Trump chooses another general best suited to lose wars

Summary: For four decades William Lind and others have published incisive critiques of the US military, explaining why the most expensive military ever cannot win modern wars. With little or no effect. Perhaps ridicule will work. Here is well-deserved volley, funny but true.

“Note that the current military, an advanced version of the WWII force, is ready should the Imperial Japanese Navy return. It also has phenomenally advanced weaponry in the pipeline to take on a space-age enemy, perhaps from Mars, should one appear. It is only the present for which the US is not prepared.”
— From one of Fred Reed’s greatest works, one of the 11 reasons why our military loses.

General's hat

 

Another Personnel Blunder

By William S. Lind at Traditional Right, 7 January 2019.
Posted with his generous permission.

On policy matters, President Trump usually does well when he follows his instincts. But that does not appear to be the case on personnel decisions. His worst, to date, was choosing John Bolton as his National Security Advisor. We are already paying for that decision in worsening relations with a number of other countries.

If, on the one hand, you are going to raise the risk of hostilities, on the other hand you should be improving the quality of your military leaders. But in another poor personnel decision, President Trump has chosen Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The combination of Bolton and Milley would be like choosing Ribbentrop to run your foreign policy and Graziani to command your army in the resulting wars.

By the low standards we set for our senior military leaders, Milley is not especially awful. His main sin, which he shares with his colleagues atop the other services, is doing nothing about the fact that the Army is a Second Generation military in a Fourth Generation war.

Actually, in a way, General Milley did do something about that: he made it official. Not long ago, he ordered the U.S. Army to return to its World War II-era uniforms, the so-called “pinks and greens”. As costumes, the old/new uniforms will be a great improvement. The fact that they are costumes recognizes the reality that a Second Generation army is useless for a real war and exists only to stage public entertainments. All our Second Generation services are like armored knights on horseback in the 16th century. Their heavy plate armor has reached its highest stage of perfection, but real battlefields are filling up with low-born musketeers and the knights “fight” only in tournaments, where damsels swoon, someone is occasionally unhorsed and nothing is decided.

Halberstadt CL II

I am hopeful that General Milley will do as Chairman of the JCS what he has done as Army Chief of Staff and make the theatrical nature of the other services official too. The Air Force will go back to biplanes that stage dogfights over NFL football games. Ironically, that might also make it more combat effective in the air, at least in what really counts, supporting the man on the ground. World War I ground-support aircraft such as the Halberstadt and Hannoveraner CL IIs are better suited by far to the close air support mission than are F-35s. And Fokker D VIIs are usually ready to fly and fight, which means they can easily defeat F-22s stuck in their hangers by their enormous maintenance requirements.

USS Akron - ZRS-4 - landing

The Navy tried to make its irrelevance official in the 1980s by bringing back the battleships, which look very impressive. That effort, however, failed, because it did not go back far enough. Chairman Milley, I hope, will direct the Navy to start building some new Constitution-class frigates, which will not only put on splendid shows on Navy Day but will require real sailors to man them, which might in turn compel the Navy to find some. The new Zumwalt-class destroyers already look like zombie versions of C.S.S. Virginia; why not build some real Monitors and Confederate ironclads and stage naval battles in the Reflecting Pool, as the Romans used to do in the Coliseum (which could be flooded)? And bringing back airships like Akron and Macon will wow the public while doing what the Ford-class carriers cannot, namely launch and recover airplanes (both of those airships carried Sparrowhawk scout aircraft).

The Marine Corps should not be touched. Its continued focus on making amphibious landings on heavily defended beaches had already rendered it son et lumière {a sound and light show at a historic site}.

Regrettably, these wonderful follow-ons to the pinks and greens require vision, and general Milley has none. We can, however, probably count on him to try to push the new Physical Fitness Test he decreed for the Army down the other services’ throats, so they too can witness a mass exodus of their staff NCOs. Staff NCOs are the backbone of any military in combat, but what does combat have to do with “armed services” full of women? Our military theater has reversed the roles in kabuki: it has women playing men.

There is an old saying on Capitol Hill that the Air Force is deceptive, the Navy is dishonest, and the Army is dumb. As Burke noted, stereotypes arise from observation.

