Thursday, June 24, 2010

Firing officers who deserve it (or: I agree with Tom Ricks!!)

While reading it certainly violated my New Year's resolution, I thought Tom Ricks' op-ed in the Times was actually pretty good. After some cogent analysis on the events of the past day, he talks about an important issue: the Army doesn't fire enough people and really should do so more often. I imagine the Army's reluctance to do so stems from the old "zero defect" Army and how it destroyed morale up through the mid-1990s. And like most large institutions, their reaction to changing that culture was an over reaction. But the fact remains that bad officers (or officers promoted beyond their capabilities) don't get fired.

The other side of Ricks' argument, how failure to remove ineffective senior officers prevents talented junior officers from progressing, will become more of an issue as general officer careers are extended to 40 years. There are, after all, so many GO positions in the Army. If Iraq and Afghanistan are any indicators, too many senior officers are being kept on beyond their capabilities while extremely competent subordinates could easily replace them. This, too, will (and in some cases already has) caused morale problems in the middle ranks of the officer corps.

I would, however, be wary of anything like the anecdote that Ricks mentions about GEN Marshall promoting a major because he was doing a general's job. While there should probably be changes to the promotion system to streamline the advancement of our best officers, a system should still be used. Otherwise, there would be greater opportunity for abuses of patronage.

All in all, good work Tom.

7 comments:

  1. Ricks was against the firing of McChrystal before he was for it...

    How Kerry-esque.

    SNLII

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  2. Gunslinger--do you agree with this too? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/24/AR2010062402982.html?hpid=topnews

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  3. Lil, I can't imagine a more self-serving (for Ricks) and erroneous history of the so-called "Surge" imaginable.

    Moreover, Petraeus did NOT control the political decision in OIF to "get out." He was sent to execute the decision to stay, and on terms that would maximize the use of force (assisted by the Anbar "Awakening," which began before he arrived, and the widespread ethnic cleansing, which also transpired before he arrived, and the growth of the ISF, which happened often in spite of Petraeus' stewardship of the program).

    To credit Petraeus with the civilian leadership's political decision is just silly. I'm not sure Ricks understands the distinction.

    And can we get over the simplistically stupid notion that the US military clearing the Belts, blasting to dots civilians along the way, was "protecting the population?" The numbers of casualties and their trendlines from 2006 - 2009 don't withstand the narrative's lies.

    Make it stop.

    SNLII

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  4. Lil - I think he's right about the bit that Petraeus provided the leadership to get the military on the same page. Spot on there. The rest is open to argument in my opinion.

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  5. I'll take your word for it. I refuse to kill anymore of my precious few remaining brain cells by reading Tom Ricks.

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  6. Pershing's career progression. (Apparently not damaged by his command of the punitive expedition.)

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  7. I was not 'against the firing of McChrystal before I was for it.' Dunno where you got that.

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