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.
By "Misha N. Komand"
Best Defense guest correspondent
How can we really enjoy the benefits of mission command without the inputs? You don't just 'do' mission command (just as you don't just 'do' Army design methodology). The Germans didn't just 'do' Auftragstaktik.
No, it was built on a culture that held junior officers on up to rigorous accounting of academic and military ability. The Army thinks it can incorporate the benefits of an idea by simply incorporating (or poaching) the good terms or ideas of others, and not have to pay the price in selecting and educating the right officers. There will be no true mission command without a cultural change starting with accountability in education (centering on military history) and better selection and shaping of the officer corps.
"Misha N. Komand" is an active duty Army officer serving on the periphery of the American dream.
Maj. Charles Wagenblast, a military intelligence reservist, brought home this story from Afghanistan about an Afghan colonel:
One of the colonels that we both knew had been accused of raping a chai boy, badly. They all have chai boys, it's not some perverted thing, it's just what they do. Women are for juma. The only time you interact with your wife is on Friday, the rest of the time it's chai boys. He had been raping this chai boy, which is normal, but he had hurt him really bad. That caused the medical people to get involved and other forces. So he's there in front of the judge, who is an imam. It's religion mixed with law, the whole code of law would fit in a pamphlet and then there's the Koran there on top of it. Anyway, his defense was, "Honestly, who hasn't raped a chai boy? Ha ha ha." And the judge goes, "You're right. Case dismissed."
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released/DVIDS
The estimable Micah Zenko wants a "first draft" of "the Third War." Actually it has been written, and is being published this week. It is The Way of the Knife, by Mark Mazzetti. It has all sorts of interesting details, like that the United States has the ability to remotely turn on a cell phone in Pakistan and then collect the precise coordinates of whoever is carrying it.
Here is an interview I did with the author by e-mail:
Tom Ricks: What are we going to learn from your book that we haven't gotten from others, like those by Peter Bergen?
Mark Mazzetti: Peter's books are absolutely terrific, and a hard act to follow! And, there have certainly been a number of terrific books covering the war on terror. What I've tried to do in my book is tell a story of a secret war, and how that war has changed places like the CIA and parts of the Pentagon. The CIA is now at the center of waging covert wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The agency certainly has had a history of far flung military adventures, but then it tried to get out of the killing business -- only to come back at it in a big way since the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has become more like the military, sending soldiers into the dark corners of the world on spying missions. There's been a real blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies.
With the "big wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan either over or winding down, I think that these secret wars have become the default way of doing business. And, only now is the pressure growing for the White House to bring greater transparency to the shadow wars.
TR: What was the biggest surprise to you in reporting and writing the book?
MM: I think that the biggest surprise was how much this type of warfare brings various colorful characters to the forefront. When the United States determined it couldn't send the 101st Airborne into a country, it began to rely on private contractors and other types of individuals to do things like gather intelligence on the ground. I spent a chapter on the private spying network run by Duane Clarridge, a former CIA officer and one of the figures in the Iran-Contra scandal. A Pentagon official hired Clarridge's team to gather intelligence in Pakistan because there was a belief that the CIA wasn't up to the task, but the entire operation ended up in recriminations and a Pentagon investigation. It's stories like this that I really tried to highlight in the book.
TR: Why do you think drones have become so controversial only recently in the United States?
MM: That's a good question. I think that up until recently, at least in Washington, you had both Republicans and Democrats uniformly supporting targeted killings and there was no constituency calling for greater transparency and accountability for these kinds of operations. Since the November election, you have seen Democrats become more vocal in challenging the Obama administration on the use of targeted killings. And, of course, there is Rand Paul's now-famous filibuster that captured concerns among Libertarians about secret government operations.
TR: Which of our three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and "knife") do you think historians ultimately will find the most significant?
MM: This might sound like I'm avoiding giving a direct answer, but all three wars have impacted each other, and so in some ways I think that some historians will look at this entire post-9/11 period as one that fundamentally changed both U.S. foreign policy and how the United States conducts war. Certainly, the Obama administration has relied on these shadow wars because it considers them cheaper, lower risk, and more effective than the big messy wars of occupation like Iraq and Afghanistan. But, so much of the way that an organization like the Joint Special Operations Command does business is a direct result of its work in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They took parts of what they were doing in those countries and brought outside of the "hot" battlefields.
TR: What do you think are the lessons of this third war?
MM: There's no question that the United States has become dramatically better at manhunting than it was on September 11, 2001. There is better fusion of intelligence, and the Pentagon, CIA, and other intelligence agencies are working more closely together. I think, though, that one of the lessons is that secrecy can be very seductive and that it might be too easy for our government to carry out secret warfare without the normal checks and balances required for going to war. As you well know, as much as the Pentagon can be a lumbering bureaucracy, there is a certain benefit of having a good many layers that operations must pass through in order to get approved. When decisions about life and death are made among a small group of people, and in secret, there are inherent risks.
It looks like that may be the case. But we don't know because he and the Army are stonewalling. They're hiding behind a statement that an allegation of an improper relationship was investigated and was unsubstantiated, and that he is retiring as planned.
But they aren't saying what was substantiated. The Washington Post found out through a FOIA request that the Defense Department inspector general did find some wrongdoing. So it appears to me that General Huntoon misled me when he told me in January that "there's no investigation here." Which leads to the question: Are cadets held to a higher standard of conduct than superintendents?
As of 10 am today, General Huntoon hasn't responded to the question I sent him last weekend asking him what is going on.
Does anyone know of any official Army publication that critiques and compares the performance of Army generals in Iraq? I can't remember any, but 10 years is a long time and there is a chance I have forgotten something.
