Small Wars Journal

Blog Posts

SWJ Blog is a multi-author blog publishing news and commentary on the various goings on across the broad community of practice.  We gladly accept guest posts from serious voices in the community.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 07/03/2010 - 7:08pm | 0 comments
Pentagon Tightens Interview Rules - Voice of America

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered top military officials to inform the Pentagon before giving interviews to news media.

The new policy announced Friday comes little more than a week after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, was forced to resign because of a published article. The U.S. magazine Rolling Stone last month published mocking comments McChrystal and his staff made about the Obama administration.

Pentagon officials say Secretary Gates was working on the new policy before that scandal. They added that the policy was not intended to restrict information or media access to officials.

Some reporters have expressed concern after the McChrystal episode that military officials will be wary of communicating with them.


Gates Tightens Rules for Military and the Media - New York Times

Pentagon Issues New Rules for Engaging the Press - Wall Street Journal

Gates Wants Military Interviews with Press Cleared - Associated Press

Gates Tightens Military's Media Rules - BBC News

Pentagon Tightens Media Rules for U.S. Military - Agence France-Presse

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 07/02/2010 - 10:19pm | 2 comments

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

-- U.S. Declaration of Independence

I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance.

-- John Adams

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

-- Benjamin Franklin

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

-- Thomas Jefferson

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 07/02/2010 - 8:33pm | 7 comments
Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) The Pentagon's entitlement spending problem,

2) The U.S. is a spectator at Afghanistan's end game.

The Pentagon's entitlement spending problem

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) explained the dismal trends that are bogging down the Pentagon's budget. Over the past decade, the budget, after subtracting out inflation, has almost doubled. Yet during that time, the number of aircraft and warships has declined and those that remain have gotten older. Funding has expanded at Reagan-like levels. But compared to the Reagan years, there has been relatively little modernization resulting from all of that spending.

The operational costs of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a large part of the problem. According to the CSBA, 20 percent of defense spending (including supplemental budgets) between 2001 and 2010 went to operational costs of those two wars. But the remaining 80 percent of the spending doesn't seem to have produced much new capability.

The rapid escalation in the cost of new weapons -- partly caused by frustrating mismanagement in research and procurement practices -- has resulted in a bleak return on investment for taxpayers. In 1985, during the peak of the Reagan defense buildup, the Pentagon bought 338 new tactical fighter aircraft and 23 new warships, among other items. In 2008, procurement spending was 33 percent higher after adjusting for inflation, yet the department could afford only 56 new airplanes and 7 new warships. One wonders whether the increases in weapons quality have been worth the inflation in unit costs.

But it is the Department's personnel costs that will pose the biggest headache in the future. Just like entitlement spending in the domestic budget, salaries, health care, and family services benefits granted today compound into the future and are politically impossible to retract. In order to reduce stress on ground troops making repeated deployments to the war zones, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expanded Army and Marine Corps headcounts by 92,100 immediately after taking office in late 2006. Meanwhile, Congress has consistently upped the ante on the Pentagon's salary requests. Just like everywhere else in the economy, the Pentagon's health care bill has run wild, tripling the rate of inflation in the rest of the economy since 2001 -- it now consumes nearly a tenth of the Pentagon's base budget. And in order to retain experienced personnel constantly separated from their families, Congress has expanded a variety of family benefits.

The result has been a growth in inflation-adjusted personnel costs from $73,300 per head in 2000 to $126,800 in the 2011 budget. When it comes time for Congress to roll back defense spending, this compensation will be untouchable. Training, maintenance, and equipment modernization will suffer the cuts.

Gates has rightly made the preservation of the all-volunteer force his top budget priority. Military success depends first and always on the quality of the soldiers in an army. That requires competitive compensation.

But just like any other enterprise struggling under financial pressure, the military will soon have to examine whether there are new paradigms that might allow one soldier to make the same contribution to security that ten or a hundred previously did.

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 07/02/2010 - 4:19pm | 36 comments
What Really Happened at Wanat - Kirk Ross, Proceedings.

Some press accounts have placed blame for M4 carbine malfunctions at the Battle of Wanat, Afghanistan, squarely on the weapon's manufacturer. In fact, other factors could have led to the disaster there...

