Roberta and I were
talking before this, too. I feel, to some extent, the
civility has been taken away from the institutions, from the gathering. You can blame social media,
just technology, current times, whatever you want to attribute that to. But we’ve lost this
ability to humanize things and connect as people, to include debate, healthy debate, understanding people’s
different stances and opinions, and then being able to walk out of a room and not begrudgingly hold
that against one another. I don’t want to dwell on social media but it tends to take away
from the human aspect. We just no longer connect as people. And I think that’s the
beauty of a college campus, of the classroom and having
that face-to-face time and being able to talk and interact. The accessibility of virtual
this and that, and remote, it’s phenomenal, it’s
progressed us in a lot of ways. But I think it’s also taken away, and we’re feeling some
of those after effects. – I love that answer. – Hoo. – That’s incredible. I think the… One of the few institutions that does retain some level of trust seems to be the military,
in poll after poll. And so, maybe the way I might
try to attack that, Phil, would be why is that, and what are the things about the military that allow it to retain
some degree of trust, even among young people? And made all the more remarkable
by two decades of war, and yet still this institution has at least some amount of trust. It was the only truly diverse institution I’ve yet been a part
of, I think, actually. I came out of Dartmouth and worked. Three officers above me
in my chain of command were all African American. That wouldn’t have happened
at McKinsey, or Goldman Sachs, or the other places I could
have gone out of here. But diverse more meaningfully to, like more politically diverse,
socioeconomically diverse. Just a real mixing pot. I think somehow… We talked a little bit
earlier about this great sift or sort that’s happening
in American society where people are even
increasingly moving to zip codes that reflect their points of view. The military still is somehow
more broadly representative, and I think meritocratic. I just am hard pressed to identify institutions that are genuinely that way. – [Roberta] Thank you. Stoney, you want to add to that? – I don’t think I can add anything to either of those things. What I will say is that
there’s a unique challenge among maintaining that in
the military right now, and it’s twofold. The first is that roughly… Of the military age eligible
population in America, roughly 30% qualify, in terms of health, prior drug abuse, prior criminal record, to
even enlist in the Army, or maybe Air Force, Marines. And so, it’s an interesting… I think it’s an interesting problem from a different perspective. And that is that while we might perceive that there is an eroding sense of
trust among institutions, I think concurrently
these institutions are, for the military, at least, are having a challenge
of filling their roles. And I don’t know that
there’s an answer to that. A sense that I have is
that General Robert Abrams, who is commanding U.S. Forces Korea, recently made a call to all
of the senior military leaders across all branches of the defense to get onto Twitter, and to get onto Facebook, or
Instagram, or social media. And his reasoning was because
that’s where our soldiers are. And if we want to have
a conversation with them then that’s where we have to be. And so he recognized
that there was too many senior leaders across the organization that just weren’t having an organization, and so in an attempt to flatten it. That’s what he thinks is
probably the best move to make. I wonder how much of it is
just that we are missing the opportunity for dialogue. I don’t know, I’m just speculating. – [Roberta] Wow. Chris. – [Chris] Thank you all
very much for coming today. Thank you for your past service, your current service,
and your future service. And Roberta, thank you very
much for organizing this panel and for all the work that you
do on behalf of our veterans. (audience applauding) I’m struck by a certain tension that was revealed by
President Hanlon’s question about eroding trust in institution and a comment that was
echoed from each one of you about the sort of separation between your military service
and your civilian lives. And I’m wondering if that might not be the solution to this question about why the military retains some
of the respect of society that so many of our
other institutions don’t, and that’s a sense of being separate from the rest of our lives, civilian society. Maybe not being so
prevalent on social media, for example, and out there. And I’m wondering if you
might talk a little bit more about that dichotomy in your own existence between being part of the Armed Forces and being part of the civilian society, and the degree to which you
like to keep that separation, and the degree to which maybe you’d like to see it more integrated. – [Roberta] That’s a big one. – I deal with it a lot. I still serve in the National Guard, and working for a company
in the civilian sector. And then on the weekends or every couple of months I got
to throw on my military hat and then go deploy. I’m in charge of a Special Forces team. So two very kind of different
worlds, if you will. And it’s a challenge. It’s always… I am able to glean some of
