Some commenters asked what I thought of the whole Petraeus situation. This is what I told the Reuters news agency-take it as dour thoughts on Veterans' Day:
The sudden departure of General David Petraeus from the CIA probably tells us more about the state of our nation than it does about Petraeus. President Barack Obama should not have accepted his resignation.
We now seem to care more about the sex lives of our leaders than the real lives of our soldiers. We had years of failed generalship in Iraq, for example, yet left those commanders in place. Petraeus' departure again demonstrates we are strict about intimate behavior, but extraordinarily lax about professional incompetence.
Americans severely judge some forms of private behavior between consenting adults, if one party is a public official. Yet we often resist weighing the professional competence of such officials -- even when they clearly are not doing a good job.
This is not, as some say, because we are a puritanical nation. Rather, our standards have changed in recent decades -- and not for the better.
We don't know precisely the relationship between General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his driver, Kay Summersby, during World War II. But it is evident that it was romantic in some ways, and, by her later account, quite intimate. If Ike were judged by today's standard, he would have been sent home in disgrace from Europe, and the war likely would have been worse without his calm, determined and unifying presence. He was not fired. But dozens of other Army officers, including 16 division commanders in combat, were relieved of command during the war -- for professional reasons.
Matthew Ridgway was another great American general, serving in World War II and Korea. Over a few months in 1951, in one of the best but lesser-known episodes of American generalship, Ridgway turned around our fortunes in the Korean War. Like Ike, Ridgway was fond of female companionship. He almost seemed to get a new wife for every war. In his personal papers on file at the U.S. Army archives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, interspersed with discussions of how to improve combat leadership in the Korean War, there are some terse notes from his first wife's lawyer.
This change may have occurred in part because we as a nation no longer have much military experience and no longer prize military effectiveness, nor even are capable of judging it. In past wars, soldiers eager to survive would forgive their leaders a multitude of lapses if they believed those leaders knew their business.
We also may have changed because so few of us have "skin in the game," to use a phrase one often hears from the parents of soldiers. Certainly, if I had a loved one in a combat zone, I would care much more about the military skills of the people in charge than I would about their sexual lives.
Another reason we may also hesitate to judge professional competence is that it is difficult in small, messy, unpopular wars to know just what victory looks like. Yet ironically, in Iraq, Petraeus was one of the few clear successes we had among our top leaders -- first in commanding the 101st Airborne Division Mosul in 2003-04, and then as the overseer of "the surge" that began extricating the United States from Iraq in 2007.
Our diminished standards speak to a lack of seriousness in the way we wage our wars. No, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are not existential, as World War II was. But a soldier blown up in Afghanistan this year is every bit as dead as one machine-gunned on Omaha Beach 68 years ago. Today's soldiers deserve to have the most competent leaders we can provide, just as the men of D-Day did.
Some of my friends in the military argue that a general who cannot keep his marriage vows cannot be trusted to keep his word. But we all fail in different ways throughout life. As Petraeus' revelations last week reminded us, he is human. We have asked much of him, sending him on three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Yet when the time came for us to be generous in return, we were not.
I have known Petraeus for about 15 years, and his supposed lover, Paula Broadwell, for a portion of that time. I am not close to either. I do not approve of what they reportedly did. But I also don't think it is any of my business.
By contrast, taking care of our soldiers should be a concern of all of us. Where are our priorities?
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Yes, I am cranky as usual. I just think we need to uphold some standards of professional competence. That is more important to me than the private sex lives of people. But I seem to be in a minority on that.
By "Larry Nicholas"
Best Defense guest columnist
When I was in college one of my professors asked me what I thought our generation of veterans had to offer our society. I could not give her a good answer at the time and that always bothered me.
Every year on Veterans' Day I think of that question. I also think of the Corporal. The Corporal and I served together years ago when we were both very young men. He was a Marine and I was a Corpsman. He was a good man; easy going, confident, a proud Texan. We were in the same battalion, but in different platoons. I was close to his platoon Corpsman though, and I knew him fairly well. While serving we were sent to Iraq on the same deployment. It was a unique situation. The entire battalion didn't go, only a few. He was with his platoon, and I had volunteered to go with another platoon.
The year was 2004. Our unit had been tasked with taking back the city of Fallujah from insurgents. We attacked the city, and after weeks of savage combat we succeeded. Several of our brothers were killed, many more severely injured, but in the end we accomplished our mission. We stayed in Iraq a little while longer, after which we went back to our duty station. Upon our return though, we were grasped by a surreal regard.
Everything around us was the same, except for the way people looked at us. They looked at us like we were superhuman. Everywhere we walked people would move out of our way, like Moses parting the Red Sea.
The Corporal was especially well regarded. He had a right to be. While I was proud of my part in the battle, it was nothing compared to what he had done. The tales that were told about his heroism were unbelievable, unimaginable, but they were true.
Shortly after coming back the Corporal started to have problems. He had taken to alcohol too readily, often becoming very drunk. During the Marine Corps Ball he was walking around his dress blues sloppily incoherent, intoxicated out of his mind. Seeing him like that was devastating. I felt as if I was watching him being slowly reduced to ash. I tried to talk to him for a little bit, hoping some sense would come though. He only said this to me, "I wish I was still the man I was in Fallujah." I feared that the Corporal was becoming lost in his own anguish.
I had some issues as well. My hands shook from time to time. I mistook strangers for departed friends. A grim stare had become my default facial expression. People would ask why I looked so sad, often telling me, "You need to smile more." I regarded these as minor developments however. After all, I had no issues with nightmares, no problems with alcohol, and I had a promising military career ahead of me. I thought I had a handle on the situation.
