A Leadership Failure

ThinkerI have had some time to digest all of the spin on General Stanley McChrystal’s lapse in judgment. I am reading now that conservatives are lamenting that he was a political liberal and that he banned Fox news from his headquarters. That he might be a political liberal should not surprise anyone. Politically liberal Commanders in Chief are prone to appoint Generals who share their political views. This is not about political leanings. It is about leadership. It is about leadership failure and on more than one level.

Soldiers like to complain about things. Usually their complaining is limited to their own circle of influence. Privates complain to other Privates. We used to kid that if Soldiers were not complaining, they were not happy. Within General McChrystal’s circle of staff, some grumbling about issues would be expected. Anything else would mean a leader who was surrounded by non-thinking yes sir men, which is certainly more dangerous than grumbling about methods. It is when the grumbling makes its way outside the circle and especially when it makes its way outside the organizational family that it is serious. It is a leadership failure and a symptom of bigger problems.

If General McChrystal had a subordinate commander or members of the commander’s staff publicly criticizing his leadership or the prosecution of the mission he would have pounded that commander into the dirt. His duty would require that he do it because such conduct destroys unit cohesion. Without a cohesive effort, missions fail. When he and his staff became publicly critical of the Commander in Chief, it was to the same affect. The General knows this. He is after all a General and would have known that his actions would lead to his becoming a dirt dart.

Why did he do it? The answer to that question is at the root of everything. There has been much conjecture, but only the General and maybe his closest staff can provide the answer. You will not hear those answers, however, until the retirements are final and the first pension installments are deposited into the bank. There is certainly evidence of a low level of confidence in the President and his staff and a high level of frustration with the mission.

There has been concern expressed about the Rules of Engagement (ROE) with the enemy for the Soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. In a nutshell, they dramatically increase the danger to our Soldiers while having the opposite effect on their battlefield enemy. I was always curious about whether they were actually General McChrystal’s ROE. Talk is they were and I have no evidence contrary to that, but I am a cynic and leaders do not generally endanger their Soldiers with unnecessary rules. There is precedence for politicians becoming overly involved in such matters. Vietnam.

There is a problem with operations to win hearts and minds. There is no question about the importance of gaining the support of the indigenous population in defeating an enemy. You can find accounts of us fighting hearts and minds battles in Vietnam. We would go into villages to help them by day and the Viet Cong would come back and kill the village leaders by night for accepting that help. It led to the expression of the time that said it is only when you have them by the balls that their hearts and minds will follow. That was the Viet Cong approach. Until we are prepared to seek out the enemy wherever he is and destroy his will to continue the fight, we will not win any hearts and minds. Instead, prepare for the video feeds of helicopters evacuating the embassy.

According to the media, firing General McChrystal was the President’s Truman moment. They likened it to Truman firing MacArthur during the Korean War. There is no comparison. MacArthur publicly opposed President Truman’s policies. The same media and politicians, who publicly savaged General Petraeus as “Bush’s General”, are now insisting that the President’s putting him in charge of the Afghanistan war is a stroke of leadership genius – brilliant. I am grateful that I do not have to live inside of any of those duplicitous minds.

If General Petraeus does not get what he needs and if he is bound by politics rather than the principles of war and if he has the same indecisive and dysfunctional leadership he too will fail. Most sadly, the United States of America will fail.

© 2010

Political Marsupials

ThinkerI had it in my mind today to share some thoughts about getting to the root of problems and then solving them at the point where they began. It is that type of critical thinking followed by action that our Washington politicians greatly lack.

I started my problem list with the oil spill, for example. Find the root of that problem if you are interested in such a drill. Pun not intended. Start by asking why we are drilling for oil a mile beneath the surface of the ocean when there are many completely safe places to drill for it. Then work your way back from there. Eventually, you will arrive at a stalemate between ideology and common sense. Unfortunately for us commoners, those of us who actually rely on a productive carbon fueled economy, the politicians are rarely on the side of sense, common or otherwise. They live at a dogmatic juncture where utopian ideals are frequently overcome by reality and where problems are never solved.

As you can see, my self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder kicked in and my mind side tracked a little, or maybe, depending on your perspective it tracked.