I don't mean individual articles in Military Review or papers written at the Command and General Staff College. I've read (and quoted) those in my last three books. What I mean is official publications like On Point (which was good) and On Point II (which wasn't). That is, the studies that carry the imprint of a preface by a sponsoring three-star or four-star officer.
If not, why not? Is the Army really going to take the Lake Woebegone line that all its generals were above average? Or is just going to fold its arms and believe that such criticism is too rude for public discourse?
Speaking of generals, I still haven't heard back from Lt. Gen. Huntoon about the nature of the misconduct the IG found him to have committed.
By Kyle Teamey
Best Defense department of COIN rehabilitation
1. Regime change IS nation building.
Whether the intention is to stop ethnic cleansing or to affect a change in policy by a rogue nation-state, the result of regime change is the same -- a long period of rebuilding. In a multi-ethnic state with no history of democracy, a period of violent turmoil should be expected after a regime is toppled. It must either be managed directly by the United States (Iraq and Afghanistan) or groups supported by the United States and allies (Libya).
2. A minimal U.S. footprint is the preferred way to do COIN...when feasible.
An overlooked writer on the subject of counterinsurgency (COIN) is Thomas Mockaitis. He took some very good lessons from the United Kingdom's 20th century experiences in COIN and summed them to three best practices that marked successful campaigns: minimal force, civil-military cooperation, and tactical flexibility. The minimal force part of that equation is critical. It often means minimizing the use of third party forces because of the high probability that the third party adds to the conflict simply by being present. An additional benefit of minimal use of force is minimizing the costs to the United States in blood and treasure for a given conflict. Recent efforts in Colombia, Yemen, Somalia, El Salvador, and the Philippines where the U.S. supported COIN and counterterror efforts with few or no U.S. troops are instructive. Minimal use of U.S. forces has been relatively successful and low cost. That said, we really did not give ourselves an option for a small footprint approach in Iraq. There was no other organization to step into the post-Saddam power vacuum and leaving a total disaster in a strategically important part of the world was not an option. See #1 above.
3. Small U.S. footprint or large, the principles of COIN are the same.
Regardless of who is doing the COIN campaign or how the United States is supporting the campaign -- foreign aid, foreign internal defense, advisors, boots on the ground, etc -- the rules are the same. Best practices are best practices no matter who utilizes them. We are constrained by law and social norms to something that looks like population-centric COIN whether we do it ourselves or support a third party. The government has to be legitimate, the people have to be protected, there must be unity of effort amongst the counterinsurgents, intelligence must drive operations, there must be unity of effort amongst civil and military authorities, and the insurgents must be exposed to security forces. The argument that we should "just kill all the insurgents" is noise. Due to aforementioned law and social norms, killing bad guys requires separating them from the populace, which doesn't happen if the government is not legitimate, the people are not protected, etc. It should also be noted that killing bad guys is one of the most important parts of population-centric COIN. The argument that population-centric COIN only means "hearts and minds" where everyone sits around drinking tea and singing together is a strawman. Depending on conditions on the ground commanders may weight their efforts more towards the use of force or more towards stability operations, but there will always be an element of violence, or the threat of violence, in population-centric COIN.
4. War hasn't changed: Good tactics don't matter if you are operationally or strategically inept.
We proved this in spades in Iraq, where some units did things well, others poorly, and there was initially no over-arching planning or coordination for the post-regime era. We did pretty much everything wrong from 2003 to 2007 and got lucky it didn't go worse than it did. Get good generals who know what they are doing. Fire those who don't. Sounds simple but it ain't.
5. If you want to defeat an insurgency, don't let the insurgents have a safe haven.
Pakistani tribal areas, Fallujah in 2004, other "no go" areas in Iraq in 2004-6, the FARC zone in Colombia, FARC camps in Ecuador and Venezuela, etc. Nothing good comes of allowing a safe haven for insurgents. Ever. If we are serious about defeating an insurgency, we should never allow any safe havens. If national goals are limited to keeping the insurgency down to a dull roar or killing some terrorists, then a safe haven may be tolerable.
6. Rotate troops effectively or it will be a "Groundhog Day" war.
U.S. troops fighting overseas need time to rest, relax, and be with their loved ones. In short, they need to regularly rotate out of theater. Unfortunately, this creates a major dilemma when using U.S. troops to conduct long-term COIN operations. As in the movie "Groundhog Day," every rotation can effectively create a new beginning to the same war. New relationships must be (re)forged between the host nation and the incoming U.S. personnel for operations to be effective. The identity and modus operandi of insurgent groups and leaders must be (re)learned. The learning curve is very steep, and by the time the troops know their "neighborhood" it is time to go home -- Groundhog Day all over again. There are ways to mitigate the deleterious effects of troop rotations, for instance, through the use of information technology or by rotating units to the same locations in theater, but they cannot be avoided altogether.
7. COIN lessons from Iraq have been misapplied in Afghanistan.
The tactics borrowed from Iraq for use in Afghanistan have generally been effective. Applying a lot of flexibility to account for the vast differences between the theaters, many of the tactics seem to work pretty well at the brigade and below. Unfortunately, the operational and strategic lessons from Iraq and prior conflicts have not been as well applied. In the absence of a legitimate government, population-centric COIN does not work. If insurgents have a large sanctuary where they can rest and refit, COIN has a high probability of failing. If there is not unity of effort amongst civil and military authorities, COIN has a high probability of failing. All of these are problems in the Afghan theater. The government is, at best, tolerated. Pakistan provides a massive refuge with endless border crossings. The leadership of Afghanistan has an often rocky relationship with that of the United States and attacks on U.S. troops by Afghan troops are commonplace. Under these conditions, the best tactics cannot succeed in defeating the insurgency. Add to these factors an inordinately large number of theater commanders over the course of the campaign -- five in just the last five years -- and it is clear the U.S. goal of defeating the Taliban did not align with practical realities. See #3, 4, 5, and 6 above. It seems we ignored first principles in Afghanistan and just hoped good tactics would win the day. Not a good approach. It is understandable strategic leaders might judge it is too costly to do population-centric COIN in the Af/Pak region "correctly," and that dealing with the Pakistani tribal areas directly is infeasible. Under such circumstances, we should be honest with ourselves that we cannot defeat the insurgency outright, align goals with what is possible, and field a force that makes sense for the more limited goals.
