[Here are Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII.]
Crist: One of the
things as a federal employee who works on current Middle East issues, and
having studied pretty extensively for a project on the Joint Staff the lead-up
to decisions on Iraq, the thing that has struck me is that the lessons learned
among policymakers from Iraq is there was a lot of thought given -- which was
not the case in 2002 and 2003 -- given to second- and third- order effects of
American action and what are the ramifications for this that we don't
anticipate. Whether that can be sustained over the next generation or just each
generation learns its lesson, institutionalizes it and [inaudible].
lesson-learned process and what people learn from our 10-year experience is
important. There is a reasoned way to think through using force, there is a
useful process in increasing the probability that you'll get it more right than
wrong -- not that you'll ever get it absolutely right.
I fear that we are throwing out counterinsurgency because we
are never doing that again. But we already did that once: It was post-Vietnam.
Counterinsurgency is not a strategy; it's a way to deal with an insurgency, and
if you face it again, it gives you a relatively decent structure to think
through these things. It certainly shouldn't be a national strategy. It was
never designed to do that.
person who could not attend today, Kyle Teamey, who
some of you may know, a terrifically smart young man, sent in this question:
"Is there anyone at this table who thinks we will not do counterinsurgency
For the record, I want to note that everybody agrees we will
do counterinsurgency again.
Mudd: But we went
in to do counterterrorism, and now all we talk about is counterinsurgency. So
success on Sept. 12 would have been, "Is there going to be an attack
against the United States?" and by 2003 that answer was no. And now we say
success is: Should we have a third election? And my view would be, if the
Taliban wins, I don't care as long as we have a residual capability to
eliminate the target we went in to get.
I hate counterinsurgency, because it wasn't our threat. Just
a quick asterisk: In parallel with these major wars we had intervention in
places like Somalia and Yemen. There's been no tactical conversation here, and
I think appropriately -- but especially with the new tactical capability--
we've been able to say, "Man, we are giving the president in some cases better
options, but in some cases much tougher?" You want to go into Mali? You want to
go against Boko Haram? I want to know why we are not talking about armed drones
against cartels, which were a much
bigger threat to this country than terrorism ever was or ever will be. But it
is interesting that parallel subwars or campaigns is part of this war and what
they mean about American intervention in the future that leads not only to
things like increasing the capacity of the partner but also unilateral use of
force against a target without ever having to put a boot on the ground fast.
Ricks: What do
they tell you?
Mudd: That tells
me that we are going to be into it because we are going to say there's a way to
get out of this without putting big green on the ground.
Flournoy: I think
that there probably will be some point in the future where we decide to help a
government deal with its problem of insurgency, and that's the thing: It's not
our insurgency. The question is: Can we come to some consensus on what's the
right model? Is there a single right model for that, or is it really entirely
case by case? To me, after the experience of the last decade or more, the El
Salvador model looks a lot more attractive than the conventional occupation
model of Iraq and Afghanistan, but is that just being falsely wedded to
something? Can we generalize from these different experiences to say there is
one approach that either is generally more effective or, from our own political
culture, generally more acceptable and sustainable to the American people?
Ricks: I'm going
to try and answer your question. I would say, yes, clearly: Light footprint,
minimal American boots on the ground, leading from behind, helping host nation
abilities, or even helping third parties like we've been helping the Colombians
help the Mexicans on the drug war. These are the things that work; these are
the things also that go to the issue of sustainability. I once was talking to Elliott
Abrams, and I said I thought secretly more Americans had been killed in El
Salvador than were killed in the 1991 Gulf War. He said, "Yeah, but I won
Alford: You also
have to design the force to support your strategy. You got to start thinking
about the force.
Ricks: We have a
force that's tactically magnificent, but is it relevant, Colonel Alford?
Alford: No, I
don't think we are organized the way we should be right now for the future.
Ricks: How should
we be better organized?
Alford: Well, I
mean all the things you just talked about were what the U.S. Marines do from
amphibious ships. We are balanced, we are flexible, we are adaptable, and we
are forward deployed. We can go in and be out and not have to put a footprint
on the ground for any significant period of time. And that's what we want.
I mean, I love the U.S. Army -- we have the best U.S. Army
in the world, but in Kosovo when you take in 24 helicopters and it takes 6,000
troops to support those 24 helicopters, that's not the future.
Ricks: I need to
go now to the Army generals who have been shaking their heads.
Dubik: We have a
great Marine Corps for a reason, and I'm glad we have it. But we have a great
Air Force, and Navy, and Army for a reason that we need also.
But I play golf with 13 clubs. And I like to solve problems
with more than one conceptual framework. So I'm not at all satisfied with a
conclusion of our last 10 years of war that "quote, unquote" this
approach works. I think that that would be a dangerous way to come out of this
war. For me, the lesson learned is come to a war with more than one conceptual
framework. Because every war, while it may have some common elements, every
war, as Clausewitz says, is a chameleon, admits to its own solution, and you
have to think through that solution. So the light-footprint approach that you
talked about works in many, many circumstances, but there are an equal number
that it won't.
Ricks: So be
adaptive is what you're saying?
Ricks: I've been
reading another history of World War II recently which Churchill keeps on
saying in ‘39, ‘40, ‘41 that this will not be a force-on-force war.
Dubik: [Laughs.] Yeah, well it ended up being
And that gets to my comment about adaptability. It's not
just intellectual adaptability but force adaptability. If you predict one
future and you optimize your force for that future, you're either a hero or a
goat. You're a hero if the future unfolds as you predict. You're a goat because
you've got the country's reputation on something that now is not relevant. So
in our force-structure decisions coming up necessarily as a result of the
position we are in strategically and fiscally, maintaining as many options as
we possibly can is an important way forward in an uncertain environment. It's
organizationally important to have alternatives.
Ricks: Is it
possible to maintain options in an era when I'm guessing defense budgets are
going to go down 30 percent in the next few years?
Dubik: My own
answer is yes. The number of options may be reduced, but you can still retain a
good number of options if you are willing to break some rice bowls in terms of
current organizational structures, active, guard, reserve in each of the
Mudd: A sand
wedge is what you're saying.
Dubik: Yeah, I
use a sand wedge.
Alford: One of
the four words I used there was adaptable. You've got to have a number of tools
in the box to cross the threat that we are going to face, which I believe is
going to be a more hybrid, irregular, not a toe-to-toe threat. That's going to
be the most prevalent, I believe.
Ricks: And the
other head-shaking general?
like to make two comments. Jim [Dubik] talked adequately about the need to have
13 clubs in the bag. I can't restrain myself from saying this now that I'm
retired: You can't help but love the Marine Corps. They are simultaneously one
of the greatest and most insecure institutions that I've ever encountered in my
(More to come, as the Army-Marine smackdown continues)