The Colonels and ‘The Matrix’

By
Thursday, March 06, 2008 at 5:31 pm
army.mil

army.mil

In the spring of 2007, as the first wave of new combat brigades arrived in Baghdad to execute President George W. Bush’s troop surge, an Army lieutenant colonel named Paul Yingling booted up his computer at Ft. Hood, Tex. He received an email accusing him of moral cowardice. It was from Yingling’s friend, a fellow Iraq veteran and Army lieutenant colonel named Gian Gentile.

Gentile was concerned about a highly influential article that Yingling had written for the magazine Armed Forces Journal titled “A Failure In Generalship.” The piece was incendiary. Yingling, barely 40 and an Iraq veteran twice over, had issued a j’accuse to the entire general officer corps for failing, over the previous 15 years, to anticipate low-intensity conflicts with insurgents and prepare U.S. troops accordingly. He further contended that the generals failed to deliver their best military advice to the Bush administration about the true costs of the war in Iraq, preferring not to challenge the White House’s optimistic fantasies. “Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence,” Yingling had written, “but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character.” The people he criticized have the power to end his career.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

But to Gentile, Yingling was the lapsed officer. In his email, and then in a volley of op-eds and blog posts over the next year, Gentile derided Yingling for failing to call any general out by name. Worse yet, Gentile now contends that blaming the generals represents a myopia on the part of Yingling’s fellow counterinsurgency enthusiasts — until recently, he counted himself one — to accept the U.S. failure in Iraq. “By not naming names,” Gentile, now a history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said in a phone interview, “he has left it open for the generals themselves to interpret who’s in the Yingling-screw-up crowd. The way that comes out, until the early months of the surge, he doesn’t want to say who but he really means [former Iraq commander and now Army Chief of Staff Gen. George] Casey, only a few units got it right and finally, maybe, we’re on the right track with Gen. Petraeus and the surge.” Both Yingling and Gentile claim to have received heaps of supportive email from soldiers.

In this argument between two respected senior officers, the next major debate over U.S. defense policy can be gleaned. Yingling speaks for an ascending cadre of young defense intellectuals, most of whom are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who assert that the U.S. military must embrace principles of counterinsurgency if it is to triumph in the multifaceted fight against global terrorism. Gentile, formerly one of those theorist-practitioners, believes the military has already moved too far in the direction of counterinsurgency, which he contends allows analysts to ignore the limits of U.S. military power. Both arguments represent an attempt to answer a searing question: What are the lessons of Iraq?

Ultimately, the answer to that question will probably be endlessly debated. But the counterinsurgency community — they call it “COIN” — has perhaps the most organized answer. Counterinsurgency is a much-disputed concept, but it refers to methods of warfare used to divide a civilian population’s political and sentimental allegiance away from a guerrilla force. From the start of the Iraq war, a cadre of warrior-thinkers in the military has questioned the use of tactics that focus more on killing enemies than giving the Iraqi population reasons not to support terrorists, insurgents and militias. “We don’t just talk about the enemy, we talk about the environment,” explained Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, until two weeks ago the corps commander in Iraq, in a lecture Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. Not all of them assert that the early use of a counterinsurgency strategy could have won the war. But most contend, after the decline in violence in Iraq during the last half of 2007, that a counterinsurgency strategy would have allowed the war to have been less deadly than it is.

This small but dedicated group includes, most prominently, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq and Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command. Other luminaries are Petraeus COIN braintrusters like David Kilcullen, a gregarious former Australian Army officer and State Department adviser; Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who will soon teach military history at the Ohio State University; and Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, who helped craft Petraeus and Mattis’ much-praised Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, a seminal text for the COIN community known as FM 3-24.

Less visible but highly influential members — many are lieutenants, captains and enlisted soldiers and Marines who came of age in Iraq and Afghanistan — include Janine Davidson, who works in the Pentagon’s directorate of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; cultural anthropologist Montgomery McFate; Harvard human-rights expert Sarah Sewall (an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign); and Marine Corps University Professor Erin M. Simpson. The Democratic-aligned Center for a New American Security think tank plays host to many emerging counterinsurgency figures, like Colin Kahl, Nate Fick, Roger Carstens, Shawn Brimley, and, starting in the fall, Nagl. During moments of downtime, the community obsessively reads and comments on the Small Wars Journal and Abu Muqawama blogs.

