Small Wars Journal

The Continuing Irrelevance of William Lind

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 4:22pm

The Continuing Irrelevance of William Lind

Jim Lacey

William Lind in a recent article in “The American Conservative” laid out the proposition that after four defeats - Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan - America’s military officer corps is intellectually stagnant.  (

This is utter nonsense. 

Still coming from William Lind, the “self-professed” inventor, or re-inventor, of the concept of maneuver warfare it cannot be lightly disregarded. 

It is first worth taken note of some of the historical pointers Lind employs as examples of  when armies “crapped in their own mess kits” and then went on to get it right.  His first example deals with  how Scharnhorst reinvented the German Army, after its embarrassment at the hands of Napoleon in 1806.  Not a bad example, as far as it goes.  For the Germans did create an incredibly proficient army at the tactical and operational levels of wars.  In the hands of a strategic genius - Bismarck – it was potent force, in support of German (Prussian) policy objectives.  In the hands of a strategic idiot though, that army started and was crushed in history’s two most destructive wars. 

His next example is the French after 1870.  This is an odd choice indeed.  For the French answer to their 1870 defeat was adoption of the “Spirit of the Offense,” which led to horrendous losses in the first weeks of World War I, and almost cost France the war.  Remarkably the French persisted with these asinine methods until the rank and file mutinied in 1917. The final example is Japan after 1945.  As remaking our entire society and forgoing warfare for all time is not currently a viable option, I believe it safe to discount this example.  In fact, all of his examples are pretty horrendous given the point he is trying to make.  That is the problem with historical analogies, in most cases; one only has to probe an inch below the surface to demonstrate their utter worthlessness.  Much can, of course, be learned, from history, but not when it is sloppily applied, as it is here.

But let’s examine why Lind believes the officer corps is intellectually sterile.  His first reason is that “officers live in a bubble” where they are constantly fed “swill” about how great they are, and get angry if they hear anything else.  If that is truly the impression Lind has of today’s officer corps then, one may argue, that he is the one in a bubble.   One wonders if he has ever visited Small Wars Journal, or any of the other sites where military officers are continuously arguing about the points Lind states are being ignored.  Moreover, the truth is that most military officers are developed in an environment of almost constant competition, where through a variety of means they are critiqued, often brutally, on everything they do.  One has only to witness an after action review at one of our training centers to see how leadership and unit foibles are exposed to all the world before those involved are sent off to fix them. 

But, my guess is that Lind’s real problem is with our military repeatedly telling itself that it is unmatched fighting force.  For, as Lind is the first to state, our military is clearly is not as good as it thinks it is.  His argument is ridiculous on two levels.  Even if our military was not an unmatchable force it believes itself to be, of what benefit is it to ever admit such a thing.  Can anyone picture a football coach telling his team the day before the big game, that their chances would be much better if only they were as good as their opponent?  Similarly, what would the troops think of a military commander who constantly reminded them that they were not as good as their foes?  That would do wonders for morale.  

The second is even more telling, once it is fully considered.  Arguably, the US military has not lost a tactical fight in over 70 years (Task Force Smith in Korea), and has not lost an operational level fight in 150 years (and that depends on what side you were on during the Civil War).  For decades, the US military has been absolutely unbeatable on the battlefield.  Even in those fights where we were most hard-pressed (Ia Drang, Somalia, Wanat) our Soldiers and Marines delivered at least an order of magnitude more casualties than they took.  The simple truth is that by every empirical measure known the US military is the best in the world and remains capable of overmatching any foe on the near-time horizon.

Lind then calls attention to the senior officer bubbles, which are maintained by  ”vast, sycophantic staffs that rival Xerxes’ court.”  As an historian of the Greco-Persian Wars, I would bet that Lind has little conception of what Xerxes court was like.  Hint: it was most assuredly not as he imagines it.  But, I assume that he true meaning is that our 4-star commanders are kept in the dark by well-meaning staff officers who have to tell them how great things are to avoid terrible and unspeakable fates.  Lind even states that he knows this for a fact, from having personally told these “god-kings” the truth and suffered for it.   One must ask two questions; what “courtier” allowed him to penetrate the bubble, and how has Lind suffered as a result.  Most would not consider his cozy think-tank position as suffering.  Though one does wonder how his position in The Center for Public Transportation allows him the opportunity to access the actually state of today’s military.  Possibly, his suffering revolves around at his continuing irrelevance to the crucial debates of our time.  Possibly he is offended by not getting as many invites to military conferences or wargames as he used to.  If that is the case, it is because he no longer has anything worthwhile to say.  In fact, he was last relevant in 1985, and his contributions then were of rather paltry substance.

