On Saturday I dropped by the Korean War Veterans Memorial. (No, I didn't see Justice Breyer fracture his shoulder.) I hadn't been there before. I kind of liked it. It is hyper-realistic, a real contrast to the Vietnam memorial just on the opposite, north side of the National Mall's Reflecting Pool.
As I walked around it I counted 19 statues of soldiers, of which several appeared to be carrying radios. (As in this foto, 3 appear to be carrying.) Why so many radios?
Nineteen also struck me as an odd number -- kind of midway between a squad and a platoon. I asked a docent and he said that the number, when reflected in the black rock, signifies the 38th parallel. I dunno.
When Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster offers a criticism of the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine, you know he's not just riding intellectual fashion. This is a guy who has done well both in conventional warfare (see 73 Easting) and counterinsurgency (see Tell Afar).
We have the counterinsurgency manual, the stability operations manual, and the security-force assistance manual, but I don't think we have put the politics at the center of those manuals. So, for example, we assume in our doctrine that the challenges associated with developing indigenous security forces are mainly about building capacity, when, in fact, they're about trying to develop institutions that can survive and that will operate in a way that is at least congruent with our interests.
McMaster also says that, "We need leaders who have physical and moral courage on the battlefield, of course, but also the courage to speak their minds and offer respectful and candid feedback to their superiors. Our leaders can't feel compelled to tell their bosses what they want to hear."
I mention in another item today how much I liked the McKinsey interview with General McMaster. I was less taken with another article in the same issue, about what defense companies should do to weather the current decline in Pentagon spending.
The article is laden with phrases that apparently carry great meaning for the authors, but might not be so evident to the reader. They recommend "reimagining the business portfolio." They want executives to "redesign the talent strategy" -- but they don't say what that means. (I am guessing it means hire different sorts of people, but who knows? And what sort of people?) They also call for "appropriately managing incentives." Why does no one ever call for "inappropriate" steps? Those might be more fun, and certainly more interesting.
Their bottom line: "History shows that the time to act is in the depth of the downturn." My translation: "Buy low, sell high." In other words, what you need to do is simple: Just be the Warren Buffett of the defense industry. Any stockbroker will tell you this is easy to say, hard to do.
This court finds the authors guilty of aggravated assault on the English language, and sentences them to remedial readings of Strunk & White, and then George Orwell's essay on clear thinking and clear writing.
Yesterday I was reading a paper on the future of the Marine Corps that bothered me because I thought it didn't ask tough enough questions. So I asked myself, What would those questions be?
This is what I wrote down:
Here are the results of our survey of good books of military history that aren't about the U.S. military.
There were so many British books mentioned that I moved them into a second category. The first part here is genuinely foreign books -- not necessarily written by foreigners (though most are) but about wars in which the British and Americans were not major players, or at least not written from the Anglo-American perspective.
Most of these mentions were in the comments, but about 10 percent came in by e-mail.
I offer them in no particular order. Not even cleaned up -- just pasted in. For details on the books, go back to the comments section -- lots of explanations there about why a particularly book was nominated.
David Glantz, When Titans Clashed
Rommel's Infantry Attacks (2 nominations)
Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War 1961-74
Martin Van Creveld, everything but especially Command in War
Michael Oren, Six Days of War (2 votes)
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon
Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory
Noel Mostert's The Line Upon a Wind
Patrick Rambaud's The Battle
Roland Perry, Sir John Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War
Larteguy's The Centurions and The Praetorians (3 nominations)
Harold Parker's Three Napoleonic Battles (short treatments of Friedland, Aspern-Essling, and Waterloo, with observations uniting all three)
John Elting's Swords Around a Throne (the Billy Yank/Johnny Reb treatment of what it was like for soldiers, leaders, and specialists in Napoleon's Grande Armee)
David Galula's Pacification in Algeria
Legionnaire, by Simon Murray
B.H. Liddell Hart's Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant
Colonel Saburo Hayashi, Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War
Hoito Edoin, The Night Tokyo Burned
No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, by Hiroo Onoda
The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson
The Franco Regime, by Stanley G. Payn
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin
Sean Maloney's three-volume history of the Canadian experience in Afghanistan (Enduring the Freedom, Confronting the Chaos, and Fighting for Afghanistan). He also did a narrative of the first eight or so years entitled War in Afghanistan: Eight Battles in the South.
Ivan's War, by Catherine Merridale (2 nominations)
The Reluctant Admiral, by Hiroyuki Agawa (Yamamto)
Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War
Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar, by his wife Dorothy with an introduction by David Halberstam
Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse Tung
Either The Code of the Samurai or The Hagakure or The 47 Ronin
Heart of Darkness for anyone about to do an AFRICOM rotation. (And one de-nomination.)
