|*Army suffers from 'toxic leadership', warns major*
* Press Association
* The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian), Wednesday 1 July 2009
The army has failed to learn the lessons of fighting counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iraq) and Afghanistan (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/afghanistan), a former officer said today.
In a critical article, Major Patrick Little, who left last year after 16 years service, said the army was guilty of "hubris" believing it had little to learn from the experience of other countries' forces.
Writing in the journal of the Royal United Services Institute, he said while "dysfunctional" senior commanders were able to carry on with their careers regardless, talented junior and middle-ranking officers were leaving disillusioned because their views and concerns were ignored.
He highlighted the problem of "toxic leadership" in which "destructive" styles of command were tolerated because they produced immediate results, despite the long term harm they caused.
"Almost every officer serving or retired has examples of seriously 'toxic' commanders, who have bred deeply dysfunctional command climates, and yet have seen their careers sail on undisturbed," he said.
"Any serving middle ranking officer will know of commanders at sub-unit level and below who have been relieved of command, or 'sort toured'. But few will have evidence of the same process applying at senior officer level today.
"Toxicity in command structures, brought about by commanders ill-suited for their roles, is something the army can no longer afford."
At the same time, Little, said that there was an "intolerance of dissent" and an unwillingness to accept criticism of established orthodoxy.
He contrasted the UK's experience with the US which, he said, had undergone a "remarkable transformation" since 2005 as the result of a "no holds barred" appraisal of its performance in Iraq.
He said the army needed to turn a "critical mirror" on itself in order to "begin the journey, through a recognition of the UK military (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/military)'s hubris over the last 10 years, to recover the ground lost with other professional armies".
He said, the US army had seen real change as a result of its willingness to accept and respond to criticism from within the ranks of its own officer corps.
In Britian Little said that talented officers were simply leaving the service for civilian life.