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December 19, 2007

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The degradation of the quality of the officer corps is, as you say, quite disturbing.

It's even more disturbing when you consider the interaction between that and the fact that (as you mention, indirectly) the recruiting requirements have been relaxed for enlisted men/women, so that the Army is now accepting gang members, overt white supremacists, and so forth. So that there are going to be more and more units with more and more troublemakers in them, led by fewer and fewer competent officers. If nothing else, it sounds like a recipe for the kind of ugly chaos which enveloped the Army and Marines after Vietnam.

And it's not like the National Guard stands entirely fresh and available for being abused by being sent overseas for months.

Although one can imagine other countries breathing a sigh of relief that the US seems determined to ruin its services.

Yup, this is why Bush should have authorized a bigger armed forces immediately after he decided to invade.

Um, Seb, armies aren't widget factories. You can't just snap your fingers and poof! new divisions appear instantly. If you want to significantly expand the size of a high quality all volunteer army like ours, you're going to have to do that years in advance. Even if Bush decided to significantly grow the army on, let's say, 9/11, the new forces wouldn't have been ready in time for the war.

Of course, if we didn't care about having high quality soldiers or we didn't care about keeping them alive (the cannon fodder model) then sure, we could have ramped up the size of the army much quicker.

There's also the small matter of paying for the extra soldiers. Soldiers are not cheap. The equipment they depend on in any invasion (c.f. body armor, armored humvees) is not cheap. Perhaps you don't wouldn't have minded having your taxes go up significantly to pay for more militarism, but I certainly would have...

It's times like this that I wonder half-seriously: how could you distinguish Bush and Cheney from long-term agents of, say, the old Soviet Union or the Iranian ayatollahs sent to neutralize America for the long haul?

Seb,

By the way, thanks for filing the ticket with typepad; I gave up on posting two comments in other threads after being blocked by the new spamtrap.

"Um, Seb, armies aren't widget factories. You can't just snap your fingers and poof! new divisions appear instantly. If you want to significantly expand the size of a high quality all volunteer army like ours, you're going to have to do that years in advance. Even if Bush decided to significantly grow the army on, let's say, 9/11, the new forces wouldn't have been ready in time for the war."

I'm aware of that. And I do think we should have expanded the forces at 9/11. I was writing that at the very beginning of this blog's existence.

We had enough people for the initial invasion, not enough for the aftermath. They would be ready by now.

Seb,

Do you really think that if the President said "We're going to need substantial tax increases because I plan on deploying, in the coming years, a significantly expanded army to invade and occupy other countries for years, if not decades" that the American people would have responded well?

Do you really think that kind of policy was ever politically viable in the last 6 years? I mean sure, if we assume that military expenses magically cost nothing then there's no problem, but since we don't assume that...

"People sometimes talk about 'doing what it takes in Iraq', or 'giving the surge a chance', as though such choices had no actual downside"

I don't quite get that. "Doing what it takes" pretty much implies a downside. I don't have to "do what it takes" to eat dinner or read blogs. The idiom only applies to situations that are difficult or trying.

"Giving the surge a chance" also implies a downside, or at least the likelihood of one. If someone asked me to go square dancing, I would definitely have to be asked to give it a chance. But if someone offered me a free Gaggia espresso machine, the expression would seem wildly out of place.

An organization like the Army, which cannot replace losses from its officer corps by raiding other firms' managers

What about the French Foreign Legion model? There's that telling detail in Greene's _The Quiet American_ where the French Foreign Legionnaires find their comrades who have been ambushed and left in a canal, and they begin talking in German. While we don't have ex-SS running around, South African, Venezuelan and Central American forces might fit the bill.

Do you really think that if the President said "We're going to need substantial tax increases because I plan on deploying, in the coming years, a significantly expanded army to invade and occupy other countries for years, if not decades" that the American people would have responded well?

That would not have been the optimal way to say it, no. But "shared sacrifice", "additional capabilities", "new threats", yes, that would have played quite well on 9/12.

I mean sure, if we assume that military expenses magically cost nothing then there's no problem, but since we don't assume that...
Since when? Money for military expenses being magically free seems to be a standard assumption in discussions of funding for the occupation of Iraq. Every few months we need another N billion dollars of off-budget emergency spending, and only unhinged moonbats are rude enough to bring up the idea that the money has to come from somewhere. Now, if we were talking about N/100 billion in social spending, that would be a very different matter.

Good post Hilzoy.

