Small Wars Journal

"Courageous Colonels" - Current History Recap

We received this "Who's Who" current history recap out of the blue from Hamid

Hussain.  He was born and raised in Peshawar, is an allergist by

profession, but has been unable to cure his affliction with military history. 

That condition has been observed before on these premises.  Hamid is now

freelancing and doing analysis on security issues in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and

the Middle East.

As for this piece, many of the players and muscle movements will be familiar

to regulars around here.  For folks that haven't been following the story

for long, it's a handy recap and there are plenty of links to many of the

milestone articles.  Here it is basically as received, with some minimal

tweaks to the links.  Thanks, Hamid, and good luck with your new venture.

Courageous Colonels

by Hamid Hussain


'It takes one madman to throw a stone down the well.  It

takes ten wise persons to get it out'.

- A Persian proverb

In the last three years there has been a subtle shift in U.S. military

thinking where colonel level officers have come to the forefront of a debate

about ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Most of this debate is going

on the sidelines away from the media limelight but influence of some colonels is

being felt well beyond their rank.  This article will summarize the background

of some of these mid-level officers and the important role they played in the

shift in Iraq policy as far as military operations are concerned.  It will also

look at current ongoing contribution of these officers and point to some of the

potential pitfalls of solutions offered by these officers for a diverse and very

complex strategic environment. 

Traditionally there are two types of mid level officers.  One is 'commander'

type excelling in combat at company and battalion level but not having necessary

intellectual capacity to see the bigger picture.  Other group is 'intellectual'

type having the capacity to think in various dimensions but are poor managers of

men therefore they are usually not successful in combat.  The group under

discussion is unique in that they have not only excelled in combat but almost

all of them hold a PhD.  These colonels have a rare combination of combat

experience along with impeccable academic credentials.  They have been to the

hell hole in Iraq and saw their comrades killed and maimed partly due to the

inertia of their own higher command.  The group has been given various titles

such as 'Council of Colonels', 'Brainiac Brigade', 'Patreaus's PhD Posse',

'Petraus's Guys' and 'Baghdad Brain Trust'.  Former Army Chief of Staff General

Eric Shinseki was probably a bit ahead of his time.  He was not convinced that

army was being trained for coming conflicts and he chose a retired colonel to

diagnose the malaise affecting the organization.  In 2000, he asked retired

Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Wong to look at the overhaul of army training. 

Shinseki liked Wong's findings and 'sent him into the lion's den of two-star

general's conference to present his findings'.  (Dan Baum. 

Battle Lessons.  The New Yorker.  January 17, 2005.) As expected this

did not stir any enthusiasm among the senior brass.  Life was going on at a

usual pace in the army until it got its rude awakening when it was ordered into

Iraq in 2003. 

Soldiers on the ground very quickly realized that all was not well after Iraq

invasion in 2003.  It became quite clear to company and battalion commanders

that things were not going in the right direction, however they also noticed

that senior officers had no firm grip on the situation.  Senior officers were

cowed down by abrasive Defense Secretary Donald Rusmfeld and most of them simply

kept their mouth shut.  A group of thinking colonels started to voice their

opinions which were not in conformity with conventional wisdom.  Except one,

none of them had any special academic interest in counterinsurgency.  Their PhD

dissertations were about army budget cuts, infantry offensive in Europe in

Second World War, Thomas Jefferson and failure of senior brass in Vietnam.  One

thing which was common among this group was the intellectual capacity to grasp a

rapidly changing battlefield which was unfolding in front of their eyes. 

