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Thomas Ricks argues that the failures of today's military can be traced back to the Vietnam War. (iStockphoto.com)

Tracing Military Failures, Holding 'The Generals' Accountable

Dec 11, 2012 (Talk of the Nation)

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Thomas Ricks argues that the failures of today's military can be traced back to the Vietnam War.

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In The Generals, Thomas Ricks argues that the failures in America's recent wars can be directly traced to failures of those in command.

Ricks examines U.S. military leadership from World War Two to the present day, and concludes that the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced to the Army's inability to come to terms with all the lessons of Vietnam.

Over the course of decades, he says, the U.S. Army became an institution that operated to the benefit of its officers, encouraged caution and corporate careerism, and confused tactical success with the strategy needed to win. Most important: the Army forgot the necessity to fire generals who failed.

As part of our series on books we missed in 2012, Ricks talks with NPR's Neal Conan about how a lack of accountability has shaped the military.

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