Winston Churchill, writing in My Early Life, mentions how wealth affected one's choice of branches in the British Army:
I qualified for a cavalry cadetship at Sandhurst. The competition for the infantry was keener, as life in the cavalry was so much more expensive. Those who were at the bottom of the list accordingly were offered the easier entry into the cavalry.
Tom again: So, by making the cavalry expensive, the wealthy aristocracy was able to reserve largely for itself job openings in part of the military -- perhaps a place to store second sons without sufficient brains for other jobs? I asked Douglas Allen, an economic historian who has studied the political economy of the British military. He wrote back, "No doubt though, it took a long time for the aristocrats to be replaced by attrition, and they probably did use a price mechanism to keep the vulgar middle class out of their preferred positions."
My CNAS colleague Phil Carter, reacting to yesterday's item about how the experience of Iraq is affecting the Obama administration's consideration of intervening in Syria, sent me this thoughtful note:
Iraq has replaced Vietnam as the lens through which we see foreign policy decisions. However, I don't like the term "Iraq syndrome" -- in large part because it suggests there's something wrong, and that this is a condition to be ameliorated or recovered from. Instead, I prefer to think of our national sense of the Iraq war as "Iraq experience" or "Iraq wisdom." We gathered this experience and wisdom the hard way, acquiring it at a cost of trillions of dollars, and tens of thousands of killed or wounded, to say nothing of the cost to the Iraqis. We ought not casually discard this wisdom and experience, or set it aside so that we can once again go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, to use John Quincy Adams' memorable phrase.
Tom again: I think he is right, but I think there also is a generational aspect to this. I think younger people -- and to me, that means anyone under 40 -- are more affected by this than are older people.
One of the great things about CNAS is that we actually have conversations like this. In my experience, not all think tanks do. You can find out more by coming to the annual hoedown on June 12. It is, as we have noted, the Woodstock of wonkery. But with better refreshments.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Quote of the day: Benjamin Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor, tells Dexter Filkins in this week's edition of the New Yorker that in considering intervening in Syria, "Here's what we wrestle with: there are huge costs and unintended consequences that go with a military intervention that could last for many years."
Another White House official tells Filkins, "The country is exhausted." I don't think that second comment is quite accurate. It is more that the country is tired of being involved on the ground in the Middle East and deeply skeptical of the efficacy of another try.
Filkins also quotes an academic expert who predicts that eventually all of Syria's Alawites will be pushed into Lebanon, with the eventual refugee flow doubling that nationette's population.
The vibe of the article is that the Obama administration increasingly is leaning toward intervention -- from the air, in aid and intelligence, but not with ground troops.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Quote of the day is from Tony Judt, now unfortunately gone: "the market for history books is enormous, but most professional historians are simply unable to satisfy it." (P. 263, Thinking the 20th Century)
By the way, Judt's book Postwar is essential reading for, among others, anyone interested in the effect of World War II on Europe.
By Commander H.B. Le, U.S. Navy
Best Defense guest columnist
On April 30, 1975, a 34 year-old South Vietnamese Navy commander -- the commanding officer of Nha Be Naval Support Base near Saigon -- navigated a small fishing trawler towards the South China Sea. Saigon had just fallen, and the trawler, crowded with 200 refugees, cautiously weaved its way down the Soi Rap River. In the span of just a few hours, as other refugees were plucked from smaller or sinking boats, the passengers had swelled to 400. After two uncertain days at sea and on the first birthday of the commander's youngest child, the refugees were taken on board the tank landing ship USS Barbour County (LST 1195).
On November 7, 2009, along with the U.S. 7th Fleet's flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), my ship arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam for a scheduled goodwill port visit. This visit was my first return to Vietnam since my father, mother, and three of my seven siblings and I departed in that fishing trawler. My father had navigated the trawler to sea, and, for me, navigating USS Lassen (DDG 82) into Da Nang Harbor brought me full circle to our past.
During that unforgettable port visit, I was interviewed by local and international news media. Most questions dealt with my thoughts on returning to my native country. Like my siblings who had come to America in 1975, I have always felt fortunate to grow up in the United States and to enjoy all the opportunities this great nation offers. It was a privilege for my sailors and me to represent USS Lassen and the U.S. Navy to the people of Vietnam.
It was also deeply moving for me to travel to my birthplace of Hue, joined by one of my older brothers who had graciously flown from Singapore, where he worked. Hue is just 50 miles northwest of Da Nang, and I was grateful for the opportunity to spend a few hours reuniting with two aunts, an uncle, and extended family members.
Throughout the port visit and for several days afterwards, I received heartwarming e-mails and notes from family and friends, as well as from people I did not know. Easily the most remarkable was a short letter I received in the ship's mail on November 18, eight days after USS Lassen departed Da Nang Harbor:
USS Lassen (DDG 82)
FPO AP 96671-1299
November 6, 2009
Congratulations on your command. I read with interest the press release about your visit to your homeland. I was the Executive Officer of the USS Barbour County (LST 1195) at the time of your rescue. I have wondered throughout the years what became of the myriad people we took on board and transported to the Philippines (Grandy Island). Again, congratulations and enjoy your tour.
Russ Bell CDR, USN (Retired)
I was thrilled when I read the letter and e-mailed my father right away. He wrote in response from his home in Virginia:
We finally have the opportunity to express our gratitude to one of the people who saved us and gave us a new beginning in the United States of America. Would you please send our thanks to CDR Russ Bell and his crew for helping and saving us at sea on May 2nd, 1975 and bringing us to Freedom? I still remember that on the 3rd of May, the XO was the one who gave me an envelope and then helped to send my letter from the Barbour County to Uncle Ed Rowe at his parents' address in Kansas City, MO. It comes back to my memory very clearly now, just like it happened yesterday! God bless the crew of USS Barbour County and their families. God bless the U.S.A.
Today on behalf of my family, I wish to thank Commander Russ Bell, U.S. Navy (Retired) and the crew of USS Barbour County. Also, thank you to Uncle Ed -- Colonel Ed Rowe, U.S Army (Retired) -- and his wonderful family for sponsoring us all those years ago... and happy 39th birthday to my dear brother, Phil.
Commander Hung Ba Le was the commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) from April 2009 to December 2010. One of seven destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, Lassen's namesake is Commander Clyde E. Lassen, who received the Medal of Honor for his courageous rescue of two downed aviators while commander of a search and rescue helicopter in Vietnam. Commander Le is currently serving as a fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs in Cambridge, MA.
By Brig. Gen. Kim Field, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
As a general officer and a mother of four sons, I still look back on our entry into the Iraq War with disbelief. There may have been good reason, but explanations to date satisfy almost no one. I deployed three times to Afghanistan and better understood our entry, even if the prosecution of our effort became increasingly baffling. I am dismayed that my sons are learning in school to lump the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq into the same causal bucket. What are they learning about who America is, what we stand for, why we do what we do?
Recently, there was an article in the New York Times about the split in the Republican Party on the appropriate foreign policy stance for America. To oversimplify, isolationists are warring with the traditional aggressive foreign policy advocates under the same tent. Further, the article was a bit shocking in that foreign policy was equated with use of the military instrument. How can any of this be?
The Democratic Party is a little more coherent, but I am not sure that there is agreement with Jimmy Carter's statement: "Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood." Right or wrong, under Democratic leadership, we have done almost nothing in Syria to protect human rights. Is "human rights" the most important thing to our country and is this how we should represent ourselves to the world?