8. Detainee operations are much too important to be left to amateurs.
We have completely messed this up since 9/11. Our tactics in dealing with detainees have had such undesired effects as alienating allies, angering large portions of the U.S. electorate, alienating portions of the local population in countries where we operate, and reinvigorating Iraq's insurgency with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. We also conducted detainee operations poorly for long periods of time. Initially large numbers of people in Iraq were rounded up and sent to detention facilities for no good reason. Later in the conflict we released a very large percentage of insurgents within 6-18 months of capture...often because the capturing unit had rotated back to their home station. See #6 above. Insurgents came back from prison better connected and with greater street cred. It was like a nightmarish National Training Center rotation where the bad guys get a re-key and our troops get shot or blown up by now better-trained insurgents. I thought Catch-22 was funny until living it! Our poor detainee tactics in the time after 9/11 had very negative operational and strategic impacts. If we ever do COIN again using U.S. forces, it is imperative we get this right. To borrow from David Galula, "Under the best circumstances, the police action cannot fail to have negative aspects for both the population and the counterinsurgent living with it...these reasons demand the operation be conducted by professionals..." -David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.
9. Democracy and governance start from the bottom.
In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority made a huge mistake by disallowing local and regional elections until there was a national constitution in place. We created a power vacuum that could only be filled by traditional leaders (sheikhs and imams), insurgents, and coalition forces. During the years it took to get a national government in place, we should have been encouraging local elections to build experience with democracy, form political parties, and create locally legitimate governance. Rule by the people has to be built from the bottom up. The U.S. experience is instructive. The presence of functioning state and local government allowed national leaders the time to hash out a constitution. It took our founders about 12 years to get a constitution written and approved... and that was with two tries because the first attempt failed. We expected the Iraqis and Afghans to get it done in a year or two and create an effective system of governance though they have no experience in democracy, no political parties, traditional leaders or U.S. troops trying to fill the role of local government, and a raging insurgency that leaves a large portion of their population disenfranchised? That's nuts!
10. Maintain training and doctrine related to COIN.
We will do it again. We always say we won't and we always do. It's too costly in lives and dollars to not keep this in the doctrine. Don't make another generation get maimed unnecessarily.
Kyle Teamey is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served on active duty with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and 1st Infantry Division from 1998 to 2004. After leaving active duty, he served as a civilian counterinsurgency analyst from 2005-2006, co-authored the 2006 edition of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, and assisted DARPA in the development and fielding of the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR) from 2005 to 2009. He is currently the chief executive officer of a chemical technology company.
Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, commander of CJTF-Horn of Africa, got the big boot for personal misconduct related to sex and alcohol, the ham and eggs of flag officer troubles.
The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reported over the weekend that the Pentagon's inspector general upheld charges of misconduct by two three-star Army generals, Joseph Fil and David Huntoon. "Records obtained by The Post," he wrote, "show that the Pentagon's inspector general also substantiated misconduct charges last year against Huntoon, the West Point superintendent." This surprised me because when I heard in late January about Huntoon being investigated, I asked him about it, and he basically flatly denied there was anything to what I had heard. "There is no investigation here," he said. So this past Saturday morning I sent him a note asking why he said that. As of 10 am this (Monday) morning, I haven't heard back from him. The Post didn't have specifics on what the misconduct in question was. For all I know, it could have been aggravated jaywalking. If so, I wish General Huntoon had said that at the time.
Finally, Col. Robert Rice, who works in war-gaming at the Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership and Development, was suspended after being charged on a bunch of counts of having child porn on his personal laptop.
Michael Howard, one of the great military historians, gives Emile Simpson's War From the Ground Up about 10 thumbs up in a new review, calling it "a work of such importance that it should be compulsory reading at every level in the military; from the most recently enlisted cadet to the Chief of the Defence Staff and, even more important, the members of the National Security Council who guide him."
The National Defense University and Fort McNair last week dedicated Grant Hall, which contains a re-creation of the 1865 court room where the Lincoln conspirators were tried. Below are comments made at the dedication by Hans Binnendijk, former vice president of NDU, who led the team that remodeled Grant Hall and recreated the trial scene:
This evening we are gathered to dedicate Grant Hall and to witness the recreation of the 1865 court room where justice was dispensed to those conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln and to decapitate the United States government. It is here that the last chapter of our calamitous Civil War ended.
It is fitting that this historic building be named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, the General-in-Chief of the Union Army during our Civil War and subsequently our 18th President. He was in command while the trial of the Lincoln conspirators took place and this part of the original penitentiary was preserved during his presidential administration. Grant Hall's proximity to Lincoln Hall reminds us of the friendship and trust these two men shared.
The trial began on May 9, 1865, less than a month after Lincoln's assassination. A laundry room above the Deputy Warden's quarters was converted to a court room. That court room now looks much as it did in 1865. The eight defendants were held in the cells isolated, handcuffed and chained. The men were forced to wear cloth hoods over their heads. The nine person jury or commission was made up predominantly of Army officers. The use of a military court to try civilians was controversial at that time, as it is now. A simple majority was needed to find guilt and a 2/3rds majority was required for the death penalty. Defense attorneys were given very little time to prepare. There was no appeal except to President Andrew Johnson. And he was in no mood to grant appeals.
