Blaming/bashing the generals


Scott Horton Interviews Michael Hastings

Michael Hastings,
author of the article “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine,
discusses the controversy surrounding his profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal
(who has now been relieved of command in Afghanistan).

[Here is the last substantive paragraph of the eight minute interview.]

Michael Hastings:
I think there’s a larger kind of structural issue here about –
you just compare the DOD budget to the State Department budget,
$600 billion to $50 billion.
You know, you look at every foreign service officer –
you know, there’s more people in the Army band
than there are foreign service officers.
You know, you could fit every foreign service officer on an aircraft carrier.
You know, so you look like at just the sort of decay of the State Department
and basically
our foreign policy has become our defense policy.
You know, the two are one.
And I think that translates into the fact that
a lot of the time just the leaders get the blame for all the wars,
and they should take their fair share of blame,
but I think

we also have to start looking at the military leaders
in a much more critical way
than they’re accustomed to be looked at.

Military disturbed by rapid turnover at top in Afghan, Iraq wars
By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post, 2010-06-27

Since 2001, a dozen commanders have cycled through
the top jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. Central Command,
which oversees both wars.
Three of those commanders --
including the recently dismissed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal --
have been fired or resigned under pressure.

History has judged many others harshly,
and only two, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno,
are widely praised as having mastered
the complex mixture of skills that running America’s wars demands.

For the military, this record of mediocrity raises a vexing question:
What is wrong with the system that produces top generals?

Much of what top commanders do in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq
bears little relation to the military skills
that helped them rise through the ranks, military officials said.
Today’s wars demand that top commanders act like modern viceroys,
overseeing military operations and major economic development efforts.
They play dominant roles in the internal politics of the countries
where their troops fight.


When support for these long wars inevitably flags back home,
the White House often depends on its generals
to sell the administration’s approach
to lawmakers and a skeptical American public.

To the military’s extreme discomfort,
its generals often act like shadow cabinet secretaries.

“What we ask of these generals is a very unusual skill set,”
said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations,
who has advised both Petraeus and McChrystal.
“It is a hard thing for anyone to do,
much less than someone who comes to it so late in life.”

Repeated disappointment

Over nine years of war, top commanders have fallen victim
to their own ignorance of Washington politics and the press.
Adm. William J. Fallon, once commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East,
resigned after he made offhand remarks
trashing the Bush administration’s Iran policy.

[That’s really an inaccurate description of what happened.
He didn’t know, nor couldn’t have known,
just how the reporter interviewing him for Esquire would play his remarks,
nor how the editors of Esquire would hype them.
Esquire hyped them, the Israel lobby reacted, and he got fired.]

Other commanders,
including Gen. Tommy Franks and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez,
spent most of their careers studying conventional battles
and couldn’t grasp the protracted wars or the shadowy enemies
that they were fighting.
“A year from now, Iraq will be a different country,”
Franks wrote in his 2004 autobiography.
“Our steady progress in Afghanistan is one factor that gives me confidence
that Iraq will be able to provide for its own security in the years ahead.”

[The Washington Post reporter chooses to blame Franks
for those admittedly foolish remarks,
but Franks was just echoing what he had been told
by his superiors in the Bush administration,
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Rice.
They each predicted that
the occupation of Iraq would be comparable to that of Germany after World War II,
and that those opposing the U.S. forces were just hooligans.

Note how the WP ignores those views,
which were in fact being promulgated by neocon circles back then,
so he can heap blame on the uniformed military.]

A few top commanders started out well enough,
but they found themselves exhausted and out of new ideas
[How about out of resources!]
by the end of their tours.
With sectarian violence spinning out of control in the spring of 2006,
Gen. George W. Casey scribbled the words “must act”
in the margins of an intelligence report
that warned of even worse killing in the weeks to come.
Yet he did little to change the military’s approach
in the months that followed.
After more than 30 months in command,
he was forced out to make way for Petraeus and a new approach.

[And additional troops!]

Explanations for the shortage of good generals abound.
Some young officers blame the Pentagon’s insistence on
sticking with its peacetime promotion policies.
Military personnel rules prevent the top brass
from reaching down into the ranks
and plucking out high-performers
who have proved themselves especially adept at counterinsurgency
or have amassed significant knowledge about Afghanistan and Iraq.
“In all previous wars,
promotions were accelerated for officers who were effective,”
a senior Army official said.

