Tuesday, May 01, 2007

When I was in my twenties, I studied a fair amount of economics and economic history. One concept that stuck with me was that of "Countervailing Power" which came from the book American Capitalism, by the famous liberal Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. While Galbraith was interested in how bargaining could be leveraged by non-economic factors, "countervailing power" has great utility as a concept in terms of disciplining the mind to explore contraindicative examples. This is one reason I tend to feature a range of views here that I sometimes agree with only in part, just a little bit or even not at all. Arguments are improved only by competition and criticism, not from being sheltered from them.

In that spirit, Shane Deichman of IATGR offered a robust critique of the article by LTC Paul Yingling and my question regarding military reform in my comment section; it was too good to leave there. Deichman himself has considerable military experience with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Joint Forces Command and I reproduce his insightful remarks below:

"Before we consider "reforming" the system, I think it is useful to first note some facts about our system. For more than 30 years (nearly an entire career for some), we've had an all-volunteer military with high standards for admission. America has probably invested more proportionally in its military (Leviathan) than any other all-volunteer military force in history (this is conjecture on my part, based on what Tom Barnett's mentor Art Cebrowski would call "Data Free Analysis" :-).

So, with an all-volunteer force in a $10T+/yr GDP nation with a low (<5%) unemployment rate, you get some interesting dynamics. "Careerism" is one of them.

I am not a Personnelist, but I know of many who have written extensively on the concept (most notably my good friend Don Vandergriff, a fine Tanker who was outspoken and revered by his troops but whose career was deep-sixed by a vindictive CO). Don has written much on personnel reform, training and the "culture wars" in the DoD; a link to one of his monographs on D-N-I is here:

"Culture Wars"

Without getting too long-winded, I believe that there is a fundamental lack of accountability within the Pentagon. Not only in budgets (ask anyone in OSD if they REALLY know where all the money goes; they don't), but also in performance.

Paul's idea of implementing 360-degree profiles merits consideration (I did a couple myself as a middle manager at U.S. Joint Forces Command, and commented on several others). That might be a good place to start enhancing a culture of accountability within all ranks.

But there is no "silver bullet", especially in a system as complex as the U.S. military. I think Paul would have been more effective had he focused on the civilian leaders' roles in the "failures" he cites.

Fundamentally, I believe the system is sound. Every soldier/sailor/airman/Marine and guardsman -- enlisted, NCO, and officer alike -- as well as every civilian employee of the U.S. Government swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we all took that oath freely, without any mental reservation nor purpose of evasion.

Accountability begins inside. And sometimes we all need to be reminded of our promises.

It's a good thing that we have an all-volunteer military. And it's a good thing that we have civilian oversight of the warmaking capacity of our nation. And it's a good thing that we have a Legislative Branch that holds the purse strings. Separation of powers works.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution deliberately split the powers across the branches of the government to protect our individual freedoms. We wanted weak government in the early days of the Republic, and I submit that we still want it today.

As a final bit of "Data Free Analysis", consider the fate that befell the Roman empire after the creation of the Praetorian Guard. The "new elite" lost touch with their roots, with their sense of personal integrity and service to the republic. And that may be the direction that our own Republic goes if we continue to indulge a paucity of personal accountability within ALL ranks of leadership. "

Well said. I still believe Yingling has put his finger on a systemic problem but Shane's caveats are the proper kind of countervailing considerations in seeking a solution.


Shane's fellow director at Enterra, Tom Barnett, also posted on Col. Yingling and the Generals

Labels: , , , ,

I'll take the other side of this debate, siding with Yingling.

"I think Paul would have been more effective had he focused on the civilian leaders' roles in the "failures" he cites."

Just like everybody else, Yingling should blame Bush & Co. Who of course deserve much of the blame, but our senior general were not innocent puppies -- dragged along by the scruff of their necks.

An excerpt from an upcoming article:

"One thing at which the upper echelons of the US military establishment excels is producing industrial grade excuses. Excuses of mass destruction, as they divert pressure that might otherwise lead to reform. Here the late Col. Hackworth was, as in so many things, in the vanguard of documenting and sounding the alarm about this."
I agree with Fab Max on this, Yingling's focus is right on.