The trial lasted longer than Secretary of War Edwin Stanton would have liked. He wanted a very speedy trial to avoid any chance of rekindling the Confederacy. A total of 351 witnesses were called. On July 5 the commission sent its verdict to President Johnson who concurred with all of their findings except for clemency for Mary Surratt.
On July 6 the defendants were told about their fate and on July 7, 1865, four were hanged. Alexander Gardner captured their execution in a series of photos that set a new standard at the time for photojournalism. The other four defendants were sent to prison in the Dry Tortugas - three returned alive. Three of the four who were hanged (Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold) were in my view clearly guilty of a capital offense. Powell assailed and nearly killed Secretary of State Seward. Atzerodt got drunk and decided not to assassinate Andrew Johnson, but he had advance knowledge of the plot. Herold joined Booth in his escape.
The fate of Mary Surratt has led to continued controversy. Many books and now the movie The Conspirator argue her case. She was certainly a Confederate sympathizer and her son John Surratt was among the earliest of Booth's conspirators. Her boarding house on H Street was considered to be "the nest in which the plot was hatched." She visited her home in what is now Clinton, Maryland, on the day of the assassination to deliver a package for John Wilkes Booth; that was Booth's first stop after assassinating Lincoln. The issue became "what did she know and when did she know it." There was clearly some witness-tampering and she was convicted based on circumstantial evidence.
With this ceremony, Grant Hall joins several other buildings that played a crucial role in the events surrounding Lincoln's assassination and that have been renovated. There is Ford's Theater with its wonderful museum in the basement, the Peterson House where Lincoln died; the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland; and now Grant Hall. Mary Surratt's boarding house on H Street has a historic plaque on it but remains a Chinese restaurant. That should be the renovators' next target.
National Defense University
It was put together by "A Smart Army Major" who clearly is enjoying the sequester.
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."
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Earlier this week, ISAF Deputy Chief Lt. Gen. Nick Carter warned against a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying:
It would be unforgivable if we allowed the gains of the last three years to be lost because we were not able to provide the Afghans with the support to take this through into 2014."
In the wake of Carter's comments the news that British Forces are not pulling back their canine forces but fortifying them is of particular interest. As part of the overall NATO drawdown, British troops are set to pull back nearly half their forces by the end of 2013. But last month, the remaining combat-ready dog teams of the 104 Military Working Dog Unit deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick, bringing their number to 90 teams in all. Perhaps more noteworthy still is that this number is relatively higher than that of dogs on the ground two years ago, when British Forces had approximately 70 dog teams in Afghanistan in 2011.
The newest British dog teams in Afghanistan will be part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, which pulls its canine teams from a total of "15 units from all three services." The job of these dogs is really no more special or any different than it's been throughout the war -- they will be "patrolling the bases where fellow British soldiers are based, searching vehicles at checkpoints and going out on patrols on the front line." But now that NATO forces are preparing to disengage, these dog teams will also play a role in "mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces" and helping to facilitate the coming transition.
Many of these British handlers who deployed in March are going into combat with their dogs for the first time. They've had one full year of training and their commander Major Ian Razzell has full confidence in their abilities as well as their certain success. "I am proud of every single soldier," he said. "They will do a good job, there is no doubt about it, they are first rate professional soldiers as well as dedicated handlers.
Bonus Note: The 1st Military Dog Regiment's motto is Vires in Varietate: Strength in Diversity.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
John Moore/Getty Images
You don't see much discussion of the downside of cohesion, so I was interested to see this comment by Pete Kilner on page 70 of the April issue of ARMY:
A team is too cohesive if its Soldiers prioritize their loyalty to each other above their loyalty to Army values. Such a team risks covering up unethical behavior and dealing with it solely ‘in house.' Leaders must ensure that cohesive teams are as loyal to our professional values as they are to each other.
Tom again: This made me wonder. We had very cohesive small units in Iraq and Afghanistan. How did this change the conduct of the war? Has anyone examined abuses in the context of high- and low-cohesion units? I know, it might be impossible, because if Kilner is correct, then abuse by high-cohesion units disproportionately won't be reported.
My bet is that one of the signs of real trouble is when the cohesion is at odds with the chain of command. I remember seeing a Marine platoon in Somalia where the platoon leader was out of it, almost shoved aside by a charismatic NCO -- who turned out to be a natural-born criminal.
It was underwhelming. Got it, he admires Ike. So do I. As a friend of mine said, "This was a terrible speech. Said nothing and awful delivery."
Not a good sign for a SecDef leading a Pentagon on the budget roller coaster.
By Victor Glover
Best Defense guest columnist
The professional military education (PME) system may need fixing, but in the service we don't value graduate education and that needs to be fixed first.
The military is a microcosm of society and we suffer from the same anti-intellectualism (to borrow from Richard Hofstadter) that plagues modern society. The military does not have a critical thinking problem -- the whole country does. While I agree that we need to address the range of problems with critical thinking (specifically analysis and communication) I do not agree that the problem is undergraduate education and I take even greater exception to the notion that technical education is a part of the problem.
This problem does not begin in the field-grade military, college, or even high school. We've had a critical down-turn in junior-high/middle school compared to other developed nations. I specifically follow mathematics and science trends, however U.S. education generally trends the same. If you want to attack the worthwhile issue of accession quality, you are biting off the mother lode. The data suggest that we have to go back to around grade 5 to reach a steady-state solution. I do work at this task, not for the military's sake, but for the country's. However, this is not something we can directly address from inside the leaning military machine. So what then, are we studying the wrong things?
