Tag: Friday’s grenade throw

Mission Command is Not Enough

Note: Departing for Gettysburg Historical Staff Ride, so this is coming a day early.

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

No West Point cadet will attend academic classes today due to the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic’s “Mission Command Conference.”  “Mission command” is a fairly massive initiative in the Army, defined as “the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.” In short, this is how the Army educates and inspires junior officers to take the initiative when on mission (avoiding constant need for supervision and guidance).  This is both useful and critical on today’s battlefield.

Yet mission command is inherently constrained by the word, “mission.”  The US Army doesn’t fight missions, it fights wars. Missions are designed to support war efforts, therefore, thinking about how one’s mission fits into the war’s context is not just helpful, but necessary.  War is about much more than the tactical fight.

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Balancing the Search for Truth with Obedience – Where the Profession of Arms (Often) Fails

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

In war, as in the Profession of Arms, two major concepts often collide – the search for truth – and obedience.  George Orwell wrote about this indirectly in 1946,

“The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

On one hand, the battlefield can be conceived of as one gigantic “problem” that takes curiosity, patience, and persistent study.  Clausewitz wrote in On War, “Bonaparte rightly said that …many of the decisions faced by the commander-in-chief resemble mathematical problems worthy of the gifts of Newton or Euler.”  On the other hand, a military (armies in particular) can be thought of as a single organic body.  If it does not function as one, or with “unity of effort,” then it’s effectiveness is significantly degraded.  In short, from my perspective, the U.S. military tends to lean towards the second at the expense of the first. 

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Collateral Damage and Societal Apathy

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

How much time do we as a society reflect on the damage we inflict on other societies in war?  Any at all? Don’t get me wrong, I’m clearly not a pacifist and certainly believe that the United States generally stands for good in the world.  But often – to do good – we have to do things that are not so good.  

Is this societal apathy a function of the size of our military?  That is, does Joe Citizen believe that since society has created extreme specialization in warfighting – he doesn’t bear any responsibility for conflict and war damage?  Author Sebastian Junger took this up recently in the Washington Post,

“The country approved, financed and justified war – and sent the soldiers to fight it. This is important because it returns the moral burden of war to its rightful place: with the entire nation. If a soldier inadvertently kills a civilian in Baghdad, we all helped kill that civilian. If a soldier loses his arm in Afghanistan, we all lost something.”

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Money as a Nuclear Weapon

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

In Iraq and Afghanistan, one commonly heard phrase was to “employ money as a weapon system.”  The idea was a simple one in Iraq – if you can get what you want with a dinar or dollar as opposed to a bullet – that is clearly preferable.  This tracks with common sense.  My Dad used to tell me that if you’ve got a problem and a check that can cover that problem – then you don’t have a problem.  Supporting military counterinsurgency techniques with financial resources designed to connect the people to their established government makes sense. 

So how did we (the U.S. and the rest of the International Security Assistance Force) screw it up so badly in Afghanistan?  Simply put, we nuked the Afghan economy – we drowned the baby in bathwater.  To say that we overdid aid would be a massive understatement.

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Global inequality is getting worse – more Jean Valjean’s will pick up AK47’s

Friday’s Last Word: Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

By Major Matthew Cavanaugh

Many know Victor Hugo’s 1862 story, Les Miserables, particularly the tortured existence of the protagonist, Jean Valjean (depicted on screen by Hugh Jackman).  Valjean spends years in a French prison for stealing bread for his sister’s starving children.  The moral dilemma presented is an easy one to empathize with – taking some food from another, causing minimal harm – to feed several very hungry children, enabling maximum human benefit.  I don’t know of anyone that would disagree with such an action done in the spirit of the “greater good.” So why does Jean Valjean matter?

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