Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Child, Policy, and Society: A question

A Sociologist, Muzafer Sherif, trying to understand how people formed groups, formulated a technical definition of a “social unit” which he described as consisting of a number of individuals interacting with each other with respect to:
1. Common motives and goals;
2. An accepted division of labor, i.e. roles;
3. Established status (social rank, dominance) relationships;
4. Accepted norms and values with reference to matters relevant to the group;
5. Development of accepted sanctions (praise and punishment) if and when norms were respected or violated.
(For implications regarding leadership, see this.)

Although the definition may appear quite formal, it actually describes a great deal of human interaction over a vast range of situations.  For example, all these criteria can be identified in a “bottle gang,” a group that pools the money they have to buy a bottle of alcohol that will be then shared amongst them. (1) These same criteria also characterize massive, formal groups such as religions, militaries, and nations.

Upon reflections, most of us would recognize that we are members of many groups such as families, PTAs, churches, neighborhood associations, political parties, nations, etc.  We also recognize that there may be conflicts between the motives and goals of various groups and, sometimes, between our personal goals and those of a group we’re in.  It’s no exaggeration to say that much of the conflict and distress of our lives comes from trying to reconcile these conflicting motives and goals.  An obvious example is conflicts between a person’s religious beliefs about proper actions and particular laws of a nation.

As citizens of the United States we generally share, and expect others to share, a goal of supporting the US government and it’s obligation to protect and preserve our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This is so even though we recognize vast differences in opinion about what that means and how to attain it.  In spite of these vastly differing opinions on every one of Sherif’s elements, we are still a social unit, a group, a nation.

But unlike a bottle gang and many other groups, in our nation thousand of brand new members enter into our group every day: our children.  They come into being as citizens, with some, but not all, of “the rights and privileges there unto pertaining.”  These new citizens, though equal before the law, come into being in vastly different circumstances; circumstances which will inevitably affect them from birth onward.  These circumstances, though not of their making, will powerfully influence the trajectory of their development over the course of their lives.

While every child faces a unique constellation of circumstances, our present knowledge about many particular issues allows us to make statistically valid generalizations about their effects on growth and development.  As just one important example, we can quite accurately predict the percentage of children who, born to parents whose income is in the poorest quintile, will make it to the richest.  There are dozens of similar issues that we know, as a result of careful longitudinal study, strongly influence a child’s chances of success in life.

In the unique set of circumstances each child faces, some are advantageous while others can be beyond daunting.  Income, parenting style, school quality, multiple characteristics of the local neighborhood, mentors, lead in the water supply or not, even sound levels and many more variables have been shown to affect child development and, hence, the adult who will join our society: this new citizen of our nation.  It is also true that each and every adult in our society burdens and/or benefits the rest of us to some degree.  They pay taxes or they don’t, they require public services or not, they do or don’t serve in the military, and so on and so forth.  As a result of all this, we each have a stake, however small, in who each child becomes.

When we look closely at the various circumstances the child faces it becomes apparent that not all of them are effects of happenstance or mere luck.  Not all are due to random variations in genres or fixed realities such as geography; some are “manmade,” the effects of actions and inactions of the Nation through time.  We obviously need laws, policies, procedures, agencies, and officials to specify the norms and values of our nation as well as the “accepted sanctions (praise and punishment) if and when norms are respected or violated.”  Yet, just as obviously, all such laws, polices, etc. are imperfect as is everything made by humans. The most well-intentioned law can’t cover every circumstance and there are always some rare, specific circumstances where most of us would say the law should not apply.   In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”  Sometimes the law will criminalize an unlucky traveller who missed a connection and has nowhere else to escape the rain.

But is it not also true that all human institutions create systematic differences in benefits, advantaging some and disadvantaging others?  This point is critical.  Every line in the tax code creates a benefit or liability that will apply to some and not to others.  Every Government program will provide benefits to some that are denied others, even those of apparently deserving status.  Geography, income, social class, race, age, and more differentially affect who does and does not receive some benefits or who is or is not subject to some penalty.  The inevitable implication of this is that among the circumstances that a child faces at birth, some are the result of the collective actions and inactions of us as citizens.  The inevitable corollary of this is that circumstances of birth result in wide variations in opportunity and adversity faced by each child.

If this is so, then it suggests a vital question:  Should a child be expected to overcome the circumstances of his/her birth solely through the results of his/her own efforts (and those of his/her family)?  Do we expect, therefore, differentially burdened and/or privileged children to deal with circumstances of our making solely through their efforts?

