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Thread: The Best Trained, Most Professional Military...Just Lost Two Wars?

  1. #101
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Ken, you blame a lot of problems on politicians and top brass, or the system.

    I'd like to throw some more into the ring; I suppose the U.S. military personnel is poor at learning, adapting and improving.
    I agree with that -- but is that not a function of the political factors that shape the institution (and they are pervasive...) and select the top brass? Serving individuals bear some responsibility, of course but the "system" shapes all the factors you cite, it selects the Brass based on very political criteria and they shape the system...

    The US forces are comprised of individuals who can learn adapt and improve -- or improvise -- as well as any grouping of people anywhere in the world. However, they are constrained by a system, a set of institutions, that deliberately constrain those attributes in a flawed effort to obtain uniformity, consistency and nowadays, to not embarrass anyone. That's a systemic flaw, not a human failing. That "system" is designed by those politicians and that brass.
    My strongest supporting evidence is that the vast majority of those I got in contact with are amazingly thin-skinned and react allergic to criticism, direct approaches against inadequate state of affairs and the like. I have yet to find a professional group that's as defensive.
    In addition to that defensiveness, there are few professional groups that are as distrustful of subordinates as the US Army. Is it possible both those shortcomings are introduced by the fact that the members of the institution really know that their training and education are not totally adequate? That they know they're not as good as the common wisdom (or lack of it...) states; they're not really as good as they would like to be?
    I cannot imagine heavily armed or other bureaucracy that runs very well without its individuals being able to bear criticism unless it comes from a superior.
    Heh. They don't take that well, either...

    Two points:

    Americans are admittedly thin skinned in the non-acceptance of criticism -- it's not just the Armed forces and it's partly a result of a lot of boosterism and rather foolish promotion of self esteem (at a cost to self respect and self confidence). IOW, it's true and it is as much or more a societal thing is it is a military peculiarity. The Military peculiarity added to that -- fighters tend to see everything as a challenge of some sort -- just compounds it.

    US military people, like all groups can be defensive and band together if attacked, verbally or otherwise. Also like all groups, while they may reject the slams of outsiders, internally they can be quite self critical and discerning. I've met those in the services that are unthinking boosters and who are hyper defensive. My rough guess is that they're about 20% of all. Another 20% are self critical and truly concerned with getting it right. Then there's the 60% in the middle who tend toward both ends and meet in the center with a cluster of 20% or so that hew to neither side. I suspect that is pretty much the human norm in most organizations or groups.

    What all that effectively gives you is a bunch of overly sensitive and combative Americans wherein about a third are blind to the flaws and prone to boosterism, another third who are well aware of shortcomings and work, usually not publicly, to improve things as much as they can within a system that is excessively heirarchial and which is often politically manipulated for non-military purposes. Then there's yet another third that are really just sort of there, they don't do much either way. It's noteworthy that the "system" is a creature of the Politicians and the Brass so they tend to be over-represented in the Booster category, publicly anyway -- hard for the folks in charge to admit they've screwed things up...

    Sounds like any other grouping of persons from most anywhere in the world to me -- except many if not most are thin-skinned, defensive Americans.
    Last edited by Ken White; 11-02-2012 at 02:03 PM. Reason: Missing items???

  2. #102
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Imagery Bob may be effective, I still think words win and slightly edited:

    Hat tip to David Betz on KoW, which refers to this topic via a review of Tom Ricks latest book:http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2012/11/oh-history-you-bitch/
    Dave,

    Clearly we have policy issues. But this does not let Generals off the hook for matching those polices with equally flawed campaigns.

    We all need to own this, because we all worked together to build it.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  3. #103
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  4. #104
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    [B]No one is really in charge, it seems from my outsider viewpoint.

    From my vantage point, I can't know what happened behind closed doors, who stood up for what, who protested, and how it went down.

    The better part of valor for me may be to do just what I said: wait for declassified materials and proper study at a distance.

