Lieutenant colonel unloads on generals for Iraq “debacle”

posted at 3:13 pm on April 27, 2007 by Allahpundit

A good read. Not overly long, either, although if you’re strapped for time the “Failures of Generalship” section is the can’t-miss. I lack the absolute moral authority of veteran status required to critique the article (not to mention the expertise), but his basic point is well taken: how could Bush and the brass have failed to prepare for counterinsurgency given the prospect of a multi-year occupation and the proven success of guerrilla tactics against American forces in Vietnam? Yingling attributes it to a military culture of complacency where senior officers promote institutional men instead of dynamic thinkers and a certain degree of moral cowardice whereby top generals suspicious of the administration’s war plans didn’t speak up for fear of suffering the professional consequences. What he doesn’t address is whether a sustained counterinsurgency, however brilliantly designed, is feasible given the American public’s low (and now, post-Iraq, sure to be lower) tolerance for long campaigns. 400,000 troops would have gone a long way towards containing the jihad, but would it have prevented it altogether? What would four years of more sporadic but still consistent car bombs have done to American morale? I’ll let our military readers speculate in the comments about that.

Speaking of not speaking up when it matters, the Times is breathless over George “Slam Dunk” Tenet’s new buck-passing tome; Henry Waxman, circling overhead and smelling fresh meat, has already swooped. Patterico’s begun to fisk it and I suspect you’ll hear from Bryan about it sometime before next week is through (the book goes on sale officially on Monday), but here’s my favorite part thus far:

Mr. Tenet confesses to “a black, black time” two months after the 2001 attacks when, sitting in front of his house in his favorite Adirondack chair, he “just lost it.”

“I thought about all the people who had died and what we had been through in the months since,” he writes. “What am I doing here? Why me?

Why him, indeed. He does raise a good question at the end about AQ, though.

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a military culture of complacency where senior officers promote institutional men instead of dynamic thinkers

That’s how Wesley Clark got his stars.

KelliD on April 27, 2007 at 3:17 PM

Good article – thanks.

He is right on most of his points. This is why I relished my enlisted career. We were not penalized for speaking our mind (for the most part) and would willingly tell the officers in charge if they had really come up with a bone headed idea in regards to managing their troops or resources. Our role was not to be the top level strategists, thankfully.
However, the officer corps has kind of a one strike and you are out rule. This stifles much of the needed creativity mentioned in the article and causes officers to be more careerist oriented than “out of the box thinkers”.

On the positive side the hard push toward more joint military operations and tactics has resulted in many successes. Afghanistan is the easy example – compare the Soviet approach with ours and the drastic differences in results.

In WW2 there roughly four million people in uniform. Sixty plus years later there about a million but there are more admirals and generals now than there were then. These numbers need to be slashed to allow line officers and supervisors to have the flexibility to lead more effectively.

I think that the senior officers and enlisted need an ethics rule that bans them from being involved with any defense contractor spots for five years after leaving the service. This may seem harsh but it would make it easier for them to make better calls on technology and resource spending if there were no immediate benefits for favoring a solution because of post military employment concerns.

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 3:27 PM

Actualy pretty STUPID read. He wants MORE oversite of the military from CONGRESS???

Does this guy know what the Constitution says???

The main problem with the Military, and it started in the 70′s, is that there is TOO much civilian influence. I remember having to sit through “Total Quality Management” crap back in the 80s and 90s… which has NOTHING to do with leadership or war fighting.

Any real military leader has to be so careful about “offending” people, and being PC, that their hands are tied…

When I retired 10 years ago, I couldn’t, as a senior NCO, tell someone to drop and give me 50 for punishment (US NAVY) as that was considered Corporal Punishment!!! All discipline had to go “on paper”… really stupid and destroyed an NCOs ability to discipline correctly.

Well, our Generals “grew up” in that environment, and we are now reaping the rewards of a P-whipped military.

And the P-whippin (Pelosi whiping?) will only get worse with MORE oversite.

Reallllllyyyyy bad idea.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 3:28 PM

I don’t want this Congress picking our generals. Good grief, between the Lesbians, cross-dressers, Wiccans, illegals, The Syrian Pelosi Brigade, Murtha’s Taiwan Air Rangers and Iranian advisers….. it will be Thermopolis in reverse.

Everyone seems to be waving a white flag, but I’m praying we can still sort out Iraq. We have the military to do it and we’re there. What ever happened to American thinking like, “I have not yet begun to fight”?

Hening on April 27, 2007 at 3:35 PM

Frickin Dems will not let Pat Tillman rest in Peace. Now they are trying to subponea the WH for some sort of records.
These bastids are going to pay

LakeRuins on April 27, 2007 at 3:35 PM

So, he wants the war to be waged better, and for the brass and soldiers to be better prepared? Then why the hell does he want more oversight from Congress?

amerpundit on April 27, 2007 at 3:39 PM

Good points, Bradky. Reminds me of some advise my Dad (retired senior NCO) gave to my brother (a Colonial), “Listen to your First Sergeant, you might learn something.”

KelliD on April 27, 2007 at 3:41 PM

In my opinion if you have less generals and admirals there role becomes more that of supporting/defending the troops in the field. As it is now we have too many defending budgets for programs that justify their flag billet.

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 3:41 PM

As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.

Interesting.

I’m not sure he’s consistent there; he wants generals to be creative curious, and take risks, but he’s also ready to increase their accountability and the incentive to “play it safe”.

Not sure what I think about that, but definitely an interesting read.

see-dubya on April 27, 2007 at 3:45 PM

Good points, Bradky. Reminds me of some advise my Dad (retired senior NCO) gave to my brother (a Colonial), “Listen to your First Sergeant, you might learn something.”

KelliD on April 27, 2007 at 3:41 PM

Your brothers a COLONIAL??? He’s a colonist somewhere???