In 2006, one group of colonels was assembled as a study group on Iraq

strategy at Joint Chiefs when General Peter Pace was Chairman.  In the ensuing

year, they contributed their input at various forums.  In early 2007, a group of

colonels along with few other civilians was herded together under Joint

Strategic Assessment Team (JSAT) where they spent long hours debating all

options. (See Newsweeks's

Braniac Brigade).   Goal of U.S. army at that time was to hand over to Iraqi

forces as soon as possible no matter whether they were ready or not and pull

back as country was sinking rapidly into a ferocious civil war.   This group of

colonels convinced the senior brass about their case of abandoning the idea of

'commuter war'.  U.S. soldiers were securely penned behind heavily fortified

large bases and they were commuting to battlefields in tanks and Bradley armored

vehicles with guns blazing and then coming back home in the evening to rest.  In

the process they had only earned hatred of most neutral Iraqis who were on the

receiving end.   The colonels advocated a bold albeit risky plan of sending

soldiers to live with Iraqi forces and in the neighborhoods to protect the

population.  Majority of senior officers were not enthusiastic about sending

more troops which was in line with American public opinion.  However President

George Bush was not —to scale back and this new idea was quickly embraced

by him. 

The idea was fraught with dangers and in traditionally casualty averse senior

brass and American public it could have easily backfired.  There was a distinct

possibility that new approach would expose U.S. soldiers to more harm and if

large number of soldiers were killed and wounded, the public support could have

evaporated more quickly.  This could have then heralded a hasty and messy

retreat.  However, at that particular time some senior officers feared a

'Vietnam style collapse' of the whole Iraq adventure and started to use the

dreadful F word of 'failure'.  In the absence of any coherent plan of their own,

they concluded that the risk was worth taking.  

A brief review of background of this group of colonels is essential to

understand how their thought process evolved in the middle of a sanguine war. 

Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen is an Australian army officer.  His

experience includes a short stint in East Timor after which he emerged as expert

on terrorist groups.  In post-September 11 world, various security entities

began mushrooming in all departments of U.S. government, adding more bureaucracy

rather than fresh ideas.  He landed in one of State Department's shop named

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism where he was Chief Strategist for

the office.  In 2006, he wrote a mini counterinsurgency manual for company level

officers.  (David Kilcullen.  'Twenty

Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency'. 

Military Review, Insights, May-June 2006, pp. 103-108.)  He advised General

David Petraeus on various issues pertaining to Iraq war. 

Colonel H. R. McMaster

served as Director of the Commander's Advisory Group at CENTCOM from 2003-2004. 

He commanded 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar area in 2005.

His bold initiative in the absence of higher command plan saved Tel Afar which

was then known as 'second Fallujah'.

This Sunday Times piece praised him stating that 'If there had been more

McMasters in Baghdad in the beginning, and less US hubris, Iraqis might be in a

far better position'. After a stint at International Institute for Strategic

Studies in London, he served as special assistant to General David Petraeus. 

McMaster was passed over for promotion twice but finally in July 2008, he was

promoted to Brigadier rank and appointed director of newly created Army

Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) at US Army Training & Doctrine Command.

 Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl is an armored corps officer who served with Ist

Battalion of 34th Armored Regiment in Iraq in early part of the war. 

After Iraq tour, he served as an assistant to then Deputy Secretary of Defence

Paul Wolfowitz and commanded a battalion which trained U.S. soldiers for their

Iraq tour focusing on how to train Iraqi forces.  He has decided to leave army

and join Center for a New American Security.  Academically, his PhD dissertation

was about war in Malaya and Vietnam. 

Colonel Peter Mansoor commanded Ist Brigade of Ist Armored Division in

Baghdad and spent a little over a year in combat zone in 2003-04.  Later, he

served as director of Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth and executive

officer of General Petraeus in Baghdad.  Mansoor was not promoted to the next

rank and joined the faculty of Ohio State University.  His PhD thesis was about

U.S. infantry offensive in Europe during Second World War.  Colonel Michael

Meese is a gunner who has served as executive officer of Petraeus when later

served in Bosnia in 2001.  In 2003, he was special advisor to then Major General

David Petraeus who was commanding 101st Airborne in Mosul in the

early stages of Iraq war.  On academic side he is an economist and currently

deputy head of Social Science Department of Military Academy at West Point. 

