Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey: Learn to see down two levels but command down just one

Gen. Barry McCaffrey was one of our most articulate generals. Here is a comment from his Army War College oral history: … battalion command taught me … to see down two levels but command down one. When I was a battalion commander I always knew where my platoons were. I knew everything about what platoons ...

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images

Gen. Barry McCaffrey was one of our most articulate generals. Here is a comment from his Army War College oral history:

... battalion command taught me ... to see down two levels but command down one. When I was a battalion commander I always knew where my platoons were. I knew everything about what platoons were doing -- but I was only about giving orders to company commanders -- period. At every level [of] the chain of command, if you command down one level and see down two levels, it is not very hard to be effective.

(P. 43)

Gen. Barry McCaffrey was one of our most articulate generals. Here is a comment from his Army War College oral history:

… battalion command taught me … to see down two levels but command down one. When I was a battalion commander I always knew where my platoons were. I knew everything about what platoons were doing — but I was only about giving orders to company commanders — period. At every level [of] the chain of command, if you command down one level and see down two levels, it is not very hard to be effective.

(P. 43)

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

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.