A failure in generalship

ARMY LT. COL. PAUL YINGLING is deputy commander, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm. He holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago. The views expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the Army or the Defense Department.



A few comments and questions.

The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means.
Firstly, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling heaps most of his criticism on the Generals but He also acknowledges that it is the responsibility of the civilian government to provide adequate resources for the task at hand. He doesn't go on to talk about what happens if the generals highlight the insufficient means and are ordered to carry on regardless.

America's generals not only failed to develop a strategy for victory in Vietnam, but also remained largely silent while the strategy developed by civilian politicians led to defeat.
The military is subordinate to the civilian government. If the civilian government give them orders, they have to carry them out. (or am I missing something?)

Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.
The military have prepared for the 'worst case scenario' for the US. A full-scale invasion of either the US or one of its allies. Sorry to put it bluntly, but that is the militarys job. It would not be unreasonable to think that those resources could (relatively) quickly be adjusted to be used in other types of operation. If you only plan for counter-insurgency type conflicts, would you be able to fight a conventional war?

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.
While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long.
my bold. The issue is whether is civilian government were told what would be required. If the civilian government ordered the military to continue regardless ("stop coming to me with F**KING problems! get on with it!" as one possible example) then the blame lies with the government not the generals. As mention previously, the Generals are subordinate to the civilian government.

If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America's military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.
Its a fair point. Are they also to hold to account all the members of the civilian government who get it wrong?

Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face.

The spending priorities most reflect the most SERIOUS threats, not simply the most likely. This may seem like semantics but the most 'likely' threat to US interests is some poor Mexican trying to cross the border. However, the military should not have that as their priority. The priority must be the scenarios which could cause the most harm to the US. Up to the end of the cold war, and arguably beyond, the biggest threat is of a large scale invasion of the US or one of its allies - A large scale 'conventional' war. (Obviously not including nuclear war)

In other areas the makes some very interesting points about raising up generals who are adaptable. This I'm sure would be a good thing. I do feel however that the missing criticism is that the GOVERNMENTS must also be willing and able to make the correct decisions, to be adaptable, to change plan is the situation warrants, to be willing to risk their careers to get the job done right. The Vietnam conflict was orchestrated by politicians, and GW2 was orchestrated by politicians. Orchestrated by politicians who do not understand what they are doing and who are too arrogant and stubborn to simply accept the advice of their generals.

hmm... ok I am about to really start ranting, so I better leave it at that!!

Ski. arrogant, stubborn civvie.
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