Didn’t know we had Colonies anymore…

/LOL… sorry, couldn’t resist…

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 3:45 PM

Frickin Dems will not let Pat Tillman rest in Peace. Now they are trying to subponea the WH for some sort of records.
These bastids are going to pay

LakeRuins on April 27, 2007 at 3:35 PM

His entire family requested an investigation.

Nonfactor on April 27, 2007 at 3:51 PM

oh geez, Colonel. at least I spelled sergeant correctly.

KelliD on April 27, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Concurs with Romeo

MarkB on April 27, 2007 at 3:53 PM

Allah,

I don’t read this as a swipe at Bush na dteh active duty brass. It goes much deeper than that.

What Yingling is attempting to convey, if I understand his article correctly, is that the problems being experienced by our military in Iraq today began a half century ago. The United States was successful in World War Two because of it’s ability to fight a large-scale, highly mobile, high-tech war. As a result, the general staff of the time focused on their successes and built a military for the next half century to fight that kind of war. They never learned from French failures or limited successes in Indochina or Algeria, and therefore, repeated the same failures in Vietnam. The moderate successes and lessons that should have been learned as a result of this conflict by the military and the Executive and Legislative branches were quickly discarded.

As a result, we were not on any level prepared to engage in what should have been predictable counterinsurgency operations, and did not have any competent active duty or retired general officers to advise Congress or the Executive Branch.

Yingling is careful not to blame any specific individuals, and it bears repeating that no specific individuals should be blamed. This is an institutional problem crossing several institutions, civilian and military, going back decades.

Bob Owens on April 27, 2007 at 4:02 PM

I ran a search on “Clinton” in the Times article on Tenet, and found one occurrence, in the ads section on “Clinton fundraising”. This is very telling. The Times writes an article about Tenet, who was a hold-over, for good or bad, from the Clinton administration, pre-9/11/01, and not once mentions Bill Clinton’s name…the newspaper of record?

Reminder on the state of the CIA, pre 9/11/01. In 1996 this was authored/published, by the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (which he set up in 1986), having been vetted by the CIA; published in desperation at the demise of the CIA during the Clinton Admin.

Therefore, I conclude that the Clandestine Services is finished as a really effective intelligence service. It will be reinvented or restored to competency only after some appalling catastrophe befalls us, such as the explosion of a nuclear device or a biological attack or the like by some rogue group or nation-state, and the following investigation demonstrates that the act was undetectable by our national technical means.

Then, when it becomes apparent that only a human resource, an agent, could have provided forewarning, someone will ask why we don’t have any agents and the answer will force the issue. Unfortunately this is the American way.

None is to excuse the inaction on the part of the Bush Admin, pre-9/11/01, but to remind us all of perspective and the truth, from all sides.

Entelechy on April 27, 2007 at 4:11 PM

I too concur with Romeo et al. Let Congress choose our Generals???

If we’re to go down that route, maybe we could take it a step further and just have a kind of American Idol thing where we all get to vote.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 4:11 PM

I too concur with Romeo et al. Let Congress choose our Generals???

If we’re to go down that route, maybe we could take it a step further and just have a kind of American Idol thing where we all get to vote.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 4:11 PM

Having civilians in charge of the military is an important part of our country’s structure. Congress normally rubber stamps the recommendations from the generals in charge so it is not that big of a deal in my opinion. After all we elect the representatives making the call on the generals.

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 4:17 PM

Great article, thanks. Relations between the CIC and the military have often been strained, that’s not a bad thing.

In this case, we see the culmination of a military (and dare I say the Eisenhower prediction has come true in spades) that can’t develop a model appropriate to today’s global reality because the people who should be developing that new model are too invested in the old one–just read the other day that the Navy is purchasing some new nuclear subs. Is Al Qaeda taking to the high seas??

Add to this Bush’s general cluelessness, well here we are.

honora on April 27, 2007 at 4:18 PM

Speaking of not speaking up when it matters, the Times is breathless over George “Slam Dunk” Tenet’s new buck-passing tome

Someday someone will give me an adequate, even semi-adequate will do, explanation of why this man was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Sort of says it all.

honora on April 27, 2007 at 4:22 PM

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice.

Probably many on this thread know who Carl von Clausewitz was but who else does, or cares?

A good 2/3rds of our population is in total lalaland and is tragically misinformed on the WoT, and our politicians, both sides, and media are both misinformed and misguided.

We have no statesmen left in Washington. No men, no cojones. Just overloads of PC and propaganda, most all of it for political expediency.

The knife hasn’t gotten close enough to the bone yet. Americans will wake up when it gets to be more dangerous. Unfortunately, another, and perhaps more devastating, attack. For Europeans not even that will do, though historically they’ve always been awaken, when needed. I’m afraid this time it’s too late for them. I still have some hope for our country.

In the meanwhile, most are out working, shopping, drinking fancy coffees, watching the View or American Idol, planning the next picknick. Life is good and naive. Our Soldiers see to that, and most of our countrymen don’t even think about them. Or, hoping that quietly they do. 2008 will be a serious time for reflection and resolution.

Entelechy on April 27, 2007 at 4:24 PM

I agree Romeo, it was a stupid read. This guy is obviously a product of the enviroment you discribed. I don’t know what training has been going on for the last 20 or so years, but since the fall of the soviet union, all I have heard is how the next war will be fought by a small mobile force in an urban setting.

csdeven on April 27, 2007 at 4:25 PM

In the meanwhile, most are out working, shopping, drinking fancy coffees, watching the View or American Idol, planning the next picknick. Life is good and naive. Our Soldiers see to that, and most of our countrymen don’t even think about them. Or, hoping that quietly they do. 2008 will be a serious time for reflection and resolution.

