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Old 05-08-2009   #21
Eden
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Default And the history is wrong too

To posit a decline one has to either assume or demonstrate that things were somehow better in the past. If Kohn believes that there was some golden moment when the officer corps (as a whole) was:

1. Apolitical
2. Intellectual
3. Not prone to micromanagement
4. A moral exemplar
5. Capable of seamlessly integrating tactics, operations, and strategy

I wish he would point it out.
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Old 05-08-2009   #22
AmericanPride
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden
To posit a decline one has to either assume or demonstrate that things were somehow better in the past.
The greatest measurement for the effectiveness of the military instrument is whether it wins its nation's wars. So the military may or may not have been more apolitical, intellectual, macro-managed, moral, and capable in the past, but that does not mean that the condition of those things have not contributed to a posited decline in American warfighting power. If it is true that the military now lacks a fundamental understanding of strategy, for example, it should reveal itself in American wars where even if battlefield victory was attained, the political objectives sought were not secured.
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Old 05-08-2009   #23
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"The second is political: the absence from the officer corps of partisan political divisions, its subordination to the legally constituted civilian authorities in charge of the state, and its ability to establish an effective working partnership or collaboration with the civilian political leadership regardless of party or faction."

The DC relationship is more often adversarial with the military constantly under the light of interrogation accused of wasting money or abusing people.

The author goes on to whine about retired, senior Officers aligning themselves with political candidates. Conversely, individual Constitutional entitlements should then be defined by occupation but everybody thought it was wonderful when Joe the Plumber got in the lime light.

My favorite:
"......This may require further de-emphasis of mathematics, science, and engineering at the academies, on the grounds that war is first and foremost a human phenomenon, not a technical or engineering problem."

-right, who needs abstract thinking ability these days........
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Old 05-08-2009   #24
Steve Blair
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden View Post
To posit a decline one has to either assume or demonstrate that things were somehow better in the past. If Kohn believes that there was some golden moment when the officer corps (as a whole) was:

1. Apolitical
2. Intellectual
3. Not prone to micromanagement
4. A moral exemplar
5. Capable of seamlessly integrating tactics, operations, and strategy

I wish he would point it out.
He did fail there, although I suspect it's partly due to the nature of the article and (possibly) limits set by the journal.

It's been my read that the officer corps has never actually hit the "perfect" state in all of the above areas, although they have been more capable in some areas than others at various times in the past. In many cases the corps was apolitical only because they couldn't actually vote (due more to a lack of absentee voting mechanisms or postings in territories where no one could vote in national elections), but the level of internal politics and willingness to use political connections to gain desired postings was always high (especially in the days when there was a clear separation between the Line and the Staff...). As for moral exemplar...obviously one would have to ignore a great deal of stuff to make that claim. Like any other group, some come closer than others to the ideal.

There was a time when micromanagement was limited, but that was more due to widely dispersed units and a lack of rapid communication systems (and one could also contend that it was before the rise of "business school methods" in the post-World War II Army). Some commanders tried to micromanage, but the results were usually sub-par (imagine that...). I still think that in many ways our personnel system aggravates the flaws that might exist.

As an aside, it's kind of interesting to see the reaction to stereotyping and such when with a few word changes Kohn's comments could be quite similar to some of the rants against academics we've seen on this board. (just an observation...)
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Old 05-08-2009   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden View Post
To posit a decline one has to either assume or demonstrate that things were somehow better in the past. If Kohn believes that there was some golden moment when the officer corps (as a whole) was:

1. Apolitical
2. Intellectual
3. Not prone to micromanagement
4. A moral exemplar
5. Capable of seamlessly integrating tactics, operations, and strategy

I wish he would point it out.
He did in a rather left-handed way with his comments about the military that won World War II. Reading his piece somewhat reminded me of reading Vegetius, who spends a lot of his verbage extolling the virtues of the Republican-era Roman legionnaires (who probably never really existed), or Tactitus' discussion in either his Germannia or Agricola, 2 examples of panegyric with significant hidden agendas.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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Old 05-08-2009   #26
Old Eagle
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Micromanagement waxes and wanes, as I'm sure Ken and Tom can attest to. We used to refer to higher ranking micromanagers as "Squadleader 6". There are tales from Vietnam of multiple command and control helicopters stacking up over a single firefight in order to "help" the engaged unit. As a young officer, my favorite "get off my back" technique was to answer a radio call from higher with some garbled throat sounds, then turn off the radio.

I ain't buyin' the political thing either. I served as an apolitical, but voting officer. You think I'm not going to vote for someone who is going to define my life for the next four years? Maybe send me off to a BS war somewhere? On a coupla different occasions I have worked with foreign armies where bennies as low as battalion command were handed out by party. Trust me, we are not a political military.
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Old 05-08-2009   #27
Ken White
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Default Yes, some do say that,

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
Yet it is argued in defense of military participation in the political process (i.e. voting) that soldiers are citizens first, and therefore "the rules one follows as a private citizen" ought to supercede the "ethical structures" in "one's job".
others disagree. IMO, A professional volunteer force for any nation should not have a vote. That 'soldiers as citizen first' mantra is touted by politicians and it is certainly applicable in times of conscription. Thus far that includes the Civil War, the two World Wars and half of the Cold War -- note only half -- the rest of the time the professional armed forces were legally allowed to vote but traditionally most did not do so.

