Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Outside View: The commander in chief (Strategic Leadership)


Have not seen Clausewitz' phrase turned quite this way:
 war is an admixture of policy with other means
But maybe "admixture" is another translation for one of those German words.

But I am glad to know we are not alone:
Strategic failure isn't unique to the United States. Saddam Hussein and the mullahs in Tehran haven't done well in this category either. Nor did the Soviet leadership.
But where does the President find this guy?  (though I thought this would be the National Security Adviser):
One solution is antithetical to politics. Presidents desperately need a senior adviser well versed in strategic thinking and not dominated by domestic politics or the pressures of political expediency. Whether such individuals exist in nature or could survive that job is a test of presidential maturity.
Here Ricks' prescription can be translated from Army into civilian terms. Military leaders need to anticipate both the intended and unintended consequences of long-term policies and shorter-term directives. Before embarking on any action, commanders in chief would be well advised to follow this guidance by holding subordinates accountable for answering the vital question of "What next?" as a critical step in ensuring strategic success.
Unfortunately Presidents do not know anyone who is not dominated by domestic politics or the pressures of political expediency.  As an aside, after watching the movie "Lincoln" last weekend I observed that everyone around Lincoln was dominated by domestic politics and especially the pressure of political expediency.  It was only President Lincoln that had the strategic vision, the long view and who was able to both rise above the political fray but also at the same time  to mix it up in the political fray to accomplish his strategic goals. Strategic vision and leadership cannot be "contracted out" to some senior adviser – if Lincoln is any example, the responsibility for strategic vision and leadership lies with the President.
V/R
Dave

Outside View: The commander in chief
Published: Nov. 28, 2012 at 12:10 AM

HARLAN ULLMAN || UPI Outside View Commentator

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- To ensure civilian control over its military, the U.S. Constitution specifies that the president, and not a general or an admiral, is commander in chief of the armed forces.

As Clausewitz brilliantly observed nearly two centuries ago, war is an admixture of policy with other means. Thus, successful use of military force must be subordinate to the broader political context. That means to succeed as commander in chief, presidential understanding of what objectives strategy can and, perhaps more importantly, cannot achieve is crucial as well as holding subordinates accountable for carrying out that strategy.

That isn't always the case. Undue deference to political expediency and political correctness and the temptation of seeking overly simplistic or unrealistic strategic objectives are further guarantees for disaster. And holding generals and admirals responsible for executing a military strategy without making them accountable is a prescription for failure.

Journalist Tom Ricks' latest book "The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today" is a powerful reminder of how commanders in chief can come to grief over isolating responsibility from accountability.

In a remarkable critique of the generalship of the U.S. Army (and endorsement of the U.S. Marine Corps about which Ricks has separately written and clearly regards as the most professional of the four services), the author argues that since the end of World War II, the Army used the wrong lessons from the last war as the basis for selecting the leadership for the next and then failed to hold those unsuited for wartime command accountable.

A parallel exists with presidents who likewise don't always hold admirals and generals accountable for the right reasons.

Harry Truman finally fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur for insubordination during the Korean War. But George W. Bush dismissed Adm. William "Fox" Fallon and Barack Obama Gen. Stanley McChrystal not for failing in Iraq or Afghanistan but for making inappropriate comments to journalists (to their credit, as secretaries of defense, Dick Cheney and Bob Gates did relieve senior generals and civilians for cause).
(Continued at the link below)

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