On Friday morning, retired Major General Bob Scales was interviewed by Fox News about the death of retired four star General Norman Schwartzkopf. Scales graduated West Point and was a student of Schwartzkopf while at The Academy. In later years he and Schwartzkopf became friends. After praising “The Bear” as
a wonderful family man, the first to command a war (Desert Storm – and brillantly so) since Vietnam, and a genuine leader in every sense of the word, Scales commented that Schwartzkopf’s epitaph should be “a soldier who liked soldiers.”
As a huge supporter of military brass, I was obviously late to the party, but when we learned the full details of the Fort Hood shootings and the politically-correct coddling of the racist, murdering Muslim Army Major Nidal Hasan by those on track for the next promotion, it hit home that many in the Military’s upper-eschelon disdain the warriors in the field. Tim Kane writing for The Weekly Standard recently discussed a new book, The Generals by Thomas E. Ricks, which exposes the hunt for the “most cautious and mediocre” for promotion to General status, beginning long before, but in my estimation, continuing full-bore, and on demand, in the Obama administration.
The Pentagon has perfected teaching judgment to its officers, but has abdicated passing judgment on them.
What is the system for producing our generals? The United States Army does not produce its generals on the fields of friendly strife at West Point, nor in the classrooms of the Command and General Staff College, nor at the Army War College—not even on bloody fields of combat. It produces them quietly in the paperwork labyrinth known as Human Resources Command, rarely weeding out the very worst while incessantly promoting the most cautious and mediocre. It was not always thus.
The demise of the military’s personnel system is the subject of The Generals, a collection of biographies from George Marshall to David Petraeus that has a narrative arc as powerful as its policy message. Thomas Ricks describes the genesis of General Marshall’s successful system, which emphasized the frequent relief of weak performers, and its evolution during the 1970s into a micromanaging bureaucracy. Along the way, he aims his fire at the usual subjects—namely, skeptics of counterinsurgency and the failed leaders who almost lost Iraq before the surge in 2006-07—as those familiar with his recent books might expect.
The Generals offers a different, much more penetrating look at how, organizationally, the Army lost its nerve to let leaders lead and bear the consequences. Did you know that General George Kenney, upon promotion to head air operations in the Pacific in mid-1942, immediately relieved five generals from command and fired an additional 40 colonels? Did you know that one-third of submarine commanders were relieved in 1942? Ricks laments the loss of relief, or any real accountability at the top, in today’s military.
“Not a single general has been removed for ineffectiveness during the course of this war,” scolded one outside adviser to President George W. Bush in late 2006—a stunning statistic compared with General Marshall’s relief of 600 officers before the United States even sent troops overseas during World War II. And it wasn’t just Marshall; it was a philosophy he cultivated in all branches. The Supreme Allied Commander (and future president) General Dwight Eisenhower advised his old friend and fellow general, George Patton, “to be cold-blooded about removal of inefficient officers.”
The Wall Street Journal speculates that without the First Amendment, General Tommy Franks might file a libel suit, as Ricks says he “fundamentally misconceived his war” (Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003), which led to the deaths (and no doubt maiming) of thousands of Americans, and was “strategically illiterate,” refusing to “think seriously about what would happen after his forces attacked.”
In an article for ForeignPolicy.com, retired USMC Col. Gary Anderson discusses the outcome some 30 yeas ago of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation which brought the new strategy of “Jointness” to the military and says it is time to reassess what he terms “defense de-organization:”
The proponents of the elevation of jointness to absolute military supremacy claimed that it would prevent long open ended wars such as Korea and Vietnam by giving the President and Secretary of Defense better military advice than they got in such conflicts. The reformers also promised more competent and professional military leadership and less cumbersome command arrangements. The results of the wars in Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm in the immediate aftermath of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation seemed to confirm the validity of those promises; but somewhere in the ensuing decades, the wheels came off.
Instead of fast and clean conflicts, we got Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only were they long and strategically muddled, they were also poorly executed by the joint institutions that Goldwater-Nichols was supposed to fix. (read more here).
Today, we put our female Marines and, perhaps Army, in hijab while they try to relate with Afghan women in countless villages, forgetting that Afghan women live with, and are wholly dominated by Afghan men, and it doesn’t matter the teeniest bit what the woman thinks or desires. Kate Spade and other manufacturers use Afghan women for assembling some of their high-priced (and high-profile) products, providing them financial support. The free market is the way to everyone’s heart, if truth were undeniable, not the hijab. It should not be the job of our military to make the world like us.
If the Pentagon has “perfected” teaching “judgment” to our military leaders, and deems those chosen leaders as capable, our military might is laughable. I have not read Ricks book – just been observing from the sidelines like most of you. I don’t know how spot-on he is or isn’t, but The Fort Hood massacre was the wake-up call, after 6 years of waging some odd kind of awful war of ‘you ‘jihad me and I’ll hit back’ in Iraq.’ I believe Liberals do view caution and mediocrity as the model for American behavior. I believe our warriors want none of it.