Skip to comments.Tarnished Brass: Is the U.S. Military Profession in Decline?
Posted on 02/01/2014 6:27:41 PM PST by robowombat
Tarnished Brass: Is the U.S. Military Profession in Decline?
Richard H. Kohn Nearly twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the American military, financed by more money than the entire rest of the world spends on its armed forces, failed to defeat insurgencies or fully suppress sectarian civil wars in two crucial countries, each with less than a tenth of the U.S. population, after overthrowing those nations governments in a matter of weeks. Evidence of overuse and understrength in the military abounds: the longest individual overseas deployments since World War II and repeated rotations into those deployments; the common and near-desperate use of bonuses to keep officers and enlisted soldiers from leaving. Nor is it only the ground forces that are experiencing the pinch. The U.S. Air Force has had to cut tens of thousands of people to buy the airplanes it believes it needs. The U.S. Navy faces such declining numbers of ships that it needs allies to accomplish the varied demands of power projection, sea control, and the protection of world commerce.
inShare Email Print Why such a disjunction between enormous expenditures and declining capability? One factor is that the threats currently facing the United States, many of them building for a generation or more, do not yield to the kind of conventional war that our military is designed to fight. The challenges to global stability are less from massed armies than from terrorism; economic and particularly financial instability; failed states; resource scarcity (particularly oil and potable water); pandemic disease; climate change; and international crime in the form of piracy, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and other forms of organized lawlessness. Very few of these threats can be countered by the high-tempo, high-technology conventional military power that has become the specialtyalmost the monopolyof the United States, shaped and sized to fight conventional wars against other nation-states.
Another factor is the role the United States has assumed for itself as the worlds lone superpowerthe guarantor of regional and global stability, champion of human rights, individual liberty, market capitalism, and political democracy, even though promoting those values may simultaneously undermine the nations security.
A third factor in the disjuncture between the needs of American security and the abilities of the military establishment is not much discussed: deficiencies in American military professionalism. This problem, hidden because our military regularly demonstrates its operational effectiveness in battle, is the focus of this essay.
The challenge to military professionalism in the twenty-first century lies in three interconnected areas. The first is intellectual: the ability to wage war successfully in a variety of circumstances without wasting the lives of soldiers or their equipment and supplies (which are always limited, even for a superpower at the zenith of its relative strength). The second is political: the absence from the officer corps of partisan political divisions, its subordination to the legally constituted civilian authorities in charge of the state, and its ability to establish an effective working partnership or collaboration with the civilian political leadership regardless of party or faction. The third challenge to professionalism is what I would call the moral or ethical: the honor, integrity, honesty, and self-sacrifice of the officer corps, the commitment of individual officers to the norms and values of personal and organizational behavior that permit them to lead, and their subordinates to follow, in the heat and stress of battle.
A failure in the first areastrategyis obviously the most dangerous. After remarkable success prior to and during World War II in creating and executing strategy in the largest and most complex war in human history, the American military began a slow decline. Ironically, this decline came at a time when the military was gaining enormous influence in the making of foreign and national security policies in the government reorganization of the 1940s: the unification of the armed forces and the creation of the National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the unified and specified commands, the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence organizations, and the various mobilization, munitions, and logistics boards and agencies.
While prior to the war military planners were reduced to poring over the newspapers and parsing public statements by the White House to discern foreign policy, afterwards uniformed officers were integrated into (and increasingly influential on) a complex interagency coordination and policy-making process. But the military never gained full control of nuclear weapons, and increasingly in the 1950s lost primacy in nuclear strategy to the new think tanks and to the private sector. At the same time, the services adopted business models of management and to some extent leadership that reflected a growing partnership with American industry. (Significantly, William Westmoreland was the first active duty army officer to graduate from the Harvard Business School.) The services also embraced operations research, systems analysis, and economic theory partly to defend themselves against Robert McNamara and his whiz kids. Nonetheless, the services began to use those disciplines, along with the traditional supports of science and engineering, to manage their institutions, formulate policy, and eventually to wage war.
The result was the withering of strategy as a central focus for the armed forces, and this has been manifest in a continual string of military problems: a Vietnam War in which Americans won every single battle and campaign and lost the war almost from the very beginning; failed interventions like Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993; the Gulf War, which ended, contrary to American wishes, with Saddam Hussein still in power and his most lethal armed forces intact; and initially successful campaigns in Afghanistan (designed by the CIA) and the Iraq War, which metastasized into interminable and indecisive guerrilla wars of attrition that have tried American patience and will.