the things out as far as what Nate talked about earlier,
that sense of cohesion, being able to build out
processes and procedures, being able to bring a
team closer together. I’m able to take that from combat, from the military side of the house, and I’m able to provide that to the civilian side of the house. But generally speaking it comes down to different motivation, and it’s really understanding
the individuals. It’s a lot more difficult
for me, on the civilian side, to understand what motivates people. The Army makes it easy for me. It’s we’re given a mission, and hey, we all have to achieve
this common goal together or the mission fails, or… The risk is a lot higher so it tends to bond people
and bring them together. On the civilian sector, when someone’s not motivated, but they’re doing it for an
hourly wage, or maybe a salary, it becomes a lot more difficult. And you have to draw on that
empathy, that human connection. And really, that’s been the
common bond between both worlds, is just drawing back to
that skill set in empathy and being able to relate to people, and getting them behind a common cause. You’ve probably faced it. – I did a video call for work
a little while ago today. And right at the outset of the call one of the members of my team said, “Hey, Nate, why are you wearing a flower?” About my poppy. It’s like that kind… You just got to do that kind of thing again and again and again, right? Knowing Roberta this is probably by design but it’s interesting to me that we have… We have, in Stoney, somebody still on active duty, kind of two feet in the world, and then Ron, you have
kind of a foot in each, and I have two feet out. And so we represent that whole
spectrum of experience. And I can just say from my… My sense of making that transition was… Every now and then you read something and it resonates with
you because it somehow crystallizes everything
that’s in your head but you haven’t found the words for it. And Elliot Ackerman is a Marine veteran who’s turned novelist now. I actually went for a walk
with Elliot 10 years ago when he was thinking about
writing his first novel. And I put my arm around him
very paternally, and I said, “Well, young man,
writing fiction is hard.” A National Book Award
later, he’s doing okay. (audience laughing) Elliot did an interview
in The New York Times. I think it was around
Memorial Day this year. And he said that, in his view, one of the unique and interesting things about these current wars is that they haven’t ended. There’s no end. And so, for everybody who leaves, each of us has to make his
or her own separate peace. Because it doesn’t end. At a certain point you just have to say, “That’s enough for me. “I’m out.” Because, I mean, otherwise you’re just… You can only play the numbers for so long. Eventually, at least in my experience, people’s chip, people’s number comes up. And so I found that, I found Elliot’s
observation really powerful. That each of us has to make
his or her own separate peace. It’s a great conversation
topic here because, again, we’re each in a very… We’re in different
relationships with that world. – [Roberta] Go ahead. – I don’t know that I’m
qualified to answer your question since I’m still in. But there’s a very, very
closely related question which is about the perception of a gap between those of us who are civilians and those of us who are
within the military. How do we bridge that gap? I think that there’s a lot of… A lot of veterans out there who
have now called attention to saying, “Thank you for your service,” maybe isn’t enough to bridge that gap. But what I will say on the side of still wearing the
uniform is that there’s those of us also have a responsibility to explain what that service is like, what that experience is like. And that can be done through
the literary example, like Elliot’s work. But I think it also is importantly done just through the personal
relationships that we build throughout wherever we go in life. When I came here to Dartmouth I had this attempt to
see how long I could go before my classmates realized
I was in the military. Like, I wanted to hide it. Part of it was probably just
to see if I could do it. But there was another part of it just because I wanted to see
if I could survive without it. And I think I lasted maybe three days. It wasn’t long. And it was because on
the first day of class, when the teacher asked a question, I stood up, said my name,
said where I was from, and then gave her an answer that finished with the word ma’am. And everybody was just like, “Oh my god, why is he standing?” (audience laughing) That’s a true story but
it’s also just an example of I think we have a responsibility to explain a little bit of our culture and what our country asks of us. Because in an interview last week, Elliot made a really interesting comment about these forever wars. He said he posits that the
reason why they’re forever is because one, because
how we are funding them. And then two is because we’re doing it with an all volunteer force and so there’s no impetus to end them. That’s not me making a
political statement in uniform. That’s me regurgitating what I think is a very observant point. And so, I wonder about that conversation that we need to have on many echelons. – Thank you for that. Vitalya. – I’ve been doing the working
and recruitment thing recently and thank Dartmouth for
