I always was a great fan of Major General JFC Fuller, the British combat commander turned theoretician. In the 1930s he was in despair … his books, especially about armoued warfare, were being read, and his advice was been heeded, by the Germans, even as it was being ignored or worse by his American and British confrères. In that times and, no doubt as a reflection of his despair, he wrote a small book called “Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure,” which still offers some insights into the failures of ossified leadership. It is available, for free, on the internet. Not everything Fuller said got through, but some did and, by about 1940, some of what he said we seen to be horrifyingly accurate.
Now I see, in an article in Time, that an American soldier-scholar, Tim Kane, author of “Bleeding Talent: How the U.S. Military Mismanages Great Leaders and Why It’s Time for a Revolution,” is in equal despair and offers some new, equally radical ideas.
Tim Kane is a fellow at the (broadly conservative) Hoover Institution, he is a former Air Force officer who has a PhD in economics and now studies in labour and immigration issues. His prescription for revitalizing an ossified US military leadership superstructure is a healthy dose of free market style autonomy and responsibility. I’m pretty sure his more radical ideas are, like Fuller’s, intentionally hyperbolic, but I am also sure that he is attacking a very real problem … and one that infects the Canadian Forces, too.
Some of his symptoms of a failed command and control (C²) superstructure are very familiar in Canada: rotating commanders in and out of assignments too quickly (ticket punching) and, at the same time, not understanding that command of anything, from a small ship to a large army, is packed with mental and emotional stress and that not everyone can or should be a commander; rotating officers in and out of jobs, often into jobs for which they ill suited, for “career broadening” instead of letting journeymen officers succeed in the line or staff jobs at which they excel; and leadership styles that worked in 1939-45 but are not well suited to a long service, professional 21st century military.
I am not suggesting that we should go the “whole Fuller” nor am I suggesting that Dr Kane is all right. But I know that Fuller was not all wrong, either ~ the early failures in combat proved that and validated many of his ideas. I do not believe that the US military is well led or well managed so I suspect that America’s next defeat (when did it last win? 1945?) will show that Tim Kane is not all wrong, either.