“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”— O. Wilde

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Eisenhower (WWII) and MacArthur (Korea): the Limits of Civilian Control

Extract from Coalition Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in Correlli Barnett, Leadership in War: From Lincoln to Churchill 203, 207–08 (rev. ed. 2014) (footnotes omitted) (language in bold added):

That he was to prove so cumulatively successful as a supreme Allied commander lends a special interest to his own wartime view on how that role should be performed: a view expressed in the form of advice in September 1943 to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was about to become Supreme Allied Commander in South-East Asia:

The written basis for allied unity of command is found in directives issued by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The true basis is the earnest co-operation of senior officers assigned to an allied command ... Never permit any problem to be approached in your staff on the basis of national interest. [Eisenhower’s emphasis]

An allied Commander-in-Chief must be self-effacing, quick to give credit, ready to meet the other fellow more than half-way, must seek and absorb advice and must learn to decentralize. On the other hand when the time comes that he himself feels he must make a decision he must make it in a clean-cut fashion and on his own responsibility and take the blame for anything that goes wrong whether or not it results from his mistake or from an error on the part of a subordinate.

Eisenhower continued:

You may say that an Allied Commander-in-Chief is not really a commander and if you are thinking of the picture you have of commanding a battlefleet or a destroyer flotilla, you are correct. But on the other hand, in no sense of the word is he a figurehead or a nonentity. He is in a very definite sense the Chairman of the Board that has very definite executive responsibilities. He must execute those duties firmly, wisely and without any questions as to his own authority and responsibility.

The point I make is that while the set-up may be somewhat artificial, and not always so clean-cut as you might desire, your personality and good sense must make it work. Otherwise, Allied action in any theatre will be impossible.

This letter has been quoted in extenso because it embodies the quintessential ‘Ike’ as a man as well as a leader. Here is the kind of common sense to be found in Abraham Lincoln and the Duke of Wellington: a quality which is in fact far from common in human affairs.

At the very outset of creating the first integrated Anglo-American command structure in 1942, Eisenhower made it clear that he would not tolerate any diminution of his own authority and responsibility as supreme commander. The British War Office had issued its own directive to General Sir Kenneth Anderson, the British land force commander, which simply repeated the terms of that given to Haig in the Great War, authorising Anderson to appeal to his own government if and when he believed that an order from Eisenhower endangered his army. Such a directive stood in blatant contradiction to the new integrated command structure, whereby Eisenhower was serving as an Allied commander responsible to an Allied authority, the combined chiefs of staff, and thence to the prime minister and president jointly.

Eisenhower immediately wrote to General Sir Hastings Ismay (chief of Churchill’s personal staff) to register his strong objection:

I think the wording of the directive is such as to weaken rather than support the spirit that should be developed and sustained among all ranks in this great enterprise.

His letter resulted in a fresh directive from the War Office to Anderson: ‘You will carry out any orders issued by him [Eisenhower].’

Tillman adding: Exactly who was MacArthur—issuing orders for a UN Command under a Security Council resolution—responsible to?


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman )

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, The Legislative Veto, INS v. Chadha, and Originalism, The New Reform Club (Sept. 30, 2016, 6:48 AM). [Here]

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Exactly who was MacArthur—issuing orders for a UN Command under a Security Council resolution—responsible to?

I would think it's purely a military law question. Truman is his commander-in-chief, and MacArthur is obliged to obey any lawful order from anyone designated by C-in-C as his proxy.