The Military’s Culture of CareerismThomas Steuben
The ongoing dumpster fire of the Afghanistan withdrawal raises an interesting question: How did the military, formerly one of the most respected of American institutions, degenerate not only into a liberal arts college, but a dysfunctional one at that? How did self-proclaimed experts at fifth-generation warfare — conflict waged by non-kinetic means, particularly information — become so incompetent at it that the Taliban could outmeme them?
There are many factors, but a substantial one that needs further analysis is the dearth of leadership. It wasn’t just Mark Milley who got us here — who is as much of a general as Martin Luther King was a doctor. Behind him, and out of the limelight, are legions of incompetent officers and senior non-commissioned officers who, if not for the military, would most likely be corporate middle-management at best, similar to black athletes who would be gangbangers without the NBA.
The promotion system across the military’s branches has for years been geared to select for poor leadership attributes, and at this point this has become an entrenched, self-perpetuating system. This article provides a broad overview of the promotion system for the enlisted of each branch and then for officers, hopefully without getting too lost in the weeds.
To begin, for the ranks of E-1 through E-3 or E-4 (E meaning enlisted), promotion is generally automatic, based solely on time served. Don’t do something very stupid, and you get promoted. This makes sense, as at this level troops are mostly just following orders, not giving them. They also haven’t had much of an opportunity to differentiate themselves, for better or worse.
The fun and games begin at the leap to E-4 or E-5, depending on the branch, and continues up from there. We will start with the Navy and Air Force, since they are very similar. There are a limited number of spots for promotion, so it is a zero-sum game. One’s promotion score is derived from an objective multiple-choice test, combined with a more subjective evaluation or performance review. In the Air Force it used to be common for almost everyone to receive the maximum score on the review because grading it otherwise was seen as sabotaging someone’s career — which led to a backlash of accusations of there being a rigid quota system for the above-average scores. In theory, this system is fine. The problem is that a culture of careerism has hijacked what is otherwise a good system.
Regardless of whether a troop wants to emphasize the exam or the evaluation, both encourage careerism over mission performance. With the evaluation, what matters is rarely mission performance. Rather, “extracurricular” activities take precedence. These evaluations consist of a series of “bullet” points that, through formulaic three-part poetic sentences describing action-impact-result, brag about what you did; how much you actually busted your ass is oftentimes reduced to mere metrics. Let’s cite an example from the Air Force’s Maintainer community: “Completed 1.7K flight line dispatches, 485 inspections/200 maintenance actions — enabled 7K training sorties.” What this means in English is that a hard-working guy made it possible for a bunch of iron to fly while working on a runway in what were probably less than comfortable conditions.
Now ask yourself, what would look better: raising the numbers in that example, or adding a completely separate bullet point? I can assure you that adding a point about how you organized the holiday party, shuffled some bureaucratic papers, or volunteered will be weighed more heavily than having raised the numbers by 20%. Furthermore, doing the aforementioned patty cake is almost always a lot easier than doing your mission. This creates a perverse incentive which creates perverse results. Careerists who prioritize looking good are preferred for promotion over those who are focused on the mission.
Oftentimes this reality is denied, but the results speak for themselves. Increasingly, the careerism is becoming so intense and tone deaf that the careerists will proudly proclaim what I have said and not even realize how jarring it must sound to those who joined the armed forces out of patriotism. For example, higher-ups in the Navy who compose and sign off on these evaluations are fond of saying, “We want you to show leadership.” Show — as in put on appearances instead of simply executing the mission well and expecting it to be recognized.
This culture of careerism also naturally favors those who are further removed from actual military operations, such as paper pushers. I mentioned volunteering above. Those who deploy less, or who do less mission-focused work stateside, naturally have more time and energy to do random volunteering on either their personal time or during their duty day. Cleaning up highways is a noble endeavor, and it should be encouraged; however, it is unfair to expect someone who is deployed overseas for half a year to volunteer on their precious weekends when stateside. They need to relax so that they are refreshed for the mission. Their oath of enlistment should be sufficient volunteering. Nonetheless, those who are worked to the bone on missions are often asked by tone-deaf superiors why they haven’t volunteered very much.
Conversely, others will do the bare minimum for their subjective evaluation and focus all their efforts on the exam. It is almost as hard to get a below-average score as it is to garner an above-average one, because it usually isn’t worth the trouble to explain to everyone who has to sign off on the evaluation why someone’s shot at promotion — and thus career — deserves to be so heavily penalized. Thus, careerists — and increasingly, otherwise virtuous troops who are rightfully disillusioned with the system — pour all of their energy into the objective test. This leads to a situation where knowing how carrier flight operations work in theory is literally more important than actually being competent at conducting flight operations in practice. The higher-ups have demonstrated by their actions that they care more about appearances than the mission, so why should enlisted troops be any different?