Entelechy on April 27, 2007 at 4:24 PM

Did someone have a bad week? Cheer up Entelechy, don’t like to see you so glum. Have some fun over the weekend, you know, the usual: sex, drugs and rock n roll!

Cheers.

honora on April 27, 2007 at 4:33 PM

honora, how have you been? Hoping that life is good for the feisty and witty lady of HA.

Is Al Qaeda taking to the high seas??

Add to this Bush’s general cluelessness, well here we are.

honora on April 27, 2007 at 4:18 PM

North Korea, Iran, China…the tests a day ago were a double success. I hear more about them outside of the news, than in the news. We can sleep well at night due to these good-clue decisions. Much going on that we thankfully don’t know, good and bad. And, please, don’t call the ‘strawberries’ because this is not one or the other admin. related. It simply is necessary. Just because we fight the WoT, doesn’t mean the other dangers vanished forever, just because we wish it to be so.

Entelechy on April 27, 2007 at 4:34 PM

Congress normally rubber stamps the recommendations from the generals in charge so it is not that big of a deal in my opinion. After all we elect the representatives making the call on the generals.

Bradky,

So, when Congress unanimously approved General Petreus and his carefully outlined “surge” plan, that was just a rubber stamp?

Aha! Now I understand why the Democrats are ignoring everything he said and skipping out on meeting with him.

/SARC.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 4:38 PM

Romeo, please tell me that you were on some kind of instructor duty when you couldn’t drop people, and not out in the Fleet.

Kid from Brooklyn on April 27, 2007 at 4:39 PM

Everyone, sorry for the sidekick – Friday excuse…

honora, you ‘goofy’ lady, we were writing at almost the same time :) Not a bad week at all. Spent some of it in Hollywood (not in the movies :) – always interesting. Tomorrow taking foreign friends around San Diego, including showing them the naval might. One of the parties is a retired hot-shot from a European military service. He’ll be impressed.

You can tell I’m too old for “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” – never did drugs – though sometimes I act like I might be on them :) Have a great weekend. Regards,

Entelechy on April 27, 2007 at 4:41 PM

Having civilians in charge of the military is an important part of our country’s structure. Congress normally rubber stamps the recommendations from the generals in charge so it is not that big of a deal in my opinion. After all we elect the representatives making the call on the generals.

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 4:17 PM

The problem with this is a little thing called todays politics. I happen to have grown up with Dennis Cardoza, who is in the house of reps from California … literaly known him since 1st grade. He is the LAST person I would ever want having any say in ANY type of military operation, oversite, or veting process. He was a weasel when we were kids, and I sure have not seen any change over the years. Needless to say, yes, he is one of the current crop of surrender monkeys…

While he was in the home town making money off his familys busineses… enough to buy his way into politics… I and my freinds were off fighting in various parts of the world. 7 of us joined the military, 4 are still alive… with ones whereabouts unknown.

Lets face it… todays politicians are America’s aristocracy… they are all wealthy and part of the “in” crowd… having them pick who is charge of the military is a REALLY bad idea.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 4:41 PM

Good points and bad points.

I might add that this guy is WRONG about the enlisted promotion system (at least in the AF). For promoting into the E8 and E9 ranks, its just as political, and more so in some cases, than flag officers.

The AF is the worst for promoting the wrong people to senior positions. Most of our Generals have no combat experience, at all. Quite a few, even if they’ve “deployed” have done so to a secure location, live in a hardened facility with 24 hr security, and walk around with more security than the President.

Also, (at least in the AF) the focus of money and training has been on the wrong things. Boy do I remember TQM. In the nineties we called it QAF (Quality Air Force). We were taught to be more “customer friendly” and how to produce a “better product”.

One of the worst a$$ chewings I ever received in my career was getting into a “discussion” with the civlian instructor about what exactly the hell do I care about customer service? The jist of my argument was that our mission is to kill the bloody badguys and I don’t need to sit through a powerpoint slide show to figure out how the hell to do it! (anyone ever deal with ‘metrics’) Point me in the right direction, give me enough ammo and BAMMO!

As a very junior enlisted member I was “reprimanded” for not being a team player by a Major (my CO), a Capt (ops Officer), a LT (flight commander), a Chief Master Sergeant, Senior Master Sergeant, Master Sergeant (my current rank) and numerous other “supervisors”.

There is definately a problem with the senior leadership of the military at all levels (trying to break through that ceiling is the reason I’ll never progress in rank again).

Oh for more Pattons, McArthurs, Halseys, Nimitz’s and the like. They weren’t perfect, but they could lead men, win battles, and win wars.

catmman on April 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM

In this case, we see the culmination of a military (and dare I say the Eisenhower prediction has come true in spades) that can’t develop a model appropriate to today’s global reality because the people who should be developing that new model are too invested in the old one–just read the other day that the Navy is purchasing some new nuclear subs. Is Al Qaeda taking to the high seas??

Add to this Bush’s general cluelessness, well here we are.

honora on April 27, 2007 at 4:18 PM

Did the Chinese just disappear and drop all of their aspirations to be a world power?

or if you prefer:

Does having a strong navy encourage or deter others from attacking us by sea?

thirteen28 on April 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM

Romeo, please tell me that you were on some kind of instructor duty when you couldn’t drop people, and not out in the Fleet.

Kid from Brooklyn on April 27, 2007 at 4:39 PM

Both…. although you could explain to them that they could either “volunteer” to do pushups… or you’d be forced to put it on paper…

Out in the fleet there was always crap jobs… cleaning and such… but it usualy didn’t have the same immediate impact.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 4:41 PM

There is no getting around having civilians in charge, nor should we want that. Without it, the occasional incompetent general or admiral is almost unfireable.
The selection process is really controlled by the military. They submit the names through the service chiefs and Secdef who pass to congress. The only time congress tries to not rubber stamp is if a senator puts a hold on a nomination for a political point (Landrieu did this recently) or a star is held up for inappropriate personal conduct (AF had a general with some foot fetish issue with his subordinates who was retired at Colonel instead of general due to his behavior)

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM

catmman on April 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM

LOL…. hear ya loud and clear….