Iraq has become the metaphor for an absence of strategy. The theater commander brilliantly overthrew the Saddam government in three weeks but failed to provide for occupying or securing the country, or even to advise the defense department adequately about his needs in that regard. His successor on the ground in Iraq failed to partner with civilian authorities, devise operations and tactics to prevent the onset of an insurgency, and then to combat it effectively. The American forces failed to train Iraqi security forces or to oversee contracts competently or to rebuild Iraqand even the tactics and operations of the American forces have come under withering criticism. In effect, in the most important area of professional expertisethe connecting of war to policy, of operations to achieving the objectives of the nationthe American military has been found wanting. The excellence of the American military in operations, logistics, tactics, weaponry, and battle has been manifest for a generation or more. Not so with strategy.
Now there are many other factors in the Iraq War about which the American civilian leadership was even more derelict than the military. But for all of the pronouncements about preparing for full spectrum conflict, and the discussions about Operations Other Than War, the American military since the end of the Vietnam War has been focused like a laser on organization, weapons, doctrine, training, and the assignment and advancement of officerson high-tempo, technology-rich conventional warfare. Discovering the so-called operational level of war in the 1970s, the army seemed to lose interest in strategy. Even the Army War College, dedicated to the mission of educating strategic leaders, teaches about strategy, in the words of a faculty member there, but not how to develop strategy.
From the introduction of nuclear weapons in the 1940s, the navy seems actually to have subordinated strategy to the capabilities of its fleets rather than designing its fleets to fit the larger needs of American foreign policy and national security strategy. The air force continued its torrid love affair with strategic bombing to the point of blinding itself to the application of any kind of warfare other than total war against another nation-state. Even after Vietnam, when it finally got the message that obliterating whole societies from the face of the earth was not going to be American national policy, the air force has had difficulty adapting aviation to the full suite of possible military conflicts the nation might experience. The most adaptable American service has been the Marine Corps, but only at the operational and tactical levels; it remains relentlessly a light infantry shock force whose officer corps seems to understand strategy almost wholly in terms of figuring out when and where they can insert their men into the fight.
The Iraq War is not the only example of strategic deficiency. In October 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked his chief military and civilian subordinates for an assessment of the Global War on Terrorism, noting that we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing and asking numerous broad yet focused questions, all of which came down to the question of strategy. It took several years and still the Joint Chiefs of Staff required help from contractorscontractorsto come up with a system to measure what is clearly the most pressing security threat facing the United States in a generation.
Contracting has been a growing trend for nearly two decades throughout the defense establishment: in the army, for example, not simply for kitchen police or security for stateside bases, which makes eminent sense, but increasingly for core military functions like doctrine, after-action analysis, and the training of foreign armies. Some of this has resulted from the pressure of too many missions and too few people. But whether because of resources or convenience, too much has been willingly given up by the armed forces. A profession that surrenders jurisdiction over its most basic areas of expertise, no matter what the reason, risks its own destruction.
The second area of diminished professionalism in the armed forces is in politics, and by that I mean the officer corps understanding of its proper role in government and society. For a century, at least, officers understood that they must be completely apolitical: neither for nor against any party or creed, to the point where most officers in the first half of the twentieth century even abstained from voting. Not that the military eschewed politics altogether; throughout their history, the American armed forces have maneuvered for budgets, roles, and missionspolicies that benefited their war-fighting capacityand officers, obviously, have lobbied for personal advancement. A few top leaders ran for office after retirement, an old American practice. But officers on active duty understood their role to be not only non-partisan but un-partisancompletely outside party politicsand their function purely to be advisers to civilian leaders on matters of policy and strategy from a military perspective, and to execute the decisions of those leaders in peace and in war.
In the last generation, however, this understanding has become so compromised that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates felt constrained to instruct officers graduating from the naval and air force academies in 2007 about the necessity for being non-political. Officers now vote, in substantially higher percentages than the general population; they identify themselves as Republican or Democrat, and less as independent or non-partisan, much more than the American people as a whole.
The most glaring manifestation of partisanship has been the sudden emergence of endorsements for presidential candidates by retired four-star generals and admirals, begun most notably in 1992 when retired chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral William Crowe, and several other retired flag officers endorsed Bill Clinton, an act that bolstered Clintons fitness to be commander-in-chief. It was a direct intervention in politics that, while legal, violated a very old, and significant, tradition. In its aftermath, generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf declared as Republicans and played prominent roles in the election of 1996. In 2000, even more retired four-stars backed George W. Bush, and in 2004, retired chairman general John Shalikashvili appeared with other flags to speak at the Democratic National Convention, as did retired general Tommy Franks at the Republican gathering.