Drawing on arcane military and academic histories of largely forgotten “small wars” in places like Malaya and the Philippines, the counterinsurgents place a premium on using the minimum amount of violence needed to target a shadowy enemy; on intimate knowledge of foreign cultures to cleave civilian populations from an insurgency; on distinguishing enemies that can be co-opted from “irreconcilables” that must be killed; on using proxy forces whenever possible; and on the central recognition that military force can never substitute for a political strategy that offers better, deliverable alternatives to a population than those presented by an adversary.

These are the lessons that the counterinsurgents believe need to be applied — first in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then institutionalized throughout the military. To them, institutionalization is key: it’s something that the military avoided in the generation between Vietnam and Iraq, so as not to entangle the U.S. in any more counterinsurgency campaigns — even as adversaries adjusted to America’s conventional military dominance. During the Clinton years, the Pentagon focused on buying “more high-tech jet fighters, artillery systems, and sensors, while there was very little [emphasis] on low-intensity warfare,” Yingling said. “Even as we’re operating in Somalia, the Balkans, and elsewhere, where we’re trying to develop security forces and build governance capacity, we were disconnected from our experience in the 1990s.”

There are some early signs of institutionalization. First, Petraeus has become a national hero, thanks in large measure to the administration’s use of him to bolster dwindling support for the war. Second, before he left for Iraq, Petraeus commanded the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, a bastion of the Army’s institutional knowledge, where he established perhaps the first counterinsurgency course for young officers. Third, in the fall, the Army briefly recalled Petraeus to the U.S. to preside over which colonels to promote to brigadier general.

Fourth, the Army recently raised stability operations to equal importance with offensive and defensive operations in its official Operations manual, FM 3-0 — adding a new category of warfare for the first time in the Army’s 232-year history. Finally, Petraeus’ corps commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, will become the Army’s vice chief of staff, though Odierno’s commitment to counterinsurgency is a matter of debate within the community.

Yet the counterinsurgents, owing to their outsider status for a generation, consider themselves a besieged minority inside the military, with “Big Army,” elements in the Marine Corps, and the non-ground services out to marginalize this method of warfare it finds undesirable. The Marine Commandant, Gen. James Conway, has seemed to slight counterinsurgency in his public statements as a “lesser-included” mission of the Marine Corps. Counterinsurgents noted glumly that Nagl never received a promotion to full colonel. Even with Petraeus at the helm of the promotions board, some wonder whether a colonel named H.R. McMaster, who successfully implemented a counterinsurgency strategy in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005 at the command of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, will ever receive his first star.

Meanwhile, the procurement priorities of the Army haven’t significantly changed since Iraq, nor have the ground services gotten a significantly bigger piece of the budgetary pie. “The Army has gotten a much bigger share than it has traditionally because of the costs of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it plays the dominant role,” said Steve Kosiak, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “In terms of the ‘base’ budget — i.e., the budget exclusive of war costs — its share has grown as well, but only very modestly. It still receives slightly less than the Navy and Air Force.”

Gentile considers the counterinsurgents’ sense of beseigement to be ludicrous. To him, the military is undergoing a titanic shift in favor of counterinsurgency with little debate over the implications. “I worry about a hyper-emphasis on COIN and irregular warfare,” he said in a phone interview, with “less mechanization, less protection and more infantry on the ground walking and talking with the people. It’s a potential recipe for disaster if our enemies fight the way Hezbollah did against the Israelis in the summer of ’06.”

He continued, “Petraeus sat on the promotion board. Do we really think H.R. won’t have a star on his shoulder? They’re the ones in control. I don’t see how they can think otherwise. They’re almost like the minority party that finally becomes the majority party and can’t get over the fact they’re the majority!”

Gentile even has a term for the counterinsurgents’ view of their place in the Army: he calls it The Matrix, after the mind-controlling Baudrillardian machine that alters the perception of reality in the eponymous Wachowski Brothers films.

There was a time when he would have swallowed the blue pill. Gentile served two tours in Iraq, first in Tikrit in 2003 under Odierno and then in western Baghdad in 2006, commanding an armored cavalry squadron. Despite what he calls a counterinsurgents’ “master narrative,” whereby counterinsurgency arrives in Iraq first in Tal Afar with McMaster and then in Baghdad with Petraeus, Gentile said that units — including his own — applied COIN practices throughout the war. “Clearly, there are examples of units not getting it,” he said. “But I believe that at the tactical level — infantry scouts, platoons, companies and battalions — performed [counterinsurgency operations] by the book even before FM 3-24.” Yet, Gentile observed, conditions in Iraq got worse, not better.

