Friday, June 29, 2007

Colonel Yingling frags the Pentagon

Colonel Paul Yingling has fragged the Pentagon in a widely-distributed essay in Armed Forces Journal:

'First', he says, '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.'

An army, Yingling argues, can't fight a war--only the people can. 'The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict'. Beyond that, 'generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities'. That requires the generals to master two tasks: first, to prepare for the war that will be fought; second, to fight it. He quotes 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."'

The U.S. military failed in this duty in Vietnam, and it failed again 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'.

The problem is systemic: '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'.

What's needed, he says, is a general officer corps that's highly educated (only 25 percent of senior American generals generals hold advanced degrees in the social sciences or humanities), multilingual (only 25 percent speak another language), and imbued with moral courage.

Colonel Yingling himself holds a master's degree in political science, and he clearly possesses moral courage. What do you think are the odds he'll ever wear a star?


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