A failure in generalship (Leadership in Iraq)

One officers review of what is and has been going wrong in Iraq.

“ARMY LT. COL. PAUL YINGLING is deputy commander, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm. He holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago. The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Army or the Defense Department.”

This is a long read, the Col. is quite a Military Historian, and it details a list of short-comings in the Field Grade Commanders who have been in charge in this war. He also presents some possible solutions - response and accountability. I will excerpt.

[quote]A failure in generalship
By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq’s grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps. America’s generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America’s generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The correct estimation of strategic possibilities can be further subdivided into the preparation for war and the conduct of war. Preparation for war consists in the raising, arming, equipping and training of forces. The conduct of war consists of both planning for the use of those forces and directing those forces in operations.

To prepare forces for war, the general must visualize the conditions of future combat. To raise military forces properly, the general must visualize the quality and quantity of forces needed in the next war. To arm and equip military forces properly, the general must visualize the materiel requirements of future engagements. To train military forces properly, the general must visualize the human demands on future battlefields, and replicate those conditions in peacetime exercises. Of course, not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought. According to British military historian and soldier Sir Michael Howard, “In structuring and preparing an army for war, you can be clear that you will not get it precisely right, but the important thing is not to be too far wrong, so that you can put it right quickly.”

Failures of Generalship in Iraq

America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America’s generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America’s generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.

Despite paying lip service to “transformation” throughout the 1990s, America’s armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In “The Sling and the Stone,” T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department’s transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

The intellectual and moral failures common to America’s general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship. Any explanation that fixes culpability on individuals is insufficient. No one leader, civilian or military, caused failure in Vietnam or Iraq. Different military and civilian leaders in the two conflicts produced similar results. In both conflicts, the general officer corps designed to advise policymakers, prepare forces and conduct operations failed to perform its intended functions. To understand how the U.S. could face defeat at the hands of a weaker insurgent enemy for the second time in a generation, we must look at the structural influences that produce our general officer corps.

If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America’s military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.

To improve the creative intelligence of our generals, Congress must change the officer promotion system in ways that reward adaptation and intellectual achievement. Congress should require the armed services to implement 360-degree evaluations for field-grade and flag officers. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers are often the first to adapt because they bear the brunt of failed tactics most directly. They are also less wed to organizational norms and less influenced by organizational taboos. Junior leaders have valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of their leaders, but the current promotion system excludes these judgments. Incorporating subordinate and peer reviews into promotion decisions for senior leaders would produce officers more willing to adapt to changing circumstances, and less likely to conform to outmoded practices.

Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer’s potential for senior leadership.

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.

armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2635198[/quote]
I have heavily excerpted. But I tried to keep the excerpts in their proper context with the overall article.
The conclusions in this are remarkable in tune with an article similiar to this I posted last fall.

Wapo has an article on this article at the link following. They are doing their usual mis-leading agenda driven interp.
Army Officer Accuses Generals of ‘Intellectual and Moral Failures’ <=== note the change of title!

Why are we blaming the military for the political and strategic failures of an administration? The only failure the military has had is to not have stood up the the Bush administration - oh wait, one did and look what happened to him.

Those that speak their minds and have principles end up like Shinseki.

[quote=“Elegua”]Why are we blaming the military for the political and strategic failures of an administration? The only failure the military has had is to not have stood up the the Bush administration - oh wait, one did and look what happened to him.

Those that speak their minds and have principles end up like Shinseki.[/quote]

Read the article, at least briefly. He seems to be holding everyone accountable for failures:

This looks like an interesting read. I wish I had more time these days to go over it.

Retiring based on the schedule provided by the Clinton presidency?
Or having his predecessor named 1 year before his schedule retirement was suppose to take effect?

Or become the beacon of “I told you so” by the anti-Bush camp.

Retiring based on the schedule provided by the Clinton presidency?
Or having his predecessor named 1 year before his schedule retirement was suppose to take effect?