Snarky little men perched on a dais looking down upon others, asking them questions that should be directed into the mirror and feigning outrage toward the television cameras are frankly incapable of solving problems. By their actions, I must conclude that their objective is something other than solving a problem. Any problem.

The “damned hole” will never get plugged by even ten thousand sessions of Congressional Kangaroo Court, especially when Washington’s marsupials are only interested in how to benefit politically from the real human suffering that the disaster produces. (Kangaroos are marsupials, not the typical political order of Rodentia found in Washington, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) Certainly, by their method they will never find their way to the root of the problem and then solve it.

In the President’s Oval Office address on the oil spill he summed up the challenge of moving our nation from carbon based energy to green energy by stating, “Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.” Let me interpret that into English. We are on a trip. We do not know the destination. We do not have a map. But, we are going there as fast as is politically possible. That is typical political problem causing rather than problem solving. I am not a czar of any kind, but I believe I can fill in the blanks for the President. If we hold hands and leap from a tall building, we know we will get to the bottom. I am also fairly certain that we know what that looks like. I also believe we will know it when we get there, even if it is for only a tiny fraction of a second.

Marsupials are interesting critters. They give birth to immature young and then have them fully develop in a pouch on mamma’s belly. Political marsupials are much the same. They have their pouches full of what is the beginning of many major problems. One must only look around to see the matured ones. A failed energy policy, Fannie and Freddie mortgages, labor unions, financial crises, out of control budget deficits, etc., etc. The mamma marsupial turns her mature offspring out when they are ready to care for themselves. The political marsupial nurses his immature problems along until they develop into calamities. Then he starts wagging his self-righteous finger while glaring from the dais across the top of his glasses and demanding to know why the target of his ire is unable to solve the problem he created. It makes perfect sense.

Let’s see now. What was I talking about? With all of the grand examples we have of ethical men of integrity solving our Nation’s problems that is on display in Washington, I want to wish all of you Dads a Happy Father’s Day.

© 2010

Wanted: Leaders

ThinkerWanted: Leaders. Must know who deserves a pat on the back. Inquire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Possible multiple openings soon.

A lesson I learned quite early is that tough talk is not a positive leadership attribute. Good leaders, actually just adequate leaders, realize that all of the led need an occasional pat on the back. The target of those pats is a little higher for some than for others, but each is delivered with the same level of respect for its recipient. Regardless of the location it is delivered, the purpose of the pat on the back is to provide positive direction. A leader does not need to convene a seminar of so-called intellectuals to tell him who deserves a pat on the back or to advise him if it should be a high or a low pat.

A leader, who is a true leader, delivers his message in positive tones. Tones that are firm and honest and are meant to inspire action not place blame. A leader is not concerned with who gets the blame or who gets the credit. A leader is concerned with outcomes.

A leader knows where the blame lies and he does not need a commission to figure that out for him. He does not dwell on who is at fault because it is wasted time better spent on solving the problem. He knows where the responsibility lies because his first step toward identifying the cause of a problem in the entity that he leads, whether it’s an Army squad or a nation, was a long look in the mirror. If the culprit cannot be identified after some honest introspect, then he broadens the search by increasingly larger circles around himself. Most often the cause for problems is close by and failing to look there first is a fatal leadership flaw.

Identifying a major problem does not require much thought. Just flip on the 24/7 news and the problems will be everywhere. Being the pivot man in a circle and wanting that circle to determine for you where to place your boot, whether it’s on an oil company’s neck or on its CEO’s hind end, does nothing toward solving the problem. You just come away looking immature, wholly unqualified to lead anything and well, small like a community organizer. A person who has always been more focused on trying to build his stature by placing blame on others rather than offering solutions.

A leader’s job is to move his organization from problem identification to problem solution. It is not to place blame or issue what may be construed as a physical threat toward those who might solve the problem. The leader’s job is to tell the led what the fixed problem looks like and then ensure that they are focused on the goal and resourced to solve the problem. The leader does not have the time or energy to dedicate to low level back pats delivered to the incompetent. A mature leader simply thanks the incompetent person for their try and replaces them with someone else. For a reference on how this is done research Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Generals who couldn’t get the job done.