————————————-

Our senior generals at work, planning to lose more wars.

War Room in Dr. Strangelove

About the author

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.

William Lind

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987).

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about military strategy in theory & practice, about our generals, about our military, and especially these…

  1. The Core Competence of America’s Military Leaders.
  2. Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military leadership — by GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired).
  3. Do we need so many and such well-paid generals and admirals? — by Richard A Pawloski (Captain, USMC, retired).
  4. Why the Pentagon would rather hire a jihadist like bin Laden than reformer Donald Vandergriff.
  5. How officers adapt to life in the Pentagon: they choose the blue pill.
  6. Why does the military continue to grow? Because the tail wags the dog. — by Danny Hundley (Colonel, USMC, retired).
  7. Overhauling The Officer Corps. — by David Evans (Lt. Colonel, USMC, retired).
  8. William Lind looks at our generals, sees “rank incompetence”.
  9. How did the US Army’s leadership problem grow so bad? — by Don Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired).
  10. Reforming the US Army: can be done, must be done.
  11. Officers can reform our military and make America stronger! – Only the will to do so is lacking.
  12. Admiral Rickover’s gift to us: showing that we can reform America’s military.
  13. A Captain describes our broken military & how to fix it.

We can reform the US military

Two books by Donald Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired) explain how.

The Path to Victory.

Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War.

The Path To Victory
Available at Amazon.
Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War
Available at Amazon.

23 thoughts on “Trump chooses another general best suited to lose wars”

  1. Larry Kummer, Editor

    Another perspective about modern major generals

    I recommend turning on the subtitles.

     

  2. [General Milley’s] main sin, which he shares with his colleagues atop the other services, is doing nothing about the fact that the Army is a Second Generation military in a Fourth Generation war.

    Anyone who has spent any time at all on active duty in any of the U.S. armed forces will tell you that they are culturally, doctrinally, and structurally incapable of ever fighting 4GW. The very nature of such warfare calls for almost complete decentralization of authority, something that is anathema to the U.S. military’s very foundation.

    Even if the real point of their existence today was to fight and win wars against a hostile foreign enemy (something that only a naive fool could seriously claim to believe today), the powers that be would sooner risk military defeat and having to accommodate the victors in some way beneficial to their own class than to cede any of their own power. As their real enemy is the American people, the decentralization of authority would mean putting power into the hands of the enemy, which is obviously a non-starter.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      feeriker,

      “The very nature of such warfare calls for almost complete decentralization of authority,”

      That certainly nails it. For more about this, see The Attritionist Letters – written by junior USMC officers, published in the Marine Corps Gazette.

      “As their real enemy is the American people”

      What is your basis for saying that?

      1. “As their real enemy is the American people”
        It’s a bit of a stretch, but since the American people pay the taxes that fund the military, the American people are its true source of power, and therefore the one entity most capable of destroying it – by cutting off the funding. This isn’t a very adversarial relationship, of course, so “enemy” might be far too strong a term. But it’s worth noting that our modern military is mainly in the business of fighting for more money, rather than fighting to get results with that money.

    2. With respect to submarine warfare, I have to disagree that the Navy can’t decentralize. The captain of the fast attack sub I served on had broad discretion on how to complete our missions, and we operated for months at a time with limited communication. There are other examples where the Navy at least is pretty good at independent action in support of broader missions. I would argue that civilians are (intentionally) quite uninformed as to how the military, at least below the Joint Chefs level, command and control functions now days. You don’t know what you don’t know, by design.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor

        James,

        That’s a powerful example. But there is overwhelming evidence it is not representative, and that Lind is correct about the US military’s love of central control.

        For one well-known perspective, see the Attritionist Letters – written by USMC officers, published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The response showed that many in the Army have similar experiences. Here is An introduction to the Letters. Here are the Letters.

