Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tragedy? Not So Much

Last week's San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about a shooting in a pizzeria that began with this:

Catarino Piedra, 41, kept a gun underneath the counter at the Coliseum Pizza and Taqueria that he owned in East Oakland because his drivers had been robbed many times while making deliveries.

Allen Joseph Hicks III, 22, was an accused batterer on probation for a drug conviction and an aspiring rap artist whom everybody in his neighborhood knew as "Boonie."

The lives of the two men intersected tragically [emphasis mine] at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday when Hicks, armed with a pistol and joined by two other men, tried to rob Piedra inside the popular pizzeria at 89th Avenue and International Boulevard. Fearful that the assailants might hurt him, his wife and three children -- all of whom were inside the restaurant -- Piedra pulled out his 9mm semiautomatic pistol and opened fire, killing Hicks, police said.

In the chaos, Piedra may have accidentally shot and wounded his 17-year-old son, who was not seriously injured, police said.

Piedra acted in self-defense and won't be charged with a crime, Alameda County Assistant District Tom Rogers said Friday.

"I was scared," Piedra told The Chronicle in an interview Friday. "I had to defend my family. I was in fear for me and my kids."

I confess its hard to see just what the tragedy is when an armed thug threatens a man's family and gets killed by the father. Perhaps the SFC would have thought that had the police intercepted Cho Seung Hui as he was about to commit his horrific crime and shot him dead that that too would have been a tragedy. There is a sense, of course, in which any premature loss of life is usually a tragedy and a sense in which it is a tragedy that anyone lets his life deteriorate to the point where he's sticking up pizza stores, but is it tragic that an armed robber who threatens a man's family gets shot? As Glen Beck would say: not so much.


Selecting Generals

My friend Kyle sends along a link to an article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in which he offers a stinging critique of our armed forces' senior officer corps and how these officers are selected. He also makes some recommendations for reforming the process. His piece is guaranteed to be the talk of the officers' clubs.

The essay is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is that Yingling is an active duty officer who is taking quite a career risk by saying some of what he says.

I'm in no position, of course, to comment on whether his criticisms are valid, but I do wonder about his proposed remedy. He urges that Congress undertake to reform the process by which generals are selected. This strikes me as somewhat like asking the three stooges to reform public manners. Congress can't even reform itself let alone reform the military. Moreover, there are many in the majority party in Congress who hold the military in very low esteem, even to the point of loathing. Putting the armed forces in the hands of these people seems like a prescription for the complete emasculation of our military force.

Even so, Yingling's criticisms should be read by everyone who takes an interest in the defense of our nation and the success of the war on terrorists.