We could.  Indeed for virtually the entirety of human existence we have believed that the family is largely or solely responsible for meeting the child’s needs and assisting them through their childhood.  For most of our existence this made sense because the circumstances everyone faced were primarily “natural,” that is, those imposed by the physical environment, and largely the same for everyone.  But in modern industrialized countries that is no longer true.  Now the vast majority of US citizens are born into a primarily human made environment:  cities, towns, and rural areas where wilderness is something occasionally visited.  Now the circumstances a child faces at birth are largely those created by the workings of our economic, political, and social systems.

We could, but should we?  Some who consider this question come to a different conclusion.  Some believe that since our policies, our collective actions, increase the adversity some children face that fairness demands we act to try to eliminate, minimize, or ameliorate the differential opportunities that result.  Indeed, I believe this is, or should be, the animating concern of the liberal worldview.  The politics of liberals are/should be based on examining how existing and proposed polices/laws affect the opportunities and adversities faced by children and attempting to rectify any identified systemic differences. 

Indeed, much of liberal politics can easily be understood through that lens.  Liberal programs regarding childcare, nutrition, education, and social welfare are easily understood examples.  Sometimes liberals may loose their way.  Ezra Pound once wrote “Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance... poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.”  If liberal polices stray too far from equality of opportunity for all citizens, they, too, may go astray.  On the other hand, the vital importance of liberal concerns to the future of liberal democracy should not be underestimated.

Every human society must develop working solutions to two fundamental tasks:  1. How to protect the individual (or identified sub groups) from the power of the majority.  2.  How to dispense the benefits (and the costs) of shared efforts.

Both are extremely challenging.  Success at the second will make the first much more tractable.  Success at both is required for long term survival.


(1) The goal is to buy the bottle; one person may keep tabs on the money, another actually purchase it; the purchaser is usually the one seen as most trustworthy; people are expected to drink in portion to the amount the contributed; if you drink more than your share, you won’t be allowed in subsequent buys.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Negotiating the use of firearms

Possessing, carrying, and using firearms inherently create threats to public safety. The extent of that threat depends on the weapon, the person who owns/carries it, and the place it’s located.  I propose to first show the truth of these two assertions in as straightforward manner as I can in the hope that people on all sides of the present debate about the place and use of firearms in our society will find little to object to.  I will then argue that consideration of these issues should inform the debate about what limitations we do and don’t want on the presence of firearms in public spaces.

The Risk

Carrying any weapon in public, even a knife, creates a possible threat to public safety in that the use of the weapon puts members of the nearby public in danger of injury or death.  This is true no matter why or how a weapon is used:  whether for personal or official reasons, whether intentionally (e.g., to stop a crime), impulsively (e.g., in a road rage incident) or accidentally (e.g., a gun found and fired by a toddler).  This risk may be quite small but it is always non-zero.  Given the innumerable examples of people harmed or killed by the use of weapons in public spaces, I can’t see any basis for argument with this statement.  On the other hand, the degree of risk, whether or not the public should be subject to such risks, how to weight the rights of the public versus those of the individual, and many other similar issues, are legitimate issues of discussion. 

The Weapon

Several characteristics of firearms make them of particular concern.  First, and foremost, is their ability to kill at a distance.  The range of a particular firearm creates a circle of threat/danger around the carrier.  Anyone within range faces an increased risk of injury or death due to the intentional or accidental discharge of the weapon.  This obvious fact is the primary basis for community concern.  It is also important to recognize that the number of people exposed to the possible effects of using a weapon increase with the square of the range of the weapon.  If one weapon has 3 times the range of another, the number of people exposed is 9 times greater (assuming an even population distribution over the range.)  Thus, the population extent and density of a particular area fundamentally determines the risks that result from firearm usage in that area.

Second, the firing rate of differing kinds of firearms translates directly into different risks to public safety.  The risk poses by a muzzle loading musket or bolt-action rifle differs immensely from that posed by an automatic (or even semi-automatic) weapon.  A skilled muzzleloader can fire two rounds a minute; even an unskilled user of a semiautomatic can fire two aimed rounds a second.

Third, the level of skill and strength need to use a firearm differs significantly from other weapons.  Infants and toddlers regularly kill people with firearms, primarily handguns.  Not so much with knives.  The primary public health risk of this element is that individuals other than the owner can therefore easily use a firearm to deadly effect if they steal it or wrest it away from the owner.

