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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Tim Wilson

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Tim Wilson

Last Build Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 09:52:22 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Role of Joint Chiefs Deserves Closer Scrutiny

Tue, 12 Dec 2006 09:52:22 -0600

In any military, as in any large organization, there are good people and bad, capable and incompetent, enthusiastic and lazy and combinations in every degree. This applies at all levels, although in the military those with the finer qualities tend to outnumber the weaker through both natural and promotional selection. Nonetheless it is indisputable that, even at the highest levels, there will be some weaknesses. True strength at arms comes from the core, and the US military has the best possible core - enthusiastic, skilled and brave volunteers. Weak leadership, however, can shackle even the finest of armies. My own experience has been that the US produces fine Generals, but even at these exalted ranks there will be some who are merely good and few who rate as Great. What separates the good from the Great is "feel" and experience - feel for the ability of their troops and the tactical situation as well as a grasp of the strategic necessities, and experience in combat leadership gained early in their careers. This feel is always combined in the Great with a firm regard for the basic qualities and principles which they learned as cadets and young officers and exhibited while under the pressure of combat leadership. The principle basic quality which all military academies seek, nurture and encourage is moral integrity - to know the right course and pursue it regardless of personal consequence, for the benefit of all. When it comes to "feel", Patton had it, MacArthur had it, Westmoreland arguably did not. From a more recent perspective, Schwarzkopf had it, Clark and Powell did not. Fred Kaplan wrote an excellent piece on the situation as the revolt against Mr Rumsfeld began to go public in April this year. In it he uses the terms "straight-arrow field commanders" (as represented by the character Sam Damon) and "scheming Pentagon careerists" (in the character of Courtney Massengale) as described in Anton Myers book "Once an Eagle" which is widely read by military personnel. This book provides an accurate picture of real life in the military. It is the Sam Damons who have the "feel" and the Courtney Massengales who do not. The consequences of less-than-exceptional military leadership are many and far-reaching in both space and time, having major implications on foreign affairs and national security. The US withdrawal from Vietnam resulted in years of national and international disdain for the military and a huge reduction in trust for US international diplomacy. The lack of trust abroad has yet to be fully repaired although home and foreign perceptions were improved to some large extent by the interventions in the Balkans and the success of Operation Desert Storm. It was also enhanced by numerous small successes such as Grenada and Panama, but was correspondingly reduced by failures such as Somalia and Beirut. Most recently, the war in Iraq has been followed with vast interest by every nation around the planet. The stunning success of the invasion has been followed by regular erosion of belief in the abilities of the US military. Military analysts around the world saw a relatively small force conquer Iraq with ease, then watched in amazement as the occupation turned, from a political and military analysis view, to farce. Some of the highlights which the current Joint Chiefs should be asked to explain include: The road from the Airport to the former Green Zone in Baghdad (the BIAP road) is known as "the most dangerous road in the world." From an armed forces standpoint it is classed as a Main Supply Route (MSR) which any officer from any army knows implies that it should be secured as a matter of utmost urgency, with whatever resources necessary. Why has this not been done? Can it be true that US 140,000 troops are not enough to keep 13 miles of road safe? Post invasion US force levels have remained pretty constant at around 140,000. Yet over the past 2 years, we have trained, equipped and handed over vast territories to Iraqi security forces, steadily reducing the number of US troops on patrol. Despite these reduc[...]