15 November 2012

Generals Gone Wild

Gen Petraeus' disgrace - in a matter that has little apparent connection to his performance as a military leader - opens the way for a needed public discussion, says Andrew Bacevich, visiting research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and a retired Army colonel.

"Knocking him off the pedestal - this huge standing that he had - ought to create a climate in which serious people can begin to ask serious questions about why our military has not delivered on our expectations" in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says.
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20317910

First off, COL (ret) Bracevich makes a great soundbite.  He also makes a point that the .mil has been largely given a pass on performance.

Thomas Rick, in this article published in The Atlantic blames the whole failure of the military to "accomplish something" at the feat of the Flag Grade officers.  Even to the point of equating "firing" officers with a measure of a successful military.  Obviously a 12 million man draftee Army fighting a parity force is a bit different to lead than an all volunteer Army fighting an asymetric force.  There are very good reasons that there are fewer GO's fired (for one the selection process for getting into a leadership position is very tight and the selection process generally works good enough to separate the wheat from the chaff).

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/general-failure/309148/

The biggest problem here is that when someone has the balls to tell the President that what he wants is foolish, like GEN Shinseki did prior to the second invasion of Iraq, they get replaced. 

If you want us to invade a country, we can do that (and are pretty good at it).
You want us to kill people, we can do that too (and are really good at it).
If you want the .mil to figure out what the National Objectives should be, you need elect a General to the White House (something that we haven't had since Eisenhower).

What the hell was the long term goal in invading Afghanistan?  Did anyone lay out a plan, we'll invade, get back at the Taliban for sheltering Al Quaeda, and then what?  Set up a stable democracy in a country that has never had a stable democracy?  And the Bush administration made a huge case for Iraqi WMDs to justify military intervention, replaced one 4 Star who said "this is a bad idea" with a 4 Star who said, "sure I can invade with half the troops Shinseki wanted.  I'm sure the Iraqi people are smart and industrious and will have no problem transitioining to democracy despite living under a one party military dictatorship for multiple decades."

The real problem is that the military has done what it was told.  This is what happens when someone doesn't sit down and figure out the damn strategy before getting inolved in tactical domination.  And when someone in the .mil says, "hold on, what you are asking us to do is stupid and counterproductive" they get replaced with someone who will follow orders without regards to politics.

The President publishes a document outlining national strategy.  The SecDef publishes a document outlining DOD support to the Presidents direction.  The Combatant Commander's (COCOM) Review OPERATIONS PLANS (OPLAN) in support of those guiding documents.  A lot of ideas and reviewers put their unique take on how to do business. Some of those plans are predictable, such as responding to an invasion of a country with which we have a treaty obligation to defend.  My point is that by the time "National Strategy" is filtered down just two levels, to the COCOM 4 star billet, it has gone from "Strategic" to "Operational."  The Operational level of war is no longer strategic. 

Between "tactical" and "strategic" is this realm of "operational level" where you do something to directly affect something else.  "Operation Restore Hope" or "Operation Overlord" or "Operation Urgent Fury" are all historic examples of an Operational level of war.  An ally of ours is invaded, say a tiny country that produces 20% of the worlds oil, and the president says, "Hey SECDEF, do we have a plan to restore the international borders and push back the agressor?"  At this point the SECDEF looks to the COCOM Commander, who is supposed to have an OPLAN for just this contingency on the shelf, and say, "Yes Mr. President, we have a plan to do that, it will likely take six months of prep and cost X billions of dollars."

Operations have to be approved by POTUS and if it is a war, approved by Congress.  There is supposed to be this Executive and Legislative check on the use of military force.  One that assumes an Executive and Legislature with enough military experience and cunning to be judicious in passing judgement.  Still, Kennedy sent troops to Vietnam, and Congress backed doubling down under Johnson, with a much higher percentage of Veterans in both branches.

At the heart of an Operation is a 4 Star General, not making strategy, but turning a strategic decision into an operation to achieve some strategic goal (such as "make good on our promises to our allies" or "defend liberty from those who would oppress it.")  Blaming a General for a strategic failure is stupid.  If the .mil is going to be held to a higher standard by all means let the Generals (and Sergeants Major, and Chief Warrant 5's) all do their thing and make policy.  But nobody wants that, nobody wants a military that is anything less than a willing servant to the Republic.  Not our fault that Democracy gives us the government we deserve.

