An Open Letter to America’s Senior Military Leaders

Dear Senior US Military Leaders:

You were born in the 1950’s and 1960’s and came of age in a US military wounded internally and psychologically from the effects of the Vietnam War, a war in which  US military forces fought bravely and competently, but were betrayed by the country that sent them to Southeast Asia.

Your mentors were all Vietnam veterans, who crawled out of the ashes and vowed to rebuild the military, in what was for many of them, a near holy crusade, a ‘hot blue flame’ that burned inside them every day on active duty.

You had a front row seat in the rebirth of the US military, which rose like a Phoenix in the sands of the Middle East in 1991, and which performed spectacularly, a performance which was a testament to the dedication of the men who led you, men who honored and maintained the military’s traditions – traditions and a way of life that are often juxtaposed to the civilian world.

You know what those traditions are:  Duty, Honor, Country…

Your duty – to do everything in your power to ensure that the military focuses on warfighting and nothing else.

Your honor – to do everything in your power to ensure that those who serve under you know that you care about the mission and the troops and not just about you.

Your country – to do everything in your power to protect the nation you have sworn to defend, and most importantly, to serve as a buffer against the wayward and often destructive instincts of politicians and Beltway bureaucrats who wish to use the military as a social laboratory.

You know how generals and admirals are supposed to lead. You know what constitutes good leadership at all levels. You know what it takes to make the US military an efficient and lethal fighting force. You saw it rise to a majestic peak and then gradually fall into an abyss of diversity.

You know, and yet you have abandoned all pretense of your duty as senior officers, logic, common sense and intestinal fortitude to placate identity groups and diversity engineers that have never spent one day in uniform, much less one second in combat.

You know and yet you sit like stoic martinets, calculating your promotions, pensions and your future defense contractor salaries.

You have allowed the US military to become a social experiment; a feminized, weakened, PC force that is a shadow of its former toughness and greatness.

You continue to allow the US military to become nothing more than a leftist play land, while betting everything on the hope that our armed forces will never face a real enemy like the Chinese, the Russians or the North Koreans.

You have sold out the nation’s national defense and allowed the military’s operational tempo to decrease, all for the greater good of your careers.

You have allowed policies to be implemented and events to take place that I would have never thought possible while serving on active duty as a US Army officer.

From open homosexuality to transgenders on active duty to Mommy Rangers and breastfeeding support memorandums, you have stuck your heads in the sand as the military became nothing more than just a corporation with uniforms and C4.

You are undoubtedly well educated, and many of you hold multiple degrees.

Many of you served several combat tours and have an array of citations for meritorious service and valor that adorn your finely tailored uniforms.

There is no doubt that some of you have exhibited extraordinary courage in battle.

But, it is more than apparent that many of you left your courage on the battlefield, for you lack that one integral trait that all leaders must possess; moral courage, aka professional courage, aka the ability, as General MacArthur said, ‘to stand up in the storm;’ to say and do what you know is right, your careers and pensions be damned.

For some of you, it is not a matter of just lacking moral courage, but being loyal to a President no longer in office and a candidate who was soundly defeated in the last election. You so-called members of the ‘resistance’ in the Pentagon and across the military are traitors who have violated your oaths.

Others will argue, what could you do, what can you do? You were and are just following orders. But, there is no Fuehrerprinzip in the US military. There is no such thing as an order is an order.

It is your duty as senior officers to defend not only the nation, which you have sworn to serve, but the institutions themselves. It is your duty to question orders which you believe are detrimental and devastating to the military.

When did one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ever resign in the last decade, in personal protest against the Obama administration’s destructive military policies, and the same policies which still linger today?

When did just one senior officer write even an anonymous OPED criticizing current military policy?

When did any of you ever lift a finger or utter one word of protest in what was being done to the US military?

Where were your voices of protest when male ROTC cadets were parading around college campuses in red high heels, when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand questioned you about the value of transgenders serving on active duty and women in combat, when standards disappeared overnight at the Special Forces Qualification Course, when the Marines’ Combat Endurance Test was no longer a graded event for future infantry officers, when army basic training dumped the grenade throw and land navigation…? Where were you when the lactation stations opened up at combat units across the world and male soldiers of the Big Red One conducted physical training in pregnancy simulators? Where were you when senior leaders were railroaded out of the service for uttering the words, ‘sweetheart’, ‘faggot’ and the term ‘drunker than 10,000 Indians?’