My confidence was boosted by doing something peculiar that no one else had done. I decided not to go home. We were stationed overseas and when we came back everyone went home on leave, except me. I felt that I was not ready to go back home. Fallujah was still very fresh in my mind and I did not want it to be when I saw my family. So I stayed, I worked, I tried to forget.
Some of my Marines thought I was foolish for staying. One of them stated his opinion colorfully by saying, "You're crazy Doc. I'm going home. I have girls to seduce, babies to make!" The Corporal understood what I was trying to accomplish, although I don't think he approved. I had spoken to him about it once. I told him that I just wanted to forget about Fallujah and move on with my life. He gave me a strange look; part sympathetic, part scornful, part amused, part knowing. I wasn't sure what the look meant at the time.
I waited until Christmas to go back to America. I went back in my hometown. I was surrounded by my family. It should have been a wonderful time. There was just one problem. I wasn't home. It was at then that I knew what the Corporal's look had meant. The warmth and comfort associated with the concept of home was absent. I had forgotten what it felt like to be home. To know a place where one felt safe, felt at ease, felt happy. The concept that was once so natural became alien to me. Overtime, I compensated by sometimes becoming hyperactive, expending enormous energy in pursuit of certain goals. But that only covered up the problem, and only for a short while.
So you see, I was more affected by Iraq then I had thought. I had tried so hard to forget Fallujah, but I could not. The place had become a part of me. The Corporal realized this much sooner then I did. The Corporal and I exhibited different symptoms, but we both had the same problem. Our souls had become fragmented. The days that we spent in battle had changed us. They were difficult days. Days filled with hatred, anger, fear, suffering, and sorrow. But they were also days of great pride.
That pride supersedes any pain we could ever feel. If there is a saving grace, any silver lining in what we have been through, then that is it. Those were days when we felt privileged to be able to fight for our country. Days when we made each moment very sincere because we knew that we might not have many more moments left. Those were days when our pride was felt not in fleeting moments, but was instead weaved into the fabric of our being.
In retrospect, that is the answer that I should have given my professor. I should have told her that I believe the greatest gift our generation of veterans can offer society is our pride. But not pride in the superficially vain sense of the word. The pride we offer must be more genuine, more sincere. That pride must be the sort that compels us to encourage our fellow citizens to excel. It must be the sort of pride that drives us to remind people that extraordinary things can be accomplished. In an age consumed with cynicism and doubt, that is a service that is gravely needed. That's what being a veteran means to me.
To all my brothers and sisters that are still haunted by the violent memories of war, I want you to know that I know how you feel. I have walked in your footsteps. Those memories can be a terrible burden to bear. They often inhibit the joy of present moments by pulling us back into the past, sometimes putting a dark overcast on the future. But you do not have to accept things as they are. There is hope for a better tomorrow -- if you are willing to fight for it.
In my dreams, I sometimes see the Corporal. In those thoughts he had fought to get his life back. He was able to secure some peace in recent years. He found a good woman to love. He finally made his way back home. I hope that is his reality. No one has earned it more. In a group of proud warriors, he was a giant. But I cannot be sure. I have lost track of the Corporal, and I have not spoken to him in many years. I do like to think that he is well though.
I hope that all of our veterans can one day come home. Not just physically, but also in terms of spirit. In order for that to happen we will need to offer them more then just a simple plane ride back to their country. In order to ensure an adequate homecoming we have to respect their service without shunning the realties that came with it, appreciate the experiences that they can offer our society, and most importantly, we must try to understand.
"Larry Nicholas" is an Iraq War veteran who fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004 while attached to the ground combat element of the 31st Expeditionary Unit.
By Crispin Burke
Best Defense guest columnist
Fred Castaneda, 63, reaches into a well-worn day planner and removes a bumper sticker he carries with him everywhere. Bearing the motto of the Vietnam Veterans of America, it reads:
"Never again shall one generation of Americans abandon another."
Fred is one of nearly three million Americans who served in the Southeast Asia theater during the War. Enlisting in the Army at age 21 to help pay for college, Fred served a tour of duty as a grenadier and a machine gunner in Vietnam, initially with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and eventually with the Americal Division.
But though Fred served his nation honorably, he hid his service from his co-workers at IBM for nearly two decades.
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, one of the most painful episodes in American history. The war itself took place in the midst of tremendous social unrest in America, with service members often finding themselves convenient scapegoats for the counter-cultural rebellion of the era.
In the years following the War, Vietnam veterans fell victim to a slew of negative stereotypes involving post-traumatic stress, homelessness, and substance abuse. And while those problems were certainly real, they belie the fact that many Vietnam veterans have gone forward to lead happy, successful lives.
Today's veterans return to applause and adulation from a grateful nation; but not our Vietnam veterans. Some returned home in taxi cabs, clad in civilian clothes. Others shoved their belongings into garbage bags, rather than be seen with the distinctive government-issue duffel bag. Many returned as individuals -- not as cohesive units as they do today -- and they didn't enjoy the veteran support programs today's veterans take for granted.
Four decades ago, Joe Bray, now the San Antonio President of BBVA Compass Bank, served as a military policeman in South Vietnam. At the end of his tour -- December 21st, 1971 -- he boarded a plane bound for the United States, filled with service members from a mishmash of different units. In less than 72 hours, he was discharged from the Army, and sent home in civilian clothes for his home in Chicago. He pushed the entire Vietnam experience to the back of his mind, thinking of his service only as a "lost year." He never even unpacked his bags until years later, when he discovered his awards still sealed in a plastic bag.
