A quote from an earlier interview with the author of the article at the center of the storm, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling:
if I had to condense [my advice] into a pithy little bullet it would be: don’t train on finding the enemy; train on finding your friends and they will help you find your enemy
No time to write on this, but here are some important links on the story:
- Armed Forces Journal article A Failure in Generalship by LTC Paul Yingling
- Army Officer Accuses Generals of ‘Intellectual and Moral Failures’ by Tom Ricks
- Small Wars Council discussion of Yingling’s article
- Combat Studies Institute interview of LTC Yingling (Sept 2006)
An observation from the SWC discussion notes LTC Yingling speaks from inside knowledge:
you have an officer that has been deemed worthy by the very system that he is criticizing (…LTC Yingling does have a masters degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago, so he isn’t the standard mold rewarded by the system).
he’s already served on three operational deployments, with his last one being a major cog in the wheel of the most successful brigade to have conducted counterinsurgency operations in Iraq as deemed by the Army itself.
4 thoughts on “A Failure in Generalship”
The criticism of getting Congress involved falls far short of the mark, for too long in the post-Vietnam era accountability has been missing at the top of the US military when it comes to actual tactics, strategy and execution. Failures to follow the PC script should not count as “accountability”.
I think the Paul Yingling is dead on. But what makes his article so interesting is not necessarily its content–though insightful and accurate, the criticism is not new. Many others have written similar accounts in newspaper articles or books such as “Fiasco” and “Cobra II.” What is so striking about the article is that it was written by a successful active duty officer and then published in a military journal. If Yingling isn’t immediately fired or blacklisted, this will mark a clear change in the military’s internal climate. Public sentiment may be so negative over Iraq that military officers can dare to say “the emperor has no clothes” and still keep their jobs. If this is the case, expect the floodgates to open soon–dozens of similar articles by military officers will follow. The change will be both postive and negative: Positive because the American public will have greater insight into the real dynamics of the war as seen by those fighting it. Negative because the insight will be bleak and feed the frenzied call for immediate withdrawal.Regardless of the potential outcomes, we should all be watching the career of Paul Yingling very closely. The stakes are much higher than we can imagine.
For more, check out:
Eddie and Fernando, good points both. LTC Yingling just had a good post at SWJ as a follow up.
After reading “A Failure in Generalship” and “Challenging the Generals,” I do not agree with LTC Yingling’s assessment of the US Military’s General Officer Corp. It is difficult to comment on whether or not our Generals properly advised civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. However I do believe that our senior leadership has properly prepared the US Army for current Overseas Contingency Operations.I have personally only served 11 years in the Army as an Active Duty Infantry Officer, though during this time I have seen significant changes in the Army, constant improvements to prepare the Army for future conflicts and the war that we are currently in. I served in Kosovo during Operation Joint Guardian during 2001 & felt that the 82nd Airborne Division had implemented a quality training program to prepare our Battalion for the Peace Keeping / Counter Insurgency fight throughout the Balkans. Our training to include our Mission Rehearsal Exercise, structured by Observer Controllers from the Joint Readiness Training Center did not focus on conventional warfare; it focused specifically on the counter insurgency fight. As the numerous US Army Battalions rotated through deployments to Kosovo, Bosnia & Macedonia, I can only assume that units received similar training allowing them to successfully accomplish their mission. In my mind this demonstrates that the US Army had adapted its training to the future fight starting in the mid to late 1990’s. Our Battalion’s rotations to the National Training Center also demonstrated the Army’s changes in 2002. Our first Rotation early in the year was focused on conventional warfare however our rotation in July of 2002 was focused purely on counter insurgency, replicating the current fight in Afghanistan. Overall through out my experience in the Army, I feel that the Army has continued to change, adapt and train for the next fight, properly preparing our forces for Overseas Contingency Operations.
I also believe that the Army’s continued training on conventional doctrine has been paramount to the Army’s success in OIF I and the continued fight through OIF VII. Throughout OIF I & V, I was involved in numerous force on force engagements and I believe that my education in conventional doctrine in IOBC and ICCC allowed me to successfully fight the enemy bringing all of the available US combat power to bear on the enemy in order to destroy his forces while preserving the lives of my Infantry Soldiers. I do not believe that there is a magical new concept that will change the way the Infantry fights wars, only a gradual change in doctrine to adapt to new equipment and the way the enemy fights.
These comments are from a former Rifle Company Commander and current Command and General Staff College Student. I do not believe I have the experience to judge the decisions made by the Army’s senior leadership. Though I am confident that I had open communication with my entire chain of command during OIF V and furthermore that they respected and valued my perspective on the fight. This was proven through daily conversations with my Battalion Commander, weekly discussions with my Brigade Commander & occasional briefings to our Division’s General Officers. As long as there is open, honest communication between an entire chain of command, I can not believe that our senior leadership will guide us in the wrong direction.
“The views expressed in this Blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.”
Major William Clark
Student, Command and
General Staff College
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