I got formaly counseled once right after TQM….

Seems the civilian instructor didn’t like my anwer to “who are your customers???”

“hmmm… that poor dumb SOB on the other end of the Harpoon we just shot??? and yes… we deliver???”

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 4:51 PM

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 4:51 PM

Ahh TQM — the good ol days!! LOL

We had what they called a “customer care” class that lasted five excruciating days. The first day they showed this video of a bunch of people in an airport. One fat old guy was giving the ticket agent all sorts of grief because she couldn’t help him with whatever was wrong, finally she came from around the counter and formed a circle around him with the passengers and they all started singing Cumbaya!

I don’t remember anything else from the class. But the first time I tried singing cumbaya to my CO he smacked me across the room! (okay that part is a lie)

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 4:55 PM

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM

Problem with your premise is a little thing called unity of the chain of command.

We already have civilian oversite of the military… its called the Secs of Def, Army, Navy…. and the President.

THEY are the ones who Congress should be talking to, not the Generals. THEY are the ones in CHARGE. They are the ones who sign off on the Admirals and Generals… and if Congress has a problem with a Secretarys job then THEY are the ones who should be up in front of Congress.

Tell me…. Who is the military answerable too? and who is in Command of the military?

If all the answer to those two questions are not the same entitiy, you’ve got SERIOUS Chain of Command problems.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:02 PM

Regarding the Navy’s need for nuclear subs while we are fighting Al Qaeda, this is the result of a Google Search for “Al Qaeda+high seas”:

Pick a story, any story.

It’s not just countries like China that we have to worry about – although they certainly represent a threat also.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 5:03 PM

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:02 PM

I don’t think we are that far off the mark in terms of common agreement. No disagreement on your COC observations, nor am I suggesting congress should run a war.
But if the generals didn’t have to go to congress to testify I see two problems (1) a hostile congress could keep the president hamstrung by having the SecDef and civilian Service chiefs constantly on the block answering questions (2) this would almost guarantee the SecDef and Service chiefs would have to be micromanagers in order to effectively answer the vast myriad of questions congress has which would make the military much less effective, in that everyone would be even more afraid to make a decision

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 5:08 PM

This guy is obviously a product of the enviroment you discribed.

csdeven on April 27, 2007 at 4:25 PM

I have to disagree with you. This guy served with LTC McMasters in Tal Afar in 2005. It was a full on fight and the 3rd ACR, himself included, conducted themselves as warriors. I helped support operations in that AO so I saw it first hand. I believe he has some very valid points. For those of you who question his integrity or logic I would say that he is trying to give an honest assessment. Furthermore, I believe that he could have very likely committed career suicide by bringing an opinion like that out in the open. Talk about cajones- putting out an article like that means he probably has to put them in the passenger seat when he drives to work.

Trooper on April 27, 2007 at 5:09 PM

just read the other day that the Navy is purchasing some new nuclear subs. Is Al Qaeda taking to the high seas??

Um, yes. Google Al Qaeda+High Seas – then pick a story any story.

Sheesh.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 5:09 PM

Woops. Sorry for the double post. I though I had refreshed the page without submitting my comment.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 5:10 PM

I don’t think we are that far off the mark in terms of common agreement. No disagreement on your COC observations, nor am I suggesting congress should run a war.
But if the generals didn’t have to go to congress to testify I see two problems (1) a hostile congress could keep the president hamstrung by having the SecDef and civilian Service chiefs constantly on the block answering questions (2) this would almost guarantee the SecDef and Service chiefs would have to be micromanagers in order to effectively answer the vast myriad of questions congress has which would make the military much less effective, in that everyone would be even more afraid to make a decision

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 5:08 PM

Uhh… isn’t that the current Democrats plan? To keep Condi and the justice department so busy in Congress at hearings that they can’t do anything… like… oh.. investigate the leaked tape of Hilary perjuring herself about campaign finances? or… Boxer’s little ethics prob with her husband??? or… have a reasonable foreign policy? or do somthing about the NYT leaks???

I for one would much rather have Politicians sparring in Washington than our General’s pulled from the front to fight the political front of this war.

Even when Patton was in trouble, he didn’t have to go speak to Congress… he got chewed out by Ike… but because of it one of our BEST WWII Commander’s was not in on D-day… except as a decoy.

God, could you imagine Patton in the Army today??? He’d be booted out so fast by Political Correctness it would make your head spin.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:17 PM

God, could you imagine Patton in the Army today??? He’d be booted out so fast by Political Correctness it would make your head spin.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:17 PM

Great point, and we are much the worse for it.

Your other points in this thread are also right on the money.

thirteen28 on April 27, 2007 at 5:38 PM

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:17 PM

I don’t know if that is what the current democratic plan is although it certainly seems that way. With video telecon many generals brief from the field, usually the 3 and 4 star types.

I guess it just seems that obstructionist tactics would be easier if there were only 8 or 10 people that could brief congress.

No I can’t imagine Patton being in today and that is why I think much change is needed to restore it to a more ww2 type of force in terms of structure and effectiveness. Honora is right about the Eisenhower warnings re the mil-industrial complex. No one of either party heeded his warning and our military has suffered mightily because of it.