That realization turned Gentile from a COIN practitioner to a COIN skeptic. Essentially, he swallowed the red pill to escape the Matrix during the triumphalism surrounding the troop surge in 2007. Counterinsurgency, he now believes, has a role in a modern military, but an excessive focus on it serves as an alibi to avoid recognizing that the U.S. military is not omnipotent. “I think Andrew Bacevich, at the policy-strategy level, has basically nailed it,” Gentile said, referring to the retired Army colonel who contends that Iraq is an irredeemable strategic mistake. “He points out the limits of what American military power can accomplish.”

Yingling finds his friend’s argument to be, at the least, premature. To him, there are too many vestiges of an improperly-footed military encumbering counterinsurgency to conclude that it has been fully tested and found wanting. “Why are our acquisition priorities the same as before 9/11?” he said from Ft. Hood, where he commands the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery. “My field artillery battalion, we’ve got a multi-launch rocket system to guard detainees. We built the wrong Army in the 1990s and now we’re breaking it apart to fight the war we’ve got.” He continued, “The notion that America’s power as a nation is somehow at its limits today as we spend four percent of our GDP on defense and have an active-duty Army of half a million just doesn’t square with history.”

Nor can he accept Gentile’s argument that “A Failure In Generalship” needed to name names. “The failures of our general officer corps, through Vietnam and Iraq, occur independently of a single individual,” said Yingling, who learned counterinsurgency while soldiering for McMaster in Tal Afar. “To focus on individual culpability misses the point. There’s a structural problem with how the armed forces develop senior leaders. And until we address it, we’ll keep getting the same result.”

Just as Gentile believes there’s a place for counterinsurgency in the military, neither does Yingling adopt a zero-sum approach to conventional warfare. “The high-intensity [side of things], I certainly don’t want to abandon it,” he said. “There’s a good debate to be had about what that balance should be.”

Striking that balance is the central question in U.S. military circles in 2008, and the counterinsurgency community is at the heart of it. Gentile has joined the battle in a very visible way. In newspaper pieces, in blog posts and in extended scholarly articles — including some that call out Yingling directly — he has warned of an uncritical drift toward counterinsurgency. In a widely read Small Wars Journal post on Tuesday, he accused the Army of sleep-walking into adopting FM 3-24. “It is necessary now to accept the truth that there was not wide-ranging debate within the Army and from that premise start one over our Counterinsurgency and Operational doctrine that is truly based on wide-ranging criticism in a ‘big tent,’” he wrote. “It is time to start thinking out loud.” That earned him a rebuke from Charlie, one of the pseudonymous authors of the military blog Abu Muqawama: “Charlie is looking forward to reading his competing approach to counter-insurgency operations.”

That’s “the Matrix, though,” Gentile contends — “that’s why I’m hammered so much.” To Gentile, the inability of the counterinsurgency community to see that it’s winning the debate represents a convenient distortion of reality comparable to the leitmotif of the hit film: “They think they’re me, but I’m them.”

One thing Yingling and Gentile readily agree on is that the military will suffer from lack of intellectual reassessment. “We don’t agree on every point,” Yingling said, “but we do agree on the need for a rigorous debate in the Army about what kind of threats we face and what the Army needs [to defeat them]. I would not want the Army to rigidly adopt COIN doctrine in the same way we rigidly adopted high-intensity mechanized state-on-state warfare.”

Like most in the Army, Yingling cannot afford to treat that debate frivolously. Next month, he and his battalion will go back to Iraq, where they will be part of the first wave of post-surge forces. “I hope that we are able to build Iraqi capabilities to the point where the stability the surge produced becomes self-sustaining,” he said on the phone. “If we accomplish that, if we contribute to it, during my third tour in Iraq, I will consider it pretty successful.”

And there will be more lessons to learn — and debate — when he returns.

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Categories & Tags: National Security| U.S.|

Comments

63 Comments

averymoore
Comment posted July 29, 2008 @ 6:57 am

From different perspectives all the commenters seem to be making the same point.

It is an ancient one.

2000 years ago Tacitus described the political and military successes of his father-in-law, Agricola. In so doing he also noted the failure of others of equal rank to accomplish the same objectives both in the colony of Britannia and elsewhere. To explain the difference he wrote:

"Agricola, however, understood the feelings of a province and had learned from the experience of others that arms can effect little if injustice follows in their train."

