Only a few minutes after I commented sympathetically on Last Wishes of a Dying General, I read Crispin Burke’s devastating takedown. The subsequent online discussion about both these pieces has given me a lot to think about. Although Carr’s essay was received quite well among his readers and colleagues, Crispin’s critique resonated with many other officers, who see Carr’s piece as an arrogant, angry rant.
Because I know Carr and what he stands for, I didn’t read his piece that way. I think a lot of his frustrations are legitimate, and believe he speaks for a lot of Air Force officers.
But as the discussion has continued, and I’ve had more time to reflect on it, it looks to me like Carr’s piece–and the reaction to it–exactly fits the unproductive cycle that I described in Finding Common Ground.
The essay violates several of the principles I suggest for disruptive officers who want to make a difference. Its biggest fault is that it’s too personal, severely undermining its legitimate points. It focuses on problems without proposing specific, actionable solutions. Finally, it is written in a tone and manner that is not likely to persuade senior leaders.
On the other hand, I haven’t been impressed by some of the reactions from older, more senior officers. I have seen little engagement with Carr’s concerns, or acknowledgement that these concerns are widespread in the Air Force. Instead, I’ve seen assaults on Carr’s character, statements of good riddance, and dismissals of his critique on the basis that the private sector is worse.
All of this is quite disappointing, so once again, I point to the suggestions for both junior and senior officers in my essay. These debates need to move forward in positive, constructive ways and I see responsibilities on both sides.