During the summer, the Best Defense is in
re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally
ran on Feb. 22, 2013.
Everyone has a good
idea of what discipline looks like in an enlisted soldier. He takes care of himself,
his gear and his comrades, he trains diligently, responds quickly to orders,
looks you in the eye when he speaks, keeps a good lookout.
But I don't think we
have a good idea of what discipline looks like in a general. I would begin with this list of
characteristics or rules of the road for flag officers:
Thinks of himself
as a steward of his profession, rather than as a member of a mutual protection
Rewards success and
relieves incompetents in his command after giving them a fair chance.
for his peers as well as his subordinates, and is transparent in these efforts,
explaining what he is doing and why, and not just on a "need to know" basis.
Understands that it
is his duty to speak truth to power (in a respectful manner, and mainly on
matters of importance, rather than as a constant burr under the saddle) but
then, when the decision is made, executes lawful orders without griping to subordinates
or leaking to the media.
Seeks to surround
himself with officers and other advisors who can think critically, but
understands that it is his job first to think, and that the task cannot be
farmed out to "the 50-pound brains."
Strives to ensure
that he is not only trained as a general, but educated as one. (Training
prepares one for the known, education for the unknown, which is the bulk of
what a senior officer must deal with in the chaos of war.)
Doesn't do his
subordinates' jobs. Turns off the Predator feed after a few minutes. Focuses on
his level, and pushes decisionmaking down as far as possible. Only does the
jobs that only he can do.
about lack of "bandwidth" because he realizes it is part of the job of a general
to manage his time and inbox in order to give himself time to think.
Understands that if George Marshall could run World War II and still leave the
office by 5, he can run Camp Swampy without burning out subordinates -- or
second-guessing their every move.
Doesn't abuse his
power. Watches himself on that account.
dissent, and cultivates an atmosphere of trust that rewards subordinates for
expressing doubts and concerns
doesn't drag his service into politics, but is free to be involved in politics
if he doesn't use his former rank or service affiliation.
In retirement, if
commenting as an expert on TV, learns to say "I don't know," if he doesn't.
When in doubt, he asks
himself "WWGMD?" ("What would George Marshall do?")