In April 2006, several retired generals attacked Donald Rumsfelds handling of the Iraq War, calling for his ouster, again violating a tradition that retired officers do not criticize an administration they served until it leaves office, and most certainly not when American forces are still engaged in combat. They appeared over two dozen times in the press; two of them participated in video advertisements attacking the president and Iraq policy, in effect joining the Democrats war opposition in Congress. In the fall of 2007, retired army lieutenant general Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded the Multi-National Force in Iraq in 200304, attacked the Bush administrations handling of the war in explicit, incendiary language in a luncheon speech to military reporters and editors. Weeks later, he delivered the same message in the Democrats reply to the presidents weekly radio address, introducing himself not as a representative of the Democratic Party, but as a retired military officer.
More disturbing than partisanship have been the calls, in the wake of Rumsfelds abusive and intimidating leadership, for the military to stand up to civilians who are ignoring or deciding against military judgmentto the point of speaking out or otherwise preventing a decision from going forward, or resigning to alert the public to a disaster in the making. The roots of these impulses extend back to Vietnam when officers accused their leadership of going along with policies and decisions they knew would fail. Out of that conflict came a generation that, in Colin Powells words, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand or support. Powells predecessor as chairman of the joint chiefs admitted in his memoirs that he schemed to achieve policies of his own choosing even when his own secretary of defense opposed them. The head of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William J. Fallon, spoke so often and so freely to the press that he was forced to retire abruptly in March 2008 after airing his disagreements over Iraq strategy, boasting privately that he would try to stymie any unprovoked attack on Iran, and criticizing the Congress for considering a resolution that labeled the Turkish massacre of Armenians in 1915 genocide.
Just how politicized some of the militarys leading members have become is illustrated by General David Petraeus. Aide or assistant to three different generals during his career and with a doctorate in political science from Princeton, the general published an op-ed in the Washington Post lauding the progress of the Iraqi army just before the 2004 presidential election. Pushed front and center by the president as the person who would decide force levels and strategy and define success or failure in Iraq, Petraeus became for a time the virtual public face of the Iraq War. No matter how carefully he phrased his assessments or hedged his predictions of future conditions in that stricken country in his congressional testimony and public statements, some in the press and in Congress labeled him a front man for the administration.
Partisan politicization is a cancer in the military, particularly inside the officer corps. It has the potential to divert soldiers from their tasks and to affect their morale, and thus their fighting ability. Surely partisanship undermines public confidence in the objectivity and loyalty of the military, and by association, in the policies of their civilian masters. A number of senior officers recognize these dangers. On taking office in 2008, the new air force chief of staff warned his generals explicitly: You will deal with politics . . . but you must remain apolitical . . . now and in retirement. Whether politicization can be contained in an age of instant worldwide communication remains to be seen. As the prominent military lawyer Eugene Fidell, head of the National Institute of Military Justice, says of Iraq, This is the first post internet, post digital American war.
Related to these strategic and political failures are possible moral deficiencies among the officer corps, which have arisen in the last few years. At its heart is a growing careerism that has led to micro-management from above and a sense that any defect will derail a career, which in turn leads to risk aversion and sometimes to cover-ups, avoidance of responsibility, and other behaviors that harm the ability of the armed forces to succeed in battle. These failures of professional conduct have appeared in such cases as the misrepresentations of Private Jessica Lynchs battlefield experiences; the handling of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman (the altered reports, changing stories, botched investigations); the scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed; the aborted career of Major General Anthony Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib prison horror; and of course Abu Ghraib itself. Twice the army has suppressed its own studies of the Iraq War in fear that the conclusions would anger Donald Rumsfeld, an egregious breach of honesty that threatens the indispensable after-action feedback loop upon which success in future battle depends.
Such incidents occurred in the past and will undoubtedly occur again; malfeasance and breaches of ethics occur in every profession. What is troubling is the lack of accountability and the fact that these ethical lapses go unpunished. The military has well-developed systems of criminal investigation and justice, and other investigative channels that are designed to expose and punish crime, misbehavior, and violations of rules and regulations. But in recent years, few if any senior officers have been identified, punished, or held to account. As Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote, in a stinging attack on the army brass, A private who loses a rifle suffers greater consequences than a general who loses a war.