Lind goes on to state that our military officers are “merely craftsmen” and not professionals.   His standard for this comment is that most officers do not read military history, which he proves through two anecdotes; one each from a Marine Corps and Army school, where the students supposedly read only 1 or 2 pages a night.  Well, I teach at the Marine Corps War College and I assure Mr. Lind that the students are usually reading over 100 and closer to 200 pages a night.  I do, however, lament that  there is not more time given over to teaching military history at the various War Colleges (though there are ongoing measures to fix that).  Still, at the lower course levels, students are immersed in military history, particularly those students with an aptitude for the material, who are often given a second full year of immersion into military history. 

If our students are returning to the military education system not as well read as one might hope, that reflects the fact that they have been at war for over a decade.  Given a choice between a bit more time learning their craft, and thereby keeping the men and women charged to their care alive, or reading Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, which would Lind advise a young officer to do.  Moreover, if there really is a professor at an Army school who believes “We are back to drawing on the cave wall,” then I submit that his comment reflects his own failings, and it is time for him to move on.

Lind does not hold the officer corps totally culpable for their own failure.  Rather, he views their professional handicaps as a result of three institutional failings.  First up, is Lind’s claim that there are too many officers for the organization.   To prove his point he compares the leanness of a German Panzer Division in World War II to our division headquarters that he claims are the size of “cities.”  Let’s overlook the hyperbole, and note that Lind is comparing apples and oranges.  During the invasion of Iraq the 3rd Infantry Division went from Kuwait to Baghdad in 21 days, destroying half a dozen Iraqi divisions along the way.  During that time, the division was maneuvered by Brigadier General Lloyd Austin from the back of a couple of vehicles, and he was supported by a staff of less than a dozen officers.  Moreover, when I visited the 101st Airborne Division headquarters during the invasion, it was working out of two tents. 

Only during the occupation did headquarters begin to grow.  This was not a result of needing more officers to coordinate the combat side of the equation.  Rather, division headquarters were given diplomatic responsibilities, told to establish local economies, and help establish civic government (the list is almost endless).  The reason military officers handled these positions is that, for the most part, the government’s civilian agencies failed to show up in anything near the numbers required to do the job.  As the amount of jobs that military was asked to undertake grew, so did the staffs responsible for them.  In the event, if those same divisions were called to fight another maneuver war, let’s say in Korea, they would rapidly abandon that excess infrastructure and slim down for combat… as they always have.

According to Lind the Army is also weighed down by too many briefings that give the “illusion of content.”  First, what the @*#$& is the “illusion of content.”  I suppose Lind is allowed to apply meaningless buzz-phrases out of some business textbook, but, in truth, briefings are important.  Why?   Because that is how information is conveyed.  Every officer can, of course, list any number of briefings he really did not need to attend, or relate a story about the PowerPoint presentation from hell, but one fails to see how this equates to intellectual sterility.  Does Lind think that Napoleon’s staff officers, or Eisenhower’s, did not spend much of their time preparing and attending briefings?

At this point, Lind launches into a screed about our military’s personnel policies having created an “emasculated, morally deficient, ass-kissing, conformist, officer corps.”  Really?  It is too bad Lind, while dealing with transportation problems all day, apparently has no time to visit with serving military officers of all ranks.  He would discover that his comments are far removed from reality.  I recently had the opportunity to witness a 4-star general talking with a group of captains about the state of the Army.  If these captains were holding anything back I could not imagine what it was.  In fact, my impression was that if wanted to demonstrate “talking truth to power” she could do no better than use that meeting as an example.  So, what is Lind talking about?  The best I can guess is that he is rehashing many of the points he was making in the 1980s (and they were wrong then), without having any knowledge of our current military.  I, for instance, am a mere professor at the Marine Corps War College.  The odds that the Commandant of the Marine Corps - General Amos - knows who I am, are slim (at least until he reads this).  Still, if I sent him a note, out of the blue, telling him the corps was making a terrible mistake in how it educating its future leaders (it’s not), I would bet a month’s pay I could get on his schedule.  I would bet another month’s pay that after venting my feelings my job would remain secure and I would, in fact, feel no negative professional repercussions.  Lind is imaging an American military that does not exist, and possibly never existed.  It is sad, indeed that persons have to take the time beating down his straw men.

Lind finishes with this reprehensible close: “If American military officers want to know, or even care, why we keep losing, they need only look in the mirror. They seem to do that most of the time anyway, admiring their now-tattered plumage. Behind them in the glass, figures in turbans dance and laugh.” 

