Nathan Webster does. Check out some of his recent work.
Does anyone know of any official Army publication that critiques and compares the performance of Army generals in Iraq? I can't remember any, but 10 years is a long time and there is a chance I have forgotten something.
I don't mean individual articles in Military Review or papers written at the Command and General Staff College. I've read (and quoted) those in my last three books. What I mean is official publications like On Point (which was good) and On Point II (which wasn't). That is, the studies that carry the imprint of a preface by a sponsoring three-star or four-star officer.
If not, why not? Is the Army really going to take the Lake Woebegone line that all its generals were above average? Or is just going to fold its arms and believe that such criticism is too rude for public discourse?
Speaking of generals, I still haven't heard back from Lt. Gen. Huntoon about the nature of the misconduct the IG found him to have committed.
By Kyle Teamey
Best Defense department of COIN rehabilitation
1. Regime change IS nation building.
Whether the intention is to stop ethnic cleansing or to affect a change in policy by a rogue nation-state, the result of regime change is the same -- a long period of rebuilding. In a multi-ethnic state with no history of democracy, a period of violent turmoil should be expected after a regime is toppled. It must either be managed directly by the United States (Iraq and Afghanistan) or groups supported by the United States and allies (Libya).
2. A minimal U.S. footprint is the preferred way to do COIN...when feasible.
An overlooked writer on the subject of counterinsurgency (COIN) is Thomas Mockaitis. He took some very good lessons from the United Kingdom's 20th century experiences in COIN and summed them to three best practices that marked successful campaigns: minimal force, civil-military cooperation, and tactical flexibility. The minimal force part of that equation is critical. It often means minimizing the use of third party forces because of the high probability that the third party adds to the conflict simply by being present. An additional benefit of minimal use of force is minimizing the costs to the United States in blood and treasure for a given conflict. Recent efforts in Colombia, Yemen, Somalia, El Salvador, and the Philippines where the U.S. supported COIN and counterterror efforts with few or no U.S. troops are instructive. Minimal use of U.S. forces has been relatively successful and low cost. That said, we really did not give ourselves an option for a small footprint approach in Iraq. There was no other organization to step into the post-Saddam power vacuum and leaving a total disaster in a strategically important part of the world was not an option. See #1 above.
3. Small U.S. footprint or large, the principles of COIN are the same.
Regardless of who is doing the COIN campaign or how the United States is supporting the campaign -- foreign aid, foreign internal defense, advisors, boots on the ground, etc -- the rules are the same. Best practices are best practices no matter who utilizes them. We are constrained by law and social norms to something that looks like population-centric COIN whether we do it ourselves or support a third party. The government has to be legitimate, the people have to be protected, there must be unity of effort amongst the counterinsurgents, intelligence must drive operations, there must be unity of effort amongst civil and military authorities, and the insurgents must be exposed to security forces. The argument that we should "just kill all the insurgents" is noise. Due to aforementioned law and social norms, killing bad guys requires separating them from the populace, which doesn't happen if the government is not legitimate, the people are not protected, etc. It should also be noted that killing bad guys is one of the most important parts of population-centric COIN. The argument that population-centric COIN only means "hearts and minds" where everyone sits around drinking tea and singing together is a strawman. Depending on conditions on the ground commanders may weight their efforts more towards the use of force or more towards stability operations, but there will always be an element of violence, or the threat of violence, in population-centric COIN.
4. War hasn't changed: Good tactics don't matter if you are operationally or strategically inept.
We proved this in spades in Iraq, where some units did things well, others poorly, and there was initially no over-arching planning or coordination for the post-regime era. We did pretty much everything wrong from 2003 to 2007 and got lucky it didn't go worse than it did. Get good generals who know what they are doing. Fire those who don't. Sounds simple but it ain't.
5. If you want to defeat an insurgency, don't let the insurgents have a safe haven.
Pakistani tribal areas, Fallujah in 2004, other "no go" areas in Iraq in 2004-6, the FARC zone in Colombia, FARC camps in Ecuador and Venezuela, etc. Nothing good comes of allowing a safe haven for insurgents. Ever. If we are serious about defeating an insurgency, we should never allow any safe havens. If national goals are limited to keeping the insurgency down to a dull roar or killing some terrorists, then a safe haven may be tolerable.
6. Rotate troops effectively or it will be a "Groundhog Day" war.
U.S. troops fighting overseas need time to rest, relax, and be with their loved ones. In short, they need to regularly rotate out of theater. Unfortunately, this creates a major dilemma when using U.S. troops to conduct long-term COIN operations. As in the movie "Groundhog Day," every rotation can effectively create a new beginning to the same war. New relationships must be (re)forged between the host nation and the incoming U.S. personnel for operations to be effective. The identity and modus operandi of insurgent groups and leaders must be (re)learned. The learning curve is very steep, and by the time the troops know their "neighborhood" it is time to go home -- Groundhog Day all over again. There are ways to mitigate the deleterious effects of troop rotations, for instance, through the use of information technology or by rotating units to the same locations in theater, but they cannot be avoided altogether.