The Marine Corps has managed to resist the onslaught of careerism the most, but even they have fallen. According to one source, the Marines demand excellence at all times in all things. Many Marines burn out because of this, but for a while this drive served as a bulwark against the corruption that was growing in the other branches. Volunteering and taking frivolous online courses — which non-combat arms Marines have more time and energy for — were expected, but at least the emphasis was still on physical excellence, given that the Marines are expected to close with the enemy and destroy him face-to-face. Excellence at marksmanship, hand-to-hand martial arts, and the Physical Fitness Test were essential for promotion. Given that physical excellence correlates with virtue, this did wonders to keep the dirtbags away from power. However, careerism still managed to subvert the Marines. According to a source who served more recently, their previous striving for excellence has changed. Nowadays, Marines who are so fat that they are falling out of their uniforms like Heather Heifer are still being picked for promotion because they drink with the staff on weekends.
For its part, the Army’s promotion system is a disaster. To be eligible for promotion, a soldier generally only has to recite three paragraphs. Sometimes they will also be asked questions, but these are almost always about political topics such as preventing or responding to sexual assault — and of course, by-the-book answers are the only correct ones. One of my sources reports that the Army he has found himself in is inundated with trash. fatties, flamboyant gays, lazy blacks, and soldiers speaking Pidgin or Arabic are commonplace. He has even seen a soldier in a burqa. The Army today is a swarm of opportunistic immigrants who should be working at McDonald’s — assuming that they should even be working in America at all. These embarrassments all have roughly an equal shot at promotion — and thus power — if they can simply avoid total failure. If faced with a conventional conflict with an adversary such as North Korea, most of the US Army would probably fold as pathetically as Afghanistan’s National Army did.
There are on-the-spot promotions across the branches, but they are rare and thus not worth too much analysis beyond noting that they generally suffer from the same problems as regular promotion.
Turning to officers, one finds much of the same. Promotions for O-1 through O-3 are automatic. However, the step from O-3 to O-4 and above require going before a board of other officers. This sounds good, except that a culture of careerism has been trickling down from Congress to the top brass, and from them to the O-4s and O-5s, who are the ones who judge applicants. Congress’s Armed Services Committee approves the appointments of over 50,000 nominations each year, and thus O-4 acts as a rubber stamp for the board’s decision. However, there is greater scrutiny for higher ranks, and thus officer promotion inherently becomes more political the higher up in the ranks one goes. This politicization is directly at odds with competence, as appearances, not actual results, are what matters to Congress critters.
There is also the diversity factor in officer promotions. The Army Human Resources Command — that HR even exists in the military is ridiculous — assures applicants that “women and minority members” are routinely appointed to officer boards. This is a nice way of saying that whoever is on these boards is in part determined by affirmative action, and we can assume that Shaniquas behave the same way on promotion boards as they do on juries.
Interestingly, last summer the boards under Mark Esper, began leaving applicant photos out of board dossiers with the aim of eliminating bias and promoting diversity. Because this was more objective, of course more white men stated being selected, since we are generally of higher quality. As a result, the Navy is now reinstating photos and the Marines are considering it. Various cucks have had to take the cognitive dissonance of Newspeak to even greater heights to explain this reversal, such as John Nowel, who said, “It’s a meritocracy. We’re only going to pick the best of the best, but we’re very clear with our language to boards that we want them to consider diversity across all areas.” Obviously, merit and diversity are mutually exclusive. At least ZOG has shot itself in the foot by choosing to promote loyal imbeciles.
You may ask why those soldiers who want to serve their country — not that it is their country anymore – don’t simply ignore all of this careerist promotion drama, do their jobs, and enjoy the camaraderie and fun. They don’t because they can’t. There is a policy of “up or out” whereby an enlisted troop or officer must make it to the next rank within so many years, or else they are discharged. This has been in place for decades despite everyone knowing its effects, with Congress only making some minor changes in 2019 for officers. This, ironically, is part of the reason why those who are most competent and patriotic are frequently those who only serve one or two terms of enlistment. The end result is gross incompetence and loyalty to the system over loyalty to country.
This invites the question of why the strongest — at least for now — military in the world either actively chose or passively allowed its leadership to become so inept. First, this was an active choice. There is a lingering fear among the pantsuit crowd that one day a general could actually become worthy of that rank, and thus become another Patton or MacArthur, with the natural cult of personality that develops around such aristocrats of the soul. In Patton’s case, this fear was exacerbated by the fact that he was woke on the Jewish Question.
