Ultraprofessionalism - and the ACW

I feel a wave of irritation towards Grant, Sherman, and Schofield whenever I encounter "professionalism" run amok. I know I'm not being fair to their memories as post-ACW Army chiefs.

They purged civilian officers and inaugurated a top-heavy command structure long on form and short on innovation - but they couldn't have willed or foreseen the extreme outcome bedevilling us today. Professionalism is a paradigm, however, and paradigms tend towards extreme manifestations.

And surely, we have now reached the outer limits of a marginally useful idea. I say that having watched the news and recently reading two stomach-turning exposes of Army professionalism in Afghanistan: Not a Good Day to Die and Hunting Al Qaeda.

Hunting Al Qaeda is a little bit upbeat. It shows National Guard soldiers - something like USVs - consistently defying and outsmarting their professional higher-ups in order to kill and capture enemies. Not a Good Day has no silver lining.

Amidst all the professional shooing away of volunteers in Louisiana last week, there was a vignette on NPR that brought back the anti-West Point Civil War motif of "native genius" reacting to crisis. An organized group of informals encountered the Coast Guard boating down a street: they railed at them. Are you following a grid pattern, sailor? What's your system? No system? Then you don't know where you've been searching and you are going to lose lives through lack of method. Get organized, sailor, or get out of here. It was emotional. The professionals were momentarily humbled. That night, the police chased the volunteers away, leaving the system-free professionals in charge.

On Saturday, Pacifica Radio presented another professionalism incident. Its crew stopped an Army patrol in New Orleans in front of a dead body: Hey soldier, this body has been here a week - time to pick it up, don't you think? Sorry, ma'am but we're professionals who observe a strict division of labor and this happens to be a police matter.

And so it goes.

The Armchair Generalist reports that the Joint Forces Command has now released an important document painstakingly differentiating "Weapons of Mass Destruction" from a new coinage of their own making, "Weapons of Mass Effects." Thank you, gentlemen, thank you for your professionalism.

Blogger Kingdaddy observes that in the present flood crisis, "I'm bit worried that Americans see the military as omnicapable (it's not)."

Omincapable? The paradigm set in motion through Union victory has rendered it barely capable of mixed success in its core missions against tribal militias and student radicals.

Give us back our native genius.