In short, what held true for Tacitus remains so: the virtues associated with governments worthy of defending – intelligence, justice, organization, integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility, multi-dimensional comprehensive planning, vigor, humanity, iron laws opposing corruption – these are not just "optional" electives.

To succeed long term: they are imperative.

Avery Moore


snidely
Comment posted April 15, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

nice one spencer.


cubanexile
Comment posted March 12, 2008 @ 11:16 am

If you’re going to assert something, give examples. Name the many many successful counterinsurgencies, or at least a couple, and why they were successful. The counterinsurgency the U.S. military thinks it is practicing in Iraq is devoid of meaning. As long as they are going around armed to the teeth, ignorant of all the political currents in Iraq and thinking they are bestowing on the Iraq people the gift of democracy they won’t get anywhere. Look what happened when five of them got blown up two days ago. They got out of their vehicles to take a little stroll and mingle, kind of to show the friendly face of the Army, right?


pashley1411
Comment posted March 11, 2008 @ 6:38 am

Cubanexile – Your definition of counterinsurgency puts it beyond the realm of the possible. All operations work within limited time and resources. And, contrary to your opinion, there have been many many successful counterinsurgency operations, all worked with limited time and resources, and few would have been "Hearts and MInds" successes, a liberal slogan that befuddles rather than clarifies.

Praedor – we may well have too big a military and spend too much on it. But the domestic spending argument flags you as a woolly-headed liberal, domestic spending has a very dubious record.

A better argument might be that anytime we are in a counterinsurgency operation, we have gone too far, in the sense that the cost and time will be more costly than our polity is willing to bear, so just stop it. Even to get into a counterinsurgency setting means our political leaders sailed the country into deeper waters than we intended to go. I intend this to be a caution, rather than a rule.

For Yingling to "name names" would have been poor tactics as a standing officer. Praise in public, criticise in private. And observers should be more sceptical when any government agency, including the Army, expands its mission and so not coincidentially expands its call on the public’s taxes, time, and resources.


praedor
Comment posted March 10, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

ufred:

<blockquote>To sm999- Are you suggesting that we not have a military? Or that we should have less costly wars? Or do you just enjoy a good conversation? I


ufred
Comment posted March 8, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

In response to the question of where we might become involved in conventional warfare, I would say that our invasion of Iraq would qualify, as would the last gulf war


cubanexile
Comment posted March 8, 2008 @ 10:29 am

But what Petraeus has done in Iraq is not true counterinsurgency. It sounds good, but it’s just a facade. There’s no substance. True counterinsurgency requires something the U.S. military and the American psyche are incapable of. It means really living among the people, adopting their ways, blending in by learning the language. That kind of commitment will never happen anywhere. As long as soldiers look the way they do, armed to the gills, and act the way they do, arrogantly and brutally in some cases, counterinsurgency is just a word.

Counterinsurgency is a nonstarter for this country. Smart people like the concept, but it’s unworkable because it demands too much. There would have to be a wholesale rejection of long-standing military doctrine and mind-sets. Forget about it. At any rate, would it be worth it in the end? The investment of time and resources for what? To convert people to the American way? It’s colonialism by another name.

The Army takes its orders from the president. It is limited in what it can do on its own. All this debate about the relative merits of counterinsurgency is for naught. If a president orders it to invade a country, it will do it even if the Army has deep reservations. If the generals put up objections, their careers are over. The president finds generals who agree with him. That’s how it works. There are no coups in this country, not that I’m advocating that. It’s just that the military is subservient to the commander-in-chief, and his view, colored by his political tendencies, is supreme.


vietvet
Comment posted March 8, 2008 @ 5:03 am

This argument reminds me of the mid-60s, when as a faculty member of the US Army Intelligence School I was a member of a team that studied past insurgencies in preparation of a course which trained intelligence personnel how to function in insurgency environments.

My next assignment was with the Special Operations Group in Vietnam. There I experienced close up the animosity between combat arms officers whose focus was conventional warfare and those of us who thought that there would be a lot of insurgencies to deal with in future; that we needed to focus on winning over the local populace; that less military presence is frequently more effective and that enemy kills are not only a poor indication of progress, but are most often counterproductive when accompanied by civilian casualties.

I thought we had learned some lessons about combating insurgencies in Vietnam, but it didn’t appear so until recently when General Petraeus reinvented the wheel.

