In his new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, Tom Ricks says that accountability among our highest military leaders has gone missing. Generals are rarely fired today for poor performance, and he thinks the new standards for evaluating generalships have changed in a disturbing fashion. "During World War II, top officials expected some generals to fail in combat, and were prepared to remove them when they did. The personalities of these generals mattered enormously, and the Army's chief of staff, George C. Marshall, worked hard to find the right men for the jobs at hand," he writes. But not so today, he says.
The American military suffered a similar decline after World War I. Marshall was able to assemble a group of war-fighting generals, such as Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton, who were ready to step in and replace the peace-time generals when World War II came. Petraeus appeared to be a possibility to fill the George Marshall role, but not now.
Colin Powell has been the closest to following in Marshall's footsteps, including by serving as Secretary of State, but while he was able to serve President George H.W. Bush well during the first Iraq war, he was shabbily treated by George W. Bush during Iraq war II, especially by being sent to present a false report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations, as well as by Bush's ignoring Powell's advice on how to fight the second Iraq war.
Powell and Gen. Schwarzkopf worked well together to fight the first Iraq war in a workmanlike way, but the bloodthirsty Republicans wanted to kill Saddam Hussein, and were upset that Bush I, Powell, and Schwarzkopf had not done so. They got their bloodthirsty wish from Bush II, Rumsfeld, Tommy Franks, and company, but ended up strengthening the anti-American regime of the Iranian mullahs.
Bush II not only failed to win the second Iraq war, he also destroyed the general officer/flag officer corps, leaving the US military in dire shape.