I’ll give you an example. Several years ago the congress insisted that the AF take on an extra 100 C-130 aircraft. The AF generals argued that they didn’t need them and didn’t have enough pilots if they did take them. The “compromise” was that the 100 planes were built but put in the reservist inventory and housed in Mississippi. The district that benefited from getting the contract to build them? Newt Gingrich’s. The senator from Ms who had them put in his backyard? Trent Lott.
There are dozens of these stories if not hundreds. I only used the Republican example to show that it crosses all lines. I wish there were an easy answer to fix the current state but I’m just a Ky born hick.

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 5:39 PM

The only reason for a Light Col. to publish something like this is plain enough: He found out he was not on the fast track to General any longer.

It’s not career suicide, it is plain old fashioned sour grapes.

He’ll get the full bird at retirement.

.

The Machine on April 27, 2007 at 5:43 PM

Why would anyone believe the military is any different from our culture at large? Anyone who has worked at a large corporation knows that snior executives either go along to get along or they are gone. Don’t make waves, salute and do as your told no matter the consequences or become a consequence yourself.

Welcome to the culture of America circa 2007.

JackStraw on April 27, 2007 at 5:52 PM

Bradky on April 27, 2007 at 5:39 PM

Yep, and meanwhile we are fighting with a 60′s vintage rifle that was substandard in stopping power when it came out.

There are many instances of insurgents being hit 4 or 5 times by M-16s and MP4s and still being combat effective…. but then again thats one reason my boarding teams were so… hesitant… to give up our M-14s, and shotguns, and 45s…

and I might add, your example of the C-130s show the problems with Congress, on both sides of the aisle… and why I want them to keep their grubby hands away from the operations side.

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 5:54 PM

I’d agree to a point with the LtCol that a great deal of what is wrong with the military has to do with buffoonish types sitting around in high ranking positions that, all things considered, one has to wonder how in the hell they ended up there once you get to know anything about them. The upper echelons of the military are chock full of ‘dead wood’ – careerists, who’ve learned not how to be true military leaders, but simply have become adept enough at the system not to get kicked out.

This is, in my opinion, a seemingly intractible problem with no easy solution without permanently damaging the military institution as a whole.

The cumulative effect, is, that the military, as an institution, suffers from the symptom that the Colonel describes – lacking truly energetic, dynamic and effective upper leadership, with a vision that they’re able to embue in the subordinate, supporting (or opposing) beauracracy, the tendency becomes to ‘plan for the last war’, which, as it so happens, is the ‘safe’ thing to do, looks productive, gets the careerist deadwood their glowing self congratulatory writeups, awards, and promotions, etc, etc.

Therefore, as an inertial mass, the military is extremely resistent to change – and given that it takes blood to begin to spill to snap this sort of inertia into a different, and equally lumbering direction, they essentially had no reason to do anything different until that Tuesday morning in September in 2001.

The realization there had to be a change was recognized at the very top – but the middle – well the middle (anyone from, say LtCol to 3 star flag rank) – the middle was overly populated with essentially peacetime careerists, for the most part. A peacetime organization. Most of them without even the experience (short as it was) of Desert Storm, of ops in the Balkans, or Haiti. Because, as it was, the people involved with those ops were vastly outnumbered by those who weren’t – and as such, that type of hands on experience did not count, and was not a key to advance or a reason to be listened to.

Some of that ilk actually populated the higher echelons, as well. At least enough to severly confound those trying to push the necessary systemic changes and agility needed for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A quick read through the Colonels well garnished gripe fest of the phenomena doesn’t really tell me where he falls in that spectrum – but I do catch a glimpse from his assertions echoing Shinseki’s calls for a couple of hundred thousand boots on the ground as a necessary element to doing Iraq ‘correctly’.

While it may be a valid point, we will never know, as it didn’t go that way – just as we’ll never know if my opinion that our biggest mistake during the early days of Iraq was being too touchy feely, and not firmly letting everyone know who the new sherriff in town was – from directing our forces to not overtly display the flag to guard against the irreperable damage it might inflict on Iraqi pride, to not shooting brazen looters on sight when downtown Baghdad started to turn into five finger discount central.

It wasn’t a failure of numbers, but a falure of ROE, a failure of policy, and a falure of execution. There was a plan, drawn up by Garner, and ejected, mid invasion, to bring in the folks from State who ‘knew how to do this stuff’. Bullshit.

Everyone pats Bremer on the back for doing a helluva job…well, it’s a helluva job Pauli did, hoo boy. We needed a MacArthur, and we ended up using a diplomat. And now everyone is suffering for that.

We got where we are now by being overly concerned how things would ‘look’ – irrespective of actual results.

We could have done what needed to be done with the number of troops we sent in – we just didn’t let them do what needed to be done, from the get go. Telling the Iraqi Army, particularly the entire units that did not engage, and laid down there wepons, as coherent units, that “thanks, but your services are no longer required” – was a HUGE mistake. We could at least have put THEM to work, supervised, collecting the masses of arms and ammo spread out all over the place that became ample stores for the nascent resistance cells and Sadr’s militias.

And on this one point I’d agree completely with the Colonel – the key lies not with perfect preparation, but with recognizing mistakes as soon as possible, and taking corrective action, as soon as possible, and to the degree necessary to fix the problem.

And that did not happen.

Much to our sorrow.

And the result is so obvious that it makes it easy for craven, opportunistic, parasitic scumbags to make the ‘mistake’ argument – obviously something didn’t go right, and unfortunately, most of America, the ones referred to by the line “America’s MILITARY is at war, AMERICA is at the mall” are not cogent enough about the situation to truly evaluate the situation.

Much more to our sorrow.

Wind Rider on April 27, 2007 at 6:10 PM

“Iraq is America’s Valmy.”

…and Harry Reid is our Marshall Petain.

At least now we have a template for Iran and Syria. Just blow it to smithereens and then let the U.N. go in there and “occupy” it.