Interestingly, this is also the primary reason why commanders are rotated between commands every two years on average, so that they do not establish close rapport with their units. Most commanders take about three months to settle in and are on their way out over the last three months, and thus they only effectively command for about a year and a half. This prevents troops from developing loyalty towards a commander who could one day cross the Rubicon against the gynaecocracy. This naturally leads to uniformity, as there is little time for commanders to innovate, although this is preferred over the sporadic excellence and innovation that longer command periods would develop. Despite all of the talk about innovation, there is a deep-seated fear that this could lead to a loss of control — and so the pantsuit crowd prefers uniform mediocrity.
Returning to the promotion system, there were other tendencies as well that undermined its effectiveness and which were passively allowed to run amok, probably because these tendencies naturally worked in tandem with the intent to promote loyal careerists. There has been a pattern of America oscillating between war and peace. During peace, everyone is primarily focused on garrison duties. Troops can pad their chances of promotion by participating in exercises, which are fairly easy to volunteer for. Everyone has more time to do community service and take online courses. Thus, peace has an equalizing aspect on the promotion system.
In wartime, however, those who truly matter naturally outshine everyone else. Warfighters and those who directly support them, such as by providing intelligence, logistical support, or medical care, have no problem getting their supervisors to write Gucci evaluations for them. It turns out that dodging bullets makes for writing good “bullets.” This naturally leads to resentment among those whose jobs are less cool. There’s nothing wrong with being a burger-flipper, as infantrymen and pilots do like to eat. What is wrong is when burger-flippers and office workers presume to make their tasks — or even worse, their busy work — seem like glorious accomplishments to make up for how they are being outshined.
What happens is that between each cycle of peace and war, the tide of non-mission-related stuff taking on greater importance rises a little higher. I never experienced this myself, but I’ve heard it lamented by several of the old guard.
Then, of course, came the War of Terror, or Twenty Years’ War. War and peace became intermingled during a series of interrelated conflicts which would heat up and cool down, but that were always simmering away. Those in less essential jobs had to compete with warfighters and their direct supporters, and so they had to increasingly push for more careerist nonsense. Eight years of Obama and the emphasis on bureaucracy which naturally comes with any Democrat Commander-in-Chief only exacerbated this. While the useful part of the military was ground down and pushed to the limit with its worn-out equipment and constant deployments, the useless parts simultaneously expanded. The end result was that guys who spent half a year deployed in the desert were asked why they didn’t have a volunteer bullet. Unsurprisingly, most didn’t reenlist, to the amazement of many a RAND corporation analyst and Pentagon staffer working in air-conditioned offices.
Thus, we can see a feedback loop in which the promotion system and careerism feed off each other, and which even without the Judeo-Bolshevik push for Globohomo would have led to a lack of quality and patriotism among American military leaders. This lack of leadership means that the military can no longer handle or learn from a real crisis. It is very indicative of this careerism that the only leader who has so far who lost his job over Afghanistan was Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller — precisely because he demanded accountability from his senior leaders in a viral video instead of excusing away their failures. Thankfully, he and many other quality patriots are waking up to the fact that the system cannot be fixed. As he promised in a second video, “Follow me and we will bring the whole [expletive] system down.”
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Patton being woke on the Jewish Question definitely answers my suspicions on why he was killed. It seems the much hated German Corporal and “Blood and Guts” had something in common that the Jews did not like–no wonder neither lived to see 1946.
Patton, it seems could have been a forced to be reckoned with and he definitely made “Mad-Man” Donovan his personal enemy.
More than anything, there needs to be a realization among the white men who do the warfighting that their service to globohomo cannot continue. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves like Patton, lamenting that they fought the wrong enemy.
Interesting article. I was born too late for Vietnam and too early for Desert Storm so I never joined the US military. I came from a ‘slightly military family’ though so I’m familiar with some of the patriotic reasons for joining up.
I’m a reader of Roman history and I recall in the latter days of the Empire, barbarian chieftains would bribe Roman generals to assist them or betray their commands. In these latter days too, a lot of the Roman Army commanders came from barbarian stock. Rome did away with the laws limiting top positions to established Roman families.
It seems the USA is on a similar dysgenic path. Rome appeared invulnerable and eternal until, in the 5th century AD, terminal decay became apparent and it collapsed over the course of about 70 years.
The origins of careerism in the US military go back to at least World War II where corporate managerial techniques were employed to mobilize both a mass citizen armed force and the American industrial base to provide the logistics for worldwide operations. And yes, we might look at this as another front in the Managerial Revolution.
