Even Americans are beginning to grasp that their generals suck. The soldiers in the field and their unit commanders are first rate. The rot is at the top. And it's not just the Americans beset by this phenomenon.
A new book, The Generals, by Tom Ricks of the Center for a New American Security, attempts to get to the bottom of the problem. Ricks' assessment is that we're back to a world of ticket-punchers in which bad commanders no longer get relieved, "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...
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.”
Under Harper we flirted with a near seamless integration of military and political leadership. Our prime minister milked the military and extracted every ounce of political advantage he could from our casualties in Afghanistan while our top brass, notably Hillier, sang his praises. Only when their mutual inadequacies resulted in a hapless Afghan "mission" did Harper quietly take his leave and his military counterparts headed for the hills in retirement. Abysmal, utterly abysmal. Both sides were so busy patting each other's backs and feathering each other's nests that the combat mission was inevitably sidetracked. In a better world both sides, Harper and his generals, would have been sacked.