After the First Gulf War, however, many Vietnam veterans became more forthcoming about their service; and after 9/11, Vietnam veterans were among the most ardent supporters of our service members and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But though Vietnam veterans distinguished themselves both on the battlefield and in their post-war lives, no one has paid tribute to their service. No one had tried to right the wrong. But during this commemorative year, many military installations attempted to finally do justice to our Vietnam veterans. Just this past week, Fort Sam Houston became the first military installation to be recognized as a 50th Anniversary Commemorative partner; likewise for the local San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. In a ceremony held on Wednesday, U.S. military personnel and community leaders lined the streets of Fort Sam Houston to cheer our nation's Vietnam veterans. It was a long-overdue gesture, but one well-received by the hundreds of Vietnam veterans who showed up to this historic event.
This Veterans Day, I would ask that all our post-9/11 defer their accolades to that generation of veterans who never received so much as a pat on the back upon returning home. We should take their slogan to heart-that this generation of veterans shall not abandon our predecessors. This weekend, I ask that we take a moment to shake the hand of a Vietnam veteran and finally tell them, on behalf of a grateful nation, that we are proud of their service.
Ah, Jan & Dean. Tonight's appearance is dedicated to them.
I'll be at the Crawford Family Forum event tonight talking to Frank Stoltze about my new book, about General Petraeus and much much more. Don't miss the fun. It is free -- but you gots to sign up here.
As usual, those wearing Best Defense t-shirts will get a special shoutout.
Also, at 6:30 Wednesday night in San Francisco, I'll be giving a special talk on the Chosin Reservoir campaign at, of course, the Marine Memorial Club. I've asked that some front-row seats be reserved for Chosin Reservoir vets. Their beers are on me.
And Thursday night will find me drifting northward to Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, where Isabel Allende once served me a café con leche. And so on, Friday night at the Seattle Public Library at 1000 4th Street.
By the way, two people who have contributed to Best Defense at various times -- Paula Broadwell and David Petraeus -- have been making headlines because it turns out they had an affair with each other. My attitude is this: What you guys do on your own time is your own business. But, yes, the news does make me wonder if any other BD contributors are making time with each other.
I suspect that someone in the military with an axe to grind ratted out David Petraeus for having an extramarital affair. I am told that President Obama tried to talk Petraeus out of resigning, but Petraeus took the samurai route and insisted that he had done a dishonorable thing and now had to try to balance it by doing the honorable thing and stepping down as CIA director.
But why? Petraeus is retired from the military. If the affair happened back when he was on active duty, it is part of the past. And there is nothing illegal about civilians having affairs.
So the surprise to me is that Obama let him go. But the administration's loss may be Princeton's gain.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Theo, the springer spaniel who died of an undiagnosed seizure in Afghanistan last year was recently (and posthumously) bestowed the prestigious Dickin Award. Theo's handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was shot and killed by enemy fire hours earlier. In lieu of a confirmed cause of death Theo is rather famously believed to have died of a broken heart. The bomb-detection team held the record for most finds-a record that holds strong to this day.
Tasker's mother who attended last month's ceremonies told reporters that she was very proud of her son and commented on her son's relationship with the young dog, "One couldn't have worked without the other out there, doing the job they were doing."
The first Dickin Medal was awarded in 1943 and has been given to 64 animals in the years since including: 32 pigeons, 28 dogs, three horses, and one cat. These animals were each presented with a "large, bronze medallion bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces." The award is named in honor of the woman who founded Britain's PSDA in 1917, Maria Elizabeth Dickin.
For many years the organization discontinued its practice of handing out the Dickin Award but in the aftermath of 9/11 it was reinstated. It was presented to a search-and-rescue dog named Appollo, a canine with the NYC police department. He was the first dog on the scene after the towers were hit.
Theo is now the 64th in a long line of deserving four-legged and winged recipients.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in September 2013.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, the U.S. Army's most famous one-star, allegedly made his lover urinate in a waste basket (I think so people couldn't see her coming and going from his place), talked trash about female officers, and once threatened to kill his lover and her family if she talked. When she tried to break off the relationship, he would seek oral sex.
Pop quiz for new brigadiers: Which of these behaviors was wrong?
I'll be giving a talk on my book tonite at the Willard Hotel in DC at 6:30 tonight, along with Susan Glasser, the smart and dynamic editor of Foreign Policy magazine.
It is free, but you must needs register. Click here to do so.
If you wear a Best Defense t-shirt tonight, you get a free drink after the show. But then again you get the drink even if you don't. However, with the t-shirt you might get it faster.
In other CNAS news, the estimable Nate Fick is leaving the place to become CEO of some cyber company. He will be missed. We need a replacement. So, if you know someone who is energetic, unassuming, likable, married above himself, has a Harvard MBA, and is a fine leader, and who maybe also has written a good memoir of military service, just sent them to apply here.
By coincidence, I was over at Fox News headquarters in midtown Manhattan yesterday morning, just as the election results were setting in incontrovertible concrete. The scene reminded me of something that David Eisenhower once said to me about living in the Nixon White House during Watergate: "It was painful for others, but you know, it sure was interesting for me." At Fox, the faces in the hallways were sober but chin-up. There clearly was some head-scratching going on. Like, "Hey, perhaps the Republican Party shouldn't have dissed women, Hispanics, the poor and the rest of the electorate so much?"
I wonder if the jig is up for Fox: On election night they looked like they couldn't decide whether they were a political party or a news network. That peculiar combination is no longer working. It was kind of like being in the line yesterday at Romney's D.C. transition office to hand in your cell phones. Or, if you're into 1962, like being at U. Miss.
On the other hand, Obama's re-election may have helped the Fox MO. After all, it is much easier to work in opposition. You don't have to deal with messy realities, or defend the awkward compromises that come with it, and can criticize at will. That likely will be the case come Monday, when Fox will have their memory banks adequately scrubbed. So maybe their business model is safe -- despite it being built on the rubble of the national comity.
