Root Factors Affecting the U.S. Military's Readiness Essay

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¶ … root factors affecting the U.S. Military's readiness to perform its primary functions during the initial stages of the conflict under investigation.

Main point 1. Upton's War against Political Corruption

Poor leadership

Paltry and indolent corporals

Political maneuvering and 'protekzia' infected Army conditions and leadership hence army morale

Main point 2: Sassaman and American Arrogance.

American ethnocentrism / disregard and disdain of alien culture

Naive confidence in capability of building nation-state

Aggression leads to bullying

Aggression leads to bullying

Arrogance destroys initial amity

Counterpoint: Lack of familiarity with guerrilla warfare


The root factors affecting the U.S. Military's readiness to perform its primary functions during the initial stages of the conflict under investigation.

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TOPIC: Essay on Root Factors Affecting the U.S. Military's Readiness Assignment

Blessed with a superior military, America has, oftentimes, been unprepared to execute its primary mission at the outbreak of hostilities. The following essay argues that contributing factors include two specificities: the first being intrusion of political matters; the second being American ethnocentrism. Both elements are personified by two examples: The first being when Upton had the strong arm over the Confederate forces yet failed to quell them since his reinforcements failed to support him. The second example deals with the ongoing Iraqi conflict where, despite superiority of people and arms, the American army seems to sink itself into an ever-deepening morass. The essay examines both instances, and determines that the first instance illustrates political corruption infiltrating the army, and the second conveys the quintessential American superciliousness of it power and disdain of the alien that converts friends into enemies and makes itself ill-equipped to handle a war that it had recklessly assumed that it would win.

b. Theme 1. Upton's War against Political Corruption.

A first factor for American failure could be reduced to the political maneuvering that has been existent in the army from its earliest day on and, oftentimes, imported from the government on the outside (from the American political system itself). It is this maneuvering and political 'proteksia' that determines who is to lead, regardless of skill and has, consequently thrown the Army, oftentimes, into unfit hands.

The lethargy that engulfed the Army of the Potomac during 1863 with Meade avoiding battle, and poor confidence ranking amongst the troops, made Upton decide that it was poor leadership that was the main cause for the North's failure. Poor leadership was the underlying signal root of lethargy and its replacement with a strong, encouraging leadership stance (such as Upton had shown) could, he believed, propel the soldiers. Americans, he claimed, made wonderful soldiers after they were trained, but the elderly commanders, set in their ways, were unable from providing the inspirational train demanded. These young soldiers had to be given stirring speeches before battle; they had to be encouraged during battle; and had to be thanked after -- they had to be given a stirring example of leadership and courage that would call forth their inherent qualities. This was something that these elderly generals failed to do, and, therefore, Upton decided that it was young men who had to be leaders.

It was more than that. Inspired by Plutarch's Lives and by formidable leaders such as Napoleon and Caesar, Upton also recognized that American generals -- indeed the whole political fabric of war and its battles was damaged and weakened by political corruption. One had to have, for instance, "political influence" in order to be promoted, regardless of one's natural abilities as a soldier; the army he felt, was made up of a hierarchy of "paltry politicians." This was signified in Upton's own case where even after eight brigadier generals and seven major generals, headed by major military figures, pushed for his promotion, the New York politicians still ignored him. This was so, even after a second attempt in 1864 when he tried vain political attempts to cajole the governor into according him a vacant brigadier-generalship position. To Upton, the root of the weakness in the military system was due to untoward political influences.

Evidence that this was so could also be seen later when, despite a stirring surprise attack by Upton in a new strategy devised by him, Matt's division failed to make a supporting attack since the general was drunk. Upton was forced to withdraw, and his strong position collapsed.

Over and again, Upton had opportunity to criticize the leadership of the army. The soldiers were not to blame; given the right influence they were ready to do anything and sometimes perpetrated heroic feats, but Upton pronounced the corporal commanders "lazy and indolent," knowing little about the front, yet ordering the troops to attack with little knowledge about the enemy or their numbers. Some of them were not fit to be corporals, and it was often due to them that the first of these American battles failed (Ambrose, 1964).

C. Theme 2: Sassaman and American Arrogance

"The fall of the warrior king" provides the second theme regarding how a superior army such as America may often fail in its mission at the outbreak of hostilities. This example occurs in the ongoing Iraqi conflict and is depictive of many of the ongoing limitations and weaknesses inherent in the fighting.

Several lessons can be gained from the story: there is the American ethnocentrism and lack of sensitivity or even understanding towards another culture, as well as its tendency to overlook the individuality of another person. There is the unfounded conviction in the superiority of its ways and its cultures and that this must be compelled upon the other even if the other were unwilling. In a different aspect, although perhaps reducible to the same source, is the American tendency to enter an unfamiliar situation and alien terrain, little prepared and with no rules, yet confidant that they could deal with it.

The tragedy of Sassaman relates how an aggravated and cocky army became overly aggressive tossing Iraqis in the river 'for sport', compelling elderly men to perform pushups for the same reason, needlessly barging into their homes, belittling and overriding their customs. Whatever friendship and respect the Sunnis originally had for the Americans was frittered away by the callous conduct.

Nathan Sassaman, commander of 800 soldiers, loathed his Iraqi experience, and he had much to detest. When he first started out, his relations with the local Iraqis were warm to the extent that he and his men would play with soccer. Gradually however the Iraqi insurgency frustrated and infuriated senior American commanders who had planned for a short sharp war with an army, that they were confident, was less superior than they, whom they would readily defeat, and then control with their more "democratic" government. Frustrated, American officers ordered the army to exert control, under all costs, regardless of aggressive procedures used. Aggression turned into bullying which soon transferred to break-down of discipline. Sassaman sent his men into the Sunni villages around Salad "simply to kick down doors." In another example, when Sassaman mentioned sending his soldiers into Samarra, "his eyes gleamed. "We are going to inflict extreme violence," he said" (Pilkins, 2005).

Sassaman, like most American officers, had received virtually no training in building a new nation or in conducting guerilla warfare. Yet Sassaman, quintessential American that he was, was confident that he could make it. This was despite the fact that the Iraqis had their own preferred notions of nation making and wished to retain their tradition and their culture, as well as despite the fact that the Iraqi way of life was so alien to him and Sassaman had likely never been to the Middle East before. One wonders whether growing up as he had in Texas he had ever seen an Arab. Yet Sassaman, convinced that his life was superior, saw himself as "warrior king" and the Iraqis as his subjects. His men apparently felt the same way. Pilkins comments that:

What is most remarkable too and indicative of their eventual failure was that:

For all the intensity of the war in Iraq, one of the most remarkable things is how little American generals prepared the Army to fight it. When Sassaman and his men arrived in Iraq, they were ready to fight World War II or the first gulf war, but nothing as murky as a guerrilla insurgency (2005).

America had, essentially, pounced on a foreign nation and had believed that they were not only ready to fight them, even though they were unacquainted with their traditional mode of living and knew little about Iraqi terrain, but were confident that they could easily foist their peacemaking mission on them and return home. As one retired colonel put it, the American army never took counterinsurgency seriously. Likely, because it felt that with its superior army it could readily quell such revolt. When success seemed less certain, this same American superciliousness turned into bullying converting those who could have been their friends and some who had shown them initial friendliness into an angry and humiliated people.


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