And that is the military you want, the ones that answer "yes or no" to the "can we do this" questions.  You do not want a military making the "should we do this" type questions.  Afghanistan is not an impossible mission.  Afghanistan is an impossible mission to accomplish in less than thirty years.  I cannot see a way to "win" Afghanistan in the current timetable.  Right now the policies being put forth at the Operational level seem to be reflecting this reality, and trying to get untangled without too much mess on the exit.

But would the American public, voters and taxpayers, have choked down the cruel logic that it really isn't worth our time to invade Afghanistan?  Following the 9/11 attacks the clamor of the public to "do something" was pretty intense.  Sometimes I admire the British with their national character of "keep calm and carry on" in the face of adversity.  Because our national reaction to 9/11 was to invade a country of no strategic worth and create the TSA which has no practical security value.  Sometimes doing nothing is the right answer to aggression.

On the flip side, sometimes the only appropriate answer to aggression is overwhelming violence.  It is difficult to pick a leader who truly knows when to use which tactic in the toolbox.

As a complete aside, there has been a lot of news lately about Generals and Admirals behaving badly.  From ADM Stavridis' IG investigation to Kip Ward's demotion, to BG Sinclair at Fort Bragg's sex scandal, to Petraeus's affair.  It seems like there is almost a concerted push to take away public credibility from the military.  I guess it is much easier to pull funding from something people loathe than something people love.  I'm all for people understanding that Soldiers and Sailors are just human, but for all their faults, a lot of the people I work with and for really are heroes.  On the flip side, some are real turd burglers.

10 comments:

Arctic Patriot said...

I never felt all that good having to trust a man who would betray his wife for a base animal instinct.

That stance got me into trouble more than once in the .mil.

Sergeants don't like being told they are untrustworthy, even when they give their privates permission to speak freely. Likewise, most unit Commanders don't like it when a squad leader asks to transfer an adulterer to a different squad, either.

The "Army Values" apply to a soldier's personal life, too.

A friggin' General officer, behaving like a dog in heat.

Good riddance.

AP

Ryan said...

The best reason that I have heard for essentially firing the head of the CIA for an affair is that he could not keep it a secret.

jwoop66 said...

Patraus probably passed judgement over some of his men many times in his career. In passing that judgement he probably told them something about values, exectations, honor, discipline etc etc. Well, he fucked up and dishonored himself and his organization, he didn't live up to the values or expectations of that organization and he should pay the price. The only thing for him to do now is the only honorable thing; testify, tell the truth and take his punishment.

Leadership must come from the front. If he expected the men under him to behave in a certain way, he must set the example.

Generals and admirals should be held to a higher standard than the men they lead.

Don't get me wrong... I know it doesn't work that way...

Mark said...

That explains the policy issues better than any other I've read. Thank you for writing it.

Anonymous said...

In the not very distant past, Petraeus had waved under his nose being president@ Princeton, not an establishment known for its long-standing love affair with the military nor the CIA. Comes Benghazi, and suddenly in days, 3 4-star generals are demoted/relieved, and one former 4-star finds himself in a sex scandal pickle, and amazingly, the FBI has all of it sitting in a file.

Oh, and the Navy has had some 20+ major unit commanders relieved in as many months.

Far be it for me to point out that
> CIA directors get called in quietly, and decide "to spend more time with their family", they DON'T get outted like PFCs drunk and AWOL.
Unless the plan was to do everything possible to discredit them, because they're about to sound off.
> picking someone for DCI on whom you already had the goods, because you could control them, is the long term m.o. known as "the Chicago Way" so familiar to the senior members of this administration
> I'm shocked, shocked I say, to find out that Obama, Hillary, Holder, Panetta, &co., with a total military time between them of...what, 0 days is it? would demonstrate loathing towards the military, undermine morale, and think that kneecapping senior officers publicly would be a good way for the SS to keep the Wehrmacht in line.

You're right, the military, E-1 to O-10, is there to implement policy, not make it. One can no more blame them for policy failures than a carpenter can blame his tools for a poor piece of furniture.

As I read some of the most recent stories, I saw reference to why we had to do "nation-building", because "if you break it, you bought it".
Well, no, you didn't.

If the PD kicks down the door to a crackhouse, it's not their responsibility to fix the door, find better tenants, and help them be law-abiding afterwards. That's the new tenant's problem.
In the same way, once we'd removed the douches running Iraq & A-stan, it wasn't the military's problem - or even the U.S.'s - to try and bootstrap tribes of backward knuckleheads into evolving 15 centuries in a fortnight. Once again, that's a tenant problem.
Like the cops, even if we'd had to go back and kick their door in again 10 more times, we wouldn't have taken 1/4 of the casualties, and we'd have saved TRILLION$ that we've shovelled into those 2 cesspools, most of which has gone right out the back door and into numbered accounts.

