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Thomas Ricks on Military Leadership

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thomas Ricks discusses the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq. History has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—and less kind to the generals of the wars that followed. He looks at why in his new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.

Guests:

Thomas Ricks

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Comments [4]

Andrew from Manhattan

Please ask Mr. Ricks: Isn't the lack of a draft a reason generals are less accountable? Their mistakes kill volunteers drawn from a tiny minority of the population -- and volunteers must accept what they get, as (largely) must their parents at home. If your son or daughter is killed in a fiasco, you may demand better leadership at the top. Further, isn't the idea of "getting your ticket punched" at the core of this issue/ Generals get rotated fast so that more of the career people at the top of "the corporation" can say they have combat command experience, and thus be rewarded with promotion, medals, etc. -- which themselves have gone through huge "grade inflation" since WWII.

Oct. 31 2012 01:36 PM
Robert Plautz from New York, N.Y.

Leonard,

Where would your guest, Thomas Ricks, place the firing of General William McChrystal? Embarrassment or lack of military leadership? Somewhere in between?

Robert Plautz

Oct. 31 2012 01:35 PM
Roger from The Bronx

I'm wondering if US torture would've been so rampant if the military would've taken action to fire officers (the way that Tom described) -- along with getting serious about prosecutorial accountability (which seems to have been grossly lacking in Iraq and Afghanistan). What does Tom think about this? And does he think it also led to this kind of permissiveness that led to other subsequent abuses in those war theaters, like defacing and uniting on corpses among other related crimes.

Oct. 31 2012 01:30 PM
Hugh Sansom

Thomas Ricks draws a parallel between military top brass and tenured university faculty. Military leadership also sounds like top corporate management — Wall Street execs (with three or four exceptions) have been completely immune from responsibility for their failures.

Oct. 31 2012 01:30 PM

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