Lieutenant General (Ret.) Daniel P. Bolger, former commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and author of Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, spoke to ethics symposium attendees yesterday during the afternoon session. Bolger’s comments about leadership failures and accountability generated very lively discussion and questions from the audience.
At the conclusion of his remarks and Q&A session, we sent out a survey to attendees asking what was their “take-away” from his presentation. Some of the responses:
• That he and other generals may not have done all they should have in advising our civilian leadership on the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He and many believe that the military is best used for “hit hard and get out quick.”
• General Bolger’s remarks today and candor in my eyes took a lot of courage. To stand out there and publicly display and write for public record that the leadership of this institution failed any planning and executing of this war on terrorism is a very bold statement and I applaud him for it.
• [My take-away] is that an Iraqi life is worth less than an American life….and that the ‘you break it you own it’ doctrine does not apparently apply to the American way of war. I suspect that Colin Powell might well disagree.
In the survey we also asked “What is your moral duty as an officer and what steps would you take if you believe a policy of your government or higher command is wrong? Some of your responses:
• All leaders and Soldiers have the moral duty to speak up, but as the general stated, it also depends on the relationship with the flag officer as well as providing an alternate solution.
• If I’m not sure when an officer appointed over me is making a decision that I think is wrong … I actually in private let them know that I disagree. I tell them why I disagree and tell them what I think would be a better solution. It’s my duty to get them options so that they can make an educated decision…
• Work with in your chain of command to address the issue at hand and do not stop until the issue has been addressed and a decision has been made on it. If you are bringing up a problem then you need to always bring a recommendation with it.
What was your “take-away?” What is your moral duty as a military officer when you believe a policy is wrong? What was your reaction to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bolger’s presentation overall? – Share your thoughts below.