Once More, Unto The Breach: What Makes Supreme Commanders Successful

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“Once more, unto the breach,” wrote Shakespeare, a fitting sentiment for an essay aimed at continuing a conversation that has unfolded over several articles, one of which has already alluded to Henry V.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article describing the merits of optimism as a character trait of supreme commanders. In response, Ryan Leach and David Danford co-wrote an essay that disagreed, arguing that, instead, America should seek out cynical generals, or, “leaders who will paint the situation in the worst possible light.”

Leach and Danford should be applauded—whereas too many others are content to lazily launch one-liners from the sidelines or ad hominem remarks on social media, they’ve taken the time and effort to mount a thought-filled response. I appreciate their effort and find that they’ve raised some important points, questions, and anecdotes. But as I read their piece and reflected on my own, I realized that the response suggested the presence of a disagreement where there really isn’t (or shouldn’t be)—and in so doing this might just warp understanding of what successful supreme commanders need to be and do. Continue reading “Once More, Unto The Breach: What Makes Supreme Commanders Successful”

Why America Needs Optimistic Generals

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

It’s not very often that a US commander in Afghanistan sets off a social media firestorm. But recently, Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson in his final press conference as outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, was accused of wearing rose-colored glasses or blinders. Others took out their frustration on him for the interminable nature of America’s long war in Afghanistan. One voice even went so far as to indict America’s senior military leadership and wrote that the “indefatigable optimism of [America’s] generals is a national liability.” Continue reading “Why America Needs Optimistic Generals”