Read the entire article at Proceedings.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 07/02/2010 - 7:25am | 4 comments
Center for Naval Analyses Workshop

While the United States has focused on the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan, the role of India has remained largely overlooked. Since 2001, India has restored diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, invested heavily in reconstruction projects, and increased bilateral trade. As a result, Pakistani-based terrorist groups who initially planned attacks on Indian soil, now also increasingly target Indian workers and diplomats in Afghanistan. How can the United States better work with its fellow democratic ally? What opportunities can Afghanistan pursue with India?

Please join the Center for Naval Analyses for a workshop on India's role in Afghanistan: Security, Politics, and Trade, on Monday, 12 July, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Panelists include: Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (confirmed); Steve Coll, President of the New America Foundation (confirmed); Ali Jalali, Distinguished Professor at NDU's Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (invited), S. Frederick Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center (confirmed); and moderator Dr. Jerry Meyerle, Research Analyst at CNA (confirmed).

The workshop will be held in the Gold Room of the 2168 Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Please RSVP to or 703.824.2436 by Friday, 9 July.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 07/02/2010 - 6:51am | 0 comments
Joe Galloway - Steven Pressfield interview with the man who set the standard for today's journalists.

You ask me to analyze what has always made me jump when others might pause. Tough question. I've always been competitive and 22 years at United Press International (UPI), the now defunct news wire service, only sharpened that edge. UPI's motto was always: A Deadline Every Minute. You learned to move fast, get the story fast and first, write fast and leave The Associated Press in the dirt.

When I went to Vietnam to cover the war in the spring of 1965 I had just turned 23 years old. I spent my first seven months covering the U.S. Marines. The learning curve is steep in combat. You learn to read a situation, or a man, instantly and if you are wrong it can cost you your life.

At the core, down deep, is a willingness to act on instinct when the situation leaves no time for chewing things over or searching the memory for a textbook solution. I trust my instincts. They are the sum total of all I know, all I have read, all I have experienced, all I have learned. Instinct has served me well all my life. It has permitted me to jump when others might not, and survive to tell the stories.

Read the entire interview.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 07/01/2010 - 6:31pm | 2 comments
President Obama's 2011 Deadline in Afghanistan Stirs Controversy

Ravi Khanna

Voice of America

The change in the US military command in Afghanistan has brought to the forefront yet again the controversy over President Obama's July 2011 deadline in Afghanistan. Is it a deadline for the US to begin actually withdrawing its troops? Or is it a deadline to assess the progress made in breaking the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, in order to determine the future course of action.

President Obama set the deadline in December of last year, as he announced his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. "These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces," he said. "And allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011".

But hours after the announcement, officials like Defense Secretary Robert Gates began downplaying the deadline, amid fears that it might send a wrong message to the Taliban and also to the Pakistanis and Afghans.

The controversy came up again as the U.S. Senate was confirming General David Petraeus to replace ousted General Stanely McChrystal.

Continue on for the entire story...

by Robert Haddick | Thu, 07/01/2010 - 11:01am | 3 comments
This week the American Enterprise Institute published an essay I wrote about containing and deterring Iran ("If war is not the answer"). The theme: An explicit U.S. security guarantee protecting Persian Gulf allies from Iran may look appealing (compared to the alternatives), but it will be difficult to define, tough to credibly implement, and contain its own sizable risks and costs.

An excerpt:

President Obama will soon have to face the realization that the sanctions strategy against Iran has fared no better than his bid to engage Iran's leaders in direct negotiations. Iran's strategy of patiently playing for time, generating diplomatic support from the developing world, and convincing China and Russia to dilute sanctions at the Security Council is working. The United States and its allies have not been able to develop sufficient leverage to disrupt Iran's strategy.

Short of war, the only course remaining for the United States and its allies is containment and deterrence. A key component of such a strategy would be a security guarantee, explicitly extending the U.S. nuclear umbrella over its Arab allies around the Persian Gulf. Compared to the prospect of war, and with the other strategies having failed, an explicit U.S. security guarantee may look appealing. In July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned the possibility of extending a "security umbrella" over the Middle East and repeated the idea in February 2010.