A wife writes:
My husband was part of the wounded warrior education initiative and was placed in the military history dept at CGSC. He had only one class group and wasn't even able to finish it due to getting notice. The army paid a lot of money to get him ready for this job and I believe he had no chance to keep his job. My husband gave a lot to his country including limb. He had great reviews from his students and fellow instructors. He had asked if he should get his PhD a couple months into being at CGSC and was told to wait. Which of course his lack of PhD was part of the reason he lost the job he loved and was very good at. When CGSC placed these wounded warriors they knew that they wouldn't have a PhD right off the bat. The wounded warrior project went all the way to Texas to recruit my husband, moved him to Kansas, paid for his masters, paid for his salary while going to school, gave him one class group and then let him go. I'm sure there would be a lot of taxpayers out there that wouldn't be too happy to have no return on their investment. I have been around the military my whole life and for the first time I am very disappointed in how they have handled a situation. My husband feels as though he was set up for failure and that yet again the army has failed him.
By Adam Ahmad
Best Defense department of dronery
The debate concerning the use of armed Predator drones to neutralize al Qaeda and a cauldron of other militant groups in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has accelerated in recent months. Supporters of the drone program cite its ability to rapidly trounce terrorist operatives with little difficulty, while those in the opposition highlight the controversial nodes of the program such as its legality and the public animosity it breeds from civilian casualties.
But a constant focus on the positives and negatives of the drone program in Pakistan does little to address the real issues surrounding its use. The more compelling issue is: what's the alternative? Yes, the drone program has sapped much of al Qaeda's energy in the tribal areas, but it has also sparked torrents of anti-Americanism. Is there any other way for the U.S. and Pakistan to dismantle terrorist organizations without provoking wider violence for Pakistan?
One approach is for Pakistani military forces to suit up and prepare for another invasion of the tribal areas. But past incursions have ended dreadfully. During Operation Zalzala in South Waziristan in 2008, homes were razed, villages were leveled and thousands of FATA residents were displaced. The operation was so devastating that it created new grievances for FATA's local population and led Baitullah Meshud's al Qaeda inspired Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) to double-down in violence and suicide bombings, wreaking havoc across the Pakistani landscape.
This is not to say that the Pakistani military should shy away from conducting operations in Pakistan proper to claw back militant gains. The military offensive in 2009 to vanquish Mullah Fazlula's Taliban faction-responsible for the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai-from the Swat Valley was much needed. But the Pakistani military should steer clear of orchestrating incursions into the tribal areas where the writ of Islamabad runs thin in order to avoid wider devastation.
A more hazardous alternative to drones is to have U.S. forces conduct cross-border raids into FATA. With the U.S. drawing down in Afghanistan, this option is not on the table in Washington and for good reason. If the Pakistani public is outraged at remote controlled bombers hovering over their country, hostility towards the U.S. would certainly hit a fever pitch at western boots on the ground. A U.S. military presence in FATA would also serve a propaganda bonanza for violent extremist groups. Indeed, there remains little appetite in Washington to turn that into a reality. Pakistan's leadership will also never give the green light for such a move.
In another approach, Pakistani authorities could also turn to forging political settlements with militant groups in hopes that they cease their assistance in planning and executing terror attacks with foreign and homegrown terrorist organizations. But if history is any lesson, peace deals with extremist groups have a very short lifespan. The 24-year-old Waziri militant leader Nek Mohammed back in June 2004 failed to up hold his end of the Shakai Peace Agreement with Islamabad, jolting the Pakistani military into South Waziristan again to clear out Pakistani and foreign militant groups from the area.
What's more, recent utterances from TTP vanguard Hakimullah Meshud suggests that the group is not interested at all in signing peace deals with the government. Meshud even sacked one of his deputies -- Maulvi Faqir Muhammad -- for entertaining the idea.
Pakistan has historically negotiated these peace deals when the Pakistani government was in a relatively weak position, forcing the state to make significant concessions to the militants. The deals failed to serve their purpose and only strengthened the resolve of the extremists.
None of these alternatives can wipe out terror groups in Pakistan without causing wider destruction in the tribal areas or in Pakistan proper. Drones not only allow for the swift incineration of terrorist operatives, but they also make it more difficult for terror groups to meet and plan attacks. The program may have its faults, but it has also kept Pakistan safer by neutralizing the groups that seek nothing more than to break the government in Islamabad and harm activists for speaking out for a woman's right to education. For better or for worse, blemishes and all, drones are here to stay.
Adam Ahmad is a researcher at the Center for a New American Security and a reporting assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His work focuses on South Asia and U.S. covert action.
One line that I've always hated is "Failure is not an option."
Rather, failure should always be considered carefully in strategic discussions. One question that needs to be asked is, "How could we lose this thing?" That helps sharpen the discussion and helps lead to distinctions between what is essential and what is merely important, as Eisenhower put it early in World War II.
I mention all this because Paul Kennedy mentions in The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery that early in the 7 Years' War (a.k.a. the French and Indian War), the British recognized early on that the only way they could totally lose was through a French invasion of England. So job one was to prevent that.
Inspired by a request I got, I've decided to partner with Politics & Prose, a great local bookstore here in DC, to offer signed copies of The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. The catch is that they are only available by the dozen. No onesies, twosies or such, and no special inscriptions, which just gets too damned complex. (But what better way to cover your Christmas list than with 12 signed copies of a fun narrative history?)
For $375, you can get a dozen signed copies, which includes shipping it to you. Just send the check and a good mailing address to me at:
1301 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20004
By Matthew Schmidt
Best Defense department of Armyology
The U.S. Army doesn't seem to want to be an army. Or, rather, they seem to want to be half an army, like (no offense) the Marines! They want to do the first part of war, the invasion part, but not the less glamorous, more difficult, messy part that is occupation. The Army's seeming disdain for doing the work of occupying a place after the Hollywood scenes of major combat are over betrays a culture that just doesn't get the nature of (modern) war.