Where were you? You were AWOL mentally and spiritually.

During the Gulf War in 1991, a young soldier told General Fred Franks, commander of VII Corps, ‘Don’t worry general, we trust you.’ Would anyone serving on active duty trust any of you? I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t follow any of you into water.

I believe you are the worst generation of American senior military leadership in our long and glorious history, bar none.

Last week, a retired US Army officer and Vietnam veteran asked me, “Isn’t there just one senior leader in uniform who has the guts to say what needs to be said?”

The answer is no.

Ray Starmann

Editor in Chief

US Defense Watch

16 comments on “An Open Letter to America’s Senior Military Leaders
  1. Ray … timely and excruciatingly, painfully true!

    Let me weigh in with the following….

    Timothy R. Clark: Leadership is greater than management
    Timothy R Clark
    Published: June 27, 2011 7:00 am

    Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, put it this way: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    Jobs knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t manage Apple; he leads it. He’s one of the crazy ones. He’s a leader.

    It will always be easier to snark and ridicule leaders more than managers. Why? Because they make more unforced errors. Why? Because they are playing a tougher game than managers play. Why? Because of all people, leaders are, as Peter Block once said, “burdened with an act of creation.” Managers are burdened with an act of maintenance.

    Can you be a manager and not a leader? Yes, and every organization needs great managers. Managers run things. But leaders create the things they run. If you lack management skills, you can surround yourself with strong managers and still be successful. Does the principle work in reverse? Can you put a great manager at the helm, surround him or her with great leaders and pull it off? Never. Leaders can compensate for their management deficiencies. Managers cannot compensate for their leadership deficiencies.

    Hugh Nibley observed, “Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For the managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men [and women] and team players, dedicated to the establishment.”

    The distinction is overstated, of course. The real world doesn’t allow such a tidy division of labor. You have to do both. But the thrust, attitude and psychology of leadership is different. Leaders strap the future on their backs. Managers don’t.

    Can you learn to be a leader? Much of it can be learned. But some of it can’t be taught. How can I teach you more tolerance for ambiguity and risk? How can I teach you to challenge conventional wisdom? How can I give you the makeup and disposition to push boundaries and thinking? How can I convince you that it’s time to create a disturbance in your organization because people are under the false assumption that the organization competes on a global standard? How do you know when you’re stretching people appropriately or just being a jerk? I can teach you principles. I can give you tools. We can go through some case studies. But that’s as far as I can go. You take it from here.

    Leaders are paid to maintain competitive advantage. It’s their job to hold court with the status quo and overthrow it when necessary. Managers preserve. Leaders disturb. Managers follow the script. Leaders write the script. Managers deal with facts. Leaders deal with possibilities. Managers create value today. Leaders create value tomorrow. Managers can run things on the compliance of other people. Leaders can only run things on the commitment of other people. If not, they cease to lead.

    On Feb. 11, 1861, a tall, gangly man in a coat and top hat turned to the townspeople of Springfield, Ill., before boarding a train that would take him to Washington D.C. where he would assume the presidency of the United States.

    With a trembling voice he said, “Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To his care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

    Lincoln was not leaving to manage the country. He was leaving to lead it.

    Timothy R. Clark, Ph.D., is an author, international management consultant, former two-time CEO, Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University and Academic all-American football player at BYU. His latest two books are “The Leadership Test” and “Epic Change.” E-mail:

  2. Ray,
    The Vietnam War had its share of lackluster leadership, too. I remember standing in front of my re-enlistment officer who offered me the world to stay in for 4 more years. I said no because I saw that our generals were not standing up for the troops. They remained silent while airmen went into North Vietnamese airspace forbidden to destroy enemy aircraft or anti-aircraft artillery on the ground. They had to be shot at first.

    On the ground, sound tactics of offense were not allowed to end the war. Everyone knew the war was being fought in the north, Laos, Cambodia, and yet we were forbidden from attacking those who had the total freedom to attack us at their leisure, while after being defeated on the battlefield, obtaining sanctuary a mile or two away in Laos and Cambodia. Fighting a life or death struggle with one hand tied behind our backs.

    For those reasons, because I didn’t trust my leadership, I left the military.

    Today’s military leadership looked at those Vietnam generals who obeyed Johnson, while betraying the troops and allowed 58,000 men to die as cannon fodder, and then receive promotion after promotion for forsaking the troops under their command.

