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“Shake Up the Army, Dave”
Commentary ^ | Peter Wehner

Posted on 05/12/2010 9:38:20 PM PDT by neverdem

Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker's remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn't going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war -- and then to put them into practice.

Petraeus and his colleagues were dubbed the COINdinistas, and their tale is a remarkable and fascinating one. It was told, at least in part, by General Petraeus in his Irving Kristol lecture, delivered last night at the American Enterprise Institute's annual award dinner.

There are several significant things to take away from the period General Petraeus described.

The first is a reminder that ideas indeed have consequences. For much of the Iraq war, the strategy of the Bush administration (in which I served) was based on flawed assumptions. We thought that if we knocked off the top of the Iraqi pyramid (the regime of Saddam Hussein), the rest of it would stay in place. Instead, much of it collapsed. Many in our military leadership, as well as the secretary of defense and much of our civilian leadership, believed that the right approach was a “light footprint.” Political progress, in the form of elections, would drain the insurgency of its venom. And the presence of American troops would act as an irritant and fuel the Iraqi insurgency. Our goal, then, was to head to the exits almost as soon as we arrived, in order to demonstrate that we were liberators rather than occupiers.

That approach was understandable; but for the circumstance in Iraq, it was also quite wrong.

We then put in place the right ideas, thanks primarily to the military reformers led by Petraeus, who came up with and executed the strategy, and President Bush, who showed enormous political courage in fighting on its behalf. Our new strategy focused on the security of the population, understood that human terrain is the decisive terrain, made a priority of holding and building in areas that had been cleared, distinguished between “reconcilables” (insurgents that could be won over) and “irreconcilables” (insurgents that had to be eliminated), and put a priority on civilian-military units of effort. Having done that, the situation turned around more quickly and decisively than anyone could have imagined. Iraq, a nation that had been caught in a death spiral, was, within a matter of a year, on the mend.

It is fashionable in some circles to emphasize the limits of policy when it comes to improving everyday life in a nation, particularly in one as shattered as Iraq was. That is of course sometimes the case. But in other instances, when the intellectual foundation is right and when the correct lessons from history and human experience are drawn, things can unfold much faster and much better than we anticipate.

A second lesson to draw from General Petraeus's lecture is that we are witnessing one of the most remarkable, far-reaching reforms of an institution in our lifetime. (David Brooks devotes his column to this topic.) All large institutions are difficult to reform. Old habits are hard to uproot. People become settled in their ways, invested in policies they have advocated. Thinking becomes rutted. And there is of course a widespread human reluctance to engage in searching self-examination and to admit mistakes. All of which makes the transformation we are witnessing amazing. The intellectual orientation of the Army is significantly different from what it was less than a half-decade ago. How that occurred, and precisely how the (intellectual) tectonic plates shifted, is something that will be studied for decades to come.

A third lesson to draw is that even if the ideas are right, it takes individual human beings to execute them. History doesn't unfold by itself; it relies on men and women to direct and shape the drama. The COINdinistas' success was not preordained -- and the obstacles and egos they had to overcome will probably never be fully known. But they persisted and prevailed -- and in doing so, they have put us on the path to success in one war (Iraq) and may be in the process of putting us on the path to success in another one (Afghanistan).

We still don't know the final outcome of their efforts, and won't for years to come. Both wars could still end badly if the Iraqis and Afghans don't fulfill their duties. Still, what the COINdinistas have done is quite remarkable. And in an age when almost every public institution in American life is witnessing a massive leakage of confidence and trust, the United States military is the object of our respect and esteem. It is more than merited.

About the Author

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in  Washington, D.C. He served in the Bush White House as director of the office of strategic initiatives.

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Footnotes



TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: coindinistas; davidpetraeus; iraq; petraeus

1 posted on 05/12/2010 9:38:20 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

By and large, intellectually the services have been pathetic for decades about less than total warfare. Since WWII ( at least ) wars have been in low rent, politically messy, population rich third world countries. The military bureaucracy just doesn’t want to think about it. They’d much rather have Army Times discussions for a year about a new uniform change, or Regiment structure.


2 posted on 05/12/2010 9:45:22 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler
Since WWII ( at least ) wars have been in low rent, politically messy, population rich third world countries. The military bureaucracy just doesn’t want to think about it.

Can you blame them? Who could have war gamed Iraq into Vietnam V.2, including the rats de facto aiding and abetting Al Qaeda for domestic political gain? Nobody could have planned an adequate Phase IV of the invasion of Iraq in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, IMHO.