Instead of speeding promotions,
then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld slowed them down
so that officers wouldn’t cycle through complex jobs so quickly.
As a result,
there are many three-star generals with limited counterinsurgency experience
and a large pool of colonels and one-stars
who have done multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The lower-ranking officers are years away
from even being considered for senior slots in the wars.

Other experts maintain the military must cast a wider net
in its search for creative commanders
who can balance the military and political demands of their job.
One day after McChrystal was dismissed,
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
described how hard it is
to find just the right general to lead U.S. troops in battle.
“One of the most difficult things we do is pick people,” Mullen said.
“We spend an extraordinary amount of time on it.”
He offered the same observation a year earlier
in explaining the move to sack McChrystal’s predecessor,
Gen. David D. McKiernan.

Rarely, though, does the exhaustive search lead to
anyone outside the narrow confines of the U.S. Army.
Eleven of the 12 top war commanders since 2001 have been Army generals.
[Who is doing most of the fighting?]
“The Army has had an absolute hammer lock
on all the senior jobs and their staffs,”
said Bing West,
a former Marine who has written several books about the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Marines often point out that Gen. James N. Mattis,
who won widespread praise as a two-star general in Iraq’s Anbar province,
has spent the past several years at U.S. Joint Forces Command,
a sprawling bureaucracy that
produces doctrine, conducts war games and oversees troop deployments.
He is expected to retire this year.

Searching for a formula

The struggle to produce successful senior commanders
has spurred a search in the Pentagon for the magic formula
that will produce more warrior-diplomats.
One school of thought holds that,
given the breadth of skills required for today’s high-command jobs,
officers should be selected and groomed at an early stage of their careers,
with tours in Washington, battlefield commands
and time in civilian graduate schools.

Petraeus spent extensive time working for three top generals;
two of his tours were in the Pentagon,
where he worked directly for
both the Army chief of staff and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
in the late 1990s.
His unusual career path generated grumbling among peers
who thought that real officers should be in the field.
Others complained that he seemed to be trying too hard to make top rank.
But the experience is now seen
as having given him the political savvy he has needed
to be successful in the latter part of his career.

Currently, all of the armed services are hatching plans
to send more of their high-performing young officers to graduate school.
Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, for example,
has posited that more pilots with PhDs
will increase his service’s “intellectual throw-weight.”
But the military remains deeply uncomfortable with idea of
targeting a subset of officers for an elite education,
with the aim of installing them in senior command slots decades later.

“Part of the Army’s problem is its egalitarianism,”
said retired Col. Don Snider,
who teaches leadership at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

There is also widespread skepticism that
the military’s slow-moving bureaucracy
can come up with a system for routinely producing innovative officers
with the political, bureaucratic and battlefield skills
needed to lead at the highest levels.

[My opinion:
Stop requiring generals to do the politicians work for them!
Let the politicians do what they historically have done,
sell (or not sell) the wars they want to the electorate,
and let the generals focus on what only they can do:
plan, strategize, manage, and lead the war effort itself.]

“A lot of the service’s efforts feel like groping in the dark,”
said Biddle, of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Endless war, a recipe for four-star arrogance
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Washington Post Outlook, 2010-06-27

[Bacevich is a distinguished commentator,
but I disagree with the use of the term “arrogance” for the condition he describes.]

Will there be an Afghanistan Syndrome?
By Eliot A. Cohen
Washington Post Outlook, 2010-06-27

In Afghanistan,
Petraeus will have difficulty replicating his Iraq success

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Outlook, 2010-06-27

Win Wars? Today’s Generals Must Also Politick and Do P.R.
New York Times, 2010-08-12

[Let me make some preliminary comments.
There are limits to human performance.
Expecting someone to both run four-minute miles and win a Nobel Prize
is asking too much.
Even if a person should try,
would that really be in the best interests of the person?
What about his life outside of that assignment?

