I suspect that when the American public watches an active duty general either testifying before Congress or giving a press briefing, they niavely believe that they're receiving candid information. Nothing could be farther from the truth
Due to the lack of common military experience among the American public, a vast majority are unaware of the career progression that military professionals endure. And, I believe this ignorance to even extend into the halls of Congress.
So what does it take to be "a damn good general?" In my considered opinion as a retired USAF Master Sergeant who spent the majority of his career writing articles, reports, evaluations and commendations to make officers look good and, even editing their master's degree papers, the first quality it takes to be a "damn good general" is political guile tempered by unwavering loyalty to the chain of command. These obviously are complimentary qualities that boil down to the simple tenet: Don't embarrass your boss.
Now, while the enlisted ranks have a less politicized career progression which depends on technical testing, professional military testing, time-in-grade (TIG) points, award points added to evaluation report points (often politically influenced), officers have a much more simple career progression. Provided that one is afforded the opportunity for achieving educational milestones, whether getting that masters degree or attending war college, one's career progression is limited only by the highest level of endorsement one receives on their annual Officer Evaluation Report (OER) since this is what is evaluated by the promotion board against peer records. I'm sure that there's a TIG as well as an award point component but this pales in comparison to OER endorsement level. Furthermore, promotion boards never release their promotion criteria outside of average statistics for those promoted.
So, what are the levels of endorsement for evaluation reports? Unit level, Squadron/Battalion level, Base level, HQ level, Pentagon level, and of course, Commander in Chief (CIC) level.
Now, here's the point of this diary, no general ever made his 4th star by criticizing his boss. Regardless of how wrong headed any strategy might be, dissent is tolerated only behind closed doors, and once you walk out that door SOLDIER, you toe the party line or suffer the career consequences. Yet, the enlisted and lower ranking officers depend on their leadership to prevent their needless sacrifice.
In my opinion (yet again), the last "DAMN GOOD GENERAL" was Shinsecki. Rather than lead his troops to their ultimate death and the evisceration of our military, he retired in protest. Ret. Gen. Batiste, who also took a principled stand against Bush’s Iraqi fiasco, has joined him recently. They both have been joined by a plethora of retired generals that have come out against this Iraqi travesty.
In my opinon, there isn't a "DAMN GOOD GENERAL" on active duty today. Only the ugly gold-diggers.
So when you see that General (Petraeus or whomever) testifying before Congress or giving that press briefing, please understand that it's really George Bush speaking. Good soldiers don't get promoted for embarrassing their boss.