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.
By Col. Ted Spain, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist
1. Secretary Rumsfeld's deployment plans did not include an adequate number of military police to control the routes during the ground war, nor sufficient military police to help control the streets after the ground war. This contributed to the Jessica Lynch fiasco and the chaos on the streets of Baghdad.
2. Law and order was not given sufficient attention in the pre-war planning. This failed to provide a police system to provide security to the Iraqi citizenry and to instill a sense of trust in the U.S. Army.
3. The categories of the thousands of detainees were never clear, causing confusion as to the proper legal treatment. Were they enemy, terrorist, or criminal? What's the difference?
4. The process of collecting intelligence from detainees was flawed from the pre-war planning sessions, during the ground war, and during the subsequent occupation. This set the stage for abuse, including the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal.
5. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the warden of Abu Ghraib Prison, was the wrong leader at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her appointment resulted in scandal and loss of trust in American forces by Iraqi citizenry.
6. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of all military forces in Iraq during the occupation, was in over his head and continued fighting the ground war long after it was over.
7. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under the leadership of L. Paul Bremer, dismantled the Iraqi Army and the highest level of the Ba'ath Party. We lost some of the most experienced personnel that were so vital in putting Iraq back together again.
8. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik was more focused on padding his résumé and getting camera time than helping stand up a viable Iraqi Police Services.
9. Because standing up an Iraqi Police Service was focused on quantity, not quality, we never completely knew who we could trust.
10. President Bush's coalition of the willing was only a coalition in name. Even those that were willing were not able. Only a couple of countries contributed to gaining stability in Iraq.
Colonel Ted Spain commanded the U.S. Army's 18th Military Police Brigade during the ground war and first year of the occupation of Iraq. He was responsible for thousands of military police and Iraqi Police across Baghdad and Southern Iraq. He is the co-author, along with Terry Turchie, a former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, of Breaking Iraq: The Ten Mistakes That Broke Iraq, which is being published this week.
This is pretty impressive to have written not long after the beginning of World War I:
And if we win,
And crush the Huns
In twenty years
We must fight their sons.
By Thomas Donnelly
Best Defense office of historical force structure analysis, French and Indian War to World War II division
Beyond the official story, that Army chart tells you a couple of things:
1. Army was never as big as planned.
2. It got heavier -- more tanks and more artillery.
3. It got heavier in different ways than planned -- fewer tanks, a lot more artillery.
4. Didn't buy as many aircraft as planned.
5. Needed many more higher-echelon support troops than planned.
1. Were the differences a result of policy, manpower constraints, industrial constraints, tactical learning?
2. For a war that's supposed to be about the rise of tactical aviation and close air support, the increase in artillery and failure to meet aircraft goals is interesting.
3. Higher-echelon support troops: Like other wars, this was fought in coalition and at great strategic distances from the United States and at great operational distances within the theaters. Is "tail" actually "tooth?"
Flournoy: Two things, and especially because I think in Iraq, because the fundamental premise for the war was shown to be false, that should have triggered exactly the kind of discussion that: "Uh-oh, here we are. We've discovered there are no WMD, so what are we trying to do here, and what is our strategy and what are the risks and what are the tradeoffs and how much in resources are we willing to put in?" And then, the perverse effect is that it also affected Afghanistan because once the focus was on Iraq, Afghanistan really did become an economy-of-force effort for the first many years, which also takes the oxygen out of the fundamental strategic discussion.
Fastabend: I discovered this dilemma in Iraq. I wasn't in charge of strategy; I was in charge of operations. From the strategy guys, I would get the strategic conditions I was supposed to achieve: "Secure the borders of Iraq; end the violence. Our job is done. Make it happen." And no choices had been made, no options, nothing really was useful with respect to strategy.
Ricks: Shawn and Michèle, you both effectively held strategic positions. In fact, Shawn had the title, director of strategy for the American Empire.
Glasser: That's a capital "E"?
Ricks: Again and again we're coming back to original sin, fruit of the poisoned tree, and strategic confusion at the outset, where the system did not work, where the differences were not examined, and where assumptions were not examined either.
Brimley: Right, so I think we have a profound inability to make hard, clear strategic choices, but then I think that forces us to react, right? It forces us into a reactive posture. And for years I've heard the phrase, "Oh, Shawn, you know the enemy has a vote. The enemy has a vote." But we have a veto, right? And as we think about the years ahead, as we think about a constrained fiscal environment, we're going to have to make hard choices. And the enemy is going to try to lure us to do things that are not in our comparative advantage, so we're going to have to face up to the notion that we can veto that. We have a choice, and that's in how we prosecute these things. Those choices carry inherent levels of risk, but we should embrace that, not run from it.
Ricks: Michèle, why doesn't the system make hard choices?
Flournoy: Well, I can speak to what I experienced in the Obama administration. A lot of what we're talking about here happened in a much earlier period. I'm just guessing, I'm speculating, that part of why this initial fundamental strategic rethink didn't happen in Iraq is that, in the middle of [the war], you've gone in and you've broken the china, and now you have to say, "Whoops. The fundamental premise was wrong. Now what are we going to do?"
That's a very politically fraught thing for an administration to do when it's got tens of thousands of Americans in harm's way on the ground for a mission that was very controversial from the beginning. I think it would have been an extraordinary act of leadership for, whether it was the president or the national security advisor, you know, the team, to sort of say, "Hey, wait a minute. This is not what we thought it was. What are our interests? How do we clearly define a new set of objectives and make some choices about how we're going to prosecute this?"
Ricks: That explains Iraq, but does it explain Afghanistan?
Flournoy: In Afghanistan -- again, I wasn't there in the early days-- I think that we were very good at getting in, very poor at seeing the way out. And I think part of the reason why we migrated from the focus on al Qaeda to "What are we going to do about Afghanistan writ large?" is getting caught in the sense of: What is a sustainable outcome? If you take too narrow an approach, it's like taking your hand out of the water. Once you leave, you're right back in the exact same situation where you have a government that's providing safe haven and you're facing a threat again. And yet we never really resourced, fully resourced, a counterinsurgency strategy until very late in the game when Obama did the review. But that was like coming in the middle -- the symphony had been playing for a number of years. You're inheriting something and now trying to say, "Well, now, given the interests at stake, clearly define who is the enemy, who is not. What's the limited outcome we're going to try to achieve, and how do we go after that?" But it's a lot harder to do coming into the middle of an operation with a lot of history than it is to do it right from the beginning. And I think that we probably would have defined it differently had we had that opportunity to shape it from the beginning, but given where we were and what we inherited, I think, you know, we did the best we could.
Ricks: Jim, it seems to me that what this conversation is saying is that there's something profoundly wrong at the civil-military interface, and your initial question speaks to this.
Dubik: The sense that I'm getting is we spend too much time worried about control and autonomy and less time talking about shared responsibility in strategic and operational decisions. The civil-military discourse is defined by civilian control of the military -- absolutely essential to it -- but all relationships are more complex than one formula can ever describe. So, while control and autonomy are part of the relationship, the shared responsibility is a huge part that doesn't seem to get as much play in the professional military education or in the development processes that are used for producing civilian strategists and leaders.
