Maj. Robert Stanton discusses learning how to do counterinsurgency in eastern Afghanistan in 2006-07:
If you have the intellectual humility to realize that you don't have all the answers, and you are willing to underwrite enough risk to let your junior leaders and soldiers do what needs to be done. You can take a group of American soldiers, give them a vague mission, and as long as you resource them, they're going to do things you never could have imagined them being able to do. They're going to solve your problems for you, half the time when you don't even know you have a problem. For me, the biggest lesson that I think I learned -- and I learned a lot of lessons from that deployment -- was that. As I continue in the military and as I see other leaders, you've got to have that intellectual humility, because you don't have all the answers, and you don't need to have them all. You've got some brilliant 21-year-old kid who loves what he's doing and is going to solve your problems for you if you just give him the freedom to do it, and you resource him enough to do it. You make him feel empowered to do it. If you can do that, then the things we can do as an Army are unbelievable. That's what I would say.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.