Can I change the subject from the election for just a second? The Army picked General Ray Odierno, the number-two general in Iraq, to become the number-two general in the Army.
Odierno is an interesting character. He’s the bullet-headed guy who caught Saddam Hussein in December 2003, back when he commanded the 4th Infantry Division. However, readers of Tom Ricks’s Fiasco know Odierno as a general without much of a sense of strategy, particularly counterinsurgency strategy. Ricks contrasted the 4th Infantry Division’s brutality with the more supple counterinsurgency wizardry of the 101st Airborne Division under then-Major General David Petraeus, who you might have heard of. But for the last year, Odierno has been the day-to-day commander of the surge, running the war for Petraeus, so it’s hard to say he’s a counterinsurgency naif.
In between he was head of strategy for the Joint Staff, a position Odierno seemed ill-suited for, judging by the one time I asked him questions, at a Council on Foreign Relations chat in 2005. What does his ascension to Vice (as the Army calls its number-two position) mean? I’d by lying if I told you I knew. You could argue it means Big Army is getting more comfortable with counterinsurgency. But maybe Odierno was the muddy-boots-soldier dude to Petraeus’s counterinsurgency whiz-kiddery. If so, then maybe Odierno is more of the same. I dunno, but I’ll try to find out.
Meanwhile, check out this Odierno interview in the New York Times right before he went to Iraq. Here’re his goals:
Asked to describe the Iraq he would like to see at the end of his 12-month tour, General Odierno said: “Bottom line? Full restoration of civil authority in Baghdad. Sectarian violence reduced. Extra-governmental armed groups diminished, and their influence diminished. And the government of Iraq viewed as a legitimate institution in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
“Those are the goals we have set for ourselves,” he concluded. “Will we attain those? I don’t know.”
Full restoration of civil authority in Baghdad — not so much. Sectarian violence down — yeah, but for how long. Extra-governmental armed groups & their influence diminished — depends which ones. AQI and some Shiite militias, sure; but the extra-governmental armed groups we’ve been promoting are pretty influential. Iraqi government legitimacy — nope.