Inside the Pentagon, I watch and in some cases participate as we wrangle over the "rebalance to the Pacific." Should the military really be the agency doing the most in what was a reasonable shift in strategic emphasis? Maybe, but the explanations why are not satisfying and Air-Sea Battle is downright mystifying. Do we intend to "contain" China, and if so, do we mean militarily, economically, in the information domain? Or do we want to "shape her decisions?" Something else? These are very different paths with significant consequence, and to my mind, we should have the answers before we charge off, possibly committing billions of dollars.
What do we stand for? Many of us think domestic policies are likely on an inevitable path toward a more European model of capitalism-social consciousness and think our choices with regard to international matters are indeed more free and more significant. But watching the machinations of the Congress over forced across-the-board cuts (sequestration), feeling confident that DOD could take a cut but not the way we are forced to do it, it is clear that this problem of identity is foundational to all dimensions of what we do as a country.
As a soldier, I have nothing to say about wither our foreign policy endeavors. But I sure wish I understood better what we could be asked to do and why. How is the military to represent itself overseas when our muddled sense of American identity is reflected in so many testy issues, beyond the normal and healthy tensions of party politics?
Having taught international relations theory for three years, I do believe when the strength of our values coincides with the level of our national interest, we have the makings of good, sustainable foreign interventions. But this means understanding what our values are, who we are as Americans. Do we still believe in American exceptionalism? If so, why? What makes us exceptional a decade into the 21st century? We should be specific and clear about this in a necessary debate.
Just as senior military officers should be professionally guided by the conviction of clear personal values and not just the Army Values dogtag around their necks, it is insufficient for the collective American people to point to the Constitution as a clear, present day expression of who we are. The base case is there, but it's not always helpful in execution. Sacrilege.
It will be very difficult to avoid diving into the issues of immigration and healthcare and countless other issues through which party divides run deep. And a Congress that makes DOD accept compensations it doesn't ask for even when that means we reduce the training that will keep soldiers alive in the future, a Congress that makes us buy equipment we don't want beyond that which keeps the industrial base warm, can't lead this effort. The Congress is full of smart, well-intentioned individuals held captive by a system that cannot help us produce a sense of identity that would then enable meaningful party debates over how to make that identity come alive. The president is a party member. He can't lead this either, no matter how good a leader he is.
I believe the American people want this discussion. I do not believe the military has the market on service. I do not believe the average American values his or her Nikes and iPhones more than they do a conversation over what it means to be an American. My sister-teacher, as well as good friends Paul Yingling and John Nagl, who have chosen to leave the world of security affairs for the profession of teaching, will be part of this debate, as will their students. My father and his senior friends who have time, interest, and continued desire to serve, will be part of this. My boys and nieces and their classmates, all of whom had to complete community service on the path to college, will be part of this. Servicemembers will be part of this as long as the issues do not become partisan. And so many more from so many other walks of American life. I am tired of hearing that Americans need the most important of issues dumbed down, that we simply don't care about anything that does not directly affect the material goods that come into our homes. I don't believe it. In fact, I can't even contemplate the possibility of leaving my boys without a mother for years, or forever, if this were the case.
I am so honored to serve the way I do -- representing a people that comprise a country of goodness the world has never before seen. We have to stop the recent wandering that has confused so many inside our ranks, within our borders, and throughout the world. As we bring the face of America home after 12 years of steady war and before we inevitably send it out again, greater clarity on the question, "who are we, we Americans?" is essential.
BG Kim Field is deputy director of policy, plans and strategy on the Army staff. She has served three tours in Afghanistan, two tours with State, and taught international relations in the "Sosh" Department at West Point.
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.
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
Was it Normandy? Blenheim? Waterloo? Goose Green? No to all.
Perhaps Naseby or Culloden? No again. El Alamein? Nope.
It was, indeed, Imphal and Kohima, the turning point in the fighting in South Asia during World War II. Now, I'm a Burma theater fan as much as the next guy. But this still surprised me. I wonder why they picked that. It wasn't just because President Obama's grandfather served there. Perhaps it was the ever-growing reputation of General Slim?
(HT to PL who had to read the original article upside down)
Richard Haass is a pretty smart guy, but he let someone talk him into this headline: ‘The Irony of American Strategy.'
Like, gag me with a spoon. Cute? Maybe. But I think that headline could only be written by someone who had not lost someone in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last 12 years.
Actually the article isn't bad, although it leans heavily on the weak thought that 10 years ago the United States got deeply involved in the Middle East when it didn't need to, but now when it wants to get out, it can't. That strikes me more as an op-ed (or blog post) than a full-blown Foreign Affairs thumbsucker.
The other day a couple of commenters discussing innovation in the military mentioned one change (fwiw, the company-level intelligence cell) as a big reason why "we won in Iraq."
Hmm, I thought: Did we actually win that war? I am not sure. It doesn't feel like it. Yes, we got out with our shirts on. But win?
I thought about this again when I read this thoughtful comment by Lt. Gen. James Dubik in the May issue of ARMY magazine:
America is confusing "withdrawing from a war" with "ending a war." The two are very different. A war ends when strategic objectives are met or an enemy is defeated and recognizes its defeat. In Iraq, the war continues -- albeit at a level that the Iraqi security forces are, so far, able to handle and the Iraqi government can manage.
A major in the 101st Airborne suggests that we do a reading list of modern military books that are not about the American military experience (and not the usual classics). Three of his suggestions are The Dambusters, Defeat into Victory , and Churchill's Generals.
To that start, I'd add Keegan's Face of Battle and Alistair Horne's Savage War of Peace. What else? I'll allow histories, memoirs, novels, and poetry.
ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images
By Noel Koch
Best Defense guest columnist
In the run-up to President Obama's trip to the Middle East, apologists for Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy civilian convicted of spying for Israel, urged Pollard's release. This has become a recurring event led, strikingly, by Israeli leaders.
Here are two reasons why it is absurd to consider ever releasing Jonathan Pollard:
First, the Israelis have never told us who his co-conspirators were.
Second, the Israelis have never told us how much of the information they obtained was traded to nations hostile to the United States.
Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 while trying to escape into the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In March 1987 he was convicted in a plea bargain that permitted him to avoid a public trial, as a result of which there would be no public record and thus no public awareness of the full extent of his crimes or why he committed them.
The narrative aggressively promoted by his supporters in Israel and the United States paints Pollard as a committed Zionist prompted by his love for Israel and concern for its security. It ignores other facts, e.g. before he began spying for Israel, he had already reached out to other foreign intelligence organizations, one of which actually was an enemy of Israel, in an effort to capitalize on his position as an analyst with access to classified U.S. information. The plea agreement also helped obscure the fact that Pollard was bought and paid for by the Israelis; his motive was money, not warm feelings for the Jewish state.
Israel's damage control efforts included the contention that the Pollard escapade was a rogue operation not carried out through the nation's normal espionage channels. This much would prove to be true. Pollard was not being run by Mossad. As is often the case with missteps between states, this one was rooted in personal animus. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger's reluctance to put the lives of American military personnel at the disposal of Israel's interests promptly produced the usual result: a smear campaign in which Weinberger was implied to harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. Especially ill-disposed to Weinberger was his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon. Among other things, Sharon was convinced Weinberger was refusing to share intelligence of interest to Israel. Accordingly, Sharon set about to get the alleged intelligence on his own.
