I get a lot of phone calls. They are coming with increasing frequency, particularly around dinner time even though I put my name on the do not call list. Most of the calls are from people or organizations of various types who want something, usually money, either donations to their cause or for the purchase of various products. Sometimes, actually rarely, they want my opinion, signature on a petition, even my vote. The less scrupulous have figured out that I use caller ID to screen for them and block their identity with the hope that I will then pick up the phone.
I have a variety of tactics to deal with these unsolicited phone calls. If I do happen to answer when the phone rings I will say I already gave, or that my wife handles all donations, or that I just bought something similar to whatever they are selling or even, truthfully at times, that I am on the other side of whatever issue they are pushing. Most of the time, however, I take the expedient path and just don’t answer when the phone rings. Whoever it is can leave a message – they rarely do if it is a solicitation – which I then erase if it isn’t from friends or family.
The U.S. Army’s phone rings constantly too. The big difference between my response and that of the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno, is that he can’t ignore the calls, hang up on the caller (usually the National Command authority, the Joint Chiefs or a Combatant Commander), or claim that the check is in the mail. He has to answer all his calls and most often respond to whatever request is being made. Moreover, even though these calls usually are orders directing the Army to prepare for something, spend money on something or send forces somewhere, he almost never can say no.
Just in the past few months, the Army has had to scramble to meet calls that directed the deployment of air and missile defense units to Guam, Turkey and Jordan. None of these deployments were anticipated; the Army had to scramble to identify, prepare, deploy and then operate these units. At the same time, the Army has received calls directing it to update plans to respond to potential contingencies involving North Korea, Iran and Syria. There are continuous calls involving Afghanistan, where a real shooting war is still going on. Oh yes, then there are the calls from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the White House and Congress telling General Odierno to plan for sequestration, cut his end strength, reshape his force structure, play nice with the National Guard and preserve unnecessary programs and excess infrastructure. Maybe he should consider getting an unlisted number.
The sheer volume of calls and range of demands on Army capabilities and forces belies the idea becoming popular in some circles that the world is entering an era of peace and tranquility. The continuous sound of the ringing phone should also put to rest the blithe contention that there isn’t a price to be paid for slashing the defense budget and gutting our military. The U.S. Army is the foundation on which virtually all significant and every sustained U.S. military operation anywhere in the world is built. Even when it is not providing combat forces, the Army is supporting all other forward deployed forces. If the time ever comes that the phone rings and the Army cannot answer the call, not just the United States but the world will be in big trouble.
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