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“Hope Is Not A Method”
December 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 8
I do know that the level of expectations of the American people is clearly too high, vis-à-vis casualties at war in general. Because of this, I have been very careful to tell them in my testimony on Capitol Hill and publicly that we will do everything we can to ensure that we train ourselves and prepare ourselves so that we limit as much as possible the costs of combat. But friendly fire has always been with us—Stonewall Jackson, Lesley McNair—and I am inclined to speculate that what made the Gulf War experience different was that we could sort out virtually every casualty we suffered. With the power of information we will reduce fratricide, but we cannot fix it in any kind of absolute sense. To believe that we can is to fail to appreciate the nature of war itself.
You’ve been Chief of Staff of the Army since the summer of 1991. What do you know now that you wish you’d known the first day you took office?
How it all fits together. How Congress fits. How my colleagues and I fit with Congress. I think I understand all that better now. I think initially you try to do too much, and you try to zip around and be here and be there. I was a little bit too peripatetic there at the beginning. I needed more time to think.
You are known for your knowledge of and accomplishments in the field of higher military education. Would you discuss how you see its role in the future of the Army?
What kind of officer are we trying to create? You can find a metaphor in jazz. We’re trying to create Dave Brubeck. What makes Brubeck great is that he was trained and educated as a classical musician, but he’s also a highly skilled improvisationist. He often does not respond exactly the same, but the theme remains constant. In the same way, we’re trying to create officers like [Gen.] John Shalikashvili, who commanded the Kurdish-relief effort on the Iraqi border with Turkey after the Gulf War. [Shalikashvili was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe when this interview took place, and has since been appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.] We’re trying to create people who can improvise within a theme, people you can tell, as we told Shalikashvili: “Go to southern Turkey, northern Iraq. Resettle the Kurds.” This officer has to know how to conduct peacekeeping, peacemaking, resettlement operations, diplomacy, humanitarian aid. How do you create an officer like that? How do you create a Colin Powell? It is critical for us to maintain a viable, capable, credible educational system in the Army, because this is truly where we grow our future leaders. I will tell the generals out here today that what I want them to pay attention to is the group with less than fifteen years’ service. That’s where I want them to devote their energy, because I need those young people to grow and to stick with us. I need steel in their backbones for the years ahead, and I want them to understand how to think. Not what to think, but how to think about holding this Army together so that we can serve the nation either on the battlefield that we understand or the battlefield we don’t understand—the battlefield of the twenty-first century.
And I can tell you this: When we’re asked to do something, the American people will expect us to do it without a lot of discussion about trend lines, total obligation authority, how many divisions I have. What they will expect is success. Nobody asked me how many people I had when it came time to go to Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Katie Couric didn’t ask me that. Or Wolf Blitzer. What they asked me was “What are you going to do in Florida?”
A last question: How would you like Gordon R. Sullivan to be thought of by your successors? When they look at your tenure as Chief, what would you like them to say?
That he did the best job that he could do in his time. And that he found some satisfaction in doing that and in being a soldier with them through these times. I would like to think that I may have given them something personal to enable them to better serve their country.