To my comrades in arms who still espouse conventional warfare, I have one question: Where do you anticipate we will become involved in a war similar to WW II – Central Europe, China, Iran?


marcuss
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 11:29 am

This is a brilliant article. You’re a couple of steps ahead of the rest of the media (though I’m not sure one has to be brilliant to do that).

small thing — counting probable Iraq/Afghanistan spending we are at around 5% of GDP on the military, not 4%.

Counterinsurgency and "nation-building" are sort of the same thing. Counterinsurgency only makes sense as a support mission for a wider political strategy with popular legitimacy that is building a state that can make it on its own. Otherwise it’s just a more efficient way to screw up. Can we do that in an Islamic country?

Also, I think this is crucially connected to the debate over whether we were winning Vietnam post-Tet. There are some military thinkers doing revisionist history on that.

Finally, using the Phillipines as an example of successful counter-insurgency is interesting, given the level of civilian casualties there (sheer butchery for a while).


cubanexile
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 8:31 am

Interesting article. When I started reading it I was on Yingling’s side but came around to Gentile’s after he agreed with Andrew Bacevich. There probably has been an overcorrection toward counterinsurgency principles, which is not to say there should be a return to the old thinking. Too much is made of the success in Tal Afar. What does it look like now? There’s been violence there since it was declared a success story. Same with the surge. The storyline now is that it’s been a great success, but the violence continues. Iraq can’t be salvaged because it was wrong to go in there, as Bacevich says. The Army shouldn’t beat itself up over strategy or tactics and just accept the failure, not the Army’s but the civilian leadership’s.


ufred
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 12:33 am

To sm999- Are you suggesting that we not have a military? Or that we should have less costly wars? Or do you just enjoy a good conversation? I’m unsure what to make of your comment.

To the author- Not half bad t’all.


sm999
Comment posted March 6, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

Let’s have more serious discussion about the cost of this war before there’s more talk about building a new military.


sm999
Comment posted March 6, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

Let's have more serious discussion about the cost of this war before there's more talk about building a new military.


ufred
Comment posted March 6, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

To sm999- Are you suggesting that we not have a military? Or that we should have less costly wars? Or do you just enjoy a good conversation? I'm unsure what to make of your comment.

To the author- Not half bad t'all.


cubanexile
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 2:31 am

Interesting article. When I started reading it I was on Yingling's side but came around to Gentile's after he agreed with Andrew Bacevich. There probably has been an overcorrection toward counterinsurgency principles, which is not to say there should be a return to the old thinking. Too much is made of the success in Tal Afar. What does it look like now? There's been violence there since it was declared a success story. Same with the surge. The storyline now is that it's been a great success, but the violence continues. Iraq can't be salvaged because it was wrong to go in there, as Bacevich says. The Army shouldn't beat itself up over strategy or tactics and just accept the failure, not the Army's but the civilian leadership's.


marcuss
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 5:29 am

This is a brilliant article. You're a couple of steps ahead of the rest of the media (though I'm not sure one has to be brilliant to do that).

small thing — counting probable Iraq/Afghanistan spending we are at around 5% of GDP on the military, not 4%.

Counterinsurgency and "nation-building" are sort of the same thing. Counterinsurgency only makes sense as a support mission for a wider political strategy with popular legitimacy that is building a state that can make it on its own. Otherwise it's just a more efficient way to screw up. Can we do that in an Islamic country?

Also, I think this is crucially connected to the debate over whether we were winning Vietnam post-Tet. There are some military thinkers doing revisionist history on that.

Finally, using the Phillipines as an example of successful counter-insurgency is interesting, given the level of civilian casualties there (sheer butchery for a while).


vietvet
Comment posted March 7, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

This argument reminds me of the mid-60s, when as a faculty member of the US Army Intelligence School I was a member of a team that studied past insurgencies in preparation of a course which trained intelligence personnel how to function in insurgency environments.

My next assignment was with the Special Operations Group in Vietnam. There I experienced close up the animosity between combat arms officers whose focus was conventional warfare and those of us who thought that there would be a lot of insurgencies to deal with in future; that we needed to focus on winning over the local populace; that less military presence is frequently more effective and that enemy kills are not only a poor indication of progress, but are most often counterproductive when accompanied by civilian casualties.

I thought we had learned some lessons about combating insurgencies in Vietnam, but it didn't appear so until recently when General Petraeus reinvented the wheel.