Colonel Sean McFarland commanded Ist Brigade of Ist Armored Division in

Ramadi in 2006.  On his own initiative, he focused on counterinsurgency measures

rather than blindly following senior commanders obsession of 'capture and kill'

strategy.  He was serving as commander, Joint task Force North at US Northern

Command when he was

promoted to the rank of Brigadier in July 2008.  Lieutenant Colonel Charles

Miller joined 3rd Battalion of 187th Infantry Regiment

where his first commanding officer was then Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus. 

His PhD dissertation was about doctrinal changes in U.S. army.  In 2004, he

became executive officer of Lieutenant General David Petraeus who was then

heading Multi National Security Transition Command responsible for training

Iraqi security forces and police.  Petraeus called him back to Iraq during the

surge where he served as Deputy Director of Commander's Initiatives Group and in

this capacity was an influential member of the group of colonels advising about

the changed course.  Since early 2008, he has been working as special assistant

to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. 

Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Ollivant served as the operations officer for

Ist Battalion of 5th Cavalry Regiment in the tough neighborhoods of

Baghdad, Najaf and Fallujah.  Later, he became Chief of Plans of Multi-National

Division in Baghdad and in this capacity was the chief architect of the security

plan for Baghdad.  He is now Director of Iraq on the National Security Council. 

Brigadier William

Rapp is an Engineers officer with PhD from Stanford University.  He served

in Iraq with 101st Airborne Division in North where he commanded 555

Combat Engineer Group.  He was a key player of the in house team assembled by

Petraeus.  He served as Director of Commander's Initiatives Group from February

2007-February 2008 which was advisory group for Petraeus in Iraq executing the

surge. Lieutenant Colonel William Ostlund commanded 2nd Battalion of

503rd Infantry Regiment (part of 173rd Airborne Brigade

Combat Team) in Eastern Afghanistan.  In July 2008,

nine soldiers of Ostlund's battalion were killed in an attack on the forward

post in Wanat in eastern Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Jen Easterly

contributed to the deliberations for senior brass and his input was likely about

the role of computers and internet in the operation.  He served as director's

fellow for the National Security Agency and in July 2008 took command of the

newly raised Army Network Warfare Battalion (ANWB).

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling's case is most important.  He is an

artilleryman and has served two tours in Iraq.  First tour was with an artillery

battalion which was involved in training Iraqi security forces.  Second time, he

served as deputy commander of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005. 

 Yingling holds masters degree from University of Chicago.  In May 2007, he

published an article in Armed Forces Journal titled 'A

Failure in Generalship' accusing senior brass of failing the nation and the

army. He commented that 'the system that produces our generals does little to

reward creativity and moral courage.' The piece itself was astonishing as well

as the fact that an important army journal decided to publish it.  An Iraq

veteran and history professor at West Point Colonel Matthew Moten

stated that Yingling was 'speaking some truths that most of us talk about

over beers' but 'very few of us have the courage or foolhardiness to put them in

print'.  To the credit of the army rather than ending his career which many

expected, he was given a seat at the table of debate.  The institutional

response to Yingling's piece shows the approach of different segments of the

organization.  Fort Hood Commandant Major General Jeff Hammond assembled about

200 Captains to announce that 'Colonel Yingling wasn't competent to judge

generals because he had never been one and has never worn the shoes of a

general'.  Colonel Kevin Benson of Army's School for Advanced Military Studies

which trains best Majors of the army for future dropped all lesson plans and let

his students discuss Yingling's article. Yingling co-authored with Lieutenant

Colonel John Nagl few pieces about counterinsurgency tactics.  (New

Rules for New Enemies.  Armed Forces Journal, October 2006, and

The FA in

the Long War: A New Mission in COIN.  Field Artillery Magazine.

July-August 2006.

