Tom Ricks, who I do respect, and love his books, wrote a very biased list of reformers in regard to the COIN movement inside the Army today (he works with a lot of them as well). A lot of these people, if not most, are beltway insiders (I don’t know everyone of them, but do most). They almost all get a lot of media attention for the wrong reasons. I disagree almost totally with Tom’s list. So, I published my own list below. I disagree as I explain below. Read Tom’s list at the bottom of this post, then read mine here.
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas,
My original message in reply to Tom Rick’s list posted on the Warlord Loop, a blog focused on strategy and warfare. Some of today’s biggest thinkers contribute to this blog.
Why is it the guys on this list of “COINdinistas” the only ones noticed by journalists?
It is easy to read the bed time story to everyone. It sounds good, but more importantly to those in the beltway, it is easy to implement. It does not piss off anyone. It keeps the money flowing. Very few developing solutions that can be implemented today.
By solutions, I mean large-scale programs (not incremental improvements) requiring no substantial political or institutional changes. Not a surprise, as this is a high bar! So, we report on what is comfortable, easy to do, and does not offend many, except those we dont care to hear from anyway! It makes sure the pay keeps coming.
While it makes us feel good in the short term, it is killing us in the long term by minimizing their impacts and ideas. The key is organizational change. A focus on technology and ideas ignores the structural basis of present institutional behavior, giving too little attention to the methods which drive reform – and the countervailing forces which must be overcome.
That is one of my biggest arguments, we are advocating COIN, while not making the necessary structural and personnel laws and policies that will support moving the Army from the 2nd Generation to a 3rd Generation Force, that understand 4th Generation Warfare. I understand 4th Generation, not because, I think we can win it, but to avoid situations where we are putting our Soldiers (and all their cultural, structural biases) against it, with no way to win. This is what is occurring to us today be advocating what most in the beltway want to hear, we can win this one, if you employ this method!
Well, here is my list of the true change agents, some are being listened too, only one gets attention, rightly so for him, but all are people of character, who understand what has to happen for our Army and our nation to survive in the 21st Century. Don Vandergriff’s list:
1. BG H.R. McMaster. HR is the future of the Army! He can lead and command in any environment as demonstrated by his tenure as the commander of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He is one of the smartest people I know on the subject of war and then translate it to reality. The Army is smart in 1), promoting him to BG, 1) putting him at Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC-at TRADOC) writing the new doctrinal concepts for the future. HR also knows the people and training side as well, something that is not sexy, fun to report by anyone but a few, but is more important to armies than the other side (doctrine and tactics). HR is one of the reasons I have hope for the Army as he rises in the ranks.
2. COL Casey Haskins. Casey is leading the new Army training and education revolution through his concept of Outcomes Based Training and Education (OBT&E) that is already being written into Army training policies as we speak. COL Haskins performed incredible changes how the Army does basic training as well as its leader development when he was director of the Captains Career Course at Fort Benning, GA, and then follow on as commander of the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning, GA (where he took on and defeated the risk averse training and safety apparatus of the Army). He is now director of the Department of Military Instructon (DMI), where he, along with some great instructors, are changing the culture of West Point, while influencing the future of several thousand Army leaders.
3. COL (ret.) Andy Bacevich. He has torn apart the defense establishment for what it is, and what it is doing to the nation. I am impressed that he has gotten the attention he has on a few mainstream media shows, but if you notice, it is only for the moment, so they can say they are “fair and balanced.” Dr. Bacevich has incredible moral courage for taking on the entire defense establishment and as well as our poor defense strategy or lack there of. Several of his books, including American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (2002), The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005) and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008)show where he has been “a persistent, vocal critic of the US occupation of Iraq, calling the conflict a catastrophic failure.” In March 2007, he described George W. Bush’s endorsement of such “preventive wars” as “immoral, illicit, and imprudent.”
4. Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson. I consider Bruce the best of military historians, or at least one of the best. Bruce is currently, for the second time, leading the revolution in education at Quantico on teaching both officers and NCOs how to think. Bruce’s focus is on the way that modern armies adapt to radical change in their operating environments. He divides his time between historical research and assisting present-day military organizations with their own attempts to innovate. Bruce’s finest book of many, is Storm Troop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army from 1914-1918. I made it required reading for all my students.