So, let’s get a few things straight.  First… and this is crucial, the American military does not lose.  As I pointed out above, it has a nearly unbroken record of battlefield victories dating back into the 19th century.  And, that in the final analysis, is what our military is paid to do: keep the peace, and failing that to win on the battlefield.  Unfortunately, as was pointed out to Colonel Summers after Vietnam; in strategic terms, winning on the battlefield is often irrelevant.  So, as our military ends over a decade in combat, it comes out with its head held-high, its valor proven, and its capacity to win any engagement unchallenged.  Still, the nation again failed to achieve the strategic success it hoped for.  By and large such failure cannot be laid at the feet of the military.  Our forces did all that was asked of them and more.  It is, therefore, hard to see how even another hundred tactical victories could have altered the strategic result.  The answer to this strategic dilemma is not going to be found in telling officers to read more history.  Rather, it must be found in making sure our policymakers are better prepared to understand and react to the strategic conundrums that surround them.    The nation’s military instrument is as close to perfect as any in history, what it needs a statesman of Bismarckian genius to direct when and where it deploys… and to achieve what result.  But, blaming the politicians has always been a step to far for Lind and his ilk, as it is much always easier to fault those who fought, bled and died then those who sent them.

In summary, Lind has diagnosed the wrong aliment and offered the wrong cure, and worse, is trying to treat a patient that does not exist.  In the process, he has demonstrated that he has lost contact with the realities of our current military.  In truth, the real officer corps, particularly our senior officers, are always and everywhere looking for worthwhile suggestions and help.  The pity is that Lind has demonstrated that he has nothing in value to offer them.   He would much rather, insult and berate, as he demands the officer corps reform itself according to his vision.  What that vision consists of, besides reading more military history, remains unfathomable.  It is time for Lind to return to his dark corner, and stop bothering the adults who are doing the serious work of reinvigorating the force that will defend this great nation for another generation. 

Still, on the off chance Lind truly desires to contribute to the ongoing debate, and not just cast stones, may I recommend a little reading.  Each of the services is busily working on their ideas for the future - Expeditionary Force 21 for the Marines, Vision 2025 for the Army, Air-Sea Battle for the Air Force and Navy.  May I suggest that Lind take the time to review the documents relating to these new plans and directions, and then publish a commentary on his thoughts..  Rather than attack the military for not thinking about the future force, which is demonstrably false, Lind could make himself relevant in the current debate by carefully analyzing the pro and cons of the myriad of debates that he has somehow currently has convinced himself are no longer taking place.

About the Author(s)

Jim Lacey is the Professor of Strategic Studies at the Marine Corps War College, and the author of the recently published Moment of Battle.  This article represents the views of the author only, and do not reflect the views of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.



Fri, 11/22/2019 - 12:10pm

In reply to by hwfross

I can assure you his work is most definitely not satire. He is 100% serious about it. You can see this on the blog he runs very clearly and in other books he has written.

He is still very serious about pushing his theories into the military. And you mentioned his clear display of how he does not understand how modern equipment works. That is because based on his writing Lind has a clear distrust, bordering on a pathological hatred, of not just modern military equipment, but almost every technological development that has been made post-world war 2. He meant every insane word he wrote in his novel Victoria. And he is still very serious about getting the military to take his garbage theories seriously.


Thu, 01/28/2016 - 1:19pm

In reply to by hwfross

Not sure what your purpose is to comment on a article a year and a half old...still working on your next career move? Read my comments below...way
back in 2014 and everywhere you read Carl...delete and enter hwfoss. Really?

To whom it may concern,

This article was posted over a year and a half ago but has recently come to my attention while searching for articles relating to Mister Lind.

I don't know if anyone follows Mister William Lind's pen names frequently but he has outed himself recently as the owner of the Pen Name Thomas Hobbes under which he has written a number of 'speculative fiction' pieces available through amazon.

I understand that this would not normally be a subject of discussion on this blog but seeings as the novel is entitled Victoria : A Novel of 4th Generation Warfare I was under the impression that Mister Lind would in fact provide a degree of insight into the theories and paradigms he espouses placed within the context of a fictionalized scenario.

Leaving aside the cultural commentary and quality of the writing entirely and focusing purely on the technical aspects and details, Mister Lind's fictional work is consistently deficient every time that it touches on technical details, actively loathsome of the military topics of planning and logistics, in fact loathsome of military competence at all levels, and totally ignorant on topics of mechanical engineering and industrial production which are my own area of expertise and what drew the novel to my attention as it represents a unique travesty in the extent to which it discusses a topic upon which its author is clearly and empirically ignorant.

Again, while this is a fictional work written under a pen name and should not be taken to represent Mister Linds views in whole or in part. The fact that he was so deficient in adequately explaining the supposed core thesis of his novel underlines serious questions to his competence suitably explaining or justifying his theories at all.