Sharon's agent in this endeavor was legendary Israeli intelligence operative Rafi Eitan. Rafi found his dupe in the buyable Jonathan Pollard. Here begins an aspect of the matter hidden from public view by the manner in which Pollard was prosecuted. It has served the Israeli narrative for Pollard to be seen as some sort of super spy. He was nothing of the sort. He simply exploited his trusted access to Navy computers to withdraw information his handlers instructed him to get. At least some of the documents were secured behind alpha-numeric designators. Pollard had no idea what these designators represented. He was simply told to extract the associated documents.
Thereupon rests one reason Israel has from the outset been anxious to retrieve Pollard, and one of several very good reasons Pollard should remain in prison to the end of his life sentence. U.S. intelligence personnel have long known that Pollard didn't act alone and that there were other, still unidentified (or at least unprosecuted), traitors to America involved in this undertaking. Who identified for Pollard the specific documents he was to pull out of the computers? Israel hasn't told us.
In the netherworld of espionage, competent national agencies trade information. It is known that the information Israel bought from Pollard was exchanged with other national agencies to the detriment of U.S. interests. Some of the damage to the United States is known. Some may not be. In any case, Israel has never given the United States a complete accounting of what was stolen (to be sure, Pollard himself doesn't know) and what was passed to enemies of the United States.
Jonathan Pollard got what he wanted: money, jewelry, and paid trips in exchange for his treachery; he got what he deserved: life in prison. Unlike Judas, who had the grace to hang himself in shame, he lives in the hope that his purchasers will spring him so he can enjoy the apartment set aside for him, the money they have been banking for him, and the hero's welcome they have promised him for betraying the United States.
Noel Koch served in the U.S. Department of Defense from 1981 to 1986. During this time he worked with Rafi Eitan, advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on terrorism, and later with Amiram Nir, who held the same position with Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
In our cynical age it is easy to forget that sometimes the newspapers get it right. I was struck while reading George Orwell's diaries by the reports he cites in August 1939, just weeks before World War II began in Europe.
The Manchester Guardian comes off particularly well. It reports that month that "German mobilization will be at full strength halfway through August & that some attempt to terrorise Poland will be made."
A few days later, Orwell notes, the same paper's diplomatic correspondent predicted that "Spain will almost certainly remain neutral in case of war."
In a footnote in the Orwell diaries, I learned that more British civilians were killed by enemy action during World War II than were members of the Royal Navy (60,595 vs. 50,758).
Meanwhile, in other news related to World War II, for the first time in nearly 70 years, there is not a single American tank on German soil.
I like this list below. First, it is a good summary of the wisdom and humor in one military field.
Second, it is typical of a military genre -- the grim but humorous compilation of hard-won knowledge. I've seen multiple copies of a similar one on infantry ("Friendly fire, isn't"), but would like to see other examples you might have.
EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW IN LIFE I LEARNED AS A HELICOPTER PILOT IN VIETNAM.
1. Once you are in the fight, it is way too late to wonder if this is a good idea.
2. It is a fact that helicopter tail rotors are instinctively drawn toward trees, stumps, rocks, etc. While it may be possible to ward off this natural event some of the time, it cannot, despite the best efforts of the crew, always be prevented. It's just what they do.
3. NEVER get into a fight without more ammunition than the other guy.
4. The engine RPM and the rotor RPM must BOTH be kept in the GREEN. Failure to heed this commandment can affect the morale of the crew.
5. Cover your Buddy, so he can be around to cover for you.
6. Decisions made by someone above you in the chain-of-command will seldom be in your best interest.
7. The terms Protective Armor and Helicopter are mutually exclusive.
9. "Chicken Plates" are not something you order in a restaurant
10. If everything is as clear as a bell, and everything is going exactly as planned, you're about to be surprised.
11. Loud, sudden noises in a helicopter WILL get your undivided attention.
12. The BSR (Bang Stare Red) Theory states that the louder the sudden bang in the helicopter, the quicker your eyes will be drawn to the gauges. The longer you stare at the gauges the less time it takes them to move from green to red.
13. No matter what you do, the bullet with your name on it will get you. So, too, can the ones addressed "To Whom It May Concern."
14. If the rear echelon troops are really happy, the front line troops probably do not have what they need.
15. If you are wearing body armor, they will probably miss that part of you.
17. Having all your body parts intact and functioning at the end of the day beats the alternative.
18. If you are allergic to lead, it is best to avoid a war zone.
19. It is a bad thing to run out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas all at the same time.
20. Hot garrison chow is better than hot C-rations which, in turn, is better than cold C-rations which, in turn, is better than no food at all. All of these, however, are preferable to cold rice balls, even if they do have the little pieces of fish in them.
21. Everybody's a hero...On the ground...In the club...After the fourth drink.
22. A free fire zone has nothing to do with economics.
23. The further you fly into the mountains, the louder those strange engine noises become.
24. Medals are OK, but having your body and all your friends in one piece at the end of the day is better.
25. Being shot hurts and it can ruin your whole day.
26. "Pucker Factor" is the formal name of the equation that states the more hairy the situation is, the more of the seat cushion will be sucked up your ass. It can be expressed in its mathematical formula of S (suction) + H (height above ground ) + I (interest in staying alive) + T ( # of tracers coming your way)
27.The term 'SHIT!' can also be used to denote a situation where high Pucker Factor is being encountered.
28. Thousands of Vietnam Veterans earned medals for bravery every day. A few were even awarded.
29. Running out of pedal, fore or aft cyclic, or collective are all bad ideas. Any combination of these can be deadly.
30. There is only one rule in war: When you win, you get to make up the rules.
31. C-4 can make a dull day fun.
32. There is no such thing as a fair fight -- only ones where you win or lose.
33. If you win the battle you are entitled to the spoils. If you lose, you don't care.
34. Nobody cares what you did yesterday or what you are going to do tomorrow. What is important is what you are doing -- NOW -- to solve our problem.
35. Always make sure someone has a P-38. Uh, that's a can opener for those of you who aren't military.
37. Flying is better than walking. Walking is better than running. Running is better than crawling. All of these, however, are better than extraction by Medevac, even if it is technically, a form of flying.
38. If everyone does not come home, none of the rest of us can ever fully come home either.
39. Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR.
40. A grunt is the true reason for the existence of the helicopter. Every helicopter flying in Vietnam had one real purpose: To help the grunt. It is unfortunate that many helicopters never had the opportunity to fulfill their one true mission in life, simply because someone forgot this fact.
If you have not been there and done that you probably will not understand most of these.
I always read the Pentagon casualty notices and MIA notices. This one jumped out at me yesterday, as it would to anyone familiar with the history of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Lt. Col. Don Faith, Jr. was the unfortunate leader of one of the biggest disasters in American military history, taking over command of the Army regiment on the east side of Chosin after the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment was killed and the other two battalion commanders were badly wounded. The regiment, badly outnumbered and hampered by inept general officers, suffered a 90 percent casualty rate. Its colors now are displayed in Beijing, I am told.
