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‘Good Guys’ Make Bad Generals
The American Conservative ^ | May 13, 2013 | ANDREW J. BACEVICH

Posted on 05/24/2013 12:50:58 PM PDT by JerseyanExile

By all accounts, the present-day United States military is the best—that is, the most capable—in all the world. In the estimation of their countrymen, today’s American warrior (the homelier term G.I. having now gone the way of doughboy) may well be the best of all time. Yet America’s Army doesn’t win. Except for small-scale skirmishes, it hasn’t since World War II.

The United States Army is like one of those chronically underperforming professional sports franchises: the team looks good on paper but somehow doesn’t quite get the job done. Despite a huge payroll, a roster loaded with talent, and an enthusiastic fan base, performance on the pitch falls short of what’s needed to win championships.

What explains this gap between apparent potential and actual achievement? When Americans send their army to fight, why doesn’t it return home in triumph? In The Generals, Thomas R. Ricks ventures an answer to that question, with his book’s title fingering the chief culprits.

Writing in 1932, the soldier-historian J.F.C. Fuller identified the essential attributes of successful generalship as “courage, creative intelligence and physical fitness.” A prize-winning journalist best known for his cogent analysis of the Iraq War, Ricks does not question whether senior American military officers can do the requisite number of push-ups and sit-ups to demonstrate their physical vigor. Yet since World War II, he argues, the quality of creative intelligence found in the upper echelons of the United States Army has declined precipitously. So too has the quality of civil-military interaction—the dialogue between senior officers and senior civilian officials that is essential to effective war management. Here the problem stems at least in part from pronounced lapses in moral courage. Together, these failings at the top explain why an army that seemingly ought to win doesn’t.

(Excerpt) Read more at theamericanconservative.com ...


TOPICS: Books/Literature; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: army; military; usarmy

1 posted on 05/24/2013 12:50:58 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
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To: JerseyanExile

Because we have pansies at the top. A RoE are BS.


2 posted on 05/24/2013 12:53:35 PM PDT by Resolute Conservative
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To: JerseyanExile

I disagree that pansies are “good guys” and I think real men are the good guys.


3 posted on 05/24/2013 12:54:59 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: JerseyanExile

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf had all the qualities of a good leader. We all thought that Petraeus did too, but he lacked the moral courage to do the right thing.

Okay, I’ll give him another three weeks to come forth and make me a liar.


4 posted on 05/24/2013 1:02:46 PM PDT by nikos1121
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To: JerseyanExile

There are problems in the military leadership, that’s for sure. But this particular problem isn’t military—it’s political.

HST famously quarreled with General MacArthur and fired him because he actually wanted to win the Korean War.

JFK was famous for starting wars with no intention of winning them, although Eisenhower warned him against it, beginning with the Bay of Pigs and going on to Vietnam.

LBJ made things worse.

And with a few exceptions, it’s been that way ever since.

Yes, we have far too many Perfumed Princes for generals, willing to set Rules of Engagement that favor the enemy and decimate our troops, but they wouldn’t be there in the first place if that wasn’t what the politicians wanted.


5 posted on 05/24/2013 1:03:45 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: JerseyanExile
The United States Army is like one of those chronically underperforming professional sports franchises: the team looks good on paper but somehow doesn’t quite get the job done.

Terrible conclusion, the Army wins the war, and then the team owners forfeit the win.

These are political surrenders, not losses on the battlefield.

6 posted on 05/24/2013 1:07:41 PM PDT by ansel12
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To: JerseyanExile

Mattis is one of the exceptions.


7 posted on 05/24/2013 1:07:42 PM PDT by Keith Brown (Among the other evils being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised Machiavelli.)
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To: GeronL

But they have to be a “good guy” who understands that lasting peace depends on beating your opponent into capitulation, utter defeat and unconditional surrender. There is no such thing as proportionate response and negotiated peace in order to achieve real peace. It is brutal and ugly, but in the long run, complete victory by a peaceful, moral nation saves lives and is the most compassionate course in the long run.


8 posted on 05/24/2013 1:16:48 PM PDT by RatRipper (Self-centeredness, greed, envy, deceit and lawless corruption has killed this once great nation.)
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To: JerseyanExile

The only ROE should be to win!


9 posted on 05/24/2013 1:17:08 PM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
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To: JerseyanExile

Eisenhower and MacArthur stayed for the whole war. Now the turnover is huge. Petraeus even had spare time to bring his biographer. The evils of mission creep.


10 posted on 05/24/2013 1:18:12 PM PDT by ex-snook (God is Love)
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To: RatRipper

I would expect good guys to know that. I would not expect bad guys to understand that.


