Yingling Academic Argument
English and Literature
Submitted By melissa31078
LTC(R) Yingling’s article, “A Failure in Generalship” argues that America’s generals failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument he presented in this article is weak, and I will argue this under two premises. First, LTC(R) Yingling utilized fallacies throughout his argument to support claims of generalship failures. Second, he excludes the other points of possible failure to focus on one set of rank within the officer corps.
LTC(R) Yingling’s utilization of fallacies throughout his argument serves to create confusion, bias, and diversions for the reader of this article. He distracts the audience by the introduction of a red herring in his argument. The summation of his first two paragraphs discuss war as “a social activity that involves entire nations,” and “passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war.” These ideas raise a side issue separate from the focus of the first element of discussion, responsibilities of generalship.
LTC(R) Yingling exhibits circular reasoning when he states, “the general must visualize the conditions of future combat,” and goes on to state, “not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought.” If a general’s responsibility is to visualize what he is unable to visualize, this begs the question of how much culpability a general is truly responsible for, assuming the general provided an estimation of strategic probabilities.
Weak analogies riddle the argument through comparisons of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam conflict, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Persian Gulf War. Each of these military engagements occurred at different times and locations, under different conditions requiring different estimations of strategic probabilities. No two military engagements are the same. Further, LTC(R) Yingling attempts to convince the audience of its desires through the use of ad populum when he states, “If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities.” What authority does LTC(R) Yingling hold to determine what America desires?
The focus on the general officer corps as a point of failure left no thought or discussion regarding possible other points of failure. ATTP 5-0.1, “Commander and Staff Officer Guide,” paragraph 2-2, states, “Staffs support the commander in understanding situations, making and implementing decisions, controlling operations, and assessing progress. They make recommendations, and prepare plans and orders for the commander…they synthesize this information and provide it to commanders in the form of running estimates to help commanders build and maintain their situational understanding.” Considering this, if a general fails, the possibility that his staff failed him in providing the proper strategic estimates should be considered.
Contrary to the thought that a staff is just as responsible for failure as their general, is the thought that ultimately the officer in charge is responsible for all decisions and actions executed under his purview, to include his staffs. This would indicate then that the blame for failure rests on the shoulders of the officer in charge. This could prove valid if an officer were making and executing decisions on their own; however, that would be an anomaly within a military organization where teamwork is the foundation of its accomplishments. To the best of my knowledge, no general ever entered into a military conflict without the support of their staff. In closing, it is my opinion that the arguments LTC(R) Yingling presented in this article are weak. LTC(R) Yingling utilized fallacies throughout his argument to support claims of generalship failures, and excludes the other points of possible failure to focus on one set of rank within the officer corps.
Yingling, Paul “A Failure in Generalship.” Armed Forces Journal (May 2007): 1-5.
US, Department of the Army. ATTP 5-0.1, Commander and Staff Officer Guide. Washington, D.C. September 2011.