7. COIN lessons from Iraq have been misapplied in Afghanistan.
The tactics borrowed from Iraq for use in Afghanistan have generally been effective. Applying a lot of flexibility to account for the vast differences between the theaters, many of the tactics seem to work pretty well at the brigade and below. Unfortunately, the operational and strategic lessons from Iraq and prior conflicts have not been as well applied. In the absence of a legitimate government, population-centric COIN does not work. If insurgents have a large sanctuary where they can rest and refit, COIN has a high probability of failing. If there is not unity of effort amongst civil and military authorities, COIN has a high probability of failing. All of these are problems in the Afghan theater. The government is, at best, tolerated. Pakistan provides a massive refuge with endless border crossings. The leadership of Afghanistan has an often rocky relationship with that of the United States and attacks on U.S. troops by Afghan troops are commonplace. Under these conditions, the best tactics cannot succeed in defeating the insurgency. Add to these factors an inordinately large number of theater commanders over the course of the campaign -- five in just the last five years -- and it is clear the U.S. goal of defeating the Taliban did not align with practical realities. See #3, 4, 5, and 6 above. It seems we ignored first principles in Afghanistan and just hoped good tactics would win the day. Not a good approach. It is understandable strategic leaders might judge it is too costly to do population-centric COIN in the Af/Pak region "correctly," and that dealing with the Pakistani tribal areas directly is infeasible. Under such circumstances, we should be honest with ourselves that we cannot defeat the insurgency outright, align goals with what is possible, and field a force that makes sense for the more limited goals.
8. Detainee operations are much too important to be left to amateurs.
We have completely messed this up since 9/11. Our tactics in dealing with detainees have had such undesired effects as alienating allies, angering large portions of the U.S. electorate, alienating portions of the local population in countries where we operate, and reinvigorating Iraq's insurgency with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. We also conducted detainee operations poorly for long periods of time. Initially large numbers of people in Iraq were rounded up and sent to detention facilities for no good reason. Later in the conflict we released a very large percentage of insurgents within 6-18 months of capture...often because the capturing unit had rotated back to their home station. See #6 above. Insurgents came back from prison better connected and with greater street cred. It was like a nightmarish National Training Center rotation where the bad guys get a re-key and our troops get shot or blown up by now better-trained insurgents. I thought Catch-22 was funny until living it! Our poor detainee tactics in the time after 9/11 had very negative operational and strategic impacts. If we ever do COIN again using U.S. forces, it is imperative we get this right. To borrow from David Galula, "Under the best circumstances, the police action cannot fail to have negative aspects for both the population and the counterinsurgent living with it...these reasons demand the operation be conducted by professionals..." -David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.
9. Democracy and governance start from the bottom.
In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority made a huge mistake by disallowing local and regional elections until there was a national constitution in place. We created a power vacuum that could only be filled by traditional leaders (sheikhs and imams), insurgents, and coalition forces. During the years it took to get a national government in place, we should have been encouraging local elections to build experience with democracy, form political parties, and create locally legitimate governance. Rule by the people has to be built from the bottom up. The U.S. experience is instructive. The presence of functioning state and local government allowed national leaders the time to hash out a constitution. It took our founders about 12 years to get a constitution written and approved... and that was with two tries because the first attempt failed. We expected the Iraqis and Afghans to get it done in a year or two and create an effective system of governance though they have no experience in democracy, no political parties, traditional leaders or U.S. troops trying to fill the role of local government, and a raging insurgency that leaves a large portion of their population disenfranchised? That's nuts!
10. Maintain training and doctrine related to COIN.
We will do it again. We always say we won't and we always do. It's too costly in lives and dollars to not keep this in the doctrine. Don't make another generation get maimed unnecessarily.
Kyle Teamey is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served on active duty with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and 1st Infantry Division from 1998 to 2004. After leaving active duty, he served as a civilian counterinsurgency analyst from 2005-2006, co-authored the 2006 edition of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, and assisted DARPA in the development and fielding of the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR) from 2005 to 2009. He is currently the chief executive officer of a chemical technology company.
There. Got it off my chest. Just had to say it. Slow to load, balky to use.
And my blood pressure spikes every time I read that cheerful, dumb introduction, "Welcome to Foreign Policy's new commenting system! The good news is that it's now easier than ever to comment and share your insights with friends."