11 posted on 05/24/2013 1:20:50 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: RatRipper
"But they have to be a “good guy” who understands that lasting peace depends on beating your opponent into capitulation, utter defeat and unconditional surrender."

Yeah but that takes a draft, Rosie the Riveter, War Bonds and a formal Congressional declaration of war. We opt for shop till you drop and war declaration work-arounds.

12 posted on 05/24/2013 1:22:13 PM PDT by ex-snook (God is Love)
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To: JerseyanExile
Well, we've still got the Marine Corps to save the country.
13 posted on 05/24/2013 1:24:01 PM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: Cicero
Yes, we have far too many Perfumed Princes for generals, willing to set Rules of Engagement that favor the enemy and decimate our troops, but they wouldn’t be there in the first place if that wasn’t what the politicians wanted.

I believe you've nailed it, Cicero.

Times I've done the hiring, I've looked for people who are smarter and more mentally agile than I so I can hand off more work to them. I've noticed lots of people look for agreeability, subservience, and the like.

Altogether too many presidents have openly or secretly despised the U.S. military, which can only make a bad situation worse. I'm sure there are plenty of potential Eisenhowers and Pattons in the officer corps, but their chances of promotion are reduced by leftist extremist political angling and scheming.

14 posted on 05/24/2013 1:27:27 PM PDT by Standing Wolf
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To: JerseyanExile

This article is utter hooey. The US military always comes through, and if the outcome isn’t what is wanted, it is because political forces, not military ones, have fouled things up.

The US military suffered NO, zero “humiliating defeat” in Vietnam. It didn’t lose a single major battle. And the US trained South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), with zero resupply from a hateful Democrat congress, still held out for TWO YEARS against an enemy with UNLIMITED resupply from the Soviet Union, AFTER the US military had left.

And in Gulf War I, the US military crushed the Iraqi army, the 4th largest army in the world, including the largest tank battle in history, demonstrating that the equipment and tactics of the Soviet Union would have lost in a conflict with the US.

That we did not continue the war to the point of conquering Iraq, was solely because politically, the US did not want to, and it was a selling point to all our allies that we didn’t want to. Perhaps a mistake, but a political one, not a military one.

So what’s this hooey about “good guys and bad generals”?


15 posted on 05/24/2013 1:29:33 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Best WoT news at rantburg.com)
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To: FReepers

Click The Pic To Donate

Support FR, Donate Monthly If You Can

16 posted on 05/24/2013 1:33:27 PM PDT by DJ MacWoW (My faith and politics cannot be separated)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy
The US military suffered NO, zero “humiliating defeat” in Vietnam. It didn’t lose a single major battle.

Furthermore, they were prevented from having a meaningful offensive in the north due to Robert S. McNamara, LBJ's Secretary of Defense[sic].

17 posted on 05/24/2013 1:35:26 PM PDT by the_Watchman
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To: RatRipper
"But they have to be a “good guy” who understands that lasting peace depends on beating your opponent into capitulation, utter defeat and unconditional surrender."

While he tends to draw a lot of lightning here on FR, few American generals have understood that point as well as Sherman (with the possible exception of Patton). Say what you will about Lincoln, once he had found generals that were willing to slug it out, he let them do their jobs, which, at least in terms of military/political relationships, made Lincoln an exceptional CinC.

Once Lincoln was gone, it was pretty much back to politics as usual. After successfully prosecuting the campaigns in GA and the Carolinas bringing the war to a close, there were those in DC (i.e. Stanton, et al) who wanted to try Sherman for treason for offering overly generous terms of surrender to the Johnston.

18 posted on 05/24/2013 1:45:01 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.)
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To: the_Watchman
As a Vietnam era veteran, I agree with your remarks; but one must remember that whatever the criminal failings of LBJ and McNamara (and I believe they were truly criminal) responsibility for the tactics chosen rests solely on the shoulders of Westmorland.
19 posted on 05/24/2013 1:48:42 PM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: JerseyanExile
Except for small-scale skirmishes, it hasn’t since World War II.

Wrong. What happened not once, but twice in Iraq will be taught for a hundred years as a classic case of a drastically outnumbered but better-trained and -coordinated and technologically superior force annihilating the enemy on his own ground. I'll go further and state that what happened after that was a story of anti-insurgent warfare that was seldom equaled before that and never since.

The entire point of "asymmetric" warfare is to avoid that sort of confrontation and if anyone wants to know why Saddam Hussein will be happy to explain, but you'd better have a Ouija board.

20 posted on 05/24/2013 1:49:29 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Resolute Conservative
Because we have pansies at the top. A RoE are BS.

Remember me?


21 posted on 05/24/2013 1:55:51 PM PDT by Night Hides Not (The Tea Party was the earthquake, and Chick Fil A the tsunami...100's of aftershocks to come.)
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To: ansel12

Well said.


