Best Defense

Success may have a thousand fathers…

…but no one is accusing the Army staff of paternity in dealing with Iraq over the last, more successful couple of years. Retired Army Lt. Col. Louis DiMarco has a good piece on Small Wars Journal asking why. He makes an interesting argument for stronger staffs, more akin to the Prussian model. “A general staff ...

587740_090316_GuGuderian_resized2.jpg

…but no one is accusing the Army staff of paternity in dealing with Iraq over the last, more successful couple of years. Retired Army Lt. Col. Louis DiMarco has a good piece on Small Wars Journal asking why. He makes an interesting argument for stronger staffs, more akin to the Prussian model. “A general staff is designed to mitigate the impact of generals who are less than geniuses,” argues DiMarco, who teaches at the Army’s Command and General Staff College. In World War II, he says, “superior professional staff work…mitigated mediocre tactical leadership.” (I would say the opposite happened in Iraq from 2003 through 2006, by the way-that is, superior tactical operations mitigated mediocre staff work and even worse strategic leadership.)

I like DiMarco’s argument as far as it goes. But I think the key failure in Iraq wasn’t poor staffing, but the Four Deadly P’s — hat tip to Professor Gunner Sepp — that is, the Persistence of Peacetime Personnel Processes during wartime. For the longest time, battlefield success and failure didn’t seem to be a factor in promoting officers or selecting commanders. Once that changed, and there was more accountability, U.S. military operations in Iraq became more effective.  

Above is a former chief of the German general staff. Ten points to the first person who can identify him and name one of his books.  

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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