Junior military guys, at least eight or so years ago, referred to a thing called an ‘O-5’ lobotomy (an ‘O-5’ is a full Commander in the navy or a Lieutenant Colonel in the other services). I really didn’t think about much at the time other than it seemed to be true. They started acting different.

I’ve been thinking about it more and more though, and have developed a theory that makes sense to me. Junior officers are judged by the performance of their men and thus have an incentive to focus their energies on their units. Junior officers, in a lot of ways, answer to their men, who are more often than not patriotic, rational Americans.

Senior officer promotions are based on Pentagon politics where they answer to general officers who are promoted by officials elected through universal suffrage. Wesley Clark was manufactured by the Clintons. Petraeus was manufactured by Bush. The Pentagon-walkers answer to guys like this. In essence, junior officers answer to men and senior officers answer to politicians who answer to international money and a distracted and dumbed-down electorate.

I’m sure it’s worse now than it was eight years ago and it was pretty bad back then. Things will get worse before they get better, they might even break, but they will get better. The smart junior officers will get out and make money, but they’ll still be around. They’re everywhere, really.

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed46.htm

Even with the introduction of draft, it takes several years to grow the military into a competent fighting machine. Training the rudiments of branch specific skills to a private takes maybe six months, three if you can place him into an already capable unit, where he can learn by doing. Training a semi-competent junior NCO or junior officer takes about a year. However, starting form scratch, the whole process of increasing the military takesmuch more. When the US geared up for WWII, it was not until 1944 that the full national capacity was used in the war effort.

When you ramp up troop production, the problem lies in finding competent NCOs and officers for new formations. You need to increase the OCS's and NCO courses, and to find competent people to fill them. After that, getting the privates trained is the easy part.

"Do you really think that if the President said "We're going to need substantial tax increases because I plan on deploying, in the coming years, a significantly expanded army to invade and occupy other countries for years, if not decades" that the American people would have responded well?"

In late 2001. Absolutely. At that point lots of your basic citizens were looking for ways to help.

Sebastian, it is possible that Bush and Cheney could have got away with re-instituting the draft on 10th September 2001 in order to carry out their planned invasion and occupation of Iraq. But as part of the political ideology that had formed the idea of invading Iraq was that it could be done cheaply, in terms of both money and soldiers, that would never have happened. Also, if you recall, Bush went on lying right up until 2003 that he would only invade Iraq if he had to: he has never admitted that in fact the PNAC crew were planning to invade Iraq even before 9/11, which merely provided a convenient excuse.

In late 2001. Absolutely. At that point lots of your basic citizens were looking for ways to help.

*snort*

Yeah, if only a fraction of the right-wing pundits, columnists, TV hosts and bloggers clamoring for war throughout the Middle East beginning on 9/12/2001 had joined the military, we probably wouldn't be in this mess now. But we all know how likely that is.

The traditional rule of thumb (several centuries old) is that it takes 3 years to really make a soldier in peace time (less in war but at high costs in lifes). This means to permanently install the capabilities that can be instantly recalled even after long periods of non-soldiering. That number can be found in many countries in very different eras, so it seems to be independent of the available weapon technology. That few armies still follow that model has more to do with politics and social acceptability than with military "needs".

Q: is this really a bad thing? The last time the US broke its army was the Vietnam War, and for the next ten years, more or less, many cities went unbombed, many small Latin American countries were uninvaded, and civilians all over the world stayed un-napalmed. Even after that, the US stayed gratifyingly in its box, more or less, except for the occasional brief excursion to Grenada or Beirut.
The question you have to ask is: is the good that a capable US army occasionally does enough to outweigh the harm that it does the rest of the time?
Not entirely sure that "defending the country" is really what the US army does anyway... unless there's been some spat on the Rio Grande I've missed. The nuclear deterrent belongs to the USN and USAF, anti-terrorism is handled by the FBI and the CIA, defending the airspace is USAF and ANG again. The Army's just for breaking things and killing people, seems like.

ajay,

While I'm sympathetic to your argument, I have trouble buying into it. We (as citizens, voters, taxpayers) make a compact with people who serve in the Army: they agree to risk death in service to their country and we agree to give them the best support we can. To me, the best support includes "good" officers and NCOs, probably even more than it includes armored humvees.

So if any kind of military conflict does occur that necessitates deployment of the US Army, we're going to be putting those soldier's lives in a lot more danger than is justified. That's a problem for me.

Even if we think the Army is broken, its not clear to me that the political leadership will ever accept that; I'm not sure that the broken army signal feeds back into the white house strongly enough to discourage future military activity. I think there were many reasons why the 10-20 years after Vietnam did not feature large US Army invasions, but I doubt that the brokenness of the Army played a major role per se.

I,ve commented on this before. My son took the rather substantial bonus offered him a couple months ago to stay in an extra 3 years. By the time that is up, he will be in a total of 11, so he will probably stay through 20 to obtain his pension.

The reason so many junior captains are leaving is that they have not yet reached the tipping point where the benefit of staying outweighs the benefit of leaving, purely from a financial point.

My son knows several that have left.

On the plus side, for him at least, is that promotion to major will probably come a year earlier than normal.

ajay is half right. Fortunately, specially amongst the junior officers that are staying, there is a recognition that the Army needs to re-evaluate its role beyond just "breaking things and killing people."

Seb,

I agree with you that people might have volunteered a fair bit of time and money immediately after 9/11. I disagree with you for two reasons though:

1. The amount of time and people were willing to give up decreases greatly the further you get from 9/11. It also decreases when you tell people that this isn't going to be a quick 1 or even 5 year cost, but will continue indefinitely.

2. The American people are not willing to think of themselves as long-term occupiers. Recall Zev Miller's "We're liberators not occupiers" convention speech and the thunderous applause that line received. Don't get me wrong: Americans like blowing stuff up. But they don't like sending their Army to occupy a foreign country for 1+ decades at enormous financial costs, a significant cost in lives, and no obvious benefits.

Bush the candidate eschewed nation building for a reason. Nation building is not popular. Discomfort with occupation is not limited to the isolationist crowd in America; it runs a lot deeper. Heck, discomfort with open-ended military commitments runs a lot deeper: even if Bush and Co. never learned the lessons of Vietnam, a lot of Americans did.

Seb,

I agree with you that people might have volunteered a fair bit of time and money immediately after 9/11. I disagree with you for two reasons though:

1. The amount of time and people were willing to give up decreases greatly the further you get from 9/11. It also decreases when you tell people that this isn't going to be a quick 1 or even 5 year cost, but will continue indefinitely.

(continuing from previous comment)

2. The American people are not willing to think of themselves as long-term occupiers. Recall Zev Miller's "We're liberators not occupiers" convention speech and the thunderous applause that line received. Don't get me wrong: Americans like blowing stuff up. But they don't like sending their Army to occupy a foreign country for 1+ decades at enormous financial costs, a significant cost in lives, and no obvious benefits.

Bush the candidate eschewed nation building for a reason. Nation building is not popular. Discomfort with occupation is not limited to the isolationist crowd in America; it runs a lot deeper. Heck, discomfort with open-ended military commitments runs a lot deeper: even if Bush and Co. never learned the lessons of Vietnam, a lot of Americans did.

(continuing from previous comment)

2. The American people are not willing to think of themselves as long-term occupiers. Recall Zev Miller's "We're liberators not occupiers" convention speech and the thunderous applause that line received. Don't get me wrong: Americans like blowing stuff up. But they don't like sending their Army to occupy a foreign country for 1+ decades at enormous financial costs, a significant cost in lives, and no obvious benefits.

Bush the candidate eschewed nation building for a reason. Nation building is not popular. Discomfort with occupation is not limited to the isolationist crowd in America; it runs a lot deeper. Heck, discomfort with open-ended military commitments runs a lot deeper: even if Bush and Co. never learned the lessons of Vietnam, a lot of Americans did.

(continuing from previous comment)

2. The American people are not willing to think of themselves as long-term occupiers. Recall Zev Miller's "We're liberators not occupiers" convention speech and the thunderous applause that line received. Don't get me wrong: Americans like blowing stuff up. But they don't like sending their Army to occupy a foreign country for 1+ decades at enormous financial costs, a significant cost in lives, and no obvious benefits. Bush the candidate eschewed nation building for a reason. Nation building is not popular. Discomfort with occupation is not limited to the isolationist crowd in America; it runs a lot deeper. Heck, discomfort with open-ended military commitments runs a lot deeper: even if Bush and Co. never learned the lessons of Vietnam, a lot of Americans did.

While I agree that this is a concern (especially if they are promoting anyone with a pulse) Tilghman does not provide a source for his numbers and they don’t agree with the Army’s numbers. And this: “people like Matt Kapinos—are leaving the Army at nearly their highest rates in decades” simply isn’t true, at least not based on the Army’s own numbers.