That two air force and two army generals had to be reprimanded in 2007 for appearing in uniform in a video promoting evangelical religion indicates a decline in the understanding of proper professional behavior. This was not a big thing, one might say; but these individuals were at the top of their services, role models as well as leaders. The fact that they did not get it suggests a lack of understanding that may extend more widely in the officer corps than heretofore thought. That the secretary of defense in his first eighteen months in office had to replace several top generals and an admiral (along with a service secretary) suggests that those most knowledgeable about the military also recognize these problems.
There is a longstanding argument among scholars about the ability of military institutions to reform themselves. To some degree, I think that the services do recognize their weakness. The air force in the 1990s began a school of advanced air power (and now space power) studies to produce officers who could think through the uses and limitations of such power in war. A few years ago, the Army War College created an advanced strategic arts program for a select group of officers in each class. The army chief of staff has noted publicly the complexities that will challenge the cultural comprehension of army leaders in future war, and recently opened up a Center for Professional Military Ethics at the Military Academy.
The American military has certainly demonstrated in the past an ability to transform, particularly in response to changes in technology. One only has to go back to the introduction of steel and steam in the navy, the adoption of aviation by both services, and the development of strategic bombing, amphibious doctrine and practice, combined arms and armored land warfare, and carrier and submarine forces in the 1920s and 1930s to see all of the armed services innovating in organization, weapons, doctrine, operations, and tactics. Indeed, in what I have argued is the most important area of special expertisestrategyAmerican officers performed magnificently during the interwar period and in World War II in dealing with what was perhaps the most dangerous foreign threat the country has ever faced.
But if the military is to repair its professionalism without a massive (and inevitably messy) intervention by civilian authorities, piecemeal approaches will not suffice. Almost any academic would immediately target professional military education (PME) as the point of leverage, focusing on curriculum in an attempt to renew among officers critical expertise and the norms and values of their professional world. But the services are far too action-oriented, too busy and strained, too focused on re-capitalizing and modernizing their weapons systems, and in truth too anti-intellectual for PME to suffice. Most treat schooling as something distinct from serving, therefore making it for most officers an experience only to be endured. (Only very recently has the navy made war college a prerequisite for flag rank). Rather, a more systematic, comprehensive solution is needed, imposed from the top by either the civilian or military leadership in ways that cannot easily be undone by bureaucratic sloth or subsequent leadership.
First, the uniformed chiefs and civilian secretaries of each of the services should together instruct promotion boards for flag officers to choose a greater proportion of candidates with demonstrated intellectual as well as operational and command ability: people who have advanced civilian schooling in disciplines particularly suited to the formulation of strategy; who have demonstrated moral as well as physical courage, and a willingness to take risk; who are original, innovative, and indeed conceptual in their thinking; and who may not have pursued typical careers or served in assignments that in the past would be necessary for promotion to flag rank.
Second, each of the services should be ordered to review its promotion and assignment policies to ensure that officers of this type will be attracted to the services, educated properly, retained, and assigned in such a way as to develop the desired characteristics while at the same time rising competitively into the leadership. Specifically, the top civilian and military leadership of each of the services must undertake a systematic effort to eradicate the careerism, anti-intellectualism, and politicization of their officer corpsin other words, to change the organizational culture, particularly in their flag ranks.
Still another indispensable reform concerns the officer evaluation system, specifically diluting the top-down system of officers being judged by their superiors only. Fitness for promotionand particularly the characteristics recommended hererequires assessment by peers and subordinates as well as supervisors and commanders. However, such an innovation must be carefully crafted, for it can and will be gamed by officers, itself a commentary on professionalism and its challenges.
Third, the services need to institute programs of continuing education to be pursued by officers on their own, separate from and in addition to intermediate and advanced professional military education in residence or by correspondence. Other professions possess self-administered systems of continuing education. Officers should be required to apply to staff and war colleges, passing entrance examinations to qualify, or writing a statement of interest and submitting an essay on a professional subject to demonstrate their seriousness of intent. Professional readings should be part of the preparation, with officers allowed to take the examination again if they fail, as a certain percentage will if the tests are demanding enough.
Fourth, the service academies and ROTC should revise their curricula to make certain that officers at commissioning are fluent in a foreign language and conversant with a foreign culture, and senior service schools should revise theirs so that strategy, leadership, and command are the focus of a war college education. This may require further de-emphasis of mathematics, science, and engineering at the academies, on the grounds that war is first and foremost a human phenomenon, not a technical or engineering problem. While it is critically important, the operation of complex equipment is not more important than an understanding of war in all of its uncertainty and complexity, or of the basic norms and values of the military profession. At all levels these ideals and ethics need to be emphasized.