Or become the beacon of “I told you so” by the anti-Bush camp.[/quote]

The latter step was highly unusual and I believe linked to his disagreement with Rumsfeld over troop levels (in general for the army and for the Iraq invasion.) Rumsfeld got him out of they way and put in someone who thought more the way he did.

Policy & doctrine come from the top - ie the Sec. of Defence. As for failures in preparing for the ‘last war’. a) this is hardly unique (watch, we’ll be prepared for counter insurgency when the next war is a hot one) b) Was based upon the Quadrennia review performed by Cheney in the early 90’s. rumsfeld compounded this error by falling for ‘shock & awe’

Elequa -
I do not blame you for attempting to you use Shinseki in your analogy(?), but frankly its not relevant to this articles premise.

Shinseki had made so many enemies on his way up and while he was “in power” that his days were very numbered. There are 2 major requirements for O’s who hope to attain the lofty status of Generalship and its 4 levels - be an extremely well-connected politician or be a very high profile “Warrior-type” who is well-connected. Shinseki was a weak example of the former. Short answer - he p*ssed-off too many people who got tired of covering for him.

The article is this Col’s review of what has gone wrong from a field grade level and how it might be avoided in the future.

“To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War.”
– ARMY LT. COL. PAUL YINGLING

"SEN. LEVIN: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirement for an occupation of Iraq following a successful completion of the war?

GEN. SHINSEKI: . . . I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point – something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.

“There has been a good deal of comment - some of it quite outlandish - about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army - hard to imagine.”
– Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

spook -
and your point is?

That is if you actually have one…regarding the article posted.

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]spook -
and your point is?

That is if you actually have one…regarding the article posted.[/quote]

You do realize, do you not, that the first quote above from Lt. Col Paul Yingling comes from your posted article?

“RIC WAS RIGHT”
– emblazoned on caps worn by Gen. Richard Shinseki’s fellow classmates at the '65 West Point 40th annual class reunion.

TC, here’s another quote from your posted article which you appear not to have read – unless you’ve had a complete change of heart recently.

“If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving.”

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]Elequa -
I do not blame you for attempting to you use Shinseki in your analogy(?), but frankly its not relevant to this articles premise.[/quote]

How so? Here’s an excerpt missing from your summary:

So the author states that the most fundamental mistake was insufficient troop strength. He further states that the only general to make the point at the time was Shinseki. How is this not germane to the topic at hand? Unless you mean the firing of Shinseki is not as issue he takes up.

In any case, for those of us who supported the war but have had our eyes open from the beginning (not buried in Bush) here’s a big :raspberry: to all of you on the right who have done exactly what the general’s did . Shut up and be loyal when you knew things couldn’t and weren’t working.

MM -
What?

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]Elequa -
I do not blame you for attempting to you use Shinseki in your analogy(?), but frankly its not relevant to this articles premise.

Shinseki had made so many enemies on his way up and while he was “in power” that his days were very numbered. There are 2 major requirements for O’s who hope to attain the lofty status of Generalship and its 4 levels - be an extremely well-connected politician or be a very high profile “Warrior-type” who is well-connected. Shinseki was a weak example of the former. Short answer - he p*ssed-off too many people who got tired of covering for him.

The article is this Col’s review of what has gone wrong from a field grade level and how it might be avoided in the future.[/quote

You won’t blame me? How very generous of you.

Yes, I think it is relevant. You can’t blame the military for the debacle in Iraq except that there was no one able to stand up to the politicians (which is what I believe this article is really about). I brought up Shinseki as a visible example of what happend to people who disagreed. After Vietnam the military decided that when they went to war again, it was going to be on their terms, not the politicians. Yet look what happened with Iraq II - politicians (the White House) interfered and influenced the preparation for the war and selection of military leaders and let political dogma get infront of reality. The rank and file are pissed that the military leadership allowed this to happen again.