Monday, April 30, 2007

Yingling babblefest

First of all, I always giggle when I see his name, because I am reminded of one of my favorite cheap beers. Anyway.

I know I am showing up late to the discussion - but to be honest - I didn't see the shocking nature of his article. I saw Bubblehead mention it on MilBlogs, kind of yawned and moved on. There just didn't seem to be much "there" there. But, after bouncing around the MilBlog world - where tough questions and observations are the norm - I missed this one point: this is a Gannett driven attack.

Ah ha - the MSM being too clever by half. Duh, silly me. It is a reminder though that MilBlogs can say the same thing over and over - but it is hard to get your word heard on the A-team unless you have MSM push, or you can be spun in "the correct manner."

Why did I not feel the need this weekend to come in from working on my garden and playing with the family? Well, here we go:

- The opening is a "job of the General 101" review of what a Go/FO's job is. Nice review, and nothing shocking.
After visualizing the conditions of future combat, the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands. Civilian policymakers have neither the expertise nor the inclination to think deeply about strategic probabilities in the distant future. Policymakers, especially elected representatives, face powerful incentives to focus on near-term challenges that are of immediate concern to the public. Generating military capability is the labor of decades. If the general waits until the public and its elected representatives are immediately concerned with national security threats before finding his voice, he has waited too long. The general who speaks too loudly of preparing for war while the nation is at peace places at risk his position and status. However, the general who speaks too softly places at risk the security of his country.
Very nice, very true, and very much in line with what has been going on for thousands of years. Good to review though, as very few study history like they should.

- The next bit is almost paraphrased from bits of Nagl's Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and Ricks' Fiasco.
Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America's generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Decker assured his young president, "Any good soldier can handle guerrillas." Despite Kennedy's guidance to the contrary, the Army viewed the conflict in Vietnam in conventional terms. As late as 1964, Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated flatly that "the essence of the problem in Vietnam is military." While the Army made minor organizational adjustments at the urging of the president, the generals clung to what Andrew Krepinevich has called "the Army concept," a vision of warfare focused on the destruction of the enemy's forces.
That's Nagl.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.
That's Ricks.

- So, at this point we have a history review and some paraphrasing of two books that everyone should have had a chance to either read or scan a review or two of in the last half decade. And next? Well, he gets to some actual good stuff.He ends up with a tad over the top, but solid ending.
Iraq is America's Valmy. America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.
I say over the top because Valmy brought about the fall of absolute monarchy and the rise of the French Republic - is he trying to say that the terrorists are the French (snicker) and we are Prussians in the army of the Duke of Brunswick? ....... and Jena; are we the Prussians again - and who will be Napoleon who will get lucky - the Chinese? Who? Sloppy use of history: B-.

No; we are not even close. 1864, perhaps.

- Now we get to the interesting part - how do we grow the right Generals?

What we have here is a Lt. Col. who is very frustrated with Generals/Flag Officers and how they are selected and raised. Amen brother! This has always been the case in a peacetime military - and we need to adjust and fix the problem.

What we need to look at is how are we doing now in selecting leaders being that we are in a low-grade war. Let's look at the breakdown of who was selected in FY01 and how is selected in FY07. When it comes down to combat commands, education, etc - are we selecting differently now? If not, how do we change that?

What bothered me was his desire to get Congress more involved in the process. He rightly asks for changes and ways to make the system reward better qualities - Congress is the right way to do that - but instead of going the direction of what is needed - fix the Goldwater-Nichols nightmare THEY created - he totally loses me on this;
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.
YIKES!!! We have enough of a problem with some of our Flag Officers who spend more time in DC than in the Fleet - if you encourage that behavior you will have a more political senior military leadership - and that would be much worse than what we have now. A more political GO/FO corps? You do that and you will have a disgrace like we had when all through the 1990s the Joint Chiefs made Happy-talk until 1999 when they all of a sudden cried that they were starved to death. Only General Krulak kept his integrity in that time. More Generals and Admirals afraid of telling the truth to Congress? No thank you. More Krulak, that would be nice.

Yingling gets close to the target - but that is it. I would have posted right away if he asked for something real radical - like getting rid of Goldwater-Nichols.

I ask you this; doesn't this 20+ year old document scream "replace me!"
The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, sponsored by Sen. Barry Goldwater and Rep. Bill Nichols, caused a major defense reorganization, the most significant since the National Security Act of 1947. Operational authority was centralized through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as opposed to the service chiefs. The chairman was designated as the principal military advisor to the president, National Security Council and secretary of defense. The act established the position of vice-chairman and streamlined the operational chain of command from the president to the secretary of defense to the unified commanders.

Since 1986, Goldwater-Nichols has made tremendous changes in the way DOD operates-joint operations are the norm-Arabian Gulf, Zaire, Haiti, and Bosnia. Implementation of the act is an on-going project with Joint Vision 2010 (1996) and Joint Vision 2020 (2000). Both documents emphasize that to be the most effective force we must be fully joint: intellectually, operationally, organizationally, doctrinally, and technically. The joint force, because of its flexibility and responsiveness, will remain the key to operational success in the future.
Yingling outlines some of the problems we have that need to be corrected....just that to get to the meat of this article you have to go through a maze to get there. Was all this backward looking repeat the sugar to get you to take a bite of the strawberry? Was this done, edited, encouraged by Gannett as a way to ride a favorite hobby-horse? It almost seems that way.

Promotion boards in general are an area ripe for reform. Let's stop bitching about the past - but learn from it and take action.

That is why I didn't cover it to start with. I didn't want to bore my readers with stuff they already read about here - and none of his idea seems worth it. If you are going to be subjected to the same thing repeated over and over - you are going to get it from me.

Why spend all this time now? The Gannett connection and all the time this is getting. Just strange for something that has so much fluff and not all that viable meat. It reads nice once - but sleep on it and then read it twice again and tell my how many, "Wow, I could have had a V-8!" moments you had.

If you think my post is all FOD - scroll down MilBlogs to read what Greyhawk, Lex, Chap (1, 2, 3), Grim, DadManly, Bubblehead, SoldierDad, and BLACKFIVE, Skippy, and John of Argghhh!!! all have to say.

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