To be clear, plenty of individual people in the Army do understand the importance of thinking about the post-combat phase of warfare, but the institutional culture, the code of language, and behavior that dominates the everyday world of the Army is decidedly focused on the minutiae of combat tactics.
Put another way, the Army has lost a clear sense of what makes it different from the other services. The Navy and Air Force can fight. The Marines can fight. But only the Army can occupy. This is the essential difference in the services when you strip away all the trivia. Armies are built to occupy places. They are meant to be the big ground force that sweeps over an area and sits on it. The Navy can project power to 'turn' a stubborn mule of a regime back in the right direction. The Air Force can heavily influence the ground game by providing air-space superiority for troops, and it can project power like the Navy. And the Marines can kick in the door to places and conduct small-scale land operations for limited periods of time.
But only the Army is big enough to extend control over the ground across an entire chunk of the planet for any length of time.
Of course this usually (but not always) means fighting conventional battles against other forces similarly armed. So I'm not saying that major combat isn't part of the Army's mission. But no other service can do what the Army should be designed to do after the first part of the fight is done. No other service can control the crucial space where real human beings live, engage in trade, or practice politics. We like to imagine the art of war as being about winning the fight. But at the highest level, as Tom pointed out in his most recent Atlantic article, generalship "must link military action to political results." This is, of course, just a restating of Carl von Clausewitz's famous dictum that war should be understood as the continuation of political policy. Yet most of Army culture is relentlessly tactical in nature, even in the staff college where I teach.
I've always been curious about this reading of military history. If you think of the history of the Army as the story of the battles it fought from the Revolutionary War to today, of course this is what you see. But a deeper reading of history shows that the Army fought battles in order to occupy and administer large swaths of territory with large populations for far more of its history. The battles of the Civil War gave way to the occupation of the reconstruction era, a period of time that had troops engaged in occupation operations three times as long as they had combat. If you count the history of westward expansion, most of the work the Army did involved a kind of armed public-administration, not Indian conquest. The same is true of the Spanish American war, which saw U.S. troops conducting counterinsurgency and civil affairs for years after in the Philippines. Add in the post-WWII occupations of Germany and Japan, the long, tedious mix of combat and occupation in Vietnam, and the extended occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and it's overwhelmingly clear that the Army's main historical work has been occupation, not battle.
But we teach "operational art" and "strategy" as though fighting battles is the only work of an army. It isn't. It never has been. At best it's only half of what an army is asked to do and it often isn't the most important part. We wonder how the Army fits into strategic frameworks like the new AirSeaBattle, all the while ignoring the obvious. We skimp on exploring the problems of using military force to achieve the political ends that are the purpose of occupations, and effectively define the work of generals and their staffs too narrowly, as a stringing together of a series of battles in order to gain a military-strategic aim. We pay relatively little attention to thinking about the work of generals as stringing together actions best thought of not as battles, but as the problems associated with using the resources that accompany military occupations to build political regimes that further our interests.
What we should be doing is devoting a much greater share of our time examining how the best generals in history conducted occupations after the main fighting was done. This isn't just the generalship of the future, it's the generalship of the vast bulk of "military" history. Fighting is about the tactics of the battlefield. Winning is about securing the victories of those battlefields. Neither the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines can secure battlefield victories where they ultimately matter -- where people live. That's the Army's mission. We should recognize that mission as being at least as important as winning in combat. And we should educate, promote, and fire our military leaders to reflect that reality.
Matthew Schmidt is an assistant professor of Political Science and Planning at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He originated the "Matters Military" blog at the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and has a book on developing strategic thinkers forthcoming from Wiley/Jossey-Bass in 2013. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed are entirely those of the author and are not endorsed by the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.
By Brig. Gen. Gordon Davis Jr.
Best Defense guest respondent
Thanks for posting the letter from one of our faculty members to your blog. When people's livelihood is concerned, it is a matter of great importance -- and it demands care, transparency, and thoughtfulness.
I'd like to contribute to the discussion by explaining the 'why' of faculty changes ongoing at the Army's Command and General Staff School, as well as the'how' (partially addressed) and 'what' we are aiming to achieve.
First, we have great faculty, military and civilian, at the Army Command and General Staff College (of which CGSS is the largest school) who are committed to their mission of developing the Army's future leaders.
Our mission is the 'why' we have decided to change the ratio of civilian to military faculty. To develop our the Army's mid-grade leaders we need the right balance of graduate-level teaching skills, scholarship, continuity (provided by our civilian faculty) and serving role models, recent operational experience, and future military leaders (provided by our military faculty).
Before 9/11 that balance was roughly 10 percent civilian, 90 percent military. Due to the exigency of supporting the wars over the past decade that balance shifted to 70 percent civilian, 30 percent military. With reduction of commitments abroad and an opportunity to rebalance, the Army leadership has decided that the optimal ratio is 60 percent civilian, 40 percent military. We are, after all, an institution which provides Professional Military Education to Army leaders. To maintain the military expertise required in our ranks, to provide development opportunities (e.g. teaching experience), and to ensure the stewardship demanded of our profession, we need the right balance of military leaders teaching other military leaders -- a time-proven ingredient for a successful learning military. The decision to move to this ratio has been a matter of discussion for a couple of years and now we have the opportunity to move to it.
There had been serious discussion of reducing our faculty-to-student ratio due to defense budget reductions, which would have meant losing significant numbers of both civilian and military faculty. Fortunately, other offsets were made and we are able to maintain the investment in quality Professional Military Education, which our leaders need to be able to adapt and prevail against current and future threats.
