Food for thought

I don’t agree with a lot of the authors conclusions, but some of his criticisms of the current military culture are dead on.

As for our armed forces, though most Americans don’t know it, within U.S. military circles much criticism exists of an officer corps of “tarnished brass” that is deficient in professionalism; of generals who are more concerned with covering their butts than leading from the front; of instruction at military academies that is divorced from war’s realities; of an aversion “to innovation or creativity… [leading to] an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism” that undermines strategy and makes a hash of counterinsurgency efforts. Indeed, our military’s biting criticism of itself is one of the few positive signs in a fighting force that is otherwise overstretched, deeply frustrated, and ridiculously overpraised by genuflecting politicians.

I think we certainly have the most versatile, capable military in the world today. That much is pretty well beyond argument. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t deep flaws in our current military. And while I am second to none in my respect for our services, I’m always a little leery of putting them on a pedestal. After all, when you set ‘em high, the fall hurts that much more. And the services are very much human institutions, made of the same flawed humans as any other part of our society. And when mistakes happen, there are those out there who take obvious relish in using those mistakes to either attack the institution, or advance their own agendas.

And on the topic of cuts to the military… I’ve cruised several different blogs to get a feel for what people in the services think. NepLex is just one example. From the comments:


January 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm · Reply

I can sort of live with a cut to our military, even a fairly substantial one (we can be very inventive in our workarounds if we need to be) but NOT JUST SO THEY CAN GIVE AWAY THE MONEY TO THE UNIONS, ILLEGAL ALIENS, AND OTHER SELF-ENTITLED BOTTOM FEEDERS OUT THERE. This whole thing only works if the money saved goes to paying down the national debt, and not just moved to other areas to buy more votes for the pond scum sucking politicians.

That’s a fairly typical response. The folks in the services can live with the budget cuts. It will make their lives and their jobs harder to do. But they are angry at the perception that the DoD alone is being asked to make a real cut in spending, while the rest of the government will continue to spend money on causes outside the clearly defined role of the government.

ELP notes that even then, some of the “cuts” in defense spending are more notional than real…

I’m starting to remember the grand old days, at the end of the Reagan era when units couldn’t afford toilet paper.

4 thoughts on “Food for thought”

  1. That cut from the article above is a bunch of cliches and buzz words. While I don’t dispute that, within the officer leadership of a force of over a million people, you can find instances of anything he cites, I could also provide a personal anecdote to refute any of them. In this size population, there is bound to be good and bad. Why did he hang it up as an LTC, if he was so concerned? I guess fixing the problems he saw was too much. I even agree with his assertion that politicians overly hyping the military. I find his conclusions on Mongols to be rediculous and his reasoning flawed. Mahan, the naval strategist described as a role for the navy to be a “fleet in being” which had the ability to deter agression. The US military “in being” held the peace and ultimately won the cold war with nary a shot fired. That is an incredible achievement. This guy is lame.

  2. I disagreed with Zippr over at Lex’s place. I don’t think we can afford substantial cuts in the military without hollowing the force. With Casey, and his associate idiots on the JCS, I think we will get a hollow force.

    The article has many good points. I don’t think we can compare our military with any of the others mentioned simply because the quality of an Army can only be measured in terms of its peers. We can certainly see parallels between, say, the Wehrmacht and the Mongols. They were both highly proficient in a style of war they basically invented, and pretty much ran over their opposition which generally outnumbered them. The Mongols overran Russia. The Germans were certainly destroying the Soviet Union until Hitler hamstrung them.

    I think it legit to say that our Army is one of the best in History. The best ever? I don’t think we have the ability to say that.

    Esli, I can understand why he would get out as a LTC. For much the same reason my father got out in ’71. There are battle you get tired of fighting. CDR Salamander did it as well, and at the same rank. There is little you can do if you are not a GOFO, and then your ability is limited by the simple system inertia you have to fight. I don’t think an LTC can fight that battle.

    1. Quartermaster,
      concur, it is tiring. I will hit 22 in APR, and anticipate my next promotion, and notification of my next big job cut at that time. Even though it is tiring, I for one have left every organization I have been assigned to or led better than when I found it, and resent being painted with the broad brush of “tarnished brass” (particularly as I STILL shine my own brass from my Old Guard days every time I wear the blues) and general unprofessionalism. And, even though I am tired of it, I will continue to do my best because that is my professional obligation.

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