Many support your position, few today will support mine but I think the matter deserves serious thought on the basis that politicization is bound to occur with excessive emphasis on the 'citizen' aspect. That does not bode well.Many will be able to meld the issues but some will not and that will create -- has created -- problems. Fortunately, mostly minor. Thus far...
Quote:
Yet those companies with which contractors are employed are not apolitical.
Of course they aren't -- they are massive campaign contributors because it's in their interest to do so. The armed forces are not big contributors, the contractors are -- that's why the contractors are about in such massive numbers, Congress appreciates their help...

Most in Congress do not really court the military vote because it is pretty evenly distributed (all ranks) between R, D, Independent and totally uninterested and the absentee ballots often do not get counted (another thread, that). Those factors account for Congress basically wanting fewer people in the Armed forces as a general rule.
Quote:
I think it is important for the purposes of this conversation to differentiate "political" and "partisan".
Totally agree with that, only pointing out that one tends to lead to the other. That is not terribly significant in a multi-party democracy, it is quite a different thing in a two party state where politics tend to be polar and not diffuse.

P.S
Old Eagle came in while I was doing my hunt and peck routine. He says he always voted -- so did I -- but two of those votes were for Kennedy and Carter, another was for Goldwater. That proves my voting in what I thought was my interest was a crap shoot. Not a very good one at that...

He also says:
Quote:
"Trust me, we are not a political military."
True and hopefully we'll avoid that disaster.

Last edited by Ken White; 05-08-2009 at 04:52 PM. Reason: Addendum
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Old 05-08-2009   #28
John T. Fishel
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Default Some random comments

Apolitical military in the mythical past: GEN winfield Scott, while on active duty, ran for POTUS as a Whig in 1852. MG George B. McClellan was actively opposing his commander-in-chief, A. Lincoln while in command of the Army of the Potomac and ran for Pres in 1864 (after he'd been fired).
Do we give up our rights as US citizens because we put on the uniform? some yes but mainly no. there is also a difference between the active and reserve components. Sen Lindsay Graham is a USAFR Colonel. there are still a few states that elect their Adjutant Generals and a significant number where the position is a purely political appointment. Note that a RC officer writing for publication does not have to get a security review of what he writes before it is published if he is (1) not on active duty and (2) not required to do so because of his civilian DOD (or OGA) job.
Strategy: I know one of the AWC faculty members quoted by Kohn here. But his complaint was based not on the issue of national strategy but rather on the strategies that officers produce by law and policy. Remember that the Goldwater-Nichols Act charged the CJCS to produce the National Military Strategy. Every unified command is required to produce its strategy by policy. Unless officers at the war colleges are required to learn to do strategy, how can they meet their legal obligations. (BTW I ran the SOUTHCOM Policy & Strategy shop in 1988 and 89 and was resposible for GEN Woerner's last strategy as well as GEN Thurman's.) In addition, the process of developing the National Security Strategy (NSS) - called for in the GNA - and the Defense Strategy (instituted by SECDEF Rumsfeld) requires military input.

Cheers

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Old 05-09-2009   #29
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Default Horseshoes and handgrenades...

Professor Kohn’s essay is an interesting piece, and captures a valid sentiment: America needs a cost effective strategy in order to meet the demands of our Nations range of desires and responsibilities. I’ll state the obvious assumption: the Department of Defense was created in order to conduct a large part of our Nations strategy and it is allocated a large part of our Nations resources in order to do so. Professor Kohn is of the opinion, however, that DOD is not providing an adequate return on the Nations investment.

Fair enough, he is a fellow taxpayer, and I applaud him for taking the time and effort to try and identify areas where we can improve.

My education, training, and experience have helped me to understand that in order to identify, define, and solve a problem one must understand the context of the problem and solution as well as have the appropriate skills to respond. Professor Kohn correctly identifies the importance of education, training, and experience for DOD personnel, however like Goesh I keyed in on the glaringly apparent failure to internalize the power of teamwork:

Quote:
This may require further de-emphasis of mathematics, science, and engineering at the academies, on the grounds that war is first and foremost a human phenomenon, not a technical or engineering problem.
My drill sergeant taught me a valuable lesson very early in my career. A team is stronger than an individual…after 48 hours an individual needs sleep, an individual cannot watch all avenues of approach at once, etc. etc. Professor Kohn appears to subscribe to the mistaken idea that mathematics, science, engineering, and humanities can’t successfully team up to solve national strategy issues.

Contrary to Professor Kohn’s assertions the history of our nuclear forces to include Strategic Air Command and the Navy’s Submarine force, among others, are an example of the successes of this multidisciplinary approach. Proof positive are all of the free standing American and Russian populations.