Lieutenant Colonel Gian P. Gentile is among the minority of colonels who

warns against drinking too much from the goblet of counterinsurgency and a

critic of his counterinsurgency enthusiast colleagues.  He has doctorate in

history from Stanford and teaches at West Point.  He has served two tours in

Iraq.  He argues that decrease in violence in Iraq is mainly due to paying off

Sunni insurgents and unilateral ceasefire of Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaish-al-Mahdi

militia and not due to 'surge' (Misreading

the Surge Threatens U.S. Army's Conventional Capabilities, World Politics

Review).  He warns that counterinsurgency gurus are advocating a narrative

which 'resurrects dubious battlefield lessons from the past -- Vietnam,

principally -- applies them to Iraq, and extrapolates from there into an unknown

future' (A

(Slightly) Better War: A Narrative and Its Defects.  World Affairs)

He is not —to accept the success of the surge although in 2006 what he

wished has now been achieved.  He wrote then that, 'The war I faced was an

insurgency within a civil war.  I wish it had been the other way around.  Had it

been a civil war within an insurgency, the extremes could have been targeted and

controlled and the large center of the people moved toward local compromise' (In

the Middle of a Civil War. The Washington Post, August 07, 2007).

 The civil war within insurgency occurred when tribal and nationalist element

broke with Al-Qaeda in Iraq and turned on extremists. This also gave U.S. army

the opportunity to tame Shia militias and at least a temporary compromise has

been reached.  However, we should be aware of the fact that ethnic and sectarian

communities have been consolidated in their own respective areas after

'cleansing' with few mixed areas left which was also a contributing factor in

decreasing the ferocity of the fratricidal war among Iraqis.     

We are walking into a dangerous arena if we over simply the past experience

by arguing that Vietnam was lost due to bad tactics and if we had a good cook

book of a counterinsurgency manual we could have won it.   And now that we have

mastered a cook book we can simply march into any country whenever we want. 

Gentile is not —to give surge the credit it deserves, however he also has

a point.  In this regard, colonel Gentile is correct when he states about

Vietnam that 'we lost it for reasons having less to do with tactics than with

the will, perseverance, cohesion, indigenous support, and sheer determination of

the other side, coupled with the absence of any of those things on the American

side'.  (Gentile.  A (Slightly) Better War, World Affairs) Similarly, if

we learn a wrong lesson from Iraq, we risk a much greater danger in the future

military posture.  In any foreign adventure, no matter how we present it, a

large number of people of host country and world opinion will consider presence

of U.S. troops as an occupation force. We have the luxury of using euphemisms of

'host nation' but in reality counterinsurgency gurus are advocating occupation

of lands of other people.  Many of these countries are very fragile and

sometimes our own ill thought actions generate new waves of complex violent

paroxysms. Our ill fated entry into Iraq generated a tsunami of hatred among the

Muslim world.  The result was radicalization of hitherto neutral Muslim

populations all over the world.  The anger and sense of humiliation generated

meteors traveling in all directions and the result was horrific bombings in

London and Spain. 

First rule of the game is to see things as they are and try not to create an

alternative reality which fits into our own narrative.  The plain fact is that

we are not welcome in many parts of the world in any capacity let alone

tolerance of our heavily armed troops knocking at doors of other people.   It is

crucial that information is two way to include narratives from other societies

and cultures to understand their point of view whether we agree with it or not. 

Current input from some dedicated officers is valuable in extracting ourselves

from a difficult situation but we should not loose the sight and still need to

focus on the central theme of how not to get into the mess in the first place.

Americans have very little interaction at a level where others can express their

opinions freely.  The sources of information from 'other side' on the basis of

which we are drawing our conclusions are based on opinions of some 'overrated

natives' (a group of Americans of Arab or Afghan descent) or people who are

actively competing with each other for political and economic resources in Iraq

and Afghanistan and using us for their own reasons. 

One flaw in most of the writings of these new military counterinsurgency

experts is that their narrative is being woven in a vacuum.  They are letting

their imagination run wild and simply adding a long laundry list of

restructuring of the army and personnel training.  Any end needs to be carefully

balanced with means and we can not keep checking on 'to do list' without paying

attention to the political, social and economic landscape of our country.  

