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Sources Holler Back: Petraeus Edition

Donald Vandergriff is a member emeritus of the counterinsurgency/4th-generation-warfare community. And he has some insightful criticism of my Petraeus interview. Take it away, Don:

Spencer,

Damn, I had to say something.

Thanks, but my big issue is that while the work of General Petraeus, Nagl, etc…is noble and necessary, what is even more important, critical, is addressing how the Army is structured and how it manages personnel. These must evolve as well in line with doctrine. I will give the Army a lot of credit for the current training revolution as well (see this week’s Army Times), but it is moving slow in evolving its Industrial Age force structure and personnel management system.

But the blogger Fabius Maximus said it best in regard to how journalists are missing some key issues in regard to the Army and the military:

The US military’s personnel system is deeply dysfunctional. The problem seems worst in the Army. That is unfortunate for us, as modern warfare increasingly means close contract land combat. Two recent articles discuss this crisis at length.

Challenging the Generals, Fred Kaplan, New York Times Magazine (26 August 2007) The Army’s Other Crisis: Why the best and brightest young officers are leaving (Andrew Tilghman, Washington Monthly, December 2007) Kaplan describes symptoms of a long illness deeply established in our military, and his article describes several ways in which the Iraq War has exacerbated these internal systemic flaws. Tilghman describes the conflict between military service and the needs of young officers in America’s Army.

This problem is neither new nor does it result solely from the Iraq War. Kaplan and Tilghman have discovered it, in the sense that Christopher Columbus discovered Madrid. They ignore the large literature describing its causes and possible remedies in favor of a dramatic story focused on bad guys and heroes. As parents learn when telling bedtime stories, this is the format most easily understood by children.

This also illustrates the mainstream media’s almost amnesiac ability to discover the same phenomenon over and over again. These problems were earnestly described in the 1999-2000 news cycle, grave fodder for many articles – only to be quickly forgotten, as those articles in turn had ignored similar stories from the previous cycle in the late 1970’s.

Don

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