Further, the ease of use of a firearm also makes them more likely to be misused in emotional situations.  This is especially true of handguns, which are both easily used and often readily available.  Firearms make it extremely easy to turn angry or fearful impulses into violent action.

Fourth, the kinetic energy generated by a firearm greatly exceeds that produced by other commonly available weapons.  This increases the risk of death and/or significant injury to targeted individuals as well as bystanders.  For example a 100 mile and hour fastball has energy of 140 Joules.  This is about as much energy as a single person, unassisted, can generate.  A single bullet from an AR-15 has energy of 1,854 Joules, 13 times as much as a single fastball.  Kinetic energy translates fairly directly into tissue penetration, tissue damage, risk of death, and range.

Fifth, the small size of handguns in particular makes them easy to carry and conceal.  This is both the basis of their appeal and their threat to public safety.  Because we cannot easily see whether a person is carrying a handgun or not, it is impossible to accurately assess the threat the person poses in a possible confrontation.  If you see someone carrying a rifle, on the other hand, you can take action and avoid his or her presence if you choose.  But a person has no way of counteracting the threat of a pistol in public that they cannot see.  Interactions between individuals in public are conducted assuming relatively equal power.  Possessing or displaying a weapon inherently changes the balance of power, vastly complicating the relationship and the risks of interaction.

Hopefully, your reaction to all the above is something on the order of “No duh!”  Indeed, I’ve tried to present these facts in a non-controversial manner as possible in the hopes that they provide a basis for discussion.  On the other hand, the contribution to threat posed by the person will likely be more controversial.

The Person

A loaded firearm possesses enough chemical potential energy to be lethal in itself.  But short of some unlikely event (e.g., it somehow gets hot enough to “cook off” a round), its real threat to public safety lays in its potential use by a person.  Let us next examine what is it about people, in general and in particular, that makes them more or less of a threat to others when carrying a firearm.  I suggest there are at least three areas of concern.


People are highly emotional.  Innumerable circumstances generate powerful emotions in people.   Emotions compel action.  It is nearly impossible to experience extreme fear, say, or rage without acting on that feeling in some way.  When people feel something, they tend to act on that feeling.  This is true even if they cannot articulate their feelings.  It is also true even if a person denies his or her own feelings. 

Emotions, the product of the brain’s limbic system, have direct access to action.  The classic example is how it takes 50 milliseconds for a person to react to a stick perceived as a snake while it takes and additional 250 milliseconds for a more complete judgment originating in the cortex to properly classify the “snake” as a stick.  In the grip of intense fear or rage, we often act first and think later.  Of course, people differ substantially on this dimension but everyone is vulnerable to emotional reactivity at some level of stimulation.  Thus, given the variety of interpersonal and environmental situations we may encounter that may provoke strong feelings, any person carrying a firearm in public is always at some risk of possibly using it inappropriately as a result of stimulated emotions.


People make rational decisions regarding the benefits versus the rewards regarding various actions, including the use of a firearm.  There are certainly situations in which the use of a firearm is a rational act.  Defending one’s home and family against armed intruders is an example.  It is also true the gun use in some extreme situations may be rational although it appears otherwise.  In essentially lawless areas where punishment is highly unlikely and survival depends on connections and reputation, a firearm may be the most rational of the choices available.  However, even though a particular use of a firearm may be rational, that does not mean that person has also rationally considered the many social and interpersonal consequences of that usage.  Such considerations may be missing from their assessment of the situation.  Recognition of that fact is why we try to establish policies, procedures, and laws regarding important events in order to makes sure all considerations are properly weighed.


Although people are capable of rationality, they are at least equally capable of irrationality.  Indeed, there is virtually no idea so unlikely that someone can’t be found to believe it.  In particular, they are subject to irrational beliefs about many things that make them more/less likely to use a firearm.  Examples include: Someone (or everyone) bares intense malice towards us, intends to hurt or kill us and there is no way to stop him/her/them short of killing; an individual (or group) has done us such a grievous injury that revenge is called for and even killing is justified; we are faced with an enemy or enemies of such implacable evil he/she/they must be eliminated; an insult to our God must be avenged; our wife/husband has so dishonored us they merit killing.  These and many other common, but also at least sometimes questionable beliefs lead people to commit violent acts.  Knowing this, it is not unwise to consider every stranger as at least a potential threat.  If they are also armed, the risk of harm as a result of their actions increases exponentially.  That is, they represent a threat to public safety.