Ricks: This is an unfair question, but let me ask it anyway. If you could rewind us to Sept. 11, 2001, how should civil-military discourse have been conducted at that point?
Dubik: Well it certainly should have been centered around the fundamental questions, not of how, but of why and what.
But I'd like to kind of challenge the discussion a little bit, in the sense that we didn't have these analyses. When I went back and reviewed your books [gestures at Ricks], Woodward's books, Michael Gordon's book, your book [gestures at Chandrasekaran], I see a very similar pattern with respect to Iraq for sure. There are at least eight or nine major strategic reviews that clearly identified that what we were doing was not working. Yet we didn't make really a big shift until 2007. My bet is you could go through and find papers about Afghanistan that say the same thing, that until you [gestures to Flournoy] did the review in 2009, that there were plenty of evidence that what we were doing wasn't working, but we had no shift. Back to your original question. The first question was more about how and not enough about why and what, and then we couldn't adapt. It wasn't just in Afghanistan that we were treating it as an economy of force -- we were -- but it was an economy of thought. There wasn't the attention.
Flournoy: Because there's no bandwidth.
Brimley: There's only so much bandwidth for policymakers, and what you see early in Afghanistan is all the planning power on the military and civilian side gets sucked into the Iraq problem. And it is sort of on autopilot: Things are going well; there's not a lot of thought that needs to be given to it.
Ricks: Bandwidth? When I go back and read the papers of George Marshall and other senior leaders in 1939, 1940, '41, they're dealing with much bigger problems, global issues, and they are making really hard choices, such as: Let the Philippines go, keep the sea lines of communication open to Australia--but win in Europe first. These are basic, fundamental things.
So I would argue with the bandwidth thing. What's clogging them up nowadays?
Crist: The initial question I raised was: Do commanders have to think? And I think it gets to what General Dubik said about getting focused on shooting the close-in target.
We don't think about the long-term ramifications of the actions and the strategy. In my view, the great failing of Tommy Franks, he never asked about that the assumptions were coming down about what this campaign would look like -- assumptions being facts in the campaign design. Those assumptions were never challenged. In many ways, as I describe in my book, there was no red team to look at, "OK, how is this going to impact Iran? Does it open opportunities for them, or does it have a deterrent effect?" And so I think that, having sat down with a number of top commanders and staff, that piece of it isn't done. It's almost discouraged because "that's the policymakers' realm, it's not ours."
Dubik: Well that's the civil-military issue. It's control and autonomy. So, at least on the military side, the bulk of the training is deductive training. You are given a mission, you are given an end state, you are tossed over the transom the strategy, and just. . . .
Ricks: When you're talking about shared responsibilities, it seems to me you're talking about trust. Trust is the essence of that shared responsibility -- the sense of a common future, that we trust each other, we'll be working on this. It seems to me you're saying there's a fundamental lack of trust in our civil-military system.
Mudd: Hold on. One interjection that relates to bandwidth is the difference between choices and questions. I think [back in 2001] we blew over the questions. You said it's not "how," which is what we did on Sept. 12; it's why and what. On Sept. 12, 2001, can you imagine asking the question: Is the Taliban really a threat? Today, 12 years later, I'd say, "Well clearly it's not a threat! In fact, they're going to be in the government!" But we blew through the question, which led to space, because you have to have space because the Taliban's a problem -- in retrospect, they weren't. So we made a choice, but we didn't know we had a choice.
I'll close by saying there's a bandwidth issue; part of this is the speed of decision-making in Washington. Can you imagine at the Washington Post, sitting back on Sept. 12 and saying, "Wait a minute; you sure the Taliban's a threat?" You would have been crushed. That, clearly, would have been a good question.
Ricks: I want to go to two things here. Dave Fastabend, you talk about the inability to make hard choices. How do we get the system to surface and make hard choices?
Fastabend: I think we need to relook at what we teach about strategy and train people about how these decisions are made. I think we should teach strategy much like the Harvard Business School teaches strategic decision-making in business, on a case-study basis. There's lots of good history out there where they could teach people what were, in essence, the choices people had in various situations. You [Ricks] very articulately described the ones Marshall had. Talk about what the options were, how they made the trades and came to it. But don't take people through these ridiculous exercises about define the ends you want and go see if someone can make a path to it.
(and more yet to come)
By Henry Farrell
Best Defense office of ethno-military affairs
You asked recently whether the "British Army ever formally recognized and honored the role that Irishmen (not Anglo-Irish aristos) historically played in its enlisted ranks?"
The answer is yes, at least for World War I. Neither the British nor the Irish government was particularly inclined to celebrate the role of Irish soldiers in the British Army until quite recently. World War I split the Irish Volunteers into a majority under the sway of John Redmond, who supported the British in World War I (and in many cases volunteered to join the British Army), and a minority who opposed the war and the threat of conscription (which was nominally led by my great-grandfather Eoin MacNeill). The latter started the Easter Rising and the War of Independence, and won, more or less (the Irish civil war was fought between two sub-factions of this faction; as Brendan Behan once remarked, the first item on the agenda of any IRA meeting was always The Split). The former nearly completely disappeared from historical memory -- nobody, except the Ulster Unionists, particularly wanted to remember the Irishmen who had fought on Britain's side. Sebastian Barry's extraordinary play, The Steward of Christendom, talks to this amnesia from the perspective of the "Castle Catholics" who had sided with the British administration. Frank McGuinness's earlier play, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, talks about it from a Unionist perspective.
This began to change in the 1990s, leading to an initiative to create a memorial to the Irish who died in World War I, which was folded into the more general peace initiative. The result was the building of a tower with financial support from both the British and Irish governments, commemorating the war dead from both parts of Ireland. The British and Irish army bands played together for the first time at its opening. The Wikipedia page on the memorial gives a good overview of the project and the politics behind it.
Navy Capt. Henry Hendrix has just written one of the best papers I've seen in the last several years by an active duty officer. In it, he challenges some of the central beliefs of his service. "After 100 years, the [aircraft] carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful life," he asserts.
Hendrix, the current director of naval history, says the current aircraft carrier is too expensive, inefficient, and of doubtful survivability. It is now in danger of becoming, like the battleship during the mid-20th century, "surprisingly irrelevant to the conflicts of the time."
"If the fleet were designed today," he observes, "it likely would look very different from the way it actually looks now -- and from what the United States is planning to buy."
He would like to see unmanned combat aerial vehicles, more than mere drones, capable of flying off both big carriers and the smaller "amphibious" carriers.
What would the equivalent of this paper be in the Army? Has it been written? Any smart colonels out there challenging sacred cows?
Crist: I agree on the notion of the tendency of the U.S. military. In Vietnam, they used to call it the "Little Brown Man Syndrome," which is: The Americans come in and show you how to really fight your war. But I think with Afghanistan the fundamental problem is a lack of a long-term strategy. What do we want Afghanistan to do? And I see we sort of evolved into it without a lot of thinking.
The initial force went in; we got enamored with the idea of SOF [special operations forces], light footprint, using the Northern Alliance -- in fact we probably should have had more conventional forces. We missed a lot of opportunities as these guys skirted across Pakistan, and we, frankly, allowed them to do it because the Afghans wouldn't go after them. If they wanted to sit up in the hills, the Northern Alliance was more than happy to let them sit in the mountains, and we didn't have that capability.
