…between a modern and a feudal army.
The easiest and quickest path into the esteem of traditional military authorities is by the appeal to the eye, rather than to the mind. The `polish and pipeclay’ school is not yet extinct, and it is easier for the mediocre intelligence to become an authority on buttons, than on tactics. ~Captain Sir Basil Liddel Hart, in Thoughts on War, 1944
Reports have it that Craig Mullaney will be named as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defence (Central Asia) in the Pentagon. Now, what is the significance of this appointment? Craig Mullaney is a former army officer, graduated from West Point in 2000, went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar from there, served in Afghanistan as a platoon leader and quit the army after the initial engagement period. The Washington Independent notes the significance of his appointment–
Not generals or colonels, with decades of professional military experience, but junior officers leading companies in difficult and ambiguous wars, implementing decisions made by higher command, and improvising along the way. …It means a great deal, in other words, for junior officers to become senior Pentagon officials. Deputy assistant secretaries of defense shape policy.
Mullaney is a celebrated author now, with his book The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education receiving rave reviews and creating waves all over. Check out an extract from the book here. Incidentally, his wife is of Indian origin and Mullaney’s knowledge of Bollywood and pidgin Hindi/ Urdu did come in handy in Afghanistan.
Would a similar thing ever happen in India? While there is no provision of lateral induction into the executive in the South Block, that would be the last of the problems. As a serving star officer said in an off-blog conversation,
I think Indian Army can take the cake in its anti intellectualism. It has taken a vow not to read or encourage reading. Exceptions always prove the law!
And then there are other practical reasons. Rhodes Scholars from India are generally from colleges like St. Stephens in Delhi and one is yet to hear of a single one from the National Defence Academy. One isn’t even certain that the rules there even permit, forget about actually promoting, such intellectual indulgences for its officer cadets. Even if an Indian Mullaney would have gone abroad for two years on army’s expense, he would have signed a five-year bond with the army. Despite his best intentions, he would not have been allowed to hang the uniform (as many, even without such bonds, have realised in the last five years). An opaque, discretionary and outdated exit policy, which mistakes permanently commissioned to be a life-bondage would have dashed all such hopes.
Rather than being a fine ambassador for the armed forces in civvies, he would have probably ended up as a brilliant, but disgruntled and demotivated officer, still in uniform. Therein lies the difference between a modern army and a feudal organisation rooted in a colonial past.
If you are the same today as you were three years ago, you’re out of it. If you’re not going to be a lot different this year than you were last year, you stink. Don’t let anyone say, “Good old Harry. He hasn’t changed a bit in the last five years.” ~Jack Welch