However, the sacrifice of the Army regiment bought much-needed time for the Marine division consolidating on the west side of the reservoir.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a serviceman, who was unaccounted-for from the Korean War, has been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. of Washington, Ind., will be buried April 17, in Arlington National Cemetery. Faith was a veteran of World War II and went on to serve in the Korean War. In late 1950, Faith's 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), was advancing along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces (CPVF) encircled and attempted to overrun the U.S. position. During this series of attacks, Faith's commander went missing, and Faith assumed command of the 31st RCT. As the battle continued, the 31st RCT, which came to be known as "Task Force Faith," was forced to withdraw south along Route 5 to a more defensible position. During the withdrawal, Faith continuously rallied his troops, and personally led an assault on a CPVF position.
Records compiled after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, to include eyewitness reports from survivors of the battle, indicated that Faith was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and subsequently died from those injuries on Dec. 2, 1950. His body was not recovered by U.S. forces at that time. Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor -- the United States' highest military honor -- for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle.
In 2004, a joint U.S. and Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (D.P.R.K) team surveyed the area where Faith was last seen. His remains were located and returned to the U.S. for identification.
To identify Faith's remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparison. They also used mitochondrial DNA -- which matched Faith's brother.
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
The first is by Marine Lt. Col. Robert Bracknell. "Specifically identifying the Army's modern-era reluctance to effect senior leader reliefs as a departure from the pattern of history, Ricks paints an image of the ultimate country club, self-righteously convinced of its own infallibility -- an Army for the sake of The Army, rather than for the sake of the Nation," he writes. He faults the book, though, for underestimating "the moral component necessary to maintain the respect of privates, sergeants, captains, and colonels." His bottom line is that, "If the military truly is as reflective and self-critical as it likes to advertise, The Generals should land on the Chairman's and Service chiefs' reading lists soon." (Tom: Not holding breath.)
The second review is by grand old strategist Alan Gropman, who singles out the Vietnam section of the book: "The strategic debacle in Vietnam is exceptionally well treated." I appreciated that because I thought the Vietnam discussion was one of the most interesting parts of the book and so I have been surprised that so few reviewers commented on it.
Gropman disagrees with my sections on counterinsurgency, because he has concluded that we simply can't do it:
Ricks appears to believe counterinsurgency combat is a valid combat mission for the U.S. military. It is not. I do not understand why any political decisionmaker, after costly failures in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, would advocate counterinsurgency. We go to war in places we do not understand -- in order to save nondemocratic and often corrupt states that are open to attacks by insurgents -- against adversaries who have greater knowledge than we do of the countries we fight.
Tom again: I would say that the war you can't fight is the war the enemy is most likely to seek.
Gropman's bottom line: "read Tom Ricks' The Generals to appreciate better the awful costs to the United States of failures in strategic thinking."
I see the Spanish seem to be contemplating a replay of the battle of Trafalgar.
That reminds me of something I read the other day, that Lord Nelson's form of mission command was very intensive conversation before the fight, very hands off once it began, observed A.B.C. Whipple:
Nelson believed in sharing tactical options with his captains, discussing every possible situation and emphasizing that when battle was in progress, every captain would be on his own. If a captain saw an opportunity to do damage to the enemy, he was free to attack without awaiting signals from the flagship's masthead. The old line-ahead dogmas of each ship's blindly following the leader was not only dead, it was replaced by something previously unheard-of in the Royal Navy: delegation of authority.
By Lt. Col. Tom Cooper, USAF
Best Defense aerial book critic
In order to support our Best Defense host's desire to learn more about Air Force history, I thought I'd provide an airman's perspective on The Generals. Many reviews of Tom's most recent book ping-pong back and forth against the Army and in favor of the Army but make no mention of the teamwork required to execute military operations since World War II. I don't have much experience working under direct Army leadership but I do know that the contributions of the joint team were not fully accounted for in the book.
The subtitle of Tom's book, "American Military Command from World War II to Today," is not a complete statement because it neglects all naval and air leaders who have made significant contributions to military operations in the same period. Fortunately for the nation, more than just the Army and Marine Corps conduct military operations. The narrow vision of "the military" presented in the book does not fully capture the lessons of leadership for the way joint warfighting is conducted today. It is joint teamwork that makes American military operations succeed. And it is perspectives born from different service experiences that help broaden the thinking of leaders and produce the high-level of trust needed for joint success.
Unfortunately, many assume the strategic leader ought to wear the same "boots" as the guys sent to fight -- probably tactically appropriate, but unproven strategically. A single-service strategic perspective does not take advantage of the joint force the nation has prepared to fight its wars. The Joint Task Force Commander should be surrounded by a diversity of thought, not same-service minions that benefit from agreeing and reinforcing the same-service leader's way of thinking. The military successes (and military failures) of the leaders highlighted by Ricks require deeper examination through a joint warfighting lens. Each success in The Generals embraced diverse viewpoints of how to fight over single-service concepts.
Many people assumed that the wars of the past decade needed leaders with a ground perspective, but leaders who can approach problems from other viewpoints might have led to different outcomes. A different perspective might have created innovative ways to operate in Iraq and Afghanistan that may have cost less and risked less. In My Share of the Task, General Stanley McChrystal's descriptions of increasing the pace of operations of Task Force 712 to hunt Zarqawi is similar to the military challenge General Carl Spaatz faced when put in charge of achieving air superiority before D-Day. I don't know if General McChrystal ever studied air operations over Europe, but the challenge of generating an operational pace that can exhaust your enemy while not exhausting your own was a significant lesson Carl Spaatz learned in the skies over Europe in early 1944. Similarly, "it takes a network" rings very closely to how airmen across generations thought about generating an effects chain to disrupt enemy actions before "effects-based operations" became a "concept that should not be spoken of" by a respected senior leader.
To understand the diversity of thought brought by different military experiences, consider the following academic example. As an airman, I chose a path that did not train me to understand the tactics of an infantry squad, and I have no expectation that I should lead in the infantry. However, in choosing the Air Force, I chose a service that develops an innovative mindset not hindered by geography and more conscious of range.
This became particularly evident to me while participating in a recent Army-led Antietam staff ride. The experience included the entire South Mountain campaign and siege of Harpers Ferry, giving a more strategic viewpoint than what happened in the individual, but instructive, skirmishes. We began on a hillside looking north towards Frederick, Maryland, where our leader, a well-respected, retired infantry colonel, asked us what Lee was trying to do by moving towards Pennsylvania. My Army counterpart, a SAMS graduate who has thought about these things at length, responded, "The terrain in the valley was a natural funnel for Lee to take the ground ahead of him and move into the North." I looked at the terrain, thought of the geography, remembered my very slight skimming of Landscape Turned Red and said, "Didn't Lee really want to get across Maryland into Pennsylvania to gain access to the industrial capacity of the North and possibly show the European allies that the Confederacy was for real?" Right or wrong, what struck me was that I saw "terrain" across a broader distance like you'd see from the air and my Army counterpart's view was shaped by infantry experience of being on foot. It was the sharing of two diverse viewpoints that created a broader view of what Lee was trying to accomplish.
Similarly, Ricks's most successful examples in The Generals used contributions of diverse thinking airmen to strengthen the fight. General George Marshall's embrace of the yet-unproven Army Air Corps and faith in its leader, General Henry "Hap" Arnold, to strengthen the independent Army Air Forces early in World War II is proof alone of the need for a broader viewpoint towards warfighting. Marshall's trust in Hap Arnold to grow the AAF to a robust, independent fighting organization, sometimes at the expense of ground force priorities, was critical to military success. Just as highlighted by Ricks, it is Marshall's superior leadership that many look to for a superior example of how a strategic leader should lead. Marshall's leadership skill is solidified by the fact that all his ground Army subordinates in both theaters embraced the contributions of airpower.
