Success will not only be a matter of mere military adaptability, but above all the result of a political, popular, and military convergence, especially if reserves or conscripts are to be used as force multipliers. Therefore, officers should develop a political understanding of their profession within society.
Mission command has some real problems. Of course, the concept sounds great, or at least General Patton seemed to think so: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” As you might expect, the US Army Command and General Staff College supports this belief, devoting hours to discussing the logic of empowering junior leaders. However...the military rarely practices this. This article attempts to answer why... there are serious risks inherent within the philosophy of mission command that cause many people to reject it, if not in word then in deed. Three of these risks are the fear of subordinates making mistakes, the discomfort of superiors feeling out of control, and the angst of leaders chancing their careers on others’ mistakes.
War, we are told by a wise elder, is the “pursuit of policy by other means.” In fact, this famous statement was perhaps more an aspiration on Carl Von Clausewitz’ part than a statement of metaphysical truth. It is often observed that German generals in the succeeding generations completely forgot this famous dictum, which demoted them relative to civilian leaders they often held in contempt. But American generals do not seem to be immune, either.