Archive for June, 2010


June 22, 2010 – 4:35pm | admin

By Michael A. Cohen

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history. —George Bernard Shaw

            Shortly after he assumed command of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal provided his soldiers with operational guidance for fighting insurgent Taliban forces. McChrystal’s words directly reflect the Pentagon’s new model of U.S. warfare and inform the philosophy behind the current U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan: “The ongoing insurgency must be met with a counterinsurgency campaign adapted to the unique conditions in each area that: protects the Afghan people, allowing them to choose a future they can be proud of; provides a secure environment allowing good government and economic development to undercut the causes and advocates of insurgency.”



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The attached article was brought to my attention by a highly-educated, well-read medical doctor of Pashtun descent now living in the UK. It should be studied closely and ought to be mandatory reading in the White House, before the President gets stampeded by McChrystal debacle, the accession of General Petraeus, and his fellow travelers in the War Party (Democrats as well as Republicans) into backing away from President Obama’s withdrawal deadline.


Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan By William Dalrymple – New Statesman – 22/06/2010 http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/06/british-afghanistan-government

As Washington and London struggle to prop up a puppet government over which Hamid Karzai has no control, they risk repeating the blood- soaked 19th-century history of Britain’s imperial defeat. In 1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain, Reverend G R Gleig, wrote a memoir about the First Anglo-Afghan War, of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has Britain acquired with this war.


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My issue with COIN is that it has been used by the think tanks, and senior leaders associated with the think tanks as a tactical solution to solve a strategic nightmare. This article does an excellent job of describing what the recent Rolling Stones “The Runaway General” was really getting out, how a tactical solution fails to solve strategic problems. The Germans found this out in World War I and II. They were premier at the tactical and operational levels  of war, but failed at the strategic level. As I have said before, their strategy caused them “to make enemies faster than they could kill them.” I continue to advocate what I originally wrote in my book Path to Victory: America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs, in 2002, that we need to remain an expeditionary army where our focus is in powerful in and out operations, punishing our foes, leaving a calling card, that if they return and or repeat their actions, we will return with a vengeance. We have an overall culture that is impatient, long term occupations, especially of Islamic countries, do not work, and our own fiscal issues do not allow us to waste trillions of dollars in making countries in our own image. That is just a harsh reality. In this I am in total agreement with my friend COL Gian Gentile at West Point, and Dr. Andy Bacevich at Boston University. Many people have responded to me before and said, “but you believe in the 4 Generations of War.” Yes, but one must understand one’s own environment as well as that as potential opponents, and while the world is going the way of 4th Generation Warfare, our best solution is to move from a 2nd Generation to a 3rd Generation force to better understand and cope with a 4th Generation world.  Given those factors, it is best we avoid such situations. Good strategy places one’s forces in the best position to win (I respect the fact that people do not agree with the generations of war).


Rolling Stone Article’s True Focus: Counterinsurgency By TIMOTHY HSIA

“COIN doctrine [is] an oxymoron.”
– Chief Adm. Eric Olson, U.S. Special Operations Command

The Rolling Stone profile on Gen. Stanley A. McChyrstal has made civil-military relations a national debate. But an equally important question raised by the article is the limitations of counterinsurgency, or COIN. The article by Michael Hastings article should not be read simply as a profile of a general but also as an indictment on counterinsurgency and the growing dissatisfaction inside the military with COIN theory and its practice in war (though General McChrystal’s replacement on Wednesday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the leading proponent of counterinsurgency, seemed to indicate there would be no immediate shift away from the strategy).


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This excellent paper accompanies William Deresiewicz’s other article on Leadership and Solitude.  I have honestly been saying this for years that these institutions, which I taught at one for nine years (Georgetown) have some fine professors and students that understand what professionalism and leadership really is, but unfortunately, they are the small minority. Again, this is one of the factors behind our nation’s greatest crisis-LEADERSHIP!




 The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers

 By William Deresiewicz

 It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

 It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.


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This is the best leadership article I have read in my life. It is outstanding, hard hitting, well written, but true. It explains why the U.S. number one crisis is leadership. The article written William Deresiewicz, a former English professor at Yale. He gave this talk to the plebes (freshmen) at West Point in 2009.

Spring 2010

Solitude and Leadership

If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughtsBy William Deresiewicz

The lecture below was delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October of last year.

My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and leadership necessitates the presence of others—the people you’re leading. When we think about leadership in American history we are likely to think of Washington, at the head of an army, or Lincoln, at the head of a nation, or King, at the head of a movement—people with multitudes behind them, looking to them for direction. And when we think of solitude, we are apt to think of Thoreau, a man alone in the woods, keeping a journal and communing with nature in silence.


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