facilitating how easy that can be sometimes with their name on your resume. But I am noticing this trend of devaluing the humanities broadly, which makes being a
government and sociology major something you have to perpetually explain. The idea that one could inform the other and having to explain its
value, or almost sell its value in a business or temp environment. It’s become difficult. Being in the military I think,
you know, Secretary Mattis has encouraged us to always be reading. There was always a book list published. There was always a really key… Outside of consuming the ARs there was always this
encouragement to read. But I’m noticing that I don’t know that people
are interested in hiring humanities-focused students. And I’m wondering if that is starting to inform our ethics and activities in some of the highest levels
of business in our country. And I’m wondering what your
answer to that would be, or how you would propose we
start working to resolve that. – I love that question. I’m happy to jump right in on that. I’m kind of an absolutist on this point, so that’s my caveat right up front. I am imbalanced in my answer to this because I completely agree with
what I think is the premise you’re stating. I’ve run a Silicon
Valley technology company for seven years. And I will tell you that
too many of my peer CEOs are completely delusional about the effect of their
product in our society. And I think it’s partly because they not only lack that
perspective themselves, but they devalue it in
the teams that they build. And we’re reaping the
sickening harvest of that bias. Organizations are made
of humans, after all. And so, I’m a huge proponent for the value of a humanity, of the humanities and a liberal
arts education writ large even in, maybe sometimes especially, in the most technical leadership jobs. And one of the things that
I’m really excited about here at Dartmouth is the
pioneering position of this place in the whole concept
of liberal engineering, and fusing the two disciplines
in a way that I think is… I mean, I don’t think it overstates it to say this is part of our… If there’s going to be a salvation for us with technology in our society, some of it’s going to
come from that fusion. I really hope that the
pendulum is swinging back and that people are beginning to see how this overfocus, and underfocus on the
humanities, is hurting all of us. – If I could put a footnote. Because the people who flew
the planes into the towers had advanced degrees, education isn’t the answer. They had advanced degrees, but they weren’t humanities degrees. Just notice that. That you can be very, very smart, and very tech savvy, and very STEM savvy, but if you don’t have empathy or haven’t done that liberalizing, you can end up in a very dark place. And so I just have to put that out there. Please nod agreement with me because then I’ll have moral authority. (audience laughing) – I agree.
– Thank you. Bob. – As a combat veteran from the bad war, we came back and hid. So, really, our generation was not… I have no ability to present… I didn’t learn how to
present myself as one, as a combat veteran. And I was sort of encouraged not to. Well, now it’s not, you
all don’t have to… I presume now it’s a little bit easier to. How do you… I just try to present myself
as the best person I can and if they happen to
find out, which is rare, then they would think,
“Well, he wasn’t…” I try to give them a different
exposure, experience. I think that maybe is
when we lost some of that opportunity for the civilian, military, it divided ways? The ones who didn’t serve are the ones who had stake at the moral high ground. How do you… How do you find… What’s your ability to present yourself? Do you find ways to do it or do you just hope it happens? I guess I’m being a little liberal. Do you understand where I’m coming from? – Well, first, I’ll just say I think our generation of service members, beyond the debt of gratitude that we have as members of this society and
the nation for your service, we have a particularly special debt of gratitude that we have because it was your
generations of veterans that really took a stand to change that. So because of that, and because
of the difficult transitions that you all may have made, and you all certainly did make, we’ve had soldiers, sailors,
and airmen, and Marine that have been able to return and not have to necessarily hide something that is very much part of who they are. So I can’t speak about the transition, but I’ll just say thank you for that. – Yeah, thank you. My father serving in Vietnam, you serving in Vietnam, served as my role model
as I entered the military. For what it’s worth, yeah, I
just want to say thank you. And know that not just for
me, but for a lot of guys, we thought back to the guys in Vietnam. And every time we had a hard day, we said, “Eh, but what about those guys? “What about the 173rd on
that day in November?” So, thank you for that. But yeah, I just let it occur naturally. Some people it means something to, some people it doesn’t mean something to when they find out
you’re a combat veteran. It’s okay either way. I just have that… I know why I served and what I do. If that’s a value to someone, I thank them for thanking me. Or if I can share information with them to help enlighten their
