119 Comments

Wonderful questions and real life answers from the General. He spoke in plain English. If the Ukrainians don’t take a break and resupply their armament AND resupply their body and mind these advances won’t amount to a hill of beans. They must treat their POWs according to the Geneva convention. Revenge cannot be a part of the program.

May God Bless Ukraine.

Luke O ‘Brien

Foster City, CA

Expand full comment

Gen. Hertling's description of how to create an army from a mob reminds me very much of my experience (50 Years or so) of being a professional musician in an orchestra. I have sat in most every position in highly rated ensembles--- as a section leader, as an assistant, as a section member, as a solo player, and done my share of conducting. Morale, support, and mutual trust are as crucial to an orchestra as they are to an army, and I have also been in situations where all have been missing and while about the most you can expect from the office management is to stay out of the way (musically speaking) this fish truly rots from the head --- it is the Music Director who makes the final personnel decisions, largely chooses the repertoire, the soloists, and the guest conductors, who sets the tone of concentration (or lack thereof) in the rehearsals, if necessary protects the institution's artistic integrity from the attack of the bean-counters in the business office (bureaucracy is eternal and omnipresent!) , and over time either molds the group into a winner or presides over its descent into mediocrity or worse. While for the most part lives are not at stake in the situation (unless you count the instances of frustration leading to depression, alcoholism, broken families, etc. all of which I have seen and some of which I have been through myself) but for those who truly care about the art --- and no one becomes adept at it without investing many years in training and experience --- the feelings in failure to meet a reasonable standard of performance are not that different from those due to a serious preventable loss.

Expand full comment

Charlie's Podcast with General Hertling was incredibly informative. Geeat job!

Expand full comment

I have not been able to follow through on the bullet point, "I'd like to report a homicide." What was that about?

Expand full comment

Charlie, I didn't read the whole conversation but the abridged part in your daily. Which I read every day.

I am a Member, an American (Boston) of Russian descent and I can tell you that the Russian State since Communism has been rancid with corrupt and unskilled leadership. I am sorry for my people, who will suffer the most from this artificial intrusion, and so I donate and do what I can. Hertling is excellent and should be the Chief of Staff. Thank you for this. I served America although I did not see

combat, I was active in other areas. Sometimes my Country makes me sick.

Expand full comment

This is off topic from today's morningshots but... In 2022 more than eight prominent Russian businessmen / oligarchs plus some family members died from unnatural causes. One (Ravil Maganov) recently fell out of a hospital window. I don't know if one or more of the deceased oligarchs may be named sources in documents that were improperly stored at MAL. But it is worth considering how the improperly stored documents may have been used, duplicated, and disclosed by those with the ability to access the documents while improperly stored at MAL.

Expand full comment

Interesting post. The current public will most likely never know. If / when any of the records are unsealed / reviewed by journalists, we'll probably be long dead. I could be wrong, though. It's been known to happen. :)

Expand full comment

The general public will never know if there is legitimate connection between improper document storage and unfortunate oligarch fate. All things considered, such information would not meet the need to know standard for public release.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

Funny thing is, the very same systemic rot that Hertling discusses in the episode is alive and well inside of our own military, it's just that our corruption involves classism and a faux-meritocracy instead of straight up kleptocracy. Worse for us, whereas officers in the Russian military are effectively worthless placeholders, officers in the American military have real responsibilities.

Examples of said corruption of the meritocracy via classism and poor evaluation metrics:

1) You need a degree to be an officer most of the time, so we're automatically constricting our officer candidate pool to wealthier American households who can afford to send their kids to colleges with ROTC programs or get them into service academies, so already the starting pool of officers is tainted by classism year group to year group. Believe me, there are FAR many enlisted service members who would make better junior officers than the fucking high school kids going into the service academies with no military experience whatsoever and a "meh" attitude about service.

2) Officers are automatically promoted through the rank of O-3 (Captain). There is no sorting whatsoever of good officers versus bad officers at the tactical and operational levels because they get auto-promoted every two years until Captain and only then do they really start to get evaluated for operational competency. This leaves operational units being led by a pool of poorly-evaluated and poorly-recruited junior officers, which is why units increasingly rely on platoon sergeants and their NCOs (sergeants) to actually get shit done. It's because the junior officers have no fucking idea what they're doing and get auto-promoted whether they're good or not.