Then the problem is, as we slowly evolve with, frankly, not a lot of thought -- if you look at the force incrementally increasing, it's not a well-articulated strategy. Then it comes to the point where, well, we have the force, we need to start doing this ourselves, and we sort of fall back on our natural patterns and tendencies and things that are comfortable with an effective military that likes to solve problems. So I lay it on the long-term strategy that went in in 2001.
Jabouri: Let me say something from my experience: I think American forces focus just on the enemy, on al Qaeda, and they forget about the people.
I think if you want to win the war against al Qaeda, you should protect the people first. The American forces always, in the beginning, in Iraq, they put their eyes on al Qaeda, and they don't care about the people. I think the security forces can't create the security without the long-term forces. If you now go to Kurdistan in Iraq, if you see the images, Kurdistan has very good security, but they do not have many checkpoints or forces. The people have, and the government has the security forces to keep the security. They are the people in other parts of Iraq, the people not interested in the security forces of Iraq because they do not have to create the security.
Ricks: This seems to go to Phil Mudd's question of space versus targeting, but it seems to me also to Colonel Alford's comments because one of the answers to reconciling space and targeting is to have local forces occupy the space, not American forces that alienate locals.
Dubik: But a strategy, correctly or not, a strategy that emphasizes local forces, building local conditions, is de facto a long-term strategy. It gets right back to the question of -- we backed into both these wars.
Ricks: Not unlike in Vietnam, where we put in ground troops originally to protect the air bases.
Dubik: And it sucked us in. We just backed ourselves into the problem we faced, and had we thought that the solution was going to be a 10- or 15-year solution, we certainly would not have committed. We would have changed many of the decisions that we made, but we didn't adopt the indigenous force because we thought we could solve it and leave.
Fastabend: I think the reason we do that consistently is, as I hinted at in my question (I really liked your question; I'll explain to you why), is because we think strategy and we keep strategy, and our theory of strategy is the linkage of ends, ways, and means, which is how I got here, which is how I'll do my job tomorrow.
It is pablum; it is a way to avoid making a real choice, so no one in or out of the government ever said to themselves, "Let's decide what we're going to do. Are we going to target individuals regardless of space, or are we going to go in there and have space?" No, what we said is, "We need a stable government in Iraq, so therefore, you need a stable government in Iraq." Deductive logic tells you that you need to control everywhere in Iraq. And then you have to worry about the security forces; you've got to make sure they've got border patrols. And we never went back to the fundamental choice about what do we really need to do. We hide choices. We never talk about choices because choices are hard and choices mean making a decision. Choices mean taking responsibility for who makes the choice and which choice they take -- and that, in my view, is the biggest flaw we have institutionally in this country, is we've got very shallow theory and doctrine about what strategy really is.
Ricks: This is a great comment.
(Much more to come)
Remember how last month I was thinking aloud about how I should write an essay on future force structure with the title "More Salvadors, Fewer Vietnams"? Well, it turns out it already has been written, by Army Maj. Fernando Lujan. It was published last week.
Maj. Lujan, a career Special Forces officer who extensively studied the operations of American forces in Afghanistan, and also spent a lot of time hacking his way through the jungles of South America, called it "Light Footprints: The Future of American Military Intervention." And it is a fine article about military human capital. The essay, he said at a seminar I attended last week, "is about how to do more with less." Not only is the light footprint, indirect approach more effective than sending in brigades of conventional ground forces, it also is cheaper, he argues.
There are several characteristics of successful missions, he explains:
Special operations, he reminded us at the seminar, is "not just drone strikes and ninjas." Word up.
Ricks: What I hear from around this table is a remarkable, surprising consensus to me. I'm not hearing any tactical problems, any issues about training, about the quality of our forces.
Instead, again and again what I'm hearing is problems at the strategic level, especially problems of the strategic process. To sum up the questions, they are asking: Do our military and civilian leaders know what they are doing? And that goes to the process issues and to general strategic thinking. That's one bundle of questions. The second emphasis I'm hearing, and this also kind of surprised me, is, should we have, from the get-go, focused on indigenous forces rather than injecting large conventional forces? That is, in Iraq and Afghanistan, have we tried to do El Salvador, but wound up instead doing Vietnam in both, to a degree?
Mudd: Just one quick comment on that as a non-military person: It seems to me there's an interesting contrast here between target and space. That is: Do we hold space and do we help other people help us hold space, or do we simply focus on a target that's not very space-specific? And I think at some point fairly early on we transitioned there [from target to space], which is why I asked my initial question. A lot of the comments I hear are about the problem of holding space, and should we have had someone else do it for us? And I wonder why we ever got into that game.
Ricks: Into which game?
Mudd: Into the game of holding space as opposed to eliminating a target that doesn't really itself hold space.
Alford: It's our natural tendency as an army to do that. To answer another question, it's also our natural tendency as an army to build an army that looks like us, which is the exact opposite of what we should do. They're not used to our culture. One quick example, if I could: the Afghan border police. The border police, we tried to turn them into, essentially, like our border police and customs agents. Right across the border, the Pakistani Army uses frontier guardsmen. Why do they do that? They use their culture -- a man with a gun that fights in the mountains is a warrior. He's respected by his people. He's manly. All those things matter, and it draws men to that organization. We always talk about how our borders on [the Afghan] side are so porous; it's because we don't have a manly force that wants to go up into the mountains and kill bad guys, because we didn't use their culture.
Ricks: So we're already breaking new ground here. We're holding up the Pakistanis as a model!
Alford: On that piece. It's a cultural thing.
Dubik: I agree with the second comment. On the first point, in terms of why we held space, I think it's how we defined the problem. We defined the problem not as al Qaeda -- it was "al Qaeda and those who give them sanctuary." And so we couldn't conceive of a way to get at al Qaeda without taking the Taliban down, and because of the problem definition, we inherited a country.
Ricks: So what you're saying is actually that these two problems I laid out come together in the initial strategic decision framing of the problem.
Fastabend: I don't think there was such framing.
Ricks: The initial lack of framing...
Fastabend: Getting back to Ms. Cash, we didn't really decide what the questions were. We thought we knew the question. You know, we thought we had in each case [of Afghanistan and Iraq] governments to support that would hold space, and that was a secondary thing that came on us when we got there: that actually the sovereign government wasn't so sovereign.
Ricks: I just want to throw in the question that [British] Lt. Gen. Sir Graeme Lamb sent. He couldn't be here today. General Lamb said, "My question is, given the direction I had -‘remove the Taliban, mortally wound al Qaeda, and bring its leadership to account' -- who came up with the neat idea of rebuilding Afghanistan?"
Mudd: It's interesting. If you define threat as capability and intent to strike us, then I think there's confusion early on with the Taliban, because I would say they had neither the capability nor intent to strike us, but they provide safe haven. If you look at areas where we have entities that have those twin capabilities or those twin strengths -- Yemen and Somalia come to mind, maybe northern Mali -- we're able to eliminate threat without dealing with geography. So there are examples where you can say, "Well, we faced a fundamental -- I mean, not as big a problem as Afghanistan." But you look at how threat has changed in just the past two years, and I don't think anyone would say that the threat, in terms of capability and intent, of Shabab or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is anywhere near where it was a few years ago. That's because we focused on target, not geography.