Perhaps this is meant as satire, or to lampoon his detractors, but if so the deficiencies in Mister Lind's writing underline questions of his basic competence and ability to engage his detractors in any productive fashion.

As for his valid opinions. I cannot find anything in his writing that is not expressed more concisely and with a more even hand by other better analysts.

Interested Observer

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 10:58pm

Dr. Lacey’s response is visceral and, in part, an ad hominem attack. That doesn’t make it wrong. Perhaps, in this case, it is warranted.

Lind’s essay is punditry. It is well written but lacks substance (“the illusion of content without offering any”). It is an all-out attack on an officer corps which has served our Country nobly.

Lind offers anecdotes to support wide generalizations. Let me offer a few:

I can’t speak to whether our military has too many officers. I would, if Lind had offered more than an unsupported allegation that it does. The Army seemed bureaucratic when I was in it – until my tanks were in the field or on the range and we needed water, chow, parts, mechanics, ammo, and mail.

I learned history in ROTC and my basic course. Of course that was cursory. It was also introductory. My first battalion commander demanded his lieutenants brief him on Civil War battles; he gave each lieutenant a topic (logistics, maneuver, leadership successes and failures – and God help anybody who didn’t do his homework). Then, our commander took us to Shiloh and Chickamauga to walk the battlefields. That battalion commander got to know his lieutenants and captains. He realized not everyone was as interested in history as he was – we (his officers) frequently discussed philosophy, ethics, foreign policy, and other subjects. He figured out where everyone’s talents and interests were and used them to educate the group.

My second battalion commander knew I was interested in the Middle East and encouraged me to study as much as I could about Arab and Israeli history. He liked the programs we had in place and continued them. He often visited informally with us about “what it means to be an officer.” Once, we discussed My Lai. It’s hard to forget, even after 26 years, “guys, trust me, you want to be Hugh Thompson.”

I was present when MG Tom Tait spoke to a hall full of officers during Iran Contra. If you ever heard him speak, you’ll “get” the force of his statement that: “We don’t lie to Congress – we work for the American people. Your heroes should be your soldiers, not anybody involved in that mess.”

I wasn’t the best young officer in the Army. I may not have been the worst. Most of the guys I know who stayed (mid ‘80s dates of commission) were top notch officers.

In 2009, twenty years after I left the Army, I visited a large installation to attend an 0-6 change of command. I took my sons (who were only three and four years away from enlistment age). They got to meet two general and several field grade officers, as well as a few special forces command sergeants major and other special forces NCOs. The real treat was when we visited a rifle company area on a whim and visited with several young soldiers and NCOs. Most of them had deployed more than once. I asked them some tough questions when no one was looking. Their responses told me they were well led and confident in their leadership. The 2009 visit told me I hadn’t romanticized the military. It is comprised of excellent leaders (there a few bad apples everywhere).

Sites like this and emails I receive from old Army friends (many recently retired or serving as CSMs, COLs and GOs) tell me the military is retaining intelligent leaders who challenge the status quo. At least two guys have had maddening, near "go public" experiences, but have stayed because they still make a difference.

I hate to burst bubbles but there is more to our officer corps than learning history and being staff heavy. The "profession of arms" is about much more than Lind posits.

Finally, have any of you met any of the young people who are obtaining appointments to the academies and receiving ROTC scholarships? I know several. I am confident regarding the future of our officer corps.

The real questions, for me, are not about our military leaders. They do, and will, perform well. However, they don’t get to define the role of our military.

If our officers' job is to win battles, they will do so. If their job is to lead a humanitarian mission, they’ll do that. In the right circumstances they’ll excel at a peacekeeping job. If their job is changing mores, cultures, and bringing an absolute end to thousands of years of disputes by an occupation then perhaps our nation is asking too much of them.

I think (yes, it's an inference) Lind wrote provocatively. I think Dr. Lacey called Lind on it.

Robert Jones is right. As in most things, we should try to identify the problem (I think it is how we continually improve and prepare our military leadership for our uncertain world) and then work to see how we solve the problem together.

As a caveat - - - I read history, I study foreign policy, and I read the news. My expertise regarding what is right or wrong with our military, its officer corps, or our nation’s foreign policy is offered based on that, my anecdotal experience, and most importantly from the comfort and safety of my arm-chair recliner.


Mon, 04/28/2014 - 3:03pm

In reply to by DPLPP


I am understanding you to say that for young officers about to go into combat reading military history isn't very important. They have better things to do. Or, so what that they don't read military history?