Changing subject slightly,
one trend today is to make things ever more complicated,
and in my opinion often unnecessarily so.
We saw that in the fiascos Wall Street has been experiencing,
where Ph.D.’s in math were busy
making financial instruments ever more complicated,
but the soundness of the instruments was based on
a narrow window of financial history.
Of course,
if you choose your historical database with sufficient care and selectivity,
you can find just about any trend you desire to generalize upon.
Hey, everything that happened outside your window of observation is old-hat and irrelevant, right?
The point is when you overspecialize,
you become vulnerable to changing trends.
Just ask the remaining dinosaurs (I’m talking about the literal ones)
about that.

In contrast, a basic principle the military has always followed
is the KISS principle:
“Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
This has been highly effective when using personnel of varying abilities.

But I seem to have wandered somewhat off the subject of the current article.
To get back to that subject:
I think way, way too much is being asked of the men trying to be generals.]

WASHINGTON — After nine years of fighting in the deserts and mountains of the Middle East, the military has concluded that the traditional, hard-earned combat skills that allowed generations of “muddy boots” commanders to protect American interests around the world simply are not enough to assure victory in today’s wars — or career advancement through the top ranks of the armed forces.

Mastery of battlefield tactics and a knack for leadership are only prerequisites. Generals and other top officers are now expected to be city managers, cultural ambassadors, public relations whizzes and politicians as they deal with multiple missions and constituencies in the war zone, in allied capitals — and at home.


Generals Wary of Move to Cut Their Ranks
New York Times, 2010-08-27

According to the Pentagon, there are now 963 generals and admirals leading the armed forces, about 100 more than on 9/11. Meanwhile, the overall number of active duty personnel has declined from 2.2 million in 1985 to some 1.5 million today, even though the Army and Marine Corps have grown since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to carry out the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Salaries and benefits, however, are the least of it. The biggest costs are created by the general’s staffs — including security details, senior advisers, communications teams, schedulers and personal aides. Mr. Harrison said the military’s highest-ranking generals and admirals — 40 four-star and 146 three-stars — each had salaries, benefits and staffs whose cumulative annual costs easily exceed $1 million.

“When you have a head dog, you also have a deputy dog, then a deputy deputy dog, and a deputy deputy deputy dog,” said General Punaro. “The layers are suffocating the bureaucracy.”


Several retired generals expressed empathy with the overall goals of Mr. Gates’s effort, saying they agreed that there was lots of room to downsize the Pentagon — particularly the civilian bureaucracy, which Mr. Gates also has pledged to do. But they were uncomfortable with the way they perceived that generals and admirals had been singled out as a problem. (In fact, Mr. Gates made only a passing mention of reducing the number of generals and admirals in a lengthy news conference rolling out his budget plan, and he has not made any statements holding specific officers accountable.)

Still, the generals’ comments made clear that if Mr. Gates was preparing to push against a culture of entitlement, he would be wise to prepare to get pushed as well.

In a rapid-fire rundown of his life, General Zinni said: “I’ve lived in 30 houses, some of them were nice, some were in God-awful places. The drapes never fit, the furniture is never quite right. My kids had to go from school to school. I was shot in Somalia.

“Lots of generals have made the same sacrifices. Many of us have children in the military, making the same sacrifices.”

Then he asked, rhetorically, “And people think we have some sense of entitlement?”


Petraeus scandal puts four-star general lifestyle under scrutiny
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe
Washington Post, 2012-11-17

[The downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus] has prompted new scrutiny
of the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle.

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services
and those who oversee troops around the world
enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire,
including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards
and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms
and track their schedules in 10-minute increments.
Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs.
If they want music with their dinner parties,
their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets.
They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737,
some of which are configured with beds.

[There’s a good reason for that.
When they travel they may have to take their staff, or at least elements of it, with them.
In effect, that jet is a traveling HQ (headquarters) for their command.
And as to the bed, isn't it desirable for the CG
to be able to get some sleep while he is traveling?]

Since Petraeus’s resignation, many have strained to understand how such a celebrated general could have behaved so badly.
[Note the explicitly stated notion that he "behaved so badly."
I think there are many outside of the media who think that what he did
was no different from what many Americans do,
and while it surely broke one of God's commandments,
many might think that forgiveness is possible,
that he learned his lesson by the publicity and surely will not do it again,
so firing was not required.
The article states that generals in some ways live in a bubble.
I think the media itself forms its own bubble,
seeking out sex situations which it can dub as "scandals"
and call for the head of the (almost invariably) offending male.]