Like I say, the bad news is the new commenting sucks! That's the insight I wish to share.
Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, commander of CJTF-Horn of Africa, got the big boot for personal misconduct related to sex and alcohol, the ham and eggs of flag officer troubles.
The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reported over the weekend that the Pentagon's inspector general upheld charges of misconduct by two three-star Army generals, Joseph Fil and David Huntoon. "Records obtained by The Post," he wrote, "show that the Pentagon's inspector general also substantiated misconduct charges last year against Huntoon, the West Point superintendent." This surprised me because when I heard in late January about Huntoon being investigated, I asked him about it, and he basically flatly denied there was anything to what I had heard. "There is no investigation here," he said. So this past Saturday morning I sent him a note asking why he said that. As of 10 am this (Monday) morning, I haven't heard back from him. The Post didn't have specifics on what the misconduct in question was. For all I know, it could have been aggravated jaywalking. If so, I wish General Huntoon had said that at the time.
Finally, Col. Robert Rice, who works in war-gaming at the Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership and Development, was suspended after being charged on a bunch of counts of having child porn on his personal laptop.
Michael Howard, one of the great military historians, gives Emile Simpson's War From the Ground Up about 10 thumbs up in a new review, calling it "a work of such importance that it should be compulsory reading at every level in the military; from the most recently enlisted cadet to the Chief of the Defence Staff and, even more important, the members of the National Security Council who guide him."
The National Defense University and Fort McNair last week dedicated Grant Hall, which contains a re-creation of the 1865 court room where the Lincoln conspirators were tried. Below are comments made at the dedication by Hans Binnendijk, former vice president of NDU, who led the team that remodeled Grant Hall and recreated the trial scene:
This evening we are gathered to dedicate Grant Hall and to witness the recreation of the 1865 court room where justice was dispensed to those conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln and to decapitate the United States government. It is here that the last chapter of our calamitous Civil War ended.
It is fitting that this historic building be named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, the General-in-Chief of the Union Army during our Civil War and subsequently our 18th President. He was in command while the trial of the Lincoln conspirators took place and this part of the original penitentiary was preserved during his presidential administration. Grant Hall's proximity to Lincoln Hall reminds us of the friendship and trust these two men shared.
The trial began on May 9, 1865, less than a month after Lincoln's assassination. A laundry room above the Deputy Warden's quarters was converted to a court room. That court room now looks much as it did in 1865. The eight defendants were held in the cells isolated, handcuffed and chained. The men were forced to wear cloth hoods over their heads. The nine person jury or commission was made up predominantly of Army officers. The use of a military court to try civilians was controversial at that time, as it is now. A simple majority was needed to find guilt and a 2/3rds majority was required for the death penalty. Defense attorneys were given very little time to prepare. There was no appeal except to President Andrew Johnson. And he was in no mood to grant appeals.
The trial lasted longer than Secretary of War Edwin Stanton would have liked. He wanted a very speedy trial to avoid any chance of rekindling the Confederacy. A total of 351 witnesses were called. On July 5 the commission sent its verdict to President Johnson who concurred with all of their findings except for clemency for Mary Surratt.
On July 6 the defendants were told about their fate and on July 7, 1865, four were hanged. Alexander Gardner captured their execution in a series of photos that set a new standard at the time for photojournalism. The other four defendants were sent to prison in the Dry Tortugas - three returned alive. Three of the four who were hanged (Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold) were in my view clearly guilty of a capital offense. Powell assailed and nearly killed Secretary of State Seward. Atzerodt got drunk and decided not to assassinate Andrew Johnson, but he had advance knowledge of the plot. Herold joined Booth in his escape.
The fate of Mary Surratt has led to continued controversy. Many books and now the movie The Conspirator argue her case. She was certainly a Confederate sympathizer and her son John Surratt was among the earliest of Booth's conspirators. Her boarding house on H Street was considered to be "the nest in which the plot was hatched." She visited her home in what is now Clinton, Maryland, on the day of the assassination to deliver a package for John Wilkes Booth; that was Booth's first stop after assassinating Lincoln. The issue became "what did she know and when did she know it." There was clearly some witness-tampering and she was convicted based on circumstantial evidence.
With this ceremony, Grant Hall joins several other buildings that played a crucial role in the events surrounding Lincoln's assassination and that have been renovated. There is Ford's Theater with its wonderful museum in the basement, the Peterson House where Lincoln died; the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland; and now Grant Hall. Mary Surratt's boarding house on H Street has a historic plaque on it but remains a Chinese restaurant. That should be the renovators' next target.
National Defense University
It was put together by "A Smart Army Major" who clearly is enjoying the sequester.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.