U.S. Army Officer Retention Fact Sheet as of May 25, 2007 (PDF)

4. Company Grade (2LT, 1LT, CPT) Loss Rates:
FY06 7.9%
FY05 8.5%
FY04 8.1%
FY03 5.7%
FY02 6.9%
FY01 9.1%
FY00 9.7%
FY99 9.7%

FY98 9.1%
FY97 6.5%

99 and 01 were the worst years in the last decade – prewar. And it’s not all about the war:

Under accessions in the mid-1990s is one reason we are short officers today.

Part of that great "peace dividend". We’re paying now for complacency in the 90’s.

I’m not disagreeing that this is a problem. But overstating it to use it as a political cudgel isn’t the solution (meaning Tilghman, not you hilzoy).

While I mean no slight to the officer corps, IMO NCO retention is a much more important issue. And there the Army has been over 100% of goal since 2000.

3. Historical Retention Data: (PDF)

Year Mission Actual %
FY06 64,200 67,307 104.8%
FY05 64,162 69,512 108.3%
FY04 56,100 60,010 107.0%
FY03 51,000 54,151 106.2%
FY02 56,800 58,237 102.5%
FY01 64,000 64,982 101.5%
FY00 68,000 71,318 104.9%

4. Retention rates of units supporting of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom continue to exceed 100%. During FY06, the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division achieved 124% and 132% of their retention missions while deployed. Currently, elements of the 1st Armored Division are deployed and have achieved 137% of their retention mission. Moreover, the Army has not seen a decline in retention rates from units that have deployed multiple times. For example, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed elements several times since 2001, and is currently at 162% of its retention mission.

Units that have been forward deployed, even multiple times are seeing the best NCO retention rates.

I agree that the Army is broken. Just not for these reasons.

We're sorry, your comment has not been published because TypePad's antispam filter has flagged it as potential comment spam. It has been held for review by the blog's author.

Little help? I don't want to post multiple times if someone is able to release the comment...

Ajay, while I found your argument on-the-surface appealling I agree with Turbulence, and would add that given the US army exists, it will do even more damage to civilian populations on which it is turned loose. Many Brits who had experience in Northern Ireland, who had to serve with US units in Iraq, commented on how badly trained and inexperienced US soldiers were, and how lethally they reacted (lethal to the civilian population, but sometimes to each other) as a result. Yes, as a pacifist I would rather the whole army was disbanded and went home. As a practical goal, though, I had rather the US had a better army (and a smaller one).

While I agree that this is a concern (especially if they are promoting anyone with a pulse) Tilghman does not provide a source for his numbers and they don’t agree with the Army’s numbers. And this: “people like Matt Kapinos—are leaving the Army at nearly their highest rates in decades” simply isn’t true, at least not based on the Army’s own numbers.

U.S. Army Officer Retention Fact Sheet as of May 25, 2007 (PDF)

4. Company Grade (2LT, 1LT, CPT) Loss Rates:
FY06 7.9%
FY05 8.5%
FY04 8.1%
FY03 5.7%
FY02 6.9%
FY01 9.1%
FY00 9.7%
FY99 9.7%

FY98 9.1%
FY97 6.5%

99 and 01 were the worst years in the last decade – prewar. And it’s not all about the war:

Under accessions in the mid-1990s is one reason we are short officers today.

Part of that great "peace dividend". We’re paying now for complacency in the 90’s.

I’m not disagreeing that this is a problem. But overstating it to use it as a political cudgel isn’t the solution (meaning Tilghman, not you hilzoy).

While I mean no slight to the officer corps, IMO NCO retention is a much more important issue. And there the Army has been over 100% of goal since 2000.

3. Historical Retention Data: (PDF)

Year Mission Actual %
FY06 64,200 67,307 104.8%
FY05 64,162 69,512 108.3%
FY04 56,100 60,010 107.0%
FY03 51,000 54,151 106.2%
FY02 56,800 58,237 102.5%
FY01 64,000 64,982 101.5%
FY00 68,000 71,318 104.9%

4. Retention rates of units supporting of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom continue to exceed 100%. During FY06, the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division achieved 124% and 132% of their retention missions while deployed. Currently, elements of the 1st Armored Division are deployed and have achieved 137% of their retention mission. Moreover, the Army has not seen a decline in retention rates from units that have deployed multiple times. For example, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed elements several times since 2001, and is currently at 162% of its retention mission.

Units that have been forward deployed, even multiple times are seeing the best NCO retention rates.

I agree that the Army is broken. Just not for these reasons.


We're sorry, your comment has not been published because TypePad's antispam filter has flagged it as potential comment spam. It has been held for review by the blog's author.

