Research Paper: Worst Faults a Military Leader

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[. . .] There was a comforting presumption that neither nation-state wished to be annihilated. However, this same comfort is not offered when combating terrorists who are willing to die for their cause. Also, versus apparent logical self-interest, terrorist groups are not necessarily associated with a national cause (or only diffusely, as with Palestinian statehood) and may simply attack for attention rather than to achieve a predictable objective. Attempting to 'shift gears' to acknowledge and deal with this reality has been challenging for U.S. military leaders. Even when waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has had to cope with the threat of non-state actors who perceive their needs very differently than a conventional opposing army.

A subcomponent of the dangerous fault of 'fighting the last war' and not taking into consideration present realities is found when leaders have insufficient regard for cultural differences and nationalist ideologies. Once again, the old rational actor model of the Cold War does not necessarily apply. Nation-states in the Middle East are not necessarily united by a coherent government or ideology: even Sunni or Shiite Muslims may be broken into warring factions based upon tribal loyalties. Given current global diversity, "in modern military operations, a unit's mission, rules of engagement, and situation are often unclear to the service member and can require rapid role changes."[footnoteRef:4] To function in a dynamic environment, a leader must be flexible. "Leaders who are more open to information are reported to be cue-takers, both defining the problem and identifying a position by checking what important others are advocating and doing. Such leaders are interested in information that is both discrepant and supportive of the options on the table at the moment, seeking political insights into who is supporting what and with what degree of intensity."[footnoteRef:5] [4: P. Bartone, C. Barry, & R. Armstrong, "To Build Resilience: Leader Influence on Mental Hardiness," Defense Horizons, 69 (2009): 2] [5: Hermann, 7]

Finally, leaders always understand it is not about their personal egos: sometimes they may need to take great risks, based upon the needs of the situation on the ground, which may mean causalities that are unpopular but will ultimately result in fewer deaths (such as Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb). Other times, they may need to pull back. Great military leaders are tough. Cowardly, bad leaders instead put the image they wish to project to the world ahead of the real, situational needs. An excellent example of an unselfish leader is that of Colin Powell: Powell supported the Vietnam conflict as part of his duties as a soldier, even when it was unpopular amongst his fellow African-Americans during the racially divisive 1960s and 1970s. However, when his conscience moved him to oppose the way the Iraq War was being conducted in the Bush Administration, he did not wonder what the effects would be for his Republican political career: he spoke out about what he saw as incompetency in his service as Secretary of State, even though it was not the politic, accepted thing to do. Powell, unlike bad leaders, learned from past mistakes in American history and while the "Powell Doctrine, which was a logical defense policy extraction of the Vietnam Syndrome, advocated the use of overwhelming force to bring about rapid and assured military victory at the least cost" was never accepted by the Bush Administration, it remained an unshakable part of Powell's worldview. [footnoteRef:6] Unselfishly, Powell put what he thought was the good of the nation ahead of his own personal interests. [6: M. Serry-Kamal, "The Trials and Tribulations of General Colin L. Powell," review of Colin Powell: American Power and Intervention from Vietnam to Iraq, by Christopher D. O'Sullivan, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, 662.]

Bibliography

Bartone, P, Barry, C., & Armstrong, R. "To Build Resilience: Leader Influence on Mental

Hardiness. Defense Horizons, 69 (2009): 1-8.

Hermann, Margaret. "Assessing leadership style: A trait analysis." Social Science Automation

1999

McCausland, J. "Developing strategic leaders for the 21st century." Strategic Studies Institute,

2008. Available:

http://www.StrategicStudiesInstitute.army.mil / (26 Sept 2013)

Serry-Kamal, M. "The Trials and Tribulations of General Colin L. Powell." Review of Colin Powell: American Power and Intervention from Vietnam… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Worst Faults a Military Leader."  Essaytown.com.  September 26, 2013.  Accessed June 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/worst-faults-military-leader/5052057.