US Cav’s ON Point Editor David J. Danelo, posted a piece concerning LTC Yingling’s article (”A Failure in Generalship“) in the Armed Forces Journal. Those of you who read Part I of the series Iraq: What Went Wrong, know that LTC Yingling’s article was referenced as an opposing view. However, LTC Yingling’s article is actually a complimentary view, because there have been failures on the part of America’s most senior military leaders. Foremost among these failures is a return to the slavish mentality exhibited by senior military leaders during the Viet Nam War.
The following is Mr. Danelo’s article titled
Last week, an active-duty Army lieutenant colonel did an amazing thing: he publicly castigated an entire group of serving officers for their collective leadership failures. â€œAs matters stand now,â€ wrote Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in the Armed Forces Journal, â€œa private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.â€
In and of themselves, Yinglingâ€™s remarks were not unique. They mirror the sentiment of thousands of military personnel who have served in Iraq. Yingling later commented that his remarks received â€œalmost universal approvalâ€ among enlisted men, company-grade officers, and his own peers.
But in professional military circles, the articleâ€”which begins with a quote about officers amusing themselves with â€œGod knows what buffooneriesâ€â€”could be the equivalent of a suicide bomb. Yinglingâ€™s willingness to take his critique public was a bold move that some say could cross the line of insubordination.
â€œHe might get sent to Adak, Alaska for the rest of his career,â€ commented one military officer in an online discussion forum for national security professionals. Adak is a remote outpost that is not seen in the Army as a career-enhancing duty station.
Can Yingling kiss his career goodbye?
Although professional critiques are common in service-specific publications like the Armed Forces Journal, Naval Institute Proceedings, or the Marine Corps Gazette, Yinglingâ€™s broadside was noteworthy. Effectively, Yingling said that Generals Tommy Franks, Richard Myers, and Peter Paceâ€”and others like themâ€”were the moral equivalent of failed leaders like Civil War-era general George McClellan, whom Lincoln fired after his battlefield missteps.
Yingling, who is a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war, said on National Public Radio that a Purple Heart ceremony he attended inspired the article. â€œIt occurred to me that these soldiers have performed heroically, but that military officers had not done their part,â€ he said. â€œMy critique is not of individual performances, but of the entire system that produces our senior leaders.â€
A deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Lt. Col. Yingling is a close colleague of Col. H.R. McMaster, whose success as a commander in counterinsurgency in Tal Afar, Iraq, was trumpeted by President Bush as one of the main success stories in 2005.
Col. McMaster also wrote Dereliction of Duty, a book about the failure of the general officer corps to challenge civilian leadership during the Vietnam era. Yinglingâ€™s article is already being favorably compared by junior military personnel as this generationâ€™s version of McMasterâ€™s book.
In his interview with NPR, Yingling could only name one general officer whom he felt had lived up to the responsibility of telling the American people what resources would be necessary to win the war in Iraq: Gen. Eric Shinseki. In 2002, Shinseki told Congress that it would take â€œseveral hundred thousand soldiersâ€ to stabilize postwar Iraq. Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that estimate was â€œwildly off the mark.â€
For his candor and honesty, the Defense Department rewarded Gen. Eric Shinseki by sending him into early retirement. We can only hope that Lt. Col. Paul Yingling will not suffer the same fate. The Army needs more officers like him.
Written by ON Point Editor David J. Danelo, who served a tour in Iraq in 2004.