It seems to me that somebody who is about to go into combat as a leader for the first time and doesn't take the time to read a few books like The Village, or With the Old Breed, or The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo, or With the Jocks, or Platoon Leader, or We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, or Defeat Into Victory, or Neptune's Inferno or just few of the multitude of books like that; it seems to me that that person is kind of stupid. It is stupid not to take advantage of all that knowledge easily available and easy to understand and bought with blood.

When I was younger, Bill Lind was regarded by many as a gadfly, much like the late David Hackworth. I'd argue he is still one today. The bio on the American Conservative website says he's a military expert, but I'd call him a nag or a pest. He's also a self-described monarchist which in my mind limits his value as a serious commentator.

Many of his assertions in this article are misleading, possibly and probably deliberately. For example, company command tours last about 18 months, but that's been normal for 30+ years. Battalion and brigade command is 24, sometimes extended for deployments. In the 2004-2007 time all command tours lasted much longer because of deployment considerations. He clearly implies our commanders are inexperienced. Of course, he's never served a day in uniform (born in 1947...hmmm, I wonder what he was doing from 1966-1975?) and hasn't a clue how stressful combat or command at any level can be.

Lind asserts that most officers don't read or study history of theory. Technically true based on sheer numbers -- but so what? When I was a lieutenant, I read history because I liked it. But I also liked beer and girls. I'd argue most lieutenants today are the same way -- that is, they're young and eager to get their hands into "stuff" and to have a little fun, especially after 16 years of education. Further, I think the military school system has improved a lot. OBC classes may still be somewhat dry, but for about a decade now every one of those new officers knew he was going to serve and lead Soldiers in a combat zone. I have to assume that fact had their attention and they focused on the things that were important in the short run. Military theory and isolated history lessons could/can wait -- and for the most part the staff college experience can begin to make up for it.

All in all, I think the military spends a lot of time and money trying to educate its officers and its non-commissioned officers. All majors attend the Command and General Staff College -- and it is here that many officers get their first real intro to things like strategy, military theory, and complex/joint operations. It's at this point that most officers become "institutionalized" with all its good and bad connotations. And at this point, the officer corps constitutes about 5% of the active Army (total officer strength is only about 11%). Thus, his revelation about "most" officers not reading history is meaningless.

Lind asserts that our officer corps is too big and in the same breath decries the "up or out" policy -- without offering a workable (or even an unworkable) alternative. The country invests a lot in its military officers, and to grow them properly you need to have them serve in places (like the Pentagon) where they do staff work and learn how the Congress and federal bureaucracies work. It's not necessarily exciting, but it keeps the big green machine moving along.

Our flag officers manage nearly a trillion dollars' worth of manpower, facilities, equipment, etc., and to do so efficiently and effectively it takes training and experience. We could debate the "effective and efficient" part all day, but in terms of the Army, longevity and experience matter. It matters in Congress, too -- just ask the states that enacted term limits in the 1990s. What seemed like a good idea meant those states' Congressmen lost seniority, influence, and federal spending -- oops!

There are a few folks out there who contribute to the various deabtes but no more (or fewer) than in times past. A few current examples are Jim Carafano, John Nagl and Gian Gentile. However, that doesn't mean there are some critical thinkers -- Craig Mulaney, for example. In addition, Andrew Bacevich, Frederick Kroesen, and Richard Hart Sinnreich have been commenting military subjects for decades. More recently, Robert Kaplan has offered his thoughts. And whether you like David Petreaus or not, he's had a large influence on how the Army fights, at least in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. ADM (R) Jim Stavridis is a prolific writer, especially on pol-mil issues affecting Europe. I don't necessarily agree with all of these folks, but each has a following and always has something to contribute. Lind didn't mention any of them.

He also didn't mention Harry Summers, who wrote the best book on Vietnam I've ever read. "On Strategy" contrasts the tactical victories with political defeat by using the Principles of War. In light of Summers, I found the following assertion not only insulting but willfully ignorant -- "If American military officers want to know, or even care, why we keep losing, they need only look in the mirror." Baloney. Our Army IS the best in the world. But fighting is a form of politics (as Lind could've reminded his readers, assuming he'd actually read Clausewitz -- the Prussian, pre-eminent military theorist). As near as I can tell, American Soldiers haven't "lost" anything in a long time. Defeating the enemy in battle is a military task, but winning or losing a conflict or war is a political one. I'm not trying to side-step military influences, but the facts are that decisions to stay or fight in a theater of war are made at the policy-level, not the tactical. Our elected officials and their appointees make these calls, albeit with advice from the military and constant evaluation in the press.

Lind's comments on this subject, like his comments on many other topics, are simply irrelevant and less than contributory.


