Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thomas Ricks on the Tradition of Firing Generals Who Get Out of Line

At NYT, "Lose a General, Win a War." Not enough heads roll at the top level of the military, apparently:
Back in World War II, the Army had no qualms about letting officers go; at least 16 of the 155 generals who commanded divisions in combat during the war were relieved while in combat. George Marshall, the nation’s top general, felt that a willingness to fire subordinates was a requirement of leadership. He once described Gen. Hap Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces, as a fine man, but one who “didn’t have the nerve to get rid of men not worth a damn.”

Marshall had plenty of nerve: in 1940 and ’41, as war loomed, he forced into retirement several hundred officers he deemed too old and slow to be effective. When the commandant at Leavenworth, Brig. Gen. Charles Bundel, told him that updating the complete set of Army training manuals would take 18 months, Marshall offered him three months, and then four months, to do the job. It can’t be done, Bundel twice responded.

“You be very careful about that,” Marshall told him in a telephone conversation.

“No, it can’t be done,” Bundel repeated.

“I’m sorry, then you are relieved,” Marshall said.


Rusty Walker said...

Lincoln relieved and replaced many as well but, he was pro-military. I may be a voice in the wilderness on this one. I think if Bush were in office he would have accepted McChrystal’s apology, but the anti-military demeanor of Obama necessitated a hard-line. McChrystal did not screw up on anything but a lack of political savvy.