Professions that cannot change themselves from within, cannot respond to the needs of their clients, and cannot enforce standards of behavior so as to maintain the confidence of their constituencies while also inspiring the admiration and loyalty of their own members are in trouble. Just how deeply these problems extend into the officer corps of the American armed forces is hard to tell. Certainly the army and Marines have fought bravely and served faithfully in Iraq without complaint, perhaps the most important test of military professionalism. Few people suggest that the armys (or the other services) organizational climate is pervaded by the kind of moral decay discovered in the famous Study on Military Professionalism completed at the Army War College in 1970, although some echoes are disturbing.
Yet even before the stresses introduced by the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, knowledgeable observers of the military raised questions of strategic competence, politicization, and integrity in the officer corps. Part of the current strain on the American military has roots that reach back a generation at least, and in some ways into the very culture of each of the armed services. (Some may be endemic to military organization.) The civilian and military leadership must address these problems in a holistic way, treating them as connected, part of a pattern that threatens professionalism. To the extent that the leaders of each of the services avert their eyes from these problems, it jeopardizes not only the national defense but the long-term health of our military. Sooner or later the adulation of the American people, and the fear and respect shown our services by Washington, will revert back to something closer to the historical norm. Our military leaders should conduct a rigorous professional self-inventory now before the politicians decide that they must step in and perform this task for them. Professions that rely on outsiders to correct their own deficiencies are in declineand unlikely to survive in their present form.
Richard H. Kohn is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was Chief of Air Force History for the USAF, 19811991. This essay is adapted from the Alvin H. Bernstein Lecture at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.
Here is a substantive critique of this article:
This might have been the dumbest thing I have read in awhile. The problems that Prof. Kohn attempt to diagnose hinge on a logical fallacy to explain something that is infinitely more complicated than attacking “ethics” and “careerism.” One can find examples of those short comings in every organization.
The premise of the argument is that the author can definitively aggregate the norms and values of two distinct generational groups of military officers and can accurately compare them, fortunately for anyone with some critical thinking skills, this is a known impossibility. However and without fail, this piece follows the same tried, true, and unoriginal recipe when attempting to diagnose a complicated problem in uncomplicated terms.
Follow the recipe of 1st-blame the doers (in this case, the doer’s ethics and morals), then follow up with the enemy was really smart, and then you normally get to the real answer which is, it was a systemic system failure to something that we didn’t foresee. Then and only then, do you get to really start to get a the reasons for a problem. No critical thinking went into the article in accurately diagnosing the background on this problem.
As for the fixes:
Problems arise when they are sold as independent of each other, but truly they are interdependent on each other. You can not take the people out of people.
1- “the uniformed chiefs and civilian secretaries
of each of the services should together instruct promotion boards for flag
officers to choose a greater proportion of candidates with demonstrated
intellectual as well as operational and command ability.”
* where does this offer an ethics fix- if I am reading this correctly, this first fix is confusing intellectual capability/life experience with ethics- not the same thing.
2-”Second, each of the services
should be ordered to review its promotion and assignment policies to ensure
that officers of this type will be attracted to the services, educated
properly, retained, and assigned in such a way as to develop the desired characteristics
while at the same time rising competitively into the leadership.”
* which set of ethics are you attempting to attract- Ends based/Utilitarian or Kantian or the Golden rule based ethics?
Which one is right? Which one represents the values of DOD, both, one or all?
3-Third, the services need to
institute programs of continuing education to be pursued by officers on their
own, separate from and in addition to intermediate and advanced professional
military education in residence or by correspondence.
*another poorly thought out idea....how do officers get this training? Remotely through power point, which is the current way it is delivered. Hopefully, the service member can fit it in during the time that he/she is home in between the rotations downrange and cruises and sacrifice more time from their family. I think that everyone can see the futility in recommending a solution that is currently the solution and is agreed upon to be a failure.
4-Fourth, the service academies
and ROTC should revise their curricula to make certain that officers at
commissioning are fluent in a foreign language and conversant with a foreign
culture, and senior service schools should revise theirs so that strategy, leadership,
and command are the focus of a war college education.
* this last one has nothing to do with professional ethics and only the littlest to do with competency.
All of the above fixes are sold as independent, but area actually interdependent. People are people and are motivated for themselves. Have a realistic world view, not an idealist one like the author, and focus on limiting the “me” factor to a tolerable level. It will always be there.
Overall, my favorite portion of this essay is the ending, “Our military leaders should
conduct a rigorous professional self-inventory now before the politicians
decide that they must step in and perform this task for them. “
*the great ending, a group of people with the lowest job approval and generally recognized failings in ethics, should be held as the final straw to fix a broken ethical military-——brilliant.
