When USMC General John Allen’s retirement was announced in February, our friend Hugh Hewitt called on Victor Davis Hanson to answer the question whether such a drain of military talent — the retirements of Generals McChrystal, Petraeus, Mattis and Allen, in that order — had ever previously occurred in our country’s history over so short a period of time (30 months) because of retirement. “That they occurred during wartime,” Hugh wrote, made “the loss of expertise even more shocking.” Hanson stated there was no parallel. He added that it was a sort of reverse of General George Marshall’s fabled “little black book of talent,” wherein the great American was said to have kept track of the best talents in the military.
In the featured essay of this month’s Commentary, Max Boot explains the misfortune. Commentary has placed Boot’s essay online and I want to draw it to your attention: “How America lost its four great generals.” Boot knows what he is talking about and it is an important essay. Boot concludes:
We do not have such a surplus of brilliant commanders that we can afford to wave away those like Petraeus and McChrystal and Allen and Mattis, who have demonstrated a mastery of the modern battlefield. We can only hope that President Obama’s cavalier attitude toward the loss of their institutional knowledge, their leadership abilities, and their complex understanding of a dangerous world does not prove to be a tragedy for the nation.