Friday, May 24, 2013

It must be commissioning week again, part the 15th

  



Autumn leaves fall.

Winter brings snow. 

Spring, flowers bud. 

Late spring, mids graduate, 

and just as surely Bruce Fleming writes an article criticizing the service academies. Yawn.

This latest installment of Fleming’s annual exercise in biting the hand that feeds is just dense. The basic point seems to be that the academies should only concentrate on being technical schools. Here's the central analogy:


“Has your doctor recently claimed that she is a leader? Not likely. She just focuses on being a good doctor. If you get a PhD in theoretical physics from MIT, will you hang out your shingle as a leader or a physicist? And Juilliard doesn’t claim it makes great leaders, just great violinists.”

Of course, the academies are in the business of churning out LEADERS, i.e., junior officers who will LEAD men and women in the armed forces. That is their reason for existence. Whether or not the schools succeed in this is immaterial to that elementary fact. Fleming thinks they do not. Others think they do. Be that as it may, the teleological point still stands. MIT and Med schools churn out scientists and doctors. That is their reason for existence. They are not in the business of churning out military officers, i.e., (and by definition) LEADERS, people who lead, people charged by the Constitution TO LEAD.  So, of course doctors and physicists would not be hanging out shingles or any other bona fides claiming to be professional leaders. This is a basic and elementary distinction between the two sorts of school that seems to have escaped the author.

And yes, campers, there is more 'agro' in the article. 

Pointing out some choice bits (italicized) with comments:Of course, the academies are in the business of churning out LEADERS, i.e., junior officers who will LEAD men and women in the armed forces. That is their reason for existing. Whether or not the schools succeed in this is immaterial to that elementary fact. MIT and Med schools churn out scientists and doctors, not people whose job it will be to lead others into battle. That is their reason for existence. A basic and elementary distinction between the two sorts of school that seems to have escaped the author.

“..we’ve been training our high-potential officers to believe their internal compass is king.”

This is silly and tendentious. I am not aware of any curricula in the USNA leadership dept. that simply tells students to reference (pardon the neologism) ‘rex internalis,’ big king compass.  I AM aware of much material that serves to set or build a compass, relying on expertise in many fields having to do with the human sciences, as for instance, human psychology, philosophical schools of ethics, applied ethics and law, contained in courses that rely on intense and honest dialog in discussing the responsibilities and skills that come along with the profession of officership. All of this is obviously designed with the end in mind of setting up the junior officers well for leadership positions in the military. They are not told simply to reference rex internalis. Nope.

 "This is mirrored in the lip-smacking behavior of our top military officers, who are laden with (as The Washington Post put it) “the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle” and “an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire,” all at taxpayer expense."

What exactly is the ‘lip smacking behavior’? What are the “imperial trappings?” What are the ‘perks’? Hard to say. He doesn't catalog. He does seem to be suggesting that leadership training and the culture at the academies is to blame for recent high profile failings of leaders. This, of course does not consider all those leaders that do not get into trouble, which number is considerably higher. What is more, the causal connection has not been demonstrated. What is more, if the connection is between the alleged 'rex internalis' curricula he describes and the bad behavior this follows: There being no such simplistic curricula as that, the bad behavior would have a non-existent cause.                                                       

“..our Web site even boasts the slogan “Leaders to Serve the Nation,” which seems to suggest that all our graduates are leaders, rather than pilots or ship-drivers.”

As a matter of elementary fact all graduates of USNA are officers, and as such, leaders of men and women in their units. Don’t be so dense. NONE  of them are merely “pilots or ship drivers.” They have dual duties as OFFICERS. "Seems to suggest"  is putting it too mildly.  It is true that all the graduates are leaders. Additionally, a good number of them take on leadership roles in the civilian sector after leaving the Navy.

Crimeney. 


"Besides, who says being a leader is necessarily a good thing?"

Who? No one. That’s who.  Nice straw man.

"History consists to a large degree of charismatic leaders who devastated the people or institutions they led."

Does this mean a majority of leaders did these sorts of things? “consists to a large degree?”  Really? That's what you see in history? What about the good leaders? What about those that did not devastate? Tendentious hyperbole.

"Adolf Hitler’s informal title Der Fuehrer means “The Leader.”"

Good-galloping God. Godwin’s law. Are you serious?  

Do you realize a great chunk of time is spent in the classes you consider to be wastes of time in discussing the moral courage it takes to stand up to bad leaders?

"And yet we still don’t allow for the fact that sometimes the best leadership consists of maintaining the status quo, not striking off in new directions."

What you mean “we” kemosabe?

Another straw man. I know of several case studies used by the leadership dept., which illustrate exactly this thesis.  No one seriously maintains that ‘striking off in new directions’ for its own sake is ‘necessarily’ a good thing, or leadership. Nor does anyone maintain that maintaining the status quo is never justified.  

No one.

"Exacerbating the problem is that nowadays the military seems to lack a clear mission: What exactly was the benefit of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Because the military can’t plausibly tell its officers that they’re defending their country from the enemy,..."

Gotta interupt here:

“Can’t plausibly tell its officers that they're defending their country?” Silly. If taking the fight to the AQ types is not at least ‘plausibly’ in our national security interests, then I guess I don’t have a firm handle on the concept of plausibility.

"..as it could in World War II, it appeals to their pride and desire for purpose by assuring them they’re better people—leaders—than the civilians they’re meant to defend. And this goes to their heads."

So, let me get this straight. The service academies are purposefully inculcating young minds with the following equivalences:

Leaders = military officers = better human beings.

Other than leaders = civilians = inferior human beings.

Do I need to say that this is just more tendentious silliness?

Holy Mackerel.