perspective on it, I will. And then if not, I just let it go. Unfortunately, you’re always going to find both sides of the fence where people don’t appreciate it and people do appreciate it. So… – My perspective is,
the Vietnam generation, the experience of the Vietnam generation taught our society a lesson, or maybe our society
learned a lesson from it not to confuse the policymakers
and the implementers. And I think that we all have benefited from the fact that that
lesson’s been learned. But that said, yeah… I mean, to some extent, the fact that each of us is sitting here, it’s a part of our public identity. But I sure don’t lead with it, ever. I just find it more alienating
than unifying, somehow. Yeah. – That’s a strong statement. – [Roberta] Please. – [Participant] I have a thought that kind of fits with Thanksgiving. I think the problem in our culture is, in a sense, a lost narrative. So if you look at all the sweep of what we’ve done today here, those early military actions
have narratives that place them for modern people to
see where they had been, and what had happened, and so on. It seems to me that one of
the difficulties we have, somewhere around maybe
even the end of Korea, but certainly in Vietnam, we began to lose the narrative sense. And recovering some kind of
narrative, some kind of story of who we are and what
we’ve been through together seems, to me, to really
be a crucial issue, that apathy. I think it’s very easy to
talk about people today, young people today, being apathetic. I don’t think that’s really true. I see a lot of energy and passion. But I also see it is very
difficult for them to say, “I’ve come from here, and I’m going here. “There’s some kind of
storyline that carries me.” And I think your program,
what we’re doing here today, and what you young people are doing here, is at least you ought to start
trying to tell these stories. And that telling these stories and creating some kind of a
narrative for American life is really very crucial. – Absolutely.
(participant speaking faintly) It’s just a value, again. You say, “Well, people don’t
have the values anymore.” The values are there but they won’t help to make them move from
one place to another. So I thank you for your
program, or presentations. It has been a great day
to sit through them. – Please. – Sorry, sorry for being late, so I don’t know if it
was addressed already, but it’d be great to hear
the panel’s thoughts on your opinions on what
technologies you see in the future that could transform the military. Be it nutrition, or robotics,
or wireless, or anything. It’d be great to just
hear your perspectives. – I know there’s a hard
push for virtual reality. That’s becoming more and more prevalent. More realistic training for soldiers. And then as far as drone technology, that’s forever increasing. There tends to be a movement in DOD to becoming less risk averse to the men and women on the ground. So the more they could implement
drones or remote technology to take the place of combat versus sending actual troops,
sailors, Marines in there, that’s what they’ve been pushing
for in the last few years. And then nutrition, always. I don’t think you’ll see a
single one of us support MREs. (audience chuckling) At least from the ground level there’s a grassroots movement to improve the nutrition in the military. – Anything I’ve said in this, in this chair has been my own opinion, certainly not of the DOD. But what I’ll tell you is that… And I may be teeing it up for Nate here. But what I’ll tell you is
there’s been an immense amount of resources invested in
how we fight cyber wars. And this is everything from trying to envision cyber as
an entire domain of warfare, to creating branches within the Army, and the Air Force, and the Navy, to fight cyber wars. And I went to a lecture by
David Sanger a few weeks ago and it was an interesting conversation between him and Peter Feaver who is a civil-military
relations professor out of Duke. They seemed to agree that
their biggest concern, if they had to pick one thing
that kept them up at night, it was something in the near future. It is what’s going to happen with 5G. And what is this internet of things, what is the effect going to have if we have data that’s potentially routed through China, as an example. Or if we have everything that’s on the cloud, and we as a military are connected to our own version of that. And so, I can’t speak to
the particulars of that, quite frankly because I don’t know them, but I will tell you that even as an infantry
battalion executive officer, which was my last assignment before the PhD program I’m currently in, when we were doing our military
decision making process one of the things that
we took into account was the cyber threat. – Yeah, a couple things
from my perspective. And Stoney alluded to it, but my business was a cyber
security software company, so I kind of marinated in
that world for a long time. One observation in the cyber world and then maybe one in the kinetic world. The cyber domain… All of us, to some extent, are becoming more and more
reliant on digital stuff. For everything. For our personal economics, for education, communication, and all the elements of human flourishing. That increasingly digital… We’re connecting a billion
things to the internet, globally, every quarter. That trend is accelerating,
not decelerating. It’s more and more interwoven