3 posted on 05/12/2010 10:15:38 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

Any of the old SF guys would of. The Brits, for hundreds of years were good, very good. Post WWII, not so much.

There was no, zero, zip post reaching into Baghdad planning. The Army thought that State would handle it. The WH and State, thought the Pentagon. No one was fired.( Bush’s never fire anyone )


4 posted on 05/12/2010 10:19:20 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler
One shouldn't forget about the US's own extensive list of low intensity/insurgent warfare successes. Campaigns from the Barbary Coast, to the Philippines to much of our efforts in South East Asia have been very successful.

I've heard several discussions that hit the nail on the head. After Vietnam, the general conscientious was that we should toss all of our COIN/FID doctrine out the door because there was no way we wanted to get involved in something like that again. Which is also precisely why our enemies have choose to fight us as they do...

5 posted on 05/13/2010 1:45:38 AM PDT by Red Dog #1
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To: Leisler
There was no, zero, zip post reaching into Baghdad planning. The Army thought that State would handle it. The WH and State, thought the Pentagon. No one was fired.( Bush’s never fire anyone )

That was a deliberate policy and deception engineered by Donald Rumsfeld. Planning was the responsibility of CENTCOM, not the Army, and CENTCOM understood full well that a Phase IV plan was required. Both CENTCOM and the Army also understood what that plan needed to look like. As this article clearly explains, their political masters had a different idea, and worked to ensure that CENTCOM would have neither the plan nor the means to execute an effective post conflict strategy. Rumsfeld thought we could just declare victory and leave.

Donald Rumsfeld and Jerry Bremer will go down in history as two of the biggest idiots to ever appear on the national security scene.

6 posted on 05/13/2010 6:24:00 AM PDT by centurion316
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To: centurion316

The Army has had decades long, institutional failure to think, plan, equip and train for failed state/no state ...”interventions.”

Long before Rumsfeld. Somolia and Mogadishu should of been an intituional wake up. Heck even the HW Bush ‘Rise Up Kurds’ should of meant something.

The failure lays with the Army General Staff corps.


7 posted on 05/13/2010 6:34:12 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler

My apologies, I had no idea that I was in the presence of a real expert. No such thing as the Army General Staff Corps. But, even self proclaimed “experts” are entitled to their opinion and yours is not without some supporters.


8 posted on 05/13/2010 6:11:16 PM PDT by centurion316
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To: Leisler

Rumsfeld thought that the grateful Iraqis would come together, create a new government and be our faithful allies for ever more. Had he believed we would be in for several more years of combat we probably would not have been so eager to start that fight. As I recall, he had a lot company sharing those opinions including a sizeable number of Freepers.


9 posted on 05/13/2010 6:20:49 PM PDT by csmusaret (Remember, half the people in this country are below average)
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To: centurion316

No thinking person ever accepts an appeal to expertness unchallenged.

What term would you use to describe the cadre, the group of flag rank officers who are charged, promoted and accept the title and responsibility of being General officers? ( A rose by another name, that kind of thing?).

And who is responsible?

You might want to check out this five part series with MG Jack Keane where he outlines the origins of the surge in Iraq — the successful military strategy he helped design, and the near zero, non, zip thought,planning, thinking that existed in the Army vis a vis post Baghdad.

http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=MWU5ZDNlNmE0MzYxMWRhYWM1NWExYTY0MjEzMDNkYTI=


10 posted on 05/13/2010 10:07:18 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: centurion316

No thinking person ever accepts an appeal to expertness unchallenged.

What term would you use to describe the cadre, the group of flag rank officers who are charged, promoted and accept the title and responsibility of being General officers? ( A rose by another name, that kind of thing?).

And who is responsible?

You might want to check out this five part series with MG Jack Keane where he outlines the origins of the surge in Iraq — the successful military strategy he helped design, and the near zero, non, zip thought,planning, thinking that existed in the Army vis a vis post Baghdad.

http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=MWU5ZDNlNmE0MzYxMWRhYWM1NWExYTY0MjEzMDNkYTI=


11 posted on 05/13/2010 10:07:28 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: csmusaret

Watch this five part series with four star General Jack Keane. It isn’t pretty. It describes how basically Petraeus, him and a handful had to find Vietnam era operations manuals and near literally blow the dust off them. That was the state of Army thinking at the time, which basically was zero.

