17 November 2016


by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 17 November 2016

Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war. John Bolton 

President-elect Donald J. Trump - soon President and Commander-in-Chief - is a general. 

He's been a general, a successful one, a long time.

During one of the GOP debates, Candidate Trump, when asked about defeating ISIS, said he knew more than the generals. 

He repeated that sentiment post-election victory during his recent 60 Minutes interview.

And some, especially with military service, are peeved by that claim. 

Bothered I am not; not in the least.

This commentary topic is ripe for length but that's not going to happen this morning.

Rather, to the point. 

Donald Trump, a wildly successful businessman, is by any definition a general. 

Though his resume does not include military service (and all the education and training proper), he has fought "battles" and "wars" - foreign and domestic - and triumphed. 

His biggest war by far waged these past 18 months or so and climaxed 8 days ago. He the victor.  

Think and say what you will about our new President-elect but he proved, still again, to be an astute strategist and field general. 

A bold, tireless, and demanding leader, he attacked relentlessly.

And his attacks were not conventional. 

His campaign, different from all others, was invented. And he hesitated not to change as "battlefield" conditions developed.

He was bloodied - by attacks from multiple enemies fighting as one and from multiple directions. 

He continued to attack.

When Candidate Trump said he knew more than the generals he did not startle me (as it did most) - he grabbed my attention.

He did not claim to know more militarily than the generals. 

But "militarily" he just might.

If our generals were not paying close attention to the way Candidate Trump, now their next Commander-in-Chief, waged war - not just for the superficiality of for whom their next boss but as a fellow warrior - then they are in the least not true students of warfighting nor serious thinkers and at worst derelict. 

Advised a few generals, I did. Some advice they took. The more inventive (my background, interests, and pursuits long before being commissioned the arts and psychology) - outlying to military models - they did not. Still examples of opportunities lost come to mind. Not that any decisions would have been reckless or risky they just were not comfortable. (My) failure was not finding the words and visuals to transfer what I saw the generals did not. Yet that likely mattered not, anyway.  

This is not to discount, whatsoever, military education and training and the experience of generals. But generals do not know everything. The best generals so acknowledge - using eyes, ears, and brain more than mouth. 

Far be it from me to advise President-elect Trump as to (selecting) his generals, but a handful of simple starting point questions posed would be revealing ...

1. General, tell me about your last original thought? 

2. General, give me some examples of problems you faced and you and your units overcame, a) with an idea you had that defied military doctrine; b) with an idea that came from one of your subordinates (rank irrelevant) that defied military doctrine?

3. General, tell me the last time you took a calculated risk that defied all of your military training and education? 

4. General, what was the last book you read?

5. General, how would you go about destroying ISIS? 

We are a nation at war - against foes who want to destroy us. 

President-elect Trump gets it. 

To point, he is on the record that he will not compromise - that is, announce - any element of his strategy to wage war against ISIS (nor any enemy). No timelines. Nothing as to forces - types, numbers, etc. Nothing. 


Mr. John Bolton's opening thought is on the mark. 

But Donald Trump, a general, is not a politician. He is an innovator - from strategy to field.

Comparatively, our generals today are politicians. 

That is not the way it's supposed to be.

President Trump's generals must be innovators - from strategy to field.

Innovation does not necessarily start at the top but the climate for such must be at the top.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, USMC, enjoys a fabulous reputation. 

I do not know him but have plenty of friends who do and some are close friends. 

I met General Dunford once - a couple of years ago - and we had a one-on-one conversation for about 10 minutes. Two infantrymen, it was a topic near and dear to us. I was impressed with his candor. More so the determined look in his eyes. 

Is General Dunford an innovator?

That's for General Trump to answer (from the above questions, and others he surely has on his mind). 

And the same goes for all our new President's generals.

Innovate. Adapt. Innovate.

Or die. 

As illustration, look no further than the "battlefield" littered with corpses of those who campaigned to be our President. 

Post Script

Note: Admirals inclusive with "generals" - the collective commonly referred to as "flag officers."


Jijm Bathurst said...

Once again Andy, you've hit a tender spot with me. You and I, as well as many of our peers, witnessed the rise of the "political general," I as far back as the early 90's. Actually that preword could be placed in front of every officer grade, of that I'm certain. I would add one piece of advice, not actually advice, but rather a reference point for our new CINC to always keep in mind when dealing with flag officers, and that is, they all serve at your pleasure. Many currently serving have been Kool Aid guzzlers for many years who have drank so much of it they are stained and have a distinct odor about them. Remember Sir, "at your pleasure!"

Tom Hickinbotham said...

The greatest service our President-elect can do for the DoD/military services is to encourage the return of a Warrior" culture among the senior leadership, along with "encouraging" the retirement of the "Kool-Aid" politicians in uniform.