Friday, November 2, 2012

Pondering the Un-Read VII: Ricks and Generals

Tom Ricks seems to drive some of my twitter friends a bit crazy.  Still, I am curious about what people think about Ricks's argument in his new book, which I have not yet read.  I have read an excerpt and I have seen enough of Ricks's posts to get the gist:
American generals have been under-performing for decades as they might be good at tactical (and perhaps even operational) thinking but are lousy at creative, strategic thinking.  Ricks blames a change in the culture of the US Army, as generals now have incentives to be mediocre.  There is no punishment for strategic failure--with some folks who fail getting promoted, such as my former boss at J-5, George Casey, who did not do great in Iraq but moved onto the Army's highest post--Chief of Staff.

Having not read the book and not being an expert on the generals of today (but having a heap of contempt for Tommy Franks), I open the question to y'all: do we coddle the generals of today, can we remove them and then re-use them, would it make a difference?

1 comment:

J.Collins said...

I am not so sure if its purely the fault of the generals for being so operationally/tactically focused (again, like you, I would have to read this book to get a firmer grasp on the last 3-4 decades of US CMR). The political leaders also deserve their share of the blame for lacking in strategic knowledge, or at the least, having people around them that can provide such information.

The Franks case represents a fine example of an operationally focused DefSec delegating and relying on a general who either shared the same view and/or did not bother countering the opinions of Rumsfeld. The first Gulf War, on the other hand, points to an organizational cultural view whereby the senior ranks of the armed forces, so scarred by Vietnam, had viewed their high-tech operationally driven AirLand Battle Doctrine into a strategy.