This last week he had another article on the leaders in Afghanistan byMichael Hastings of The Rolling Stone. The target of this article is the three-star general who heads the training for Afghans – William B. Caldwell. General Caldwell is a past associate of mine who I briefly profiled here back in August. I worked for his father, then a BG in Germany, and I met his son William IV and helped to prepare him for West Point just before I left the service in 1972. His father was an exceptional officer, and I have followed his son’s career with some personal pride.
All of those things came into play when I read the article “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators” published in The Rolling Stone last week. Where do I begin? The article is aimed at bringing down another General – Caldwell, and also takes on Gen. David Petraeus who is waging what he calls – King David’s War. After my years of service is a junior Army officer I grew to have a strong distaste for the Vietnam War, and for all war in general. I think we should not be in Afghanistan, having written against the Russian incursions years before when I was a graduate student in Russian history.
I don’t know all the facts of the incidents purported by Hastings in his article, but I do know a hasty mob lynching when I see it. Part of my career today is helping executives manage their reputations and those of their company’s on the Web. This was a quick and vicious hit aimed at the integrity of the man and the Army, and it was quickly adopted by a larger media frenzy who saw a story that brought out the very worst in people’s opinions. Ninety-five percent of all the comments on the articles regarding General Caldwell had him drummed out immediately. New facts are coming to light now that show a different side to the situation. Far from using brainwashing techniques on visiting Senators and Congressmen, it appears to be the use of very modern tools we see everyday in our online and print media used to sway opinions.
Why is this important to me, and to you? For me it is about the man first, and the truth later. In our immediate world when everything can go viral in a nano-second, reputations can be smashed in an instant. That certainly happened here. No matter the outcome of the facts that will be reviewed at the highest levels – Caldwell’s career has either ended,or hit a dead end. These kinds of events in the military have major consequences.
Tomorrow I’ll talk further about this situation, reputation management and the future of our military with thoughts from Robert Gates from a recent West Point address to the Cadets.