The Profession of Arms is decaying (weakening or fraying – as opposed to a relative decline), and the primary causes are neglect, anti-intellectual bias, and a creeping, cancerous bureaucracy. Permit me to explain, to diagnose the patient’s condition, in order to arrive at a common understanding of the illness. Let’s begin with the Profession of Arms: this is society’s armed wing, principally charged with guarding the safety and interests of that society. In some way, every political entity must use force or at least threaten to use force for it to survive in the international system. The members of the Profession of Arms are the custodians of the specific military knowledge that enables national survival. As Don Snider has put it, these commissioned members have one critical function, which is to successfully provide “the repetitive exercise of discretionary judgment[s]…of high moral content.” In essence this is military judgment, which today is decaying and being compromised through apathy, disregard for intellect, and a mammoth bureaucracy.
Read the whole thing.
I tend to quibble with the argument that the Army is anti-intellectual. The Army places a huge emphasis on education and professional military education through its school system. Every career officer is expected to both attend graduate level military specific courses, and earn a Masters Degree. But the argument that many officers don’t devote enough thought to the subject of military history, strategy, world affairs and similar topics is likely quite true.
As for bureaucracy, I think his argument is far more valid. The stunning amount of time officers devote to issues not directly related to warfighting is appalling. Some level of bureaucracy is needed, of course, to form an organization instead of a mob. But the ossification caused by so much organization stifles creativity and initiative.
What does a “charlatan” in military clothing look like? Consider, for example, this Pentagon doctrine gem, written in 2004 and unearthed by historian Brian Linn in his excellent book The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War (p. 3): “Joint Adaptive Expeditionary Warfare requires capabilities organized cross-enterprise, adapting dynamically to uncertainty and turbulence in a multi-dimensional, nonlinear, competitive environment.” It’s fair to assume that you just read that statement three or four times, to really take in the enormity of its absurdity. It may be that the lead author was engaged in the world’s lamest drinking game, or a new form of Scrabble, but clearly such writing is distracting at best – “charlatanesqe” at worst.
That underlined bit bit in the middle is one of my pet peeves, needlessly obtuse jargon. Jargon isn’t inherently evil. Every profession uses its own specialized vocabulary to quickly and accurately share information specific to that profession. But that wordsalad up there shares no information, quickly or otherwise. It reads like the author received a bad business thesaurus for Christmas.
Seemingly every time the Army (or any other service) makes even the most minor change to doctrine, the authors toss out virtually all the previously used terminology in favor of new buzzwords, every more disconnected from plain English, and more and more an exercise in trying to distance the words of warfare from the reality of war.
In Rules of Combat, the side with the simplest uniform wins can reasonably be interpreted to cover “the side with the simplest writing or doctrine wins.”