Gates Celebrates Dissent

Tuesday we gave you Sign of the Apocalypse.

...Recently, LTC Paul Yingling wrote a piece that appeared in the Armed Forces Journal - and sparked heated debate throughout the Army - ruffled some feathers - ruffled a lot of feathers. That is a good thing. We need more, not fewer, Paul Yinglings.

And on this point, George C. Marshall also can serve as our model. Many thought MAJ Marshall's career was at an end in 1917 when he publicly disagreed with and angrily lectured GEN "Black Jack" Pershing at 1st Division headquarters in France during World War I. He even grabbed the general's arm when he tried to disengage.

His anger and assertiveness did not draw a rebuke from Pershing - rather it earned his respect...

Wednesday Fred Kaplan provided Gates Celebrates Dissent.

Take, for instance, the case of Paul Yingling, the Army lieutenant colonel who, almost exactly one year ago, published a widely read article in the Armed Forces Journal that likened Iraq to Vietnam and blamed both debacles on "a crisis in an entire institution, America's general officer corps," which he accused of lacking "professional character," "moral courage," and "creative intelligence." Yingling was no crank. He was 41, a veteran of both Iraq wars, and at the time the deputy commander of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the unit that—well before Gen. David Petraeus took charge of U.S. forces in Iraq—brought order to the city of Tal Afar through classic counterinsurgency methods.

Gates didn't mention Yingling by name in his speeches on Monday, but he certainly had him in mind when he said at West Point, "I have been impressed by the way the Army's professional journals allow some of our brightest and most innovative officers to critique—sometimes bluntly—the way the service does business, to include judgments about senior leadership."

He went on, "I encourage you to take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful, but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it. And, agree with the articles or not, senior officers should embrace such dissent as a healthy dialogue and protect and advance those considerably more junior who are taking on that mantle."...

Much more at Slate.

You can find articles by LTC Yingling at his SWJ Bio Page.

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Ref: above post- COIN inside the wire. A very good point, and I think Mr. Carter has it right. The IRA used to say "break the boys inside, break the boys outside". They had a very long running insurgency, by one count 80 years, by another 800. It's probably safe to say they knew what they were talking about.

Having said that, I also think it's safe to say the institution has it in for the Gentlemen named above and if a housecleaning does not take place their careers will end at LTC or COL. The fate of LTC Nagl is already known.

Phil Carter has a good take on this over at Intel Dump.

... Yingling commands an artillery battalion at Fort Hood, Tex. That unit deployed to Iraq this month, where it will conduct detention operations. Kaplan argues that this assignment is the "very opposite of a career enhancer." I strongly disagree. Commanding an artillery battalion in combat is the quintessential rung on the ladder for an officer seeking to become a general.

Yingling's battalion was not likely to do bread-and-butter artillery stuff, but that's no slight against him or his men. They might've been deployed for convoy security duty, base defense duty, advisory duty or various other missions, because those are what most artillery battalions are doing in Iraq these days. Some battalions are tasked to control their own terrain and act like provisional infantry battalions, but those are the exception. Regardless, all of these missions are legitimate, and all are challenges for any unit and commander.

The detainee mission is a particularly challenging one, and not one that I'd wish on any unit. (I say that as a former military police captain with some knowledge of this field, and also as someone who's written extensively on detention issues in Iraq.) But detention operations are absolutely critical for counterinsurgency. When you get them wrong, you lose. Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone has instituted a number of innovations in his command of Task Force 134 (the entity in charge of detentions in Iraq), and Yingling's battalion will play a key role in implementing those. Detention facilities can be leveraged to win hearts and minds (see David Galula's experience in China). They can also be used to harvest human intelligence and build informant networks. The military police and military intelligence communities now call this "COIN inside the wire." It's an important mission in Iraq, and one which will fully engage Yingling's talents and those of his battalion...

Excellent article. As a follow up you may want to discuss the fate of the other COIN and 3-24 champions, as you may know;

COL McMasters - passed over for promotion twice. The kiss of death without SECDEF or POTUS intervention. Which Bush should do himself, since he singled him out as the victor of Tal Afar. The good COL's book about the Army's failure of leadership in Vietnam (perhaps a thinly veiled criticism of the present day) probably earned him little favor as well.

LTC Nagl - leaving for a DC think tank. I wonder who will hire him for long if he keeps being honest.

LTC Yingling - will be lucky if he doesn't get his Chai spiked with Polonium 210. I don't mean the Iraqi's.

Hopefully Gates is leading somewhere with his criticisms of the herd mentality at the puzzle palace. Frankly we should fire about 90% of our flag officers, and not replace 75% of their positions.

Of course sending Gen Petreaus to CENTCOM and Gen Odinero to MNF-I are very positive signs, but a few men cannot make a herd of sheep into men.

Our Army has plenty of lions that could be raised to leadership, let's send the donkeys to the glue factory.