        1. Attritionist Letter #1 – The US Marines turn away from the future.
        2. Attritionist Letter #2: the Marines shackling their field-grade officers, & losing wars.
        3. Attritionist Letter #3: Teaching Marine junior officers to obey, not think.
        4. Attritionist Letter #4: Require Marine officers to do as they’re told so – we can continue losing the WOT!
        5. Attritionist Letter #5: we prize simple concepts (even if they haven’t work since WWII).
        6. Attritionist Letter #6:  train our Marines like robots, to better fight our adaptive & decentralized foes.
        7. Attritionist Letter #7 — “Trust one another”.
        8. Attritionist Letter #8 – Resist the temptation to make every soldier a knower and decider.  Cherish the hierarchy!
        9. Attritionist Letter #9:  the hidden reason behind DoD’s organization (it makes sense once you understand).
        10. Attritionist Letter #10 – Commanders today are too busy to develop subordinates!.
        11. Attritionist Letter #11:  Artillery leads the way – to the past!.
        12. Attritionist Letter #12:  Succumbing to enticements (career advice for the successful).
        13. Attritionist Letter #13: Thinkers need not apply.
  3. Larry,

    “I am hopeful that General Milley will do as Chairman of the JCS what he has done as Army Chief of Staff and make the theatrical nature of the other services official too. The Air Force will go back to biplanes that stage dogfights over NFL football games. Ironically, that might also make it more combat effective in the air, at least in what really counts, supporting the man on the ground. World War I ground-support aircraft such as the Halberstadt and Hannoveraner CL IIs are better suited by far to the close air support mission than are F-35s. And Fokker D VIIs are usually ready to fly and fight, which means they can easily defeat F-22s stuck in their hangers by their enormous maintenance requirements.”

    Alright, this is funny and true!

    1. All that gear sounds far too German. Perhaps we can buy some WW2-surplus materials from Russia? (Of course, we would appropriate additional new money for this. We can’t go short-selling our defense industry.)

  4. The new physical fitness test is not all that difficult, as even women would be able to pass it. I would say the test would be more relevant to combat conditions if the participants walked hill and dale all day packing a ruck sack, weapon(s), ammunition, helmet, rations, water, maybe even a radio set and then took the test (while wearing aforementioned gear); however, the importance of the test for ALL Army personnel eludes me.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Chad,

      “The new physical fitness test is not all that difficult, ”

      What’s your basis for saying that? The (few) articles I’ve read in the Army Times – such as the one cited in this post – suggest otherwise.

      1. A while ago after learning of the new standards, I thought I’d try them myself, just for the fun of it. The results were eventually forwarded to my girlfriend’s cousin’s nephew’s Army son (something like that), and he reported that I passed. I was born in the ’40’s and am in excellent condition for my age. These new standards are much better and tougher than the previous ones and a step in the proverbial right direction.

  5. I wonder whether dear William has ever considered that the object is not to win?
    I think of the military as more of a social work program. In my mind it is like a boy scouts for grown men. The wars they fight are extended Jamborees designed to train young men in various skill while keeping them off the streets.
    The fact that the big dudes get to play with expensive toys and blow things up is an added bonus.
    My contention is that there is no incentive to win so they don’t.
    There is no vicious desperation to win that was found in WW2. (make girl guides scouts if you like as long as we keep the numbers up and the funds rolling)
    If they won they would have to be in boring Fort Back of Beyond. Where is the fun in that? How do you appropriate more money if there is no active conflict?

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      7Zander,

      “I wonder whether dear William has ever considered that the object is not to win?”

      Whose objective? The enlisted troops, who do most of the dying? The junior officers, who do most of leading in the field? The Field Grade officers, who run the ground-level war? The generals, who direct the war? Congress and the senior executive branch leaders? The American public?

      You appear to be assuming some kind of secret conspiracy. One that knowledgeable people could not see, even in the second decade of war. If it got out, the consequences would be …large. Many in all of these groups are unhappy about the wounded, crippled, and dead troops. I’ll bet that their lives were deliberated wasted would produce consequences.

      “If they won they would have to be in boring Fort Back of Beyond.”

      I suggest you buy some drinks for some of these officers – whom you obviously deeply despise. Look them in the eye and tell them your theory. Report back to us about their reply.

    2. Larry Kummer, Editor

      Followup to 7zander,

      “I wonder whether dear William has ever considered that the object is not to win?”

