Thursday, May 1, 2008

What Should a General Do?

"Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor here [West Point] who served two tours in Iraq ... argues that Gen. Petreus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars. ... Gentile is giving voice to an idea that previously few in the military dared mention: Perhaps the Petreus doctrine isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's a big controversy within a military that has embraced counterinsurgency tactics as a path to victory in Iraq. ... Two of the five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have warned repeatedly that the military's ability to fight another kind of conflict--say a war with North Korea--has eroded. ... Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee [in February] that the focus on counterinsurgency means the Marines will 'have to take extraordinary steps to retain the ability to serve as the nation's shock troops in major combat operations.' ... The gist of Col. Gentile's argument is that recent security gains in Iraq were caused by the ceasefire declared last year by Shite cleric Moqtada al Sadr as well as the U.S. decision to enlist former Sunni militants in the fight against Islamist extremists. ... More fundamentally, Col. Gentile, 50 years old, worries that the military's embrace of counterinsurgency--limiting the use of heavy firepower and having soldiers focus on local governance--means it isn't prepared to fight a traditional war against foes such as Iran or China. He says the more time soldiers spend learning counterinsurgency, the less time they spend practising combat techniques like fighting alongside tanks and other armored vehicles. ... Gentile relishes his self-appointed role as a military gadfly. He has already been scheduled to be promoted this summer and his teaching post here is effectively tenured", WSJ, 7 April 2008.

Bravo Col. Gentile! That's the way I see it. See my 14 April 2008 post. I think the Petreus Iraq "strategy" has accomplished nothing except encourage Iran to bide its time until we leave.

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