History, politics, anthropology, geography, and diplomacy are indeed pertinent disciplines for the officer of today. Breadth of education, to include scientific and technical education, is important for the officer of the future. The real problems in life don't come in boxes labeled "physics" or "sociology;" they demand the efforts of the broadly and deeply educated and trained. I will borrow from Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge by the polymathic Edward O. Wilson. I will not try and summarize the wonderfully complex tome, but please allow a long quotation:
Every college student should be able to answer the following question: What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important for human welfare? Every public intellectual and political leader should be able to answer that question as well. Already half the legislation coming before the United States Congress contains important scientific and technological components. Most of the issues that vex humanity daily -- ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic poverty, to cite several most persistently before us -- cannot be solved without integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that of the social sciences and humanities. Only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as seen through the lens of ideologies and religious dogmas or commanded by myopic response to immediate need.
Specifically relating to the Treaty (or Peace) of Westphalia, the impact of this series of treaties on the relations of sovereign nations is indelible and important for the public servant. Likewise are the technical and contractual details of the multibillion (tax-payer) dollar F-35 Lighting II aircraft program, their impact on the perceived success of the effort, and the larger logistical and tactical impact of a single-point strike-fighter solution on our common defense. PME is not just about history. It is all things operational and strategic to equip the field grade and above.
We in the military can address and affect this strategic and operational deficit and the larger PME system. First, we have to understand the problem by discussing the nature of the issue (as we are). Then we can manipulate our recruitment, retention, and advancement systems more effectively.
One of the reasons we do not have the critical or strategic thinking en masse is that it is not always required. When it is required, we are trying to hone it from professionals grown in an active warfighting organization, not always conducive to critical and strategic development. We also live in a "do" oriented country and are therefore in a "do" oriented military. What we have to figure out is how to do while finding time to dialogue, debate, philosophize, analyze, study, think, and sit still. Hopefully the end of this era of war will encourage us to consider this.
The core of this issue however, is not education or the availability thereof. The large animals in the room are personnel management and advancement. To inculcate critical thinking across the department will require adjustments to our evaluation and promotion systems. We in the warfighting profession do not make up a monolithic bureaucracy. There are many facets to military service, but we promote as if everyone is striving for the same goal.
We do not highlight the junior personnel content with middle management as their highest aspiration while mastering that realm. We also do not reward the disciplined specialist in the operational force as we all have to be generalists. In contrast to my earlier statement about the broadly educated and trained, we focus too much on the broadly trained and experienced and not enough on the broadly and deeply educated. Somewhere there is balance we are failing to strike.
In the Navy F/A-18 community we refer to our training as being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I do not believe the promotion system is wrong or improper for our mission, just that it is too rigid. Yes we have to cull the field, yet all enlisted personnel do not want to be the senior enlisted advisor to the chief, nor all officers the chief. Integrating career flexibility and educational priority into our personnel system would have a profound impact and I believe we are trying. If we change the system to value critical analysis and communication abilities, where then do we attain these?
We are fed from and posses institutions that can educate broadly and deeply, cultivating critical thinkers. In my experience, Cal Poly, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Air Command and Staff College are among these institutions possessing great educators. Professors like Dan Walsh, Jim LoCascio, Gary Langford, Mark Rhoades, and Jonathan Zartman understand the mission, the pupil, and the material, and mush them together until they get the learning outcome they want. Put the Peace of Westphalia where it is not, in the context of the learner, and you will undoubtedly root it in the minds of your students. A facet of the solution lies in the hands, heads, and hearts of the academe. Once the services reward rigorous graduate education, we will also see the professorship, military and civilian, evolve for the better. We will also see the opportunities to attend the nations elite institutions grow and expand, also for the better. In today's fiscally constraining environment, civilian graduate institutions may serve as a bulwark in maintaining a professional and educated officer corps.
Another facet of the solution lies with the individual service member. I am a carrier-based aviator and test pilot serving as a fellow in the legislative branch of government. After this stint in the staff world I hope to return to the operational flying world. I cannot rightly blame the Navy for the difficulty in training and educating me to think and communicate effectively. What are they to train me for next? At each juncture in my career I didn't know where I would be next until I got the call to pick up and leave. However, I have always been given what was required to do my job whether landing on a carrier, evaluating weapon systems, or supporting the legislative process.
An important part of a servicemember's critical development is his or her personal and professional duty. We are most useful when equipped to deal with a range of problems even before we are required to. I want to give my best in service, so I ought to grasp the opportunities to get better with both hands. My career has given me a context to appreciate subjects that I did not appreciate when I was a full-time student. Context has helped me grow concern for the way these subjects affect my life and service. I would love to go back and be an undergraduate again but I cannot, so I take every opportunity to learn while I can. Does our professional military education system need righting? Not as much as our understanding of the importance of education within the military.
Lieutenant Commander Victor Glover (@VicGlover ) is a graduate of Cal Poly, Officer Candidate School (with distinction), Air Command and Staff College (with distinction), Air Force Test Pilot School, and the Naval Postgraduate School. He recently completed a tour as a department head in a strike-fighter squadron and is currently a legislative fellow in the United States Senate. The views expressed are his own.
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 Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell
Best Defense Guard columnist
One of things I find most interesting, and even objectionable, in the entire discourse between these two senior officers is the fact that, clearly, neither of them recognizes or even considers the reserve components as part of "the Army."
Many of the talented young officers and NCOs who are choosing to leave the active force are, in fact, transferring to the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. So in that sense, "the Army" isn't losing these experienced young leaders. That is, we're not losing them if our active counterparts view the Guard and Reserve as part of the wider team. Even more of these junior leaders would choose the Guard and Reserve if active duty senior leaders actually tried to present service in the Reserve Components as a viable option for those who want to keep serving but also want stability for their families along with different career and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, as judged by these essays in FP, most senior Army leaders don't ever even think of the reserve components as really part of "the Army." Personally, along with many of my peers I left the regular Army in the early '90s after almost 10 years of service and have been in the Guard ever since. I've managed to have a full, reasonably successful career, and have gotten to do a lot of things on the civilian side I never would have done had I stayed on active duty.