in all of our lives. And the currency in the digital domain, the reason it works for
us so far, is trust. There’s a basic level of trust. I trust that my bank balance today and my bank balance next week are going to be appropriately related. Not many of us are sitting
there balancing our checkbooks in a way that used to be the norm. And I can almost promise
you, unfortunately, that everybody in this room has had money stolen out
of their checking account by Eastern European criminal groups or Russian-affiliated criminal groups, but our banks true us
up without us knowing it in order to maintain
our trust in the system because they make a lot of
money from online banking, and they want us to
remain online customers. In my view, it’s about maintaining
that basic level of trust. And there are all kinds
of forces right now that are going to degrade that trust. We’ve all heard about deep fakes, this idea that if eight
or 10 minutes of video exists of you anywhere online, which is, I think every
professor in America, and everybody involved in
public life in some form, and anybody who even has a
home video that’s on Facebook that others now see and can download. I mean, it’s pretty close to everybody in the connected world. Any one of us can have a video made of us saying or doing anything. And it’s going to be very hard
to tell that it’s not real. And what does that do to trust? I think we’re headed for an interesting evolution
in the digital world. Maybe one other example. If you live in the Northeast you’re accustomed to the fall storms that slam and your power
goes out for three days, and it just happens. And it happens with everybody trying to
get your power back on. Well, what about a world where now every dedicated resource
of the Chinese military and government is committed
to keeping your power off? I mean, think about how
hard it is to restore it when everybody’s aligned
to getting it back and now throw in a major external actor who wants to keep it down. Like, that’s coming, it’s all coming, in my view. In the kinetic world I think it’s… I’m on the outside looking in, now, guys, so you have more insight than I do. But the whole concept of
global precision strike. The idea that you can identify a target anywhere in the world and destroy that target
with the push of a button, from here, without putting
anybody’s life at risk. It’s a combination of
identity technologies, facial recognition, other
things, coupled with power and navigation advances,
and precision munitions, and very small amounts of explosives. It’s not a laser guided bomb coming from an aircraft overhead, or even a missile from a long distance. It’s a charge the size of a dragonfly, and it’s flying up somebody’s nostril. When all those things, that
whole chain gets put together, you live in a world where you can target anybody
in the world at no cost. That’s a really chilling world. All of which maybe comes
back to the humanities. – [Participant] A circle. (audience chuckling) – Okay, I’m going to
ask one of my questions. Nate, you… One of the distinctive features of you on this three panel is that you began service before 9/11 and continued after 9/11. And so, I’m curious if you perceived in the way people perceived you. And actually, I remember seeing you at Joel Malkin’s induction and having attended, when I’m invited, watching officers be commissioned, watching Brad Wolcott be
commissioned at the DOC house that was maybe full of 30 people, 20 of which were Brad’s family, and then being in a building
in the Black Center, in a room in the Black Center that was filled with people, not all of whom were Joe Malkin’s family because there was a very
large Dartmouth community. So my question is did you perceive, at Dartmouth, in the time, and maybe
beyond Dartmouth as well, the perception of you and
your decision to serve before 9/11, after 9/11, was
there a change in attitudes that you saw? – Yeah, it’s a really
interesting question. There was a huge difference. It manifested itself in
so many different ways. I was commissioned in Baker Library on the day I graduated. It was early in… Yeah. I mean, look, nobody came. I was the only person in my class. That’s not true, there were two of us. There were just the two of
us who joined the military in the class of ’99, right out of school. And it was kind of like I
said in my opening remarks. It wasn’t pro or anti, it just
wasn’t on anybody’s radar. People didn’t think of
it as something to do. It wasn’t on the menu. So it was… People… Again, it was almost, it
was benign indifference maybe was how I would characterize it. It just, it was, “Okay,
great, go do that, fine.” And then it changed and it became, we went through this
period where it felt like we overcompensated in a lot of ways and it became, you know, heroic. It shouldn’t be heroic either. I think there’s a healthy… There’s a healthy
balance somewhere between those two points. Not only did I join before
and then leave after 9/11, but I left the U.S. on a
deployment in August of ’01, a month before 9/11. And so I went to Afghanistan
and Pakistan from overseas. I left the United States a
month before 9/11 happened and came back the middle of the next year. And so, missed the whole transformation. I used to have a little card… Just to illustrate the transition. I used to have a little card, a DOD card that allowed me to carry a duffel bag of assault rifles
