Leadership: August 10, 1999

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Behind the abrupt dismissal of General Wesley Clark as Supreme Allied Commander (military head of NATO) was the bizarre incident in which the Russians slipped into Kosovo early and headed for the Pristina Airport. General Clark quickly ordered NATO troops to conduct an airborne landing to seize the Airport before the Russians could arrive, but British General Jackson refused to carry out the order, saying late "I'm not going to start World War III for you." Clark then ordered US Admiral James Ellis (NATO commander in the Mediterranean) to send helicopters to land on the runways and keep the Russians from flying in reinforcements with huge Illyushin transports, but Ellis refused, saying that "Jackson wouldn't like it." Officially, Clark was being moved out early to make a place for Air Force General Ralston to remain on active duty and avoid being forced into retirement. Ralston, regarded as an insider close to President Clinton, has been Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs since his elevation to the chairmanship was blocked by reports of a decade-old adulterous affair. --Stephen V Cole

Top Ten Traits For Military Leaders

10. POSSESS CHARACTER: The tempo of the future battlefield will grant victory to leaders who have strength and stamina, who are able to keep going when others take a rest.

9. PURSUE VISION: A leader must know where he is going and keep this objective at the front of his thinking, whether in terms of what the current operation is or in terms of where the unit should be in its training at some future date.

8. BROAD PERSPECTIVE: Be able to understand where your part fits into the larger picture.

7. POSITIVE ATTITUDE: When the going gets tough and things turn against you, don't make things worse by griping or complaining.

6. EMPOWER OTHERS: Training junior leaders to handle their own problems, and give them the chance to do it and learn from their own mistakes.

5. DEVELOP THE FUTURE: Learn the skills needed for the next generation of equipment and for the next series of missions. Be prepared ahead of time for entirely new kinds of missions.

4. SERVE SOLDIERS by personal leadership.

3. LISTEN MORE as this is the only way to learn and to anticipate problems.

2. MAKE DECISIONS after you listen to what is going on. Don't delay or stall; get things done.

1. ATTACK NOW: Whatever you are doing, NOW is the best time to do it. Attack while the enemy is reeling from your last attack. Take new courses now while contemporaries are taking time off from studies. Get missions done now so that you have time for other opportunities later.

-- Steven V Cole (from an article by Colonel Rhett A Hernandez, Field Artillery Journal,

How to Cripple Leadership

Leadership in a military organization is mainly a matter of convincing people to fight, and getting them to do it well. Superior motivation, leadership and training have consistently proved the formula that produces victorious armies. Leaders who are willing to get out front and get shot at, and often killed, are respected and followed. Officers who stay to the rear find their troops following them in that direction also. In peacetime, "getting out front" means speaking out to superiors, and politicians, on issues that matter to the troops ability to survive and win in combat.

Training that draws from experience, not untried theories, produces the most competent troops. Equipment that works most of the time, and does what needs to be done, is the most effective. Men will start fighting for any number of reasons, but will continue fighting, and do so successfully, only if they have confidence in their leaders, equipment, training and themselves.

For thousands of years, most societies left it to the military leaders to motivate and prepare their troops for combat. This often led to accusations that the soldiers were creating a society separate in attitudes and customs from the one they supported. There was a lot of truth to this, for organized combat is, by civilian standards, a very foreign process. Many societies tried to make the soldiers more like civilians. When this was done to any degree, the fighting ability of the troops suffered. When a war came along, the civilians learned this lesson at great cost. In some cases the civilians perished in great numbers as a result, left vulnerable by troops unable to defend them.

The 20th century has produced some interesting variations on this ancient pattern. World War I produced a great, and often futile, slaughter because the industrialized nations had produced a new generation of weapons that no one, military or civilian, could effectively comprehend until millions of soldiers had died. World War II began with the Germans and Japanese, who had mastered their weapons and leadership problems, cut a bloody swath through less well prepared armies.

After World War II, America found itself unprepared going into the Korean and Vietnam wars. Korea was a more traditional failure; the civilians had decreed that readiness and training were not high priorities. Thousands of American soldiers paid for this with their lives in 1950. Vietnam was more a case of fighting one kind of war (against guerillas) while prepared for quite another (fighting Soviet tanks in Europe). This was compounded by a lack of enthusiasm among the voters for a war that called for more sacrifice than America was willing to make to change the outcome of a civil war in a far off Asian nation.

Partly as a result of the problems encountered in Vietnam, the American military was very well prepared for the Persian Gulf war. Even this victory had a downside, for many civilians were now convinced that one could fight a war with few, if any, casualties.

But going into the 1990s, the situation got worse. Throughout the 20th century, armies came to contain fewer and fewer combat troops. More people in uniform were doing what were essentially civilian jobs. With a small fraction of uniformed personnel now assigned to fighting, it becomes more difficult to motivate the combat troops. There is a feeling of unfairness when one is thrust into danger while so many others serve in essentially civilian jobs.