To my comrades in arms who still espouse conventional warfare, I have one question: Where do you anticipate we will become involved in a war similar to WW II – Central Europe, China, Iran?


cubanexile
Comment posted March 8, 2008 @ 4:29 am

But what Petraeus has done in Iraq is not true counterinsurgency. It sounds good, but it's just a facade. There's no substance. True counterinsurgency requires something the U.S. military and the American psyche are incapable of. It means really living among the people, adopting their ways, blending in by learning the language. That kind of commitment will never happen anywhere. As long as soldiers look the way they do, armed to the gills, and act the way they do, arrogantly and brutally in some cases, counterinsurgency is just a word.

Counterinsurgency is a nonstarter for this country. Smart people like the concept, but it's unworkable because it demands too much. There would have to be a wholesale rejection of long-standing military doctrine and mind-sets. Forget about it. At any rate, would it be worth it in the end? The investment of time and resources for what? To convert people to the American way? It's colonialism by another name.

The Army takes its orders from the president. It is limited in what it can do on its own. All this debate about the relative merits of counterinsurgency is for naught. If a president orders it to invade a country, it will do it even if the Army has deep reservations. If the generals put up objections, their careers are over. The president finds generals who agree with him. That's how it works. There are no coups in this country, not that I'm advocating that. It's just that the military is subservient to the commander-in-chief, and his view, colored by his political tendencies, is supreme.


ufred
Comment posted March 8, 2008 @ 8:05 am

In response to the question of where we might become involved in conventional warfare, I would say that our invasion of Iraq would qualify, as would the last gulf war


praedor
Comment posted March 10, 2008 @ 8:06 am

ufred:

To sm999- Are you suggesting that we not have a military? Or that we should have less costly wars? Or do you just enjoy a good conversation? I


pashley1411
Comment posted March 11, 2008 @ 1:38 am

Cubanexile – Your definition of counterinsurgency puts it beyond the realm of the possible. All operations work within limited time and resources. And, contrary to your opinion, there have been many many successful counterinsurgency operations, all worked with limited time and resources, and few would have been "Hearts and MInds" successes, a liberal slogan that befuddles rather than clarifies.

Praedor – we may well have too big a military and spend too much on it. But the domestic spending argument flags you as a woolly-headed liberal, domestic spending has a very dubious record.

A better argument might be that anytime we are in a counterinsurgency operation, we have gone too far, in the sense that the cost and time will be more costly than our polity is willing to bear, so just stop it. Even to get into a counterinsurgency setting means our political leaders sailed the country into deeper waters than we intended to go. I intend this to be a caution, rather than a rule.

For Yingling to "name names" would have been poor tactics as a standing officer. Praise in public, criticise in private. And observers should be more sceptical when any government agency, including the Army, expands its mission and so not coincidentially expands its call on the public's taxes, time, and resources.


cubanexile
Comment posted March 12, 2008 @ 6:16 am

If you're going to assert something, give examples. Name the many many successful counterinsurgencies, or at least a couple, and why they were successful. The counterinsurgency the U.S. military thinks it is practicing in Iraq is devoid of meaning. As long as they are going around armed to the teeth, ignorant of all the political currents in Iraq and thinking they are bestowing on the Iraq people the gift of democracy they won't get anywhere. Look what happened when five of them got blown up two days ago. They got out of their vehicles to take a little stroll and mingle, kind of to show the friendly face of the Army, right?


snidely
Comment posted April 15, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

nice one spencer.


averymoore
Comment posted July 29, 2008 @ 1:57 am

From different perspectives all the commenters seem to be making the same point.

It is an ancient one.

2000 years ago Tacitus described the political and military successes of his father-in-law, Agricola. In so doing he also noted the failure of others of equal rank to accomplish the same objectives both in the colony of Britannia and elsewhere. To explain the difference he wrote:

"Agricola, however, understood the feelings of a province and had learned from the experience of others that arms can effect little if injustice follows in their train."

In short, what held true for Tacitus remains so: the virtues associated with governments worthy of defending – intelligence, justice, organization, integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility, multi-dimensional comprehensive planning, vigor, humanity, iron laws opposing corruption – these are not just "optional" electives.

To succeed long term: they are imperative.