Mon, 04/28/2014 - 10:06am

Yes, I would agree that overall, we have an excellent military. I would also agree regarding the impact of strategy, and remember thinking that Lind did not adequately address that in his article.

But Lind's opinions are not baseless. Amid the rancor following his article were many supportive comments. My sense of things in Iraq in 2004 was that our leadership in country was out of its element - certainly I was. We slowly rebounded, but it was, to quote Sec. Rumsfeld, "a long hard slog." The fallout from Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan also suggests that the preparation of our senior officers is not what it should be.

I think Lind can be faulted for having too idyllic a vision of what the average officer ought to be. The great captains of history were not products of a superior military culture so much as products of their own making - it was their individual passion for the military arts that paved the way to greatness (ok, maybe a little megalomania too). Still, there's nothing wrong with hoping for better, and that doesn't happen unless someone calls the baby ugly. Lind's biggest problem is he never put on a uniform, so for him, it's always been someone else's baby - and people do not like that.

I recently perused Expeditionary Force 21 - same stuff that was being kicked around in the late '90s. Not new at all. Great idea though, but dependent on very expensive sea-basing platforms that will never be funded. I imagine the same is true for the other services' visions, and I think that best makes Lind's case. The American penchant is to buy stuff - it's what we do. I doubt any of these visions would be workable without new war machinery. It's easier to look at a problem, point to a piece of technology, and say yes, that will fix it (easier to convince Congress too). Much harder is creating the officer who can think about how best to employ it in a given conflict.


Mon, 04/28/2014 - 2:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I would dispute your assertion about the "death" of mission command. I taught in the Battalion pre-command/tactical commander's course at Leavenworth from 2011-13. Our curriculum/discussion was built around the concept of mission command. Lot of time spent with future battalion and brigade commanders on the topic and how they could apply its tenets. That included senior leadership in the form of the CSA/VCSA/SMA and the Army Staff every month. Definitely not a dead topic in the PME curriculum we teach here. I've since transitioned to teaching MAJs in CGSOC. Believe me when I tell you that all of my students are probably tired of talking about mission command, but it's a constant touchstone, regardless of the topic that we're discussing (tactics, ethics, doctrine, history). You can always point to individual failures like your friend's BN CDR; the system is not perfect and never will be. I would assert, however, that in the vast majority of cases the Army gets it right when selecting commanders. I make that statement based on personal interaction with about 200 of them over the past three years.


Sun, 04/27/2014 - 6:37pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Perhaps this reply is ingenuous but I was just being sarcastic. Mr. Lacey's reply was so typical of the type of officer Mr. Lind was complaining about that it was almost to good to be true, like if the modern major general actually showed up at a Gilbert & Sullivan performance with a picket sign that read "Unfair to Major Generals!"

If it clears anything up I'm old but a civilian, not ancient yet but I remember watching I Love Lucy when it was still funny.

It does bug me though about the reading thing. It's like medical billing, everybody knows everybody else is lying but they all smilingly pretend they aren't. That has an effect on a man and an institution over the long run.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 4:33pm

In reply to by Polarbear1605

Polarbear----this sentence is interesting as one has not heard anything by the senior leadership concerning "mission command" since about mid 2013 which "died" due to the resistance of O5/6s who find the idea of team building/trust building via fear free open dialogue to hard to implement as they were not trained that way as they came up within the current culture.

A friend once told me you do not feed a bear marsh mellows with your lips.
He also said if you poke the bear to many times in the stomach he will kill you--kill meaning ignore you, sideline you with comments in front of others,and or kill your career via the OER---the same friend once said his BN Commander told his officers they must make their juniors fear them-he went on to become a Bde Cmdr--this in 2013 and effecting the mid ranks O3/4s and one wonders why they do not respond these days when 3000 are on the way out.

This is where I think Lind was headed with his critique.

“…trust is an essential trait among leaders – thrust by seniors in the abilities of their subordinates and by juniors in the competence and support of their seniors. Trust must be earned, and actions which undermine trust must meet with strict censure.” "Warfighting” (1989); p.45.


Sun, 04/27/2014 - 12:04pm

Well if Mr. Lacey and Lind are in “cahoots” they certainly pulled me into their dissimulation. But the question then becomes … Why the deception? Are we saying two learnt men, one established inside the system and one “in the hills” with the restive, cannot have a public debate? Is it because of the political sensitivities of our general officers? Has our senior military leadership narrowed their minds to the point they are not only closing down internal constructive criticism but also attempting to do the same with public debate that exposes their strategic shortcomings? Surly, these two academic gentlemen understand they cannot hope to influence the thinking of general officers sitting in DC paneled offices drinking lattés from canteen cups. I am thinking now…Why the deception?