Asking a platoon and company commander to be master of language and culture,

negotiator, diplomat, economic advisor as well as a first rate soldier is quite

a tall order.  Nagl and Yingling created a new acronym SWEAT-MS which stands for

Sewer, Water, Electricity, Academics, Trash, Medical and Security.  (Nagl &

Yingling.  FA in COIN) We are churning so many acronyms that very soon army will

have its own encyclopedia of acronyms.  They are advocating that a low and mid

level officer should be trained to be an academic, electrician, plumber and

garbage collector in an alien country.  He is expected to learn things in few

years which will need a life time.  General Abraham Roberts spent fifty years in

India and his son Field Marshal Frederick Roberts spent forty two years in

India.  Between father and son it comes out to be ninety two years which helped

British to embark on significant social engineering projects in alien lands.  We

are sending young men for twelve months rotations and expecting the same

results.  The means simply don't match the goals.    

Advocates of counterinsurgency need to streamline their thought process. 

Their long list for army overhaul includes making it more decentralized, adding

combined arms battalions, making the officers not only good at shooting but also

proficient in languages and culturally adept to little known societies all

around the globe.  These are all fine ideas but they need to be put in a proper

perspective.  In addition, some first criticize army for being too specialist

oriented and not well rounded but then turn around and advocate raising a whole

new corps of super specialist advisors consisting of no less than 20,000

soldiers (see Lt. Colonel John A. Nagl and Lt. Colonel Paul L. Yingling. 

New Rules for New

Enemies.  Armed Forces Journal, October 2006, and

Interview of Lt. Colonel John Nagl with Laura Rozen, Mother Jones,

October 18, 2007). On one hand, they advocate that the basic tenet of

counterinsurgency is to empower central government and make it supreme not only

in coercive power but also in political and economic arenas.  This they consider

essential to overcome competing tribal, sectarian and ethnic power centers. 

Then in a one hundred and eighty degree turn, they applaud arming and directly

paying tribal and sectarian militias which operate in their own fiefdoms

completely out of control of central government.   (For this see view see

Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Ollivant and Captain Eric D. Chewning. 

Producing Victory: A 2007 Postscript for Implementation.  Military Review,

March-April 2007)  Now that General Petraeus is heading CENTCOM, it is likely

that same recipe of directly arming and supporting tribal groups is being

contemplated for Pakistan's turbulent tribal areas. 

We always need to look at the strategic landscape which is indeed complex. 

Risk benefit analysis of any action needs to be more thorough and methodical

taking into consideration different views to limit negative fall out.  A good

example is wholesale use of Predator attacks inside Pakistan.  We have been able

to eliminate some extremists but in the process we have also made the position

of Pakistan government very precarious.  It is like pulling the rug from under

the feet of political and military leadership of Pakistan.  Our dilemma is that

to achieve some immediate tactical gains we end up speeding up the process of

fragmentation of fragile societies.  We then turn around to try to put back the

humpty dumpty so that non-state actors do not operate freely in the ungovernable

areas.  These actions are a good example of self fulfilled prophecies.  These

countries have enormous social, economic, political and security problems.  They

are going to tackle them in their own way and go through social upheaval and

fight their own civil wars.  If we directly insert ourselves in this complex

equation, we will get all the blame for everything wrong and no credit for

anything which goes well.  We will surely be spending our blood and treasure in

a thankless job. 

There needs to be a clear differentiation between conventional war,

insurgency and fight against extremism perpetrated by non-state actors.  Our

major focus should be on tackling threats from extremist groups for which we

have to look for different tools in our tool box.  The fight against extremists

will be fought by bridging gulfs between nation states, solving existing

conflicts, preventing new conflicts, forging regional cooperation and developing

close working relations between intelligence agencies.  American people want a

safe and secure environment but the very temperament of American people is not

conducive for such neo-colonial concepts even if we are able to co-opt some

liberal human right activists or intellectuals from liberal east coast

universities (Columbia University held a reunion of its graduates in the Green

Zone in Baghdad).  Military obviously has a very important role in the national

security but we have to come up with a better model. 