Little help? I don't want to post multiple times if someone is able to release the comment...

OCSteve, I think you want to post the same thing you did at TiO. My response is there.

While I agree that this is a concern (especially if they are promoting anyone with a pulse) Tilghman does not provide a source for his numbers and they don’t agree with the Army’s numbers. And this: “people like Matt Kapinos—are leaving the Army at nearly their highest rates in decades” simply isn’t true, at least not based on the Army’s own numbers.

U.S. Army Officer Retention Fact Sheet as of May 25, 2007 (PDF)

4. Company Grade (2LT, 1LT, CPT) Loss Rates:
FY06 7.9%
FY05 8.5%
FY04 8.1%
FY03 5.7%
FY02 6.9%
FY01 9.1%
FY00 9.7%
FY99 9.7%

FY98 9.1%
FY97 6.5%

99 and 01 were the worst years in the last decade – prewar. And it’s not all about the war:

Under accessions in the mid-1990s is one reason we are short officers today.

Part of that great "peace dividend". We’re paying now for complacency in the 90’s.

I’m not disagreeing that this is a problem. But overstating it to use it as a political cudgel isn’t the solution (meaning Tilghman, not you hilzoy).

While I mean no slight to the officer corps, IMO NCO retention is a much more important issue. And there the Army has been over 100% of goal since 2000.

3. Historical Retention Data: (PDF)

Year Mission Actual %
FY06 64,200 67,307 104.8%
FY05 64,162 69,512 108.3%
FY04 56,100 60,010 107.0%
FY03 51,000 54,151 106.2%
FY02 56,800 58,237 102.5%
FY01 64,000 64,982 101.5%
FY00 68,000 71,318 104.9%

4. Retention rates of units supporting of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom continue to exceed 100%. During FY06, the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division achieved 124% and 132% of their retention missions while deployed. Currently, elements of the 1st Armored Division are deployed and have achieved 137% of their retention mission. Moreover, the Army has not seen a decline in retention rates from units that have deployed multiple times. For example, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed elements several times since 2001, and is currently at 162% of its retention mission.

Units that have been forward deployed, even multiple times are seeing the best NCO retention rates.

I agree that the Army is broken. Just not for these reasons.

And I do think we should have expanded the forces at 9/11. I was writing that at the very beginning of this blog's existence.

You know, I wonder about this (and this is just prompted by your comment Sebastian, so this is not aimed at you).

Exactly who the fnck were we going to be fighting after 9/11 that we needed to expand armed forces that were, and are, several magnitudes more powerful than any other country's?

How many fncking aircraft carriers, nuclear powered submarines, stealth fighters/bombers, F-22s -18s -16s -15s -14s, M1A2 Abrams tanks, JDAMs, professionally trained heavily-armed night-goggle toting soldiers, and nuclear-tipped ballistic missles did al Qaeda have on 9/12? How many did the U.S. armed forces have? Explain to me why the fnck we suddenly needed more of any of those things after 9/11 to fight a bunch of people holed up in caves in Afghanistan?*

If you want to tell me that the Army and other forces needed to be re-focused or re-tooled after 9/11, fine, don't tell me they needed to be bigger or more powerful.

*And note to those bed wetting right wingers who think we're going to somehow lose the War on Terror™ if we follow the Geneva Conventions, or FISA, or respect civil liberties, you're a bunch of fncking morons.

Feh.

I think a substantive argument could have been made for expanding US special forces' numbers, post 9/11.

Tom S,

Would you be willing to make that argument? I believe special forces proved far less useful during the invasion of Iraq than in Afghanistan (see Cobra II for more details).

In any event, the pipeline on special forces production seems even longer than for more typical forces.

OCSteve: I tried helping you out with your comment, but Typepad "held" it from me, as well.

Maybe it's length issue: brief comments like this seem to go thru OK.

OCSteve, I forced your comment through and then used it as an example for Typepad about unacceptable screening. This spam filter is crazy. We've had 131 messages blocked in less than 2 days. When I looked, only one seemed to be spam. About as successful at hitting only spam as our torture policy is at hitting only members of Al Qaeda.

Would you be willing to make that argument? I believe special forces proved far less useful during the invasion of Iraq than in Afghanistan (see Cobra II for more details).

Hmph. EVERYTHING about Iraq was "far less useful" from the top on down.....

But I think a systematic increase of all forces would have been politically palatable in 2001 by an astute politician and leader. (this, of course, was not what we had....)

