Friday, April 27, 2007

Something Iraq and Vietnam have in common

I was wondering if the war in Iraq was going to produce a book similar to H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty. In that excellent volume, McMaster argues that the military failed to do its duty and to stand up to the smart but quite wrong civilian leadership. Well it appears that Lt. Col. Paul Yingling is the first to take a shot. In this Armed Forces Journal article, he rips the general officer corps a new one. Tom Ricks has a summary in the Post.

As much as one would like to pin the war on Rumsfeld (or McNamara in the past), the problem is systemic:

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.

Of course McMaster himself could be the Iraq McMaster, because he is also Col. McMaster and has served in Iraq as well, and is now advising Gen. Petraeus. Although I am unsure, I think Yingling served as McMaster's deputy in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005.


Brack said...

I think Walter Goerlitz similarly criticized the failure of the German General Staff to stand up to Hitler in WWII. As I recall, he laid this at the feet of the Prussian notions of duty and unquestioning obedience to authority that had been drilled into the organization from its inception.

Tripp said...

I think Ernest May in Strange Victory argued a similar point saying that the Wehrmacht had a few strategic cultures in conflict, one which stressed duty and one that stressed independent thought. May argued that the latter half were all fired.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling chummed.

- nic