As to the 'how' of our reduction, there are several key points I want to share. Faculty have been informed from the outset as options for change were being considered. We developed a plan in coordination with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center at Fort Leavenworth to release civilian faculty members employed over a two-year period, so that the we could retain the highest performing employees and so that no employee would be released before the end of his/her term of employment. This allows faculty time to transition out of teaching positions as we gain military instructors. Each teaching department identified assessment criteria based on their respective content. For example, criteria for assessing faculty members were different for the Department of Military History than for the Department of Tactics or Department of Command & Leadership, etc. Each civilian faculty member was assessed -- high performer, average performer, below average performer -- and informed where they stood.
To reach a 60 percent civilian, 40 percent military faculty ratio required us to release up to 33 civilian faculty employed under provisions of Title 10, U.S. Code. However, that number has reduced as new teaching positions have arisen to address increased Distance Learning enrollment.
There are points made in the earlier blog which are not accurately represented. Some of the people referred to as leaving have left for personal reasons unrelated to our faculty changes as the author suggested. Some have left for higher paying jobs. However, we have lost a few good teachers and the changes in faculty retention may have played some part in their decisions. That part of any personnel change process is hard to avoid. What we can control is making sure that we retain or release the right faculty members and that those we release are treated fairly and respectfully.
Some readers may not be aware that employees hired under the provisions of Title 10 U.S.C. are not permanent employees. Our faculty do not receive tenure as in civilian colleges and universities. All new CGSC Title 10 employees receive initial terms of two years, and may apply for subsequent terms of one to five years. As a management process to deal with the new requirements, we have instituted a two year term letter for those seeking to be rehired. This policy was not meant to be permanent, but to allow us to reach the new faculty ratio.
Finally, we have an Advisory Council elected by the CGSC Staff and Faculty (primarily civilian) that I rely on for feedback on issues of concern or friction. I meet with the leadership regularly and the Dean, Directors, key Staff and I discuss each issue raised. The two year renewal policy has not been an item presented by the council for us to review. However, given the current situation I am going to ask the staff and faculty to provide feedback on the policy.
In conclusion, we are re-structuring our CGSS faculty to increase the numbers of active duty Army officers of the right caliber with fresh operational experience to meet our mission in preparing student officers as well as provide teaching experience to future military leaders.
Thank you for providing a medium for discussion, and I hope this information is useful. We are looking forward to your visit out to us at the end of this month.
Brig. Gen. (promotable) Gordon "Skip" Davis Jr. is Deputy Commanding General CAC Leader Development & Education Deputy Commandant CGSC. He commanded 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, and then was the Deputy Brigade Commander, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He also commanded the 2nd Brigade, 78th Division (Training Support) at Fort Drum, New York, which he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also has served in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Mozambique, Zaire, Rwanda, Congo, and Liberia.
There's a mega-event for my book Thursday night in DC. It is free, but to attend you should to register here. There will be a surprise guest.
Meanwhile, more reviews of the book are pouring in. On the one side stand the unhappy generals. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales doesn't like it -- he calls it unfair. He tells me he thinks in his review in Foreign Affairs that he is defending the Army. Me, I think that he is defending today's Army generals. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith also posted a querulous review on Amazon.
Meanwhile, the best of our military historians are greeting the book positively. Here is a good review in Military History magazine by one of the grand old men of the field, Dennis Showalter. That comes on top of similar praise from three other big names in the field -- Carlo D'Este, Hew Strachan and Brian Linn.
See a pattern here -- generals vs. historians?
Paul Kennedy reports that in World War I, when the Japanese were allied with the UK, they patrolled the Indian Ocean at the request of Britain. They also "dispatched a dozen destroyers for anti-submarine work in the Mediterranean," he notes.
Nor did I know that in the German defense plan of 1938 called for it to build four aircraft carriers.
Finally, I learned that during World War II, more German U boats were sunk by Allied aircraft (288) than by surface ships (246). (Another bunch were deep-sixed by combined actions.)
Every morning I read about 40 blogs on national security and international news. Lately I've noticed some good sites (such as Phil Cave's military law page) have become less active in posting, and so I demoted his and several others to a "check once-a-week" category.
That means I have openings for other blogs to be on my daily read roster. What would you suggest that is related to the world of national security? Especially have some new ones surfaced that I might not yet have noticed? Let me know.
Back in the late Cold War, there was a lot of talking of an American strategy that imposed costs on the Russkies -- costs they couldn't afford, for things like national missile defense. It seemed pretty snazzy at the time.
It turns out that this is nothing new. Paul Kennedy, in his terrific study of The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, quotes the Duke of Newcastle as stating in 1742 that, "France will outdo us at sea when they have nothing to fear on land. I have always maintained that our marine should protect our alliances on the Continent, and so, by diverting the expense of France, enable us to maintain our superiority at sea."
Kennedy says this was the key to British policy for centuries: Keep Europe in a balance of power so that no one nation dominated the continent, and all nations there would have to focus on land power at the expense of sea power. Hence Britain's "perfidious" reputation -- it didn't care much about the nature of its alliances as long as it could balance European powers while it expanded its empire outside Europe. He writes that, "of the seven Anglo-French wars which took place between 1689 and 1815, the only one which Britain lost was that in which no fighting took place in Europe." This pattern gave rise to the expression that France lost Canada in Germany.
This approach worked until 1914.
The British occupation of Gibraltar grew out of this strategy. By having a base at the mouth of the Mediterranean, the British could deter the French from moving their Mediterranean fleet out to join their Atlantic fleet.
Kennedy's book reminds me a lot of Piers Mackesy's The War for America in that it teaches not just history but strategy. I am surprised that no one told me to read it years ago.