Some have speculated that an exhausting decade of war impaired his judgment.
Others wondered if Petraeus was never the Boy Scout he appeared to be.
But [former SecDef Robert] Gates, who still possesses a modest Kansan’s bemusement at Washington excess,
has floated another theory.

“There is something about a sense of entitlement
and of having great power that skews people’s judgment,”
Gates said last week.

Among the Army’s general officer corps, however, there is little support for Gates’s hypothesis.
“I love the man. I am his biggest supporter. But I strongly disagree,” said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served as Gates’s senior military assistant. “I find it concerning that he and others are not focusing on the effect on our guys of fighting wars for 11 years. No one was at it longer than Petraeus.”

Other veteran commanders concurred with Gates. David Barno, a retired three-star general who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warned in an interview that the environment in which the top brass lives has the potential “to become corrosive over time upon how they live their life.”

“You can become completely disconnected from the way people live in the regular world — and even from the modest lifestyle of others in the military,” Barno said. “When that happens, it’s not necessarily healthy either for the military or the country.”

Although American generals have long enjoyed many perks — in World War II and in Vietnam, some dined on china set atop linen tablecloths — the amenities afforded to today’s military leaders are more lavish than anyone else in government enjoys, save for the president.


“Being a four-star commander in a combat theater is like being a combination of Bill Gates and Jay-Z — with enormous firepower added,” said Thomas E. Ricks, the author of “The Generals,” a recently published history of American commanders since World War II.

[The esteem and respect in which such individuals are held
is perhaps nothing new.
Is it now greater than it used to be?
And there is a reason for it.
Jay-Z does not send his fans to life-threatening situations.
Generals do.]


Some retired generals have defended the benefits accorded to their active-duty brethren, noting that many of them work 18-hour days, six to seven days a week. They manage budgets that dwarf those of large multinational companies and are responsible for the lives of thousands of young men and women under their command.

Compared with today’s plutocrats, their pay is modest.
In 2013, the base salary for a four-star general with at least 38 years of service will be almost $235,000,
although federal personnel regulations limit their take-home pay to $179,700.
Unlike top civilians in government, top generals also receive free housing and subsidies for food and uniforms.
And when they retire, those who have served at least 40 years
get an annual pension that is slightly more than active-duty base pay —
this year it is $236,650.

Several generals noted that perks, such as planes, cars and staff aides,
are constrained by hundreds of pages of rules designed to ensure that
they are used only for government business.


[A regional command CINC has a lot of responsibility.
Are the perks appropriate?
Do they make up for salaries not comparable to people in the civilian world with lesser responsibilities?
As an example,
the Washington Examiner published an examination of the top government-paid salaries in Virginia and Maryland
with many salaries in the high six-figures.
As another example,
note that three-dozen university presidents earned over $1 million in 2010.
And they have some pretty impressive perks too.

Perhaps military perks are excessive,
but it would be good to put them in the context of the civilian situations noted above.]


Military brass, behaving badly: Files detail a spate of misconduct dogging armed forces
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post, 2014-01-27


Martin P. Schweitzer, a commander with the Army’s legendary 82nd Airborne Division, was respectful and polite when he met a female member of Congress to discuss matters at Fort Bragg, N.C. Afterward, however, he couldn’t resist tapping out e-mails to two other generals, describing the lawmaker, Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.), as “smoking hot” and jokingly referring to explicit sexual acts.


The embarrassing episodes are described in previously undisclosed files of military investigations into personal misconduct by U.S. generals and admirals.


Lewd e-mails

Last summer, Army prosecutors were combing through the e-mail accounts of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a commander facing a court-martial on sexual assault, adultery and other charges , when they uncovered a raunchy exchange with two other generals.

The exchange started in March 2011, when Schweitzer, then a colonel and the deputy commander for operations for the 82nd Airborne Division, held a meeting with Ellmers, a newly elected House member whose district included Fort Bragg.

