Military reform, now and then: warrior ethos

In the great struggle between political generals and academy graduates described by Thomas Goss in The War Within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship During the Civil War, what we today call the "warrior" ethos was missing. The Academy graduates of that day, in their strivings for professionalism, did not model Indian braves, Japanese samurai or knights errant.

Oddly enough, that remains the case today, despite a very strong "warrior" subculture in today's civilian society: consider martial arts, Sun Tzu in the board room, endless books, movies, the ninja phenomenon, etc. In our modern Army, the disconnect between warrior values and military professionalism is pretty much where it was in 1865, which is a major goad to the warrior-oriented reformers. One of these, David Hackworth, was mentioned here recently. Another is the Navy SEAL LCDR Mark D. Divine:

As I tout the traits of the warriors, and am proud to include myself in that breed that is increasingly rare to find in our society, I must point out that not all military members in Iraq, or the US Military, are warriors. The most glaring disparity is with our US Army conventional and National Guard forces.

I cannot imagine an officer of my generation being so blunt about a sister service in public. He continues:

Those who read this from the Army who hail from units that have bucked the inertia in the system and have risen above the malaise – I applaud you. It must be a gargantuan task to shine in a broken, low-morale and malaise-ridden system.

LCDR Divine struggles in trying to understand how the Army could be in the condition it is in and offers that,

The Army has, incredibly, ONE General Officer for every 1,000 soldiers…Today’s Army Generals do the work of yesterday’s Colonels. And they are comparable to the Captains of our WWI and WWII Army in terms of their responsibilities and accountability. … A top-heavy structure will tip any vessel. The Army vessel is tipping and its masts are submerged.

We spoke about this yesterday, the idea that if no limits were placed on the concept of professionalism, then more is always better and there will be very officer-heavy structures (you can't get too much of a good thing, right?).

The charge that professionalism could produce a broken, low-morale and malaise-ridden system would not surprise the political generals of 1861-1865 in the least. One of the favorite motifs used to criticize Academy graduates was that of military paradigms taken to absurd extremes: too much entrenching, too much drill, too much calculation, too much strategy, and worst of all a very heavy restraining hand on the ardor of recruits.

I thought of 1861 when reading this recent Internet posting:

I have to help. I can't think about anything else. A few weeks ago, as casualties mounted, I finally said, "Enough! I'm coming!"

The Army has noticed too:

One thing the army has noted is the increasing number of volunteers who are joining up not for the educational benefits or the money [i.e., professional incentives]. Now a major incentive is patriotism. Many young Americans believe that Islamic radicals are a real threat to the United States and want to do something about it.

There was, in the Civil War, this great debate about the rightness of putting patriotic citizen soldiers under the stifling control of a military bureaucracy.

Aggravating that matter today is the fact that young people joining the Army for combat against the enemy have drunk great draughts of the popular warrior culture. This is an influx of fighters who are even less prepared than those of 1861 to submit their understanding of what is urgently needed to the Army's ethos of professionalism. Will they demand new leadership and a new ethos? It will be interesting to see if the Army, already in crisis and in war, will adapt to a new culture and new thinking infusing it from below.

We'll start to engage the deep thinkers of military reform tomorrow, again setting them in a post-ACW context.