What started as a response to state-sponsored terrorism quickly evolved into a cash-cow for contractors, political red meat for the left, a great way for the .mil to check off the "combat" box on resumes and get more toys, and finally the perfect meat grinder to destroy the morale among and respect for the military so painstakingly fostered since 1975.

The only step left on the road to emulate the Roman Empire is to start shovelling foreign conscripts en masse into the ranks to fight our wars for us, once the homegrown citizenry sees no reason to send their own offspring to serve the Republic.

What's that you say? Dream Act? Coming soon?

Look at the most highly respected groups in this country, and the ones at the bottom, and tell me where things are headed.

At te absolute bottom, you have congress, & the president (lowest approval rating since they started keeping track). Both returned to power, in some cases with 99.9% of the votes cast, and with a turnout of up to 138%. Stalin would be proud. Even Saddam, Quadaffi, and Castro never had numbers that good. Think about that.

At the top you have doctors, nurses, the military, police & emergency workers.

And we've gotten Obamacare, Afghanistan II, NDAA of 2011, a metastasizing TSA, and Fast & Furious. With only 4 more years to go.
Oh joy.

-Aesop

Anonymous said...

The purpose of invading Iraq, Afghanistan and next Syria and Iran is for Israel and money. Eretz Israel is the Jew vision of a Jewish empire from Nile to Euphrates.

Also invaded to make money, billions of profits for the war industry--using the blood of working class Americans. And how many millions of people have the U.S.-Anglo shills for Israel murdered?

If you aren't naming the Jew in U.S. so-called strategy, you aren't thinking.

David

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that the last Japanese WWII holdout was pulled off some island in the 1970s, but 67 years after Hitler ate his gun, the number of SS adherents with an IQ just north of a hockey score just keep popping up. All with no internal filter that would have them self-restrain, they seemingly can't help popping up, dropping trou, and squirting out their little piles of nightsoil, as though the mere smell itself were a mating call.

-Aesop

AM said...

Napoleon once asked an adviser for proof of God's existence.

The adviser replied, "The proof of God's existence is in the continued existence of the Jewish people."

That answer makes as much sense today as it did those hundreds of years ago.

Mt Top Patriot said...

You all are missing the most cognitive point.

These general officers took an oath, every one who is in the military has, an oath that say it is their duty to protect and defend the US Constitution, (and by consequence, we the people), from All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.

Am I missing something here, am I stupid or ignorant?

Am I just being, as it is so well defined by the department of homeland security, nothing but a mouth breathing, provincial knuckle dragging domestic white male terrorist?

Or am I correct in pointing out the truth, the truth that our military is full of a bunch of cowards? Traitors even?

What of that oath?

Lt. Colonel Terry Larken, far as I can determine, is the only Military man who has honored his oath to protect and defend The US Constitution from the blatant outright Tyranny that constitutes our representative government today.
That system of tyranny, kangaroo'd courted Lt. Col Larken straight into a jail cell in a new york minute.

And these general officers did nothing to defend the one guy who stood up and honored his oath, that they all took.

Whats wrong with this picture?

Whats going on here guys?

What part of Defend and Protect The US Constitution from ALL Enemies Foreign and Domestic does anyone not understand?

Far as I can see, answer to this question of questions, the truth of this sorry reality, is the absence of that oath being honored, says everything.

We got a little boy drawing pictures of Chickens that are fed up. A little boy who understands the tyranny enveloping us.

Why does a little boy understand what this is about and has the virtue to express his concerns, but an entire army, the greatest military force the history of the human race has known, essentially mum?

Huh?

There is something incredibly wrong here.

Mind blowingly FUBAR

Anonymous said...

Who broke their oath?

Unless you're privy to intelligence that Benghazi was a secret meeting to depose Congress and rule by dictatorship, the President can run our foreign policy like a jackass, fire all the generals on a whim, and just generally be the idiot savant without the savant President ODopey has been, all without it ever rising to the level of a bona fide constitutional crisis, nor requiring cowardice on the part of the entire officer corps.

The fact that it was seen as necessary to demote or relieve near simultaneously so many generals argues for quite the opposite of cowardice on their part.

So either we need more facts (which may yet emerge), or we might want to throttle back a touch on hastily tarring 'em all with yellow stripes down the back.

Even while acknowledging that a lot of things are, indeed, mind-blowingly FUBAR.

What say?

-Aesop