Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Military Professionalism

Chris Roach makes an outstanding point:

One unfortunate consequence of the increasing “professionalism” of the modern military is its leaders’ absolute financial dependence on the government and, by necessity, prevailing political winds.  The old aristocratic volunteer officer might have been more inclined to speak out, whether against a losing campaigning in Afghanistan or a meddlesome requirement to integrate women into his unit, not least because he could fall back on an inheritance and family wealth.  The modern major and lieutenant colonel is on the brink of a comfortable pension and is likely from a middle class background; to speak out to forcefully against the crazy directives coming from on high would result in penury, if not worse.  We sometimes wonder why Soviet engineers and soldiers and bureaucrats participated in their insane system year after year, in spite of the obvious lies, half-truths, destruction, and missed projections made by central planners.  There, as increasingly is the case in America, the state was everything.  In the Soviet Union, the withholding of a job, a pension, a license, a prescription, an apartment, or a degree was incalculably destructive of the individual.   And there, as increasingly is the case in America, there were almost no resources outside the state, including private wealth, to fall back upon if one had earned the disfavor of the state.

This reminds me of a quote originally attributed to Bush ‘41:  “I don’t want guys with ideas in my administration.  I want guys with mortgages.”

On a related note, I have it on good authority that the fitness centers (that a “gym” to you fellow old fogies) on military installations now have “VIP locker rooms” for senior officers where they get towel service and goodness knows what other perks.  I’m reminded of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as portrayed in Gettysburg, refusing food for himself until he could get food for the men under his command.  I guess those days are now well behind us.


Professor Hale said...

The VIP locker rooms thing may be true. I have not seen it. Though I have seen quite a bit of rank priveledge, I don't think the trend is increasing since the 70's.

The Pentagon Athletic club does not have a separate area for generals, but perhaps mere generals here in the Pentagon are not VIP-enough. I would not be amazed to find that the SECDEF and Chief of Staff have their own shower facilities. I know they do have their own kitchens and food prep staffs.

Φ said...

Here's another vignette: I recently had occasion to see a military installation. The facility we visited was in an area heavily under construction, and close-in parking was at a premium. Of course, in the close-in lot there were a dozen or so "numbered spaces" (i.e. reserved for the uppity-ups), half of which stood empty, while the rest of the lot was full and the plebes were having to hike from the back forty. Nothing new here.

But what got me was that, in addition to the numbered spaces, an additional dozen or so spaces had been reserved for VIP visitors, further reducing the number of spaces available to the worker bees. The uppity-ups could have offered the DVs their numbered spots. But they didn't.

Now, I can maybe understand how an installation commander, who's responsibilities include dropping in at various buildings throughout the day, should have a close-in spot reserved for him so he doesn't spend his valuable time walking through construction zones. But otherwise, numbered spaces just make it easier for higher ranking people to show up late. If they want to park close in, they should show up early like any good leader should be doing anyway.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"I’m reminded of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as portrayed in Gettysburg, refusing food for himself until he could get food for the men under his command. "

Similarly, I am reminded of a quote from Erwin Rommel that states "never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue and privation".

Here's a thought that occurred to me while thinking about this...these parking slots may be justified/rationalized because leaders/managers attend more meetings than the average worker. Thus the reserved parking slots save time walking to and from the back 40.

But this analysis fails in other cases that I've heard about 3d hand, such as low-level civilian functionaries at the Pentagon who have reserved parking slots close in because they have been there for years, while high-ranking military who are stationed there only a year or two have to walk.

All that said, there are perks that come with rank, and there is making life easier for oneself at the expense of others, just because you can or you think you deserve it.

Professor Hale said...

the reserved parking trend has been growing ever since the mid 1980's when a HQ edict cut it out for everyone except handicapped and official staff vehicles (govt plates). The MP's were forbidden to write tickets to enforce anyone else's "reserved spot".

But as I said, the trend is growing. You would be amazed at who is considered "important enough". I have seen general's secretaries and sergeants major. as well as anyone else who can convince the boss that they are "special".

Φ said...

Prof Hale: I'm intrigued! By HQ, do you mean DOD or just Army. Is the edict still on the books? Can you cite it?