    Not much help for today's issues but I won't be a help. "Stay out of it mostly" is not a message that resonates much outside places like this.
    Sometimes what you write sounds like you are apologizing for what you write. Knock that off! You call 'em like you see them and you KEEP calling them like you see them. Your good sense, honesty and the work that is behind what you write is apparent to all. Don't shy away any more. If you do I might get peeved.

    I haven't read Tunnell's article yet but I will.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  5. #105
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    No more broken than it's always been. We just don't have the money now to throw away on dozens of X- models that never make it into production.
    Oh yes, way more broken than it has ever been. The F-35 design won in 2001 and it may get into actual operational service, nobody exactly knows when. When that when comes all those F-15s and F-16s are going to be rather old, as in two decades or more old. The tanker replacement saga seems to be never ending and we still don't have any new ones. The first contract was let and rescinded going on 10 years ago. The Army has tried and tried to get a new scout helo into service and they can't get it done. No, it is beyond busted when we can't even manage to replace the helos used to squire the President around from Andrews to the White House and back.

    An awful lot of those X-planes were research aircraft that were never intended go into production. Those were solely tools to learn. Some of the other X-planes were so designated because they were prototypes for aircraft that did go into production. Some didn't. Whether those X-planes were a waste of money is a matter of opinion. Way back when they didn't cost much in any event. You just bent some metal, installed an engine and went. Things really got expensive when the 'trons started to trump aerodynamics. It seems like after the teen fighters it became extremely hard to get things into the air and after the F-22, it is almost impossible. We may or may not have wasted money on X-planes back then but we got things into the air.

    The rest of your post was wonderful. It was like a briefing by an insider on the whys and wherefores of the defense machine.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  6. #106
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Tunnell letter

    A couple of posts have referred to a letter by Colonel Tunnell, it is on this link:http://www.michaelyon-online.com/ima...cted-redux.pdf

    There was a SWJ Blog, with comments:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/arm...soldiers-email
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    We all need to own this, because we all worked together to build it.
    OK, so what should the individual consequences be?

    Thereafter what and how long would it take to replace with those who built it with those without guilt or blood on their hands?

  8. #108
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    There was a SWJ Blog, with comments:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/arm...soldiers-email
    The comments over there are fascinating.

    Tunnell's missive I read finally. It was very interesting. Some things seem spot on and other things seem to be sour grapes. I think Ike may be frowning at some of the comments. That is merely my opinion of course.
    Last edited by carl; 11-03-2012 at 04:23 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  9. #109
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    OK, so what should the individual consequences be?

    Thereafter what and how long would it take to replace with those who built it with those without guilt or blood on their hands?
    I don't think we need to go on a witch hunt to see who to punish.

    It's just time to recognize that we don't need to control, directly or indirectly through the Northern Alliance, Afghanistan to prevent it from being an AQ sanctuary. To recognize that the Northern Alliance has absolutely no interest or desire to be the government we want them to be. To recognize that we are better off simply packing up and going home than we are executing any kind of phased out exit plan.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  10. #110
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I don't think we need to go on a witch hunt to see who to punish.
    As an onlooker I have been able to observe part of the problem being that incompetents don't get fired they get reassigned.

    The least that should be accepted is that those who were in the system at the time, all of them, acknowledge what went wrong and how it went wrong - all the while showing some contrition.

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    Posted by Bob

    I don't think we need to go on a witch hunt to see who to punish.
    I hope it never evolves into this, war and conflict are inherently messy and mistakes will be constantly be made. In theory those who make mistakes become wiser for it, which is why senior officers and senior NCOs should have accumulated a lot of wisdom over the years (because they have 20 plus years of mistakes under their belt they learned from).

    We'll never become a learning organization if we in fact become a zero defect military. For those that are entrenched in a particular way of thought and can't learn they should be removed (politely), but there is no need for a witch hunt. Witch hunts should only apply when an officer wittingly participates in something like facilitating a faulty contract because it benefits him personally, not because of tactical errors (unless they are gross mistakes that most people in the same circumstance wouldn't have made).

  12. #112
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    As an onlooker I have been able to observe part of the problem being that incompetents don't get fired they get reassigned.