OH! Their intent is to initiate a grass roots strategic debate among the junior officers and implement change from the bottom up. The model for this is the official adoption of Boydism by the Marine Corps in 1989 with the publication of FMFM 1 “Warfighting”. Wow! Is that true? Is it true, because junior officers cannot get the real discussion, knowledge and debate from their military academic institutions? Do they need to turn and look in another direction? Is it time for small groups of junior officers to again start “meeting in the cellars” of DC with rebel academics and salty veterans wearing rusty and dented armor? Can we trust junior officers to tackle the topic of bad strategy, who throw 200 pages of required reading into the circular file each night because they recognize a failed attempt to introduce cognitive rigor into a military classroom?

Carl, I do not believe I know you or have met you, I do not know if you are my senior or not, but thank you for reminding me “…trust is an essential trait among leaders – thrust by seniors in the abilities of their subordinates and by juniors in the competence and support of their seniors. Trust must be earned, and actions which undermine trust must meet with strict censure.” "Warfighting” (1989); p.45.


Sun, 05/04/2014 - 7:00pm

In reply to by Natsfan44


First things first. Nope I've never attended a post-graduate level military course in the last 5 years. In fact the last formal military course I attended in any kind of school was first year ROTC a long time ago. Then I flunked the physical and have been a civilian ever since.

But I have done a lot of reading and I have done a lot of reading of things that were for the lack of a better word, advanced; not things that required a genius to appreciate but things that made arguments and points that were good, maybe not readily apparent and a little complicated. What I found in reading those things is that it wasn't possible to read 200 pages a day and still be able to put any thought into what it was you just read. It can't be done, not by me anyway, nor by anybody I know. You can't read The Human Face of War by Storr or The Anatomy of Courage by Moran or What It Is Like To Go To War by Marlantes (all about 200 pages long) tonight, talk about it tomorrow in class and move on and really have gotten anything out of them. You can pretend to have gotten something out of them but you didn't. And if the students aren't reading advanced things, there is no need for a 'university'.

So I stand by my original statements. You say nobody has access to last years notes. Well I must say I am very disappointed in the resourcefulness of your classmates. Did any of them get the gouge even?

(I just read the article by Mr. Storey about the Teutonburg Wald disaster and its aftermath as published in Hybrid Warfare. It was great, about the best analysis of that I ever read and one that takes into account the human factor which so many don't.)


Sat, 05/03/2014 - 10:37pm

In reply to by carl


I'm a student at the Marine War College. Full disclosure, Jim Lacey has been one of my professors during the course of my studies here. To put things into even clearer context, I'm not a military officer (I did serve 8 yrs. as an Army officer) but am attending the course as a member of the interagency. I do feel however, that I'm in a position to call you out on your comments posted on April 26th.

First of all....we actually do have reading assignments on average of 200 pages. And yes, believe it or not, most everyone reads what is assigned. I know this because a) the quality of the intellectual discussions which occur in the seminars and b) my discussions with classmates. Furthermore, I have yet to even hear of anyone who has access to notes from a previous years student. Perhaps you have some secret info or sources that are feeding this to you. I seriously doubt it.

I may not always agree with some of Dr. Lacey's assumptions, however, I would challenge anyone who thinks that Jim Lacey wants nothing more than to provide quality education to future strategic leaders of our nations military.

I have no horse in this fight other than to call it as I see it. Quite frankly Carl, you are way off the mark. BTW Carl, have you attended a post-graduate level military course in the last 5 years?

Outlaw, Slap, Robert C Jones, Fuchs, Polarbear:

You guys got it all wrong. Mt. Lacey is actually in secret cahoots with Mr. Lind. See the way they worked it was for Mr. Lind to write his article and then for Mr. Lacey to write a rebuttal article that would almost perfectly illustrate all the points raised in Mr. Lind's article. Mr Lacey played his part quite well.

Mr. Lacey states that his students read close to 200 pages a night. Well, they don't. They may skim close to 200 pages a night. 10 of them may take close to 20 pages a night and brief each other on what they read. They may look at the notes of previous classes to see what was in those close to 200 pages or they may be looking at close to 200 minimal power point slides a night. But they aren't reading thoughtfully close to 200 pages of worthwhile material a night because they can't. Nobody can. What is happening is the instructors give them close to 200 pages a night and pretend that they can and will read them. Then the students pretend that they have read them. The course of instruction then proceeds smoothly on because everybody is all pretending on the same page. This of course helps reinforce Mr. Lind's points.

So we got to give Mr. Lacey a break. He had a hidden motive in writing this or he would not have written it like he did.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 04/26/2014 - 12:18am

I have to confess that I have not read what William Lind wrote (nor do I know who he is) but in reading what Jim Lacey responds, I am far more concerned about the latter than I am the former.

