Thursday, January 9, 2014

Military Officers: Profession of Arms or Masters of Bureaucracy?

An interesting article was posted on the Tom Ricks blog on Foreign Policy. The article entitled "The decay of the profession of arms" is penned by MAJ Mathew Cavanaugh - an Army instructor at West Point. He points out that we (condensing his long article) have more bureaucrats than intellectual officers in the Army. He raises a valid point. He cites two reasons for the lack of intellectual depth and a tendency to bureaucracy - a "lack of effort" on the part of individual officers and a collective "fear of disloyalty" if challenges are made to the system. I found myself in agreement with most of his article.

I did pause in his suggestion (or is it the suggestion of LTC Fernando Lugan)  that West Point become the " . . . epicenter of the Army's intellectual renaissance . . .". After serving 40 years in the military and being exposed to the product of West Point I really have my doubts of this recommendation. Perhaps Leavenworth is the better location for this type of intellectual endeavor.

However, more illuminating are the many comments by other readers at the bottom (end) of his article. Comments by others I found myself in strong agreement with or very puzzled by:

Strong Agreement. 

- Intellectual center should be Leavenworth; not West Point.
- 'bob.stone': His comments were educational and provide clarity on officer education. But I didn't like his comments on the bureaucracy and "if you don't like it . . ." ". . get out . . .". Is "bob" part of the problem?
- The comment by "Majrod" on "chickafication" is precious.
- One comment said that the new Foreign Policy site "sucks". Absolutely  - I find it loud, difficult to navigate and not lending the right 'atmosphere' to an intellectual forum.


- I read the "Joint Adaptive Expeditionary Warfare . . . " phrase twice and understood it (after the second reading!).
- West Point as the center for "Profession of Arms'? I think not. One example comes to mind. A very bright and competent young infantry officer that I know very well attended West Point. He has an engineering degree and studied Portuguese at West Point. In his first four years of duty he did two years in Afghanistan (platoon leader and company XO). He may never serve in a combat zone again the rest of his career or could find himself embroiled in three more wars. I think he would have been better served (as well as the men he commanded) if he received a degree in Military Studies (not engineering) and studied Pasthu or Dari (not Portuguese). Just saying.

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