LTG (RET) Bolger on Generalship

LTG (RET) Dan Bolger in his author’s notes to his book Why We Lost clearly is not going to endear himself to the Army General Mafia.  He has this to say:

What went wrong squandered the bravery, sweat, and blood of these
fine Americans. Our primary failing in the war involved generalship.
If you prefer the war-college lexicon, we-guys like me- demonstrated
poor strategic and operational leadership. For soldiers, strategy
and operational art translate to “the big picture” (your goal) and “the
plan” (how you get there). We got both wrong, the latter more than the
former. Some might blame the elected and appointed civilian leaders.
There’s enough fault to go around, and in this telling, the suits will get
their share. Bull know better, and so do the rest of the generals. We have
been trained and educated all our lives on how to fight and win. This
was our war to lose, and we did.

And this:

We then added to our troubles by misusing the U.S. Armed Forces,
which arc designed, manned, and equipped for short, decisive, conventional
conflict. Instead, certain of our tremendously able, disciplined
troops, buoyed by dazzling early victories, we backed into not one but
two long, indecisive counter insurgent struggles ill suited to the nature of
our forces. Time after time, despite the fact that I and my fellow generals
saw it wasn’t working, we failed to reconsider our basic assumptions.
We failed to question our flawed understanding of our foe or ourselves.
We simply asked for more time. Given enough months, then years, then
decades – always just a few more, please – we trusted that our great
men and women would pull it out. In the end, all the courage and skill
in the world could not overcome ignorance and arrogance. As a general,
I got it wrong. And I did so in the company of my peers.

and this:

As for myself, I make no excuse. I’m just a soldier who tried, got a
few things right, but, in the end, failed. If I remind you of anyone at all,
maybe it’s Joe Stilwell, “Vinegar Joe,” of the China-Burma-India theater
in World War II . He told it like it was, eventually got sent home for it,
and deserved a better war.


About keydet1976

Retired as a Colonel in the United States Army after 33 years of service. Graduate of the VMI, MA in History at JMU, completed course work for Ph.D in History University of Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Army, Insurgency & Counterinsurgency, The Long War. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to LTG (RET) Bolger on Generalship

  1. maj w dc says:

    Whiney little girl. good to see a General picking up the country’s current fascination with self flaggelation and public doubt that makes so many in this adminstration feel soooo much better.


  2. burkemblog says:

    Dan Bolger may well be right–I’m reminded of Lucian Truscott, who, at the dedication of the Army cemetery at Anzio during WWII, turned away from the audience and apologized to all the dead.


  3. MajW says:

    Not the same by any measure…. Graveside grief on the part of a commnader after battle, is one thing. A book published to toot your own horn, is another. i have been a part of both up close and personal and can assure you sir, Bolger is selling books and trying to make himselfnfeel better. And while we’re on the topic, does anyone honestly think Vinegar Joe would lament his personal feelings to world writ large…. Nope.


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