The 1990-91 Gulf War produced another odd after-effect. Combat is an activity for which populations rapidly lose their enthusiasm. US commanders in the Persian Gulf were told during the Summer of 1990 that keeping US casualties low was a very high priority. As a result, operations likely to result in high casualties were avoided, which was why there were no amphibious or airborne assaults. One comment heard from several senior officers in the wake of the US Gulf War victory was that no one wanted to be in charge in a future war where more than 200 Americans were killed. No one relished having to explain to Congress why this was so, and why the Gulf War was an exceptional situation that could not be expected to occur in future wars.

The Vietnam war also had a little reported effect on how the political leadership worked with the military leaders. Before Vietnam, the generals and admirals were left alone to get the troops ready with little input from the politicians. After Vietnam, the civilians became much more active in deciding how the military operated on a day to day basis. This has produced a military leadership that is always looking over it's shoulder at the politicians. Not an optimal arrangement for getting the troops ready for combat. The major problems have been how to deal with women and ethnic minorities in the military.

Women have served in military organizations for thousands of years, but almost always in support roles. In late 20th century America, powerful politicians, and some equally fervent public opinion, decided that women had to serve in combat jobs. Nearly all enlisted women wanted nothing to do with combat jobs (as did most enlisted men.) But many senior military jobs were only open to those who had served in combat roles. This made sense, you don't want people leading armies who have no personal experience in that area. But the increasing number of female officers, and their political mentors, wanted women in senior leadership positions. This meant women in combat jobs. It also meant women in practically all military jobs. In a rational world, this would not have been a problem. A well run military sets standards for each job and insures that only qualified people get into each job. Women who met the standards would advance. End of problem.

But what developed in the U.S. military in the last few decades of the 20th century was a system whereby standards were dispensed with so that enough women could be put into enough different military jobs to satisfy the politicians. At first the military, knowing that they were breaking laws to do it, kept quiet about how they were abandoning their standards. This had an insidious effect, for women who were qualified were seen as just as questionable as those who were simply made qualified on paper. Bit by bit the truth came out. Lawsuits on the issue had West Point faculty admitting under oath that their standards were "modified" or "normed" to get women "qualified." The battlefield knows nothing about such modifications or norming, but it will take some extensive ground combat to make this point in a way that even the slow learners will understand.

It wasn't just West Point that was affected. The navy now has 6,800 of its 50,000 women sailors are serving on surface ships. Aside from the obvious disruptions of 10-15 percent of female sailors getting pregnant on each 3-6 month deployment to sea, there were the more serious problem of many women being physically incapable to performing strenuous physical tasks involved in damage control, or even their day to day jobs. The lower ranking officers and petty officers were told to "deal with it." An increasing number "deal with it" by getting out of the navy.

In 1999, the Secretary of the Navy declared that the submariners were a "white male bastion" and this had to change. Aside from the fact that all the submariners are highly qualified for their jobs and many are not "white," integrating women into the tight confines of a submarine is hardly worth the trouble. Unless you are a civilian appointee, as Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig is. The submarine force is having a hard time holding on to its sailors as it is, the standards being so high for that service. Forcing women onto the crews will do little for crew morale, not to mention what the wives of the sailors will think. But all these problems, except the obvious one of so many sailors getting out of the service, will be ignored.

The social engineering has spread to all aspects of the peacetime military. The U.S. Army's fire brigade unit, the 18th Airborne Corps, requires it's subordinate units to report each month such critical information as; how many senior NCO jobs (1st Sergeant and Sergeant Major) were filled by women, what the current percentage of senior NCOs were women and minorities and what percentage of performance awards, and punishments, these groups had received recently.

Most of the troops, including many of the women and minorities, take a dim view of all this. But for commanders there are rewards, as well as protection from unwanted congressional attention. Careers advance in proportion to how enthusiastically officers get behind the new think. All of this is done in the name of "diversity,", which has joined the ranks of mom, apple pie and the American flag as something that is indisputably good and that no one can question (if one values ones career, and there are plenty of careerists to keep the game going.)

Officers and senior sergeants major (who often do the diversity dirty work for their colonel and general officer bosses) get special awards for their work in furthering "diversity." While this is ostensibly to see that women and minorities are not discriminated against (it still happens), diversity all too often means quotas and promoting on the basis of candidates possessing the correct gender or ethnicity (this happens a lot more often). Such discrimination can take many forms. Not just promotions, but also merit awards and punishment for bad behavior. A safe commander makes sure all the good and bad things are awarded in proportion to gender and ethnicity. The more careful officers err on the side of diversity and given the women and minorities a little more consideration. You can't be too careful when ones career is at state, and it is when it comes to diversity.