3) Even when officers start getting evaluated competitively, it's based on the worst imaginable metrics possible. It usually centers around that officer's ability to get his boss's priorities done (a field grade officer is the boss, O-5 or higher). If the O-3 can get the O-5's command priorities done over the course of 2-3 years, the officer gets a good review (a "fitness report"). It doesn't matter if this officer is good or bad at his/her job, it just matters that the officer can get his boss's priorities done--because that's what determines if the boss gets another promotion at his next top-down command evaluation so that he/she can go on to being an O-6.

4) When Captains get promoted to Major (O-4), if they look like they're being idle and not being active, they don't get promoted to O-5 (Lt Colonel). So what they do is come up with a "bullet list" of shit they want to accomplish while they are at the command, such that when those things get accomplished by the end of their tour, they can go to the promotion board and waive around a bullet list of bullshit they "accomplished" while serving as a commanding officer or executive officer. Half of the time, 90% of their accomplishment list is actually a massive waste of time and money and man-hours diverting the resources of the unit into pursuing trivial bullshit that doesn't really do anything for units on an operational basis.

In a nutshell, we recruit junior officers from some very decadent households, promote them for nothing through the rank of Captain, then continue promoting them based on how much they can divert a command's mission away from lethality and toward some nebulous bullshit that'll make the commander look good on his next evaluation, and then we sit around and wonder how our leadership got so bad that it bungles countless operational and strategic level initiatives during a 20-year war that they couldn't win when we gave DOD a blank check across 4 administrations. It's because our military leadership pipeline is a fucking joke, that's why. The worst part is that when they fuck up their jobs nothing happens to them beyond promotion. Imagine if Putin was promoting his officers for losing districts in Kharkiv Oblast and that's *exactly* how our military functions. I gotta remind myself every time I get introduced to an officer as a "bronze star recipient" that these guys basically get those given to them like candy for end-of-tour awards that result in zero operational progress.

Expand full comment

Travis - I would recommend avoiding applying to be a military recruiter any time soon.

Geez...I feel like you have MAGAfied the whole promotion experience of the military. You take facts and MAGAfy them into horror stories. For instance...the O-1 to O-3 promotions are pretty much like the E-1 to E-3 promotions in that...if you haven't broken the UCMJ...you're probably going to be promoted. You are absolutely correct that the Junior Officers are nearly completely dependent upon the senior enlisted on their first tour. You act like that's the end of the world, but I see it as a great opportunity for the JO's to get trained up by the senior NCO's.

Further...there are TONS of opportunities/programs for sharp kids that couldn't otherwise obtain a college degree....to get into military programs that will fund their college and promote them to officer upon graduation. When I was going to OCS (Navy) we marched past the "Napsters" (Naval Academy Prep School) where underprivileged kids were being prepped for attendance at the Naval Academy.

As far as the promotion process in the military...it has the same frailties that civilian organization's have...the claims of favoritism....or promoting the "kiss-ass'ers", etc. My experience in my 30 years of service...is that it's pretty good at weeding out the problems and retaining the successful ones. I believe that it's gotten better over the years with more mature leadership training, etc.

It's not perfect and never will be...but MY GOD...it's certainly NOT the trash bin that you describe...at least not in my experience anyway.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

The difference between an O-1 being auto-promoted to O-3 and an E-1 being auto promoted to E-3:

An E-3 is still in charge of basically zero people and that auto-promotion timeline is about a year long.

An O-3 is in charge of potentially a hundred or so people and that auto-promotion pipeline is about 4 years long.

See the difference in consequence over how we auto-promote between enlisted and officer now?

With respect to the officer opportunities afforded to the less-than-privileged, I suggest you look into the intake numbers of privileged vs non-privileged. OCS is *the last fucking tap* that manpower managers turn on to make FY quotas. The bulk of officers entering service come in from the service academies and the ROTC programs. Like, it's not even close, that's about 85% of the officer ascensions on a year-to-year basis. Ask any community manager and they'll tell you. Not only that, but the requirements and competition pools are *totally* different when talking about MECEP/STA-21 versus unqualified ROTC jugheads on the lacrosse team waiting for their turn to get selected for aviation.