The American military was given a dirty and poorly understood mission. It did its duty and engaged that mission aggressively within the context of the military paradigm with predictably unsatisfactory results.

Mr. Lind is reasonable to ask questions, but presumably understands the problem and the reason for such poor results little better than Mr. Lacey apparently does.

Perhaps it is time for us all to be a little less sensitive about why we are in the mess we are in, and all to seek to work more closely together to get to where we actually need to be.


Fri, 04/25/2014 - 5:45pm

Mr. Lind has been the victim of one of the most massive Communist Propaganda schemes(political correctness) that I have ever seen. You obviously haven't read much of what Mr. Lind has written or you would know that he has consistently talked about the moral,mental,and tactical level of war and how we (USA)have been undefeated at the tactical level but we cannot win at the moral and mental levels. Your article pointed out what Lind has been writing about for years. Your are part of the larger threat to this country which is College Degreeism, you seem to have so many degrees that you can no longer think or do any actual research for yourself. Since I am your Boss (Tax Paying American) I have enclosed a link I started some time ago so as to counter this Old Style Communist Dis-Information Campaignfor. You can begin your private education on Mr. Lind below.


Fri, 04/25/2014 - 4:11pm

Mr Lacey’s conclusions, albeit politically correct, are far different from my own. Mr Lind’s criticisms are not of the officer corps but are criticisms of the officer corps senior leadership; e.g., general officers. Your claim that we have tactically won all wars since and including Viet Nam is correct as is your statement that we have a lost those same wars strategically.
“Still, the nation again failed to achieve the strategic success it hoped for. By and large such failure cannot be laid at the feet of the military.”
If not names like Pace, Franks, Jones, Casey, Sanchez, Abizaid, Fallon, Chiarelli, Allen, Odierno, Dempsey, McChrystal…then who is responsible for the strategic failures in the Iraq war? BTW…A similar list can be built for Afghanistan…but much longer.
Your following statement is your opinion: “The odds that the Commandant of the Marine Corps - General Amos - knows who I am, are slim (at least until he reads this). Still, if I sent him a note, out of the blue, telling him the corps was making a terrible mistake in how it educating its future leaders (it’s not), I would bet a month’s pay I could get on his schedule. I would bet another month’s pay that after venting my feelings my job would remain secure and I would, in fact, feel no negative professional repercussions.” My opinion is that you would be called by the Commandant’s Marine Corps University President and instructed that the Commandant is too busy dealing with accusations of undue command influence and should not be troubled with your trivia. BTW, exactly when is your contract up for renewal?
In addition, I would recommend you read: The Relevance of History to the Military Profession:an American Marine’s View by Paul K Van Riper (page 21 of the Chief of Army’s Reading List) before making the reading recommendations that you listed in your next to last paragraph.

Sorry professor, you nose is looking a little brown from this bleacher seat. The debate is not about Mr Lind, it is about a failure in military strategy.

"Even if our military was not an unmatchable force it believes itself to be, of what benefit is it to ever admit such a thing."

You need to see a deficiency in order to be motivated to fix it.

"Arguably, the US military has not lost a tactical fight in over 70 years (Task Force Smith in Korea), and has not lost an operational level fight in 150 years (and that depends on what side you were on during the Civil War)."

"Arguably"!? Task Force Smith happened months before the Chinese PLA steamrolled over the Western forces in Korea and pushed Western forces including the U.S.Army back to 38°.
"3GW"/"4GW" folks can also point at the barracks bombings in Lebanon as tactical, operational and strategic defeats.
Mogadischu was clearly an operational and strategic defeat.
It's also possible to rate Kasserine and Hürtgenwald as operational level events, and both can be claimed to have been American defeats.

Mr. Lacey; improvement comes from the ambition to be better. Your text here is useless in this regard, while the complaining by Lind et al -accurate or not- may be helpful to fuel institutional ambition.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 5:14pm

For all the authors comments---what we are seeing in the Ukraine is a political warfare/UW strategic strategy being carried out in a very effective manner by a very professional army many wrote out of history in 1994 and laughed about them and their behavior in 2008 and now?

Has the current education system provided for "thinkers" who can address this new form of a threat? Does the officer education system even teach strategy built on strategic UW or teach what the heck is political warfare and the combination of the two?

What is our current training scenario we have projected for the future---DATE---and what do we exercise against---a "near peer enemy"-can we perform force on force using combined arms on the move?-have we really implemented "mission command" (trust built through team building in a fear free dialogue environment)as envisioned by the JCoS?-and one thinks Lind does not make a valid argument?