The situation has gotten so bad through the 1990s, that many commanders insist that their subordinate commanders put diversity issues above all others. That includes morale, training and readiness. When the cold war was still going on, and there were never enough officers or NCOs to keep things going, a commander interested in being ready for war could safely ignore the more onerous demands of the diversity crowd. But after the cold war ended, and a lot of troops and officers had to be let out of the service, it became open season on anyone who would not bump diversity to the top of their priorities. By the mid 1990s, a lot of good officers and NCOs were getting out before they qualified for retirement (at 20 years service.) Some got a "buy out" offer to leave early, but many did not wait for that. The military had become a dangerous place with training, readiness and morale being sacrificed in the name of diversity and political correctness. Worse yet, the issue could not be discussed openly. A massive fraud was being committed and it was deemed politically impossible to go to congress, or the president, and link diversity efforts with declines in morale and readiness. Congress also preferred that the military keep quiet what they were doing to achieve their diversity goals. But as the 1990s went on, more and more examples of what was really wrong with the military leaked out. The politicians responded by blaming the problems on low pay and frequent overseas deployments.

At the end of the decade, everyone knows that the real problem is the decline in military leadership. This issue is discussed more and more openly, but it's quite possible the politicians will find it preferable to continue ignoring the issue until another war comes along that involves some hard fighting. Then it will be too late to save the troops killed because of inept leadership, but the truth will finally be on the agenda.

In the meantime, the "serve my career at any cost" officers dominate the military leadership more and more. Historically, this is nothing new, but it's still not pleasant to see your own troops suffering for it, and dying in greater numbers when the shooting starts.

The careerist form of leadership is most notable for the lengths commanders will go hide any real or perceived problems. It's not just reports on how many women and minorities are doing, it extends to putting more restrictions on what the troops can do. We saw this in the 1999 campaign against Serbia. Rather than risk revealing that the air force was no longer capable of going down low and taking out air defenses and ground targets, the bombing was done from three miles up, beyond the range of most anti-aircraft weapons. After the Gulf War, radar jamming capabilities were reduced, so during the Kosovo campaign the few jamming aircraft left were worked so hard that most of these aircraft, and their crews, were worn out by the end of the campaign. Even the vaunted B-2 bomber, used for the first time in Kosovo, was not allowed to fail. Even though the main (and most expensive) aspect of the B-2 was it's ability to go in without jamming aircraft, it did not. The B-2 got priority on jamming planes. It was unacceptable to lose one, or even risk losing one.

Many officers, especially those who had served on intelligence staffs during the cold war, knew that the Serbs had trained half a century to deceive an air campaign against them. But it was politically unacceptable to say that. Of course, like many of these games, the truth comes out eventually. Expect to see the truth ignored, after a flurry of excuse making.

The careerists have become convinced that a "zero defects" mentality will keep them safe. To a large extent, it will. In peacetime. Control the training exercises so there is little possibility of accidents, and forget that this attitude produces troops unprepared for the chaos and violence of the battlefield. But a zero defects policy is the best defense against all those politicians looking over your shoulder. If you are called to send troops on a peacekeeping mission, and are warned that any "incidents" will reflect badly on the military, then grab all the most experienced officers and NCOs from existing units, leaving those outfits gutted of their best leadership, and send those troops off to the trouble spot. Don't let the troops outside their barracks area when they are not on duty. Otherwise they might get too involved with the locals and you know how soldiers are. The Marines have resisted this sort of nonsense more than the army, but this resulted in misgivings about sending Marines into Kosovo. The Marines were though to be "too rough" (ie, combat ready) for something as delicate as peacekeeping.

So the warriors, the fighters you need in wartime, continue to get out, or not join in the first place. The word gets out, and the Marines can still get all the recruits they need, the army cannot. Young men and women looking for an authentic military experience know that the Marines know what they are doing, while the other services spend more of their time playing games.

Instead of training and getting the troops ready for combat, more emphasis is put on things like, Sex training (how to deal with problems created by having men and women in the same unit), Consideration for Others Training (a big issue among the diversity crowd), superficial inspection and control mania (no risk training, adding more equipment to overburdened troops to make it "safer," close supervision of the troops off duty activities, and so on), trying to use simulation to spare the troops the risks of training with all that dangerous equipment, downplaying self-discipline, personal responsibility and maturity (officers now supervise many tasks NCOs took care of a decade or so ago), obsession with no casualties or injuries (warfare is inherently dangerous, and most of the troops realize that if they can't practice realistically in peacetime, they are going to suffer more in wartime), and stressing diversity at the expense of unity and unit morale.

Historians will, as they have done before, look at all this nonsense and have no trouble pointing out the failures of leadership in the American military in the late 20th century. But you don't have to be a future historian to see the problem, talk to the troops and you can get tomorrow's bad news today.

 


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