Schweitzer gave a pointed summary of the meeting in an e-mail to a superior, Maj. Gen. James Huggins, while copying Sinclair, then a fellow colonel and an 82nd Airborne commander.

“First — she is smoking hot,” Schweit­zer wrote. “Second — briefing went well . . . she was engaging . . . had done her homework. She wants us to know she stands with us and will work/push to get the Fort Bragg family resourced.”

That, and what came next, led prosecutors to turn over the e-mail chain to the Army inspector general for a full investigation.

“He sucks :-) still needs to confirm hotness,” Sinclair teased in a reply.

More than an hour later, Schweitzer responded with an apology for the delay, saying he had masturbated “3 times over the past 2 hours” after the meeting with the congresswoman.

In releasing its investigative report in response to The Post’s Freedom of Information Act request, the Army censored the most offensive e-mail in its entirety, citing personal privacy interests. It also redacted Ellmers’s name and all references to her position as a member of Congress.

The Post obtained an original, uncensored copy of the e-mails from another source.

In a statement released Friday, Ellmers called the e-mails “entirely inappropriate.” She said she was first told about them two weeks ago by Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, as officials were preparing to disclose the inspector general’s report to The Post.

“I am pleased with the corrective actions that are taking place and how they handled this very difficult situation,” Ellmers added.

Schweitzer, now a brigadier general who works at the Pentagon for the Joint Staff, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Last summer, according to the report, he told Army investigators that his e-mails were “childish” and “truly stupid.” He also called himself “an honorable man,” adding: “I am not perfect. This horrible attempt at a joke was simply that, a horrible attempt at a joke.”

The Army inspector general concluded that Schweitzer had “failed to demonstrate exemplary conduct” and cited him for using his government e-mail account “for an unauthorized purpose.”

In response, the Army placed a “memorandum of concern” in Schweitzer’s personnel file. It is also holding his previously announced promotion to major general “in abeyance pending formal review,” according to Army spokesman George Wright.

Wright noted that inspector general probes are “administrative actions” and not criminal investigations. Speaking generally, he defended the level of discipline that the Army imposes in such cases, calling it “appropriate and commensurate with the level of the allegations.”

“It is serious, and it impacts these officers personally and professionally,” Wright said. “There never was any attempt to sweep anything under the rug.”


[I think it was clear he was joking
(what 40-something man can do what he claims to have done?),
and intending to compliment the Congresswoman.
The emails would have been private, if investigators had not found them.
I find it hard to see how anyone was harmed by this locker-room talk between men.

I think the question is: What is the problem here?
1. That he found her attractive?
My response: Just because she is a Congresswoman, that shouldn't prevent others from finding her attractive.
2. That he communicated his rating of her to one of his peers?
My response: Controlling speech in that regard sounds awfully totalitarian to me.
Further, the media is full of remarks about the "hotness" of various people.
Is this speech that is okay for the media,
but off-limits to the military in their private conversations?
3. That he claimed to have masturbated “3 times over the past 2 hours”?
My response: In the first place,
that comment only became public due to the media making it so.
In the second place,
if talking about explicit sex acts is inappropriate in public forums,
what do we make of the well-known comment by journalist Nina Burleigh that
"I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.",
which appeared in multiple media outlets,
including none other than the Washington Post?
4. That the officers were talking about sex on government time?
My response: Yes, that can be criticized.
One can say: "Keep your mind on your work, not on your play."
But surely there is some time during the probably far-more-than-eight-hour workday for some idle chatter, as a break from the work.
The issue should be, perhaps, how extensive the non-work talk is.
A one-time comment hardly seems worth the Post mentioning
(unless they have an agenda of bashing any heterosexual-male dominated occupation).

In fact, there is an issue here,
just not the one the Post and no doubt practically all of the media see.

