Saturday, April 28, 2007

Must reading in this month's Armed Forces Journal

"A failure in generalship", LTC Paul Yingling, Armed Forces Journal, May 2007 is causing quite a stir, in both military and civilian circles. In fact, the first I heard of the article was while listening to NPR during my daily commute. LTC Yingling writes from the experience of two Iraq tours, along with a Bosnia tour, and duty in the first Gulf War, and holds a masters degree in Poly Sci. He highlights his views on responsibilities of generals, and the failures of generals in the Vietnam War and the present Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was sympathetic to the writer due to the great risk he has taken in writing an article aimed at a whole class of officers, and superiors to boot. He understands the insight of former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, and the General's courage and duty to speak his mind about the requirements to succeed in Iraq. But I knew I liked him when he was able to quote not only J.F.C. Fuller, but also our very own Andrew Krepinevich.

One point of contention is the section where he describes the type of generals we need. He thinks so highly of his master's degree that he wants generals to hold "advanced degrees from civilian institutions in the social sciences or humanities". Acquiring any graduate degree shows a high level of determination, perseverance, and intellect. However, most military officers will spend between 25-35% of their time in service in some type of formalized schooling. The addition of eighteen months to two years of additional studies has a cost of keeping the officer away from duties with soldiers, requires moving the family, and the author provides no insight as to why those particular degrees in social sciences or humanities will enable a general officer more fit to fight an insurgency. LTC Yingling also states that "Counterinsurgency theory holds that proficiency in foreign languages is essential to success, yet only one in four of the Army's senior generals speaks another language." I would assume he means that proficiency of the language similar to the insurgent, as I can not see my mastery of Spanish assisting in any way my abilities to work as a competent officer in Afghanistan.

I highly suggest this article, as it gives pertinent and factual insights into the history within the Army leading up to the present Iraq War.

In the very same issue of the Armed Forces Journal, author Ralph Peters offers his commentary on the need for "Wanted: occupation doctrine". He gives insight as to why other U.S. governmental departments are not at the forefront of assisting in the stabilization of Iraq. He contends they can not do so due to the lack of security. Mr. Peters also highlights the need of the military to educate those in Washington on military capabilities, and the presence of a doctrine on occupation would facilitate and communicate that education process.

He too points to the genius of former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Shinseki and his prophetic statements on the required number of military personnel necessary to secure Iraq. He sides with distinguished Dr. Farley's assessment of the reason the administration went with a small troop presence would project high costs and a lengthy stay. But he doesn't call them the administration, rather referring to the "Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone cabal."

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