Active Duty/Retiree ping.
Ah! Our next wars will be fought because of CLIMATE CHANGE.
The military is too “action oriented” and must re-focus more on SERVING.
Sorta like HHS, ooooohkay......!
I hate to see it referenced in terms of tarnished brass, when we all know it’s a tarnished ass.
Basically it boils down to the fact that the military doesn’t run the military, the politicians do. The military wouldn’t create those ridiculous Rules of Engagement and other things unless forced to by the politicians. The military just wants to destroy their enemy. When they get used for “nation building” it sucks the life out of the military.
I come from a long line of people who have served America in the military. I served in the Navy and my son is currently in the Army, but I now advise anyone who asks about joining the military to NOT do it. The political arm of America, regardless of the party holding the Presidency, is messed up beyond recognition and it is they who are not to be trusted with the lives of our bravest.
Take away the social engineering and make it a military again and the problem fixes itself.
Hi robowombat, I don’t have experience with command and staff from my active duty, but I did grow up immersed in the culture being a military brat, and did four years as enlisted.
But I am well read on these subjects (I think) and much of what I saw in this article was correct.
But there was the problem: there was just as much wrong with it. It is nearly as if the author has no historical reference frame in some places, even though it is apparent to me he must.
Insurgencies are as old as man. All the things that have transpired in American politics since 1945 have conceptual parallels in history, but the author seems to speak of many things as if mankind had never encountered something like it before. It was puzzling, since he clearly is knowledgeable about that concept.
I used to have a subscription to that publication, but I admit it got tiresome reading what I perceived to be an increasingly liberal bent in the editors, so I finally let it lapse. But it did have some valuable and interesting material in it.
But we have to face the fact that there are many factual things in this article.
Personally, I think it is liberalism and it’s concepts are what are killing the military...but I am only the gazillionth person in forums like these to embrace that. I just think it is true.
stopped on the first line when he said we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined. what alternate iniverse is he living in?
While I can not speak from personal experience of Actually service, I was medically barred, I haVe been greatly exposed to the outstanding company of simply put, the warrior class of the American society. While recent political stances of our government have proven to be poor at best, I trust their is still enough of the necessary education and warrior ethos for us as a society to prevail. Their are still enough smart and capable men and women who, God bless them, to provide for the common defense and carry the day, despite the scourge of politicians and political correctness. Enough stand on that wall to strm the tide of evil, as long as patriots stand with them in support.
God bless and keep them and may Go d continue to bless these United States!
RE: Tarnished Brass: Is the U.S. Military Profession in Decline?
Yes, that is a sham statistic.
Plus the military mission to to go in and wreck the enemy apparatus which we did with record low losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not the Army’s mission to build a stable democratic government with a constitution that states Sh aria is the highest law of the land (and it is an impossible and contradictory task).
Nobody has gone into Afghanistan and skated on the relatively low losses we had there during the first years. But now that Obambi is the CnC running the show...
Our military - America’s military - is comprised of literally millions of riflemen.
It’s coming to a fight, and when it does, we can evaluate the situation properly.
Not accurate. Boards to involuntarily separate (fire) mid-career officers begin in just a few months. I missed eligibility for the board by one month, based on my date of rank. I work with a guy that has 18 years in and will go to a board that will decide whether or not to kick him out of the Army.
The Colonel I work for has 28 years in the Army and is just the nicest and most competent guy you'll ever meet. He was notified 2 weeks ago that he'll be involuntarily retired; his career is over.
The military is a reflection of the society it defends. If the military is weak and without morals, then the society is that way.
America is a nation in decline.
I agree with your analysis. The fact is that the “right” people are in the military, particularly in the junior ranks (I’m speaking mostly of officers here). However, the Army tends to do a great job of driving them out before they hit Major. In order to run the show you need only
1) exist long enough, and
2) make the right connections.
That’s about it. Oh, and meeting certain minority requirements certainly doesn’t hurt.
First paragraph is four sentences of distilled truth that every citizen ought to grasp but few do, thus we have this article turning the blame to the military when it clearly belongs in the politicians’ laps.
BTTT and Ditto!!!
America demands Justice for the Fallen of Benghazi!
Made it through the first few paragraphs and stopped reading. The author blaming the military for poor political leadership.
I’m a field grade officer in he army. 15 months in Iraq. My battalion commander basically ruined his career by standing up to and arguing with a 2 star. I got my ass chewed by the same general. I was a captain at the time and survived it. I have 18 years in now. Can’t wait to get out. It’s depressing.