The careerism really took a leap forward during the MacNamara era of the Department of Defense (1961-68). MacNamara did attempt to rationalize things like weapons acquisitions, but his statistical oriented approach to counterinsurgency led to debacle in Vietnam. However, the shortfalls went beyond the office of the Secretary of Defense. A major issue was the rotation of personnel in-country. Officers had to get their “ticket punched” with a combat tour but (as the story usually foes) this in turn undermined unit cohesion, not to mention making long range strategies difficult to impossible.
In the aftermath of the 1975 fall of Saigon, a reform movement arose in the armed forces. See books by veterans such as Richard Gabriel and Paul Savage. The movement reduced (but did not eliminate) the careerism while pushing things such as pride in unit heritage. Military leaders of the 1980s and 1990s insisted that the US fight wars only in situations where vital national interests were at stake. The new technologies of precision guided munitions and networked communications were brought online. All this in turn set up the operational victories in Panama (1989), Desert Shield/Storm (1990-91), and Enduring Freedom (2001).
But…then the mission of the Pentagon became “diversity,” so checking off the right boxes on the EO form became more important than winning wars. It’s back to careerism, but with a new spin. Senior military personnel must now repeat the party line like Kremlin apparatchiks of the 1930s. Yes, comrades, “diversity is our strength” and the US military is all the more “lethal” even as the Taliban rolls into Kabul, the southern US frontier collapses, and American cities self-destruct into no-go zones. And revisionists shall be purged from the ranks of goodthinkers, like Matthew Lohmeier and Stuart Scheller.
A good point (in the C-C podcast of 4 September) was made about the military careerism being intended to forestall the rise of another MacArthur or Patton. Might also note General Edwin Walker and Admiral Louis Denfield whose careers were pretty much ended for openly disagreeing with national policy re the armed forces.
Perhaps the American collapse in Afghanistan is the crisis which serves as the prerequisite for a paradigm shift in military thinking. Perhaps there is a new generation of leaders arising which is willing to reexamine and discard the neo-liberal shibboleths. Accordingly, it is a mission for the Dissident Right to develop the ideologies which shall guide them in the direction for national renewal.
Good article ─ my CC subscription well spent.
I was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps until about 35 years ago, and before that a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, plus the Boy Scouts and a few other fun and character-building endeavors far short of any actual combat. So my experience with war is limited or nonexistent, but I find it pretty outrageous that we are at a point in our country where the bronze and marble statues of great military men like General Lee are being torn down by Communist rabble and other ignoble apparatchiks.
It is also very difficult for me to imagine how Pozzed that everyone is saying our modern military is ─ especially compared to any other kind of professional employment in today’s world of globohomo.
Yeah, we had our race-relations training or struggle sessions forty years ago too, and as I remember it, me and a handful of flyover-country yahoos took the bait and shamelessly stood up before the gathered host to affirm that NO, we did not agree with inter-racial marriage.
We were not thrown to the lions because, I guess, the idea was to gauge how far the diversity indoctrination could be pushed before the Rednecks got rustled. Back then Negroes respected you for your honesty, and we certainly never saw ourselves as bigots anyway. So pardon me if it is so hard for me to personally imagine that today’s warriors are so easily cowed by trannies in drag and bluestockings in boots.
A core aspect of National Socialism was nationalism and the formation of a nationalist leadership cadre along racial or ethnic lines to revitalize the State. If Nazis did not actually have prior military service, they were trained by those older veterans who did. They were not a band of edgy Leftists looking to settle scores with older generations that supposedly cheated them out of their poker chips and status. And they objectively knew more about humping a rifle and ammunition over hill and dale than jazzing the levers of power on Mom’s Victrola.
I do wonder whether our place in history today is really so different from past crises.
Following the disaster of the Thirty Years War, Frederick the Elector built a modern economy for his duchy, with a modern Prussian Army standing tall in its service. Yet the chief was loath to waste his finely-honed soldiers for pointless imperial ventures.
Likewise, I strongly feel that it is criminal to send troops to fight campaigns without a very good cause, and I can hardly think of any direct U.S. military interventions that I would have wanted to support long before my lifetime (maybe the 1840s war with Mexico). I’m sufficiently proud to have played a small part in the Cold War, for what it’s worth.
Anyway, I think that these kinds of foundational institutions remain tremendously important for teaching leadership skills, and especially Nationalism and service to the State. It is a tremendous source of worry for me that White men of good character do not have any basic military training any longer ─ experience that nearly every man in the Western world possessed to some degree before a universal military obligation was phased out. (More on that theme later.)
