The Generals: American Military Command from World War 2 to Today by Thomas Ricks has the premise that during the Korean war, there was a stable cultural shift away from the military firing or transferring generals for unsatisfactory military performance.
No cost for bad performance, and no rewards for good performance.
This doesn't mean that all the generals were incompetent, just there was no pressure towards good performance.
Since (to put it mildly) military history isn't my strong point, I read a bunch of comments about the book at amazon and at a substantial article about it, and no one seemed to be disagreeing with the basic premise, though there was some disagreement about the details.
What's more, moving the details of how generals were handled to the president meant that subtlety was lost. It seemed as though all the president had was ending the general's career, while the military was more apt to transfer a general-- and some of them came back to leading during combat later (time to think? different sort of battle?) and did well.
In an interview, Ricks mentioned that generals could only be fired for "zipper offenses"-- sexual impropriety-- but not for military issues. I've been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks, and any resemblance to current news is purely coincidental.
He also said that the soldiers and low-level officers are excellent, and sometimes make generals look better than they deserve.
Anyway, this is huge. Getting into wars while being unnecessarily bad at fighting them has tremendous costs of every imaginable sort. I've been jumping up and down and telling people about this, and they don't seem terribly much interested or outraged. Maybe I care more about abstract infrastructure than most.
I'm not sure what would be a good way to get out of this mess. It's been going on for some 70 years, which means that no one now alive remembers the old self-regulating culture at the top of the military.
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