22 posted on 05/24/2013 2:04:23 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
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To: JerseyanExile

Once again, we see the false argument that ‘the American Army lost the war in Vietnam.’ The Army won every major (battalion-sized or larger) and most of the smaller firefights (that I was in, anyway). The war was lost at the negotiating table, and by Congress’s refusal to re-engage, or even adequately support our ally, when the PRV broke the agreement.

The US didn’t lose VietNam. We quit. That’s worse. But one can’t blame the generals for that.


23 posted on 05/24/2013 2:14:26 PM PDT by VietVet (I am old enough to know who I am and what I believe, and I 'm not inclined to apologize for any of)
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To: JerseyanExile

“By all accounts, the present-day United States military is the best—that is, the most capable—in all the world.”

LOL! No need to read further.

Since WWII - no matter how poorly equipped, how small, how pathetically funded, how uneducated, how ragtag, how undisciplined, how disorganized - have we once vanquished an enemy into unconditional surrender. Of course we’ve never delared any actual wars either, except the never-ending “wars” against Communism, poverty, drugs, terror, etc etc etce tce etce egdhbcrn/klCL:


24 posted on 05/24/2013 2:29:46 PM PDT by dagogo redux (A whiff of primitive spirits in the air, harbingers of an impending descent into the feral.)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

well said


25 posted on 05/24/2013 2:55:59 PM PDT by heye2monn
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To: JerseyanExile

Except for Grenada, Panama, Iraq #1, Iraq #2, Afganistan.

The problem is not with the GIs, but with the officer corp, the Pentagon, and the commander in chief.


26 posted on 05/24/2013 2:56:08 PM PDT by dirtymac (Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.)
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To: the_Watchman

With all fairness to McNamara, the military command also thought that a major offensive in the North was not a good idea. There was a lot of back and forth with China and the Soviet Union as well, so a stalemate was seen as the best alternative.

After the battle of Ia Drang, the NVA could not concentrate its forces, or the US would have been all over it. But without a concentrated enemy force, the US would have just been patrolling empty jungle, yet subject to hit and run attacks. So the US avoided concentrations as well.

The stalemate was almost broken by Nixon ordering the carpet bombing by B-52s, which even the North admitted, after the war, almost broke them. The trouble with that was that the NVA fled to Laos and Cambodia and offered to drag them into the mess as well.

The biggest lesson learned by the US military was that it had to markedly improve its technologies, because its casualties were far too high for future conflicts. It did so.


27 posted on 05/24/2013 2:56:51 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Best WoT news at rantburg.com)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

You’re right on all points.


28 posted on 05/24/2013 3:17:51 PM PDT by Hardastarboard (Buck Off, Bronco Bama)
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To: RatRipper
It is brutal and ugly, but in the long run, complete victory by a peaceful, moral nation saves lives and is the most compassionate course in the long run.

Excellent comment. Is it yours or where did you get it?
No matter, thanks for posting!
29 posted on 05/24/2013 3:47:11 PM PDT by JSteff (It was ALL about SCOTUS... We are DOOMED for several generations. . Who cares? The Dems care!)
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To: DJ MacWoW
Yeah, remember when the press and civilians labeled the highway of death to be that sport where the airpower destroyed the remnants of the Iraqi army at the end?

Didn't Powell have a doing in talking our government into pulling the plug after the press showed that on TV for hundreds of times the day it happened?
30 posted on 05/24/2013 3:56:26 PM PDT by JSteff (It was ALL about SCOTUS... We are DOOMED for several generations. . Who cares? The Dems care!)
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To: quadrant
Well, we've still got the Marine Corps to save the country.

It isn't the Marine Corps of the recruiting posters anymore.....its PC faggotry, risk aversion, CYA, and DHS run and hide or fight with scissors training.

31 posted on 05/24/2013 4:01:11 PM PDT by Repeat Offender (What good are conservative principles if we don't stand by them?)
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To: JerseyanExile

Nope...they are “go along to get along” and make flag/general officer rank.


32 posted on 05/24/2013 4:02:45 PM PDT by matginzac
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To: Joe 6-pack

Patton...now THERE was a general.
My mother’s hero...she who endured Nazi-occupied France...


33 posted on 05/24/2013 4:05:37 PM PDT by matginzac
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To: quadrant

Well, speaking as a USAF veteran (1970-1974), I can without hesitation say...Thank God for the U.S. Marine Corps!


34 posted on 05/24/2013 4:49:16 PM PDT by ought-six ( Multiculturalism is national suicide, and political correctness is the cyanide capsule.)
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To: Standing Wolf

We can also use a couple Lees and Jacksons.


