The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, by Thomas E. Ricks
news.usni.org . . . Fiasco [an earlier book by Thomas Ricks] contributed to a reassessment of military strategy in Iraq and focused attention on the failures of American military leadership in that war. One of the most pointed indictments came from inside the Army when my friend Lt. Col. Paul Yingling published an essay entitled “A Failure of Generalship.” Yingling noted the Army’s failures to prepare for the Iraq war and to adapt to its requirements during the course of the conflict; his most damning line noted that, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
In response to Yingling’s j’accuse and similar indictments, Tom Ricks has written a must-read book that explains why America’s generals now lose wars with impunity. In The Generals, he argues that the decline in the performance of the Army — from the triumph of World War II to stalemate in Korea through defeat in Vietnam to the fiasco of the early years of the Iraq war — can be attributed to failures in how the Army manages its senior officers. Gen. George C. Marshall, the architect of victory in America’s greatest war, relieved subordinates regularly and with gusto. Since that war, Ricks argues, the Army has abdicated its responsibility to police its own ranks, failing to hold senior officers accountable for their actions. Instead, it has fallen to presidents to relieve generals, as Harry Truman did to Douglas MacArthur for rank insubordination during the Korean War or Barack Obama did to Stanley McChrystal for indiscrete political comments.
In a cascading litany of failures, this book presents more villains than heroes. Other than Marshall, generals who receive high praise include Matthew Ridgway, who turned around a losing war in Korea, and David Petraeus, who performed a similar task in Iraq. Marine Maj. Gen. General O. P. Smith earns praise for his exceptional performance at the 1950 Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, where his inspired generalship saved a Marine division from a Chinese onslaught. Smith’s success is contrasted with US Army generals who left their units exposed and subject to devastating defeats.
Others are not so fortunate. Generals Maxwell Taylor and William Westmoreland earn scathing criticism for their performance in Vietnam. Gen. Tommy Franks is faulted for his leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan and for his post-Army conduct, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is described as “in over his head” for his leadership during the first, horrible year of the Iraq fiasco.
There is much truth in Ricks’s description of flawed Army generalship. Since Vietnam, the Pentagon and civilian administrations have too often failed to hold general officers accountable for their actions in war. The admiration that the American public rightly proclaims for the soldiers of today’s conflicts should not automatically extend to their superiors, despite the hard tasks they recently have been given. America’s major wars of the past four decades (other than the brief and almost completely conventional Operation Desert Storm) have been the sort of protracted counterinsurgency campaigns that have tested generals since the Roman Empire. While Rome’s legions could simply lay waste to rebellious provinces, modern morality has rendered that technique untenable.
Instead, success in modern counterinsurgency campaigns demands a precise calibration of military force along with an integrated campaign to improve governance, spur economic development, and create effective local security forces—formidable tasks for which military service is seldom good preparation. Only a few generals have shown the ability to successfully integrate these tasks; Creighton Abrams in Vietnam and David Petraeus are the best examples, although their talents were applied to the conflicts they led late in the day — after many damning mistakes had been made by their predecessors. Ultimately, the failures of American generalship in Iraq, as in Vietnam, resulted from failures of imagination and the ability to adapt to changed conditions in the Army over several generations.
Ricks notes that, “Of all the nation’s armed forces, the Army arguably is the dominant service, the one around which the national defense still is constructed.” This has been true for the past decade, which saw more soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan than Marines, sailors, and airmen put together. However, there is no guarantee that this state of affairs will continue, and it is therefore essential that this book be widely read outside the Army. The Navy and Marines have much to gain from a careful consideration of the lessons with which Ricks concludes the book. The rise of China and U.S. pivot to Asia, along with an American population weary of protracted ground wars in Asia, likely signal an increase in the prominence of the sea services during the next few decades—and it is worth noting that both the current and incoming commanders of the Afghan effort are Marines rather than Army generals. One hopes that the naval tradition of relief for ship captains who run aground (literally or figuratively) has properly shaped the men and women America will need on point in the Pacific for the next generation.
With penetrating insight and warm humor, Scott shows that while individual critics - himself included - can make mistakes and find flaws where they shouldn't, criticism as a discipline is one of the noblest, most creative and urgent activities of modern existence. Using his own film criticism as a starting point - everything from his infamous dismissal of the international blockbuster The Avengers to his intense affection for Pixar's animated Ratatouille - Scott expands outward, easily guiding listeners through the complexities of Rilke and Shelley, the origins of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the power of Marina Abramovich and "Ode on a Grecian Urn".
Drawing on the long tradition of criticism from Aristotle to Susan Sontag, Scott shows that real criticism was and always will be the breath of fresh air that allows true creativity to thrive.