Rumsfeld wasn’t responsible for that.

Keane basically gives the impression that each kept to his own knitting and no one integrated or had a coherent idea, or ideas as how to proceed.

Keane is the first person I’ve seen give his view, publicly. Gut wise he’s pretty believable. Not a perfumed, managerial type General at all. He seems very down the middle of the road type.


12 posted on 05/13/2010 10:18:50 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler

They are called General Officers, not the General Staff Corps. But, beyond sematics, the Army Staff does not have operational responsibilities. They execute the Army’s Title 10 functions to raise and equip the force. The other services perform similiar functions for their service.

Operational responsibility rests with the Combatant Commands, not with the services. These are joint organizations, manned by officers from all of the services. Your example of Somalia can help make my point, especially since I have personal experience of that operation. At the time of the Blackhawk Down fight, the combatant commander of CENTCOM was a Marine General. His J-3, or Operations Officer was an Air Force Major General. The Commander of Joint Task Force Somalia was an Army Major General. His J-3 was a Marine. The Joint Special Operations Task Force (Rangers, SF and 160 SOAR) were under a separate command, SOCOM who reported directly to the Secretary of Defense. All of these folks, including Corporals in the Ranger Regiment well understood that the mission they had was quite risky and needed additional support. That’s why they asked for AC-130’s, tanks, and Bradley’s for just the circumstances that came into play on that October day. But, another genius politician, Les Aspin, was the Secretary of Defense, and he denied their request. He thought that the mission was to hand out MRE’s, although he had signed the orders that sent the Rangers on their dangerous errand.

I know Jack Keane, Jack Keane is a friend of mine. He is a General,not a MG. Jack Keane’s beef is with the civilian leadership at the top, though there were certainly flag officers who were quite content to go along with the nonsense issuing from Rumsfeld, Feith, and Bremer. There was no Phase IV planning because Rumsfeld personally saw to it that it was not done. He did this by removing that responsibilty from the CENTCOM staff and assigning the responsibilty to a Joint Staff planning group in Qatar. He then gave that planning group a different set of instructions that had nothing to do with Phase IV.


13 posted on 05/14/2010 5:05:32 AM PDT by centurion316
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To: centurion316

Correct about the rank, I knew he was four star, I just had a mental disconnect.

I was naming them as a goup, a class, What do you call them as a class, as a group? For instance there is the ...officer corps, the enlisted ranks...

Anyways..

You are lucky. I only know of him from the media, but I like him, he seems like the kind of officer I always liked. Direct, not high maintenance. He seems like he encouraged constructive criticism.

Watch the series, you can see it is discomforting to Keane to say what he said, that Rumsfeld aside, the Army as a institution, was not intellectually ready.

I remember Les Aspin, a reality disconnect delusionist that shouldn’t of been in charge of a tennis camp for chubby trust fund kids.

I think the execution, real world of the operational commands has been excellent. No military has done what ours has done, and at such low cost.


14 posted on 05/14/2010 5:32:14 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler

The Army uses the terms lower enlisted (E1 - E4), non-commissioned officers (E5 - E9), company grade officers (O1-O3), field grade officers (O4-O6), general officers (O7 - O10)

Keane was the behind the scenes architect of the Surge as you mention in another post. Don’t confuse this with Phase IV, or post Saddam Baghdad, it came much later after it was clear that the Rumsfeld Plan failed. Keane played a key role because he was retired and could work directly with the White House, bypassing the Pentagon. He was the go between working with Petraeus in Iraq and a few key guys in the White House. Unfortunate that we had to do that to come up with a plan to win.


15 posted on 05/14/2010 5:45:31 AM PDT by centurion316
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To: centurion316; Leisler

Are we better off because the surge succeeded than we would have been had we left Iraq immediately after Hussein’s capture?


16 posted on 05/14/2010 5:55:14 AM PDT by csmusaret (Remember, half the people in this country are below average)
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To: centurion316

I am not thinking about the General officers as they see them selves, but in a more basic organizational/human form.

It seems like what I get from Keane is that the Army had very little plan wise to offer Rumsfeld. Keane said that they basically had to dust off 20 year old, Vietnam era counter insurgency manuals. Who’s fault was that that the Army, the Generals, had ignored, let waste a era so costly to the Army? It wasn’t the enlisted. It’s not the political appointees. Who does that leave?

