Our generals today are not particularly well-educated in strategy. Exhibit A is Tommy Franks, who thought it was a good idea to push Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a larger country that also possesses nuclear weapons. Franks also thought that he had won when he took the enemy’s capital in Afghanistan and Iraq — when in fact that is when the wars really began.
When generals don’t know what to do strategically, they tend to regress back down to what they know, which is tactical. That’s one reason why in Vietnam you saw colonels and generals hovering over company commanders giving orders. It is also why our generals were so slow to adapt in Iraq. By the time they became operationally effective, it was 2007, and we had been fighting in Iraq for nearly four years, longer than we had during all of World War II.
What percentage of them need to be fired? All those who fail. That is how George Marshall ran the Army during World War II. Failures were sacked, which is why no one knows nowadays who Lloyd Fredendall was. Successful generals were promoted — which is why why we know names of younger officers of the time such as Eisenhower, Ridgway and Gavin. This was a tough-minded, Darwinian system that reinforced success. Mediocre wasn’t enough back then. It is now, apparently. Back in World War II, a certain percentage of generals were expected to be fired. It was seen as a sign that the system was working as expected.