But a security guarantee protecting the Persian Gulf allies from Iran will not be easy. It will be difficult to define, tough to credibly implement, and contain its own risks and costs. Before agreeing to a security guarantee, U.S. policy makers need to consider these costs and risks. They should prepare programs that will increase the chance of such a strategy's success. Perhaps most important, U.S. policy makers need to be open with the American public about what a commitment to a security guarantee will mean. As was the case during the Cold War, broad public acceptance is necessary if a security guarantee is to be credible and sustainable.

Click here to read the essay.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/30/2010 - 8:58am | 2 comments
Legitimizing Army Psychological Operations, by Alfred Paddock, Jr., was published earlier this year in Joint Force Quarterly and expands on Paddock's Small Wars Journal article PSYOP: On a Complete Change in Organization, Practice, and Doctrine.

Once again, we hear discussion within the U.S. Army on whether the name psychological operations (PSYOP) should be changed—an issue that has arisen periodically for years. The term, defined broadly as the planned use of communications to influence human attitudes and behavior of foreign audiences, is characterized by some as "toxic," "disinformation," "unsavory," and with other pejorative words. This criticism inhibits the ability of PSYOP units to support U.S. military forces and to interact with other executive branch agencies—or so goes the criticism. Thus, some argue, the term must be replaced.

I believe this would be a mistake...

More from Joint Force Quarterly.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/30/2010 - 8:41am | 0 comments
Afghanistan Tests Petraeus' Counterinsurgency Mettle - Jackie Northam, National Public Radio.

Gen. David Petraeus' nomination as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan comes at a critical time. June has been the deadliest month for the U.S.-led coalition in the nearly nine-year-old war: More than 90 foreign troops have been killed. Concerns are also increasing over what is seen as a faltering war effort, and whether the new counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan will succeed.

Petraeus' confirmation hearing Tuesday clearly showed that there are high expectations for the four-star general, not only to seamlessly assume command in Afghanistan but to quickly try to salvage the war effort there. President Obama signed off on a counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan in December, which involves deploying an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to battle insurgents while civilians help build the country's infrastructure and civil society.

So far, the results are widely viewed as less than promising. Nowhere has this been more evident than in southern district of Marjah. U.S.-led troops launched an offensive there in February, promising to quickly rid the area of Taliban and other insurgents and to set up a viable local government. But the so-called government in a box has evaporated, and Taliban militants have come back to the area...

More at NPR.

by Youssef Aboul-Enein | Tue, 06/29/2010 - 12:30pm | 1 comment

The Red Flag: A History of Communism by David Priestland. Published by Grove

Press, New York.  655 pages, 2009. 

Reviewed by Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, MSC, USN

 America's military leaders and counter-insurgency practitioners must not

only orient themselves to the tactics of adversaries, but the mindset that motivates

and even creates divides among insurgents.  Delving into the ideological rationale

of such enemies as al-Qaida requires patient study, reflection, debate and analysis. 

It requires the training of one's own mind to eliminate biases, and immerse oneself

in empathizing (not sympathizing) with the adversary.  Why is it important

to empathize with the enemy?  By developing such analytic rigor into the psychology,

and ideology that motivates and justifies violence one can begin to anticipate,

interrogate, and understand the landscape as well as decision-cycles of those that

challenge the United States and its allies.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/29/2010 - 11:57am | 0 comments
Opening Statement of General David H. Petraeus, Confirmation Hearing as Commander, ISAF/US Forces--Afghanistan on 29 June 2010.

Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. And thank you for the rapid scheduling of this hearing.

I am, needless to say, humbled and honored to have been nominated by the President to command the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces in Afghanistan, and to have the opportunity, if confirmed, to continue to serve our nation, the NATO Alliance, our non-NATO Coalition partners, and Afghanistan in these new capacities.

At the outset, I want to echo your salute to the extraordinary service of Senator Robert Byrd. With his death, America clearly has lost a great patriot.

I would like to begin this morning by saying a few words about General Stan McChrystal, someone I've known and admired for nearly 30 years. General McChrystal has devoted his entire professional life to the defense of this nation, and he and his family have made enormous personal sacrifices during his lengthy deployments over the past nine years in particular. His contributions during that time were very significant. I can attest, for example, that the success of the surge in Iraq would not have been possible without General McChrystal's exceptional leadership of our special mission unit forces there. Similarly, the development of the Joint Special Operations Command during his unprecedented tenure commanding JSOC was extraordinary as well.

