In from the Cold reports the resignation of Abizaid. Spook 86 observes:
The choice for Abizaid’s replacement will be an early indicator of how much clout Mr. Gates (and the Bush #41 alumni association) really have in setting policy for the rest of W’s administration.
This news is preceded and followed by speculations on Iran & Gunboat Diplomacy, but his greater energy was spent analyzing the possibilities of recruitment in “It’s the Force Structure, Stupid.”
1 thought on “Reports from our Blog Roll – In From the Cold”
That’s a tough question. A lot of people regarded Abizaid as pretty much the one general who was perfectly suited for this fight (I was one, and I’m not sure whether I was right or not). He was a standout by any measure, and there really aren’t that many of his peers who are of his caliber and possess his level of experience. Having served under him when he commanded 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne, as well as his successor, the often-lauded David Petraeus, I can say without reservation that there really is no comparison.
The Army (and, I should add, the nation) is paying the price for a decade of poor promotion and advancement decisions. The service made a very deliberate decision in the 1990s to discourage officers who were considered “competitive for promotion and command” from pursuing advanced degrees or duty as a junior or field grade officer that took them “away from troops.” It also made the very conscious decision to favor officers whose career pattern had included troop and staff assignments with line units over those whose career path was less conventional. The result was the selection and advancement of a generation of general officers who are, as a friend of mine described them, “the best battalion commanders in the world.”
There is a corollary to this: because it still needed guys to do certain types of jobs that were now viewed as “dead ends,” the service offered officers a choice: they could chose one of two tracks. Those who elected to stay in the “operational” Army were competing for selection for the very small number of operational commands and (it was implied) eventual selection for promotion beyond colonel; those who chose the “functional area” (i.e., a relatively narrow specialization) would be made more competitive for promotion through colonel, but the Army made the point discreetly but clearly that the senior leadership would continue to be selected from those who had elected to spend their lives focusing on what we all belived was the service’s “core warfighting function.”
The Army recently announced that it was going to modify this policy, and permit officers who were serving in functional jobs to compete for commands, but until this has time to take hold, we’re stuck with a cadre of field grade officers that is divided between guys with loads of experience at the company, battalion and brigade level, and guys who have advanced educations and lots of Pentagon time, but who haven’t seen the inside of an orderly room for ten years. And above them are general officers who were for the most part selected for their ability as mid-level managers. There are exceptions, but they tend to come from relatively well-worn career patterns that allow an officer to obtain connections that are useful aids to promotion, like service as a branch personnel manager or teaching in a very few well-connected departments at West Point, which are of varying value to the prosecution of this war.
The best possibility is the least likely, and that is the hope that the secretary will do something risky and unconventional, and “deep select” one of the relatively junior officers with a significant amount of field time and experience in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are brigadiers or major generals who might be suitable. The selection of a one or two star general for a four star command would be as much of a shock to the service as, oh, the recall of a retired four star whose life had been spent in the bureaucratically separate world of SOCOM, but it might be the right answer at a tough spot.
And it worked for Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.
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