Avery Moore


DE Teodoru
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

Sorry, Mr. Ackerman, but the “colonels” are not the grunts who had to impliment their half-baked ideas. If you read ALL the writings of these “colonels” one thing is clear: they write well enough but they can't argue. Everything is an assertion, as if the reader is a corporal under their command. One “colonel” in Small Wars Journal decries how the army will have PRT stolen from under them by civilians. Yet, they argue for COIN because, though it should never have been militrized, only the military is willing to go to Iraq and do it (that's a circular arugument that assumes that we should be doing that in the first place…as are most of their assertions). A couple of “colonels” who got their gold leaf implimenting the very war they personally decry as “shit” now cry that COIN will strip the military of the war toys that makes them “kinetically lethal”– a way of saying “kick ass” as the real solution to global crisis. McMaster had Vietnam Era Pentagon right in DERELICTION OF DUTY. The desk-top generals were pussies, feeling so intellectually inferior to McNamara and his Whiz Kids and to LBJ's claim that all they wanted was for him to get into war with China. But his sequel should be DERELICTION OF DUTY BY THE COLONELS who followed orders which they knew would make for orphans and widows as the moms and dads they command die pointlessly in the Bushit War on Terror. But, when their advancement to the Star Whores level was obviously going nowhere because, as LBJ would say running down the aile of AIR FORCE ONE holding his penis, they “LEAKED, LEAKED” to the press and they were fingered doing that as part of their bureaucratize warfare in the Pentagon. Whether in the TANK or in one of Saddam's palaces, they led Americans into a very un-American massacre. Now they slander Vietnam to justify their craven bureaucratism. McMaster made it to the Star Whore level, but not Nagel, Gentile and others. So they curse at eachother in articles devoid of arguement and thin on facts, thinking they are great theoreticians; but really they sound like Baptist Preachers spewing Bible Babble. The proof is in the pudding and History will get them all when some future young officers going to graduate school for a PhD in military history write theses about Iraq/Afghanistan. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT AMERICA WILL NEVER LEARN BECAUSE ITS PEOPLE ARE TOO SELF CENTERED TO CARE ABOUT THE MOMS AND DADS– AMERICA'S LAST REAL PATRIOTS– THAT AFTER 9/11 SIGNED UP TO PROTECT AMERICA, not to die in a sand storm of intelligence (both kinds) blindness.


DE Teodoru
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

Sorry, Mr. Ackerman, but the “colonels” are not the grunts who had to impliment their half-baked ideas. If you read ALL the writings of these “colonels” one thing is clear: they write well enough but they can't argue. Everything is an assertion, as if the reader is a corporal under their command. One “colonel” in Small Wars Journal decries how the army will have PRT stolen from under them by civilians. Yet, they argue for COIN because, though it should never have been militrized, only the military is willing to go to Iraq and do it (that's a circular arugument that assumes that we should be doing that in the first place…as are most of their assertions). A couple of “colonels” who got their gold leaf implimenting the very war they personally decry as “shit” now cry that COIN will strip the military of the war toys that makes them “kinetically lethal”– a way of saying “kick ass” as the real solution to global crisis. McMaster had Vietnam Era Pentagon right in DERELICTION OF DUTY. The desk-top generals were pussies, feeling so intellectually inferior to McNamara and his Whiz Kids and to LBJ's claim that all they wanted was for him to get into war with China. But his sequel should be DERELICTION OF DUTY BY THE COLONELS who followed orders which they knew would make for orphans and widows as the moms and dads they command die pointlessly in the Bushit War on Terror. But, when their advancement to the Star Whores level was obviously going nowhere because, as LBJ would say running down the aile of AIR FORCE ONE holding his penis, they “LEAKED, LEAKED” to the press and they were fingered doing that as part of their bureaucratize warfare in the Pentagon. Whether in the TANK or in one of Saddam's palaces, they led Americans into a very un-American massacre. Now they slander Vietnam to justify their craven bureaucratism. McMaster made it to the Star Whore level, but not Nagel, Gentile and others. So they curse at eachother in articles devoid of arguement and thin on facts, thinking they are great theoreticians; but really they sound like Baptist Preachers spewing Bible Babble. The proof is in the pudding and History will get them all when some future young officers going to graduate school for a PhD in military history write theses about Iraq/Afghanistan. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT AMERICA WILL NEVER LEARN BECAUSE ITS PEOPLE ARE TOO SELF CENTERED TO CARE ABOUT THE MOMS AND DADS– AMERICA'S LAST REAL PATRIOTS– THAT AFTER 9/11 SIGNED UP TO PROTECT AMERICA, not to die in a sand storm of intelligence (both kinds) blindness.


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