Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 76

that you did not become a gambler against the odds. You kept me informed. I once commanded an officer who did not alert me to an initiative that eventually failed. He explained that it was easier to seek forgiveness than to ask permission, so I did not counsel him before I fired him. Commanders can only hope not to be second-guessed by someone with hindsight, as my boss often does. You were a barely adequate commander when we were in garrison and training for deployment. Then, your mission was to build readiness, and your role was to be a good coach, teacher, and mentor who would grow the long-term abilities of your officers. Your performance then was passable. Your talents and style are better suited for combat, however, when you have to execute decisively in the short term. Maybe other commanders have been no more effective than you, but leadership practices that work in combat do not always work in garrison. I have concerns about your integrity and character. Your driving ambition to succeed as a commander has beguiled you into rendering glowing reports in self-assessments, especially in subjective readiness reporting. You may have been dishonest with yourself, if not completely delusional. For instance, after your final predeployment exercise, you reported your command was ready for the range of military operations even though some key personnel and equipment were not yet on hand. If you had reported the quantifiable truth that your command was only marginally combat ready, you might have been replaced then for the deficiency, and we would have been spared this situation now. You are physically capable of commanding. In fact, most of your command policies promote the physical fitness that the Army seems to admire more than technical skills. When the Army has to reduce the force, soon, it will probably start by cutting the overweight people regardless of their professional credentials. You are only marginally technically competent, but you are at least physically fit. Maybe you preferred extreme exercising to the hard mental work it takes to be a better officer and commander. What is expected of a combat commander and by what metrics is his performance evaluated? There is very little about this war that can be sensibly quantified. We cannot define the terrain that we control tactically, and the enemy body count is an irrelevant 74 indicator of his combat power. We soldiers are here because we accept the risk inherent in a soldier’s job, but neither you nor I brought our soldiers here to become casualties. We protect our soldiers by the quality of our training and leadership although we cannot protect them from very, very bad luck. Since we can’t win the war by hiding behind our compound walls and vehicle armor, we have to expose our soldiers to greater risk by taking the offensive. Our friendly casualty rate is another unhelpful metric here, unless it indicates poor training, inadequate equipment, or that the commander is having consistent and prolonged bad luck. If only one of your subordinate units was failing, I could blame its commander. When two or more peer units are failing, however, I must look for their common denominator at their higher headquarters. Admittedly, you have been able to recover from your tactical mistakes much better than the last commander I relieved. He could not fix a bad development, which eventually cost him the confidence of his troops, peers, and me. Your setbacks have taught you some valuable lessons, and pain is a much better teacher than uninterrupted success. To some extent, you have learned and recovered from defeats. It may have been Marshal Turenne who said, “Show me a general who has made no mistakes and I will show you a general who has seldom waged war.”3 When the political and military authorities are in the same hand, wrote Field-Marshal Montgomery, the failed generalissimo does not fear dismissal.4 Because he was unaccountable to anyone, Napoleon’s authority survived his defeat in Russia in 1812, and he went on to very nearly win at Waterloo in 1815. Our boss, however, remembers failure better than comeback successes and holds us accountable for them. You are energetic. Indeed, you are often