Mojave Mark on April 27, 2007 at 6:24 PM

Wind Rider on April 27, 2007 at 6:10 PM

One key element, that most miss, is that we really have taken VERY few casulties in this war. Yes, every casulty is bad, but we used to loose more military people to ACCIDENTS every year in the 70′s, than we are now loosing during active operations.

We ARE winning over there… but the bomb a day Jihadist/media strategy is winning over here…

Just where is the US Government propoganda? Where is the good side of the story? (besides a few websites).

On a side note, there will ALWAYS be soldiers who disagree with Generals… and will be willing to tell you so… Crap, I hated Powel with a passion… he sold us down the river and wouldn’t let us finish Desert Storm!!! I hated Reagan for the stupid ROEs we had in Lebanon in 83…

I lost my WWII and Korea Vet father last year, and inherited some of his letters from that era… believe me… he hated his Commander’s… thought they were idiots (in colorful language that I NEVER heard from him growing up…)… and he was part of the “Greatest Generation”….

Romeo13 on April 27, 2007 at 6:24 PM

The article reminds me of “About Face” by David Hackworth. Hack is worth reading for insight into leadership – both in combat and in bureaucracy. His criticism is similar, overall, to the article.

The Machine has a good point. It may not be all sour grapes, but it is more likely that someone with little or no promotion potential (however undeserved it may be) would be the one unloading like this. Doesn’t invalidate anything; just something to consider.

Leaders range from crappy to stellar. I’m sure the Army has a full range. From my experience (25 years – USAF), we have many more stellar than crappy. Thank God.

cyrano on April 27, 2007 at 6:32 PM

The military may have some problems but if you increase congressional involvement the problems would get much worse. There is always the possibility that this officer was just venting because he was passed over for promotion.

The military didn’t lose in Nam. They had just won big when congress pulled the rug out from under them.

If there is a problem it is congress. Most senior officers are reluctant to speak out for political reasons.

duff65 on April 27, 2007 at 6:35 PM

There is always the possibility that this officer was just venting because he was passed over for promotion.

duff65,

I got the impression that the author of the piece is a huge blowhard and “academic” and believes that if only HE, with his superior intellect, had been made a general we’d be living happily ever after.

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 6:49 PM

I agree with LTC Yingling on all points except his last one regarding “intervention of Congress.”

His view of the “corporate culture” of senior military leadership is accurate. I can claim this because I have spent 15 years in the military, at the tactical, operational, strategic level. I have work for several command staffs and I have worked in an ancillary capacity to several other command staffs. When I say command staff, I mean at the Combatant Commander level (e.g. PACOM), on down through Task Force command staffs, to the service and type specific commands.

Responsibilities of Generalship –
I agree with LTC Yinling’s opening statements that “the most tragic error a general can make is to assume without much reflection that wars of the future will look much like wars of the past,” and that “the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands.” Along with the prestige and position of a general/flag rank, comes the additional responsibility of providing strategic leadership for the service itself and the civilian leadership. Too many ignore this responsibility and only revel in the perks and privileges of rank.

Failure of Generalship –
I agree that there is a failure of generalship. There are numerous examples of “lazy” intellect and leadership.

First, the “Transformation” initiative of the 1990s was not based in reality even though it was pushed by the generals. As LTC Yingling stated it was almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars, and ignored the stability and counterinsurgency operations. I still remember the “network centric warfare” meme. It was repeated over and over again by military leaders, but it was a theory with no basis in reality. It was a theory that was based in spending enormous amounts of money on technology that was not needed and did not work. During the time period of “transformation,” the generals chose prized acquisition programs over manpower. In the 1990s, the troop levels of all the services declined, but spending on acquisition programs remained the same; the crusader, the Comanche, the F-22, the Seawolf, and a dozen other programs survived for no other reason than it was new and fit within the “transformation” framework. They were all a waste of money and were only killed or limited by Rumsfeld, even though he was fought tooth and nail by the generals. No one talks about network centric warfare or transformation anymore because it has no place in real combat.

Second, the generals ignored stability operations and counterinsurgency operations, and still ignore those capabilities. One example is from personal experience. I will not name the command or the AOR for OPSEC reasons. The issue involved post conflict planning and what to do with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)/Refugees. From the scenario, it was a large problem that needed addressing, but the Director of Operations (J-3) and the General’s staff refused to include any stability/civil operation planning in the final document. The J-3 dismissively stated that “it was not his problem.” When we attempted to bring the issue to the General’s attention, he stated that if it wasn’t important to his J-3, then it wasn’t important to him. This type of overt intellectual malfeasance is more common than one would think. Not more than a year later in a different command staff, another general refused to write in to the Air Plan civil operation flights even though the Air Plan could easily support such missions. The only reason given by one of his staff was that he was a “warfighter” and not the Red Cross.

The Generals We Need
Finally, LTC Yingling is almost right on his last assertion that “neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America’s general officer corps.” The corporate culture of the military is skewed to promoting ineffective and sub par generals, but I place the blame most heavily on the services, although the executive and Congress do not get a free pass.

LTC Yingling asserts that (1) the system must change, (2) there must be Congressional Oversight and (3) Congress must hold accountable the services. My position is Yes, No, Maybe. Yes, the system must change. There must be a higher standard when promoting; 360 evaluations is a good way to get a higher quality general. The current system reinforces negative attributes, instead of thinking about the mission, goals, and end result; most officers focus on “pleasing the boss” even though it may be wrong. For example, I heard an operations officer state that “it was our job to make the boss’ bad idea look good.” The ops officer was not concerned that the idea did not address the mission, its goals or end results; he was only concerned that the boss was happy. This type of leadership is awful. It demoralizes intelligent junior officers with creative ideas that address the mission. Most of these junior officers leave the service because their intellect can be used elsewhere. GE’s old CEO Jack Welch stated that the best place to find motivated intelligent personnel were in the junior officer ranks of the military. He never said anything about the quality of senior officers or generals.