Well, let’s see.
1. Share all secrets with the world and have them all reported on network TV and make it look like some mystery person/group leaked it.
2. Fire 200 of the finest military leaders who 0bvmmer knows won’t fire on civilians.
3. Send troops to their death volunteering for goal-less, no end in sight engagements, e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, who knows where else...
4. Reduce pensions
5. Drag out VA claims and treatments, even deny coverage
...anything I miss?
I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to volunteer...
It ain’t the brass that will decide it is the enlisted scum, Wellington. If they don’t like what is happening it ain’t going to happen. Generals can rave at maps but if they have no troops it makes no difference.
The Problem with our military and our problems we have had taking care of business in the foreign contingencies we’ve been involved in is political.
Every war we’ve been involved with has been designed to fail from the start with either leadership that refuses to realise that wars cannot be won without causing loss of life and casualties among our own troops and our enemies.
Then we have the rules of engagement that tie our troops hands and place their lives in danger because of stupid plans that come out of the Whitehouse.Like the Battle for Fallujah,Iraq.Our Marines went in there and cleaned the Clocks of the Iraqi military but they were pulled out because of Political expediency before the job was completed.The Marines then had to return to clean up an even bigger mess at a greater cost of their lives.
What a stupid move.
This is just one example but I’m sure the FReepers here can recall a lot more than I can right now.
Interesting takeaway. Kohn made his reputation and virtually his career off of one book, ‘Eagle and Sword, the Beginnings of the Military Establishment in America’. Published in 1975 it was a big slash at the time and was, i think, a main selection of the ‘History book Club’ back when that organization counted for something. It is still virtually the only long and detailed narrative and analysis of the founding of the US Army (in spite of the title the Navy and Marines are virtually ignored). The only other book length treatment is the straight narrative history Maj, James R. Jacobs wrote back about 1938.
While most of the book is outstanding, Kohn flirts with sensationalistic conspiracy theories. I suspect to spice up the narrative and get publicity for his book.
Since then he has mostly worked in the USAF Office of History and as such has his name on several bureaucratically produced collective effort volumes. He recently has published a study of the armed forces under the Constitution, which i know nothing about. Kohn should possess an encyclopedic knowledge of US military history. He appears, to me, to have some rather odd notions about the armed forces and US history.
As I read through his ‘solutions’, I kept thinking, “Codswallop!” What I lack in substance I make up for in conciseness.
Just what the services need...a bunch of intellectual weenies who haven’t done anything but who will undoubtedly think they are all very, very smart. Sounds a lot like making our senior military resemble Congress.
The first problem you encounter is that the leaders of any organization believe that the selection process for advancement in their organization works fine because they got to the top and they are the best. Try standing up in a meeting with the leaders present and tell everyone there that the leader selection process in that organization is screwed up. You’ll get a phone call or e-mail saying they don’t need you at the next meeting. The leaders are human beings with all the emotions and faults that humans have.
What can change this? Certainly not with regulations against tattoos, wearing reflective belts, writing ROE's to satisfy a foreign despot, etc.
Now there are many other factors in the Iraq War about which the American civilian leadership was even more derelict than the military.
The civilian leadership in Iraq basically acted like their tours in that country were nothing more than a big party. They had secure compounds and money, taxpayer money, and lots of it which they freely handed out for every hair-brained scheme in the country in the name of reconstruction. They failed miserably. The same can be said of Afghanistan, where hundreds of foreign nationals and foreign company's are hired to support the troops, yet there are always bound to be infiltrators.
Of course, the military has been spoiled in the last 20+ years. All of their wants, needs, desires, and demands have been seen to by contracting out to the civilian world. The flip side is that civilian contractors have been able to maintain a status quo while the military would re-engage in a different direction at every change of command. We fought the same war a different way every year.
In April 2006, several retired generals attacked Donald Rumsfelds handling of the Iraq War, calling for his ouster, again violating a tradition that retired officers do not criticize an administration they served until it leaves office, and most certainly not when American forces are still engaged in combat.
Rumsfeld was an incompetent @$$hole. His doctrine of a "lightweight" military proved to be disastrous.In this instance, I say these retired GO's were correct. If the "Rumsfeld Doctrine" had remained in place much longer, we would have suffered more casualties.
As Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote, in a stinging attack on the army brass, A private who loses a rifle suffers greater consequences than a general who loses a war.
How true, yet which is more damaging? There has always been a "good-old-boys" network amongst the O's, who will cover for one another while the troops suffer.
