Perceived Organizational Stupidity

I have not been paying much attention to the story, big elsewhere in the blogosphere, of Scott Thomas Beauchamp. For the uninitiated, young Private Beauchamp wrote some stories for The New Republic which painted US troops in an extremely unflattering light and accused his fellow troopers of criminal acts. Young PVT Beauchamp has apparently recanted his story in a sworn statement to the US Army. TNR has been bit again by a fabulist. After Stephen Glass, one might have thought they had learned something. One would have been wrong.

Anyhow, yet another dirtbag has brought down by his propensity to run his mouth when he should have kept quiet. I can safely assert that PVT Beauchamp is a dirtbag because anybody who has the amount of time in service he has and is still an E-Deuce is by definition a fuckup of some variety.

However, young PVT Beauchamp has, in my opinion, made the classic mistake half-bright young soldiers make when dealing with the Army. The Army, as an organization, does a variety of things which strike the observer as stupid. Sometimes the Army is capable of appallingly stupid acts. This is true for all large bureaucracies, I imagine. The half-bright young soldier then makes the unfortunate generalization that the Army, as an organization, is stupid. The minute he starts thinking he’s brighter than the Army, he’s headed for the fall.

What these guys forget is the Army has been around for 232 years and has a phenomenal institutional memory. No matter how smart some young troopie thinks he is, the Army has seen someone just as smart before. There are well-developed processes in place to deal with the budding young (self-identified) genius. The combined wisdom of the Army, as embodied in the officer and NCO corps and on paper, is collectively enough to crush some private’s dumb ass when push comes to shove. PVT Beauchamp is about to find out just how hard the smackdown can be.

In essence, we’re back to dealing with people who, in the absence of any evidence to support the idea, think they’re smarter than everybody else. The half-bright ones try to game the system and get caught because they saw the failings of the system but didn’t see the strengths. The real bright ones admit the possibility of error and that someone may be smarter or in possession of more knowledge. More importantly, the bright ones don’t get caught by doing things so colossally dumb.

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