Iraq 2003-06 (pre-surge) is a recent example of a failure to successfully create and employ an integrated mathematics, science, engineering, and humanities approach to warfare. Proof positive is our failure to consistently recognize the importance of the Iraqi population with the resultant exacerbation of the conflict. Afghanistan appears to follow this same pattern.

With respect to assertions of a political officer-corps, any one who would like to make these mostly baseless assertions needs to simply join and serve. My observation is that politically active officers are outliers in the general population and are dealt with appropriately. The assertion of a political officer corps is a red herring, which does not serve to identify, define, and solve our national strategy problems.

Fortunately the pace and requirements of the conflicts we have chosen to engage in are purging the force of dead weight and forcing the re-examination of faulty assumptions concerning American strategy, operations, and tactics. Professor Kohn would benefit from some more time spent in the field with USMC and US Army forces and we would benefit from his observations after this experience.
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Last edited by Surferbeetle; 05-09-2009 at 09:20 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 05-09-2009   #30
Van
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eden View Post
...If Kohn believes that there was some golden moment when the officer corps (as a whole) was:

1. Apolitical
2. Intellectual
3. Not prone to micromanagement
4. A moral exemplar
5. Capable of seamlessly integrating tactics, operations, and strategy

I wish he would point it out.
I think there are several pendulums in play.

The intellectual aspect is closely tied to the failure to integrate contemplative and active values as has been discussed in a couple of other threads. This can get challenging as academics will never accept that the military is intellectual enough. On the other hand, the demands of protracted small wars (2001 -present, over seven years and counting) have nudged this pendulum in the intellectual direction to what may be an unprecedented degree.

Micromanagement is a common vice in the types of folks who have the capacity and will to become military leaders, but in peacetime, micromanagement gets more commonplace as there are fewer opportunities to excel. Come wartime, the value of Auftragstaktik comes to the front again. And the military is not homogenous, commander's intent may be the byword of one organization while a unit supporting them is closely micromanaged.

The moral exemplar... I think this is tied to the respect or contempt paid the military by the population. This is also a chicken and egg issue. Contempt from the population leads to seedier people seeking the military as a career, leading to a more contemptible military. Respect from the population inspires the military to raise and enforce standards, and a positive spiral. Again, that pendulum swings.

Seamlessly integrating tactics, operations, and strategy; We're not perfect, but we may be approaching the limits of what can be done based on influences and limitations imposed from outside the military. As long as the military remains subordinate to civil leadership, the military is sharply limited in what influence it has over strategy. Strategy drives operational art, which the military is pretty good at, achieving the goals handed down from civil leadership. Tactics are based on timeless principles, but shaped by technology. There is certainly room for improvement in the integration of emerging technologies into tactics and doctrine. I believe that the military has acknowledged that the young warriors in all branches have the creativity to identify new tools and TTPs. The services have begun to leverage the technological savvy of the young folks to bring new tools into use and provided them, the smart young folks, with tools to share and disseminate their ideas.

Apolitical... I've been thinking long and hard on this one. The first thing that was left hanging in the article is "By whose scale?" The American officer corps is deep into the apolitical end of the spectrum when compared to all the militaries of the world. Within our own spectrum, from least politically oriented to most, the pendulum may be swinging towards the more politically oriented and active end of the scale. But this still has us way over to the apolitical end of the spectrum in the broader sense. This may be a reflection of the intense polarization of the American political spectrum right now, which in turn, is a consequence of the 24 hr news cycle and the business of entertainment masquerading as televised journalism. When the extreme of one end of the political spectrum is aggressive and vocal in their contempt of the military, it is only natural that members of the military migrate to the other end of the spectrum. It is equally natural that when the military is attacked unceasingly and viciously, that the military members want to defend themselves. Given some of the criticisms and attacks, the military members should be commended on their restraint.

[RANT]This arrogant and intellectually slovenly article should inspire SWC members in academia to take this moral coward to task. The single most important question for him is 'why focus on the military with these out-dated and ill-considered accusations?' The answer is obvious, but I suspect that Kohn would lack the integrity to admit that the military is an easy and popular target, and attacking the media, academia, and the civil government for their responsibilities in the issues he brings up wouldn't get him the attention he obviously craves.[/RANT]
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Old 05-09-2009   #31
Ken White
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Van View Post
I think there are several pendulums in play.

[RANT]This arrogant and intellectually slovenly article should inspire SWC members in academia to take this moral coward to task. The single most important question for him is 'why focus on the military with these out-dated and ill-considered accusations?' The answer is obvious, but I suspect that Kohn would lack the integrity to admit that the military is an easy and popular target, and attacking the media, academia, and the civil government for their responsibilities in the issues he brings up wouldn't get him the attention he obviously craves.[/RANT]
He's got some errors of the past pegged but he's off on much else, including his fixes. At first, I dismissed it as another Air force ploy to depict the Army as unworthy and intellectually deficient -- then I recalled Hanlon's Razor...
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