The examples of beliefs I gave above illustrate that rationality/irrationality is not an objective matter.    All of us have opinions regarding when a particular example listed above could well be rational, as well as when we would regard it as obviously irrational.  However, there are certain instances of these acts that we have, as a society, decided upon.  If a person suffers from a mental disorder as a result of a malfunctioning brain (e.g., schizophrenia) we would hold their belief about most or all of these as irrational.  On the other hand, these same beliefs will be held in other circumstances to be rational, e.g., at war, or in various cultures, including ours, at various times and places.

My intention in mentioning these concerns about people is to normalize them.  That is, these concerns are realistic, legitimate concerns we have about each other and that we bring these concerns to any situation in which the use of guns is a possibility.  Dealing with them in any negotiations regarding use and control of firearms is, therefore, a necessity.

The Place: the Social and Physical Environment

The threat posed to others by a person carrying a weapon in a public space varies considerably depending on the characteristics of that space.  Characteristics I consider relevant and discuss here are population density, law enforcement, and political stability.  There may be others that people think are equally important.

The extent of risk is directly proportional to the population density within the range of a weapon.  Carrying a weapon in a city puts many people at risk while in unpopulated places of the West there may be places where even carrying a high powered rifle puts no one at risk.  At the same time, in more populated areas, the likelihood of interactions with strangers that might go astray also increases.

I believe that most people would agree that the decision to carry a firearm in public would legitimately depend on the degree to which the rule of law prevailed in the area one is in.  The social situation in the mid 1800’s “Wild West” differs greatly from that of present day prosperous small town in the Mid West.  In these examples we can see many factors that determine lawfulness vs. lawlessness of different spaces.  These include the presence of law enforcement, the sufficiency of the force, and the lawfulness vs. lawlessness of the law enforcement force.  Also important is the social cohesion of a population and its “buy in” of a social contract that expects law-abiding behavior and just application of state sanctioned force.  Obviously this can vary greatly over even relatively small distances, such as even neighborhoods.

Finally, the political situation in a country is a factor in the decision to carry firearms in public.  Does one only need to protect oneself from lawless citizens or also from ruthless and/or corrupt government agents?

Limitations on Access and Use

Given all the considerations described above, does it not seem reasonable that these considerations be taken into account in any attempt to regulate access to and use of firearms?  Only someone who believes the have a “right” to any weapon, anytime, anywhere, would not acknowledge the legitimacy at least one of these as their concern.  Given that, it also makes sense that gun laws should differ across places and/or communities.  That is, there is every reason to suppose that reasonable gun laws in Montana would differ greatly from those in New York City.  The populations of these two areas can be assumed to have significantly different views on each of the issues listed above.

However, at the same time, it is also true that we are a highly mobile population and citizens are always moving to or visiting other areas.  This suggests there could be certain standards that we (as US citizens) would want to apply everywhere in the US.  So I am obviously suggesting a national-state-local approach to gun laws where the Federal laws set certain baseline rights and responsibilities while state and local governments are able to adapt them to particular circumstances.

I believe, however, that there is another, far more meaningful way of hearing all the considerations I’ve listed above.  I believe that, carefully considered, what they suggest is that what we are really talking about is considering the impact of owning/carrying/using a firearm on our neighbors.  Thinking about it this way re-defines the debate about gun laws.  If I am at all open to considering the potential impact of my owning/carrying/using a firearm on the people I know who live near me, then the discussion is between them and me-that is, within my local community.  Is this not the definition of responsible ownership:  that I take responsibility for the impact of my firearm on the people around me who it might affect?  Isn’t the refusal to consider any such issues the very definition of irresponsible ownership?

Given the vast differences in the social and political situation of various communities across the US, there are legitimate differences in the perceptions of members of various communities about the role and intentions of the State and National Government regarding gun laws and usage.  For example, given the historic policies of enforced segregation, the war on drugs, civil forfeiture, stop and frisk, and funding local government through ticketing minor offences that have been differentially applied to communities of color, it is perfectly reasonable for such communities to hold vastly different views of the issues than ranchers in Wyoming.  Both communities should be in control of major aspects of how firearms are and are not used in their respective communities.

