Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Is the Air Force spanking its generals good or bad? (BD versus Gen. Dunlap)

Over the last two years, 13 Air Force generals have received letters of admonishment, Air Force Times reports. All but three have retired or indicated they plan to do so. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap expresses concern about this. "It certainly seems that the Air Force is applying a tougher standard than anyone ...

U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency
U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency

Over the last two years, 13 Air Force generals have received letters of admonishment, Air Force Times reports. All but three have retired or indicated they plan to do so.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap expresses concern about this. "It certainly seems that the Air Force is applying a tougher standard than anyone else in the Department of Defense," he told AFT. He worries that public spankings will deter leaders from taking prudent risks.

I actually think the Air Force is doing the right thing, for two reasons. First, it shows that generals are subject to punishment like personnel of other ranks. Second, it is a good first step back toward the long-standing American military tradition of relieving generals who fail, something we have lost in our recent wars. When failure is not punished, then success tends not to be rewarded. And rewarding success is the best way to encourage leaders to take prudent risks.

Over the last two years, 13 Air Force generals have received letters of admonishment, Air Force Times reports. All but three have retired or indicated they plan to do so.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap expresses concern about this. "It certainly seems that the Air Force is applying a tougher standard than anyone else in the Department of Defense," he told AFT. He worries that public spankings will deter leaders from taking prudent risks.

I actually think the Air Force is doing the right thing, for two reasons. First, it shows that generals are subject to punishment like personnel of other ranks. Second, it is a good first step back toward the long-standing American military tradition of relieving generals who fail, something we have lost in our recent wars. When failure is not punished, then success tends not to be rewarded. And rewarding success is the best way to encourage leaders to take prudent risks.

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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