The fact is that men of all ages do on occasion think about and talk about sex.
As long as their thoughts are about sex with people outside of their work environment,
the only harm that can arise is if it consumes too much of their time and attention.
But what if the person whom they find attractive is part of their military team,
either superior, subordinate, or peer?
The way the world is, their actions are going to be affected by
the attraction they feel towards this other person.
Feminists can write laws, regulations, and establish punishment regimes ad infinitum,
and that will not affect how people think.
You can control and regulate actions, not thoughts.
On the other hand, you cannot read minds,
so exactly what a person is thinking is very hard to prove.
So if military person A appears to be attracted to military person B,
how can you establish whether the actions of A vis-à-vis B
are motivated by military necessity (good) or personal interest (bad)?
You can’t.
Thus the change in (at least the combat arms of) the military
from an all heterosexual male force to a force containing both women and homosexuals
will inevitably introduce confusion.

To bring this back to the case at hand,
while I find the Army general’s comments about a civilian woman as distant from his work function as the congresswoman unobjectionable,
if he were to make the same comments about one of his peers or subordinates,
that would suggest that he would be hard put (so to speak :-)
to be objective about that person.
The Army really works very hard to ensure that
all its personnel are treated equally, aside from rank.
When personnel start viewing each other in terms of hotness,
as they surely will, regulations or not,
that “We’re all green” mantra becomes ineffective.
Too bad those female senators, and the media, don’t get that.]

The following appears at the end of a story on Congress's actions on military justice:
"Senate rejects further revamp of how Pentagon handles sex assault cases"

By Ed O'Keefe and Craig Whitlock
Washington Post, 2014-03-06


At the other end of Capitol Hill Thursday,
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a supporter of Gillibrand’s proposal,
questioned Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
over the military’s handling of another embarrassing episode
involving raunchy and sexist e-mails written by an Army commander.

[So the Washington Post describes these emails as "sexist".
Let me ask:
Just what is sexist about them?
Is it sexist to say that a woman is attractive?
I certainly don't thinks so, but then this is the Washington Post,
always eager to call things "sexist".
Note also the common use of the term "stud muffin" women use
to describe men they find attractive,
usage which has appeared in the pages of the Post itself
Is it non-sexist for women to describe men as "stud muffins",
but sexist for men to describe women as "smoking hot"?
Try and explain the logic there.

Or is (supposedly) masturbating over people you find hot sexist?
Does anyone think women don't do exactly that?

As usual, the Washington Post is nothing but
a conduit of politically correct double standards.]

The commander, Brig. Gen. Martin Schweitzer,
sent e-mails to two other Army officers in 2011
in which he called Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) “smoking hot”
and joked how he had masturbated “3 times over the past 2 hours”
after meeting with the congresswoman.
Schweitzer was later rebuked by the Army,
and his selection to be promoted to the rank of major general was placed on hold.
The existence of the e-mails was first reported by The Washington Post in January.

During a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee,
Speier asked Dempsey why the Army had not taken tougher action against Schweitzer.
He is currently assigned to the Joint Staff and serves under Dempsey.

“I question what the punishment is
when this general is now working for you, General Dempsey,”
Speier said.

Dempsey replied that he couldn’t talk about the case because
it “is part of an ongoing investigation.”

Why the Army should fire generals and promote captains
By Adrian Bonenberger
Washington Post Outlook, 2012-02-21

[This opinion piece was the lead item in Sunday's Outlook,
filling from top to bottom the center three columns of a five column layout.
It had a very large, centered headline and illustration
(the illustration covered, vertically, about half the top to bottom space on the page)
laid out as follows:


[Much of the article is more nuanced and less inflammatory than
the screaming imperative headline and the illustration.
In particular, the author only recommends that some generals be weeded out,
to make room for early promotions of more deserving, in the view of the author,
junior officers.
I would be very surprised if
the Army has not been carrying out a somewhat similar strategy already.

But the author does offer a knock on the existing body of generals
in the following three paragraphs:]


Most of the colonels and generals leading the Army
were trained to fight World War III against the Soviets;
[That really isn't very true.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, 24 years ago;
the Soviet Union dissolved itself in 1991, 22 years ago;
bringing an end to the Cold War.
On the other hand, the major component of the “Gulf War”,
Operation Desert Storm, under General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf,
was fought in January and February 1991,
and signaled the beginning of the shift of attention of the U.S. military
from war in Europe, in EUCOM, with the “Evil Empire”,
to wars in the Middle East, in CENTCOM,
with whomever AIPAC and the Washington Post have deemed
the bad-guy de l'année.