Most importantly, of course, he made enormous contributions in leading the coalition endeavor in Afghanistan over the past year. During that time, he brought impressive vision, energy, and expertise to the effort there. He made a huge contribution to the reorientation of our strategy and was a central figure in our efforts to get the inputs right in Afghanistan -- to build the organizations needed to carry out a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign, to get the right leaders in charge of those organizations, to develop appropriate plans and concepts, and to deploy the resources necessary to enable the implementation of those plans and concepts. We now see some areas of progress amidst the tough fight ongoing in Afghanistan. Considerable credit for that must go to Stan McChrystal...

Read the entire opening statement of General David H. Petraeus.

by Robert Haddick | Tue, 06/29/2010 - 10:59am | 5 comments
At a recent meeting with students at the Army's Command and General Staff College, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wondered out loud, "And the question is, since the Marines have essentially, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, played the role of second land Army, what differentiates them from the Army? And what is their mission going forward that makes them unique? ... We will always have a Marine Corps. But the question is, how do you define the mission post Iraq, post Afghanistan?" The new Marine Corps Operating Concepts attempts to answer those questions.

For over two hundred years, the U.S. Marine Corps has fought a two-front war, one against enemies like the Barbary pirates, the Japanese army, and al Qaeda and the second against the real mortal threat, those brigands inside the Washington Beltway who see the Marine Corps as a wasteful appendage ripe for snipping off. No one doubts the Marine Corps has done great service in Iraq and Afghanistan. But similar acclaim after World War II did not prevent calls for reducing the Marine Corps to a near-ceremonial guard. Steep budget cuts loom once again over the Pentagon. What makes the Marine Corps unique and worth spending money on?

According to the new Marine Corps Operating Concepts paper, the Marine Corps will have competitive advantages in two crucial areas: assuring littoral access and fighting "small wars." The Operating Concepts asserts that the Marine Corps's naval character endows it with unique traits and capabilities not found elsewhere in the U.S. military. These traits and capabilities make the Marine Corps the obvious tool to use when undertaking littoral access operations. Second, the Operating Concepts believes that these traits and capabilities result in a distinct advantage when fighting "small wars." These are the answers the Operating Concepts gives to Gates's questions.

The Operating Concepts paper envisions three forms of littoral access operations: engagement, such as security force assistance and "Phase Zero" operations; crisis response, such as humanitarian relief and evacuations; and power projection involving either major or irregular combat operations. With much of the world's population living near the sea and sea lines of communication and nautical chokepoints critical key terrain, the Operating Concepts asserts that littoral combat will remain an essential capability. The document explains that the Navy/Marine Corps's flexibility, global mobility, and ability to transport large combat power and logistical support remain relevant and essential capabilities.

The Marine Corps's naval character should provide the Marine Corps with unique advantages regarding "small wars" operations. The United States' maritime strategy is based on broad cooperation with allied and partner navy, coast guard and marine forces. This maritime strategy puts the Marine Corps in regular contact with cultures around the world. This familiarity and experience with foreign cultures and military forces should give the Marine Corps an important advantage when waging irregular conflicts.

Click through to read more ...

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/28/2010 - 9:10pm | 3 comments
General Hal Moore - Steven Pressfield interview with the General.

I met General Hal Moore a few years ago, at a dinner in his honor in Los Angeles, around the time the movie We Were Soldiers was released. Both Joe Galloway and General Moore signed a copy of their book We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young for me. General Moore added a note, citing a quote from my book, Gates of Fire, which he said reminded him of LZ X-Ray and his warriors in that fight. It was the quote about "Any army can win when it still has its legs under it; what counts is what they do when all strength has fled and they must produce victory on will alone." That note means a great deal. Decades earlier, he and the 1st battalion, 7th U.S. Cavalry kept their legs under them during the battle of Ia Drang, and produced victory. And General Moore has continued standing strong since. A special thank you to Joe Galloway for providing the pictures accompanying this post...