onto commercial flights. And I would have this clanking bag that I’d be pushing up into
the overhead compartment. That’s the world I left, and came back to a place
that was hard to recognize. So much had changed. And it was so stark because it wasn’t a gradual change for us. It was a step function change because we left a month before and we came back almost a year after. – [Roberta] Yeah, yeah, yeah. – [Participant] What did they make you do with the assault rifles? (audience chuckling) – Now you have to… You got to package them up and ship them. Or put them on a military plane. It’s probably a good thing. (audience laughing) – [Roberta] Vitalya. – [Vitalya] Unless anybody
else has a question. You critiqued the idea of, like, kind of this absolute blind patriotism that was being in some
areas in this country. The idea that a veteran can have a complicated
relationship with their service is something that I don’t often hear discussed or acknowledged. The idea that a critique of our activity abroad, in your belief, our priorities abroad, in your belief, is something I don’t really
hear veterans engaging in often. I know that obviously all three of you have a value for the humanities, again, and so I know that you,
probably in particular, are capable of critiquing
(speaking faintly) But I’m curious about
how do we communicate that vast pendulum of the heroic veteran and then the treatment of
the Vietnam War veteran, and the balance that we should strike in humanizing our activities, both abroad as a military and
then as individual veterans? – [Roberta] Solve that one. – Okay. (audience laughing) That wasn’t on the sheet. That’s a great question. For me I think I’m still figuring it out. I’m kind of torn in the sense of what that means and how much say I have. I think it’s easier for
me to focus on the team, this kind of micro level. And so, when I look at what we do… I just deployed late last year, got back earlier this year, and it’s a much different
environment than when I deployed back in ’03, ’04, et cetera. And it’s gotten more difficult and more complex over the years. It comes down to the people I serve with and trying to find good in whatever community I’m embedded with. And I just tend to become focused on what am I going to do with that community to make it a better place when I leave, what am I going to do with the team to make us stronger and better not just in the mission,
but as individuals. I’ve talked a lot of my teammates into going back to college,
going back to school, helping them find jobs, and helping them with
this transition period because it kind of goes back
to the earlier discussion of this forever war, where, how
do you find peace with that, and how do you separate with that? I know it’s not a great answer, but I think I still struggle with that, and I still struggle with where
I stand on the whole thing and what it means. You know, what aspects I want to mitigate and what I want to keep. Yeah, no, it’s a difficult question. That’s a good question. (person speaking indistinctly)
(Ron chuckling) Let me know when you find out. – You’re right, I can’t… I’m not going to openly… I’m not going to openly, publicly criticize the military on this. But I think it might be healthy
to think of this problem in terms of a concrete issue
instead of an abstract one. I’ll give you an example. Post-traumatic stress and suicide among Afghan and Iraq War veterans. It’s a great one, right? Are we scared to hire veterans and to allow them into schools because they might just
crack under the pressure and shoot up the campus? Or do we have pity on them? Which is it? And I think that something
that the military… I don’t think, I know, something that the
military has grappled with is this very topic of how
do we change the climate to where it is okay to ask for help? How do we change the climate to where, instead of saying, “You are weak “because you are suffering
from the trauma of war “that we just put you through,” to saying, “You know what, you are
acting heroic right now “by saying, ‘I need to take a knee, “‘because that’s what’s
going to be the best thing “‘for me, for my unit, for my family.'” That’s something that
we’re grappling with. And I think we’ve done a tremendous job, as you all have probably certainly seen just with the number of
behavioral health providers that we’ve seen join the military service and plus up in deploying units. By way of an example, I think that any time that a corpus of work speaks in unison about a
topic, we should listen. And we are seeing that right now among military veteran writers. Just as a quick example. These stats are a couple months old because I haven’t looked at it since then. Since 2013 there have
been 64 works of fiction formally published about the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 64. Of those works, 28 have been published by
veterans of those wars. This is not nonfiction,
this is strict fiction. Of those 28, an overwhelming majority feature a main character that
is struggling with suicide. Suicidal ideation, suicidal
thoughts, or completion. But the veteran writers, and some of those are
active duty writers as well, are grappling with this issue, I think, not just because a publishing company would think that a story
