Star Power

ExUrban League asked my opinion on an article by Fred Kaplan regarding the results of the latest Brigadier General promotion board. I’m always happy to give my opinion. In the words of Hugh Hewitt, I’m “Frequently wrong, but never in doubt!”

Here’s what I left over there:
I find it interesting that McMaster became something of a poster boy for the new breed. Why? Because in his younger days, he was pretty much the epitome of the Cold War junior officer. See the Wiki entry here. McMaster was raised in THE Cold War “heavy” army unit – the 2nd Armored Cavalry Unit. He was a master of the small unit application of the AirLand Battle Doctrine that guided the US in the later years of the Cold War and in Desert Storm.

But he is also a thinker and holds a PhD. The Army has historically had a bias against too much education. A Masters is just right, a PhD. is too much. Being a published author is also something of a mark against him. You are expected to keep your discussions in the family, so to speak.

But partly because he has had such visible success both as a junior officer, and more his spectacular success in Tal Afar, many of his peers and those junior to him saw him as a litmus test of promotion policy. When he was first passed over, there was some grumbling. When he was passed over a second time, there was a lot of questioning by other field grade officers about just what it was the Army was looking for when it promoted officers. Few officers have been as successful throughout their careers, and under such a microscope as McMaster. If the Army didn’t select him, these Majors and Lieutenant Colonels thought, what was the point of suffering through the hard jobs like being a troop leader and a commanding officer. It served as a notice that the Army’s priorities were badly out of alignment.

Kaplan mentions that the prior year, several Colonels who served as executives under general officers outside of combat were selected. My thinking is that because these general officers had more time to devote to the Colonels Efficiency Reports, they came across as “water walkers” and that may have weighted the previous boards in their favor. I hope the Army, after being whacked with a 2×4 by the civilian leadership, has started to reexamine just who it promotes, and why.

As an aside, Tom Clancy based a minor character in a couple of his books on McMaster.