There are some disturbing signals that we are not paying attention to

feelings of common man on the streets of Middle East.  Steve Coll of New Yorker


confronted Petraeus about views of some that current U.S. posture in the

region resembles very closely with colonial era where expeditionary forces were

followed by civilians to administer the region.  Petraeus didn't address a very

important question which is the talk of the town in every café in the Middle

East and dismissed the notion stating that at a certain point you have to ask

"let's take the rearview mirrors off the bus".  Petraeus is happy to use

Lawrence of Arabia's methodology who was responsible for restructuring of modern

middle east for British colonial empire and work of Captain David Galula of

French army on French Algeria; the last battle of French colonialism.  However,

he does not want to acknowledge the obvious similarities of these past efforts

with his own projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In any strategy prevalent

perceptions no matter how unpalatable need to be seriously studied rather than

dismissed cavalierly. 

A small group of colonels who had participated in combat in Iraq in very

difficult circumstances had the intellectual capacity to comprehend the gross

mishandling of war effort by senior brass.  Most importantly, they had the moral

courage to stand up and express their views quite divergent from the senior

brass.  Senior military brass in the run up to Iraq war and in its conduct of

operation was a dismal failure.  They failed not only the preparation and

competency test but most importantly failed the moral courage test.  To the

credit of the army as an institution, it turned over 'the war to its dissidents,

who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years'

and then literally let them 'try to wage the war their way'.  (Thomas E. Ricks. 

Officers with PhDs Advising War Effort.  The Washington Post) 

Breaking down many taboos, a batch of colonels was allowed to express themselves

freely and according to Colonel Peter Mansoor, "You had colonels challenging the

thinking of four-star generals and admirals".  (Steve Coll. 


General's Dilemma.  The New Yorker) This is truly unprecedented not

only in U.S. army but it will be hard to find such an example in modern military

history.  Some of these colonels are now advising General Petraeus in his new

position of command of critical CENTCOM.  Colonel Peter Mansoor has been asked

now to look at the wider horizons in the area of responsibility of CENTCOM.

In the years to come, when operational details of the surge are declassified

then a clear picture will emerge about the role of the colonels in this

endeavor.  No matter what is the outcome of the Iraq war, at least at tactical

levels, the impact of this 'colonel's intellectual coup' will be felt in U.S.

army for the coming decades.  However, we will be deluding ourselves if we do

not fully comprehend limitations of the case presented by the colonels.  It is

at best a tactical recipe to get out of a messy situation with least damage. 

Each colonel brings a sack of leaves to the table which he has carefully

collected and catalogued from his respective tree.  Now we have several sacks of

different varieties of leaves on the table along with flashy power point

presentations which can overawe anyone.  However, we will still need someone way

above among the senior military and political leadership to look at these sacks

in their proper perspective and not to confuse these sacks with real jungle.

 There is a clear and present danger of militarizing our foreign policy if

current thought process gains traction at higher echelons of armed forces.  

General David Petraeus achieved a remarkable tactical respite in Iraq and he

showed true leadership skills by bringing diverging opinions to the table. 

However, now that Petraeus has found the right hammer in the tool box to address

the Iraq conundrum, he needs to tread carefully.  There is a risk that by

bringing a group of people with similar ideas in the inner circle, his close

advisors may become an echo chamber, a charge which was leveled at senior brass

earlier.  If he carry's the same hammer now as CENTCOM commander and start to

use this hammer for a different job in troubled border areas of Pakistan, then

he may be remembered as the general responsible for unleashing the 'mother of

chaos' by destabilizing Pakistan.  If 'Anbar model' is replicated in

Pakistan's border areas without serious and in depth analysis then there is a

clear and present danger of sending the instability on a new trajectory thus

setting the stage for a conflict which may last for at least a generation.  The

situation is very difficult and complex but if in the quest of stabilizing

Afghanistan, Petraeus ends up destabilizing Pakistan, then he may surely bring

strategic disaster for U.S. national security interests.  Pakistan is surely

responsible for some of its ills but some of our actions are adding fuel to the

fire and Pakistanis are paying a very heavy price.  Large number of Pakistanis

both soldiers and civilians are being killed and maimed in steadily escalating

violence and majority of Pakistanis hold us responsible for this.  No matter how

aseptically we think about military affairs, we need to consider the human

suffering and can not absolve ourselves.  A more cooperative approach between

United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan and brining others such as Russia, China

and even Iran to the table to focus on common interests is the way forward. 

