Small Wars Journal

Why Don’t Americans Hold the Military Accountable for its Many Failures?

Why Don’t Americans Hold the Military Accountable for its Many Failures? By C.J. Chivers – New York Times ‘At War’

Each year since the late 1990s, public surveys have found that Americans have a high confidence in the country’s armed forces, often higher than for any other American institution. This public confidence largely endured even as American plans in Afghanistan and Iraq repeatedly failed, and as thousands of men and women in uniform died and tens of thousands more were wounded in wars that did not achieve what the military and its leaders set out to do.

For many people who served in these recent wars, living within the services’ stifling bureaucracies or laboring in operations or circumstances that eroded their confidence in the Pentagon and the brass, these results can feel both familiar and odd. How do the services seemingly get a pass? Is public support reflexive, a species of approval as automatic as some of the thank-you-for-your-service gestures that are a feature of life as a service member or veteran?

The disconnect between public support and military performance extends beyond the failures in the wars. It’s a feature as well in how the military handles issues away from the battlefields, including, as presented this week in At War, in cases of sexual harassment and public health…

Read on.


As to the question:

"Why Don't Americans Hold The Military Accountable For Its Many Failures,"

As to this such question, might one suggest that -- as to the "New Way of War" America adopted cir. 2003 -- Americans, rightfully it would seem, hold others -- for example our civilian leadership -- more accountable for (a) this new way of war and (b) for its failures?

First, from a "The Nation" article entitled: "Shinseki–The General Who Battled Rumsfeld:"


Since Bush strutted onto the USS Lincoln to declare “Mission Accomplished,” more than forty Americans have been killed with many more wounded, (sixty-six have been killed since the fall of Baghdad on April 9.) No wonder General Shinseki–the highest-ranking Asian- American in US military history–retired the other day with a blast at the arrogance of the Pentagon’s civilian leaders:

“You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader,” he said. “You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance.”

Read between the lines. The Army chief of staff is telling us that men like Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are arrogant commanders, who not only exaggerated the threat Iraq posed but gravely underestimated the problems of postwar occupation. Americans would do well to heed General Shinseki’s final warning.


Next, from Gian Gentile's:  "A Strategy of Tactics: Population-centric COIN and the Army:"


The new American way of war has eclipsed the execution of sound strategy, producing never-ending campaigns of nation-building and attempts to change entire societies in places like Afghanistan. One can only guess at the next spot on the globe for this kind of crusade. Former Army officer and writer Craig Mullaney, who recently penned a book-portrait of himself and what he learned in combat, said that the “Achilles’ heel for Americans is our lack of patience.” But perhaps not; perhaps America’s lack of patience in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan should be seen as a virtue in that it could act as a mechanism to force the US military to execute strategy in a more efficient and successful manner. Doing strategy better would leverage the American Army out of its self-inflicted box of counterinsurgency tactics and methodologies into a more open assessment of alternatives to current military actions in Afghanistan.

The new American way of war commits the US military to campaigns of counterinsurgency and nation-building in the world’s troubled spots. In essence it is total war—how else can one understand it any differently when COIN experts talk about American power “changing entire societies”—but it is a total war without the commensurate total support of will and resources from the American people. This strategic mismatch might prove catastrophic in the years ahead if the United States cannot figure out how to align means with ends in a successful strategy. The new American way of war perverts and thus prevents us from doing so.