35 posted on 05/24/2013 4:50:34 PM PDT by ought-six ( Multiculturalism is national suicide, and political correctness is the cyanide capsule.)
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To: quadrant

A major problem was that LBJ started to micromanage the war, even going so far as to personally select individual bombing targets. That’s a recipe for disaster.


36 posted on 05/24/2013 4:53:05 PM PDT by ought-six ( Multiculturalism is national suicide, and political correctness is the cyanide capsule.)
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To: JSteff

Totally from the heart. Thank you.


37 posted on 05/24/2013 5:03:20 PM PDT by RatRipper (Self-centeredness, greed, envy, deceit and lawless corruption has killed this once great nation.)
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To: ought-six
We can also use a couple Lees and Jacksons.

I concur, ought-six.

38 posted on 05/24/2013 5:22:48 PM PDT by Standing Wolf
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To: JerseyanExile

I had the great good fortune to watch Andrew Bacevich mentor his young Officers. He made me wish that I was one of them. Andrew Bacevich is one of the few people in the world that, when he talks, I shut up and listen. Conservatives would do well to have a tour of Conservative speakers including Andrew Bacevich, Victor Davis Hanson and Daniel Greenfield. We would be smart to have these guys serve as mentors to young Conservatives.


39 posted on 05/24/2013 6:12:33 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: JerseyanExile

I knew we were in real trouble when the memorandum came down saying that it wasn’t fair to evaluate Soldiers based on their performance in combat. You could end a career if the Soldier was one second late on the fitness test or because the Soldier looked fat, but it wasn’t fair to evaluate Soldiers based on their performance in combat? We have an Army of runners with all that entails.


40 posted on 05/24/2013 6:21:51 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: blueunicorn6
I knew we were in real trouble when the memorandum came down saying that it wasn’t fair to evaluate Soldiers based on their performance in combat. You could end a career if the Soldier was one second late on the fitness test or because the Soldier looked fat, but it wasn’t fair to evaluate Soldiers based on their performance in combat? We have an Army of runners with all that entails.

Yes, that is the message being delivered.

41 posted on 05/24/2013 6:27:21 PM PDT by TADSLOS (The Event Horizon has come and gone. Buckle up and hang on.)
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To: blueunicorn6
We have an Army of runners with all that entails.

So true, and it will only get worse as the war winds down and we get back to garrison stupidity. At least we'll have an Army that looks like it's fit to fight.

This satire article is all too true.

42 posted on 05/24/2013 6:39:54 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater (CrossFit.com)
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To: Repeat Offender
I agree the Corps has “declined” but it has retained its standards to a degree that far exceeds the ability of the
Army to retain its core beliefs.
43 posted on 05/25/2013 11:47:29 AM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: ought-six
I agree: LBJ did micromanage the war to an incredible degree; but the day-to-day tactics were designed by Westmorland. Lets not forget that the Marine Corps protested the tactics chosen by the Army leadership but were overruled.
44 posted on 05/25/2013 11:49:22 AM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: quadrant
I agree the Corps has “declined” but it has retained its standards to a degree that far exceeds the ability of the Army to retain its core beliefs.

Sucking less than someone else isn't exactly a positive outlook.

And having personally witnessed the ineptitude of certain Marine officers in comparison to their Army counterparts in the same AO.......I lost the ability to trash talk the Army; something when I was a young dumb '03 knuckle dragger I never thought possible.

45 posted on 05/25/2013 1:53:56 PM PDT by Repeat Offender (What good are conservative principles if we don't stand by them?)
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To: Repeat Offender
You are correct, but in the atmosphere in which the DOD operates, “sucking less” is about the best a service can do.

Ineptitude is common throughout the officer corps. But Marine NCO’s and Staff NCO’s are head and shoulders above anything the Army can field.

46 posted on 05/26/2013 1:25:29 PM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: quadrant
But Marine NCO’s and Staff NCO’s are head and shoulders above anything the Army can field.

I agree with you there although I may have reason for bias. However, everything possible is being done to water down the NCO and SNCO corps. Much of the problem with the O corps, I blame on weak SNCOs not slapping sense into those with shiny on their collar.

I do not know a single Marine unwilling to put their life on the line for another......I know very few willing to put their career on the line for the same.

The other major problem is to view the services, or DoD in general, as some faceless entity......without realizing who actually makes up the entity. In other words, it is easier to blame the org as a whole, or the system, without ever gaining the testicular fortitude to say damn the system and doing something about it.

47 posted on 05/26/2013 4:16:39 PM PDT by Repeat Offender (What good are conservative principles if we don't stand by them?)
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To: Repeat Offender
Things must have changed since my days in the Corps. The SNCO’s kept everything together. They coached the officers and sat on the faces of the junior NCO’s, esp, I thought, mine.
48 posted on 05/28/2013 11:18:36 AM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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