My hope is that this framework may help change the discussion about guns from an adversarial assertion of rights, from “them” versus “us,” from individuals versus the Government, to one between fellow citizens, each of who has neighbors and is a neighbor, each of whom is dedicated to taking care of him/herself while also recognizing his/her membership in some community of fellows.  All of whom are interdependent and share the hope of a better world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Leadership Failures Revealed in Serial, Season 2

I've just finished season two of Serial and have a few thoughts about some of the leadership issues discussed in the podcast.  I think they were thorough and wide-ranging in examining the issue of leadership.  However, I believe that they do not appreciate the full significance of the leadership failures and the magnitude of the impact such failures have on morale, cohesion, and performance.  Indeed, I argue here that much of the leadership described in the podcast constitute violations of the sacred duty of military leadership as defined in my previous posting here.  In my view, Bergdahl's diagnosis of the leadership problems was correct, but his prognosis was exaggerated, and his choice of treatment, while dramatic, made him, rather than the leadership failures, the center of attention.  Given the significant problems of leadership revealed in the podcast, this is unfortunate.

The incident salvaging the damaged MRAP provides the first example of poor leadership.  When the Battalion CO says "What?  You couldn't shave?" we all get the insensitivity of the comment. The podcast does a good job of demonstrating how the CO showed concern for appearances and disregarded the welfare of his men.  He apparently lacked concern for their wellbeing and was indifferent to their suffering.  When told of the men displaying disposable razors on their uniforms, Sarah gets that this is a "Fuck you" to the CO.  But she may not appreciate its full significance.

In the military there are regulations and traditions that severely limit what juniors can say to seniors.  So much of what the men in the platoon were feeling and thinking could not have been said to the CO.  In response to these strictures there is also a long military tradition of passive-aggressive behavioral communication of that which can't be said.  This "Fuck you" is an obvious example.  It was, in fact, an act of insubordination.  Had anyone said it out loud, they would have been so charged.  But even beyond that, such a passive-aggressive though unmistakable message to a CO after their first combat engagement on a deployment is a powerful statement of the men’s profound withdrawal of trust in leadership.  It is a clear and unequivocal statement that they do not believe that the CO will execute his duty to spend their lives as dearly as possibly.  They believe that he can't be counted on to make his decisions based only on military necessity and not put their lives at risk for any other reason, such as, for example, protecting his career.  Bergdahl saw and articulates this concern, though imperfectly and inaccurately, by imagining that the CO might send them on a suicide mission.  Berdahl seemed to have seen where the CO was coming from, but due to his (Bergdahl’s) paranoia, he likely exaggerated the CO’s likely course of action.  In my experience, leadership like this frequently leads to a sense of betrayal on the part of subordinates that can have significant negative consequences.

Similar issues are revealed in the incident where members of the platoon were digging a barricade while out of uniform.  Again, the focus on appearances was noted.  However the harm of this focus was understated.  The question of appearance standards in combat is a deep and ancient struggle as old as formal militaries and there are vital arguments for and against holding to standards.  But in this case, I believe the evidence in the podcast supports the belief that what motivated this CO was not concern for discipline but something else. 

Soldiers can't know the true intentions or the character of more remote leaders like the Battalion CO.  They don't have direct, everyday contact with him as they do with platoon or company level officers.  But because the Battalion CO holds their lives in his hands, they are obviously deeply concerned with who he is, what he's about.  They are left, then, to read signs, seeking insight from orders and actions relayed down the chain of command.  As a result of this discrepancy between great import and low information, even apparently insignificant actions can take on highly symbolic importance as indicators of who a leader is, what's important to him, and whether or not he is "taking care of his men."  I believe the data in this podcast shows the CO's concern was not as he stated.

First, consider that the six-man unit digging in on the hill is described as having called higher command for permission to relax standards and that was granted.  Given that, if any disciplinary action was warranted, it should have been directed at whoever gave the men permission, not the entire platoon.  Further, that should have been done in private, following the injunction "Praise in public, correct in private."  If permission had been granted, why then was the entire platoon was chewed out?

Second, the "discipline" the platoon received was ludicrous, obviously hysterical, as some men appeared to notice, calling it "too much".  But again, more here is revealed than meets the eye.  The notion that relaxing uniform standards in extreme conditions will lead to mass murder is ridiculous.  I'm not denying the "for want of a nail the war was lost" theory of combat contingency but the  exaggerated, prolonged, highly emotional, shaming, and diminishing tirade by the CO was not good discipline.  It was not coming from a rational concern for his men's welfare.  It was not a rationally considered argument.  It was not an attempt to demonstrate the importance of seemingly insignificant actions in combat.  It was not the conveyance of vital information the men needed to understand and correct an error.  It was, instead, the rant, in my opinion, of a fragile, petty tyrant revealed as imperfect to his superiors.  It was motivated by a "cover your ass" mentality, a result of his fearfulness of a reprimand from his superiors in response to the published pictures.

