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09 February 2018

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Jack

Sir

IMO, this conformism pervades all institutions. I saw when I worked in banking and finance many moons ago how moving up the ranks in any large organization meant you didn't rock the boat and you conformed to the prevailing groupthink. Even nutty ideas became respectable because they were expedient.

Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs.

Fredw

You remind me of an old rumination by Thomas Ricks:

Take the example of General George Casey. According to David Cloud and Greg Jaffe’s book Four Stars, General Casey, upon learning of his assignment to command U.S. forces in Iraq, received a book from the Army Chief of Staff. The book Counterinsurgency Lessons Learned from Malaya and Vietnam was the first book he ever read about guerilla warfare." This is a damning indictment of the degree of mental preparation for combat by a general. The Army’s reward for such lack of preparation: two more four star assignments.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/07/cmon-man-meathead-generals-and-some-other-things-that-are-driving-me-crazy-about-life-in-this-mans-post-911-army/

Peter AU

"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers."

I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case.

Anna

Since Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question -- Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? “Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan” by Paul Craig Roberts: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/heroin-addiction-america-spearheaded-us-led-war-afghanistan/
“…in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meager 185 tons. It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program. …The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin. …
In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since Washington’s invasion. Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World’s illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. Who owns the airplanes and ships that transport heroin from Afghanistan to the US? Who gets the profits?”
---A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan "finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies." -- All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security?

gaikokumaniakku

Sir,
I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist. The Borg from Star Trek were intelligent hyperconformists who wanted to eradicate planetary independence. However, you write that military elites have "a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively. These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high."

Possibly the implication is that a Borgist wants to eradicate nationalist distinctions, whereas the military elite want to uphold the traditions of nationalism. If this is the right line of thinking, I wonder what the military elite's vision of "nationalism" is, because "nationalism" can mean different things to different people. Some people think Afghanistan is one nation with multiple ethnic groups, entitled to just one seat at the United Nations; other people think Afghanistan is a dozen nations, entitled to a dozen seats at the United Nations.

J

Colonel,

There needs to be a 're-education' of the top, all of them need to be required to attend Green Beret think-school, in other words they need to be forced to think outside the box, and to to think on their feet. They need to understand fluid situations where things change at the drop of a hat, be able to dance the two-step and waltz at the same time. In other words they need to be able to walk and chew gum and not trip over their shoe-laces.

By no means are they stupid, but you hit the nail on the head when you said 'narrow thinkers'. Their collective hive mentality that has developed is not a good thing.

divadab

God help the poor people of Syria.

J

Colonel,

All right, I'll admit that I'm a little prejudice. I've always admired the way the Green Beret think and operate.

elaine

Colonel, How much discretion does a General in theater have? Do they have to
clear all of their decisions through the Pentagon? Or are they not supposed to have any opinions & just bide time awaiting orders? How does it work?

james

thanks pat... it seems like the usa has had a steady group of leaders that have no interest in the world outside of the usa, or only in so far as they can exploit it for their own interest... maybe that sums up the foreign policy of the usa at this point... you say trump is disinterested.. so all the blather from trump about 'why are we even in syria?', or 'why can't we be friends with the russia?' is just smoke up everyone's ass...

i like what you said here "conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board." - that strikes me as very true - conformist group thinkers... the world needs less of these types and more actual leaders who have a vision for something out of the box and not always on board... i thought for a while trump might fill this bill, but no such luck by the looks of it now..

David E. Solomon

Colonel Lang,

Your description of these guys sounds like what we have heard about Soviet era planners. Am I correct in my understanding, or am I missing something?

Regards,

David

DianaLC

As a young person in eighth grade, I learned about the "domino theory" in regard to attempts to slow the spread of communism. Then my generation was, in a sense, fractured around the raging battles for and against our involvement in Vietnam.

I won't express my own opinion on that. But I mention it because it seems to be a type of "vision thing."

So, now I ask, what would be your vision for the Syrian situation?

Bill Herschel

This has been going on for a long time has it not? Westmoreland? MacArthur?

How did this happen?

turcopolier

Bill Herschel

Westmoreland certainly, Macarthur certainly not. This all started with the "industrialization" of the armed forces in WW2. we never recovered the sense of profession as opposed to occupation after the massive expansion and retention of so many placeholders. a whole new race of Walmart manager arose and persists. pl

turcopolier

DianaC

The idea of the Domino Theory came from academia, not the generals of that time. They resisted the idea of a war in east Asia until simply ordered into it by LBJ. After that their instinct for acting according to guidance kicked in and they became committed to the task. Syria? Do you think I should write you an essay on that? SST has a large archive and a search machine. pl

turcopolier

David E. Solomon

I am talking about flag officers at present, not those beneath them from the mass of whom they emerge. There are exceptions. Martin Dempsey may have been one such. The system creates such people at the top. pl

turcopolier

elaine
Your usual animosity for non-left wing authority is showing. A commander like the CENTCOM theater commander (look it up) operates within guidance from Washington, broad guidance. Normally this is the president's guidance as developed in the NSC process. Some presidents like Obama and LBJ intervene selectively and directly in the execution of that guidance. Obama had a "kill list" of jihadis suggested by the IC and condemned by him to die in the GWOT. He approved individual missions against them. LBJ picked individual air targets in NVN. Commanders in the field do not like that . They think that freedom of action within their guidance should be accorded them. This CinC has not been interested thus far in the details and have given the whole military chain of command wide discretion to carry out their guidance. pl

turcopolier

J

Thank you, but it is real GBs that you like not the Delta and SEAL door kickers. pl

turcopolier

J

A lot of things SHOULD be. pl

turcopolier

Gaikomainaku

"I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist." The Borg and the military leaders are not of the same tribe. they are two different collectives who in the main dislike and distrust each other. pl

turcopolier

Anna Their guidance does not include a high priority for eradicating the opium trade. Their guidance has to do with defeating the jihadis and building up the central government. pl

turcopolier

Peter AU

Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups. pl

turcopolier

james

Trump would like to have better relations with Russia but that is pretty much the limit of his attention to foreign affairs at any level more sophisticated than expecting deference. He is firmly focused on the economy and base solidifying issues like immigration. pl

turcopolier

jack

Bankers do not kill people in a literal sense. pl

Peter AU

The medical profession comes to mind. GP's and specialists. Many of those working at the leading edge of research seem much wider thinking and are not locked into the small box of what they have been taught.

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