5. Mr. Winslow Wheeler. It’s impossible to understand America’s wars unless one sees its political foundation in Washington — our “Versailles on the Potomac.” Few can give us that as well as Winslow T. Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. “The conventional wisdom amongst the elite in Washington is that they have done a pretty good job of taking care of our national defense, that things may be a little expensive but we have the best armed forces in the world, perhaps even in history, and we do the best for our troops by giving them the world’s most sophisticated equipment which is, of course, the most effective. We have, so the elite asserts, demonstrated our ability by knocking off Saddam Hussein’s forces twice and are in general a model to the rest of the world on how to build equipment and provide for forces. That’s all crap. None of it is true. None of it stands up to scrutiny.” Win focuses on budget and acquisition issues, no fun at all, so it gets little attention, but if you study Winlow’s data, research and proposals, few if any can argue with him; so they ignore him.
6. Dr. Chet Richards. Chet has the best understanding of strategy I have seen. Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired), is the author of several books including (most recently) If We Can Keep It: A National Security Manifesto for the Next Administration that focus on strategy. Again, he is ignored by the establishment, because what he advocates is opposite of our ventures everywhere, and you have to do your homework to understand what he advocates. Nothing he writes fits onto a power point exsum. Unlike other publications now coming out on the Iraq War and the counterinsurgency campaign there, Chet rejects the notion that policy-makers can predict how well any such effort will work. The track record of military occupations in culturally and religiously alien lands in modern times is not good in terms of the end result for the occupier, the effects on the indigenous population, and the standing of the occupying nation and army in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Original Message —— What this list features isn’t the “brains” behind COIN, but rather those who most often are noticed by journos on the subject. Biddle, for example, isn’t exactly a savant on the study. One might have mentioned someone with a similar name, Birtle, but then that would require a more substantive understanding of who actually studies this stuff, and who is influential. When in doubt, look at the footnotes in the studies. On a tangential note, if we’re discussing influence, then Dilegge goes at the top, with Kilcullen. I deserve royalties for “COINdinistas.”
ALL Subject: [Warlord] Fw: The COINdinistas —– Original Message —– From: Dave Dilegge To: Dave Dilegge Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 4:35 AM Subject: The COINdinistas >From December’s Foreign Policy Magazine: The COINdinistas Who knows everything there is to know and more about counterinsurgency and its current role in U.S. military strategy? These guys. BY THOMAS E. RICKS | DECEMBER 2009
Pushed and prodded by a wonky group of Ph.D.s, the U.S. military has in the last year decisively embraced a Big Idea: counterinsurgency. Not everyone in uniform is a fan, but David Petraeus and the other generals in charge of America’s wars are solidly behind it. Here are the brains behind counterinsurgency’s rise from forgotten doctrine to the centerpiece of the world’s most powerful military:
1. Gen. David Petraeus The face of the 2007-08 “surge” in Iraq and now chief of Central Command. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is gonna try the same in Afghanistan, but “King David” rules this roost. ‘Nuff said?
2. John Nagl Writer on Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual, now beats the coin drum from the outside as president of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). But it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in a top Pentagon slot within a year or two.
3. David Kilcullen The Crocodile Dundee of counterinsurgency. Former Australian infantryman with a Ph.D. in anthropology, and one of the most quotable people on the planet. His book The Accidental Guerrilla helped shape the year’s debates; he worked to steer the former Bush administration toward coin from the inside.
4. Janine Davidson The Pentagon insider in this crowd. Former Air Force pilot now sitting at the adult table in the policy shop of the secretary of defense.
5. Dave Dilegge Editor of Small Wars Journal. This is the town square of counterinsurgency, avidly read by everyone from four-star generals to captains on the ground in Iraq.
6. Andrew Exum Abu Muqawama blogger; with Nagl, another colleague of mine at CNAS; and co-author of “Triage,” an influential policy paper on Afghanistan. A former Army Ranger who is doing a Ph.D. on Lebanese militias, and in his spare time has been known to play paintball against Hezbollah — no joke.
7. Stephen Biddle Council on Foreign Relations. A latecomer to the coin debate who has written insightfully about both Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Exum, advised McChrystal on Afghanistan strategy.
8. Andrew Krepinevich Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Penned the classic The Army and Vietnam, about the failure of the Army to apply counterinsurgency in Iraq; wrote an influential Foreign Affairs article on the Iraq war and counterinsurgency.
9. Kalev “Gunner” Sepp Assistant professor, Naval Postgraduate School. Like Krepinevich, an Army officer who ruined his career by getting a Ph.D. at Harvard. Fought in El Salvador and kept his COIN powder dry for years until someone was ready to listen.
10. Col. Gian Gentile West Point professor who commanded a unit in Iraq. The skunk at the coin party who constantly points out flaws in the groupthink. Paints with a broad brush, but absolutely necessary to the debate.