If a individual isn’t responsible, then the group is, right?


17 posted on 05/14/2010 7:21:50 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: csmusaret

The Iranians would of swooped in, or maybe Iraq would of turned into some sort of Cambodian killing fields. I can only guess at very bad, murderous events.

Yes, we did the right thing.

I don’t think anyone can escape getting bills, costs, burdens. People, societies that avoid them, get nowhere. They just live for a bit, then fade with nothing accomplished but filling basic appetites like cattle in a field.


18 posted on 05/14/2010 7:55:11 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler

You think the price we have paid was worth Sadam’s head? I don’t think it was, and I didn’t think it was in 2003 either.


19 posted on 05/14/2010 8:02:21 AM PDT by csmusaret (Remember, half the people in this country are below average)
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To: csmusaret

It wasn’t about Saddam. No more than WWII in Europe was about Hitler.

It was about shattering the model of allowing as legitimate some ancient rule in the 21st century.

And, if not us, who? What were we going to do, have Gulf War 3 in a decade? Do what Wilson did when he left the German military/political order still intact, and then WWII another generation, under worse terms had to bleed white Europe again to finish what Wilson willfully and knowing left undone?

Further, as a national expression, most Americans do think it was worth it. There were no strikes, Congress well funded the war, there was hardly a desertion, moral stayed good, and even the Obama administration continues Bush policies.


20 posted on 05/14/2010 8:31:13 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler

If our policy is/was to invade every country with a despotic leader why did we quit?


21 posted on 05/14/2010 8:45:11 AM PDT by csmusaret (Remember, half the people in this country are below average)
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To: csmusaret
If our policy is/was to invade every country with a despotic leader why did we quit?

Out of mutual respect?

22 posted on 05/14/2010 8:51:25 AM PDT by TADSLOS (Tea Party. We are the party of NO! NO to more government! NO to more spending! NO to more taxation!)
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To: csmusaret

I think we more used to. From Boston to California, countless savage tribes, and the Civil War. We were, once, a more revolutionary, idealistic, even physical country. Now, we are more managerial, less physical, more materialistic.

We used to be a nation of younger people, now our average age is older.

I don’t know if we have quit either. Maybe it is a case of so many enemies, so little time.

I wouldn’t mind if we had a Department of Thug Overthrow.


23 posted on 05/14/2010 9:10:19 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: Leisler
This type of warfare was much discussed back in the late '70s. At that time it was referred to as "Low Intensity Warfare"...for lack of a better term. The concept was 'new' to the American military way of thinking. Of course, although the value of small unit 'hearts & minds' operations had been shown for a couple of decades, it was still a very radical consideration and mainstream mil brass hats were still determined that the standard 'European' theater type conflict was the way it would always go.
Basically they just hated the idea of giving up direct 24/7 hands on control that was/is the nemesis of small unit ops.
Then along came the Central American dust-ups and slowly the mind-set began to change. Along with the retirement of the top brass hats.

From 'Low Intensity Warfare' the name has changed several times, new acronyms as new people toss-in their "new best ideas" and things evolve. But smallish wars in dirty places fought against politically messy factions who have the benefits of blending in with the fishes are whats been on-tap for 25 yrs or so and will be a part of life for the present and future.

Fight 'em like you have to.
24 posted on 05/14/2010 4:16:01 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus)
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To: Tainan

I can understand the Army not wanting to devolve into a colonial constabulary. And I get the nature of the Army being a engineering, mechanical, logistic force, and not a bunch of Harvard anthropologists.

But the strife, the oil, the choakpoints and most importantly the people( ultimate resource IMO ) are in the messy places.

Putting idealism aside, this is were the fastest market/economic growth could and has occurred.

In short I advocating for a more systemic, studied military intervention and support, a la El Salvador. I don’t accept the imperialist label laied at our interventions in the Caribbean, Central America and the Philippines.

Where would the American West be, or have become, with out hundreds of years of military intervention, politics, engineering and even war? I think that the military should more embrace that heritage. Of course that is built upon the notion of America being a force for good in the world, which as we all well know is not held by a small yet influential percentage of our population. ( I wish dueling would come back )


25 posted on 05/14/2010 5:14:43 PM PDT by Leisler
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To: AdmSmith; Berosus; bigheadfred; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ...
Thanks neverdem.
Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker's remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn't going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war -- and then to put them into practice.

26 posted on 05/15/2010 10:12:08 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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