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Old 04-20-2014   #1
Polarbear1605
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Default An Officer Corps That Can’t Score

I did a search and was surprised that this article did not make the Journal...Mr Lind published this in The American Conservative ; I discovered it in the "Early Bird"...enjoy.

http://www.theamericanconservative.c...at-cant-score/

An Officer Corps That Can’t Score
How military careerism breeds habits of defeat
By William S. Lind • April 17, 2014

The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.
Such a moral and intellectual collapse of the officer corps is one of the worst disasters that can afflict a military because it means it cannot adapt to new realities. It is on its way to history’s wastebasket. The situation brings to mind an anecdote an Air Force friend, now a military historian, liked to tell some years ago. Every military, he said, occasionally craps in its own mess kit. The Prussians did it in 1806, after which they designed and put into service a much improved new model messkit, through the Scharnhorst military reforms. The French did it in 1870, after which they took down from the shelf an old-model messkit—the mass, draft army of the First Republic—and put it back in service. The Japanese did it in 1945, after which they threw their mess kit away, swearing they would never eat again. And we did it in Korea, in Vietnam, and now in four new wars. So far, we’ve had the only military that’s just kept on eating.
Why? The reasons fall in two categories, substantive and structural. Substantively, at the moral level—Colonel Boyd’s highest and most powerful level—our officers live in a bubble. Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry. Senior officers’ bubbles, created by vast, sycophantic staffs, rival Xerxes’s court. Woe betide the ignorant courtier who tells the god-king something he doesn’t want to hear. (I know—I’ve done it, often.)
At Boyd’s next level, the mental, our officers are not professionals. They are merely craftsman. They have learned what they do on a monkey-see, monkey-do basis and know no more. What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory. A friend who teaches at a Marine Corps school told me the most he can now get majors to read is two pages. Another friend, teaching at an Army school, says, “We are back to drawing on the cave wall.”
As culpable as our officers are for these failings, they are not the whole story. Officers are also victims of three structural failures, each of which is enough to lay an armed service low.
The first, and possibly the worst, is an officer corps vastly too large for its organization—now augmented by an ant-army of contractors, most of whom are retired officers. A German Panzer division in World War II had about 21 officers in its headquarters. Our division headquarters are cities. Every briefing—and there are many, the American military loves briefings because they convey the illusion of content without offering any—is attended by rank-upon-rank of horse-holders and flower-strewers, all officers.
The pathologies that flow from this are endless. Command tours are too short to accomplish anything, usually about 18 months, because behind each commander is a long line of fellow officers eagerly awaiting their lick at the ice-cream cone. Decisions are pulled up the chain because the chain is laden with surplus officers looking for something to do. Decisions are committee-consensus, lowest common denominator, which Boyd warned is usually the worst of all possible alternatives. Nothing can be changed or reformed because of the vast number of players defending their “rice bowls.” The only measurable product is entropy.
The second and third structural failings are related because both work to undermine moral courage and character, which the Prussian army defined as “eagerness to make decisions and take responsibility.” They are the “up or out” promotion system and “all or nothing” vesting for retirement at 20 years. “Up or out” means an officer must constantly curry favor for promotion because if he is not steadily promoted he must leave the service. “All or nothing” says that if “up or out” pushes him out before he has served 20 years, he leaves with no pension. (Most American officers are married with children.)
It is not difficult to see how these two structural failings in the officer corps morally emasculate our officers and all too often turn them, as they rise in rank and near the magic 20 years, into ass-kissing conformists. Virtually no other military in the world has these policies, for obvious reasons.
Of these two types of failings, the structural are probably the most damaging. They are also the easiest to repair. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, the president, and Congress could quickly fix all of them. Why don’t they? Because they only look at the defense budget, and these are not directly budgetary issues. They merely determine, in large measure, whether we win or lose.
Fixing the substantive problems is harder because those fixes require changes in organizational culture. OSD cannot order our officers to come out from the closed system, fortified with hubris, that they have placed around themselves to protect the poor dears from ever hearing anything upsetting, however true. Congress cannot withhold pay from those officers who won’t read. Only our officers themselves can fix these deficiencies. Will they? The problem is circular: not until they leave their bubble.
If American military officers want to know, or even care, why we keep losing, they need only look in the mirror. They seem to do that most of the time anyway, admiring their now-tattered plumage. Behind them in the glass, figures in turbans dance and laugh.

