Generals on the Firing Line

Generals on the Firing Line

Mini Teaser: Tom Ricks thinks we don’t make generals like we used to. He may be right.

by Author(s): James Jay Carafano

As in past wars, some Sam Damons showed up in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s because the U.S. Army culture, like America writ large, still produces them.

History offers lessons deeper and more powerful than Rick’s formula of grading the army’s veracity by how many generals get fired. Indeed, a healthy organization would weed out weak leaders before the crisis, before they had an opportunity to demonstrate incompetence. First, there is the enduring reality that the U.S. Army is not an institution standing outside the country. It reflects the society it protects. Second, blaming the army for being under-resourced and unprepared just passes the buck.

The Generals is so infused with the narrative of Once an Eagle that it excludes other frameworks for explaining why the United States got the army it has. Perhaps that’s because so many of the former officers Ricks consulted were raised with Myrer’s book burned into their soul. Myrers and Whyte provided them with important cautionary tales that all leaders should take to heart. But there is much more to the story.

James Jay Carafano is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation (

Image: Essay Types: Book Review