Read the entire interview.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/28/2010 - 6:00pm | 1 comment
Spencer Ackerman has left the Washington Independent and, drum roll please, joined Noah and crew at Wired's Danger Room. Check out his first DR post concerning after 9 years of war in Afghanistan the U.S. is finally trying to get a grip on warzone contractors.

More good news from Afghanistan: the U.S. military has no idea where the billions it's spending on warzone contractors is actually ending up. And nine years into the war, the Pentagon has barely started the long, laborious process of figuring it out.

Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault just arrived in Kabul about a week and a half ago as the commander of Task Force 2010, a new unit established to ensure that the military's dependence on contractors for everything from laundry to armed security doesn't end up undermining Afghanistan's stability in the process. That's no hypothetical concern: a congressional report last week found that Afghan, U.S. and Mideastern trucking companies who have a piece of a $2.16 billion logistics contract with the military pay about $4 million every week in protection money to warlords and Taliban insurgents.

Enter Dussault, one of the military's few flag officers to specialize in contracting and the former commander of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan. Her priority for Task Force 2010's joint military/civilian team of auditors and investigators, Dussault tells Danger Room in a phone interview from Afghanistan, "is to put a laser-like focus on the flow of money, and to understand exactly how money is flowing from the contracting authorities to the prime contractor and the subcontractors they work with." It's imperative, she adds, to get contractors to "understand they have to be more specific about who their network is and what their subcontractors are." ...

More at Danger Room and also check out the recent Center for a New American Security report Contracting in Conflicts: The Path to Reform, which calls on the U.S. government to embark on a path of ambitious reform that will increase federal oversight and better protect U.S. taxpayer dollars from potential waste, fraud and abuse. CNAS' Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine (coauthor with John Nagl on the report) will testify tomorrow at a congressional hearing on the role of contractors in warzones.

And last, but not least, visit one the best blogs covering contractors in a warzone - Matt's Feral Jundi.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/28/2010 - 1:45pm | 5 comments
5 Questions for General Petraeus - Jed Babbin, Real Clear Politics.

In a hastily-assembled hearing tomorrow, Gen. David H. Petraeus will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee as a prelude to his confirmation as the new top commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus -- author of the military's manual on counterinsurgency warfare, who commanded the counterinsurgency in Iraq -- should, and likely will, receive the unanimous support from the committee. But the hearing should nevertheless be a forum for a penetrating analysis of President Obama's policy in pursuing the war.

Announcing Gen. McChrystal's relief and Petraeus's nomination, the president was emphatic in saying that his action was a change in people, not policy. But the nation-building policy begun by President Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan and continued by Obama, is -- by objective criteria -- failing. It deserves to be dissected publicly, and Petraeus is the best person to explain how it could work. Here are some of the questions that committee members should pose...

Read the five questions at Real Clear Politics.

Update: For ease of commenting here are the five questions as extracted from Jed Babbin's fine article.

1. How can the counterinsurgency succeed unless these sources of funding are cut off?

2. What is the competing cause offered by the Afghan Government, and how can it be made more attractive than the Islamic fundamentalism that has existed in Afghanistan for decades or even centuries?

3. What are the major advantages and disadvantages you foresee in Afghanistan and how do they compare with those you faced in Iraq?

4. Can the counterinsurgency succeed without first terminating Iran's lethal assistance to the Taliban?

5. The next major Afghanistan policy review will occur in December. What measures of success or failure do you believe should be applied in December to decide the way forward?

Please see the original article for commentary and insights that accompany the questions.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/28/2010 - 12:35pm | 0 comments
The July/August 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs is now online and will be on newsstands June 29. Two items are of particular interest to our community of interest and practice. Please note that only portions of the articles are available to non-subscribers.

Defining Success in Afghanistan - Stephen Biddle, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Fotini Christia, assistant professor at MIT, and J Alexander Their, director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, urge the Obama administration to pursue decentralized democracy in Afghanistan.

The New Cocaine Cowboys - Robert C. Bonner, senior principal of the Sentinel HS Group, describes the tactics Mexico should use to fight its battle against drug cartels.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/28/2010 - 5:44am | 1 comment
A Look at Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Afghanistan - Charlie Rose interview.