like that would sell but because we as a nation are grappling with that same thing outside of the military as we are inside. There’s over… Over twice as high of a suicide rate among 18 to 34-year-old
Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan than
their civilian counterparts. And we’re seeing that same
thing to grapple with. So if I have a critique
about what we’ve done it’s been about our culture. And we’ve got to, I think,
accept the fact that the military is very much
a reflection of society. So I don’t think this is
just endemic to the military, although it certainly has the attributes where that’s where it starts. That’s something I grapple with every day. And I think the inset
is, okay, is she a hero, or is she weak because
she’s asking for help? And I think that we have
got to continue to work towards the direction of hero. Or it’s okay to ask for help, and you can still have a
successful military career. – Hear, hear. I heard kind of a kernel in your
question about politicization and what do we do, kind
of what do we do about it. And the starkest example in my mind isn’t about foreign policy at all, because hugely complex,
multivariable, historical issues. The starkest example of this
weird politicization in my mind is these stories of military leaders who are being charged with,
effectively, war crimes, and the way that camps
coalesce around this issue. There are a couple of Special
Forces NCOs I can think of. There’s a SEAL chief, a
couple of Marine Recon guys, who have all now been charged under the Uniform Code
of Military Justice. And the thing that unites them all, in my amateur, outside-in reading, is they were all accused
by their teammates. Not by the liberal media,
not by Hillary Clinton. They were accused by their teammates who surfaced this through
the chain of command and said, “Hey, this guy’s
doing the wrong thing.” I certainly, in my
experience, witnessed… It’s hard, right? In these life-or-death situations, people sometimes do the wrong thing, and they need to be
held accountable for it. That’s what officers and NCOs do. So the fact that the president intervenes and this large media machine
gets behind these cases and somehow holds up these individuals as if they’re being attacked when it all originated
in their chain of command and with their teammates
they served with who said, “Hey, this guy’s behavior is not right,” I find that to be the starkest example of the weird politicization
of what’s happening. And so what do we do about it? I don’t think there’s any… A running joke in our line of
work, old line of work, was there aren’t many silver
bullet solutions to problems but sometimes there’s a
1,000 lead bullet solution. It’s a thousand… Am I allowed to make a
joke like that, Roberta? One of the 1,000 lead bullets in this case might be an organization
like one called With Honor, which was started by a
guy named Rye Barcott. Dartmouth gave him an honorary
degree a couple of years ago. And Rye started, I mean, it’s
essentially a centrist PAC aimed at supporting political campaigns by Republicans and
Democrats who are veterans who sign a pledge, essentially, to work together across the aisle and try to return strength to the center of American politics. I mean, I think it’s a… It’s a noble undertaking,
it’s a worthy cause. Man, I think the work he’s doing is great. So… It’s maybe one small tangible
answer to your question. (Ron mumbling) – Paula. – [Paula] I’d just like to go back to how you guys all talk about the importance of empathy
and the humanities. I think the whole topic
of this conversation was kind of empathy between
those who are close to you. Like between teammates,
between those of you who lead. Or if the intergenerational… Like, intergenerational empathy, like how do we connect to
those who served before us. But I was wondering what you guys think about international empathy, and how do you see the
importance of empathy between you as a soldier
fighting on one side and there’s also another soldier
fighting on the other side. How do you deal with it? Do feel like that… How are your thoughts? – I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people I’ve
faced on the battlefield. Maybe not initially, but in time I’ve realized they have
their own convictions, their own values, their
own morals that drive them to do what they do. At the end of the day, everybody
wants to be the good guy, or the good person. And it’s just not that black and white. We operate in a gray area. But I will tell you this. Empathy has gotten me further on the battlefield or
in a war-torn country than a gun ever has. Being able to walk down the street and talk to that shopkeeper
or talk to that family, it all boils down to the same kind of hierarchy of needs when
you talk to people. They want their children safe. They want a brighter future. They want them to be able
to attend school safely. They want to be able to feed them. They want some type of stability
in their life, and shelter. If you’re able to relate to that, and better yet, if you’re
able to provide that, if you’re able to build a hospital, if you’re able to vaccinate kids, if you’re able to build a well, that goes over 100-fold. They call it the fist and the heart. It’s just so much better
to open up the heart and try and get everybody on board moving towards a common goal. So I’m a big advocate of it. But it’s not always that simple either. It’s challenging. – One of the things that
