As this year’s crop of Chief Selects go through their ritual training and harassment, perhaps a link to a rather entertaining article from a Chief might be good reading.
The fun never stops when we play the ‘No Right Answer’ game. If we centralize our military infrastructure, the experts tell us that we are vulnerable to attack. We’re inviting another Pearl Harbor. If we decentralize our infrastructure, we’re sloppy and overbuilt, and the BRAC experts break out the calculators and start dismantling what they call our ‘excess physical capacity.’ If we leave our infrastructure unchanged, we are accused of becoming stagnant in a dynamic world environment.
Even the lessons of history are not sacrosanct. When we learn from the mistakes we made in past wars, we are accused of failing to adapt to emerging realities. When we shift our eyes toward the future, the critics quickly tell us that we’ve forgotten our history and we are therefore doomed to repeat it. If we somehow manage to assimilate both past lessons and emerging threats, we’re informed that we lack focus.
Where does it come from: this default assumption that we are doing the wrong thing, no matter what we happen to be doing? How did our military wind up in a zero-sum game? We can prevail on the field of battle, but we can’t win a war of words where the overriding assumption is that we are always in the wrong.
I can’t think of a single point in History where our forces were of the correct size, the correct composition, correctly deployed, and appropriately trained all at the same time. Pick a war, any war. (For that matter, pick any period of peace.) Then dig up as many official and unofficial historical documents, reports, reconstructions, and commentaries as you can. For every unbiased account you uncover, you’ll find three commentaries by revisionist historians who cannot wait to tell you how badly the U.S. military bungled things. To hear the naysayers tell it, we could take lessons in organization and leadership from the Keystone Cops.
We really only have one defense against this sort of mudslinging. Success. When we fight, we win, and that’s got to count for something. When asked to comment on Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Army’s Lieutenant General Tom Kelly reportedly said, “Iraq went from the fourth-largest army in the world, to the second-largest army in Iraq in 100 hours.” In my opinion, it’s hard to argue with that kind of success, but critics weren’t phased by it. Because no matter how well we fought, we did it with the wrong Army.