"The story of a President, 2 Generals, the future of a war and magazine story. The implications on the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal. We talk to David Kilcullen, former counter insurgency advisor to David Petraeus, Eric Bates, Executive Editor of Rolling Stone, Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University, Rajiv Chandrasekaran from the Washington Post and Michael Gordon of the New York Times. Also via phone from Afghanistan with Dexter Filkins of The New York Times. We close with excerpts from past interviews with General McChrystal and General Petraeus."

A Look at Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Afghanistan - Charlie Rose interview.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/27/2010 - 6:33am | 0 comments
Will There be an Afghanistan Syndrome? - Eliot A. Cohen, Washington Post opinion.

... The rise and fall of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal -- whom President Obama dismissed Wednesday as commander of the faltering U.S.-led war in Afghanistan after an explosive magazine article featured the general and his top aides deriding the president, vice president and other civilian leaders as well as foreign allies -- will no doubt play a major role in the stories we ultimately tell ourselves about the Afghan conflict. These war stories are not just morality tales to be retold in high school history books or television documentaries. They can shape the way the United States fights its enemies in the future, and the way it settles disputes over war at home. The McChrystal saga, with its echoes of the Vietnam era's bitter civilian-military recriminations, threatens to do the same.

In Vietnam, as in the Gulf War, the old stories are, to say the least, radically incomplete. The civilians did not, in fact, micromanage most of the Vietnam War. President Lyndon B. Johnson restricted bombing targets in North Vietnam for the sensible reason that he did not want to bring China and Russia into a larger conflict. The campaign in the South -- including massive bombardment and search-and-destroy missions -- was the product of a conventional military that understood the war chiefly in terms of killing the enemy, not fighting an insurgency. Similarly, a truer tale of the Gulf War would emphasize the U.S. failure to shatter Saddam Hussein's power, which paved the way for years of blockade and sporadic bombardment, leading to a second and conclusive showdown more than a decade later...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/27/2010 - 6:27am | 4 comments
Mullen Says the Military Still Needs the Media - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

For the military, it's like a grisly death in the family: How did Gen. Stanley McChrystal, one of the most respected soldiers of his generation, blow himself up in a magazine profile? It's a puzzle to McChrystal's colleagues here, and understandably, there's a new wariness in dealing with the media.

The relationship between the military and the press could probably use a little adjustment. The Rolling Stone article was a wake-up call for both sides that the coziness that has evolved over the past decade, as "embedding" of reporters became more widespread, can cause problems. Now there's likely to be a tilt back toward more traditional ground rules and a little more distance. We'll see whether that leads to better reporting or just a chillier relationship...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/27/2010 - 5:59am | 14 comments
Endless War, a Recipe for Four-star Arrogance - Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Post opinion.

Long wars are antithetical to democracy. Protracted conflict introduces toxins that inexorably corrode the values of popular government. Not least among those values is a code of military conduct that honors the principle of civilian control while keeping the officer corps free from the taint of politics. Events of the past week - notably the Rolling Stone profile that led to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's dismissal - hint at the toll that nearly a decade of continuous conflict has exacted on the U.S. armed forces. The fate of any one general qualifies as small beer: Wearing four stars does not signify indispensability. But indications that the military's professional ethic is eroding, evident in the disrespect for senior civilians expressed by McChrystal and his inner circle, should set off alarms.

Earlier generations of American leaders, military as well as civilian, instinctively understood the danger posed by long wars. "A democracy cannot fight a Seven Years War," Gen. George C. Marshall once remarked. The people who provided the lifeblood of the citizen army raised to wage World War II had plenty of determination but limited patience. They wanted victory won and normalcy restored.

The wisdom of Marshall's axiom soon became clear. In Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson plunged the United States into what became its Seven Years War. The citizen army that was sent to Southeast Asia fought valiantly for a time and then fell to pieces. As the conflict dragged on, Americans in large numbers turned against the war -- and also against the troops who fought it...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/27/2010 - 5:47am | 0 comments
Military Disturbed by Rapid Turnover at Top in Afghan, Iraq Wars - Greg Jaffe, Washington Post.

