Generals, then and now

Right from the opening paragraph, this article is proof that some things never change.

On September 1, 1939, Brigadier George C. Marshall took the oath of office as the 15th U.S. Army chief of staff, a post he held until November 1945. When the ceremony ended, General Marshall confided to his aide de camp, “There is enough dead wood in the Army’s officer corps to light several forest fires.”

Marshall was more right than he knew. If the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps fought shoulder to shoulder with the French Army in 1940, American arms would have suffered the same fate as the French and British Armies—total defeat at the hands of the German Wehrmacht. This fact was made painfully obvious 14 months after the Second World War broke out.

In February 1943, 11,000 German troops smashed through the 30,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army’s II Corps at Kasserine Pass. The U.S. commander, Major Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, a swaggering blowhard, was relieved and sent home. It was not the last time that a cigar-chewing imitation of a real general would fail in action against the German onslaught, but the experience strengthened Marshall’s intolerance of general officer failure in action.

Today, the task of finding senior military leaders with character, competence and intelligence is immeasurably harder than it was in Marshall’s day. Under the Bush and Obama administrations, the American media’s adulation for four stars transformed general officers such as Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Allen, and Austin into instant celebrities.

Four stars now automatically become part of a mutual general officer admiration society, that cheers even mediocre performance in general officers chosen for high command, because, like “made men” in the Mafia, senior leaders agree not to turn on their peers. Eliminating failed general officers, even when failure is found out the hard way in action, is deemed dangerous to a promotion system based on nepotism that presents itself as infallible.

Political leaders are of no help.

Quite the opposite, I’d say, of course and as always.

The point is that General Mark Milley is not an isolated example. He’s the product of an environment that has existed for nearly 30 years, if not longer. Behind Mark Milley stand another two dozen four stars ready to take his job that are indistinguishable from him in their attitudes and career patterns.

Is the situation hopeless? History answers with an emphatic “No.”

After the defeat of the U.S. Army’s II Corps, General Sir Harold Alexander, Eisenhower’s British deputy, commented on Fredendall to his American allies, “I’m sure you must have better men than that.” Eisenhower agreed. Major Gen. Patton, a man who but for the outbreak of WWII would have retired as an obscure cavalry colonel, replaced Fredendall.

As the author says, the correct answer to the question “is the situation hopeless” is “an emphatic ‘No,'” and always will be. As such, the question is immaterial. The question that matters is: Are we up to the challenge of doing everything required of us to prevail over the exigencies that make the situation APPEAR hopeless? That question is strictly pass/fail, and will NOT be graded on a curve.

Update! This might look to be unrelated at first glance, but I assure you it ain’t.

Mike responds to a post of mine from yesterday, and finishes with:

Yes, the whole system is rotten to the core, to the point that it can never be fixed or restored via traditional, peaceful means. AS ZMan put it, a system that is immune to voting is not going to be fixed by more voting.

I agree with this, of course. And while my assessment may sound bleak, I still believe it to be accurate. People, especially patriotic Americans, have been willing to swallow damned near anything to avoid admitting to themselves just how bleak the situation actually is. Why? Because if they do admit it, they then are face to face with the next question: What the hell do we do about it?

And that is a very painful question, because there are no good, painless answers. Oh, sure, you can gargle a big glass of normality bias and pretend that voting gooderer and harderer will fix things. Or that some deep counter-Qspiracy is going to defeat the Ruling Class and its Deep State. But that, of course, is simply denying the reality you have to admit and confront in order to deal with it on a personal basis going forward. That’s the thing, see? It’s going to hit you personally, whether you want it to or not. It won’t go away just because you ignore it, or tell yourself it’s not really what it looks like.

Read on to find out just how very related it is. In fact, the thing that sometimes makes me sit up a little straighter and rub my eyes in awe and wonder is how deeply interconnected all the issues confronting us are—yet another of those things that, once seen, cannot be UNseen.

4

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