Commentary: Self-Servant Leadership

Mark Milley
by Citizen Soldier


“With all due respect, guys, I’m here for the families of Abbey Gate.”

Said the man in the cool blue suit at a congressional hearing last week in Washington.

Back straight, eyes serious, spool of white hair parted to one side, he looked authoritative. Here was the Ivy League grad finally freed from the oversized camouflage utilities once draped like a battle tunic over his squarish frame.

“I’d like to stay focused on these families,” Mark Milley reiterated.


Blame Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan National Security Forces for failing to stand against the Taliban. Blame the State Department for waiting too long to call an evacuation. But don’t blame the generals.

It was difficult to take this caring and compassionate Milley seriously.

Earlier this month he was sipping a Chilean Cabernet during lunch with a reporter from Financial Times, and attacking a plate of French fries while his security team hovered nearby. He talked about war and politics and kept to the script.

•        On China: “They have not leapt ahead of us—yet.”

•        AI “will play a fundamental and perhaps even decisive role” in a future war.

Just words, cliched and unoriginal.

Milley and the generals have all the words but no ideas or good judgment.

Seventy-four years ago, his predecessors underestimated the discipline and ferocity of the Chinese army in the Korean War. They misjudged the resiliency of the North Vietnamese. They failed to anticipate the consequences of obliterating Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, and overestimated the effectiveness of our targeted killing operation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Factor in Milley’s new paymasters at Georgetown, Princeton and JP Morgan, and his public counsel on security questions becomes conflicted and unreliable, if not useless altogether. Since retiring from the Army six months ago, Milley has begun a second career as consultant and teacher, in addition to drawing more than $200,000 annually in pension benefits.

In the battle to determine responsibility for the Afghan withdrawal debacle, Milley’s primary weapon is language, his field of fight the hearing rooms and hangouts of DC bureaucrats.

Unlike the congressmen at these hearings, young fighting Americans know how much went wrong between the day they arrived in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the day they came home. Meanwhile, our self-deceiving generals apparently shrug off the deaths and defeats, pick up their consulting gigs with industry, and talk of defending Taiwan and defeating Russia while Afghanistan still burns.

I hope Milley listens to a recording of his testimony before he addresses the subject again. And I hope he’s always “there” for the families of the 13 Americans who died at Abbey Gate. They suffered losses for which no compensation is enough.

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Citizen Soldier believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Photo “Mark Milley” by U.S. Secretary of Defense. CC BY 2.0.






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