9 thoughts on “Challenging the Generals

  1. Pretty interesting article. But I think that Kaplan makes too much of the dilemma which the military faces as to civilian control and what generals should say either publicly or privately to their civilian bosses, which is the gist of the article.

    As I see it, you don’t have to get to the question whether American generals should have opposed the war on strategic (prudential) grounds.

    All you have to do is ask whether General Shinseki’s opinion (that we needed at lest 250,000 troops in Iraq) was widely shared. If so then it seems to me that not raising an objection on tactical grounds (i.e. we can’t secure Iraq unless we have 250,000 troops) offers no or little problems in terms of civilian control. In fact it seems like dereliction of their own people to send them into a war without sufficient back-up.

    We don’t want generals telling President/Congress what to do on broad political strategic grounds (e.g. “bad idea to do X.”) (Or refusing to do something.) But military leaders must tell the political command their tactical concerns “Look, if you want us to do X then we have to have Y forces” or “That tank is a bad design.” Their technical expertise must be brought to the table. And the number of troops needed to secure an objective is not a purely or even primarily political issue but very much a technical one concerning the realities of what troops can do.

  2. #2 — Yeah, I see that righties have come unhinged over that post, although if you actually read it you see that the Martin Lewis isn’t exactly calling for a coup.

  3. Sort of off topic: I was watching “Born Yesterday” with Judy Holiday and William Holden (1950). The following is quote from William Holden’s character and just way too true:

    “A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.”

  4. It’s no wonder they are losing faith..when they are placed in a no win situation, and they know it. It’s already been rightfully acknowledged that there is no military solution in Iraq. So it would seem to me that having no faith in a General who is pursuing an unachievable goal is a natural response. If they expand the conflict by attacking Iran or Syria they can reinvigorate the hope for victory, but as it stands now they’ve hit the wall of purpose and are losing their faith.

    The recent op-ed written by the 6 NCO’s of the 82nd Airborne is only a small reflection of a more pervasive understanding throughout the entire military that they are spinning their wheels in Iraq… while the Generals won’t voice that understanding.

  5. Off topic..but.. have you noticed the price of milk lately? It’s now about $4.50 a gallon in these parts. Everything is going up. I remember when we used to get by with spending 6 billion dollars a month in Iraq, now we’re spending 12 billion dollars a month, Sheesh, forget the good old days of fighting a war on the cheap because inflation is really doing a job on our pocketbooks…isn’t it?

  6. Thanks for linking to that. As the son of a career officer who never did get that first star in part due to strong opinions, it’s nice to see that promotion boards’ political aspects are acknowleged in print.

  7. The point in the article that struck me most forcefully was that most of today’s senior officers rose to their ranks without command experience in assymetrical ‘warfare’.

    The corollary point in the article which I consider very relevant is that junior officers who have now actually held command in assymetrical ‘warfare’ are hard put to communicate their hands-on experiences and understandings to their superiors without damage to their own military career paths.

    This points to a structural problem which is huge: Imagine pre-computer age library researchers having command/decision-making power and promotion control over younger google-adept researchers.

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