Finally, though I don't know if the CO knew this, his rant effectively obscured a more significant failure of tactical leadership about which I will say more later.

On a larger scale, the description of the search for Bergdahl revealed similar leadership failures.  When Sargent Major Wolfe says, so powerfully, that the continued search was "Fucking bullshit" he is expressing essentially the same criticism as Bergdahl.  As he implies, by that point everyone knew Bergdahl was almost certainly in Pakistan (including the highest levels of command.)  So what's the BS?  To state it explicitly, at that point the search is being continued not for the stated reason but in support of another agenda.  The continued search is not really in the interest of doing everything possible to find Bergdahl, but, instead, in the interest of being seen as "doing everything possible."  The search is continued in the interest of public relations, of showing determination, in preventing possible criticism of insufficient effort should Bergdahl show up dead.  In other words, again, as in the previous examples - for appearances.  This is, indeed, serious bullshit.  And, here again, this focus on appearances both undermines confidence in leadership and cohesion. At the same time, it causes and obscures tactical failures of leadership that nearly had catastrophic consequences.

In addition, in each of these three incidents, there were demonstrably incompetent acts of omission by leaders that easily could have had disastrous consequences for soldiers.  I'll describe these from least to most significant.

Whatever the merits of the CO's complaint about taking off the uniforms while digging a barricade, the failure to notice one obvious solution concerns me. If this action was so imminently dangerous, why then were there only the six men on the hill?  If six were necessary to dig the foxhole, why not six to dig, and six more to provide cover?  Even if the men had maintained full battle rattle, they cannot both dig and be effective lookouts.  If the situation was really so dangerous, adequate force to do the job should have been provided.  I believe the men knew this - though possibly not consciously – and that knowledge contributed to their seeing the CO's rant as ridiculous and dangerous. 

There were also tactical errors in the incident retrieving the damaged MRAPs.  Leaving aside other questions about how that operation was conducted, one question begs an answer:  Why was there no pre-arranged cover for the extraction?  The platoon and the vehicles were in an exposed location for several days.  There were, apparently, only two routes off the hill they were on.  Every Taliban for miles around no doubt knew they were there. The platoon must have known there was a possibility of an ambush when they left.  But there seems to have been no recognition of this possibility on the part of Bergdahl's command.  Certainly none was evident in the description of what happened at the ambush.  And although things turned out well, it so easily could have gone otherwise.  Imagine if platoon leader Billings had been killed, or worse, wounded, in his attempts to put a cable on the disabled MRAP.  Others would have inevitably attempted a rescue, exposing them to enemy fire without cover, possibly leading to a string of fatalities.  Such a situation could have easily spiraled out of control with a complete slaughter of the unit possible.

This appears to be a substantial failure of planning in the entire mission:  a failure to imagine and anticipate enemy actions.  It gave the impression of senior command sitting around the base, out of touch with realities on the ground.  I may be accused of Monday morning quarterbacking, but this was described as an experience battalion with previous deployments.  I'll ask others with more recent combat experience to weigh in on whether my analysis is out of line.  Yet, that there was no mention of the possibility of an ambush by any party in the podcast leaves me concerned.

Finally, the most significant, and potentially dangerous, failure of leadership was revealed during the search for Bergdahl.  An incident was described where, acting on intel, a team went to a site where they incredibly fortuitously discovered a booby trapped ambush.  I find no fault with anyone's failure to anticipate this.  However, to continue the massive search thereafter, rather than standing down all efforts except by small, elite units acting on something resembling valid intelligence was, in my opinion, criminal negligence.  I cannot fathom continuing the scattershot melee of troops speeding from place to place kicking in doors, given this clear warning that the US forces were being played. This is especially true given that this appeared to have occurred at or near the time when Bergdahl was widely believed already to be in Pakistan.  This failure to change course continued to expose large number of troops to real danger in the absence of actual necessity.  This is the very definition of a failure of the sacred duty of military leadership.

I realize that I am far removed from these events and may lack vital information.  I hope, however, that I have raised issues worthy of consideration.