In Europe, Eisenhower clearly understood the use of airpower to change the situation on the ground. Eisenhower had significant trust in RAF Air Marshall Arthur Tedder and AAF commander in Europe General Carl Spaatz. Tedder was Eisenhower's second in command for the invasion of Normandy. Spaatz was "Eisenhower's Airman" as he commanded United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe. Eisenhower understood the integration of ground and air forces so well that when it came to establishing his headquarters in England, he co-located his with Spaatz. Eisenhower rated Spaatz and General Omar Bradley as the two leaders who did the most to defeat the Germans, specifically describing Spaatz as an "Experienced and able air leader: loyal and cooperative; modest and selfless; always reliable." A final testimony of this trust is in what Eisenhower wrote to Spaatz in 1948: "No man can justly claim a greater share than you in the attainment of victory in Europe." General Omar Bradley, when asked by Eisenhower to rank top generals in prioritized order based on their contribution to the defeat of Germany, listed Spaatz as number two and General Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada as number four. Two in the top five were airmen. (Bedell-Smith was one, Courtney Hodges was another, and Patton didn't make the top five.)
In the Pacific, General Douglas McArthur's relationship with General George Kenney is one of the more interesting stories of how an innovative air leader changed the way we fought on the ground during World War II. Kenney's ability to integrate both air and ground fighting to hop through the southwest Pacific is what MacArthur's success was built on. From innovative new bombing techniques to airdrop methods using bombers and cargo aircraft to cutting trucks in half to move them into the fight, at every turn Kenney used his unique experience and perspective to strengthen the fight on the ground. MacArthur's own words about Kenney are the most descriptive of what he contributed: "Of all the commanders in the war, none surpassed him in those three great essentials of successful combat leadership: aggressive vision, mastery over air tactics and strategy, and the ability to exact the maximum in fighting qualities from both men and equipment." It is clear that Kenney had MacArthur's trust to use his unique viewpoint on how to fight to achieve military victory.
Numerous examples exist and all become clear in a recently released volume of biographies titled Air Commanders. This book's detailed descriptions of air commanders in conflicts ranging from World War II to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom highlight the role played by airmen and the contributions of airpower to these conflicts. The unique perspective provided by these air leaders to achieve military effects differently than what would have been achieved by fighting through a single-service lens is a critical lesson for future commanders. Each example is stronger or weaker based on the teamwork between the ground commander and the air commander. Our most successful military operations tend to have leaders that understood fighting in the air as strengthening the fight and not as threatening to the Army as they increasingly have since the early 1950s. A couple of the less lauded Army leaders in The Generals begin to exhibit fear of airpower during the Korean War. Maj. Gen. Ned Almond was opposed to the Air Force's concept for conducting air operations and Gen. Mark Clark advocated that tactical air forces should operate purely under the command of the ground commander. In both cases, airpower's flexibility was not embraced and may have limited airminded solutions for fighting in Korea. Just look to one of the heroes of The Generals for what a dose of airmindedness can achieve -- General O.P. Smith's first action during fighting at the Chosin Reservoir was to build a runway.
Services don't fight wars, the nation does. The nation fights wars by the application of the full capabilities of joint force to achieve a military outcome. Ground combat should not be the goal of military leaders when they develop plans, in fact it might be argued that we should fight in a way that makes forces on the ground engaging the enemy a last resort. By discussing generalship and its effectiveness purely in terms of the Army, it discounts the strength of the joint team and what our nation expects and deserves. Our nation invests heavily in building a trained joint force that integrates diverse warfighting perspectives across the spectrum of military operations. Using examples from one service viewpoint, without recognizing joint teamwork, is half the story and does not strengthen future leaders with examples of leadership that truly strengthens how we fight today. As we continue toward a smaller, more capable, more adaptable military for the United States, leadership examples with unique perspectives, teamwork, and, most importantly, trust are increasingly important and should be emphasized.
Lt. Col. Tom Cooper is deployed from Headquarters Air Force to the Office of Security Cooperation -- Iraq, where he works to build more than just one strong Air Force.
Myles Cullen, U.S. Department of Defense
I've long wanted to know more about what the Iraq war looked like from the side of the insurgents. I actually had hoped one day to write a book about this in collaboration with Anthony Shadid, but he was killed about 13 months ago while trying to cover the fighting in Syria.
But I got a bit of insight, unexpectedly, when reading Ernie O' Malley's On Another Man's Wound: A Personal History of Ireland's War of Independence, which was recommended recently by one of this blog's guest columnists. (I didn't know when I learned that the book and his other memoir were the basis for the great film The Wind That Shakes the Barley.)
Here is O'Malley's net assessment of the war. It sounds kind of familiar, no?
The enemy could have regular meals, a standard of comfort, the advantage of numbers and training, more than ample supplies of ammunition, and well-cared-for and efficient weapons, but they were...operating in a hostile countryside when they left the shelter of their barracks....The British could defeat some of our columns and round-up our men, but they could not maintain civil administration when they had lost the support of the people.
Tom again: O'Malley found that the British army, though full of veterans of World War I, was slow to adjust to the situation in the Irish fighting, where the rebels could move among the people. "Few [British] might be elastic enough for guerrilla fighting," he concluded. He detected in the British soldiers "a glum, swarthy melancholy."
As a captive, he concluded that, "Soldiers make bad gaolers," or jailers. He eventually escaped. The British never even figured out his true identity, even though they beat him and threatened to torture him with a red-hot poker, holding it close enough to his face to burn his eyebrows and singe his eyeballs. Calling Abu Ghraib!
What did victory look like? One day early in 1921, the fact that the fence-sitters were coming over to the side of the rebels made O'Malley realize he was winning: "We were becoming almost popular. Respectable people were beginning to crawl into us; neutrals and those who thought they had best come over were changing from indifference or hostility to a painful acceptance."
One important difference, though I don't know quite what to make of it: The British soldiers and their Irish foes were much closer culturally than were the Americans and Iraqi insurgents. They could even speak to each other, which meant that O'Malley could sort of apologize to some British officers held prisoner before executing them. O'Malley's brother had even been in the British army.
I recently picked up the memoirs of General Curtis LeMay, partly out of guilt that I don't know more about the history of the Air Force. My problem is, I still don't.
The book is mainly pablum. I gave up about halfway through and skimmed the rest, something I rarely do.
I did learn a few things:
--Alamogordo, New Mexico, seems to be the only Air Force base so lonely that even the chaplain once deserted.
--LeMay had a contempt for professional military education typical of the fast-rising officers of World War II. "It was utterly absurd, sending a lot of people to the War College after the war, when they'd already been through the mill." I wonder if the seeds of the Vietnam War are contained in that view -- that if you fought in the big one, there was nothing more to learn?
--I didn't know that he actually wrote that the solution to the Vietnam War was to threaten "to bomb them back into the Stone Age." He did.
--He did seem to use mission command, and see it as particularly American. "My notion has been that you can explain why, and then you don't need to give any order at all. All you have to do is get your big feet out of the way, and things will really happen. Forever I took the same course. Get the team together. ‘There's the goal, people. Go ahead.'"