Consequently it has been at least 22 years since
the U.S. military worried about the Soviet Union.
Twenty-two years in which Army officers were not
“trained to fight World War III against the Soviets”.
The training for combat against the Soviet Union was either
before their time (for most colonels and newly minted generals)
or during their early years as company-grade officers (for senior generals).

The author ignores these significant facts.]

most of the captains and majors have trained and fought
against al-Qaeda, Sunni militias and the Taliban.
Unfortunately, few colonels and generals have, in practical terms,
been able to adapt their 1980s and ’90s training to the needs of today’s warfare.
[Again, this seems deceptive.
See the comment above.]

The best evidence for this is that
we didn’t win in Iraq and haven’t won in Afghanistan.
[We didn’t win in Iraq?
Saddam’s army was decisively defeated in a matter of weeks,
with very few American casualties,
Saddam sent into hiding,
and Paul Bremer temporarily became America’s proconsul in Baghdad.
That the political situation in Iraq was not resolved to the satisfaction of some
does not seem to be a failing of the U.S. military,
but rather something that is beyond the power of military force to achieve.
That the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds are engaged in a struggle for power,
and that many Arabs will resist any attempt to impose foreign-based rule on them,
are simply facts of life in that part of the world.
Sure, America could have continued maintaining a military force in Iraq.
But they would have been sitting ducks
for an on-going guerrilla campaign to repel the infidels.
There is no military solution to that problem,
whatever the quality of the generals is.]

Military journalist Thomas E. Ricks
[Who spent much of the recent past employed by this very same Washington Post,
and who now writes a blog for Foreign Policy, owned by Donald E. Graham.]

has argued that
America’s generals and colonels have been largely responsible for these failures.
Small, transient battlefield successes —
the Sunni Awakening in Iraq and
partnering with militias in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban groups —
were largely products of enterprising junior officers:
perceptive lieutenants, captains and occasionally majors.
Who devised that strategy?
Not company-grade officers for sure, nor field-grade ones.
They implemented very well, to their credit,
a strategy that was the product of thought at various levels above them.
Enterprising and perceptive they may have been,
but let's not give them all the credit.
They don't deserve sole credit.
(You know the old saying about the fathers of success, vice failure.)]

In the past three years,
those officers have been promoted to captains, majors and lieutenant colonels —
and now they’re the ones on the chopping block.
[Are those the officers "on the chopping block"?
Or less effective junior officers?
Surely not all junior officers were water-walkers.]

Another reason to consider
promoting mid-level officers into substantial leadership roles
is the military’s fast-changing culture.
The younger captains, majors and lieutenant colonels did not, for the most part,
grow up in a country or a military where being gay was automatically seen as disgraceful;
they are also more readily able than prior generations to imagine women in combat.
[Bonenberger really misstates the issues here.
The problem with gays in combat situations isn't that
"being gay [is] automatically seen as disgraceful",
the problem is, as I have repeatedly argued,
the incompatibility between
1) intra-service sexual attraction and
2) traditional command authority and the very serious burdens it, and the realities of combat, impose on subordinates.
The same problems arise with the introduction of women into combat situations.]

Empowering officers who can help solidify such changes
will boost morale and enhance the Army’s fighting capability,
especially at a time of austerity and decreased training opportunities.
These officers have in many cases
served alongside women in combat (or are women themselves).
They’re better able to see them as warfighting equals
[Oh yeah?
Equal in their ability to carry a combat load?
Equal in their resistance to concussions and other injuries?]

than as irksome obligations or legal liabilities —
making these officers ideally suited to help
the military transition away from its current culture,
in which serial rapists are slapped on the wrist or tacitly endorsed.

[So now the Washington Post is busy publishing attacks on the generals for failing in Iraq,
a situation that many others now realize was inevitable.
But let us recall just who, in Washington, was beating the drums the loudest for invading Iraq in the first place, after 9/11/2001, in 2002 and 2003.
It was none other than the Washington Post editorial page,
helped along by highly tendentious reporting on the supposedly impartial news pages.
For the Washington Post to now blame the generals
for failing at an impossible task
which was assigned to them in the first place
largely at the behest of the Washington Post itself
sure sounds to me like "blaming the victim."]


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