Your response was more concise and far more accurate than the original article. Good job! BTW - I retired in 2008 with 25 years.
I agree that there are some areas that civil service in the military branches that could be eliminated. But in the case of our military health care system and in a majority of the hospitals and medical centers, 2/3rds of the staff is civil service, as the military does not have the manpower to staff all of the positions. There is nothing wrong with the services having civil service employees.
The problem comes from politicians who think they have great knowledge about how to run a military, who, in reality, have no idea what they are doing, they are sadly deceived by their own pompous attitude that they are gods gift to the government. They will not admit that they know nothing of what they are given charge of, and are not willing to listen to those who do know what they are doing and what they are talking about.
Pride is a terrible thing.
Right. Which is exactly what I felt was wrong. He does know that some elements or concepts are not new, and have historic ancestors, but I felt like he was treating them as if they were new, which had a dissonance to me.
The writer makes some good points, but this mostly sounds like a lot of gobbledygook to me.
When I read this, the overwhelming sense of the work was:
It was written by an Intellectual.
Just because he might be an intellectual doesn’t mean he is wrong, as I think half of his article shows (IMO)
But the wrong parts also show he isn’t always right.
In the end, it was the overall tone I found a bit disagreeable.
God bless you, and thank you for your perseverance. Most of this PC crap seems to have started during the Clinton years and has only gotten worse since. I think too many good officers probably left the service during the 8 years of Clinton’s shenanigans. Rummy was not perfect by any means, but seems to me he did a more than decent job considering everything he had to deal with.
I was out of the Army before the glory days of Mr. Peanut.
No just being purged of threats to the regime
This article is a shitload of intellectual gibberish to try and cover the treasonous actions of the Democrat Party and is propaganda arm, the MSM, since the Viet Nam War.
I am merely a scholar whose study of history has been long, and focused on war and politics. My take on Kohn’s article is that he is asserting that our military is, at the top levels, too focused on means, technology and operations, and weak on strategy, such as formulating strategic objectives, weighing geopolitical factors, and the like. My opinion is that while he may have some valid criticisms, he overlooked an important factor, and that is that in our country, the political leadership decides strategy. When you have political leadership whose understanding of foreign policy or the use of military force is limited for various reasons, it affects what the military is expected to do. In short, if you assign the military a muddled, unspecific objective with no regard for the side effects, or assign an objective without the sufficient means or will to do so, then the results will be poor.
I would also disagree with an assertion he made, about perhaps the price of greater strategic education coming at a cost to math and science education. I would say to him that such a cost is illusory, because both could be done, if there is in fact such a deficiency. (I don’t think he made his case that it exists, as I noted above.)
He also completely dodged the issue that much of what has been done to the military after the end of the Cold War in terms of social engineering things- open faggotry and women in combat come to mind- have deleterious effects. This sort of idiocy detracts from the military’s ability to do its job, by removing cohesion and diverting resources, time and energy for no reason other than domestic politics. A military focused on recycling can and will be beaten by one that is focused on winning wars. Again, this is more of a political problem, as it has come for the most part from the political leadership.
To sum up, I think Kohn has overlooked a few things.
I know the book, but not the author. Now I understand why. He appears to be one of the symptoms of the problem. We once filled influential positions like Chief of History with experienced and capable combat leaders who could apply their wisdom and understanding to help shape the service. Now we fill these jobs with technocrats and bureaucrats, many of them civilians and they set out to make the service in their own image.
We took our personnel system and turned it into a modern HR system, designed to select people for promotion based on their CV's and demographic profile. The result is that we are selecting the wrong people for the general officer ranks, IMO. They are the ones who have learned how to succeed in the HR system. They look good on paper and have a record of apparent success. Their briefings are the best, their organization achieves all of their goals, they change their colors to match the fashion of the day within the organization.
These people are not selected for their courage, their integrity, or for their honesty. These attributes are given lip service and not much more. Those things don't count in our society and they don't count as much as they used to within the military. We are starting to look more like the politicians that we serve.
That said, the military is still the best institution in our society, by far. Compare it to any other profession or sector of society and the military will look very good indeed. The liberals have yet to work their magic as they have done in the law, education, public service, and politics. But,the effects are there, primarily because of the influence of educators especially in the social sciences. Our author advocates that we do more of this, but of course, he is one of them, isn't he.
I completely agree. Unfortunately, America (or maybe I should just say, America’s political arm) has drifted too far from what is correct and best for America and freedom. Thankfully, my foundation isn’t America or the Constitution, but Jesus and the Bible.