On promotion processes being shit in corporate structures just like the military: Correct! It's almost as if corporate America and the officer corps copy off of each other and have done so for quite some time. The faux-meritocracy is everywhere, and yet with all the bullshit bullet point items all of these field grade officers and above have to pull out of their asses to make the next promotion, not a single one of them seems to want to reexamine and change how we evaluate our officers. That's laziness and a refusal to look inward for what the institute is doing wrong. A fucking "command climate survey" isn't going to impact the advancement of the officers who are fucking up, so it's not like officers up for promotion ever have to face what their subordinates or peers think of their work--only their boss's input. It's a 100% top-down evaluation look for promotion. Think they go around asking the enlisted or other junior officers if these officers getting a look are complete fuckups? Of course not. That would make sense, so the officer corps will refuse to do it because they HATE admitting out loud that they've been doing this shit the wrong way all along.

I don't know when your experience was, but I was enlisted '04-'08, ROTC from '10-'13, and commissioned from '13-'18 so I got to see this shit all over the place across two branches of service and both as enlisted and officer. The fish rots from the head.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

All I can say is my experience was completely different than yours. I deployed to the Middle East as a Navy Officer into an Army command and so I did notice some definite cultural differences in the Army that made me glad that I chose the Navy.

That being said...I find your extreme ranting a sign of perhaps it wasn't just the Army/Marines' fault that you had a bad experience.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Well...my running joke about the Marines is that I was going to join them...but, unfortunately, I PASSED the intelligence test. :-)

There are some things I really admired about the Marines and my interactions with them...but there are also things that I didn't like. Just convinced me even more I was in the right service for who I am and what I value.

Expand full comment

Is there a viable path from enlisted to officer via OCS, especially if OCS is in your enlistment contract? I’ve read that there is on internet sites, but it’s hard to assess the accuracy of that claim. Also, do officers who follow that path typically make better officers?

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

Speaking as someone who went from enlisted to officer, I can comment on this question. The Marines/Navy have programs like "MECEPS" and "STA-21" (I assume Army/Air Force/SpacFor have equivalents). This basically takes the top 1% of young enlisted people with high potential and offers them competitive seats to attend university so long as they maintain GPA, graduate within 3-4 years, and then come back in on an officer's contract. The competition for this pipeline is *brutal* among already-experienced military NCOs and is a very slim path as far as prospects go.

Me? I had x2 punishments under my belt ("NJPs") by the time I hit 21, so I knew programs like MECEPS were going to be a no-go for me--as was enlisted advancement past a certain rank (like E-7) where the selection pyramid starts to get *really* competitive. What did I do instead? I got the fuck out while the getting was good, and when shit didn't work out for me in law enforcement, I went back in on the officer side by competing for an officer seat through *ROTC*. In THAT pipeline I was a fucking rockstar--a 3-tour combat veteran of the '04-'08 years with a solid GPA and the kind of discipline and work ethic that the Marine enlisted culture beats into you. I was competing against high school kids whose resume high points included things like extramural sports activities and bullshit like that. I had combat awards, operational experience, and knew how the system worked and could call in letters of recommendation from former officers I had worked for. Getting bars slapped onto my shoulders was a million times easier going through ROTC than going through MECEPS or STA-21. The system isn't designed for the non-college kids with the most heart and the best work ethic to succeed. It's designed for the privileged kids so that they get to be bosses quickly without having to go through the hazing or earning of leadership position through *actually fucking leading people* who trust and respect them lol.

Expand full comment

Thanks for your perspective and detailed response. My ex-wife’s dad and brother were both E to O in the Navy and retired at 0-4, 3.5 and 1.5 decades ago, respectively. They made it seem like the path was wide open to high-achievers. And of course they would think that …

Expand full comment

It also depends on jobs too. The more technical the job, the more options there are for "limited duty officers" and "chief warrant officers" and the like. Those are the jobs where there's usually enough retention demand to open up limited officer slots to retain E-6s/E-7s who don't want to go the E-8+ route and would rather stay in their line of professional expertise and not deal with the E-8+ bullshit.

Expand full comment

Yep. They were both highly trained oceanographers/meteorologists … with a side of mine warfare.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

Sounds like we had a lot in common. I was an enlisted minesweeper who became an oceanography/meteorology officer. Promotion rates to O-4 (LCDR) were 80% and roughly a 70% selection rate for O-5 (CMDR) when I was still there as well. The oceanography side stuff is waaayyyyy cooler than the meteorology stuff tbh. Modern mine warfare oceanography units employ UUVs (underwater drones) to go look and it's mostly automated data collection and then processing the sonar imagery.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

It’s standard human self-aggrandizement.

