- Historic Sites
“Hope Is Not A Method”
December 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 8
So that’s how I got into it, a little at a time. Now, of late, I have become more and more involved with history. My interests have broadened. How did the Army cope over the years? How did the great captains of the Army cope with problems? Images are important to me: Grant’s statue in front of the Capitol building says one thing to me: determination. Chancellorsville—very stimulating to imagine. I think Lee had moral ascendancy over Mr. Hooker. He knew he wasn’t about to be beaten. Now, with the issues I’m wrestling with today, I think it would be very dysfunctional for the institution to go into defensive positions as Hooker did around Chancellorsville. For the Army today the question is rather, Where are we really going? We must, like Grant at Vicksburg, be able to see beyond one battle and to focus strategically, as a total Army, trained and ready.
With the power of information we will reduce fratricide, but we cannot fix it in any kind of absolute way.
Not just to protect the institution.
Right, our job is not to protect the U.S. Army; it’s to serve the nation. And I have to get that into the head of my organization. Grant’s 1864 campaign is very instructive in this instance. How did Grant have the mental courage, the moral courage, never mind the physical courage, to say, “O.K., I’m going to leave Hancock here, and I’m going to roll off down the Brock Road”? I believe he could do that because of his vision: “Because I’m reuniting the Union. Oh, yeah, I’m going to defeat Bobby Lee, but I’m going to reunite the Union.” That’s the power of a vision. History helps you form the vision, and it helps you understand the power.
I don’t think it ever truly leaves me. I think I’m always thinking about it, which I’m sure bothers my wife. I mean, you can’t be the Chief of Staff of the Army—or the CEO of anything—and plug in and plug out. You’re always into it. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of being.
Every time something comes up, my own process is to try to fit it in somewhere. Who wrestled with this before? What did he know? What did he not know? What did he expect to happen? How does it fit? What were the consequences? I don’t think people who know me would discount the power inside me of the image of Grant, the image of Lee at Chancellorsville. Hemingway wrote about a famous bullfighter who, if the bull looked at him in a certain way, could not kill him. He would turn to his colleague, and he would say, “You do it, Paco. You do it.” What happened at Chancellorsville was that Hooker said to someone else, “O.K., you kill him. I can’t do it.” As a result, he got beat. Lee had moral ascendancy.
Now, I’m not saying I have moral ascendancy, but the vision of what we are trying to do now doesn’t just say that the United States Army is going to wear black shoes, to have this kind of hat and that kind of tank. What it says is that the United States of America should have a total Army, trained and ready to serve the nation at home and abroad, and be capable of winning.
So the modern reflection of these images is that the Army should be a selfless venture.
Selfless service to the nation. That’s what this institution has been about for 218 years, even though some periods weren’t so great. My intention is to do what I can in my short time here to ensure that we continue to uphold that tradition. Every morning I walk by the pictures of my predecessors who lived in Quarters One [the Chief of Staff’s residence at Fort My er], when I go out with my dog to check the perimeter, and I draw strength from those faces, because most of them faced not only the rigors of battle but the rigors of Washington: the rigors of taking an army apart and the rigors of putting an army together, expanding it. Fm one of a long line of people.
What should the reader, in your opinion, take away from the Gulf War?
I think the Gulf War was probably the last war of an era and the first war of an era. I think it was a transitional war. You could have predicted what we’d do if you had paid attention to what we did in Panama: Overwhelming power simultaneously applied with our sister services would truly take the enemy apart. I’m not sure we’re going to fight another one like it, but I expect we will, though it’s hard to visualize at the moment. We will fight alongside the other services and other nations, but our level of war is evolving so that it is significantly higher than most of our allies'. When we do combined operations, we’ll have to capitalize on our strengths.
This enormous disparity or edge in military power places certain limits on the operations of the Army when it does go into action. Some reports I’ve seen suggest that our operations in the Gulf War were shaped in some way by an unprecedented concern over casualties, friendly and enemy. Is that true?
That is very hard to judge, and of course, it is inseparably intertwined with the unprecedented role of the media. I know that in December we started a major training effort because VII Corps was arriving, and we knew that VII Corps did not have the experience of XVIII Airborne Corps in Panama, with special markings, glint tape, things they used for friendly identification.