      While I’m sure that you know how to win our wars, please note that since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII – everyone else (not being you) has lost. That is, foreign armies have been consistently defeated by local insurgents. Scores of wars, fought by many kinds of nations with all levels of intensity (up to genocide, not including WMDs), similar outcomes.

      Write up your Simple Steps To Victory. Become famous!

      1. Tamil Tigers defeat in Sri Lanka? I am not trying to be a provocateur, just saying that it depends on what lengths the military are prepared to go to in order to win. 4G war was not invented by Mao… Read a little book by Denyz Reids: Commando. I find that any questioning of the motives behind the military is immediately met with a storm of ‘How dare you?’ The field grade officers probably have the highest motives in going to war and God forbid that anybody should question politicians integrity or motives. Bush was right… Nixon was right…
        What I do say is there is no ‘We have to win or this at any cost the Nazis are coming… the end of our way of life’ or ‘our women and children are going to be raped and beaten to death’. It is more of ‘there is another war that somebody started so get on with it’.
        There is a tepid, luke warmness that persists… what are we doing in Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, Somalia… I don’t know… why are we there? There are not enough dead wounded or maimed to prompt anything close to real outrage… we invent enemies. Al Quada morphs into ISIS and to tell the truth any of the armies roaming the world in the troubled lands could be the next Satan. The enemy is the same, just the name changes… War on drugs, send in the troops and what happens? War on terror and what happens? War on WMD in Iraq and what happens. War on Al Quida in Afghanistan to get some bearded monster and what happens?

      2. Larry Kummer, Editor

        7zander,

        I’ve been having this exact conversation for 16 years. Our inability to learn about the wars we’re fighting is not just ignorance. I suspect is it pathological. You raise points raised in hundreds of posts here, and zillions elsewhere. I could refer you to them, but why bother?

        “Tamil Tigers defeat in Sri Lanka?”

        Like the English in Ireland, these are not “foreign” in a meaningful sense. They know the languages and culture.

        “just saying that it depends on what lengths the military are prepared to go to in order to win”

        Too false to bother with. It’s delusional to think that all those foreign armies fought by Marquess of Queensbury rules. As I said in my comment, they have used methods up to genocide (but not WMDs). And failed.

        “4G war was not invented by Mao… Read a little book…”

        Try reading what I said: “brought to maturity by Mao.” Other than nukes, there is probably nothing new in war.

        “I find that any questioning of the motives behind the military is immediately met with a storm of ‘How dare you?’”

        Try getting outside your bubble.

        The rest of your comment is too delusional to bother with. You’re making stuff up and giving replies to it.

      3. Larry Kummer, Editor

        7zander,

        The results of our post-9/11 wars were in effect predicted by cutting-edge military analysts in the 1990s. Martin van Creveld’s Transformation of War (1991) reads like a history of the past decade’s American wars. But the best summary I’ve seen is in Chapter 6.2 of The Changing Face of War (2006). Although obvious – it’s still unknown to most Americans, and to many in our military. We just don’t want to know.

        “What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure …{W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

        “Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.”

  6. Perhaps, the answer is to not focus on the military. The armed forces provide expeditionary capabilities, which have not been properly trained or resourced to keep the foreign peace. In fact, they appear to be successful at sowing chaos through a strategy of dividing and putting others off balance. Keep adversaries or competitors focused on their own close threats.

    There should be saying “never get into a land war in North America.” Local citizen units should prepare and train for a range of contingencies for civil and military defense. Infrastructure and human capital investments should support this mission. We have mountain ranges, deserts, and all kinds of natural assets where we could have local advantages and interior lines. Fitness and health should be part of that policy.

    This would require the US system to transition away from that of exploitation to that of self-sufficiency, survival and prosperity.

  7. This may not pertain to this post that well; however, my original assertion that the withdrawal from Syria may mean an engagement elsewhere was very flawed: I took the premise as a fact — never again will I elaborate on a tweet or other expression (e.g. eye wink) from the Confuser in Chief. I apologize for my incompetence. Assuming that the “Permanent State”, or whatever they call themselves, will override any attempt of humility/pragmatism expressed by anybody, here we go — until the last city of the world is standing, I apologize…

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