Sunday, March 09, 2008
i'll make a part two to weekend at bernie's:
Part Two of "The Rise of The Counterinsurgents" looks at incoming Army Vice Chief of Staff Ray Odierno. I managed to leave out all the stuff about Fred and Kimberly Kagan wanting to touch on him.
Much speculation in Washington national-security circles centers on what Odierno’s ascension means for an Army stressed during wartime. Will Odierno focus first on supplying the military command in Iraq, known as Multinational Force-Iraq, with properly trained and equipped soldiers, as his old boss Petraeus prefers? Or will he emphasize rebuilding the Army back to pre-war capacity, as the leadership of the Army under Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey wants?

Odierno gave some clues in a talk Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation. While most of Odierno’s remarks centered on his (triumphalist) reflections on his latest tour in Iraq, he gave some indication that the wars of the moment would take precedence.

"Obviously, it’s the long-term sustainability of the Army," Odierno said when Heritage’s James Jay Carafano asked about his priorities. "But the Army is about accomplishing the missions that we’ve been given by the commander-in-chief. And we can’t ever lose sight of that. Obviously you have this natural tension between long-term sustainability and meeting all your missions, and that’s our goal. But my focus is, what does our Army bring? Our Army brings soldiers. And so it’s our job to make sure our soldiers can do their job to the best of their ability, and that we can maintain a viable, long-term, all-volunteer force focused about soldiers, and focused on what they’re able to do to help maintain the security of our country."
Thanks to everyone who commented on the earlier post about how I can better write this series. Please continue to send your advice and feedback, since it's the only way I'll learn.
--Spencer Ackerman
I tried to post a comment on the last installment. For some reason it didn't work. But since my central questions are about the same, I'll reiterate them:

(1) It's still not totally clear to me, as a total layman, what is distinctive about the COIN approach. Is it primarily about the kind of threats the Army's got to face? Or the way that they want to deal with threats that are generally recognized? Given situation X, what does the COIN conventional wisdom say should be done? What about the "conventional" conventional wisdom? And to what end? What are the measures of success on which both approaches agree? One of the things we've learned of course, is that victory has a lot of meanings. Is COIN about defeating insurgencies (Malaya)? Or fighting them forever at a relatively low level (Colombia)?

(2) What specific changes, then, characterize Odierno's evolution? What did he do differently then and now? Everybody you quote says he learned from his mistakes. But you don't say what the mistakes were, except in the general sense that the insurgency continued to grow. Is there one example of something he did that was particularly foolish, or thought to be?

(3) On the institutional level, what's at stake in this fight? I don't mean for individuals, but for appropriations, weapons systems, service branches, etc. It would be helpful if you did a bit more to put people who don't know your characters in the general picture. Are they really sui generis? Or do they derive from long-standing factions within the Army?

I don't know how much basis in the material you expect readers to go in in with--maybe I'm just uninformed. Presumably a lot of it will also come out as the series continues. But that's what I missed in the first couple of installments. Hope it's of some value to point it out.
Blogger TheWaldganger | 9:05 AM