In any event, I’m happy that you have highly attenuated military “connections” that render you something of an expert on military affairs. I too have connections, albeit ones that are less attenuated since I married into a military family and stayed married for 25 years. I unfortunately didn’t progress to your level of expertise, however, perhaps because I’m obviously not as clever as you.

Please note that I won’t be responding to you in future. I haven’t up until now as far as I’m aware. Be well.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

As someone with military experience (though from the 80s) Travis' observations are fairly on point.

I trained officers (as an enlisted man) and was qualified to actually do their job at that level (qualified Engine Room Supervisor, Engineering Watch Supervisor, and Engineering officer of the Watch). After my stint as a trainer I was Reactor Laboratory Leading PO on a Flight 3 LA Class SSN.

An officer was nominally in charge, but I ran the division. If there was a question or problem the Eng or CO talked to me, not the Officer (well, they NOMINALLY talked to the office--chain of command--but I was the guy with the answers).

I loved my job but hated the living conditions to the point that I developed stress issues. So I got out.

Expand full comment

Well, I asked Travis for his view. We *all* have “personal axe[s] to grind,” and engage in unsupported inductive “reasoning.”

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Max E - We've had our difference, but I'm with you on that one.

Expand full comment

Yea you're right! I might have become a colonel some day, fucked up the district my command was supposed to hold down for 8 months because I was unprepared, and then gotten a bronze star for it. Now THAT would have been terrible.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

Max, How do you know that? My guess is that Travis’ view and experience could and likely should be used to improve the military. Being an uniniformed @ss#ole definitely doesn’t help.

Expand full comment

Thank you for giving the highlights of your conversation with the General. The only question I have is what more can we and our allies do to help Ukraine defeat the Russian army. Secondly, where along the vast lines have the Ukrainian forces met their stiffest resistance.?

Expand full comment

I do like the point that Ukraine isn't a great army, they are just a less bad army.

In some ways the same can be applied to the Ukraine government. At this point they are just less corrupt. The problem is war time always breeds profiteers. So as we give aid to Ukraine we need to keep that in mind. I don't think we did that in Afghanistan.

Just some thoughts with my morning coffee

Expand full comment

When I hear Mark Hertling speak, I think of the striking contrast between Hertling and the former guy. Yes, I know, using the former guy as a benchmark for comparison can make anyone look good. But in terms of leadership ability, substance, competence, character, dignity, knowledge of world history and foreign affairs, respect for knowledge and expertise...Hertling demonstrates key statesman attributes. If only Hertling had the will to serve in highest public office. But I understand Hertling does not want to become a politician. I cannot blame him for that.

Expand full comment

Since we can't comment on Josh Baro's piece on Graham unless we are paid subscribers there and the Graham proposed fifteen week abortion, I would feel the need to point out that most women don't even know that they are pregnant at fifteen weeks.

Further, most testing for birth defect issues really only become available between fifteen and Twenty weeks.

It will not be long before we see contraception bans done right after the first candlelight dinner. Maybe before!

Expand full comment

I hope someone who knows what she's talking about will clarify all this without lapsing into the talking points about "forcing women to give birth, banning contraceptives ...." and the rest of the catastrophising.

Expand full comment

Which part of Peter's comment is unclear? Or was my comment unclear?

I'll explain mostly my comment and some of Peter's, and I don't catastrophize all that often.

1. Most women do know they're pregnant by 15 weeks. There are cases where they don't, but they're rare.

2. Texas' 6-week ban was absurd because many women don't know they're pregnant at 6 weeks. The way they count the weeks of pregnancy is from the start of the last period, even though ovulation and implantation occur about 2 weeks after the period. If someone has very regular periods of a cycle between 30-35 days, their period is only 1.5-2 weeks late. They'll notice if it's that late, take a pregnancy test, and probably know they're pregnant by 6 weeks.

If their periods aren't regular and they're not trying to get pregnant, it's not uncommon for women to not know they're pregnant at 6 weeks. Peter's argument is valid for that one.

3. Most genetic testing and/or ultrasounds happen between 13 weeks and 20 weeks. These can show health issues like fatal chromosomal birth defects and abnormal physical development that can be fatal, as well. With Graham's ban, diagnoses of problems from these tests where the baby wouldn't survive but the maternal health isn't in danger wouldn't be eligible for an abortion. And I do think "forced birth" in these situations is cruel to the mother and the child.

