SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE ON ” THE GENERALS”
When I was in my twenties, I studied a fair amount of economics and economic history. One concept that stuck with me was that of “Countervailing Power” which came from the book American Capitalism, by the famous liberal Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. While Galbraith was interested in how bargaining could be leveraged by non-economic factors, “countervailing power” has great utility as a concept in terms of disciplining the mind to explore contraindicative examples. This is one reason I tend to feature a range of views here that I sometimes agree with only in part, just a little bit or even not at all. Arguments are improved only by competition and criticism, not from being sheltered from them.
In that spirit, Shane Deichman of IATGR offered a robust critique of the article by LTC Paul Yingling and my question regarding military reform in my comment section; it was too good to leave there. Deichman himself has considerable military experience with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Joint Forces Command and I reproduce his insightful remarks below:
“Before we consider “reforming” the system, I think it is useful to first note some facts about our system. For more than 30 years (nearly an entire career for some), we’ve had an all-volunteer military with high standards for admission. America has probably invested more proportionally in its military (Leviathan) than any other all-volunteer military force in history (this is conjecture on my part, based on what Tom Barnett’s mentor Art Cebrowski would call “Data Free Analysis” :-).
So, with an all-volunteer force in a $10T+/yr GDP nation with a low (<5%) unemployment rate, you get some interesting dynamics. "Careerism" is one of them.
I am not a Personnelist, but I know of many who have written extensively on the concept (most notably my good friend Don Vandergriff, a fine Tanker who was outspoken and revered by his troops but whose career was deep-sixed by a vindictive CO). Don has written much on personnel reform, training and the “culture wars” in the DoD; a link to one of his monographs on D-N-I is here:
Without getting too long-winded, I believe that there is a fundamental lack of accountability within the Pentagon. Not only in budgets (ask anyone in OSD if they REALLY know where all the money goes; they don’t), but also in performance.
Paul’s idea of implementing 360-degree profiles merits consideration (I did a couple myself as a middle manager at U.S. Joint Forces Command, and commented on several others). That might be a good place to start enhancing a culture of accountability within all ranks.
But there is no “silver bullet”, especially in a system as complex as the U.S. military. I think Paul would have been more effective had he focused on the civilian leaders’ roles in the “failures” he cites.
Fundamentally, I believe the system is sound. Every soldier/sailor/airman/Marine and guardsman — enlisted, NCO, and officer alike — as well as every civilian employee of the U.S. Government swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we all took that oath freely, without any mental reservation nor purpose of evasion.
Accountability begins inside. And sometimes we all need to be reminded of our promises.
It’s a good thing that we have an all-volunteer military. And it’s a good thing that we have civilian oversight of the warmaking capacity of our nation. And it’s a good thing that we have a Legislative Branch that holds the purse strings. Separation of powers works.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution deliberately split the powers across the branches of the government to protect our individual freedoms. We wanted weak government in the early days of the Republic, and I submit that we still want it today.
As a final bit of “Data Free Analysis”, consider the fate that befell the Roman empire after the creation of the Praetorian Guard. The “new elite” lost touch with their roots, with their sense of personal integrity and service to the republic. And that may be the direction that our own Republic goes if we continue to indulge a paucity of personal accountability within ALL ranks of leadership. “
Well said. I still believe Yingling has put his finger on a systemic problem but Shane’s caveats are the proper kind of countervailing considerations in seeking a solution.
Shane’s fellow director at Enterra, Tom Barnett, also posted on Col. Yingling and the Generals