Leadership: Print The Legend


March 5, 2011:  One thing the U.S. military has added to their institutional memory since Vietnam is that the next war is rarely like the last one. For a long time, generals and their staffs tended to assume the next war would be like the last one. For centuries, that sort-of made sense. But in the last century, the rate of technological, cultural and other change has been so great that warfare has evolved in unexpected ways as well. Warfare, and wars, have been quite different, partly because of the easy availability of who did what to whom and how, on the Internet.

Having been preparing for World War 3 since World War II, Vietnam caught the American armed forces by surprise in the 1960s. After that came Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, plus a worldwide search for Islamic terrorists. Each of these "wars" was quite different, and often caught the American military unprepared.

In response, the Pentagon planners evolved a system for working out how they will cope with a wide variety of possible future wars. All this is kept very secret. Any news of these plans is guaranteed to turn into a media circus, as pundits do, well, what pundits and headline hungry media do. But for the troops, these plans are a matter of life and death. While Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism are portrayed by the media as improvised, such was not the case. There were plans, and commanders often made casual reference to these plans, and staff training exercises used to test the plans. But this was not considered news. Being unprepared was considered news. To paraphrase an old bit of journalistic wisdom, if the legend outshines the truth, print the legend. When you're dealing with secret planning, that's easy to get away with.


Article Archive

Leadership: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close