4. Late-term abortion is not a medical term, although "late-term" pregnancy is a medical term. It refers to the 3rd trimester after 28 weeks. Viability is usually around 24 weeks, so people often combine those two terms and think that means women are having abortions when the baby could survive.

The phrase late-term abortion traditionally refers to 2nd-term abortion, but it's an imprecise way of stating it.

4. More conservative individuals consider IUDs and Plan B close to abortion because they can stop the implantation of a fertilized egg. I wouldn't be surprised if some states decide to ban those birth control methods.

Texas governor Greg Abbott has stated that rape and incest victims can take Plan B, but he changes his mind as often as he changes his socks. If he gets enough flack from the right, that'll no longer be true.

That was probably way more information than you ever wanted, but I hope it clarified things for you.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Joanna. I appreciate every bit of reliable information i can get on this topic, there's so much erroneous information, indeed intentionally false or willfully ignorant misinformation out there. A Jewish friend ridicules the situation, saying his father advocates what he claims is the ancient Jewish law that abortion is lawful up until graduation from medical school.

Expand full comment

I would disagree with "most women" don't know they're pregnant at 15 weeks, but it's a strong argument opposing the Texas' 6-week ban. The point on genetic testing between 15-20 weeks is a good one.

Graham's phrasing of "late-term abortion" meaning ones after 15 weeks is absurd.

Expand full comment

Here's what struck me. In referring to Russia's failings: "it is so debased by their political leaders." The MAGA folks want the exact same thing for all of American governance. Clearly a winning recipe!

Expand full comment

I thought similarly. The other thing that always floors me about the MAGAs is that they claim to want to make America great again...but it seems they haven't a clue what made us great in the first place. They act like our political system and government had nothing to do with it.

We could always be better but I think they lose sight that we are still a great country.

Expand full comment

With full acknowledgement that it doesn't roll off the tongue or fit as easily on a hat, shouldn't the goal always be to: Make America Better Than Ever. MABTE

What kind of a bankrupt mindset is it to want to recapture a past that never really was and definitely couldn't be again.

Expand full comment

My favorite is MAGAs telling me how much they love America, yet they hate half of the people here. As far as actually making the country better, Bill Clinton put it best. There is nothing wrong with American that can't be fixed by what's right with America.

Expand full comment

I don't believe I've heard that quote...and it's excellent...thanks!

The other thing the MAGAs do/say that is so telling...and, of course,...hypocritical...is to say... "Can't wait for the mid-terms so we can take back the majorities and start investigations on Wray, Schiff, Comey, etc. because they weaponized the government"

Their lack of self-awareness used to be sort of funny until they elected Trump.

Expand full comment

Fortunately, the one we have doesn't have nukes... or at least we think he doesn't.

Expand full comment

This is fascinating to read. Very good insights into a world I know little about. I have strong memories of visiting Gettysburg battlefield. There are numerous plaques which describe how the Confederate Army got to a certain place, and then ran out of ammunition and could not be supplied. Very vivid example of how important logistics is.

Expand full comment

Excellent! Thanks Charlie! I always learn so much because of you.

Expand full comment

Thanks for printing so much of this. Like others, I often don't have the time to listen to the podcasts, and it was enlightening to hear the analysis from someone who obviously knows what he's talking about (as opposed to most of the talking heads on cable). This post alone was worth the monthly subscription price, as others have been in the past.

Expand full comment
Sep 15, 2022Liked by Charlie Sykes

I encourage you to listen to it when you can. It honestly seemed like he was eager to share things with Charlie and the audience. He said quite a few times "I'm probably going to get heck for saying this...but..." and then shared some really amazing things about his experiences with the Russian and Ukrainian militaries. He was stoked. I think that Charlie was like..."I'm not going to get in the way of you and microphone....talk as much as you want, General".

One of the best and most informative podcasts on the war I've heard.

Expand full comment

That is usually a byproduct of experience. Good interviewers know how to formulate a question that elicits a thoughtful and expansive response; likewise they know when to talk (seldom) and when to listen (often).

Expand full comment

I first got turned onto the Bulwark podcast a few months ago. One of the things that impressed me early on was Charlie having the smarts to know when to "not get in the way" of his guests.

Expand full comment

He is so experienced that he’s an amazing media savvy host. Right up there w the best.

Expand full comment

Yeah. The easy thing about a podcast is you can be doing any number of things while u listen.

Podcasts are the ultimate convenience for multi-taskers!

Expand full comment