That said, much of the rest of it is the type of claptrap that H.L. Mencken made a living destroying. I had expected that having Mackinlay Kantor, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Andersonville, as co-author of the memoir was a recommendation. I didn't realize that Kantor was a hack.
So I would rate this memoir as even worse than Douglas MacArthur's, which at least gave the reader a strong sense of that general's querulous grandiosity. And also worse than Tommy Franks' book, which had some memorable passages that inadvertently revealed that man's ignorance of his profession. (Plus, you can buy it used for one penny.)
Fastabend : I want to challenge us at the table. I want to give an example of some of the things we lapse into. Half of us have said that the problem of the past decade has been counterinsurgency and that we've done it and now we are all wrapped up about whether we are going to do it again or not. I'm not sure we've done it.
You could equally assert that what we have done is brokered two civil wars. And what's really striking to me about the difference between the two experiences of the last decade and El Salvador: In El Salvador, there wasn't that -- there were many moments that I had in many nights in Iraq wondering about, "I wonder if we are fighting for the right guys here." I think in retrospect we were brokering a civil war, and that's how we calmed it down, by giving the Sunnis a chance to get it to a stalemate.
I think that civil war is still ongoing. I don't think Iraq was a success unless we have an incredibly low standard for success. I can't believe after over 6,000 dead and over 50,000 wounded -- not counting what's happened to the Iraqis -- we leave behind a government that can't stop overflights of arms to Syria from Iran. That counts for success? Really?
Alford: Would it be better to still have Saddam there?
Fastabend: That's a ridiculous statement, if you don't mind me saying. Of course not. It would be better to have enough presence and influence in that area to have justified that sacrifice having made it. Or having had a better decision process about whether we are going to make that sacrifice or not. We'd be a lot better off in the coming months in our face-off with Iran if we had two, three brigades around the five strategic air bases in Iraq. It would definitely influence their decision-making.
Alford: So that should influence our decision in two years in Afghanistan.
Fastabend: Yeah, it should.
Ricks: So you think the way that the Obama administration resolved Iraq has fundamentally weakened our position vis-à-vis Iran?
Fastabend: [Response off the record.]
Flournoy: Can I just say for the record, a little bit of a point of fact. I think there was serious discussion of a willingness of having a residual force. What changed the whole dynamic was when [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki made the judgment that he could not bring the guarantee of immunity for U.S. forces through the COR [Council of Representatives] without risking a confidence vote on his government, and therefore he wasn't willing to do that. Then you're left with do you leave forces there with no immunities? That was a nonstarter. That's what ultimately drove us to zero. It wasn't necessarily a preferred option for the reasons you are describing.
Glasser: So thinking about this in the context of Afghanistan and the decisions that are yet to come, I have questions.
One, has anything changed that has made us take a more strategic approach or to ask the right questions now after so long of somehow not getting to the right set of questions over the next two years? Because that certainly -- this is a very reasoned discussion, but I think pulling back you get a sense that there's just a rush to the exits and that that's what we are doing. In part because the politics and the public opinion in the U.S. have already gotten us out the door, does that have an increased risk from a military point of view?
Second one: This issue that Shawn raised of what is our post-Vietnam legacy? What is the version of that for post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan legacy? There were obviously crucial decisions that were made in the 1970s after Vietnam about what the U.S. military force was going to be, how it was going to be reorganized. Have we learned the lessons from that? We know we are going into a period of transition. Are the right things happening? Are the right preparations happening? Is there a process to understand what this moment of transition can mean over the long term?
Chandrasekaran: Can I tack another question onto that? Which is, what do we see as an acceptable end state in Afghanistan given the parameters that are on the table?
Fastabend: I like Tom's light footprint, having a few bases there from which you go out and hunt every night.
Mudd: Just the ability to eliminate the target we went into. [CROSS TALK, INAUDIBLE.] The only way Kabul makes a difference is it affects our capability to protect ourselves. That's it.
Ricks: David Kilcullen, who couldn't be here today, maintained you can't do that because you need the larger presence to acquire the intelligence that gives you the targets.
Mudd: I don't think that's true . . .
Dubik: Well, you need the intelligence; whether it needs the larger U.S. presence to get that intelligence is a separate issue. You can get the intelligence from Afghans...
Mudd: We can get it in Pakistan.
Dubik: If the relationship is correct and there is enough stability and trust that the Afghans will give it to you. So I think that there's, for me anyway, a very difficult set of questions to ask yourself.
First, what's necessary to protect our interests? Apropos of why we went in there to begin with.
Second, what do I have to do in the country to be in the position to make attacking al Qaeda a real capability? For me anyway, when I ask myself that question, that gets to some degree of stability in the country, some degree of relationship with the military and the population, and some propping up of the military in terms of enablers to allow them to do what they can do and, I think, want to do.
Crist: To me a larger issue of defining success in Afghanistan is something that doesn't destabilize Pakistan. I'm far more worried about the impact of a drawdown from Afghanistan is going to have on Pakistan than I am . . . [inaudible].
Flournoy: I wanted to respond to, "Is this all just a rush to the exits?" I think you'd see a very different set of decisions if it were just a rush to the exits. I think Dale actually described it well when he said that we are at a critical juncture in the whole campaign, which is when you really do put the Afghan forces you've built -- helped to build -- in front. And you still have a hand on the back seat, but you want to do that before you draw down substantially. You want to put them up front while you are there to be able to help and advise and adjust. It's that milestone that's being -- the judgment is that they are ready for the most part.
Let's have a year, year-plus, to make sure that this is going to work and make adjustments as necessary and then get to the much more circumscribed mission, which is about securing our counterterrorism objectives long term vis-à-vis al Qaeda in the region and making sure that the Afghan forces can at minimum prevent the overthrow of the central government and a return to some kind of safe-haven situation. That's the critical thing -- that does not take a huge long-term U.S. force. It requires some, and I would agree with your point on at least in the near time some of those neighbors ought to be pretty [INAUDIBLE OVER COUGHING]. So it can't just be advisors. If it were really like wanting to wash our hands of this, you would see a very different profile than what just came out of the White House and the meeting with Karzai.
Chandrasekaran: It's hard to reconcile the kind of wash-your-hands view with what has been telegraphed -- you know, deputy national security advisor talking about a potential zero option even though that was likely just a negotiating tactic -- the very real possibility that it could be a presence anywhere between 2,500 and maybe 6,000. That's certainly sufficient to continue the necessary CT [counterterrorism] missions.
But we've built an army there that is going to require an enormous follow-on assistance presence as well as financial support, a part of this that really hasn't gotten, I think, nearly enough attention. If the bill for the sustainment of the Afghan security forces is somewhere around $4 billion in 2015 and if we only have 3,000 forces there, we can say all we want to about trying to diverge the troop footprint from the congressional appropriation, but our history shows us that those two things are inextricably linked and that the fewer troops you have there the less chances you have of getting the necessary money to support them. And we all know why the communist-backed regime fell was when Moscow stopped funding Kabul. And so I think we are not paying nearly enough attention to the money question.
