The Generals, book about the post-9/11 military

Discussion in 'Americas' started by W.G.Ewald, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

    Sep 28, 2011
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    North Carolina, USA
    The U.S. Army only seems impressive. Yes, it’s got plenty of tactically competent and physically heroic enlisted soldiers and low-ranking officers. But its generals are, on the whole, crappy, according to a new book that’s sure to spark teeth-gnashing within the Army.

    That book is The Generals, the third book about the post-9/11 military by Tom Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and the Washington Post’s former chief military correspondent. Scheduled to be released on Tuesday, The Generals is a surprisingly scathing historical look into the unmaking of American generalship over six decades, culminating in what Ricks perceives as catastrophic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The basic problem is that no one gets fired. Ricks points back to a system that the revered General George Marshall put into place during World War II: unsuccessful officers — defined very, very liberally — were rapidly sacked, especially on the front lines of Europe. Just as importantly, though, getting relieved of command didn’t end a general’s career. Brig. Gen. “Hanging Sam” Williams, was removed as the assistant commander of the 90th Infantry Division in western France in 1944 for lacking “optimism and a calming nature” in the view of his superior. Six years later, Williams commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Korea and retired as a three-star. Marshall’s approach simultaneously held generals accountable for battlefield failures while avoiding a zero-defect culture that stifled experimentation.

    Over the course of six decades, Ricks demonstrates at length, the Army abandoned Marshall’s system. It led to a culture of generalship where generals protected the Army from humiliation — including, in an infamous case, Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster covering up the massacre of civilians at My Lai — more than they focused on winning wars. On the eve of Vietnam, “becoming a general was now akin to winning a tenured professorship,” Ricks writes, “liable to be removed not for professional failure but only for embarrassing one’s institution with moral lapses.”

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