The U.S. Army General Staff:Where Is It in the Twenty-first Century?

A couple of years ago LTC Paul Yingling wrote an article entitled “A Failure in Generalship,” very critical of the U.S. Army general officer corps and also blaming the generals for what at the time was looking like a debacle in Iraq. 

Thinking about it, I wrote an article that, while not discounting the failures of many general officers in Iraq, took a different view:

A Myriad of problems plagued the U.S. army in the first few years of operations in Iraq.  At the eleventh hour General Petraeus is leading a new counterinsurgency doctrine inspired “surge” campaign that may save the entire war effort.  However, the question must be asked –why has the war effort of the most sophisticated army in the world come down to a final moment “Hail Mary” pass that is reliant on the genius of an individual commander for victory?  The answer is that the U.S. army has experienced a crisis of command.   Pundits have gradually come to the conclusion that the performance of U.S. generalship and senior leadership has been mediocre at best and at worst largely responsible for the problems associated with prosecuting the war in its initial years.  Recently army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote: “These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps.” Yingling’s analysis is echoed by military affairs analysts such as Ralph Peters and Douglas McGregor.  Even Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey allowed that “we don’t do as good a job as we need to training our senior leaders to operate at the national level.”  However, mediocre generalship alone does not account for the initial uninspired reactive prosecution of the war.  Also contributing to the inconsistent, and ineffectual prosecution of the war is the absence of a professional corps of general staff officers operating in support of the senior leadership.

Thanks to the Small Wars Journal for publishing this article!
See comments by best selling author and journalist Tom Ricks on the article here.
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. The above paper I wrote has prompted some discussion as indicated in the links below. I think that’s great. Most of the discussion comes down to other solutions to the issue of senior level leadership than the one I propose. That’s fine. I think all would agree that there is no one solution to such a complex problem and I think what I recommend, which I believe would help make things better, is only one piece of what has to be a broad comprehensive approach.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4795

    http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/16/success_may_have_a_thousand_fathers

    http://usacac.army.mil/BLOG/blogs/reflectionsfromfront/archive/2009/03/14/a-professional-general-staff-corps-institutionalizing-military-genius.aspx


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