Military matters: In Military Review, the Army wrestles with Iraq
The latest issue of Military Review - the bimonthly journal published at Fort Leavenworth - is out. No surprise: Iraq is at the center of just about everything.
The issue opens with comments (PDF) from Gen. David Petraeus, who recently left command of Fort Leavenworth to command U.S. forces in Iraq. It's actually a print version of his opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in January, when his nomination was up for consideration.
Then, a series of articles with interesting titles (all links are in PDF format):
"Learning about Counterinsurgency": The director of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom offers his thoughts on how best to prepare leaders for the complex challenges of COIN warfare.
"Principles and Priorities in Training for Iraq": A former squadron commander shares his insights on the importance of cultivating judgment in subordinate leaders preparing to deploy.
"How to Negotiate in the Middle East" U.S. military leaders must become more adept at negotiating. Specifically, they must understand how our cultural traits, values, and assumptions differ from those of Middle Eastern countries.
At the back of the issue are two essays that, though not explicitly a point-counterpoint, offer two views of Iraq - one critical of the strategy there, the other hopeful that victory can still rise from the turbulence of that country.
In the first essay, Retired Brigadier Gen. Mitchell M. Zais offers what Military Review editors call a "a withering critique of our strategy so far in Iraq."
Our strategy in Iraq has been -
* Fight the war on the cheap.
* Ask the ground forces to perform missions that are more suitably performed by other branches of the American Government.
* Inconvenience the American people as little as possible.
* Continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that they have been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the Army and Marines who are doing all of the fighting.
No wonder the war is not going well.
But Army Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant and Capt. Eric D. Chewning say there winning the war will require patience.
Whether we portray the problem as insurgency or low-level civil war, the antidote remains much the same: a strong, representative government that has a monopoly on the use of force. The Iraqi government needs to exert primacy over competing religious, tribal, and ethnic centers of power. it would have been preferable if this government had been built from the bottom up, drawing legitimacy from neighborhood and district advisory councils rather than from the top down, but this is now a moot point: we have to work with the government we have, not the one we wish we had.
From America's own democratic experience, we know that building responsible government agencies is a time-consuming and dynamic endeavor. But whereas the United States had the luxury of dealing with its various internal tensions over time, the Iraqis seem destined to deal with them all at once, using weaker institutions as instruments. Forging a government with an identity distinct from the sectarian interests that formed it is the Iraqi challenge. Strengthening their institutions, so they can achieve self-sustainment within the timeframe allowed by U.S. public opinion, is our challenge.