Failure to Lead
American Military Command From World War II to Today.
By Thomas E. Ricks.
Penguin Press. 576 pp. $32.95
In a devastating review of General Tommy Frank’s 2004 autobiography, Andrew J. Bacevich observed that as the United States has become increasingly reliant on its armed forces to maintain its global position, “the quality of senior American military leadership has seldom risen above the mediocre. The troops are ever willing, the technology remarkable, but first-rate generalship has been hard to come by.” This critique from Bacevich, a prominent professor of international relations at Boston University and a former Army officer, caused a firestorm in the U.S. Army—staffers at the Pentagon allegedly handed out copies with the fervor of Soviet dissidents distributing samizdat.
Within a few years relations between field officers and the brass had gotten to a point where open confrontations were occurring at many of the military schools. Whether true or not, a story circulated that students at one war college, most with some two decades of service, were required to submit their questions for screening so that no visiting general might be offended. Treated like adolescents, the students responded by asking variations of “Sir, how did you become such a brilliant and handsome man, and how can I be more like you?”
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Brian McAllister Linn is a professor of history and Ralph R. Thomas Professor in Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University and the author of several works of military history, including The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War (2007) and The Philippine War, 1899–1902 (2000). He was a Wilson Center fellow in 2004–2005.more from this author >>
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