It looks like that everybody is jumping on the already crowded train of

counterinsurgency.  We are witnessing the process of establishment of a

'counterinsurgency theme park' with a huge bureaucracy of its own.  In no time,

this will become another expensive fixture in Pentagon and vendors and purveyors

of its ideas and products will be traveling salesmen of their products.  At

strategic level, if political and military leadership for a minute thinks that

we have mastered the art of counterinsurgency, they may get some delusional

ideas in their heads which can send the nation to a real disaster.  At strategic

level, still U.S. interests are best served by a little pull back rather than

thrusting ourselves more deeper into un chartered territories.  Strategic myopia

of our political leadership coupled with lack of moral courage of military

leadership has brought us to our current strategic cul de sac.  We need to

ponder and reflect more; otherwise we risk political, economic and military

bankruptcy in near future making us more vulnerable rather than secure.   

War against extremism will be won by earning respect of others and in this an

ounce of humility will help us more than anything else.  Chinese philosopher and

strategist Sun Tzu said long time ago that 'You don't want to go to bed at night

with more enemies than you started with in the morning.' Friends are gained by

understanding others and focusing on common interests.  Respect is earned not

demanded and these are the tools which will be needed to isolate extremists.  A

large part of this war will be fought in the shadows.  If we approach in this

way, then we need not to patrol the dusty roads in God forsaken lands all around

the globe.  In the newly found gospel of counterinsurgency, it is stated that

counterinsurgency is twenty percent military and eighty percent political

endeavourer.  By this standard, the fight against extremism is less than five

percent military and more than ninety five percent intelligence and building

alliances across various divides.  Even these new apostles of counterinsurgency

know the dangers as one of them colonel H. R. McMaster said, 'It is so damn

complex.  If you ever think you have the solution to this, you're wrong, and

you're dangerous.  You have to keep listening and thinking and being critical

and self-critical'.  (George Packer. 

The Lesson

of Tal Afar.  The New Yorker, April 10, 2006.)  Recent U.S.

presidential elections have generated a wave of hope all around the globe. 

President elect Barrack Obama will be well served by national security advisors

who bring fresh ideas to the table.  We have already squandered international

goodwill generated in the aftermath of September 11 attacks.  It will be tragic

if we do it again in eight short years and in that case history will not judge

us with kindness. 

Victory in the true sense implies that the state of peace, and of one's

people, is better after the war than before.  B.H. Liddell Hart

Dr. Hamid Hussain is an independent analyst based in New York.  He is

an American of Pakistani origin with interest in security affairs of

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Middle East.  He is President of Coeus Consultants

LLC, a private consulting firm specializing in military and security issues of

Middle East, Pakistan & Afghanistan.  For corrections, comments & critique


Nicki (not verified)

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 7:25am

Another correction: Lt. Colonel Jen Easterly is a woman not a man.

Hamid Hussain (not verified)

Tue, 12/30/2008 - 7:57pm

Two corrections to the piece; Colonel Michael Meese is head of social science department not deputy. Lt. Colonel Jen Easterly is female. In the narrative about all the men, I overlook that. In writing, I may have overlook that but we are all proud of service of female members of armed forces.

My apologies to colonel Meese for demoting him and Lt. Colonel Easterly for changing her gender without surgery in my piece.Thanks to many for pointing to these errors.
'Neither to laugh; Nor cry
Just to understand' Spinoza

Hamid Hussain