Critical Writing: A Failure in Persuasion

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“A Failure in Persuasion”

In “A Failure in Generalship”, LTC Paul Yingling assigns blame for the failure of the military in the Vietnam War and the dire and deteriorating situation in Iraq at the beginning of 2007, placing it on America’s generals, then and now. Though fearless in its attempt, the essay presents a weak academic argument to back up this claim due to a string of fallacies, statements and arguments based on false or invalid inference. Most notable in his essay is “hasty generalization”, “missing the point”, and the “false dichotomy”. The initial fallacy that undermines the argument is that of “hasty generalization”. A “hasty generalization” is a broad sweeping statement placed on a group of people without a sufficient sample or support. The premise of LTC Yingling’s entire argument is that the “debacles” in Vietnam and Iraq are a direct result of generals abdicating their responsibilities of assessing probabilities of success and advising policymakers accordingly. He cites GEN Shinseki as the one exception to this failure. It is improbable that of out hundreds of active duty generals, LTC Yingling would have visibility into every assessment and every bit of advice given to policy makers. Moreover, every general does not have a direct line to the civilian leadership. Was he blaming just the three and four stars? Was he referring to the chiefs of staff? How about the combatant commanders? The failure to address these questions and lack of a defined and believable sample renders the argument implausible.

In “A Failure in Generalship”, LTC Yingling spends much of his argument literally “missing the point”. He provides multiple premises arguing criteria for good generals and how to make their promotion system better. This in no way supports the argument that our generals have failed in their duty. He states the imperatives of generals having second languages and educations in the humanities and with the statistics he provides, 25%...
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