Tom Ricks Highlights Historians’ Meeting

More than 600 military historians attended the 77th annual meeting of the Society for Military History hosted by the Marshall Foundation and VMI over four days at the end of May.  This was truly an international event with participants from most U.S. states and several other countries.

The Marshall Foundation has strong connections to SMH.  The Society’s Journal of Military History is published from offices at the Foundation, and the Foundation supports the annual Marshall lecture delivered by the Society.

Registrants participated in 60 panel discussions on topics ranging from Ancient Generalship to Military Cross-currents in Africa as well as field trips to the National D-Day Memorial and the New Market Battlefield.  Hunter Defense Technologies, a corporate partner of the Foundation, supplied several field tents/shelters for the opening reception that included live bluegrass music.

At the closing dinner, author and Washington Post special military correspondentTom Ricks talked about the decline of American generalship since the eminence of George C. Marshall, whom he cited as the quintessential American military leader and the architect of the modern Army.  Ricks said the ability to fire field commanders has been largely lost in the modern military.  Marshall, he said, did not hesitate to remove a commander who was not the right fit for the job or who did not achieve results quickly.

Ricks contends the modern military establishment has accepted rotational assignments that honor time rather than results, and as a result of this institutional shift in orientation, leaders are not easily or readily replaced as a result of poor or unacceptable performance.