The “neo-Clausewitzean” Vietnam and Gulf War revisionist analyst, Col. Harry G. Summers once remarked when chatting with the victors after the fall of Saigon that their side never defeated the Americans on the battlefield. The Colonel’s North Vietnamese counterpart provided a thoughtful answer: “That is true but also irrelevant.”
General Washington is another example of a man in high command who won the war without actually winning very many battles. Some of these military or wartime leaders understood better than others what the important points were.
I think it is laughable to argue that the Taliban somehow actually won anything here. I am happy that the USA is finally getting out ─ a couple decades too late ─ but beyond a little schadenfreude, such Mohammedan nonsense is hard for this Isolationist to follow. “The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.”
It seems to me that the failures of Afghanistan, like Vietnam, were largely in NOT having a clear victory objective to begin with ─ just nebulous open-ended imperial campaigns that were supposed to “show” something by “doing” something, and of course to justify the strategic stance of Israel.
The Interventionists did not care why they were calling for the war; it did not really matter if it was over Kuwait, over oil, WMDs, or towel-headed Jihadi Untermenschen with bombs for brains, and how they treat their homely women.
First it was with the technological miracle of smart bombs, and then it was finally realized that in order to control territory, you have to have boots on the ground ─ i.e., armed people who are known “not to quit their post until properly relieved.”
The primordial essence of statecraft requires both leaders and men with confidence in each other and in their country. Those who study the “Prussian way of war” call this Auftragstaktic ─ look it up ─ a sharp contrast to the view of the soldier as a mindless automaton for bourgeois interests or worse. (There is a clue here about the actual Führerprinzip concept as well.)
To reiterate, the USA never should have gotten into these questionable hearts-and-minds campaigns in the first place, so the only way to not lose them (short of not committing force in the first place without any clear victory objectives) is to finally bite the bullet and exit as cleanly as possible at some point, and preferably sooner as later. Nixon waited too long, and very few establishment Democrats really wanted to be the one to quit their own Party’s grand illusion of world-redemption.
This brings us back to the quality of the leadership and organizational culture ─ and much can be said about this. The point has been touched on already about the difference between corporate systems managers like Robert S. McNamara and seasoned generals like Patton or MacArthur ─ or Gen. Curtis LeMay, a technology-oriented strategist whom the Kennedy “Whiz Kids” despised.
This brings me back around to the actual quality of the jackbooted troops. Lots of people have touched upon the idea that America’s soldiers are basically rural White Trash who barely graduated High School ─ but at least they knows how to shoot. (Truthfully, I can’t recall a single Black in Basic Training who did better at the rifle range than barely pass the qualification.) I won’t belabor it too much, although I never signed up to go fight Saddam or Osama. The 9/11 lark never had me fooled. I was fortunate enough to be the optimum age to have missed both the Draft and the “War on Terrah.”
However, I think it is important to note that in the past even the elites served a military obligation. JFK had his Haahvaahd degree and then went to fight in the Pacific in WWII. He probably could have avoided it like Bill Clinton or Donald Trump. Why do we have Commanders-in-Chief today, or any members elected to high office, who did not at least serve somehow?
And we wonder why Zionist lobbyists and thinktanks are running the show …
Prof. Col. Andrew J. Bacevich is a historian and strategic analyst who as a rare non-Interventionist is one of the few who are worth studying.
I don’t necessarily agree with his stance on nuclear weapons and a few other things, but Dr. Bacevich drew better lessons from 9/11 than most.
In his writings he also makes the very important point that the military class no longer represents the people whom they supposedly serve ─ and those implications are staggering.
Whether it be the general or the private soldier, they seem clueless about their mission and the purpose of their service. Furthermore, the citizens today understand military force about as well as the Oprahs at the DMV understand jury duty. Such a house will not stand.
An organic and healthy relationship of the military with the Nation-State is a hugely important subject ─ and it’s a problem that MUST be addressed by White Nationalists, especially in our times when the military caste and other minions have never been more estranged.
I am hoping for more such interesting discussions along those lines.
Part of the problem with the U.S. military and the failure in Afghanastan is due to diversity. Service members have problems relating to each other and have divided loyalties. After Vietnam, the army, for example, had problems recruiting quality troops. Recruits with low test scores, who wouldn’t previously be allowed to enlist, were allowed to enlist. This also saw an influx of the criminal element and drug users. Stalin killed the top half of the officers corps, including the generals. The officers who weren’t, were kept alive based loyalty to the party, not competence. This had bad effects when Germany invaded. A similar thing has happened with the U.S. military, not literally, but metaphoricaly. After seeing some of these generals and admirals speak, I sometimes wonder if they are more concerned with fashionable trends, like critical race theory, than actualy winning a war.
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