By Richard Buchanan
Best Defense office of mission command
Currently there is a raging debate in the Force over Army Design Methodology (ADM) which the field has shortened to simply "Design." Design is being currently taught to selected officers attending the School of Advanced Studies (SAMS), the War College, and in a general population Design training course developed and taught by Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH). There is currently not a single course teaching Design to NCOs and or Army Civilians other than the course offered by BAH. There is as well a ongoing debate as to whether Design is strictly for the Strategic and Operational levels and should not be used at the Tactical level.
If one researches ADM you will see it defined and explained in ADRP 5.0 in roughly eight pages complete with terms and charts which attempt to describe the process. In further research of ADRP 5.0 you will see that the discussion of Design and military decision-making (MDMP) takes all of two paragraphs. If you take the BAH course you will be struck by the sheer weight of terms and charts (and a very large Powerpoint slide deck) all trying again to describe Design. In ADRP 5.0 section 2-23 you will notice that by doctrine the Army now has a total of three standalone planning methods all attempting to address the scope of the problem the unit is facing, i.e. the Operational Environment (OE).
The result of all of the above is that the Force now perceives Design to be complex, highly technical (complicated terms and charts with its own language), and Design can only be conducted by those who have attended the Design training mentioned above and our Design doctrine has reinforced that perception.
If we look at the core ADM requirements mentioned in the eight or so pages of ADRP 5.0 one starts to see mentioned over and over; critical and creative thinking, collaboration and dialogue, framing (another term for simply communication), narrative construction, and visual modeling (simply another set of terms for communication/whiteboarding).
Now the over designing of Design kicks in -- if in fact the concept of Design demands communication, dialogue, free flow of ideas, critical discourse -- are we not suppose to be doing that already inside MDMP? Wait thoug,h as per paragraphs 2-61 and 2-62, Design is conducted independently, in parallel to or after MDMP by the Commander and selected Staff all under the guise of helping the Commander understand the OE. Literally a Catch-22 moment.
Just as we often discuss the Army values and what it means to the Force, Design to has one key critical element that is missing, just as it is missing in the Army Values. That is, trust. Steven Covey in his book Speed of Trust wrote that:
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world-one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust. . . . It under girds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged.
Likewise, Col. Tom Guthrie in his 2012 article said that, "If we intend to truly embrace mission command, then we should do it to the fullest, and that will require commitment to changing a culture from one of control and process to one of decentralization and trust."
If we look at the argument that Design cannot be conducted at the Tactical level -- then we really do need to ask ourselves why is it not in the MDMP planning cycle? My answer is Design has always been in MDMP in multiple areas -- Mission Analysis, COA Development/Decision, Wargaming, and even in the Rehearsal phase.
In Mission Command it is the "art of command" where the responsibility rests for the commander to lead the development of teams using Understanding, Visualization, Describe, Direct, Lead, and Assess UVDDLA). If the Commander is responsible for team building then why is he, per doctrine, supposed to lead Design independently, in parallel to or after MDMP? What staff officers are to be pulled out of the MDMP process to focus on Design robbing Staff sections of their own team leader, when is the Design plan to resynchronize back to the MDMP process, and which plan has precedence -- the MDMP plan or the Design plan?
If the commander as the team builder and leader does his job effectively as a leader should -- that is, building trust, and creating an open dialogue free of fear which automatically allows critical thinking/discourse -- then Design will occur on its own and it is not a forced process full of terms and charts that no one seems to understand.
Secondly, the debate around Design has opened an interesting discussion -- namely if we take a Command Post and or a Staff section, there will always be NCOs and/or lower ranking subordinates. Not a single one of them have been taught MDMP nor Design and yet they are handling data that has to be transformed into Information/Understanding as per the doctrinal concept of the Cognitive Hierarchy. Or they are substituting as reps to Working Group meetings where MDMP is in progress or should be in progress or they are contributing to running estimates which also feeds into the MDMP process.
I have often wondered while observing Command Post operations, WG meetings, or Staff meetings, what do the NCOs/junior subordinates think about during the ongoing discussions and do they really buy into the decisions made during those meetings or do they simply nod north and south and go about their business?
Now, we are having a Force discussion on whether Design does work or not work, what level should it be used at, should Design planners be additionally trained, should there be a separate Design planning Staff section, and the list goes on. To me, these are examples of over engineering.
My opinion is that Design is the way forward, especially when coupled with Mission Command, but it must be taught together with MDMP/Mission Command to all individuals working in Staffs at all levels and in Command Posts at all levels. In reality, they do a mini version of UVDDLA MDMP when performing their CP or Staff functions.
If everyone who works in a Staff section and/or in a Command Post fully understands MDMP, fully understands Design/Mission Command and the commander has in fact built his team using Trust in an open dialogue manner -- then Design/ MDMP/Mission Command will be able to handle any future ill structured "wicked" problem set. Until then the Force will continue to tread water.
Richard Buchanan is mission command training facilitator with the JMTC/JMSC Grafenwoehr, Germany training staffs in the areas of mission command, MDMP/NATO Planning Processes, MDMP/Design, and Command Post Operations. The opinions here are his own and not those of U.S. Army Europe, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. government. But Bobby Valentine does agree, we are guessing. How did the Red Sox go so wrong in recent years?
That's the question I asked the other day on NPR's "Morning Edition." Want to know my response? Very well then, here's the transcript. (And, in case it is confusing, yes I also did an interview with the same outfit about my new book.)
More thoughts on the subject: I don't understand Governor Romney's insistence that we need to move to spending 4 percent of GDP on defense. I mean, at the height of the British Empire, the British spending on defense was between 2 and 3 percent of national income. Nor was the size of the Royal Navy key to maintaining the Empire: It went from about 80 ready ships of the line in 1817 to 58 in 1835, Paul Kennedy tells us in his wonderful Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery.