Lester Grau, The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan
Alistair Horne's Savage War of Peace
Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
Avigdor Kahalani, Heights of Courage
Rabinovich's Yom Kippur War
On the Banks of the Suez: An Israeli General's Personal Account of the Yom Kippur War, by Avraham Adan
Forgotten Soldier, by Guy Sajer (2 nominations)
All Quiet on the Western Front, and the lesser known but just as powerful sequel to the book, The Road Back, both by Erich Maria Remarque
Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel
Coalitions, Politicians and Generals -- Some Aspects of Command in Two World Wars, by Dominick Graham and Shelford Bidwell
Strange Victory, by Ernest May
Julian Jackson's The Fall of France
Witness to Surrender, by Brig. Siddiq Salik
The Way It Was, by Brig. Z.A. Khan
In the Line of Duty, by Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh
Guerrilla Warfare, by Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Afgantsy, by Rodric Braithwaite
The Jungle is Neutral, by F.Spencer Chapman
The War in Paraguay: With a Historical Sketch of the Country and Its People and Notes Upon the Military Engineering of the War, by George Thompson
On British military -- listed separately because more familiar
Keith Douglas, Alamein to Zem Zem
George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here (3 nominations)
John Masters, first two volumes of his memoirs
Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up
Keegan's Face of Battle
William Slim, Defeat into Victory (4 nominations)
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, by Andrew Gordon (4 nominations)
Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of The Great War, by Robert K. Massie (4 nominations)
The Last European War: September 1939-December 1941, by John Lukacs
How the War Was Won: Factors that Led to Victory in World War One and The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western Front & the Emergence of Modern War 1900-1918, two volumes by Tim Travers
The Story of the Malakand Field Force, by Winston Churchill
Churchill and Seapower, by Christopher Bell
J.F.C. Fuller's Strategy
Donald Morris, The Washing of the Spears (Zulu Wars)
Gordon Corrigan's Mud, Blood, and Poppycock (attempts to bust many of the popular myths about WWI on the Western Front)
Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War (doorstopper-sized analysis of WWI)
Andrew Roberts' Masters and Commanders
The Tizard Mission: The Top-Secret Operation That Changed the Course of WWII, by Stephen Phelps
Not Mentioned in Dispatches
18 Platoon, by Sidney Jary
The Defence of Duffer's Drift, by Maj. Gen. Ernest Dunlop Swinton.
Brazen Chariots, by Robert Crisp
My War Gone By, I Miss It So, Anthony Loyd, ex-British soldier in Bosnia.
Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire and the War with Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper
The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War, by H. P. Willmott
Battle for the Falklands, by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
Sassoon's The War Poems
The Dark Hills, by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Bingen on the Rhine, by Caroline E. Norton
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II/ Released
Taking life-saving measures on behalf of a MWD is something all handlers prepare for before they deploy, as do their dogs. Handlers' veterinary knowledge should extend beyond the basics of day-to-day care, and they are trained to do things like administer IVs, identify the onset of shock and poisonous bites, set broken bones, and bandage bullet wounds, among other specialized care that may be necessary in combat theater.
So, when handlers -- and the community of servicemen and women who support them outside the wire -- say that a MWD is treated like any other soldier or Marine in their ranks, they not only mean it, they practice for it.
In February, Ted, a yellow Labrador retriever and bomb specialist, and his handler U.S. Army Sgt. Leslie Langford, along with others at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, LA, practiced combat patient care and "aeromedical evacuation in a simulated combat environment."
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joselito G. Aribuabo
The training consisted of what appears to have been a variety of simulated injuries -- human and canine alike. Together, Ted and Sgt. Langford endured a host of training exercises that included X-rays, having his leg set in a splint, and a litter carry to a Black Hawk helicopter.
Along with MWD Ted and Sgt. Langford from the 550th Military Working Dog Detachment out of Fort Bragg, the servicemen and women participating in these exercises were medical personnel (including veterinarians) attached 328th Combat Support Hospital among others.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John R. Nimmo, Sr
Almost as important as defaulting to the proper motions of emergency care is preparing for the momentum of adrenaline and stress that builds during a combat crisis. A handler has to know how his or her dog will react under strain, to be braced for it, to be practiced at it as a team. From the photos -- especially this one -- it looks like Ted tolerated the chaos and the discomfort, if begrudgingly.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
By "One Gone Cat"
Best Defense guest columnist
I thought of offering to write an essay for you that gave my own reasons or that made my own arguments for how the officer corps can be improved to retain the best and the brightest, but thinking about it just made me angry. It made me angry because I knew it would not make any difference, just as the countless opinion pieces written by disgruntled junior officers and NCOs or concerned senior officers and NCOs won't make any difference. The military is too inflexible, the senior officers are too comfortable with the status quo, human resources command believes too strongly in whatever crazy algorithm they have determining entry assignments, and the civilian leadership is too intimidated by a bunch of men who just lost two wars to force a change.
Writing about my experience won't make a difference because senior leaders will look at it and say that it's an anomaly, or that I don't have the ability yet to see the big picture, or that I cannot reflect and see how things actually work very well, or maybe that I got the career I deserved based on my abilities. I understand that they cannot understand me, because I don't understand them.
Sorry for the rant. I had to get it out there. You seem like the right person to send it to, since my mentors wouldn't appreciate the tone very much. It probably figures that a bunch of guys trained in an Army that didn't want to admit it lost Vietnam are pretty schooled in the art of self-delusion. But I became an Army officer because I wanted to be among the best, not because I wanted to be part of a group so adept at making excuses and criticizing anyone who doesn't want to stay in for the glorious pension at the end of the rainbow of mediocrity.
"One Gone Cat" is, for a bit longer, a U.S. Army officer. But guess what? The views presented here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Army or the Defense Department.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.