The Best Defense

How to fix the Army in 66 easy steps (I)

By "Petronius Arbiter"
Best Defense department of Army affairs

A few small things, some annoyances, and some big fixes that could make a good Army better:

Philosophy

  • CSA position needs to be Commandant-like, commanding the Army, not just directing the Army staff, assigning Generals or formulating the Army budget. Army structure should empower him to do so.
  • Don't be afraid to admit mistakes, acknowledge that the institution made a mistake and then fix it, even if it means going back to the way something was in the past or even getting a black eye.
  • Do not, I say again, do not, have a regulation/policy/or law that you are unwilling or reluctant to enforce; examples, enforcement of the height/weight program, or the prohibition of cell phone use in moving autos. To do less is to violate the first principle of leadership and makes a mockery of the institution. Enforce unilaterally, not out of convenience. Perfect example is the inability to enforce the Army height/weight standards in order to maintain force structure manning for deployments. Cynics develop over things like that.
  • Eliminate NCO business or NCO time as an institutional mantra. It becomes Army business or all our business, focused on one solution and focus.
  • Do nothing in the Army that does not build soldiers' and officers' confidence in themselves and their units.

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The Best Defense

Gray and strategy (V): A rare lapse in his understanding of the American psyche

Colin Gray concludes his 30th maxim, about the persistence of thuggishness in world politics, with this quotation: "Nice guys finish last." He attributes this to "Popular American saying."

This is one of the rare lapses in his book, and a bit ironic given his emphasis on the need for cultural sensitivity in making and implementing strategy. In this case, he gets the words right but the attribution wrong, and if you know your baseball history, that's significant. The crack about "nice guys finishing last" is not a folk saying broadly popular with Americans, it was an riposte made by Leo Durocher, a brawling baseball manager with a distinctly dark view of the world -- and of how to play baseball: "Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it." So I would say that the comment isn't so much reflective of American views -- which tend to be more optimistic, law-abiding and meliorist -- as of the hard-bitten minority that believes that to get along in the world, you have to kick, bite and gouge every inch of the way. Or, as Durocher once confessed, "If I were playing third base and my mother was rounding third with the run that was going to beat us, I would trip her."

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