I have encountered a lot of tough talkers in my life. My experience has been that action talks and bovine scatology walks. If you are capable of delivering the promised A-kicking you do not posture, spin, and blame and threaten, you deliver. In Washington, there is not much delivering going on these days.

Happy Birthday to the Warriors of the United States Army who have always delivered for us!

© 2010

Happy Birthday United States Army

June 14, 1775. Thank you.

The Army Goes Rolling Along

March along, sing our song, with the Army of the free
Count the brave, count the true, who have fought to victory
We’re the Army and proud of our name
We’re the Army and proudly proclaim

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And The Army Goes Rolling Along
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,
San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,
And the Army went rolling along
Minute men, from the start,
Always fighting from the heart,
And the Army keeps rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Men in rags, men who froze,
Still that Army met its foes,
And the Army went rolling along.
Faith in God, then we’re right,
And we’ll fight with all our might,
As the Army keeps rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

I will bless those who bless you

ThinkerWhy should we be concerned about what Helen Thomas has to say? She stated about as emphatically as she could that, “The Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go back to Germany or Poland.” Yes Helen, they should travel back to the lands where Adolph Hitler tried to implement his final solution by murdering all of them. Maybe we should be concerned because Ms. Thomas too easily expresses the sentiment embraced by too many in modern day liberal America, including our national leadership. The sentiment is that the Jews are the problem. If they would just give up, everything will be grand. Peace will fall on the land. It is also interesting that the President’s Counterterrorism Adviser refers to Jerusalem as al-Quds. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem. No surrender indicated there. He also has some other strange thoughts about Islamic terrorists. Especially for the man who is supposed to protect us from them.

The Muslim Dome of the Rock is built on the Temple Mount over the location of the earlier Jewish Temple. It is a symbol of conquest in my opinion. That is the first thought that came to my mind when I heard about the towering mosque that will be constructed at Ground Zero. I cannot read minds, but I fully believe that the Islamists responsible for the 9/11 attack looked upon the World Trade Center as the “temple” of the American system. They destroyed that temple and now wish to construct their symbol of that conquest at the site of the crime. It is astounding, but good ole and always tolerant America is just going to let it happen. Spare me the moderate Muslim religion of peace speech. If there was such a thing, all of the moderates would be out there every day confronting those who are tainting their faith with murderous acts. But they are not. Silence is complicit.

Our free society is wonderful and I would not want to replace it with another, but we need not allow our freedom to be suicidal. Try clinging to your Bible in Saudi Arabia as they government’s religious cops wrestle it away from you and toss it into the shredder. Saudi Arabia is only an example of what is common. The United States of America needs to tolerate those who are tolerant of us, period. You will find no Christian Churches in Saudi Arabia, the center of Islam.

I do not know what anyone’s religious leanings are, except for those who openly express them and I do not know whether anyone who might read this ever reads from the Bible. And if they do read it, I cannot say if they believe it. So, I can only state what I believe.

Reverend Archbishop James Ussher, in his Annals of the World first published in 1658, places the following Old Testament passage at 1921 BC.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

 “I will make you into a great nation
       and I will bless you;
       I will make your name great,
       and you will be a blessing.

 I will bless those who bless you,
       and whoever curses you I will curse;
       and all peoples on earth
       will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)

This passage from the book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, is what I believe. The Promised Land was Canaan. Canaan is the early name for what is now called Israel or Palestine.

To my knowledge, the United States of America does not appear in any context in the Bible. But, I am neither a Biblical scholar nor theologian. What I do know is what I believe and I believe that the United States is moving closer to those who will be cursed and farther away from those who will be blessed. In that context, understand that since the Israelis returned to their Biblical homeland; the United States has stood by them. That commitment appears to be weakening daily.

The Gaza blockade incident and Turkish threats are also interesting in light of this Biblical prophecy of Israel being attacked by an Army from the North. Israel stands alone in this prophecy.

 

“Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 39: 1-6 (NIV)

The question for us is will America stand with Israel or will Israel stand alone? Will we bless or curse Israel?

I only know where I stand.

© 2010

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