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Just An Hypothesis...

It may be surmised that this legitimate complaint about bloat in the Army's officer corps is not solely about a disproportionate ratio of officers to enlisted men -

In most armies, there are about seven officers to 100 enlisted men, or an officer-to-enlisted ratio of 7 percent (as low as 5 percent in the German army of World War II). In the U.S. Army today, that ratio stands at more than 15 percent (19 percent by some calculations).

And all of the concomitant bureaucratization and inefficiency. Those are all legitimate concerns; however, this discussion is unfolding against the backdrop of a departure of many talented young officers, precipitated by the calamitous Iraq policy and the untenable strains it imposes upon the Army. In other words, the very real conflict between factions within the officer corps noted by Koehl -

In fact, it is not too much to say that there is a fight going on for the soul of the Army today, between the old guard of the Big Army, fighting budget battles to preserve expensive and only marginally useful programs such as the Future Combat System, who see the future of the Army revolving around major conventional wars; and the Small Army of bright young company, battalion, and even brigade commanders, who understand that most of our future wars will look a lot more like Iraq, and who are developing the skills, tactics and equipment to fight them.

Creates a 'strategic opportunity' to conduct a purge of the officer corps, sidelining, dead-ending, or forcing into early retirement not merely a bit of deadwood, but those among the officer corps who, like Tilghman and Nagl, have 'absorbed the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan' but consider the animating strategy, along with the execution, to be irredeemably flawed. The goal is not merely a more efficient army directed by a more competent officer corps, but a more ideologically homogeneous and deferential - to the grand strategists of the foreign policy establishment and think tanks - officer corps. The army is to be the tool of the imperium, with dissent rigorously proscribed. The problematic nature of such a goal is obvious, though it is not without recent precedent.

Comments (4)

What if all of it is accounted for by affirmative action for disadvantaged minorities and women? If they don't promote war zone experienced officers, there will be difficulty not only later, but in the present, as recruitment and retention becomes more difficult, for each increment of blocking of career paths by quota-filling. Isn't it staggering to consider that with TWO wars going, the military prioritizes quota-filling for the disadvantaged groups in officers' promotions? It bespeaks a nihilism so pervasive, that even the military would be organized around prioritizing the prestige of several minorities, above national security. A government that keeps doing this, is not likely to last long-term.

What if all of it is accounted for by affirmative action for disadvantaged minorities and women?

No, the sort of ossified mentality goes back to Vietnam and further--see the treatment of Col. David Hackworth and others.

What if all of it is accounted for by affirmative action for disadvantaged minorities and women?

Well, if this were merely a matter of weeding out those promoted despite lack of aptitude or qualification, the goal would be laudable. Alas, I do not believe that the military is about to make a stand against political correctness; even were it desirous of such a stance, the civilian authorities would never countenance it. It is indeed staggering and dismaying that such nonsense continues even under the strain of war; this is simply the pathology of the times.

No, the sort of ossified mentality goes back to Vietnam and further...

Yes, an ossification in military doctrine is a problem. What we have reason to believe, based upon the manner in which the present administration, wedded to its own orthodoxy of the revolution in military affairs, has treated dissenters - dissenters who correctly predicted problems with the Iraq occupation, mind you - is that a purge of the officer corps will not be limited to the odd bits of deadwood, but will aim to achieve a greater degree of ideological homogeneity. The strategic doctrine these folks have in mind entails light, mobile, quick-strike forces - and I'm not arguing that the entire concept is invalid - as opposed to heavy forces, on the presupposition that America is an hegemonic power confronted with only localized regime-change/counter-insurgency/nation-building operations. The doctrine is intended primarily to underpin this imperial strategy, and, where the force structure proves inadequate, military contractors take up the slack - and this entails another set of problems, namely, the corrupting influence of a built-in economic constituency for imperial geopolitics, complete with the usual revolving doors between government appointments, the industry in question, and the think-tanks. Formulate a policy, invest in a company, assume an appointment to implement a policy, and profit handsomely: war is a racket.

There are ossified officers who need to be moved on into retirement; there are also dissenters who have opposed recent strategic blunders, many of whom have experienced firsthand the problems of current American military doctrine. Again, this is more complicated that Koehl wants readers to believe.

In order to fill their racial ethnic and other quotas with officers mirroring the percentages on the enlisted level, they have to maintain a larger number of officers. Corporations have vice presidents in charge of minority recruitment, public relations, etc. Going around these people in order to get something done, ruffles the prestige sensitivities of those retained for group representation purposes, so it's less likely to happen.
Currently minorities have topped out percentagewise at the lower levels, so there is no need to give them accelerated promotions relative to whites, and that removes part of the incentive for minorities to enlist, which causes a further reduction in minority recruitment, allowing room for more white officers to be promoted than otherwise.
If you didn't do quotas, there would be less petty-minded insistence on everything going through channels, lest some unnecessary minority officer be made to feel slighted.

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