The Best Defense

Learning from the past

I had dinner earlier this week in Annapolis, Maryland, with Andrew Gordon, author of Rules of the Game, a terrific study of how the Royal Navy lost its combat edge in the decades before World War I. Anyone who is interested in how "the world's best" service can deteriorate without its leaders noticing it should read this book.

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The Best Defense

FM 3-XX: Revolutionary Operations

I've been looking over the Army's new manual for stability operations, which the University of Michigan just reprinted with an all-star lineup of introductions by Michele Flournoy, Shawn Brimley, and Janine Davidson.

I'm all for the idea. But I wonder if the very title of the manual is incorrect. After all, we didn't invade Iraq to provide stability, but to force change. Likewise in Afghanistan. And once we were there, we didn't aim for stability, but to encourage democracy, which (the thought is not original with me) in a region like the Middle East generally undermines stability. I mean, if all we wanted was stability, why not find a strongman and leave?

What we really are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think, is instability operations. I don't think the U.S. military really has ever been comfortable with that mission, which was one reason we saw a lot of friction early on between the Bremer team trying to bring change and the Sanchez team simply trying to keep a lid on things. Personally, I think the mission of changing the culture of Iraq was nuts -- but that was the mission the president assigned the military.

I think a more intellectually honest title for the manual would be "Revolutionary Operations." Don't hold your breath.

As long as I am quibbling with official government usage, is "the interagency" even a grammatical term?