The concept of listening to the generals should also follow through to the many other advisors who provide specific advice to world leaders. If you listen to the experts, and they are right, you are a genius. But, if they are wrong, however, you look like a fool. That’s why choosing capable advisors is important; but, at the same time, leaders don’t usually get to select their military leaders; rather, they inherit the generals. That’s why the head-of-state is in that lonely place—making the tough, potentially life-and-death decisions.
Before delving into this conundrum, I would suggest considering whether there might be any extenuating considerations. Rising through the ranks of a military organization is based on wartime, not peacetime, experience. Generals and Admirals receive additional stars and advance their careers only in time of war. And, if their advice runs amok, the generals just retire on a fairly good pension and, perhaps, sign-on with one of the defense industry corporations–generally at a substantial compensation increase!
Doctors who work for the Centers for Disease Control or Doctors Without Borders don’t enjoy the same, rewarding career outplacement. Neither do the economists at the Fed nor their cohorts in academia, who have fought against the calls for Austerity and Budget Cuts during an extremely slow recovery from The Great Recession. And perhaps topping that all off is the way that many in the GOP fail to acknowledge the overwhelming body of scientific evidence—which Exxon knew about in 1977—that suggests that Climate Change is Man-Made.
Unlike doctors, economists and scientists, none of whom can be recalled as having risen high in government, there are numerous former military officers who have done so. Consider: our first President George Washington; President Ulysses S. Grant; President Dwight D. Eisenhower; and Senator John McCain (R-AZ). But, I would offer two more examples of generals; however, they were fired or forced to retire early for listening to their egos. Each of them also had political aspirations.
General Douglas MacArthur publicly contradicted President Harry S. Truman’s policies during the Korean War, and even suggested invading China. He was fired by Truman, as Commander of U. N. Forces in Korea in 1951. And, Air Force Chief-of-Staff Curtis LeMay had angered President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and again in 1962, first when he contradicted Administration Policy during the Bay of Pigs (Cuba) Invasion, and then wanted to bomb the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eventually, President Lyndon Johnson allowed Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, in 1965, to fire LeMay for publicly contradicting Administration policy regarding the Administration’s bombing strategy in North Vietnam.
It would appear that, to be a good leader, any head of state should be consistent—and beyond the parochial leanings of any one political party, or ideology. That concept should also be evident to the large number of GOP Presidential Candidates that are currently vying to replace President Obama. According to them, each and every thing that Obama has ever done was wrong; however, they do not have any rational recommendations that they would offer to improve the situation. But, if any of them are actually elected President, they should then be ready to govern on behalf of all the people, and just not any particular political interests.