The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rumors and Conclusions

I was originally going to do my commentary for this week on something else - actually, I have two half-written posts, and was going to pick one and finish it.

Then I ran into something that seriously annoyed me, namely: Obama Administration Replaces Top Generals Following Benghazi Disaster. I've been trying to avoid this topic on Facebook and elsewhere - given that I'm also in the military, I hesitate to take sides on an issue like this one. Needless to say, I'd like to emphasize that disclaimer at the top.

With all that said, I have some serious problems with the article I linked to.

First is the source for what amounts to a claim that President Obama is relieving the AFRICOM commander, General Ham, for deciding to send a reaction force to help the embassy in Benghazi. It's a forum post on a forum related to Louisiana State University.

Really? No. Just no. I don't care how much that poster trusts his unnamed military friend. I have no reason to believe it.

For that matter, a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that Gen. Ham has been in his post since March 8, 2011 - about a year and a half. Given that the president's nominee for the post won't actually take command for a while yet, I don't find it unusual at all for Gen. Ham to be relieved after about two years; that's pretty close to standard for overseas military tours as far as I know. Not exactly conclusive, but it's not really helping the conspiracy theory either.

Then the article I linked mentioned that the Navy is relieving an admiral in command of a carrier strike group. I'm not quite sure why, to be honest. The cynical part of me is saying that they want the reader to see that and think that President Obama is relieving military commanders left and right for no reason, or to protect himself from the fallout over Benghazi. Which is stupid - the article itself says that the admiral being relieved likely isn't connected.

So what, exactly, am I saying here? Benghazi was a disaster; there's no doubting that. And I'm willing to believe that the president screwed up. I think we're still not sure exactly who screwed up and in what ways, but it's at least plausible.

But this would be something else entirely. This wouldn't be an overlong moment of hesitation or a stupid mistake - it would be active malice directed from the President to his military commanders. The evidence just isn't there for an accusation that serious.

Why do I care so much? It's not because I care all that much about defending the President, actually. His public relations staff can do that just fine. What I care about is that someone is effectively making up a story here, with no actual proof - yet it's already starting to spread. I think this XKCD comic applies here, if we replace Wikipedia with blogs in general - and that's not a good thing. This is how one side starts repeating pointless bullshit, and how the other side teaches itself that the other side has no respect for truth. We're not going to make any progress going this way.

One last thing: what if it's actually true? Then there might be a reason to risk that sort of damage, right?

Well, no. If it's true, then more evidence will emerge, and I'll admit that I was a little too doubtful at first. In general, I don't think there's anything wrong with that unless you're trying to act that way in the face of overwhelming evidence.

And as I've already noted, I really don't think this is overwhelming evidence. Not even close.

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