This paradigm of leaving the reserve components out of the equation has all sorts of corollaries: The refusal, for example, of senior Army leaders to consider that, based on the recent Reserve Forces Policy Board report showing that the reserve components (RC) cost only one-third the amount of the active components (AC), shouldn't we seek to grow the RC as we must shrink the AC in order to retain the military capability and force structure at less cost, and therefore have a flexible "surge" capacity for emergencies? Aside from the fact that this is effectively what we have done post-conflict throughout the entire history of our nation, the cost pressures alone would dictate that it is a very intelligent option. In addition to saving force structure and capability, we would also be saving enormous numbers of proven, combat-experienced officers, NCOs and soldiers by keeping them in the uniform and having them around for the long term. Unfortunately, what we are hearing from senior Army leaders is that they want to keep the AC as large as possible, even if that means cutting the RC -- an idea that flies in the face of fiscal reality, the past 12 years of actual operational experience, U.S. military history and tradition, and serves as yet one more glaring reminder that our current generation of senior leaders has never accepted the RC as equal, capable elements of the overall force. Cutting off the nose to spite the face...
I invite all high-caliber junior and mid-grade leaders in our Army (and Air Force) who are seeking a change and want more stability for their families, more interesting assignment and career opportunities, and challenging educational opportunities to look into joining the National Guard in their home states or the states where they'd like to live. We have been the key component of our nation's military since 1636, we are in many ways the sole remaining repository of many of the best traditions of the service, we listen to our people (we have to in order to keep our high-performing, traditional part-time leaders in uniform), and we are still on the front lines around the world. We are also still the only part of the force which can legally and rapidly respond to assist our local communities when they are in need.
BG James D. Campbell, Ph.D. is the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard.
By Maj. Peter Munson, USMC
Best Defense commission on junior officer management
The recent battery and counter-battery of general officer articles on talent management in the face of a military drawdown is doing little to advance the debate toward any solution -- or even agreement on the problem. The debaters are undermined by their hyperbole. Surely, not all of the military's best officers are leaving. On the other hand, from the volume of complaint, it seems sure that there is something awry with talent management in the armed forces. A more qualified assertion would be that more top talent is leaving the military than should be the case. Yet, as deeply as I believe this statement to be true, I cannot prove it. Therein lies the greatest problem: a personnel system that seems not to have a measure of its success or failure in retaining talent vice retaining numbers.
The sad fact of the matter is that we lack the data to fully define the talent management problem, so there is no way to come up with meaningful proposals for solutions. This is a debate characterized by hyperbole and personally charged anecdotal evidence because real data on the phenomenon are almost completely lacking. The fact that the armed forces do not apparently collect data on departing servicemembers for talent management purposes is telling. There is a healthy stable of data available on each servicemember: performance evaluations, standardized testing, civilian and military school standings, physical fitness tests, and so on. Correlating these data to retention and separation propensities should be a relatively easy thing, but as far as I can tell, this work has not been done and it seems not to have been released into the public domain.
Yet, even with the existing data, we have a problem. While we have top-down performance evaluations, physical fitness, and IQ-like intelligence test data, these data leave out what may be the most important dimensions of leadership. There is no widespread data on emotional intelligence, personality type, or 360-degree perspectives on military officers, even though these tests are readily available and could easily be done for those screening for key billets, or for a sample population of separating officers. These would also be an extremely useful statistic when considering who is getting out and who is staying in.
Absent these data, we have to rely on works like that of Tim Kane, former Air Force officer, Ph.D. economist, and author of the book Bleeding Talent: How the US Military Mismanages Leaders and Why It's Time for a Revolution. Sadly, the lack of data left Kane to rely on opinion polling -- what people perceived about the talent of those leaving the military and their reasons for doing so -- rather than first-order data. This method left Kane's conclusions open to dismissal by the powers that be, but the indictment is really on a system that has no knowledge of its own talent challenges.
As long as there are no publically available data on these issues, each side in the debate about talent retention in the military is informed only by their personal choices and the anecdotes that validate that choice. There cannot be a truly informed debate without some facts to start from and, inexplicably, these facts are completely lacking. If senior military leaders were serious about talent retention, these data would already be at their fingertips.
Peter J. Munson is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps. Though selected for lieutenant colonel, he is leaving the Marine Corps with sixteen years of service this summer. He is the author of War, Welfare & Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History (Potomac, 2013).
From a blog comment posted on Sunday evening:
I crave autonomy, a sense of meaning in my work, and to have some semblance of self-determination in my career. My first two desires were met more often than not while I was deployed to Afghanistan for the last nine months. However, I'm not entirely sure that will continue now that my unit is back in garrison and no longer on a patch chart. We have returned to an environment of repetitive briefings and seemingly endless bureaucratic forms, and all the while there are whispers of funding problems canceling opportunities for military schools and substantive training events. Time will tell if we head the way of incessant drill and ceremony practice augmented by pay day activities and area beautification. Truth be told, I do not know because I have never been in a unit that is not preparing to go to war, but this is the fear. The fear is we will spend hours laying out and cleaning equipment that we can't train with. That our training will be on making perfect Powerpoint slides instead of rolling up our sleeves to enable sergeant's time.
By Lt. Gen. John H. Cushman, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist
This is what the president should say:
Organs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have recently made announcements of that nation's readiness to attack with long range weapons targets of the United States.