    Generals MacArthur, Patton, “Chesty” Puller, and Col. Mitchell were turning over in their graves at the cowardliness of the Vietnam leadership.

    Today’s batch of cowards shame everyone who understands the meaning of honor, whether or not they understand what duty and country mean.

    While we are facing the end of American greatness (just as Rome fell when its Army was turned into a PC organism of its day).

    My question, Where is President Trump?????

    To Make America Great Again, it starts with a strong military. He is allowing it to fade into obscurity.

    Someone needs to let him know…most of his senior advisers are retired generals…who made their rank under Obama. That should tell you something.

    • I saw good leadership in Vietnam, too. My first thoughts on this were to LTG Hollingsworth. He was well known for showing up where the action was going on.

      There were others, I agree, that were checking the box and getting their lion share of awards.

      There was another kind, too, that returned and became more political – so much so that you’d think they were the Ivy League college professor types.

      There was yet another type. Anyone remember Herbert’s book on having to salute the general’s duck when you went by it? There were all sorts of stories that flew around, a 2LT MP in a Huey giving tickets to speeders on QL-1, a COL instructing his aide to put him in for a Purple Heart because he fell running out of his hooch during a mortar attack.

    • I think the one difference between today and let’s say, circa 1973, end of Vietnam era is that the people who stayed in the military, particularly at the upper ranks maintained the traditions of the military, where these guys now just don’t care. But, undoubtedly, there were perfumed princes in the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. David Hackworth’s book, About Face is a testament to that. Thanks Joe.

  3. DAMN WELL SAID,,,,,,but the questions remain,,,,,,whatever happened to the hero of west point,,,,,LTC ROBERT HEFFINGTON??? author of the tell all letter regarding spenser rapone and the status of west point……ALSO,,,whatever happened to all those flag officers that were engineered out of the military for their traditional views not in keeping with the obamanation agenda,,,why are they not writing in to columns like these and speaking up??? why are they not sounding off in the media or blogs like these,,,,,what do they know that we don’t know???,,,,,that these crack troops are not fit to fight the ruskies but good enough to police a town or a mainstreet near you? just sayin and thinking out of the box as donald rumsfeld might put it.

    • The Commandant of West Point promised an investigation of the Commie Cadet incident and, you’re right, not a peep out of the Point. The general also retired this past summer – nice.
      They don’t answer their emails up there and they’ve even closed some email addresses off, too.

  4. only Congress can declare war. EVERY CJCS should have said, “No problem Mr. President, just provide us with a declaration of war, passed by Congress and we will invade/bomb some poor third world country as legally ordered. American foreign policy, for the specific purpose of causing the rest of the world to hate us.

  5. I was deeply worried by this article. We, the non US residents of the Free World, depend on a powerful US military as our back up but it is beginning to seem like the it looks more the wussified pussified pacifist US military and that scares us. For me, a Viet Nam and IDF veteran, America is the Judeo/Christian West’s last best hope and a strong American military is essential to keep the flame of Judeo/Christian freedom burning bright!

  6. This is a fantastic article and it really hits home that no senior officials have the guts to speak out against this madness!

  7. if you stop and think about it,,,,most of the flag officers that were ousted during BO”S purge joined up during the “radical leftist beta male and pussy whipped bill clinton’s” term and the further backs were of the new age military ethic under old bush. that none have spoken out,,,,may not be that surprizing after all….if trump ever decided to put the country ahead of his own and his ilk’s fortunes…..he would appoint a defsec that would reactivate all the training protocols of the late 60’s.

  8. nice picture of the 7 DISCIPLES OF THE EFFEMINIZED UNITED STATES MILITARY SERVICES……when some ball busting radical leftist rosy red liberal in the senate or the house SHOOTS OFF THEIR LOUD STUPID MOUTH about women;s rights in the military and the need for combat assignments with lowered training standards,,,,,THESE HEROIC JACKIE WAYNES OUGHT TO SIMPLY ASK…….senator,,,,,representative,,,,are any of your children in uniform? will they be? WOULD YOU URGE THEM TO JOIN A COMBAT READY OUTFIT?,,,,and then listen to their vaginas and prostates tighten up! at ease and as you were. that is all,,,,,,,,CHIEFS,,,DISMISSED!

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