Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gen. McMaster: Raiders, Advisors And The Wrong Lessons From Iraq


Excerpts:
The first mistake is what McMaster called "a raiding mentality": the idea that we'll get a "fast, cheap, and efficient" victory if we can only identify the crucial "nodes" -- enemy leaders, nuclear weapons sites, whatever -- and take them out, whether with a Special Ops team like the one that killed Bin Laden, a long-range smart weapon, or a drone, McMaster said in his remarks at theCenter for Strategic and International Studies.

The second fallacy, McMaster said, is that "we have exaggerated what we can accomplish through proxies or partners." There's a real value to T.E. Lawrence-like advisors who can guide a foreign force to victory, and the Army's spent a lot of time learning how to do that, with McMaster as one of the leading advocates ofcultural and language skills
But partners can only do so much on your behalf. Increasingly, McMaster said, you hear the argument that "'We're in fiscal constraints, so let's just outsource it to other armies. We'll just provide small advisory teams... and we can get them to fight wars in a way that is consistent with our vital interests.'"

"War is an extension of politics," McMaster said. "There's been a great deal of talk, as you know, about AirSea Battle" -- the influential Air Force-Navy concept for future war -- "[and] we talk about sea control, which is an important concept, but we never talk about land control, and land is where people live; land is where these problems emanate from."

The problem, of course, is a "range of capabilities" costs more than a single solution at a time of shrinking budgets. The manpower-intensive ground operations that McMaster and his fellow counterinsurgency theorists are associated with have gone out of fashion. Witness the fact that the room today at CSIS wasn't packed, even for one of the icons of "COIN," and even while 60,000 US troops continue to conduct counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. In such an environment, how do you sell the Army's continued relevance to policymakers? 
"It's not my job to sell it," McMaster told AOL Defense. "You just provide your best professional assessment... In a democracy, you get the army that the people are willing to pay for."
V/R
Dave

Gen. McMaster: Raiders, Advisors And The Wrong Lessons From Iraq

Published: March 20, 2013


WASHINGTON: On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq one of the Army's leading thinkers, warned Washington not to learn the wrong lessons.

Army Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, now chief of the tank and infantry school atFort Benning singled out two pitfalls in particular, one about over-reliance on Special Operations raiders, the other about over-reliance on proxies and advisors. Call them (our words, not his) the Zero Dark Thirty fallacy and theLawrence of Arabia fallacy.

The first mistake is what McMaster called "a raiding mentality": the idea that we'll get a "fast, cheap, and efficient" victory if we can only identify the crucial "nodes" -- enemy leaders, nuclear weapons sites, whatever -- and take them out, whether with a Special Ops team like the one that killed Bin Laden, a long-range smart weapon, or a drone, McMaster said in his remarks at theCenter for Strategic and International Studies.

"That's a fundamentally unrealistic conception," said McMaster. "We know raiding and an attritional approach" -- i.e. just killing enemies until the survivors give up -- "did not solve the problem in Iraq" (or for that matter Vietnam). "Targeting does not equal strategy."

At its worst, a raiding approach is a militarized version of "George Costanza in Seinfeld, 'leave on an up note' -- just go in, do a lot of damage, and leave," McMaster said to laughter.

The second fallacy, McMaster said, is that "we have exaggerated what we can accomplish through proxies or partners." There's a real value to T.E. Lawrence-like advisors who can guide a foreign force to victory, and the Army's spent a lot of time learning how to do that, with McMaster as one of the leading advocates ofcultural and language skills.

But partners can only do so much on your behalf. Increasingly, McMaster said, you hear the argument that "'We're in fiscal constraints, so let's just outsource it to other armies. We'll just provide small advisory teams... and we can get them to fight wars in a way that is consistent with our vital interests.'"
(Continued at the link below)


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