Glasser: Just to go back to this question, was the original sin, if you will, focusing on U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, versus working from the beginning to create or shore up local forces? I want to probe into that a little bit. How much did people at the time understand that as a challenge? I remember being in Kabul for the graduation of the first U.S.-trained contingent of Afghan army forces, and they were Afghan army forces. These guys worked for warlords that had come together, Northern Alliance warlords who made up the fabric of the Defense Ministry. They had nothing to do with an Afghan force, and that's why we're still training them now.
Ricks: But Colonel Alford's point is that, those are the guys you want to work with, though. But don't work with them on your terms; work with them on their terms.
Glasser: But that's what we did. That's what we do. We worked with the warlords in Afghanistan. That's who our partners were in toppling the Taliban.
Alford: But we never turned it over to them, though. In '04, I was [in Afghanistan] as a battalion commander. We never would let them fight unless we always led the way. It's part of our culture, too, as soldiers and Marines. You send an infantry battalion into a fight, they're going to fight. It takes a lot to step back and let the Afghans do it, and do it their way. Provide them the medevacs and fire support -- that's the advisory role for those missions we're going to switch to this spring, and I'm all for it. We should have done this four years ago, but now we also need to see if this is going to work over the next almost two years. We need to be ruthless with young lieutenant colonels and colonels who want to get out there and fight, or generals who do, to support the Afghans and then see how they do against the Taliban. I'll tell you how they're gonna do: They're gonna whoop 'em. The Taliban does not have the capability to beat the Afghan army if we get out of their way.
Here is the first part of a transcript of a conversation held at the Washington offices of Foreign Policy magazine in January of this year. A shorter version, with full IDs of the participants, appears in the current issue of the magazine. This is the full deal, edited just slightly for clarity and ease of reading, mainly by deleting repetitions and a couple of digressions into jokes about the F-35 and such.
I had asked each participant to bring one big question about the conduct of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I began. We began with those.
Thomas E. Ricks: One of my favorite singers is Rosanne Cash, a country singer who is Johnny Cash's daughter, who has a great line in one of her songs: "I‘m not looking for the answers-- just to know the questions is good enough for me." And I think that is the beginning of strategic wisdom: Rather than start with trying to figure out the answers, start with a few good questions.
So what I'd like to start by doing is just go around the table with a brief statement -- "I'm so-and-so, and here's my question." So, to give you the example: I'm Tom Ricks, and my question is, "Are we letting the military get away with the belief that it basically did the best it could over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that civilians in the government screwed things up?"
Philip Mudd: I guess my question is: "Why do we keep talking about Afghanistan when we went in 12 years ago, we talked about a target, al Qaeda. How did that conversation separate?"
Maj. Gen. David Fastabend (U.S. Army, ret.): My name is David Fastabend, and my question is: "Do what we think, our theory and doctrine, about strategy -- is that right? Could we not do a lot better?"
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, got a lot of questions. I suppose one among them would be, "How did the execution of our civilian-military policies so badly divert on the ground at a time, at least over the past couple of years, when there was supposed to be a greater commonality of interests in Washington?"
Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, ret.): I'm Jim Dubik, and my question's related to Rajiv's and Tom's: "How do we conduct a civil-military discourse in a way that increases the probability of more effective strategic integration in decisions?"
Shawn Brimley: Shawn Brimley. I have a lot of questions, but one that keeps coming to mind, being halfway through Fred Kaplan's book, is: "How did we, collectively, screw up rotation policy so badly that we never provided our military leaders the chance to fully understand the reality on the ground before they had to rapidly transition to a new colonel, a new brigadier, a new four-star?"
Maj. Gen. Najim Abed al-Jabouri (Iraqi Air Force, ret.): My name is al-Jabouri. As an Iraqi, I have a different view of 2003. I was a general in the Iraqi Air Force, so I wanted to shoot down your airplanes. After 2003, I was a police chief and a mayor, so I wanted your help to build my country. In the last 10 years I have learned that America has a great military power. It can target and destroy almost anything.
However, I have also learned that it is very difficult for America to clean up a mess it makes. Leaving a mess in someone else's country can cause more problems than you had at the beginning. Military operations in Muslim countries are like working with glass. If you do it right, it can be beautiful and great, but if you break it, it is difficult to repair or replace. My question is: "Do American strategy planners understand the consequences of breaking the glass, and if so, do they know what it will take to repair or replace the broken glass?" Thank you.
Col. J.D. Alford, USMC: My name is Dale Alford. I too have many questions, I guess, but I'm going to stay a little bit in my lane and I'm going to talk about the military. My question would be: "Can a foreign army, particularly with a vastly different culture, be a successful counterinsurgent? And if not, why haven't we switched and put more focus on the Afghan security forces?"
David Crist: My name is David Crist, and a bunch of people had very similar lines of thought to what I was going to use, so I'll take a common complaint that James Mattis says all the time and frame that into a question: "Do our commanders have time to think? Think about the issues and the information -- in some ways they have to be their own action officer. Do they have time to sit back and think about the issues with the op tempo going on and just the information flow?"
Michèle Flournoy: I have two, and I can't decide which one.
Ricks: You get both.
Flournoy: I get a twofer? So the very broad, strategic question is: "How do we ensure that we have a political strategy that takes advantage of the security and space that a military effort in counterinsurgency can create? How do we ensure that the focus remains primarily there while we resource that aspect?" Kind of a Clausewitzian question.
Second is a much more narrow question, and we have the right people in the room to reflect on this, which is: "What have we learned about how to build indigenous security forces in a way that's effective and sustainable?" I mean, this is a classic case where we reinvent the wheel, we pretend like we've never done it before, we pretend like there aren't lessons learned and good ways -- and less effective ways -- to do this. So: "Can we capture what we know about how to build indigenous security forces?"
Susan B. Glasser: I have a question of my own that's particularly for the people with a military background in this room, which is: "In September 2001, if you had told us that in 2013 we are going to be in Afghanistan with 65,000 American troops and debating what we accomplished there and how quickly we can get out, how many more years and how many billions of dollars we'd have to pay to sustain this operation, my strong sense is that there would have been an overwhelming view in the U.S. military -- and among the U.S. people more broadly -- that that was an unacceptable outcome. So, if we can all agree that 13 years was not what we wanted when we went into Afghanistan, what did we miss along the way?"
(more to come...)
By "Pierre Tea"
Best Defense guest columnist
Two months from now, in May 2013, the debate on COIN, as applied to Iraq and Afghanistan, will become academic, historical, and ripe for serious post-application analysis beyond the walls of the Pentagon.
The COINs will have all been spent, the PRTs' tents folded, and whatever hearts and minds purchased, leased, or lost can be counted, weighed against our costs, and their results. To quote Omar Khayyam, "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on."
