Thursday, July 13, 2023

Total Empire: My Q&A With Author And Retired Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata

Counterterrorism magazine published My Q&A with thriller writer and retired Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata. The retired general is the author of the thriller Total Empire.

You can read my Q&A with him via the pages above and below, or the below text:

Brigadier General (Retired) Anthony J. Tata served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from November 10, 2020, to January 15, 2021. Prior to assuming this position, he was the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Anthony J. Tata is a 1981 West Point graduate who completed graduate studies in international relations from The Catholic University of America and the School of Advanced Military Studies. He also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government.

He served for 28 years in the United States Army, commanding a paratrooper battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division and an air assault brigade in the 101st Airborne Division. He served as the Deputy Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division and Joint Task Force 76 in Afghanistan from 2006-2007. He also served as the deputy director of Joint Concept Development and Experimentation as well as the Joint IED Defeat Organization.

His operational deployments and missions include Operation Uphold Democracy to support Haitian stability, Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia and Croatia, Operation Jungle Warrior in Panama, Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Upon transitioning from the military, Mr. Tata served as the Chief Operating Officer of Washington, DC Public Schools, Superintendent of Wake County (Raleigh, NC) Public School System, and Secretary of Transportation of North Carolina. His business background includes presidency of a defense start-up company and leadership of companies in the airborne collection, infrastructure, and oil and gas industries.

Anthony J. Tata is the recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Combat Action Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, and Ranger Tab.

He is also the author of several military thrillers, including “Chasing the Lion,” and his latest, “Total Empire.”

Anthony J. Tata was interviewed by Paul Davis.

IACSP: I’ve read the first two books of your new General Garret Sinclair series, “Chasing the Lion,” and your most recent novel, “Total Empire,” and I enjoyed both of them. How would you describe your novels?

Tata: The novels are very Ton Clancyesque, perhaps with Mark Greaney and Nelson DeMille mixed in there. The protagonist, General Garret Sinclair, wrestles with the primeval dilemma of mission versus men that all commanders are confronted with. What I try to do for my readers is paint a realistic scenario that pushes the boundaries a little bit, perhaps slightly in the future, and captures an interesting concept, such as laser-targeting system for hypersonic glide nuclear missiles or a mind control sarin gas can easily be spread. That’s a high concept, and within that context, a likeable hero with an extremely polar opposite villain. In the first book, Dariush Parizad, who is Sinclair’s match, and in the second book, Sanson, known as “The Executioner.”          

IACSP: Is Garrett Sinclair autobiographical or based on anyone you knew?

Tata: No. My writing is 100 per cent fiction. Of course, as the books are written in the first person and the fact that he is an Army general, and has all this combat experience, is authentic to me, but I’m not trying to replicate myself or living out some Walter Mitty fantasy. I’ve been in combat, so I don’t need to pretend like I’ve gone. It’s my creation, so it is a part of me.    

IACSP: Is it unusual for a general to command a small unit in the field?

Tata: While he is the commander of this large special operations command, he heads up a small task force that goes and does presidential-level missions. I don’t think it is a stretch that a three-star general would be personally responsive to the president for some of these missions that he’s going on. One of my personal heroes, General James Gavin, the 82nd Airborne commander, jumped into combat on all four European jumps. When he landed, he was just another paratrooper. He would go meet the next guy, typically a private or sergeant, and he and the private or sergeant would fight for half the day until they were linked up with everyone else. So, for high-visibility, strategic missions, it’s not unusual for a general to manage that closely. 

IACSP: Why did you begin to write thrillers after your military career? Did you always want to be a writer?

Tata: That is a long-standing childhood dream to be a traditionally published fiction novelist. I’m very fortunate to have a great team at St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan. I’m very blessed.

IACSP: After serving 28 years in the Army, you became the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. What duties did you perform in that role and what were your accomplishments?

Tata: When I was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, it was just the last seven or eight months of the Trump administration that I was there. I was a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense as I was awaiting confirmation. I was the Deputy Undersecretary for Policy and then the Undersecretary for Policy, and I did everything from managing the national defense strategy to coordinating with partners and allies form around the globe, signing major defense agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Mozambique and Morocco. All very important agreements that are integral to our national defense and security.           

IACSP: Did you find it difficult to transition from a general to a DOD senior civilian official?

Tata: No. I think it helped me that I had an 11-year break in service in which I was the Secretary of Transportation and Superintendent of Education in North Carolina, and I ran my own business. I think having that breath of experience helped with my transition, certainly understanding the importance of civilian control of the military. Having that gap in service made me a better leader in that regard.      

IACSP: Do you miss the hustle and bustle of working at the Pentagon or are you enjoying being a full-time writer?

Tata: I miss being able to contribute to my country on a large scale. I miss being able to serve and would gladly do so again. Both of my parents were public school teachers and guidance counselors, and my dad was a football coach, and they instilled in my brother and sister and me this obligation to serve and be a good citizen. 

IACSP:  What has changed in the Pentagon since you left?

Tata: What was less than reassuring was the incoming team was not interested in a proper transition, to include purging all of the advisory boards. It is kind of dangerous when you do that kind of thing, and you end up with things like what happened in Afghanistan. When you think you know better than everybody, that arrogance got 13 soldiers killed. We had a plan, but they weren’t interested in talking to us.

IACSP: As a veteran of Afghanistan, I take it you were not too happy with the abrupt withdrawal?

Tata: It wasn’t the abrupt withdrawal that I was unhappy with, it was the manner that it was executed. I think everybody agreed that we should withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Trump believed that, but he listened to his senior defense officials, including me, who advised holding on to Bagram for now with 1,500 troops. The other thing is that the Biden administration fundamentally fractured NATO in a way that it hasn’t been fractured before. We had a mantra: we came in together, we adjust together, and we leave together with NATO. The abrupt withdrawal was just as abrupt to the American people as it was to our NATO partners. There were 30 some nations and partners there. And that was a key signal to Putin. It is a very significant milestone in American military history.                

IACSP: The Chinese are the bad guys in your novel “Total Empire.” Do you think we are going to go to war with the Chinese over Taiwan in the near future?

Tata: I think China is certainly sharping its knife to either do a soft takeover like Hong Kong or to blockade Taiwan and make it a fait accompli. There are lots of national security implications for that, chief among them, I believe, is that you have semi-conductors manufactured there. That entity produces a fair amount of the world’s chips, and if that were to go away, or be controlled by China, the supply chain shortage on chips would exasperate 100 times over.        

IACSP: As a Navy veteran who served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, I believe we need to build up the U.S. Navy to counter a Chinese blockade of Taiwan. You mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, do you think the U.S. Should support the Ukraine with money, equipment and training?

Tata: I think we should tie it to our vital interest. Our vital interest can be mapped back to a strong and stable Europe that has democratic governments and free market economies, and we have an alliance called NATO, which we are obligated by way of Article 5. Ukraine is adjacent to NATO, and we need to make sure that all NATO nations understand our commitment to NATO. Ukraine is of no particular interest to us other than it is serving as a conduit for Russian aggression. We need to have some modicum of support to Ukraine, but at the same time there should be some commensurate level of negotiation happening, but there has been none.

IACSP:  Thank you for your service and your interesting and entertaining thrillers and thank you for speaking to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment