The subject of command ability arises because of recent claims by retired Army Colonel Doug MacGregor (appearing recently with Tucker Carlson), who asserted that our problem in Afghanistan is the result of toxic leadership within the Armed Forces. He may have been thinking of JCS Chairman Mark A. Milley, whose exhibited leadership would confuse even a recent graduate of Army boot camp.
Retired Army Colonel Doug MacGregor discusses collapse of Afghanistan, arguing he ‘can’t think of anything worse’ on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’
In the past, the selection of officers to command Marine Corps companies was the prerogative of the battalion commander. A regimental commander selected his battalion commanders, and a division commander picked his regimental commanders. While commanding generals still have a say in the commanding officer selection process, a bureaucratic screening board in Washington now decides which officers shall be deemed “good enough” for assignment to command the Marine Corps’ combat organizations.
The problem, or so it seems, is that given the number of command officers relieved of their duties, “for cause” suggests that individuals “deemed good enough” by Washington bureaucrats to command combat organizations weren’t good enough at all.
This process, whatever it entails in all the military services, isn’t simply a matter of selecting the best of the best to lead combat units; it involves all the elements that have destroyed the entire process of military performance evaluation. Anyone today who receives an average fitness report has reached the end of their career.
The reality of this suggests, very strongly, that “average” is no longer good enough; it also indicates that “average officers” should have been discharged before advancement to captain, rather than allowing them to languish around “taking up space” until they reached the rank of colonel.
It is hard to imagine that any officer serving as a senior field grade officer would ever be judged “not good enough” to command an appropriate level combat organization. If, for example, a colonel was determined “not good enough” to command a regiment, then why was this person promoted to colonel in the first place? Any officer judged “not good enough” to command a brigade would never advance to brigadier general — so, why the double standard?
On the other hand, maybe there isn’t a double standard. As it turns out, the services canned more than a few general officers because they exhibited poor leadership, which again begs the question: how does a poor leader ever become a flag-rank officer? The answer is politics.
Rather than promoting officers into senior ranks with distinguished service in combat, which given the essential mission of the US military, to begin with, is what officers are supposed to do for a living, many flag-rank officers today have NO distinguished combat service awards at all. They seem to have a plethora of administrative awards and commendations, which almost entirely encourage sycophantism and rewards or recognizes superior degrees of political correctness.
We are all familiar with the case of Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, promoted to flag rank because she was one of the Army’s first lesbian colonels, who gave us the debacle of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One might conclude from that incident that a better system to identify qualified colonels for promotion might be in order. No, that isn’t the case at all.
A few weeks ago, Military Times reported that while serving as Commanding Officer, 50th Space Wing, (then) Colonel Jennifer Grant’s poor leadership resulted in the worst toxic environment Air Force investigators had ever seen within the active duty force. The Air Force interviewed more than sixty witnesses. Most of them claimed that Grant treated her subordinates with disrespect, created and maintained an environment of fear and that she even accepted gifts from junior personnel (apparently seeking her favor). However, the most troubling of their findings involved three instances of suicide and increased incidents of alcohol abuse since she assumed command.
BRIGADIER GENERAL JENNIFER L. GRANT
Despite these findings, the Air Force advanced Grant to brigadier general early this year. In another case, the Air Force fired Major General Dawn Dunlop for her poor leadership in creating and maintaining a toxic environment. Dunlop continued to serve as a major general but in a different (less demanding) assignment. In other words: no accountability.
At present, we have a horrible situation in Afghanistan, which Colonel MacGregor claims is essentially the fault of poor senior (general officer) leaders who had command authority in that country. According to an article published in BizPacReview, MacGregor said:
“I think there are three things we have to take into consideration. First, of course, is there was never an exit strategy; no glide path out of Afghanistan. When I was in the Pentagon, the only thing I could find out was an intention to stay indefinitely. For some of the reasons you outlined in your opening remarks, lots of people were benefiting. Not the American people and certainly not our soldiers and Marines, but there was no glide path out of the place.”
“Secondly, is the problem with [toxic military leaders] [Note: with an inserted reference to General Mark A. Milley, CJCS] — toxic because they simply don’t tell the truth and for 20 years they’ve been lying, frankly, to the American people to soldiers and Marines doing the fighting telling them things were getting better, that we were making progress when the truth was we weren’t.”
MacGregor continued to criticize the decision to invade Afghanistan in the first place, laying much of the blame at the feet of retired Army General Tommy Franks, but returning then to the situation in Afghanistan over the past two years, he said:
“We don’t have democracy [in Afghanistan], we haven’t defeated terrorism per se, we have probably created some new ones [terrorists]. We have the largest Narco-state in the world that is now falling into the hands of new criminals and new terrorists.”
“When we first went into Iraq, there was an argument between [Donald] Rumsfeld and some others in his office, and finally Paul Wolfowitz interjected and said ‘look, we just want to get the army into Iraq.’ I think there were a lot of people that decided they just wanted to get the military into these places and that somehow or another, we would muddle through, that things would improve.”
“What you see now on television, this mass chaos and dissolution is the end of the illusions that began long ago in the aftermath of desert storm. Well, we have employed it [the Army] and the Marine Corps all over the Middle East, and what have we created? Chaos. What have we established that’s in the interest of the American people? Nothing”
The preceding is enough to lead one to this conclusion: the mission of the US military is defending the United States. This mission strongly suggests that the Armed Forces’ critical duty is combat, combat support, combat logistics support, and combat readiness.
It is not vital race theory indoctrination; it is not making women equal to men in the combat arms, it is not righting the wrongs of past generations, it is not leveling the playing field for minorities through affirmative action programs, and it certainly is not nation-building or protecting Afghan women from their abusive husbands. It is raw, horrific, blood and guts combat. America’s senior military officers have (a) forgotten this essential mission, or (b) the mission has become secondary to their advancement.
But we must not lay this entire mess at the feet of senior field grade and flag rank officers. The civilian leaders who tell the military what to do, have created most of this mess. They encourage yes men by firing combat leaders and replacing them with men and women devoid of personal and professional integrity.
If you want to put stars on your collar one day, go with the flow. Understandably, there will always be some element of politics in any organization, but to encourage it within the Armed Forces has produced, as we have seen, men who value their careers over that which is best for the United States of America.
And this is not simply toxic for our junior officers and enlisted men and women of our armed forces; it is dangerously unhealthy for our Republic. Can any of this be “fixed?” Sure — and it wouldn’t take long to accomplish — but only if Congress has the wisdom to see that it is necessary and the will to make it happen.
Mustang also blogs at Fix Bayonets and Thoughts From Afar
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