No credible analysis could avoid the obvious: that "something" had to be done about Saddam Hussein who ruthlessly threatened his neighbors (our allies) and his own populations, and about Osama bin Laden and his list of supporters, who directly attacked the United States. How did the "something" done work out?
As a first-hand civilian witness to the application and aftermath of "money as a weapon" surged by the billions into active and highly-fragmented war zones, I look forward to post-application debates on the key questions of COIN and PRTs: Did they help, hurt, or just fuel the multi-year conflicts to which they were continuously re-applied?
The U.S. dream of a peaceful and democratic Iraq and Afghanistan, however, has not been realized, and instability in adjacent Syria and Pakistan threatens to unravel anything enduring that we may have, through COIN, hoped to purchase from these two countries without any agreement with the Old Man in the Mountain (Iran), whose negative influence remains substantial, and undermines an accurate audit of what actual hearts and minds were purchased, for how long, and to what end.
My suspicion is that once all the COINs are spent, serious post-engagement analysis will end and the domestic shroud of myths needed to justify the honored dead and injured's contributions will drop in place, with little institutional learning, and even less than myths to show for it.
Leave it to Hollywood to mythologize the region, its history, and the heroism of individuals and incremental missions accomplished and we guarantee that history will repeat itself.
"Pierre Tea" probably has shaken more Afghan sand out of his shorts than you've walked on. This post doesn't necessarily reflect the official views of anyone but it sure does reflect the unofficial views of some.
That's what my friend Rosa Brooks assumes, writing that, "Even if humans are somewhat less nasty to one another than they used to be, the complexity of our world has increased exponentially, and our ability to inadvertently mess the world up has similarly increased." I know and like Rosa, but I think she's wrong here.
Yes, we can mess up the world pretty well. But I disagree with her other assertion. That is, I don't think life is infinitely more complex these days than it was in the 18th or 19th centuries. I think life changed faster then than now. Those times saw huge leaps in the capabilities and reach of the human race. Until the Industrial Revolution, it was hard to move people or goods much faster than six miles per hour, and that depended on the vagaries of sail. And almost all information moved at the same tortoise-like pace. Then came the railroad, the telegraph, and the precise measurement of time and goods. This all was accompanied by a massive shift of people from farms to factories, from countryside to cities. In response, the professional governments we know now in the West were created. (London didn't have a police force until the 19th century, for example.)
In my view, the Internet is just a faster, more colorful telegraph. And the sense of change was greater in the 19th century than it is now.
That said, I think historians will regard global warming as the most important trend of our time, and will wonder why we didn't focus on it more. So I think Rosa B. might be fundamentally correct that we are in the handbasket, which was her real point.
Here it is. Time to get going!:
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Crown, 2012. 529pp. (HB74 .P65A28 2012)
Acemoglu and Robinson, scholars from MIT and Harvard University, strive to solve the reason why some nations thrive and others fail. Supported by years of original research, the authors draw from historical examples spanning the globe to support their theory of political economy as the foundation of a nation's success.
Allison, William Thomas. My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. 170pp. (DS557.8 M9A44 2012)
"On March 16, 1968, American soldiers killed as many as five hundred Vietnamese men, women, and children in a village near the South China Sea. In My Lai, William Thomas Allison explores and evaluates the significance of this horrific event. How could such a thing have happened? Who (or what) should be held accountable? How do we remember this atrocity and try to apply its lessons, if any?" -- Publisher description.
Bacevich, Andrew J. Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 286pp. (UA23 .B334 2010)
Bacevich examines the Washington consensus on national security and why long held assumptions must change.
Barfield, Thomas J. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. 389pp. (DS357.5 .B37 2010)
Leading anthropologist Thomas Barfield traces the historic struggles of the region, weaving the complex threads of culture, politics, economics, and geography.
Bergen, Peter L. The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda. New York: Free Press, 2011. 473pp. (HV6432 .B47 2011)
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of the war with al Qaeda; from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. The Longest War provides the perspectives of both the United States and al Qaeda and its allies.
Betros, Lance. Carved from Granite: West Point Since 1902. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2012. 458pp. (U410 .L1B48 2012)
In Carved from Granite, author Lance Betros, provost of the U.S. Army War College, addresses a range of historical and contemporary issues concerning the United States Military Academy. An Academy graduate and later faculty member, Betros draws from his own experience, oral histories, and archival sources to devote chapters to West Point's history, governance, admissions, academics, military training, and leader development. This authoritative history examines the challenges faced by the Academy, and offers subjective and interpretive insight for its future.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2012. 208pp. (JZ1313 .B79 2012)
Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, draws from decades of experience to reflect on the changing distribution of global power and why America's global standing is waning. Forecasting some of the possible geopolitical consequences of America's decline, Brzezinski argues we must create a long-term strategic vision for the future.
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv. Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan. New York: Knopf, 2012. 368pp. (DS371.412 .C53 2012)
Chandrasekaran, Washington Post senior correspondent and associate editor, follows his 2006 award-winning book on Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, with this critical examination of the 2009 Afghanistan surge and the Obama administration.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. 904pp. (E312 .C54 2010)
In Washington: A Life, noted biographer Ron Chernow provides a detailed portrait of an iconic leader and the father of our nation, while exploring the history of America's founding. 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography.
Chun, Clayton K. S. Gothic Serpent: Black Hawk Down, Mogadishu 1993. New York: Osprey, 2012. 80pp. (DT407.42 C58 2012)
Containing detailed maps and declassified information, Gothic Serpent recounts Task Force Ranger's attempt to capture the lieutenants of a Somali warlord during the 1993 U.N. humanitarian relief mission and their ensuing fight for survival. U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, struck by rocket-propelled grenades crashed, stranding the crew in Mogadishu where they waged a brutal battle against hostile gunmen until their rescue by a combined U.N. and U.S. relief force. Winner of the 2012 Colonel John J. Madigan, III U.S. Army War College Staff and Faculty Published Writing Competition.
Collins, James C., and Morten T. Hansen. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck -- Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. 304pp. (HF5386 .C652 2011)
"Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins returns with another groundbreaking work, this time to ask: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and in-fused with engaging stories, Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times." -- Publisher description.
Crist, David. The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 638pp. (E183.8 .I55C75 2012)
Crist, a government historian and advisor to the United States Central Command, spent a decade researching the conflict between the United States and Iran. Drawing from the documents of several U.S. administrations and numerous interviews, The Twilight War offers new insight on this intricate history.
Donnelly, Thomas, and Frederick W. Kagan, eds. Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields. Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2010. 169pp. (UA23 .L47 2010)
Donnelly and Kagan lead a group of U.S. military officials and national security experts in analyzing the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far and mapping a way forward -- not only for the military, but also for diplomats, elected officials, and the American public. Though written in 2007 and 2008, these essays remain relevant to the current administration.
Friedman, Thomas L., and Michael Mandelbaum. That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 380pp. (JK275 .F75 2011)
Friedman and Mandelbaum analyze the four challenges that face the United States: globalization, revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and the pattern of excessive energy consumption. That Used to Be Us concludes with suggestions for how to sustain the American dream and preserve American power.
Gaddis, John Lewis. George F. Kennan: An American Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 784pp. (E748 .K374G34 2011)
"This is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation's leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan wrote the ‘long telegram' and the ‘X' article. These two documents laid out United States' strategy for ‘containing' the Soviet Union. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned." -- Publisher description. 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. New York: Norton, 2011. 356pp. (PA6484 .G74 2011)
"One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it." -- Publisher description. 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for General Nonfiction.
Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. 305pp. (BF637 .C4H43 2010)
Drawing upon a multitude of behavioral studies, business case studies, and hypothetical examples to illustrate their principles, Chip and Dan Heath weave together decades of research to shed new light on how to effect transformative change.
Hill, Charles. Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. 368pp. (PN56 .D55H55 2010)
Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie, Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations, inspired by the conviction that "a grand strategist... needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan, to gain real-world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft, and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues." -- Publisher description.
Junger, Sebastian. War. New York: Twelve, 2010. 287pp. (DS371.4123 .K67J86 2010)
"Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, turns his eye to the reality of combat in this on-the-ground account that follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley." -- Publisher description.
Kagan, Robert. The World America Made. New York: Knopf, 2012. 149pp. (JZ1313 .K34 2012)
"What would the world look like if America were to reduce its role as a global leader in order to focus all its energies on solving its problems at home? And is America really in decline? The author paints a vivid, alarming picture of what the world might look like if the United States were truly to let its influence wane." -- Publisher description.
Kan, Paul Rexton, with a foreword by Barry R. McCaffrey. Cartels at War: Mexico's Drug-Fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012. 193pp. (HV5840 .M4K36 2012)
Cartels at War examines how Mexico's ongoing conflict has spilled over into the United States, affecting policy issues ranging from immigration to gun control. Drawing on fieldwork along the border, and interviews with U.S. government officials and Mexican military officers, Paul Rexton Kan contends that careful policy consideration is necessary to prevent further cartel violence, reduce the incentives of drug smuggling, and to stop the erosion of Mexico.
Kaplan, Robert D. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. New York: Random House, 2010. 366pp. (DS341.3 .U6K37 2010)
"In Monsoon, a pivotal examination of the Indian Ocean region and countries known as ‘Monsoon Asia,' Robert D. Kaplan shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power in the twenty-first century. With Kaplan's mix of policy analysis, travel reportage, sharp historical perspective, and fluid writing, Monsoon offers an exploration of the Indian Ocean as a strategic and demographic hub and an in-depth look at issues most pressing for American interests." -- Publisher description.
Kaplan, Robert D. The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate. New York: Random House, 2012. 403pp. (JC319 .K37 2012)
Kaplan, bestselling author of Monsoon, builds on the insights and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers, examining the critical turning points in history -- to better understand what might lie ahead.
Kilcullen, David. Counterinsurgency. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 251pp. (U241 .K55 2010)
Counterinsurgency brings together Kilcullen's most prominent writings on this vitally important topic. This book includes a previously unpublished essay entitled "Measuring Progress in Afghanistan," written for Gen. Stanley McChrystal during his field work in Afghanistan.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 586pp. (JZ1480 .B49 2012)
Drawing from notable records and his own forty year history with China, Kissinger examines how this country has approached strategy, diplomacy, and negotiations throughout its history. On China provides insightful perspective on the evolution of U.S.-China relations that can be applied to present day.
Kupchan, Charles A. How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. 442pp. (JZ5538 .K87 2010)
How Enemies Become Friends provides an innovative account of how nations escape geopolitical competition and replace hostility with friendship. Through compelling analysis and historical examples, Kupchan explores how adversaries can transform enmity into amity.
Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan: A Hard Country. New York: Public Affairs, 2011. 566pp. (DS389 .L54 2011)
"Anatol Lieven's book is a magisterial investigation of this highly complex and often poorly understood country: its regions, ethnicities, competing religious traditions, varied social landscapes, deep political tensions, and historical patterns of violence; but also its surprising underlying stability, rooted in kinship, patronage, and the power of entrenched local elites." -- Publisher description.
Luvaas, Jay, Harold W. Nelson, and Leonard J. Fullenkamp, eds. Guide to the Battle of Gettysburg, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012. 346pp. (E475.53 .U333 2012)
"The long-anticipated revised edition of one of the most respected and popular guides to the Gettysburg National Military Park. The authors have made significant changes to the guide, addressing alterations to the park during the past fifteen years and adding new information and improved maps that enrich park visitors' understanding of one of the bloodiest and most momentous battles in American history." -- Publisher description.
Maddow, Rachel. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. New York: Crown, 2012. 275pp. (UA23 .M33 2012)
Rachel Maddow's Drift contends that America as a nation has drifted away from its original ideals and become at peace with war. Spanning the Vietnam War to today's war in Afghanistan, Maddow explores the political debate of how, when, and where to apply America's military power -- and who gets to make those decisions.
Manwaring, Max G., with a foreword by John T. Fishel and afterword by Edwin G. Corr. The Complexity of Modern Asymmetric Warfare. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. 208pp. (U163 .M2687 2012)
"Today more than one hundred small, asymmetric, and revolutionary wars are being waged around the world. This book provides invaluable tools for fighting such wars by taking enemy perspectives into consideration. Using case studies, Manwaring outlines vital survival lessons for leaders and organizations concerned with national security in our contemporary world." -- Publisher description.
Marlantes, Karl. What It Is Like to Go to War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011. 256pp. (DS559.5 .M375 2011)
Marlantes, author of the award winning novel Matterhorn, takes a deeply personal and candid look at the experience and ordeal of combat, drawing on his own time in Vietnam. He critically examines how we might better prepare young soldiers for the psychological and spiritual stresses of war, and what it means to truly return home.
Matheny, Michael R. Carrying the War to the Enemy: American Operational Art to 1945. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. 334pp. (U153 .M38 2011)
Carrying the War to the Enemy draws on archival materials from military educational institutions, planning documents, and operational records of World War II campaigns to provide a clearer understanding of the development of American operational art.
Morris, Ian. Why the West Rules -- For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 750pp. (CB251 .M67 2010)
"Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last? Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions." -- Publisher description.
Moten, Matthew, ed., with a foreword by Martin E. Dempsey. Between War and Peace: How America Ends Its Wars. New York: Free Press, 2011. 371pp. (E181 .B48 2011)
America's leading historians examine the path of America's wars, from the Revolution to the first Gulf War: their initial aims (often very different from their conclusions), their principal strategies, their final campaigns, and the future ramifications of the wars' ends for the nation.
Neiberg, Michael S. Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 292pp. (D511 .N45 2011)
Neiberg's Dance of the Furies contributes to the understanding of the World War I's origins and nature. Drawing on letters, diaries, and memoirs of citizens across Europe, Neiberg shows that the peoples of Europe did not expect, or desire, war in 1914.
Nye, Joseph S., Jr. The Future of Power. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. 300pp. (JC330 .N94 2011)
Nye, a leading international relations scholar, adds to his previous work on power (Soft Power, 2004) by examining the role of the state in the context of shifting power in the 21st century.
Ricks, Thomas E. The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 558pp. (E745 .R43 2012)
"From the bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, [The Generals is] an epic history of the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq. Ricks has made a close study of America's military leaders for three decades, and in his hands this story resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails." -- Publisher description.
