Constitutional Emergency

More bad news..................

August 7th 
The Corps Can’t score

I am not talking about the US Marine Corps, but that the whole corps (“body of” which is what the word means) of officers in our Department of Defense (DOD) cannot accomplish he mission of the US Military as it is defined in the Constitution – to “Provide for the common defense.”

This message may be addressing only a few in my audience, or it may be addressing a larger number, but I believe it is an issue that needs addressing because as the Army goes – or the DOD, if you will – so goes our country.

In the 1770’s, facing a much vaunted enemy with the ability to control vast regions of the world with its navy and army – including privately subscriptioned armies and navies – Washington knew he had to keep the Army intact.

Yes, individuals and corporations in the 18th and even 19th Centuries could raise and lead armies outside of their home countries – in fact, the US Constitution allows the Congress to issue “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” for military actions including ships of the line and armed forces within and without the country - The U.S. Constitution provides, Article I, Sec. 8 cl. 11: The Congress shall have Power ... To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water -  - Thanks E.T. I knew to call home on that one.

But that’s not what the issue at hand is.

I am dealing with the failure of the officer corps of the US military to live up to their professional obligation.

George Washington understood that the only way he could win the war against England was to assure that the Army he captained continued in being, was professionally led, thoroughly trained, and would will to fight to win when required.

Traditionally, that has been the mentality of the US military from the very beginning. We often had what Europeans called “Rag-tag” forces because they weren’t “disciplined” in the manner of t European troops. They didn’t look good on parade, they were led by commoners who didn’t understand the contemporary professionalism of European Officers and worst of all, they didn’t know how to fight, or when to quit fighting.

If there were one thing that separated American Military from European officers and men it was that the Americans comprehended the mission, and studied on how to accomplish it.

This applied from the highest officers to the lowest privates in the ranks.

It was often said in training of US Forces, whether the Army, Navy or Marine Corps that if the head were cut off, the unit could continue to fight and to win because the soldiers knew their mission, and were trained to accomplish it.

That is now in question across the board in the US military, because we have so bred a “Professional” military of careerists who are generalists by requirement, and have no skills beyond the last posting.

I will give you one example of a historical officer who rose to the present occasion – Henry Knox. A book seller by trade, when he joined the Continental Army he read what he needed to know about becoming not just a leader, but a commander of Artillery.

It is General Knox who provided the cannon necessary for Washington’s forces to defeat the British in the field. He established American Artillery, for the most part – because he read how it was done.

In the article below (Courtesy of an Old school Intel guy whose name should not be mentioned because he is not related to a major restaurant chain) bemoans the fact that careerism has taken the place of professionalism in the US Military.

I will say that one of my adjuncts to the article which agrees with it, was and still is, when I worked with the Center For Army Lessons Learned (CALL) library at Ft Leavenworth that everybody is busy writing their “Lessons Learned” but nobody is studying anyone else’s “lessons learned.”

What we have is “Lessons Written – but not learned.”

A perfect example is the total waste of dollars, blood and treasure in the adoption of the Stryker Combat vehicle when the whole of the history of the Combined Arms Army Combat history has been – until the 1990’s – that the use of combat wheeled vehicles is a pathway to defeat because it relies on keeping to road ways, and for some unknown reason, warfare usually takes place in locations where there may not be paved surface roads.

Adaptation of and committing the use of the Stryker in combat theaters has required the US military to improve supply roads and lines of communications because we are going places (Iraq and Afghanistan) where the countries didn’t have roads and bridges.

Darn, those inconsiderate enemies, why do we have to do it all for them?

Anyway, the generals and congressmen most responsible for the Stryker are the same types who require the toadying-up of careerists in order to complete a retirement in the military.

Our military’s motto is no longer “what’s the best way to accomplish the mission,” but “What’s the best way for me to earn a retirement?”

If I have bored some of you, that’s OK, but we’re all in the ride together, and there is no separating the success of the US military from the continued wellbeing of the country.

All that we enjoy in our life of ease, from Bananas on the table for breakfast to the prime-rib for dinner is because at one point in time, our military took care to see that we did not lose a battle or a war.

We can no longer say that.


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 author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook and director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.

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You might add the NCO Corps to this fiasco. I have said for years that the fall of the Military from the 70s was mostly due to the CYA attitude and the Senior NCOs giving up their responsibility of teaching because some higher-ups said they had to!

 Good point Ray ....

These points are well-stated and I believe correct.  Everybody is different, but some leaders excel while others get by, and a few fail. Even though I have been out of the Army since 1978, I was already seeing signs of Harry's points back then.  One of my pet peeves at the time with the corps was that the DOD policies, so clearly stated, seemed to curtail initiative, especially as increasing risk became a factor.  Minimal credit was bestowed if, despite the risk, they succeeded, but maximum penalty was imposed when they failed.  I can recall being assigned to a job that I knew absolutely nothing about; I did not even want to take it, but was not given the choice.  It did not occur to me not to dig in, read, learn, and listen to my NCO's during the entire assignment.  The end result was the job was completed in an exemplary manner that accomplished the mission and brought great credit to the command/commander.  And I learned skills that stayed with me and aided me in running my own businesses for many years after I left the military. Of course the up-or-out program costs the Army some good officers because their rater was not a skilled writer, so somewhere along the line, they may not have received the inflated ratings that too often caused the pass-over.  The unskilled rater got promoted because his rater was a good writer, but he was not able to do the same for the officer under him.  I support the Career-Officer concept because it takes physical and mental training, experience, and challenge to develop good leaders.  But I also believe that there is a point when every leader tops-out, and then decline follows - a natural phenomena of age - and it is different for every person.  That is the time he must retire or leave the service.  Unfortunately far too many stay on for the ride, overloading the corps; this adds to the excess numbers in the corps. It is unfortunate that we have no way of knowing or determining just where every person's top-out point is since everyone is different, so it is difficult to determine.  However, I believe that each individual knows when they have reached that point and it is at that time that they should go voluntarily.  But I fear this is more of an ideal and not a reality.  So yes, these are legitimate points that should be addressed and solutions determined. It is very shameful though to see so many of our highest achievers being fired or forced out as has been going on in the corps for that last five years.  We should have a check and balance program that prevents that from happening.  We should not be subjected to the whims of a Commander-in-Chief who knows nothing about leadership or the military. But that is taking this discussion to another whole realm.      



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