But we still, I think, are not asking ourselves -- our government is not asking -- whether this grand plan of building such a large ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] with such complex logistical requirements, with such complex need for enablers, which will likely have to be internationally provided for some years, is at all feasible there, and in the time remaining between now and the end of 2014 should the security force assistance mission be more than just pushing the Afghans into the lead but also one last-ditch attempt to triage this to get to a smaller, more manageable force that has a better chance of holding its own.
Ricks: This actually goes back to the whole issue of, "OK, it might have been a better original decision to go with local forces. Then, what sort of local forces?" I actually think in Vietnam our fundamental error was in '62, '63 not emphasizing local forces and keeping our eye on that ball and just "no, we are not putting our national forces in." It might not even need to look like your forces. It might be better to have an indigenous force that looks like an indigenous force. But Jim Dubik is an expert on this having done this. Jim?
Dubik: I think there's still some learning to be done on both our part and the Afghan part on exactly what the ANA [Afghan National Army] is. And I'll just focus on ANA and not the greater. We certainly, I think anyway, made exactly the right decision in 2009 to expand the Afghan army and at the same time to disintegrate the development effort, to take the combat forces and to accelerate them as fast as we could and to allow the enablers to grow at what is going to be a really slow pace. I think that was the right decision, and I think it got us to a better point than we are now. The enablers, though for me, is really going to be a very -- it's not a settled question, let's put it that way. For me, anyway, in the near term, the set of enablers they need are pretty well known and have to be externally provided.
But we've never really asked the Afghans in a way that is meaningful. To say, "OK, how do you really want your army to be organized?" We have asked them, so I don't mean to say we haven't. But we've asked them in our presence, and that's like asking your younger brother, "You want to go to a movie with me?" or "Oh, yeah, I'm going with you." When you're not there, the answers might be different. The set of enablers that we assume now -- and I've written about them and drank some of that Kool-Aid myself -- but the enablers that we ask now may not be, after the question is settled in, say, 2015, which I think is probably the right time frame, the enablers that they really need or want. And the current organization of regional commands probably will stay, but in our absence the arrangement and relationship of those regional forces and how they're -- that I still think there's some learning to occur in 2013 and 2014 when our presence is diminishing and their sovereignty and judgment increases.
We saw a good bit of that in Iraq in 2009, '10, '11 when they started making more independent decisions about their own force. Now I know the two cases are significantly different, but there are certain commonalities.
Chandrasekaran: On paper what was done starting in 2009, I think, made sense. There was a lot to be said for it. But it just didn't fundamentally take into account the political realities that we face here. It made assumptions about the willingness of the U.S. government to continue sustainment, and it assumed that there would be a robust U.S. security force mission. I don't think 2014 was on the table in '09, but it made assumptions about robust U.S. support -- physical support -- for many years.
Dubik: No argument. But those assumptions, as questionable as those were, were better than the assumptions of 2001 through '9, when we were going to grow the army at such a slow rate that we would be there for 150 years before we were done with it. Because we were growing it at the rate of its slowest -- we integrated the force, so we weren't going to put a force out until all elements were ready.
Ricks: I remember reading somewhere that we couldn't start training the Afghan soldiers until they were literate. 99 percent of soldiers in world history have been illiterate. Why can't we have a few illiterate soldiers here?
Blake Hounshell: Are the Taliban literate?
Alford: Don't you think they'll evolve back after we leave in '14? There'll be an evolution back to their history and natural tendency?
Dubik: There'll be a shift. I don't know if it's evolution back or forward. And that's what I mean by learning. We are going to learn what actually works and what's actually sustainable.
Glasser: I'm raising that point actually only to get us to this question of clearly there is a broad consensus around this table that the civilian-military dysfunction was a key part of what got us to where we are. All I was trying to do was to suggest how can we isolate what are sets of decisions or strategic choices that do fall more on the military side of the ledger.
For example, Shawn started us off with his question about rotation. Why wasn't there ever a decision? I don't know and I may be wrong with this, but my guess is that is not so much coming from the civilian leadership as this is how our Army works, this is how our system works. So, yeah, we have to have a new commander in Afghanistan every year.
Dubik: I have a different opinion. It certainly is a major component of the military decision. But if you make the assumption that the war is going to last X amount of time and [so] you don't need to grow the size of the ground forces, then you're kind of left with a de facto rotation decision. Or you're not going to allow policy-wise to go there and stay because that's not an acceptable policy.
The nexus of those kinds of decisions is by its nature civil-military. And in fact in my other comment about autonomy, that's why we have the wrong model. These are shared decisions, and they have to be shared decisions. The commitment of resources in a military campaign is not merely a military decision. This is, and necessarily will be, an important civilian component of the decision. The rotation stuff -- in Iraq for example -- if we are going to leave by 2004, then you don't have to grow the size of the army, and, well, we're not really 2004. Maybe it'll be 2006: "OK, we'll just rotate our way through this."
(One last installment to come, about Iran, of course.)
USACE Photo by Matthew Rowe
I didn't realize that the U.S. government held that the Civil War didn't end in Texas until sometime in 1866. In a document issued in April of that year, President Andrew Johnson omitted Texas from a list of pacified states, but he included it in a proclamation issued that August.
It is mentioned in the diary of John Colville, one of Churchill's aides during the war. Churchill was so mad he said he would make sure Rome was bombed.
Colville is a snob and a prig, but his diary contains many illuminating passages about Churchill, and also some inadvertently good insights into the British mentality during the war. Among other things, they have no idea of how much ground they have lost technologically, which slammed their economy in the following decades.
Another interesting moment came in February 1944, when Churchill mistakenly had the songwriter Irving Berlin to dinner, believing he had invited the philosopher and diplomat Isaiah Berlin. He kept pestering poor Irving with questions about his thinking about when the war might end. The great songwriter, no slouch himself, correctly predicted that FDR would run for a fourth term and win.
Also, on New Year's Day 1953, Churchill predicted that communism in Eastern Europe would end before the century did. Well played, sir.
Ricks: Michèle, you looked like you were about to say something.
Flournoy: I think that this discussion is about the alignment of objectives. Are they consistently aligned with our interests? And is the level of cost bearable and appropriate, given the nature of our interests?
I saw that sort of insight applied to subsequent cases. I think the experience of Iraq -- the inherited operations of both Iraq and Afghanistan -- caused us to have a very fundamental strategic discussion about Libya, for example, and why we weren't going to put boots on the ground, invade the country, own it, et cetera. People have said, you know-- it's the caricature of leading from behind, and that this is some terrible mistake for the U.S.
What it was, was really circumscribing our involvement to match what were very limited interests, to say we are going to play a leadership role that enables others who have more vital interests to come in and be effective. But we are not going to be out in front; we are not going to own this problem; we are not going to rebuild Libya.
I think that the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan -- working through how do you get operations back onto a track where your interests and your actions are aligned -- also informed things like Libya, like Syria, and so forth. You can argue whether or not that we made the calculation right, whether we got it right or not. But I'm just saying that the conversation -- the fundamentals conversation -- did happen in subsequent cases because of, I think, the experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ricks: Would you say that President Obama -- to put you on spot -- is good at having that sort of conversation?
Flournoy: In my experience he is. If the staff doesn't -- if the process doesn't serve it up to him -- he's usually pretty good at saying you're not asking the right question, the right question is "x."
Brimley: I mean just as a two-finger on that. That was my first month at the White House when that happened. And it was an amazing process to watch almost from start to finish as a case study in how a president considers the use of force.