By a guy at Fort Leavenworth
Best Defense guest columnist
The big issue at our institution is the Title X contract length policy -- although Dept of the Army civilians, we are signed to multi-year periods and then must be reappointed at the end of our terms. At SAMS the faculty get 5 year periods for appointment (even though our faculty is as good as theirs). This last summer the college leadership standardized the 2 year period as the standing contract length for all Title X faculty now at CGSS (the part of CGSC that delivers the Command and General Staff Office Course, what used to be called ILE.)
Previously the maximum contract length had been 3 years, although for a short time a few folks did have 5 year agreements. There are still some old Title V/GS instructors around, but as they retire, those billets are eliminated since they were designated back in 2003 as "overhires"-- even though they were not. From full professor to instructor, the best one can hope for is two years. Obviously no one wants to have their contract up for renewal during a time of cuts.
With the move to lower the civilian side of the civ-mil faculty ratio, the Title X reappointment system is an ideal way to cut faculty -- simply do not reappoint them. There is no tenure, as you know, not even for full professors. The target goal for faculty reduction at CGSC this last fiscal year was 33, and we have pretty much met that goal using retirements without backfills and Title X non-appointments using order of merit lists. The retirements have all been "voluntary" -- the Department of Military History just lost Dr. Tom Huber to retirement, who is a big name -- he is the guy who came up with compound warfare theory, which Frank Hoffman will tell you is the name for hybrid warfare before Frank et al. came up with hybrid warfare. He is a loss. The history department also lost a promising young ABD (all but dissertation) historian who frankly was worried about job security.
In the rest of the building there is much angst over this sort of uncertainty, and the green suiter instructors are still not showing up either -- for history they have to be 5x (the military history additional skill identifier) level of education (i.e., have a masters degree). The army does not have a lot of those to go around. The college has lost some key non-Ph.D. level instructors, again, many of them moving on to GS jobs outside the college. For example, a logistics instructor who headed up the College's writing improvement program left -- he was a former West point professor and went to a GS job in another state. One last OBTW, just learned a colleague in the tactics department is leaving, very erudite and a great instructor (but not a Ph.D.). Tom, the quality of the faculty is being harmed by a simplistic and ultimately self-defeating personnel policy because it gives the Army max flexibility and top cover -- just what its leadership is used to.
I was reading "How Strategists Really Think: Tapping the Power of Analogy," an article from the Harvard Business Review (semi-necessary disclosure: I also have an article appearing in that magazine -- I said I've been busy!) and was struck by this comment:
Trial and error is a relatively effective way to make strategic decisions in settings so ambiguous, novel, or complex that any cognitively intensive effort is doomed to fail. In altogether new situations . . . . there may be no good substitute for trying something out and learning from experience.
Tom again: I found the article especially useful for the section on "How to avoid superficial analogies." The key step, as friend JK pointed out, is assessing the actual similarity of the two cases, or, as the authors put it, to "Actively search for differences between the source and the target."
(HT to JK)
With some minor exceptions your research is 95 percent spot on.
There is a group of the long term CENTCOM folks of which I am now one -- that have observed the failures of our senior leadership and came to the same conclusion as you. That being the General Officer/Flag Officer Corps of the DoD is for the most part weak, unopposed and sheltered.
If I had a dollar for every time someone in this HQ has said: "Can you imagine if George Patton had received this order?" or "Can you imagine U.S. Grant or R.E. Lee ever thinking so bizarrely about a situation."
Some of us have further concluded that we won WWII because of Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Innocent people will die in war. Sad but true. Somehow we've developed this "war can be clean" mentality, because of our advanced weapons I suppose. This is very unhealthy I think. War is ugly and should truly be a last resort because of this fact. When Tommy Franks started showing the laser guided Youtube style videos of rounds going into bedroom windows in 2003, "we can choose which of the 4 panes of glass you want the missile to enter thru" a lot of us with Infantry experience were troubled. When missiles with computers inside them didn't win the war -- the U.S. Army was not prepared for what it faced in the streets of Baghdad.
The morning after the statue of Suddam came down -- Tommy was briefing on split screen the president, Paul Wolfowitz, and Sec Powell (I was in the room). Tommy briefed the statue bit and praised the 3rd ID -- he then said "Mr. President, I'm ready to turn the keys over" and after a slightly uncomfortable laugh from the President there followed an even more uncomfortable silent pause. You see, there was no one to turn the keys over to. The State Department had no plan and the famous "Phase IV" of the CENTCOM plan was a 1 pager (the other 3 phases -- deploy, invade, kill were in the 20 page each ball park).
In fairness to Tommy -- he did exactly what the U.S. Army trained him to do -- he deployed planes and tanks and took ground. He had zero training in anything else. That is why the invasion by 3rd ID went relatively without a hitch. The U.S. Army had practiced the drive from Kuwait to Baghdad thousands of times at the National Training Center (NTC), Ft. Irwin over the previous 10 years.
OYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images
As I said, I've been reading Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, in which I learned in an aside that the Puritans had tried to start a colony in Honduras. I didn't know that. In checking it out I also saw that some Puritans were the first Britishers to live in Belize, aside from maybe a few pirates and shipjumpers.
Puritans in bikinis? It just don't seem right.
My book on American generalship comes out today. Here is Neil Sheehan's review of it in the Washington Post. He calls the Vietnam section "the best part of the book." (There also is a review in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Roberts. He likes my writing more than Sheehan does but disagrees with my conclusions.)
I've been busy lately. Here is an article I have in the current issue of the Atlantic. Special Operators must get their copies early somehow, as I've began hearing from them about it in the middle of last week. Also, an Air Force general writes, "much truth in this article and it does not apply just to the Army. The proclivity to promote non-risk taking, non-controversal, middle of the road, do-nothings to senior general officer positions from 2008 to 2012 has really affected the Air Force in a negative way."
And here's a good interview that ran this morning Steve Inskeep of NPR about the book.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.