I have met people with their Doctoral Degree who have been morons. I have met college dropouts that are among the smartest people I know. The military is no exception to this. I have met high ranking officers that I wouldn’t choose to follow across the street, and I have met low ranking enlisted members that I would follow to the ends of the Earth. There is a common misconception by those who have never been a part of the military machine that officers are well trained and intelligent. Maybe some people even think that the intellectual requirements to get through officer training are high. While I have not personally attended the training, I can say from personal experience, this is not always the case.
Like any system, there are things that slip through the cracks. The military does its best to filter out those that don’t belong or are unfit, but it is not a perfect system. This is even more complicated when it comes to officers due to political factors and influences. There are plenty of members that attend war colleges or ROTC programs that are unfit to be there but due to various factors, such as lineage, book smarts, personal connections, favors, system loopholes, etc., certain disqualifiers are overlooked or completely disregarded. The worst part being that these are people that end up in positions of power and control over the lives of others. I am not saying that none of them deserve their position, but based on personal experience, I have encountered more enlisted members that were fit to lead than I did officers.
There is no one size fits all gauge to determine how smart anyone is. How do you compare someone who is a history professor against someone who is a literature professor? How do you compare the greatest football player in the world against the greatest baseball player in the world? Is it possible that the world’s foremost expert on astrophysics doesn’t know the first thing about marine biology? It is you who decides who you think is smart and who isn’t. You choose who is worth listening to and who is worth ignoring. Just because someone is considered an expert by others, doesn’t mean that they are an expert by your standards. You learn to trust your instincts and make the best decisions possible.
It is a hard pill to swallow when you must follow the orders of someone with less experience or intelligence than you. It isn’t always clear whether or not someone is as intelligent as they seem, and it is worse when you are being ordered to do something that you disagree with. It is a common misconception that you are required to follow are orders issued by those who outrank you. In most cases, you do, no matter how stupid the order. You are required to follow all lawfully issued orders by your superiors and, unfortunately, there are a lot of dumb orders that are lawful to give. Not all lawful orders take respect, dignity, pride, or even intelligence into account. In the military, you will encounter this often.
The only way to counter is to obey all lawfully issued orders, report all unlawfully issued orders, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. The military is not a bad organization and most who serve are morally and ethically well-meaning people. While there are plenty of officers or high-ranking enlisted members that slip through the cracks by way of bureaucratic nonsense, there are plenty more that earned their position and are deserving of respect. Take each order as it comes. While I am NOT advising that you disobey orders if you are in the military, I am telling you that you are responsible for your actions. You are the one that has to live with the consequences of your decisions.