- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
I wrote in my book The Generals a lot about the need to remove underperforming generals. After writing it, I continued my research and came to believe that high-performing organizations in dangerous environments tend to remove roughly 10 percent of their subordinate leaders every year.
In the book I had some accounts by generals of being fired, or of firing someone. But I can’t recall a single instance of someone witnessing the act. So I was interested to read in Churchill: Taken from the Diaries of Lord Moran that Moran, Churchill’s doctor during the war, saw this happen during World War II. One morning in August 1942 Moran was sitting under a tree on the lawn of the British Embassy, reading a book and watching two hoopoe birds. He saw General Alan Brooke, the chief of the imperial general staff (that is, the top officer in the British military), take a seat under another tree with General Auchinleck, then the beleaguered British commander for the Middle East.
Moran wrote that,
I could not hear what the C.I.G.S. was saying, nor could I see the expression on Auchinleck’s face, but I did not need any help to follow what was happening. Auchinleck sat with his forearms resting on his thighs, his hands hanging down between his knees, his head drooping forward like a flower on a broken stalk. His long, lean limbs were relaxed; the whole attitude expressed grief: the man was completely undone.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |