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Remembered Today:

Should an Honourable General Offer to Resign


PhilB
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After some major undertaking has gone badly wrong, the ultimately responsible person in politics or business might be expected to offer his/her resignation, that being the honourable thing to do. Should military honour demand the same, particularly when the price of failure or incompetence has been paid by the men whose lives and welfare were entrusted? Are there many cases where generals have done this? I do seem to recall the odd brigadier doing it in WW1, but nobody higher. Phil B

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After Gettysburg, Lee offered to resign and wrote a letter to Jefferson Davis to that effect.

I think for Generals, it is a hard thing. If they consider their job, duty ... how can they quit? If they consider their job destiny, this may be some minor set-back in their star's career. If they are ambitious, I think they start looking for scapegoats ... Resign is a symbol of guilt and resignation, I think that it is a very special General that can believe in himself enough to send men to their deaths and yet be humble enough to say "I screwed up."

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Very honourable of Massa Robert, Andy - I would expect no less! However, the concept of honour seems to be so important in the officer class, particularly the aristocratic officer class, that I can`t understand why an offer to resign wouldn`t be de rigeur for such a commander after an apparent failure. It`s not a resignation but an offer to resign. In other words, throwing himself onto the judgement of his peers. Surely, after a catastrophic failure, honour demands it? Phil B

PS Not that Gettysburg was a catastrophic failure! I wouldn`t dare claim that before our American members.

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This is a difficult one to answer, as I am not necesserilly one for politicians getting the sack for things they were not directly responsible for, given often they can not control every little thing etc etc.

However with lives it is far more crucial and important.

I guess to answer, if every officer who made a mistake or caused the death of a man under his command was to resign, we would not have had an officer corps to fight a war. Was it Napoleon who said it takes 50,000 men to make a General, well someone did I am sure.

In general I would say no, its for his superior to make an objective view and decide if he warrants removal. Of course honour comes in many guises. Haig of course, knew he had caused many deaths but he saw it as his duty to carry on and complete the job.

regards

Arm

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I`m not suggesting a general might resign because he made a mistake, Arm. But if he presided over a battle which failed with considerable unnecessary loss of life, for which he could be deemed responsible, then what does the aritocratic officers` code oblige him to do? Phil B

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Get it right next time, learn from his mistakes, for if he does not then the next GOC will make a different mistake and cause other deaths. I am not being flipant by the way I do believe there is no such thing as an officer or soldier or whatever that does not at some time make a mistake and cause lives to be lost.

All battles go according to plan, until the first shot is fired!

Arm

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