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.
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Old 04-20-2014   #2
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Polar Bear,

I am too far removed from the US military, today there maybe hope in a SWJ Blog link to 'The Rise of the Junior Officer' on the link below:

I cite only the first paragraph:
Quote:
Where are the “generation of military reformers” that some despair will ever arise from the ashes of Iraq and Afghanistan? Coming into their own. Over the last month, I’ve observed an encouraging sign for our military profession. Several junior officers have used the power of the pen to reach outside of their foxholes, moving well beyond the typical sphere of influence of a newly commissioned lieutenant. Through their words, they have helped bring about the change of existing policies, shared lessons on leadership, and sparked multiple professional conversations.
You may find this thread of interest Learning the lessons of Afghanistan I was particularly struck by Rupert Lescott's viewpoint:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=20275
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Old 04-20-2014   #3
Bill Moore
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William Lind simply identifies himself as being uninformed. The military continues to be led by reformers in all of our services, and if he would actually do some homework he could discover that. It would be another thing if he said he didn't agree with their transformational ideas, but that isn't what he wrote.

He states we had,
Quote:
four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan
The actual military objectives for Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan were achieved rather quickly, but our political leadership directed we engage in nation building we ran into challenges for a lot reasons that have little to do with the failure of the military to reform. In fact the military reformed while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to adapt to what I believe is a toxic doctrine, but regardless the military adapted. Now the military is adapting to address more pressing threats we have ignored. Generals like Stan McCrystal super sized Boyd's OODA loop with a very innovative approach to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks in Iraq. GEN Petreaus (sp?) reformed COIN training and practice in Iraq (he failed to adapt to the realities of Afghanistan). The only thought I could find common ground with Mr. Lind on is that our officer corps is too big by at least 30%, and we too quickly move these men and women through their career pipelines which hinders their ability to mature professionally. This is largely due to bean counters in the human resources world seeking ways to retain personnel, versus develop personnel. Quick promotions were, and perhaps are, seen as a way to provide incentive to keep these officers in the service. The ill effects of this decision are coming home to roost.
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Old 04-20-2014   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
The only thought I could find common ground with Mr. Lind on is that our officer corps is too big by at least 30%, and we too quickly move these men and women through their career pipelines which hinders their ability to mature professionally. This is largely due to bean counters in the human resources world seeking ways to retain personnel, versus develop personnel. Quick promotions were, and perhaps are, seen as a way to provide incentive to keep these officers in the service.
Sir,

Agree with you on this, but I think it's a lot more far-reaching than that. Despite our officer corps being far too large, we do a horrible job retaining and managing talent (the Marine Corps doesn't even track retention of top performers, at least at the JO level, and I suspect the Army is the same way). Our personnel system is BROKEN. In a lot of ways it's a wonder we get the caliber of guys we do.

You don't have to buy the 4th Generation War pseudo-history to see that we have probably lost two wars. Most of that blame may rest at the feet of the politicians and unclear/unrealistic objectives, but the military has to shoulder some of the responsibility. PPE-laden "KLE patrols" don't indicate that we really "get" COIN, and I agree with you that much of our adaptation has been for the worst.
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Old 04-20-2014   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granite_State View Post
Sir,

Agree with you on this, but I think it's a lot more far-reaching than that. Despite our officer corps being far too large, we do a horrible job retaining and managing talent (the Marine Corps doesn't even track retention of top performers, at least at the JO level, and I suspect the Army is the same way). Our personnel system is BROKEN. In a lot of ways it's a wonder we get the caliber of guys we do.

You don't have to buy the 4th Generation War pseudo-history to see that we have probably lost two wars. Most of that blame may rest at the feet of the politicians and unclear/unrealistic objectives, but the military has to shoulder some of the responsibility. PPE-laden "KLE patrols" don't indicate that we really "get" COIN, and I agree with you that much of our adaptation has been for the worst.
I agree with you that our personnel system is broken, but I don't have any feasible recommendations to fix it. I do think individual officers could be managed more effectively we if reduce the size of the officer corps, but downsizing alone won't facilitate that, there will need to be changes in the system also that downsizing may enable.

