I watched from a distance the frustration of a field grade officer when he had to put on a helmet, belt and ballistic eye wear to enter an army maintenance yard. His face revealed his shock at having to follow the rules meant for common soldiers. Then it changed to curiosity as he tried to don his reflective belt. His first attempt covered up his oak leaf. His second attempt covered up his skill and combat badges. Finally, like Goldilocks, he found the just right median the third time draping his neon yellow sash over his shoulder. He seemed content that he found a way not to cover his rank or cool badges so everyone could see how important he was. He then began wandering aimlessly looking for ways to assert his authority. At this time I realized that the military is run by beta men.
I know if my boss told me to lay down next to a shot up corpse so he could gauge its living height, I would refuse. According to “Mark Owen’s” book No Easy Day, this happened after the Osama bin Laden raid. Admiral McCraven had one of the Navy Seals lie next to the body to guesstimate its height. For all the elitism and toughness of Navy Seals, this obedience was surprisingly immediate. Remember that this service member is the pinnacle of what the “tip of the spear” in the US military is.
Remember all the retired generals that came out against the Iraq War? None of them spoke up while they were still in. That golden retirement at four stars trumps any form of disagreement with the political bosses. This same concept of “yesmanship” is apparent in other programs such as women in combat, weapons procurement, and other social engineering projects tried in the military. A great example of this would be the Marine Corps’ now dead Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle project. The generals behind that program did a complete 180 when it was cut and toed the party line that such a vehicle was unnecessary.
This betaness extends outside the realm of military operations and support. One has to remember that General Petraeus’ downfall was the result of generals doing favors for housewives. A Tampa socialite got General Allen to write her a letter in a civil case. Another woman took offense to a perceived competitor for general officer access and began stalking. When the FBI got involved, it was discovered this other woman was a lover of David Petraeus. He resigned as head of the CIA. It would have been better if he stayed till he got fired. It would have been interesting to see him prosecuted for something he crushed so many soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division with his general letters of reprimand for adultery. Remember, these acts occurred while he was on active duty, and he is still drawing the retirement check so the Uniform Code of Military Justice has jurisdiction. But alas, such rules don’t apply to those with the shiny stars as is demonstrated here.
In conclusion, it seems the hierarchy of obedience is used by betas to exert authority they would never have in the corporate world. One merely has to see a commander get hen-pecked by his obese wife to see this. Even better are those whose wives are banging that alpha PFC who works in the motor pool. They really illuminate this concept.