Second, Congress already has oversight. There is no need for more oversight, they just need to use what they have already.

Third, Congress needs to enforce standards that are in effect now. For example, there is a requirement that all generals have joint experience, but this requirement has been long ignored by everyone; the services, the executive, and Congress.

Overall, I feel LTC Yingling is right on. Based on my experience and my observations, there is a problem with senior leaders that needs to be addressed. The solution is to change the “corporate culture” of the senior leadership.

Mobius on April 27, 2007 at 6:57 PM

I’m not sure what this guy’s real problem is but to suggest that an enormous gaggle of politicos should nit pick and meddle in internal military matters is blatantly stupid. And yes, I spent 35 years as a soldier so I have some insight into how the military functions.

rplat on April 27, 2007 at 7:05 PM

I’m not sure what this guy’s real problem is but to suggest that an enormous gaggle of politicos should nit pick and meddle in internal military matters is blatantly stupid.

Rplat,

Makes perfect sense to me!

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 7:19 PM

There is a difference between preparing the forces ahead of time, and allowing those forces to execute as trained.

In other words, it’s tough to be trained under one set of Rules of Engagement, and then be expected to execute under something much more restrictive (if not fooling) set of rules.

This is a problem strictly at the very highest levels of command.

Lawrence on April 27, 2007 at 7:39 PM

I’m not sure what this guy’s real problem is but to suggest that an enormous gaggle of politicos should nit pick and meddle in internal military matters is blatantly stupid.

Ad hominem attacks aside; this is a naive statement. Politicians already have great influence in the military ranks. The system for promotions of Generals is intertwined with the political process. Generals are nominated by the services. That list gets sent to the SecDef, who usually rubber stamps. The list then gets sent to POTUS who then forwards it to Congress (specifically the Senate) for confirmation. The whole process is pretty much a rubber stamp process, because there is a tradition of deference to the uniformed members, at least in the executive branch. Congress may delete from the list, and has deleted from the list. The reasons some were deleted from the list is mostly due to things not related to warfighting, i.e. the person was against a certain military acquisition. One only needs to look at the 1990s to see the lack of leadership in killing programs that didn’t have any relation to real warfighting. I will invoke the specter of NMCI as an example. Concocted by some senior officer, it is a program that did not address a burning need, nor a combat capability. Originally a 3 billion dollar program it has balloned out of control to a 11 billion dollar fiasco. Not one senior ranking officer had the leadership to keep costs under control or address the sever shortcomings of the system. This is the type of leadership that LTC Yingling is attacking.

Mobius on April 27, 2007 at 7:41 PM

Now I would like to see a rebuttal letter or two before drawing a conclusion.

frreal on April 27, 2007 at 7:57 PM

Ad hominem attacks aside; this is a naive statement. Politicians already have great influence in the military ranks. The system for promotions of Generals is intertwined with the political process.

I am intimately familiar with the general officer promotion system and the nomination and confirmation process. As long as the political input is restricted to the confirmation process there is no problem. However, when politicians begin to meddle in the internal operations of a military department that process itself will become political. As with any large organization there will be some errors but the overall process will remain both valid and effective. There is no naiveté here, but there is a valid fear that narcissistic politicians seeking political favor will corrupt our great military institutions

rplat on April 27, 2007 at 8:07 PM

RPLAT – I would like to make two further points. I still think it’s debatable on whether the process is valid and effective. I think we will not make much headway on solutions or if there is a problem here and I would state that the common feeling between the opposing views is that we agree to disagree. My position remains unchanged, that there is a problem.

The second issue is the characterization of LTC Yingling’s article. One could take it as “whining” by a “passed over” officer, although I would argue there is no evidence to support that assertion. Or one could take it as a venting of frustration from a dedicated officer who wants only to be able to complete a mission. I would argue for the latter. I have been in several situations where the mission has been upset by a general. My team was tasked with building a bridge as part of a civil affairs operation. Unfortunately, the money was the type that required hiring a US contractor and not local contractors. We found a solution that required only Seabees. It was cheaper, faster, and provided training to the Seabees. We could use the money elsewhere. When we presented this plan to the commanding general, he flatly turned us down. It made absolutely no sense to spend money where it was not needed! And on top of that, the money that was original alloted was later siphoned off for other things. There was frustration that the general only proved to be a roadblock at trying to get a mission completed and did not provide any “leadership” in getting the end result that was part of his guidance. It is frustrating to be tasked by a general to acheive a goal and then have all your tools taken away. I have run into this more than once and I have a feeling that LTC Yingling has too. As one staffer said to me one time, if you don’t make any decisions, then you can’t be blamed for any decisions made. Only those without mistakes get promoted.

Mobius on April 27, 2007 at 8:45 PM

Mobius,

How would a congressman’s intervention have helped the situation you described where the mission was upset by a general? I don’t doubt that there are incompetent generals out there, but I don’t understand how the influence of someone like Harry Reid (for instance) would be beneficial to anyone.

In the bigger picture, Congress setting timelines for withdrawal is unprecedented (and probably unconstitutional)isn’t it? I am appalled by the political games the Dems are playing, down to purposely presenting the bill to Bush on the anniversary of “Mission Accomplished”. This is the worst sort of political interference and exploitation.

As an aside, I heard today that they are outraged that the Iraqi Parliament plans to take July and August off when there is so much important legislation to pass (in their view).

Pot to kettle much?