    The least that should be accepted is that those who were in the system at the time, all of them, acknowledge what went wrong and how it went wrong - all the while showing some contrition.
    A system knows no incompetents, but people officially judged to be incompetent. That may be correct or not - it's why a second chance (with care) makes sense.

    Ricks revived the old tale of how Marshall fired 500 flag officers in WW2 (which was known to many, but it needed a book promo tour to push it into a larger discussion). This well-respected approach allowed for second chances as well - and many of those who were relieved did well at a later time, when they were ready for the new command.


    The only ones which need to be fired immediately are really dangerous people (those who disrespect democracy, laws or the lives of subordinates a lot), people who are too old for a second chance and those who are incompetent in a indisputable way.

  13. #113
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Fuchs noted that:
    Ricks revived the old tale of how Marshall fired 500 flag officers in WW2
    Peter Caddick-Adams, a British military historian, has talked about the impact of Dunkirk on the defeated British Army's officers; they collapsed from the physical and mental impact of the blitzkrieg, were taken prisoner, were sacked as operational commanders and were retained for service. Note this was in the British Empire's darkest days in May 1940.

    Jim Storr, author of 'The Human Face of War', has a chapter on the career of general officers in WW2, which IIRC notes the demise of the majority, a few were taken prisoner and one Army Commander, 1st Army, General Anderson, after the surrender in Tunisia, never had a field command again:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth..._Noel_Anderson

    I am sure the British Army has other examples, such as in WW1 and maybe the RN & RAF, for removal from command in wartime.
    davidbfpo

  14. #114
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I just realised that I cannot remember noteworthy removals of German flag rank officers from command during wartime for reason of incompetence or similar. (Hitler did it a lot, but rarely so for reasons that stood the test of time, of course.)

    It certainly happened a lot, but it doesn't appear to be well-documented or much-discussed.

    Goering removed fighter wing (about a hundred pilots) and group (3 groups + a flight of 4 = 1 wing usually) leaders from command in 1940 and replaced them with younger officers, many of them aces. This happened during the Battle of Britain IIRC, and it led to an increase of aggressiveness.

    On the other hand, army performance failures in Poland '39 led to a huge aggressiveness, doctrine and lessons learned training program for leaders from bottom up to division level.

    _______________

    There is a most noteworthy example of a leader failing and totally turning around towards a "great" military career:
    Frederick the Great pulled a 'Darius III' in his first battle and ran when his cavalry lost the fight. His 2nd in command ordered the superior infantry forward and the battle was still won.
    Nowadays Frederick is being considered to have been among the top ten generals of his century.

  15. #115
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    To recognize that we are better off simply packing up and going home than we are executing any kind of phased out exit plan.
    Should we continue to pay for the fuel and ammunition for the ANSF after we leave? And should we make special provisions to take along the many thousands who have worked for and with us, and their families, when we go?
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  16. #116
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Carl,

    We were manipulated (willingly) by the Northern Alliance. We did not trick them into supporting us, rather it was quite the opposite. Most are now mulit-millionaires and already have their exit strategies well funded and well planned out. I shed no tears for them.

    Those in the villages, those who embraced the Villlage Stability program, for example, that is another matter. There will be no offers of sanctuary for these people I am sure, and they have no millions to show for their buying into what we were selling. These are the ones who are most vulnerable to what will happen as the US and GIRoA both light out for other places.

    As we prioritize our loyalties, I think we might want to think about our own troops, their families, and the people of the US. I think this has gone on long enough.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  17. #117
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Bob:

    Those who aren't rich will look at us and say "You promised." If we don't at least try to make some extraordinary provisions for them that makes us a pretty shameful lot. Those who aren't rich to whom we made promises will probably not look kindly upon us if we were to bug out precipitously leaving them. We might have to steal out like thieves in the night.