I have seen great officers move up the chain and I have some great officers overlooked throughout my career. If a great young officer with good character and strong potential ends up working for a toxic officer when he is a key developmental position his career can come to a dead stop. Unfortunately career progression is not based on performance and potential alone, there is a fair amount of chance involved (who you work for, the assignments you get, the opportunities to excel during those assignments, etc.). One's head should not swell with excessive pride just because they were selected for promotion and some of their high quality peers weren't, because an honest review of why that happened would point out a number of variables that were beyond the control of the individual officers. Unfortunately most people who work in the personnel field are bureaucrats that are more motivated to defend the system than promote change. On the other hand how do you manage personnel in an organization with a few hundred thousand employees without a bureaucracy? I know that sounds too much like a Zen Koan, but that is the friction that must be resolved.

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Old 04-21-2014   #6
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Default Two sailors respond

The relatively new blogsite 'War on The Rocks' has two articles on the Lind article, both essentially are retorts.

One 'Gardening in a “Barren” Officer Corps' is on SWJ Blog, is from a naval perspective and here is one passage:
Quote:
Lind errs on the side of being insulting to some of the dedicated men and women in uniform, but that does not really worry me. They have thick skin. More seriously, he leads his civilian readers astray, leaving them with an inaccurate depiction of a military completely unused to debate.
Link:http://warontherocks.com/2014/04/gar...officer-corps/

The second 'Our Debating Military: Here If You’re Looking' is by another naval officer, it ends with:
Quote:
If, as Mr.Lind describes, our officer corps had a comical “hulk-smash” reaction to suggestions of US Military weaknesses or institutional flaws, we’d have long ago beaten ourselves to rubble in the haze of an insatiable rage.
Link is to the full article:http://cimsec.org/debating-military-youre-listening/
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Old 04-21-2014   #7
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While I am never adverse to self-reflection, and I think the Army has its share of issues in the personnel system, I cannot accept the basic premises of Lind’s argument. In the first line he says:

Quote:
The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps.
OK, you have to accept that there is a thing called “Fourth Generation Warfare” and that all four of those campaigns are examples of it. Lebanon and Somalia were significantly different than Iraq and Afghanistan in that we (the U.S.) were not truly in charge of mission parameters. Further, where Somalia and Lebanon were peacekeeping/stability operations, Iraq and Afghanistan were more complex.

Next, there is no discussion of the how the nature of the mission affected our ability to perform. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, during “Phase III” or the actual ground war, we performed admirably. Fight and Win America’s wars, that’s what we do. What we never cracked the code on was COIN. I would argue that the failure there was largely the fault of the civilian politicians who created a mission that was beyond not only the capabilities of the military but also beyond any logical expectation of success. Assuming that is the case, we will gain nothing by trying to change something that may not be broke … or at least not broke for the reasons Lind cites.
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Old 04-21-2014   #8
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Lind is far more right than he is wrong, especially when he speak about the Boyd's highest plane, the moral.

Lind talks about the officer corps telling each other they are part of the best military ever and get upset if they are disagreed with. There is much disagreement with that but to me a lot of that is based on nit picking definitions and talk about being "insulting". Those counterarguments are basically saying no we didn't lose and stop being mean to me.

Another counter argument is 'it was those civilians' who lost, not us (shades post WWI Germany). That kind of argument even more clearly throws light on the moral failings not of the officer corps as a whole, but of the multi-star officer corps, and this failing is serious, loss of the country serious. All those civilian actions and ideas didn't arise in a vacuum. They came in an atmosphere where the multi-stars had had much influence over decades and where they could have told the emperor he had no clothes. They never did. The multi-stars could have said we can't win in Afghanistan if the Pak Army/ISI isn't taken care of and they never did.

This hasn't stopped and may not stop until we lose a major war. We see it every day from things like the little, reflective belts, to the big, the F-35 and women in combat roles. The terrifying problem is, for all the debate articles like Lind's will stir, the only real way that things can change is for the officer corps, especially the multi-stars to be thoroughly discredited. That can probably only happen if we are badly beaten in a big war which will mean thousands and thousands of dead and the country defeated.

(Now don't let my comment be read as a bash at individual good officers in the US military, of which there are multitudes. It is a bash at the officer corps as an institution, an institution that all those good officers can't seem to fundamentally change. They can only work miracles at a low levels if the big green machine doesn't notice them. The machine grinds on.)
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