May 24, 2008

New terrain...

Good post by Victor Davis Hanson: Any more Grants and Shermans?...

Who becomes a general — and why — tells us a lot about whether our military is on the right or wrong track.

The annual spring list of Army colonels promoted to brigadier generals will be shortly released. Already, rumors suggest this year, unlike in the recent past, a number of maverick officers who have distinguished themselves fighting — and usually defeating — insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq will be chosen...

Let's hope so! All of America's significant wars have been new terrain for those who fought them—each a new type of war. All of them started with costly mistakes until the new way of warfare was learned. [The leftist claim that the Iraq Campaign is somehow illegitimate because mistakes have been made is stupid and dishonest.] And always many officers, steeped in the thinking of the last war, had to be removed or sidelined to make room for those who could adapt.

Hanson writes about the Civil War, and the many generals Lincoln went through before getting Grant and Sherman. And also how WWII was won by generals that George Marshall promoted from relative obscurity.

WWI was a similar case.

I wrote a small piece here about General Pershing's immense task in finding officers for our huge "instant army," when so many colonels and generals were sunk in mental lethargy from decades of garrison duty broken only by occasional indian wars. (Hunter Liggett, who was mentally ready, was given a Division in January, 1918, and by October was commanding an Army!)

And Pershing himself had been bumped in rank over many senior officers. Teddy Roosevelt thought highly of him, and wanted to make him a colonel. But the Army would not agree. There was, however, another possibility... From Wikipedia:

...In June 1903, Pershing was ordered to return to the United States. He was forty-three years old and still a captain in the U.S. Army. President Theodore Roosevelt petitioned the Army General Staff to promote Pershing to colonel. At the time, Army officer promotions were based primarily on seniority, rather than merit, and although there was widespread acknowledgment that Pershing should serve as a colonel, the Army General Staff declined to change their seniority based promotion tradition just to accommodate Pershing. They would not consider a promotion to lieutenant colonel or even major. This angered Roosevelt, but since the President could only promote army officers in the General ranks, his hands were tied...

...After serving as an observer in the Russo-Japanese War, Pershing returned to the United States in the fall of 1905. In a move that shocked the army establishment, President Roosevelt convinced Congress to authorize the appointment of Pershing as a brigadier general, skipping three ranks and more than 835 officers senior to him....


General Pershing and colonel Marshall, during WWI

Posted by John Weidner at May 24, 2008 10:37 AM
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