Ooops! the 10:49 comment IS OCSteve's not mine. Credit where credit is due....

Sorry, I forced the wrong comment. I forced the repost rather than the original.

Yup, this is why Bush should have authorized a bigger armed forces immediately after he decided to invade.

Yes, but he didn't, which is related to what hilzoy is saying here.

Rumsfeld had a point to make about the need for a smaller, more "agile" force.

So, you know, point made, just not the one he intended.

Thanks -

Thanks Sebastian.

Credit where credit is due....

More likely blame where blame is due! ;)

What the Washington Month article is really saying is that the military is not a place anymore for college education, upper middle class whites. Of course, those former LT's know better than to say that, so they blame leadership. However, they hint around about not liking Killeen or El Paso, Texas or Junction City, Kansas. They also make hints when talking about spouses and children.

Does anyone expect a West Point trained perform to want to spend years living in blue collar fly over American when they have NYC tastes? To live in America at an upper middle class level requires two incomes. A combat arms officer who is often deployed cannot have a career oriented spouse. That leaves the officer corps to officers from blue collar families who attended directional state universities.

Exactly who the fnck were we going to be fighting after 9/11 that we needed to expand armed forces that were, and are, several magnitudes more powerful than any other country's?

I agree. On 9/12/2001 we were spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined. Even excluding the wars we still spend near half a trillion a year. Perhaps some of that money could be put to better use than lining the pockets of the military industrial complex.

Fighting the last war...

We have plenty of carriers and fighter planes. We flat out need people so we can have sane rotations.

Seb,

Well, I think you're in good company since OCSteve seems to believe the same thing. Which happily allows me to duplicate my HOCB comment to here:


I'm still skeptical. I'm not sure you can spin up production of things as specialized as most military hardware in a "reasonable" amount of time, especially without ballooning the costs. Supply chains are complicated, workers are difficult to train, etc.

Moreover, all of those extra military people that you don't trim are a constituency that will lobby heavily for things, including things like more hardware. I'm not sure you could maintain readiness if the human to hardware ratio got too high: if your pilots only get one hour of flight time per month, are they really ready? For that matter, if your pilots can only get one hour of flight time a month, you're going to have to offer them a lot more in order to keep them in the job. Right? Maybe things would work differently in the infantry, but I thought the Army has been trying to shift focus onto armor and artillery.

The point I'm groping for is that I'm not sure the institutional factors at work would have allowed you to focus reductions on hardware instead of human capital.

Phil: Yeah, if only a fraction of the right-wing pundits, columnists, TV hosts and bloggers clamoring for war throughout the Middle East beginning on 9/12/2001 had joined the military, we probably wouldn't be in this mess now. But we all know how likely that is.

I'm not sure that crowd is the answer to the Army's shortage of highly competent junior officers.

To be very cynical, it might not have solved the problem of lacking competent officers but it would have been a very good chance to get rid of a lot of people that actually are a problem. Imagine all the rabid warmongers removed from the public and the gene pool (a lot of them likely in "friendly fire" "accidents") and what effect that could have had on world and internal US peace ;-)
Some people might even have joined the armed forces because the fear of being abused for wars of aggression would have been less justified.

Q: is this really a bad thing?

I would say yes.

Broken armies don't prevent bad policies. The bad policies just get carried very poorly, either by the broken army or by a proxy. A bad policy poorly executed does not, through some kind of politico-military algebra, translate into a net positive. It just compounds the error.

We have a very, very good army. As a result, bad policies generally meet at least a token level of resistance before they can be put into place. If they are put into place, they are at least executed professionally, and with a regard for minimizing the harm done.

That's actually very valuable, and worth protecting.

Thanks -

We have a very, very good army.

Are you really certain of that? We seem to have an army that has many amazing people for which I'm very grateful, but that doesn't automatically translate into "a very very very good army". The more I read comments like John Miller's about how much trouble older mid-level officers have had adjusting to the very idea of counterinsurgency, the more concerned I grow.

I mean, if 5 years into the war, we still have these problems, I'm not sure that means we have a good army. Brave dedicated people at the bottom can only do so much to counteract bad direction from the top.

When it comes to healthcare systems, we have a pretty good basis for comparing how good our system is versus the UK's NHS or the French system or many others. It seems that we have much much less information available to make similar comparisons regarding military performance, so I'm not sure what basis one might have for talking about how "good" our army is.

Of course, I'm very grateful for the service that our soldiers have rendered and regardless of any comparisons, we haven't done right by them.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


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