    Do you think we should continue to supplies fuel and bullets once we leave? The Soviets did that at least until their system collapsed.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Bob:

    Those who aren't rich will look at us and say "You promised." If we don't at least try to make some extraordinary provisions for them that makes us a pretty shameful lot. Those who aren't rich to whom we made promises will probably not look kindly upon us if we were to bug out precipitously leaving them. We might have to steal out like thieves in the night.

    Do you think we should continue to supplies fuel and bullets once we leave? The Soviets did that at least until their system collapsed.
    Carl, the problem stems from the concept of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". You can of course exploit this situation without throwing billions at these temporary 'fair weather' allies but that is not the way the US works.

    The US politicians - remember Nixon with his "Peace with Honor" BS - seem to be able to sell anything to the voters but after the US troops are safely back at home and the country concerned drops off the radar thats when the real problems begin. More were killed after the war in Vietnam. What are the stats from Iraq using "Mission Accomplished" as the end of the war (they thought).

    What will happen in Afghanistan is anyones guess but what is for certain is that the leaders of the current regime are well set up with US money to move at short notice while for the villages the cycle of violence will continue.

  19. #119
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Bob:

    Those who aren't rich will look at us and say "You promised." If we don't at least try to make some extraordinary provisions for them that makes us a pretty shameful lot. Those who aren't rich to whom we made promises will probably not look kindly upon us if we were to bug out precipitously leaving them. We might have to steal out like thieves in the night.

    Do you think we should continue to supplies fuel and bullets once we leave? The Soviets did that at least until their system collapsed.
    Carl, you act like we somehow lured the Northern Alliance into doing something they were not already completely dedicated toward the accomplishment of. Or, as if the Afghan populace somehow has any more say now in who rules them than they did before. This is still a land where the only sure vote is cast in 7.62mm lead.

    Think about it, if the election process was truly fair and functional, the Taliban government in exile would have simply rallied a "get out the vote" campaign rather than a long, bloody insurgency.

    Government to government relations are contracts, not blood oaths. You worry about what happens if the US "abandons" GIRoA; but answer this, how long ago do you think that Northern Alliance-based government abandoned us?? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Never really caring about what we wanted from the first place? We were "abandoned" long ago, but were too self-absorbed to notice or even much care.

    Again, they abandoned us long ago, and have been manipulating us to protect and fund one of the most self-serving governments on the planet. Will many good Afghan people suffer when we leave? Yes. But many good Afghan people suffer because we stay as well.

    Time to stop make arguments based on false logic and poor facts. It is only just in the past few months that our senior leaders in Afghanistan are waking up to the fact that the interests and efforts promoted so heavily by ISAF are not anything that GIRoA is interested in at all. If we would have truly honored Afghan sovereignty from the start we would have realized this long ago. Allowing our General's opinions to trump the host nation's President is a bad policy that leads inevitably to places like the one we are in now.

    As soon as we stop driving the train as to what "must" be done, there will be a HUGE compression and reduction of security effort by GIRoA. As soon as we stop funding development and security forces there will be an immediate halt to 90% of that as well. We have been self-serving in our approaches just as much as GIRoA has. Time to let this situation find a more natural balance. That is a balance that may well end up with significant Taliban influence over it. We need to prepare for that reality and be willing to swallow our pride and reach out to embrace it.

    The only way our true enemies gain undue influence or sanctuary in Afghanistan is if we once again turn our backs on the place or are too proud to reach out to the new management that is sure to rise. Judging by our spiteful positions on Cuba, Vietnam and Iran, however, I am not optimistic that we will this time decide to be the bigger man and extend our hand first. Most likely we will allow ourselves to be manipulated by a vocal diaspora that has fled in our wake to enjoy their il-gotten gains in the safety of our borders
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-04-2012 at 01:34 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  20. #120
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Moderator's Note

    The last set of posts have significantly left the thread's subject behind. I fully accept matters Afghan impact the American context for the subject 'The Best Trained, Most Professional Military...Just Lost Two Wars?'

    Matters Afghan have their space, although a thread on leaving doesn't exist yet. Yes time to have a new thread, after I check and then copy / move the off subject posts.
    davidbfpo

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