Buy Danish on April 27, 2007 at 9:24 PM

This guy served with LTC McMasters in Tal Afar in 2005. It was a full on fight and the 3rd ACR, himself included, conducted themselves as warriors. I helped support operations in that AO so I saw it first hand.
Trooper on April 27, 2007 at 5:09 PM

Be that as it may, his entire solution ends up in the hands of congress and that is just a non starter. He obviously does not understand politics.

csdeven on April 27, 2007 at 9:44 PM

Romeo must be a retired Chief, and it shows. He misses the days of “fan room counseling” and other such nonsense – frankly the Navy is a lot better without that crap. If a senior NCO relies of secret corporal punishment outside of the UCMJ then that NCO is a weak leader plain and simple. I didn’t like the TQL nonsense either, but there were certain areas of the Navy that really did need to learn about “customer service.” I won’t relate the number of times the pencil-pushing supply morons pissed me off with constant obstacles they threw up to make doing my job difficult. If there was one place that needed to learn about customer service, it was the Navy and it’s Chiefs who thought themselves Barons of their own little Fiefdoms.

In any event, Congress has every right to involve itself in the promotion process and the military. The Executive under the Constitution pretty just the Commander of the armed forces. Almost everything else falls to Congress – the service’s funding, organization and, yes, even promotion. The UCMJ was passed by Congress. Every piece of military hardware you use was provided by Congress. Your pay and benefits come from Congressional authorizations. You may not like it because the Dems are in the majority, but the Constitutional dividing lines are quite clear.

LTC Yingling is pretty accurate in his analysis. Like Navy Chiefs, the Flag ranks are populated by those picked using the “good ‘ol boy” network. Implementers are chosen over innovators and there’s very little diversity above O-6. And by diversity I don’t mean race or sex (though that is also the case), but diversity of thought.

NPP on April 27, 2007 at 11:35 PM

Hey romeo, somebody seems to have a good case of CDS going.

csdeven on April 28, 2007 at 12:25 AM

NPP,

So what you are saying is that there are not enough liberal surrender monkeys in the higher echelons, news flash militaries are suppose to find ways to win, not surrender at the first sign of difficulty.

Rock on…………….

doriangrey on April 28, 2007 at 12:34 AM

Doriangrey,

“Surrender monkey” seems to be a popular term these days, though given my limited 20 year military career I don’t quite understand how it applies to the current situation. You see, disengagement is different from surrender. Taking your ball and going home is different from handing your sword to the enemy that vanquished you. And this is not to suggest I support disengagement from Iraq – I do not – but if you’re going to use military terms you might as well understand what they mean.

Yes, militaries are supposed to find ways to win wars, and that is the core of the problem that the LTC addressed – the military is incapable of finding strategies to win (as opposed to tactics) when it promotes yes-men and institutional thinkers to the top ranks. Gen. Petraeus is finally the sort of General we need, but one wonders if he had put on his 4th star prior to OIF if his counsel would have resulted in forced retirement as it did for Shinseki?

And let’s discuss “win wars” for a minute. Iraq is certainly a very dangerous conflict, but it is only partially a war. The military cannot, by itself, solve all of the problems in Iraq. The conflict transcends what can be accomplished through military violence alone. Even so, the military has had the task – a relatively simple one – of providing security for the Iraqi people. It has so far failed in this basic task. The surge may reverse this – time will tell, but time is short, and THAT is the fundamental problem. We have the rest of this year to quell violence in Iraq before our troop numbers drop significantly early next year.

NPP on April 28, 2007 at 1:29 AM

Buy Danish,

Please refer to my opus above.

LTC Yingling asserts that (1) the system must change, (2) there must be Congressional Oversight and (3) Congress must hold accountable the services. My position is Yes, No, Maybe. Yes, the system must change.

I don’t disagree that Reid is an SOB, but that is not my point. I agreed with LTC Yingling that the system of selecting generals must change; the agency that has the power to change or create laws is Congress, whether we like it or not. I disagreed with Congressional oversight because they already have it and more of it is scary. I was a maybe with holding accountable the service, because like I stated the Goldwater Nichols act has requirements that are not enforced. The act was intended to solve some of the Vietnam era shortcomings of officer accession. I also wanted to see 360 evaluations because it would reduce the negative attributes I have found in some generals. This is not a new problem. Read the Pentagon Wars by James Burton and see how the Generals acted. Also read Roberts Ridge by Malcolm MacPherson and see what they said about a certain general. Leadership issues within the flag/general ranks are systemic. Not one acquisition program under the leadership of a flag/general is under budget. Albeit that Congress has a large role in keeping this programs alive, the complicity of generals is concerning. I can bring up specific incidences of bad behavior by generals in an operational setting, but I don’t want to do that because it is an opsec violation to talk about specific operations, planning, and tactics. In the end, the Bush administration has done a lot to place good officers in positions that are of value. I have meet and worked with General Hayden, who is an outstanding officer. I think General Petraeus is an outstanding officer. I think Admiral Fallon is a competent officer. But with that said, there are more than a handful that are useless, and should have never risen to the rank.

Mobius on April 28, 2007 at 1:40 AM

Re: George Tenet’s book.

I haven’t read it yet. But from the media storm that is building, I offer the following comment:

Given CIA’s STUNNING FAILURE and the UTTER INCOMPETENCE OF THE CIA to detect the attacks on the United States in 1998 (African embassies), 2000 (USS Cole), and 2001 (9/11), I find it myself completely ambivalent to his complaint that he was taken out of context by the White House.

Rather, he owes the families of the Americans who died in these events abject personal apologies for failing to do his job.

georgej on April 28, 2007 at 6:00 AM

Like georgej, I don’t blame Tenet for his book. I mean, to have been such an utter and dismal failure at his job for so many years I’d expect him to come out like a child and say “it wasn’t my fault”. I almost laughed at his reaction to 9/11… “Why me?” Heh, Why him? because he was supposed to be in charge of preventing it and he totally failed at his job.

Faith1 on April 28, 2007 at 10:08 AM