"I think Paul would have been more effective had he focused on the civilian leaders' roles in the "failures" he cites."

We are not in any danger of our civilian leaders escaping public scrutiny. In fact my main concern has been that the incompetence of Bush & Co. would suck all the attention their way and the generals would slip out the back door. The generals can't have it both ways: they can't endlessly congratulate themselves for rebuilding the post-Vietnam army that gave us victory in Gulf War 1 and then scapegoat the civilian leaders for decades of negligence on post-war/small war ops. If they had the ability to "rebuild" the military then they had the ability to develop doctrine, training and to prepare our troops to wage the kind of war we have seen in Iraq, and they didn't do it. So they need to man-up and accept responsibility for their negligence. And if they won't do it then it will be done for them and they are just going to have to suck it up.

The fact is that when our military has devoted the time developing doctrine, training, and equiping our troops for a form of warfare then we succeed. We marvel at Army Special Forces for their performance in Afghanistan 01-02, but they were successful because they had spent decades training for that kind of mission. Rangers have performed airfield seizures in Afghanistan and Iraq and they were successful because they had spent decades training for that mission. We were successful during the intitial 3 weeks in Iraq because our troops had spent decades training to do conventional, mechanized warfare. But we have been struggling with the post-war/small-wars/COIN aspects of this war-why? Because we didn't devote any time to training for that mission. And the responsibiility for that rests directly on the shoulders of the officers who determined how our military would train in the decades since Vietnam.
For Fab Max and Phil: I respectfully disagree with your approach to the civilian side of this issue. My reference is not to the highest echelons of the National Command Authority (Fabius's "Bush & Co."), but rather to the preponderance of Senior Executive Service civilians (and not just Schedule C Congressional appointees) who implement the machinations of our government. These are the civilian leaders that are almost completely insulated from public scrutiny -- contrary to Phil's assertion that "[w]e are not in any danger of our civilian leaders escaping public scrutiny."

Our representative democracy demands accountability from our designated representatives. Yet our sprawling bureaucracy is so vast (nearly 4,000 SES civilians within the Executive Branch) that is is too easy (and convenient) to focus solely on the apex of Bush & Co.

In business, corporate officers have to demonstrate effectiveness in the marketplace and to Boards of Directors. Our highly competitive economy is the result of this kind of proactive performance monitoring. I would like to see our government achieve such effectiveness.
Ok- I'm familiar with what Shane is talking about.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was intended to give the President more flexibility with running the executive branch. In many ways it did, extending his appointments further down in the bureaucracy and creating the SES "superclass" of federal bureaucrat ( some, like Larry Eagleburger, reach the heights of power).

Unfortunately, the CRSA and the SES class have not lived up to their potential thus far for several reasons:

For one, the confirmation process has been dragged out to ridiculous lengths; It is not unusual for the process to last until the administration's second year just to get it's people in place.

Secondly, few administrations have deliberately used the leverage that CRSA gives them to remove obstructionist bureaucrats. Presidents are generally disinclined to fire ppl and the prospect of long term vacancies lead them to tolerate semi-functional malcontents.

Third, the graybeards who compose the SES know how to game the system much better than do political appointees ( excepting folks like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Kissinger, Scowcroft etc.). They run rings around them and unlike the appointees, are effectively invisible.
Well, then there probably isn't much of a disagreement, just a minor misunderstanding. When you said:

"I think Paul would have been more effective had he focused on the civilian leaders' roles in the "failures" he cites."

I interpreted "civilian leaders" as referring to political leaders, when you meant civil servants. I think everybody who holds a position of responsibility needs to be held accountable, without exception. So I would agree with you and add civil servants to my original comment as a group which we need to make sure doesn't escape proper scrutiny and reform.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

My Photo
Location: Chicago, United States

" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

Determined Designs Web Solutions Lijit Search
02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 /

follow zenpundit at http://twitter.com
This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.
Get this widget!
Sphere Featured Blogs Powered by Blogger StatisfyZenpundit

Site Feed Who Links Here
Buzztracker daily image Blogroll Me!