Since 2001, a dozen commanders have cycled through the top jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. Central Command, which oversees both wars. Three of those commanders - including the recently dismissed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal - have been fired or resigned under pressure. History has judged many others harshly, and only two, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, are widely praised as having mastered the complex mixture of skills that running America's wars demands.

For the military, this record of mediocrity raises a vexing question: What is wrong with the system that produces top generals? Much of what top commanders do in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq bears little relation to the military skills that helped them rise through the ranks, military officials said. Today's wars demand that top commanders act like modern viceroys, overseeing military operations and major economic development efforts. They play dominant roles in the internal politics of the countries where their troops fight...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/26/2010 - 9:02pm | 6 comments
Afghan Overture to Taliban Aggravates Ethnic Tensions - Dexter Filkens, New York Times.

The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan's minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule. The leaders of the country's Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which make up close to half of Afghanistan's population, are vowing to resist - and if necessary, fight - any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government.

Alienated by discussions between President Karzai and the Pakistani military and intelligence officials, minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organizing against what they fear is Mr. Karzai's long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns, who ruled the country for generations. The dispute is breaking along lines nearly identical to those that formed during the final years of the Afghan civil war, which began after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989 and ended only with the American invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 100,000 Afghans died, mostly civilians; the Taliban, during their five-year reign in the capital, Kabul, carried out several large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/26/2010 - 9:50am | 6 comments
Can Counterinsurgency Work in Afghanistan?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 12:00 - 1:30 PM, at the Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan has been trying to follow best practice counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine since spring 2007. The theory is that if counterinsurgents deliver security and connect Afghans to their government, the population will deny support to the insurgents. The assumption is that the population's perception of the government and insurgency determines success, not body counts or capturing terrain. Our soldiers have been living in small combat outposts, patrolling on foot and at night, meeting with Afghan elders to learn their concerns and needs, and delivering public works projects in many areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan, yet security continues to deteriorate. Stepping back from Afghanistan, it is not clear COIN has worked in any conflict where the population did not support their government. Can it work in Afghanistan?

Please join Hudson Institute for a discussion featuring Visiting Fellow Ann Marlowe, who travels frequently to Afghanistan, reporting on the American counterinsurgency there as well as Afghanistan's economy, culture, and archeology. She completed her second embed in Zabul Province and her sixth overall in late April. Marlowe will discuss the merits and failures of a COIN strategy in Afghanistan on both practical and theoretic grounds.

Joining Marlowe will be Conrad Crane, Director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute of the Army War College. He was the lead author for the 2006 Army and Marine Corps Field Manual that embodies current American COIN doctrine. The discussion will be moderated by Hudson Institute Senior Vice President S. Enders Wimbush, and will be streamed live on Hudson's website.

Lunch will be served.

To RSVP, please email with "Afghanistan" in the subject line.

Betsy and Walter Stern Conference Center

Hudson Institute

1015 15th St, NW

6th Floor

Washington, DC 20005

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/26/2010 - 8:19am | 0 comments
Afghanistan War: Top Three Challenges Facing General Petraeus - Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor.

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander viewed by some in Washington as the man who single-handedly turned around the Iraq war, will be taking on a bigger challenge than the one he confronted at the dawn of the Iraq surge in 2007. He'll be in charge of a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan that's just getting under way, much as he was in Iraq. But he's starting almost nine years into this current war, rather than three years in as he did in Iraq. That means he faces more entrenched power players. Historically, the longer an army takes to shift to counterinsurgency strategy, the lower the odds are of success, as a study found last year. And sustaining the Afghanistan war -- now costing over $70 billion a year -- is taking its toll on American and Afghan public support...

General McChrystal boasted of success ahead of an operation in the town of Marjah, but afterward struggled to deliver the kind of governance needed to prevent the Taliban from coming back. Before McChrystal's ouster, war-planners indefinitely postponed a major offensive due to start this month in the southern province of Kandahar in order to rethink their approach. Meanwhile, the country remains as violent as ever. With six days left in the month, June 2010 is already officially the deadliest for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the war began, with 79 casualties. With Petraeus expected to sail through congressional confirmation hearings early next week, what are some of the key challenges he will face when he takes charge in Kabul? ...

More at The Christian Science Monitor.