It is time for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cease such behavior and to join the community of nations.
The United States has no intention to attack the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
If under any pretext the Democratic People's Republic of Korea attacks the United States, we will respond with devastating might. Their nation will be a wasteland.
Leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have built military weaponry that can serve no useful purpose.
I repeat, it is time for them to cease such behavior and to join the community of nations.
End of conference
General Cushman commanded the 101st Airborne Division, the Army Combined Arms Center, and the ROK/US field army defending Korea's Western Sector. He served three tours in Vietnam. He also is author of Command and Control of Theater Forces: The Korea Command and Other Cases (1986).
By "Si Syphus"
Best Defense junior officer panel
"Let's get ready to RUMBLE!" I can just picture Michael Buffer announcing the upcoming "prize fight." In the blue corner stands Lt. Gen. (R) David Barno and in the red corner stands Lt. Gen Fredrick ‘Ben' Hodges. The main event: Are we losing talent in today's Army?
Reading the differences between senior leaders is quite hilarious. I would equate it to watching two dudes argue about (insert sports teams here), in an alcohol-induced stupor, less the possibility of violence. Both bring up valid points, yet one uses "how they see the facts" to support their argument. However, no matter who is right and who wrong, what is lost in translation is the actual premise of the argument -- in this case junior leaders -- and nothing is done to rectify the situation. The end result is an epic 12-round bout with a split decision resulting in a draw, and a re-match likely on the horizon in a couple of years.
Lt. Gen. (R) Barno's "Military Brain Drain" echoes the position of Tim Kane's Bleeding Talent, stating that "if you ignore the expectations of today's young, combat-experienced leaders as you shrink the force, your most talented officers and sergeants will exit, stage left." Both Barno and Kane lament protecting the "crown jewel" of talented junior leaders is required for future success.
On the other hand, Lt. Gen. Hodges disagrees with Barno's supposition that there is a "brain drain" in the Army based on four main points: 1) junior officers are doing good things deployed, 2) there are "broadening" opportunities, 3) what his peers have to say, and 4) senior leader examples.
My response, for what it's worth:
Round One: Yes, junior leaders are doing exceptional things while deployed. That is because there is "freedom of maneuver." Problems are complex and our junior leaders are excelling with the opportunity to demonstrate their innovativeness, adaptability, and unique ability to solve the complex issues. However, when these junior leaders come home, this ability is stymied due to the fact of not being at war. The "garrison" Army was, is, and will continue to be a polar opposite to war-time. Junior leaders, ones that currently have less than 12 years of service, know absolutely NOTHING about "garrison." We are operationally minded, doing one of three things: prepare to deploy, deploy, recover. This has been the cycle, but that is about to change. Bottom line: There is not enough money or incentives in the world that will be able to keep 100 percent of the targeted group to stay in the Army, unless there is a change.
Round Two: Lt. Gen. Hodges mentions various things that the Army is offering to junior leaders -- "the best and most expensive" universities, fellowships, and training with industry. Let's be honest, all of these things are pretty cool and the fact that it is an option, also pretty cool. However, let's be realistic. The Army has the Olmstead Scholarship -- one per year. Congressional fellowships -- 25 per year. Advanced civil schooling -- a generous figure would be 400 per year. A realistic amount of junior leaders receiving this "broadening" any given year would be about 600. However, when applying for these opportunities, a junior leader is grouped with a total of about three year groups' worth, or about 6,000 other people. So this "broadening" is available to about 10 percent of junior leaders. If the target is to retain the "top 20 percent" and this is all the incentive, then we are falling short. Don't get me wrong, this is a good start. But let's not use this as the be-all end-all answer to saying quality junior leaders are not leaving. This is more of a "look what we are going to keep some of the talent."
If you have sipped the green Kool-Aid and are immersed in current Army rhetoric, now might be a good time to stop reading. Otherwise, you might berate me as a junior leader who doesn't know shit.
The following two examples are used by Lt. Gen. Hodges to support his argument that I take issue with the most:
Round Three: Lt. Gen. Hodges starts his argument saying he is "disappointed" in Barno's position because it is not something he sees or hears in his "dealings with senior Army leaders" or his peers. (Ok, I am going to believe it now because a bunch of crusty old men are saying it's not true. Sure.) I'm pretty sure this is the whole "group think" mentality we are trying to go away from. What about "outside the box" thinking? Apparently this only applies to junior leaders. What do other senior leaders and other generals know about why junior leaders are staying in? I got an idea: How about asking them and not your peers.
Lt. Gen. Hodges also claims that Barno's comments about the best leaving are "an insult to the thousands staying." Not the case. I stayed, and I'm not insulted. Lt. Gen. (R) Barno or Tim Kane never referred to me as "not talented" because I chose to stay. I understand where they are coming from when they point out the facts that quality junior leaders have left up to this point (true) and quality junior leaders will continue to leave until this situation is rectified (also true). I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid and buying into a senior leader telling me I should be insulted for something that is the truth. I'm also not buying it just because a bunch of them are saying it.
Round Four: The justification I most take exception to is the "this worked for me" approach.
"Senior Army leaders have emphasized this repeatedly and are setting an example by doing it themselves. My own experience validates this. In 33-plus years of service and about 25 different duty positions, there were only two times when I ended up in a duty position I had specifically requested or pursued. Every other assignment was the result of personal intervention of commanders, mentors, or some senior leader in the span of my career who wanted to invest in me and prepare me for greater challenges. That has been my experience- indeed, that is the norm I have witnessed for over three decades- and it's the legacy I have tried to pass to others."