always gets me fired up is when a politician, and
it’s usually a politician, refers to our adversaries as cowards. Maybe one thing the three
of us share in common is, we might disagree, with
might be on different sides, but they’re not cowards. I do think there’s an interesting element of commonality across that divide where there might be times
when you have more in common with the person you’re fighting against than you do with some of the things you’re ostensibly fighting for. Just an observation. – Well said. I think that the stark future
that you painted earlier with the dragonfly flying up the nose… (audience laughing) – [Nate] That’s very graphic,
I was trying to make a point. – Yeah, I’ve still got that… (multiple people speaking indistinctly) I have a very, very hard time seeing a future of war fighting that is one without the human element. And so I think that… I mean, the most successful
military leaders I’ve worked for are the ones that understood it was, like you already said, an
organization made of people. And they were empathetic. They cared that you had a family and that you were there
at the office late, and they made you go home. I feel like the empathy
question’s a relevant one whether we’re talking
about war fighting or not. I mean, it’s just, we’re all people. That’s why I’m a believer. That’s why I’m studying in
literature at the moment. – [Roberta] That’s great. Yes, please. – Just to pick up on that theme. What do you think motivated our enemies on whatever battlefields you’ve been on? Is it religious extremism,
is it patriotism, or is it just love of their comrades that caused them to
fight as hard as they do? – All the above. I truly think it’s the same. People are pretty much the
same no matter where you go and it’s some of the
same motivating factors. I will say usually there
is a socioeconomic factor, at least in the recruiting element, for a lot of the extremist organizations. When people feel they
have less options in life they’re more drawn to
sacrificing themselves or doing more radical things. Not always, but in some cases. – Yeah, I think you’re
right on there, Ron. I’m thinking about my 2006
and ’07 deployment to Iraq where we saw a huge drop
in the amount of attacks that we saw in our area of
operation north of Baghdad. This was before the Sunni reconciliation, but much of it was attributed
to a microgrant program that we had created through
counterinsurgency doctrine. And to be very, very general and wavetop, it was how do we get military age males from joining al-Qaeda and instead support the government. And it was, well, let’s figure out a way to give them a job and give
them a sense of purpose. And so that’s where we
funneled our efforts. Clearly there was challenges in making that a lasting solution. But in the very near future it was a socioeconomic motivation. It’s seeing the human side of it. I mean, many times, he or she
is not given an alternative and this is what they have to do to get food on the table, to keep the other guys
from targeting them, and what have you. – Yeah, I’d echo that. All of the above. In my experience… My experience was just
a couple of soda straws. Afghanistan early on, in the fall of ’01, and then Iraq early on,
in the spring of ’03. I remember having a conversation
in Afghanistan early on. It was a little cadre of
hardcore al-Qaeda guys who tended not to be Afghan,
they were foreigners, and then a large number of Afghan Taliban who had a different set of aims. And had a conversation
through an interpreter one day with an Afghan farmer and asked if he’d seen any
foreign fighters around. And he looked at me, and he
said, “You mean other than you?” (audience laughing) I had to give it to him. That’s a good one, that’s a good one. So, yeah, there were different aims. And then Iraq in ’03 my experience was… It was in April of ’03 that
the statues of Saddam came down and the Iraqi military
was basically defeated. And then there was a pause, and everybody was kind of waiting
to see what would come next. What came next was a vacuum, essentially. The Iraqi Army got disbanded and de-Ba’athification got pursued down to a pretty low level
in the Iraqi government, so you ended up with a bunch
of disenfranchised young people on the streets with guns. It’s a volatile… It’s just a volatile situation. And then by late summer the
insurgency was in full bloom, but I don’t think it was foreordained. – I remember after… After the battle that we had been through when my troop had been
surrounded by all those Afghans, and I lost eight soldiers in that battle and 19 additional were wounded, and that’s out of a cavalry
troop with 72 soldiers, and I learned in months following that my superior, my battalion commander, was trying to make peace
with the head leader, fighter, that had organized that attack. And I was just infuriated. Coincidentally, we had crossed paths because he had been a
professor at West Point in the social science department. He goes, “Stoney, how do
you expect this to end “if we’re not willing to
make peace with our enemies?” That’s a pretty fair point. (chuckles) – That might be a good ending. A better ending is a round
of applause followed by drinks and reception
(audience chuckling) right outside. But let’s start with a round of applause. (audience applauding)

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