Ricks: You're talking about Libya?
Brimley: Yes. When you read the history it seemed to me that with the decision to invade Iraq, there might not have been a formal National Security Council meeting where the benefits were voiced in open session in a proper process. But [on Libya] the president held at least three or four full National Security Council meetings and dozens of deputies and principals meetings to weigh that issue.
Ricks: And was the question why front and center?
Brimley: Yes, very much so.
Point No. 2: When you look at the mechanics of what we did in Libya, we provided a set of capabilities that were unique. We had unique comparative advantage: air- to-air refueling, ISR architecture, command-and-control architecture.
Alford: Geography mattered on that too.
Brimley: Geography, yes absolutely. The fact that we had a presence in the Mediterranean already was very helpful.
Alford: And you have an ocean.
Brimley: Right. We provided this set of unique capabilities that were enabling for other partners, to include partners from the Gulf to act in ways that they hadn't before. Every situation is different.
But I think that process, at least for someone like me relatively young, as a case study in how we think about how we think about use-of-force decision-making and the way we provide unique capabilities in the future is hugely informative.
The second thing I'd say on Libyais that as a young person, my limited experience dealing with these issues has been informed almost entirely by Iraq and Afghanistan. So when we were debating Libya, people in my generation were very sort of hesitant to really almost do anything. Almost a hard-core realist approach of "it's not really core to our national interests; we shouldn't get involved." But the people, I think, who had came of age in the Clinton administration who dealt with limited uses of force -- no-fly zones -- were much more willing to entertain creative solutions. So people in my generation, I think, going forward will tend to be an all-in or all-out.
Ricks: There's an article to be done there on the generational qualities in foreign policymakers.
Brimley: I think the people within the Clinton administration having dealt with a couple of these use-of-force decisions in the ‘90s were much more creative in how they thought about ways in which we could use force but not go all in.
Alford: A great example, real quick. I was a second lieutenant in Panama when we took out Noriega. And by December 26th the Panamanian people were on our side, but that could have easily been a counterinsurgency fight, but the Panamanian people were very Americanized. We invaded that country, took out its leader, and rebuilt it. And it happened like that because the Panamanian people said yes. By February I was home, drinking beer.
(More to come about, especially about the relationship between golf and force structure)
Gen. George C. Marshall was usually very close-mouthed about the tensions he felt with our British allies during World War II. But in a 1947 letter to McGeorge Bundy, who was helping write the memoirs of former Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Marshall was pretty candid:
... there was quite evident to me the feeling that of the British leaders that our ground army was not going to be effective, at least in time to play a decisive part in the fighting. As you know, Mr. Churchill had grave doubts about the comparative fighting ability of the American divisions as compared to the German divisions, though we should never say this publicly.... There was also the feeling that we would have no commanders comparable to the British Field Marshal..."
(P. 236, The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, Vol. 6: ‘The Whole World Hangs in the Balance.' Edited by Larry Bland, Mark Stoler, Sharon Stevens and Daniel Holt. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. Buy it now! )
Ricks: Rajiv, you have been unnaturally patient. [Gestures dramatically with open right hand] This is a man who, in Baghdad, was famous for shouting at people, "Right now, right now, right now!" He was a great bureau chief.
Chandrasekaran: I'm just taking all this in. It's fascinating. I find myself agreeing with an awful lot of what's being said around the table.
Just sort of building on a lot of this, I feel like the military does a great job of looking at troop-to-task calculations. We don't we do that on the diplomatic side of things? There was this assumption building on, all right, September 12: Was the Taliban really our enemy? We then -- fast-forward a couple months -- think that we can have a reasonably strong central government, civilian government, in a country with zero institutions, with no human capacity. There just, from the very beginning, weren't the necessary questions asked about what this would take, not from a military point of view, but from a whole-of-government point of view.
All these assumptions get baked in that wind up being completely contradictory and counterproductive to any efforts to build a stable government, and at no point do we step up and say, "Wait. This doesn't make sense." Part of it's a bandwidth issue. Part of it is, I think, civilian sides of our government aren't doing the necessary sorts of calculations about: Is this in our best interests? Is this doable? What would it take to do it? And then, even further, getting right back to the beginning, the question of space; one associated issue with this -- and I don't mean to blame the victim here -- we don't do a good enough job of saying no to the partners we're trying to help. Not just internationally, but the Afghans themselves. You know, when the Afghans say, "We want to centralize power in Kabul because, you know, Ashraf Ghani says it's going to help fight corruption," we don't push back meaningfully and say, "Yes, but it's completely unrealistic given the capacity of your government." When [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai says, "We want you ISAF forces to go push into these districts because we've got bad guys there," we don't do a good enough job of saying, "Wait a second; it doesn't make sense to do that."
Ricks: General Jabouri, listening to this, as someone who has dealt with the Americans, what do you think of Rajiv's analysis? Are the Americans able to say no? Do they make intelligent decisions, from your perspective as an Iraqi general and a mayor of a city?
Jabouri: I think the Americans, in the beginning, always take the ally from who said, "OK, do everything they want." And they're strong. Like Chalabi, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, someone, they always say to them, "OK, I'm from this hand to this hand [extends hands, palms up]." But after that discover they chose the wrong man. The ally is not the man who says it is always OK to do things.
Ricks: So again, a lack of sufficient thought, of understanding, going into the situation.
Jabouri: I think also they depended totally on the people outside Iraq, not from inside Iraq. The do not make a balance between that, but now we see the result in Iraq, with what happened.
Ricks: Ms. Flournoy?
Flournoy: I think this point about really being thoughtful about your political objectives and what's the goals and the strategy to achieve them and not being all things to all people is really important. And I think it is something that we really struggle with. When you ask why, I do think it does also speak to the imbalance in our own investment as a government. I mean, we have this tremendously -- well, at least historically -- well-resourced military, well trained, well cultivated. Obviously when you put thousands of Americans in harm's way, a lot of attention is going to rightfully be focused in that direction to make sure we know what we're doing and are managing that well.
But again, if you think what drives the success or failure of these operations, it is your political objectives and your political strategy and how well you frame those question. I would argue we don't grow on the civilian side grand strategists, we don't grow political strategists. You occasionally find them, and I can list a few I admire and respect. But I remember one of the most difficult moments of the Iraqi government formation, sitting in the embassy in Baghdad saying, "Well, what're we going to do? What's our strategy to help them cohere?" Not that the U.S. was going to dictate the outcome, but how are we going to help get over this hump and move forward? Having the senior political officer at the time tell me, "Well, that's not my job. My job, as the political officer, is to observe and report." And I said, "I'm sorry. We invaded a country. We are occupying this country. Your job is thinking about the political strategy that's going to help put it back together again on sustainable terms." But that's not what we train people to do; it's not what we resource them to do. And I do think it's connected to this fundamental imbalance of resources and that we didn't put enough time, attention, thought, focus, resources into the whole civilian side of what we were doing.
Dubik: In conflicts that are essentially not winnable, militarily. The military operations are necessary, but they're not sufficient. They're not even decisive.
Ricks: Emile Simpson makes this very good point in his new book, War From the Ground Up, as a young British officer who fought in Afghanistan that you've got to turn Clausewitz on his head and look as this as violent politics, not as warfare that leads to a political outcome. A lot of it is political operations coming out of the barrel of a gun.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.