A Lt. Colonel Speaks Out

    “For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq’s grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war. These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps. America’s generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America’s generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.” (read more here)

This thoughtful essay by Army Lt. Col. Paul Yingling appears in the Armed Forces Journal. Lt. Colonel Yingling is not some sort of armchair warrior, he is deputy commander, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm. He holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago.

We can only hope that more reality based military officers will speak out about this complete failure. Those who have spoken out so far, seem to have done so primarily out of concern for what is happening to the U.S. Army as an institution. They seem to be less concerned about the issue of the civilian leadership ordering them into combat under false pretenses.

It’s ironic that historically, we have been fearful of a large standing army that could threaten our democratic system, but we never seemed to have thought about how our democratic system could be threatened by a civilian coup essentially taking over our military establishment with compliant, bureaucratic general officers going along to get along.

Unfortunately, in any society at any time, there are always enough people around to do any dirty work that needs to be done.

All other arguments – the comparisons to Vietnam, and other military adventures in the region, the criticisms of the “management,”, planning, rebuilding, training, and all the rest are really not important. The primary issue is that we never should have started down this road in the first place.

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