On April 28 , Lex posted on Lt. Col. Ron Yingling’s A Failure in Generalship in The Armed Forces Journal. Yingling’s essay (with several links to other discussions of the essay and related topics) is discussed by Greg Jaffe in The Wall Street Journal Online.
1 thought on “Further Yingling Discussion”
For insightful reading of events which have meaning today may I recommend, Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian 1866-1891 by Robert M. Utley. The perspective of a small and overtaxed military establishment conducting operations in a demanding environment, physically and politically, dealing with tribal behaviors, while bringing ‘civilization’ to the vastness of the west can be related to the contemporary operations on the world stage today. Of particular note would be chapters three: The Problem of Doctrine, four: The Army, Congress, and the People, and eighteen: Mexican Border Conflicts 1870-81.
Chapter 3: The Problem of Doctrine. “Three special conditions set this mission apart from more orthodox military assignments. First, it pitted the army against an enemy who usually could not be clearly identified and differentiated from kinsmen not disposed at the moment to be enemies. Indians could change with bewildering rapidity from friend to foe to neutral, and rarely could one be confidently distinguished from another…Second, Indian service placed the army in opposition to a people that aroused conflicting emotions… And third, the Indians mission gave the army a foe unconventional both in the techniques and aims of warfare… He fought on his own terms and, except when cornered or when his family was endangered, declined to fight at all unless he enjoyed overwhelming odds…These special conditions of the Indian mission made the U.S. Army not so much a little army as a big police force…for a century the army tried to perform its unconventional mission with conventional organization and methods. The result was an Indian record that contained more failures than successes and a lack of preparedness for conventional war that became painfully evident in 1812, 1846, 1861, and 1898.”
Chapter 4. The Army, Congress, and the People. “Sherman’s frontier regulars endured not only the physical isolation of service at remote border posts; increasingly in the postwar years they found themselves isolated in attitudes, interests, and spirit from other institutions of government and society and, indeed from the American people themselves…Reconstruction plunged the army into tempestuous partisan politics. The frontier service removed it largely from physical proximity to population and, except for an occasional Indian conflict, from public awareness and interest. Besides public and congressional indifference and even hostility, the army found its Indian attitudes and policies condemned and opposed by the civilian officials concerned with Indian affairs and by the nation’s humanitarian community.”
Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, the doctrine which is the basis for the Army’s training, procurement, and funding begins its history in 1939, not 1775. An entire century of dealing with cultures based upon tribal behaviors, ‘insurgencies’, and nation building is relegated to history offices for lineage and heritage or classes confined to West Point and ROTC detachments.
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