Dean Barnett noticed a stunning level of ignorance by Barack Obama about the command structure he seeks to head as commander-in-chief and blogged about it at The Weekly Standard.
When Obama held his second press conference late last week to address his ever more slippery position on withdrawing troops from Iraq, he stated:
"I am absolutely committed to ending the war," the longtime community organizer declared. "I will call my Joint Chiefs of Staff in and give them a new assignment and that is to end the war."
Barnett explains well the role of Joint Chefs as a staff unit, which provides advice to the commander-in-chief. In order to avoid conflicts within their respective services and provide clear advice, the joint chiefs are by law excluded from the command structure. The command structure (what is called the "line" part of the organization in corporate organizations) consists of people like General Petraeus, who actually run the military organization through its structure of commands. Barnett comments sarcastically:
Surely Obama knows this. Obviously he wouldn't be seeking the role of Commander-in-Chief without knowing how the job is done.
Obama has such a naive view of running organizations that he doesn't appreciate way they actually work. Just call in the guys with braids on their uniforms and give orders.
The problem goes well beyond the specifics of the basics of the military command structure. Obama has no leadership experience in large organizations whatsoever. He doesn't even know what questions an incoming executive should ask, in order to formulate effective policies.
There are serious and important benefits (as well as pitfalls) to a line/staff division of labor in business and a command/staff division in the military. People who have actually run serious organizations and accomplished something know all about working both sides of the organizational apparatus, avoiding the downsides while maximizing the effectiveness of the various tools at the leader's disposal.
Actual experience leading, changing, and accomplishing goals in large organizations ought to be an informal prerequisite for presidential candidates. John McCain hasn't run a large organization, but at least he has been a military leader, responsible for the Navy's largest squadron at the time.
Obama's understanding of the intricacies of management reflects the shallowness of a man who has gathered resume items without ever accomplishing much as a community organizer, lawyer, state senator, and US Senator. Such people tend to get into real trouble when they arrive in a job where responsibility cannot so easily be sloughed off on others after moving on to a higher position.
Obama is again and again demonstrating that he doesn't know very much at all of about the serious matter of state. Just looking and sounding good enough to garner votes seems to be the limit of his aims. Preparation for actually being president is an afterthought.
Hat tip: Ed Lasky