This statement is what is wrong with our current Army and exactly the premise that Barno and Kane are using to explain the exodus of talented junior leaders. Just because this worked for Lt. Gen. Hodges does not mean that it will work for all current junior leaders or for that fact even the majority. While this style might have worked for Lt. Gen. Hodges's three decades of service (20 of which were predominantly during times of peace), this should not be the direction of the future.
The Army currently is structured in such a way that in order to be successful, you have to meet certain "gates" at certain times. If you don't meet them, no matter how much talent you possess, you are considered "at-risk" for advancement, as well as ineligible for any of the extra incentives Lt. Gen. Hodges invoked. Likewise, it doesn't matter who you are, if you checked the right block at the right time, then you are good to go. Hypothetically speaking here, what is wrong with a captain who doesn't want to be a commander but makes a great intelligence officer, signal officer, or whatever staff position? If he or she had the opportunity to continue as a staff officer, he or she could be an integral component of the team. Why must that individual be a commander, where he or she might not excel, just to be eligible for promotion?
Let's take an example of two Army captains. In this example, all things are equal. They are in the same year group and have the exact same jobs. Captain #1 has been stationed at Ft. Hood (heavy) for 3 years, and wouldn't mind staying for another 3 years. Captain #2 has been stationed at Ft. Drum (light) for 3 years and really wants to go to Ft. Bragg (also light). Captain #1 receives orders for Ft. Bragg because he doesn't have light experience. Captain #2 receives orders for Ft. Hood because he doesn't have heavy experience. Why is it not possible for the two to switch and be happy? Well, it has been determined that in order for both to be successful, they need to be diverse. The outcome of this scenario: two disgruntled junior leaders who might end up deciding to get out. On the other hand, had the opportunity presented itself to get what they both wanted, both might stay in.
Nowadays people want stability over anything else, especially as we begin to emerge from a decade at war. I would venture to say that this is the driving factor over anything else on one's decision to "stay or go." Being obligated to pick up and move (children are deep-rooted at a school and/or a spouse is well-established in a career) just to check the block for promotion presents an officer with an undesirable choice. Nobody should fault that individual for choosing to get out -- that is, putting family first.
Rather than argue and maintain a stubborn mindset that there is nothing wrong, or that the Army is better off without the junior officers who choose to leave, my first recommendation is that current Army senior leaders LISTEN to what Barno and Kane are saying on the subject. Barno said it perfectly in his 13 February "Military Brain Drain" article:
There is no reason not to listen and respond to the concerns of younger officers -- while also fully meeting the needs of service. But you can't do it with a World War II mindset, an insular outlook, or an industrial aged personnel system- all of which are markedly in evidence today. And in the coming years, throwing money at the problem is not likely to be as easy as in the past.
The decision: Talk to junior leaders and find out what THEY want. Continuing down the current path won't "break" the Army; however, it certainly will hinder it for future generations.
"Si Syphus" is the company-grade officer sitting just a few desks away from you. Go ask him what he thinks.
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.
What General Hodges lacks in facts in his column he makes up in indignation. Dare General David Barno worry that the Army is losing talented Army officers? "What an insult to the thousands who are in fact staying," Hodges fumes.
Is the Army "somehow non-adaptive, too inflexible and unimaginative"? Well, I would say too many Army generals are. But, without any facts to back up his case, and conveniently ignoring years of inadaptiveness in Iraq (2003-06), General Hodges assures us that, "This is nonsense and I reject it." He offers no facts, but hey, we have to take it on faith, he seems to say -- after all, how could a system that produces me be faulty? It reminds me of the old Ring Lardner line: "‘Shut up,' he explained."
But you all know what Tom thinks -- I wrote a whole book on the subject. I would like to know what you all think, especially junior officers, both those leaving and those staying in. Let's ask those involved. Who is right: Hodges or Barno?
Necessary disclosure: Barno is a colleague of mine at CNAS.
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.)
I've been reading a briefing by Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, commander of the Army's Human Resources Command, who predicts that the Army will have to eject about 24,500 soldiers in the next five years. That is, in order to reach the projected size of 490,000 in 2018, it will have to lose 17,000 more enlisted soldiers than it would lose through natural rates of attrition, and also 7,300 officers.
I hadn't seen those numbers before. Have youse?
I actually think the Army is going to have to lose more than that, because I think the overall defense budget will be cut more than the Pentagon expects. If that happens, I hope the Army aims to maintain quality more than quantity.
By April Labaro
Best Defense guest columnist
(March 20, 2013)
What's new in warfare? Not much, according to Major General H.R. McMaster, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.
Rather, McMaster said in a talk the other day (March 20) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, we've actually had to re-learn some basic concepts. The most important one being that despite technological advances, there are continuities in modern warfare that shouldn't be overlooked. This is where he got all Clausewitzian on us, arguing that the continuities are that war is an extension of politics, has a human dimension, is always uncertain and, ultimately, is a contest of wills. Ensuring that these lessons don't have to be re-learned in the future may be more important than the outcomes of the wars themselves, he said.
There are also a few lessons that we shouldn't have learned, the first "wrong lesson" being that the raiding approach leads to a fast, easy and cheap win. It didn't work in Iraq or Afghanistan and is not likely to work in the future, he asserted.
The second bad lesson is that wars can be outsourced to proxy forces. What can be accomplished via proxy forces is often exaggerated, he warned, in part because collaboration does not necessarily mean congruent interests.
And what projections can be made about the future of ground maneuver warfare? There's a lot of uncertainty, but McMaster said he doesn't buy the arguments made lately by schools of thought that believe that the future will be more secure and our ground forces will not face many strategic surprises. Institutionalizing the lessons learned (and unlearning the "wrong" ones) is a critical first step towards making more accurate projections and improving the effectiveness of our ground forces, especially in the face of fiscal austerity and the growing range of unconventional threats.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.