"The time for criticism is always now," Scott explains, "because the imperative to think clearly, to insist on the necessary balance of reason and passion, never goes away."
The Kurgan hypothesis (also known as the Kurgan theory or Kurgan model) or steppe theory is the most widely accepted proposal to identify the Proto-Indo-European homeland from which the Indo-European languages spread out throughout Europe, Eurasia and parts of Asia. It postulates that the people of a Kurgan culture in the Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea were the most likely speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). The term is derived from the Russian kurgan (курга́н), meaning tumulus or burial mound.
See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurgan_hypothesis#/media/File:IE_expansion.png
Map of Indo-European expansion 4000–1000 BC, according to the Kurgan hypothesis. Even within the Kurgan hypothesis, there is considerable uncertainty, mainly depending on assumptions about the Tocharians, the Corded ware culture, and the Beaker culture. The central purple area is supposed to show early Yamna culture (4000–3500 BC); the dark red area could show expansion to about 2500 BC; and the lighter red area,expansion to about 1000 BC.
Alliances: Past, Present, And Future
by Williamson Murray via Military History in the News
In the 1930s, the British military pundit B. H. Liddell Hart argued vociferously that traditional British conduct of war in the seventeenth and eighteenth had represented a strategy of minimal commitment to the wars on the European Continent while focusing on a blue-water strategy to attack the enemy on the periphery. Thus, Britain’s effort in the First World War with its emphasis on the British Expeditionary Force in France had been a terrible mistake. He could not have been more mistaken.
The Essence Of Lenin
by David R. Henderson via EconLog
Lenin did more than anyone else to shape the last hundred years. He invented a form of government we have come to call totalitarian, which rejected in principle the idea of any private sphere outside of state control. To establish this power, he invented the one-party state, a term that would previously have seemed self-contradictory since a party was, by definition, a part. An admirer of the French Jacobins, Lenin believed that state power had to be based on sheer terror, and so he also created the terrorist state.
Development assistance and counterterrorism
Jessica Trisko Darden | American Enterprise Institute
US counterterrorism policy must draw on all available tools to succeed. A refined development approach to counterterrorism should more effectively target at-risk populations, address local governance concerns, and shape economic conditions in ways that support America’s counterterrorism goals.
The 10th Amendment: A Clear, Firm Boundary Between Congress & the States
By Joerg Knipprath on Sep 12, 2019 10:00 pm
To introduce a Bill of Rights for the protection of states’ legislative powers was to protect expressly the rights of the people from intrusion by the general government into their liberty. Unfortunately, initial fears about the reach of federal power and the erosion of state sovereignty have come true. A recurrent theme during the ...
Read in browser »
Al-Monitor launches Mideast lobbying rankings
Check out our new and improved lobbying series to find out how 22 Middle East countries and territories fared in their efforts to influence Washington this year. Register for free to access our award-winning series and receive our weekly newsletter of all the latest updates.
Isaiah Berlin's Many-Sided Concept Of Liberty
by Peter Berkowitz via Real Clear Politics
Speaking in praise of freedom has fallen out of fashion in American politics. That throws public discourse out of step with the country’s constitutional system, which puts a premium on protecting individual liberty.
George Kennan’s Diaries
By Chuck Chalberg on Sep 04, 2019 10:01 pm
George Kennan was—and remains—an important, even compelling, figure in the early history of the Cold War. But these selections from his voluminous and often overwrought diaries reveal him to have been something other than what this honest, if not always moderate, this calm, but not always cool, and detached professional diplomat took himself to ...
Read in browser »
The Classicist: Versailles At 100
interview with Victor Davis Hanson via The Classicist
How the treaty that ended World War I shaped the modern world — and why it’s so often misunderstood.
Sabine Hossenfelder On Physics, Reality, And Lost In Math
by Russell Roberts via EconTalk
Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder talks about her book Lost in Math with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hossenfelder argues that the latest theories in physics have failed to find empirical confirmation. Particles that were predicted to be discovered by the mathematics have failed to show up. Whether or not there is a multiverse has no observable consequences. Hossenfelder argues that physicists have become overly enamored with the elegance and aesthetics of their theories and that using beauty to evaluate a model is unscientific. The conversation includes a discussion of similar challenges in economics.
Wanted: A new Indian secularism
Sadanand Dhume | Times of India
EXAMPLE OF SUCCESS IN U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ACE VENTURA
PAUL RAHE: REALISM IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SPARTA
CONSCIENCE & TEMPORAL AUTHORITY
POSITIVE LAW vs. CONSCIENCE