Rose, Gideon. How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 413pp. (E181 .R67 2010)
Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, recreates the choices that presidents and their advisers have con-fronted during the final stages of each major conflict from World War I through Iraq.
Silver, Nate. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- But Some Don't. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 534pp. (CB158 .S54 2012)
Silver, one of America's most influential political forecasters, explores the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data.
Snow, Donald M., and Dennis M. Drew. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience, 3rd ed. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2010. 335pp. (UA23 .S66 2010)
This book, by a political scientist and a career military officer and historian, has been updated and revised with new chapters on the Afghan and Iraq wars. For each conflict, the authors review underlying issues and events; political objectives; military objectives and strategy; political considerations; military technology and technique; military conduct and the ultimate disposition of the original political goals.
Terrill, W. Andrew, with a foreword by Anthony H. Cordesman. Global Security Watch: Jordan. Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International, 2010. 187pp. (DS154.13 .T47 2010)
Middle East specialist Andrew Terrill examines Jordan's role in Middle Eastern politics and regional security, and provides an overview of the country's history, economy, military system, and relations with other Arab states. Library also has online in Praeger Security International.
Thomas, Evan. The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. 471pp. (E721 .T46 2010)
Newsweek editor Evan Thomas leads readers through the Spanish-American War of 1898, revealing insights into the minds of the major leaders of the time: advocates of the war; Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst -- and two opponents; Speaker of the House Thomas Reed, and philosopher William James.
West, Francis J. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011. 307pp. (DS371.412 .W47 2011)
"From one of America's most renowned war correspondents comes the definitive account of the Afghanistan war, a damning policy assessment, and a compelling and controversial way forward." -- Publisher description.
Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 441pp. (E908.3 .W66 2010)
Obama's Wars tells the inside story of President Obama's critical decisions regarding the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan, and the worldwide fight against terrorism. Library also has sound recording.
Woodward, Bob. The Price of Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. 428pp. (HC106.84 .W67 2012)
Woodward's latest book is a detailed assessment of how President Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress endeavored to restore the American economy and improve the government's fiscal situation between 2009 and 2012.
Yergin, Daniel. The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 804pp. (HD9502 .A2Y47 2011)
Energy authority Daniel Yergin resumes the account of global energy he first began in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2009 book, The Prize. The Quest details inside stories and historic accounts, examining energy as an overarching global quest at the heart of geopolitical and economic change.
For some reason I've been reading a lot of H.L. Mencken and George Orwell lately. Both are terrific writers and interesting political observers. I enjoy both but prefer Orwell's politics as well as his prose.
I noticed that in June 1944, Orwell wrote this about the German buzz bombs hitting London:
I notice that apart from the widespread complaint that the German pilotless planes "seem so unnatural" (a bomb dropped by a live airman is quite natural, apparently), some journalists are denouncing them as barbarous, inhumane, and "an indiscriminate attack on civilians."... But I would not deny that the pilotless plane, flying bomb, or whatever its correct name may be, is an exceptionally unpleasant thing, because, unlike most other projectiles, it gives you time to think. What is your first reaction when you hear that droning, zooming noise? Inevitably, it is a hope that the noise won't stop. You want to hear the bomb pass safely overhead and die away into the distance before the engine cuts out. In other words, you are hoping that it will fall on somebody else.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In the early 1970s, pilots taxiing their planes on the east ramp of Bien Hoa Air Base may have been ferried to their final destination by a dog named Bubbles.
The odd mix of golden lab and dachshund, whose 40-pound body reminded at least one airman of a Heinz 57 bottle, belonged to Staff Sgt. John E. Molnar, whose job it was to marshal in aircraft along the flight line marked by a yellow stripe. Bubbles, having watched Molnar do the job and apparently not afraid of the large planes, began to mimic his routine and took to walking ahead of them. "Once in awhile we put a headphone set and sunglasses on him and it really cracks up the pilots," Molnar told Stars and Stripes in 1971.
The job did come with certain hazards -- Bubbles had a close call with the "prop blasts of a C130 and was blown 15 feet through the air." Another time he "was almost sucked into the turbine of a commercial 707."
But that didn't stop Bubbles from taking the occasional nap on the runway. So at home was this dog among the planes and pilots that he often refused to budge. The pilots who had had grown fond of their assistant and mascot knew how to get him to "move in a hurry" -- revving up a nearby engine was all it took.
Tip of the hat to Tom who spied this gem earlier this week in Stars and Stripes's most excellent daily feature, Archive Photo of the Day.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Howard Lavick/Stars and Stripes
A nice offer from the Barnes & Noble at Seven Corners in Northern Virginia. Just e-mail Mike McCormick, the store manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 703-536-0774.
The passing of Hugo Chávez provides a moment to consider the question of the waning of the Communist era. The history of the origins of the Industrial Revolution that I've been reading led to that question.
My tentative answer is this: I suspect Communism, while it played a major role in the 20th century, will be hardly remembered by historians 500 years from now. After all, it was a blip empire that lasted about as long as a human life. Its significance, I am guessing, will be seen as just one spinoff from the Industrial Revolution. Maybe like global warming but far less important.
In sum: Communism may be the Albigensian heresy of our time. Sure, that belief system covered a smaller geographical area (but I think a larger chunk of the known world). And there is no question that it lasted much longer.
Early 1942 was the low point of World War II, at least for the American newcomers. Britain was running out of men and arms. The United States had not really gotten in the game. Germany and Japan were triumphantly expanding, and it was thought possible they might link up in Iran or that region after Egypt and India fell.
Warren Buffett mentions in his new annual report that it was then that he began buying American stocks. He was 11 years old. "I made my first stock purchase in the spring of 1942 when the U.S. was suffering major losses throughout the Pacific war zone," he writes. "Each day's headlines told of more setbacks. Even so, there was no talk about uncertainty; every American I knew believed we would prevail."
Management tip: Buffett also gives his subordinates plenty of autonomy. In an aside, he notes that he voted for President Obama, but that 10 of the 12 daily newspapers his company owns that endorsed a candidate instead chose Governor Romney.
Of all the World War I poets, Wilfred Owen stands up best, I think (and yes, I do know I am far from alone). His words feel much more modern to me, almost contemporary. "And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds." Great word control.
Here are two other passages from him:
And then there is this:
And of course if you haven't read his great poem about a gas attack, you should do that right now.
By Gary Anderson
Best Defense office of hard lessons
Over the course of the past 20 years, I have observed or participated in counterinsurgency campaigns in South Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan in both military and civilian capacities. Some were done poorly, some successfully. The one thing that I have learned is that each is unique in its own way and there are no templates that will work in all cases. Mali is a good example of uniqueness, and there are some lessons from each of my experiences that pertain to that particular situation.
As a U.N. observer in Lebanon, I watched the Israelis go from liberators to hated occupiers in a way that was completely unnecessary, and caused them needless grief. Like the French in Mali, the Israelis chased off an unwanted foreign presence -- in their case, the Palestinians were viewed occupiers by the largely Shiite southern Lebanese population. Unfortunately, the Israelis had a tendency to view any armed Muslim Arab as a threat. Consequently, Israel opted to arm a minority Christian-led militia. This action inadvertently created Hezbollah, which became a far greater threat to Israel than the Palestinians ever could present. The Israelis would have likely been far better off arming individual villages for self-protection without taking sides in the ongoing Lebanese civil war and positioning themselves as an honest third-party broker in the inevitable civil disputes in South Lebanon.
Mali is a civil war as much as an insurgency. The southern third, and the government, are dominated by blacks while the northern part has a considerable population of light-skinned Tauregs of Berber origin. Although heavily armed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) foreign fighters have provided the Taureg separatists their military advantage, in the recent past the Tauregs have shown an inclination to negotiate, and will likely do so again if the jihadists can be ejected. This is where the French need to avoid Israel's Lebanon mistake and become facilitators of real negotiations.
In Somalia, we learned the lessons of cultural ignorance the hard way. After a largely successful humanitarian intervention to stop mass starvation, we and the United Nations ignored the traditional clan system of the Somalis and made the mistake of trying to supplant it with alien Western style democracy. Ironically, the attempt by the former Somali dictator to ignore the influence of the clans was what began the disastrous civil war that caused the collapse of Somalia to begin with. The Americans and United Nations overreached in Somalia. The Malian government understands that it needs to rebuild the democratic institutions that were toppled by the disastrous military coup that initiated the current crisis. We could help in reestablishing Malian governmental legitimacy.
In Iraq, we succeeded largely because we were able to separate the foreign jihadist insurgents from the indigenous Sunni nationalist insurgents through a soft power combination of diplomacy and money. The use of soft power such as this in driving a wedge between the Tuareg people and AQIM will be critical to any potential success.
In Afghanistan, we continue to learn perhaps the most difficult lesson of all. To successfully help a host-nation government fight an insurgency requires that the host-nation government wants to address the root causes of the insurgency. The Afghan government never accepted that principle, and may never will. That does not mean that governance cannot be improved in Mali. Good governance is not necessarily expensive. I have come to the conclusion through bitter experience that the more development money we throw at a country, the worse the government gets, as money breeds corruption. In Mali, we would be better advised to spend small amounts of money on rule of law training and local management techniques for local officials, particularly Tauregs and other local officials in the north. Insurgencies are like politics in that they are basically local.
In rebuilding the Malian military, we need to remember that the organizer of the coup debacle was American trained. As Western trainers try to retool the Malian Army, we need to remember human rights training and the importance of civilian control over the military as much as small unit training, patrolling, and other tactical skills. In addition, the Department of State and French Foreign Ministry need to stress civil-military relations in training national level Malian officials.
I am one of those opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria. The infestation of Islamic radicals in the ranks of the rebels is even greater than it was in Afghanistan during the revolt against the Soviets. I favor a negotiated settlement with the Baathists that will allow them a reasonably soft landing as we brokered between the government junta and the rebels in El Salvador two decades ago, but Mali is different.
If we use Special Operations Force troops to train local militias and retool the Malian Army into a professional force capable of supporting a democratic civilian government, we can do so cheaply and effectively; that is the SOF mission. More importantly, they could help build village-level self-defense militias in the north to prevent the now hated Islamists from returning. Again, a relatively inexpensive operation.
Likewise, the State Department and USAID now have hard-earned Iraq and Afghanistan experience in coaching good governance and anti-corruption at the national, provincial, and local levels. This ought to be exploited before it atrophies. Again, this can be done affordably. Mali is not hopeless, and it can be a model for the right way to stabilize governments and fight Islamic extremists.
Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps colonel who was a governance advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.
FREDERIC LAFARGUE/AFP/Getty Images
I've been reading a book by an economic historian that made me think of the anti-corruption campaign in Afghanistan in a different way.
The book is Douglas Allen's The Institutional Revolution. I picked it up because I was so taken by his discussion in an academic article about the organization of command and control in the Royal Navy during the age of fighting sail.
In this book, Allen, looking at the roots of the industrial revolution, argues that the more a society is subject to the whims of nature (drought, flood, wind, and such), the more likely it will appear to modern man to be corrupt. The last sentence in the book is, "What on the surface seem to be archaic, inefficient institutions created by people who just did not know any better, turn out to be ingenious solutions to the measurement problems of the day."
What we call "corruption" is basically the way the world worked before 1860, and much of the world still does today. Indeed, he argues that the British empire was built on a complex web of bribes, kickbacks, and what economists call "hostage capital."
"Institutions are chosen and designed to maximize the wealth of those involved, taking into account the subsequent transaction costs," Allen writes. "The institutions that survive are the ones that maximize net wealth over the long haul."
I think Allen focuses a bit too much on standardization and measurement as driving forces in the changes in 19th century institutions, such as public policing. For example, my experience of theft in small towns is that people often know who does it, and handle it quietly and privately, while in big cities, they have no idea who the criminals are. Hence the need for public police forces in 19th century England as there was a massive movement of people from the countryside to the cities.
Allen also changed the way I understand aristocracy. He argues, persuasively, that the role of aristocracy was to provide loyal, competent, honest service to the crown. Thus their wealth had to be in land that could be confiscated. An aristo who invested in industry was no longer hostage to the crown, and so could no longer be trusted entirely. Hence the creation of strong disincentives to pursuing other forms of wealth, one reason that the ruling class in England tended to sit out the Industrial Revolution.
Overall, a really interesting book, full of thought-provoking facts and assertions.
I've been critical in the past of Amb./Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Karl Eikenberry, so it is a pleasure to report that he has a thoughtful article, "Reassessing the All-Volunteer Force," in the Winter 2013 issue of the Washington Quarterly. He argues that oversight of the military by both the Congress and the media has diminished. "Indeed, nearly abject congressional deference to the military has become all too common."
I think he is right. I hope we will see a re-assertion of congressional interest and prerogatives in the coming years.
The more I think about it, it seems to me that the AVF has been a tactical success and a strategic failure, in that it detached the American people from their wars. And so we do not wage them as well as we should.
For a symposium put on recently by FPRI, I drew up a list of questions I have about the Vietnam War. Here they are:
Finally, some other, broader questions:
Arthur Graeme West leads a small night patrol that encounters
...half a dozen men
All blown to bits, an archipelago
Of corrupt fragments, vexing to us three.
Even more horribly, Edgell Rickword grows comfortable with a corpse lying out in front of his position, and reads aloud to him -- until the body rot grows too repulsive:
He stank so badly, though we were great chums
I had to leave him; then rats ate his thumbs.
Thomas Hone has a good article in the new issue of Naval War College Review on how aircraft carriers replaced battleships in World War II. "Today's officers do not really know where the Navy they command came from," he states.
His answer: "What took place during the war was not a simple substitution of carriers for battleships but the creation of a modern, combined-arms fleet, one that included submarines and land-based aviation."
He also makes an interesting observation that has application far beyond the Navy. The newly designed Navy approach during World War II, he writes, "did what doctrine should do, which is give a force tactical cohesion so that it has energy to spare for dealing with the inevitable unexpected challenges," such as the kamikaze.
I've read a lot of E.B. White, but I'd never before come across his interesting definition of democracy, written in June 1943:
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.