The Army has summoned the top U.S. commander in Iraq back to Washington to preside over a board that will pick some of the next generation of Army leaders, an unusual decision that officials say represents a vote of confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus's conduct of the war, as well as the Army counterinsurgency doctrine he helped rewrite.
General Petraeus will be presiding over a board that includes the selection to brigadier general (approximately 40 slots) from a pool of over 1,000 colonels.
Petraeus, a four-star general with a doctorate in political science, has spent three of the past four years in Iraq and has observed firsthand many of the colonels under consideration for promotion.
Tyson ties this move to recent criticisms by junior and mid-level officers of Army leadership's "lack of understanding of today's conflicts", a failure by that leadership to listen to and act on feedback from the officer corps' rank and file, and a potential revamp of an Army officer selection system that has been described as unchanged since the Cold War in its policies concerning assignments and promotions.
Petraeus's involvement coincides with the Army's consideration of initiatives to change its promotion system to reward a new generation of officers skilled in today's counterinsurgency warfare.
Read more at Petraeus Helping Pick New Generals.
Related SWJ entry Contrary Peter Principle posted on 24 July 2007.
Update: COIN blog Abu Muqawama - Petraeus Picks the Next Generation.
This is good news in some important ways. Over the past few years, some of America's finest counterinsurgency minds have been passed over for selection to brigadier general -- despite the fact that we're in not one but two counterinsurgency fights, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (And Dave Kilcullen would argue a third, globally.) Colonel Peter Mansoor, for example, is rumored to be retiring from the Army after having been passed over for promotion. Colonel H.R. McMaster, meanwhile, arguably America's most gifted counterinsurgency field commander, has been passed over for promotion twice because he has yet to serve in a joint billet -- a block you have to "check" for promotion to general. Who the %$#@, you're asking, cares about whether or not you've checked the block on a joint assignment when we're in the middle of two wars we're losing?! The McMaster case is a prime example of an army that would, in Tom Ricks's immortal words, rather keep its personnel system than win the war. We are fighting this war, one counterinsurgency expert is fond of saying, with our varsity team on the sidelines.
So this business about Petraeus helping pick the new flag officers is all good news. Hopefully people like McMaster and Colonels Mike Kershaw and Sean MacFarland will be generals sooner rather than later. But this -- promoting talented colonels to general -- is the easiest fix. The bigger problem is, the U.S. and its military are still mired in a peacetime mentality. Do you have any idea how many generals George Marshall fired at the beginning of the Second World War because they were unfit for the rigors of combat? Dozens. Do you have any idea how many members of the West Point Class of 1939 ended the war as regimental commanders?* This Petraeus initiative should be the beginning of a process to identify and select talented individuals from all ranks and promote them, personnel system be damned, into positions from where they can better affect the fight...
Much more from SWJ friend Abu Muqawama - read it all. Links in the excerpted text above inserted by SWJ.
Ed Morrissey at his Captain's Quarters blog - Consulting Success.
The Pentagon has more than one aim in this remarkable decision. Not only will Petraeus influence the selection of the next generation of generals, but he may help convince mid-level officers not to leave the Army. Captains and majors have retired or refrained from extending their careers out of frustration with an experiential disconnect between themselves and their commanding officers. The Department of Defense worries that these men and women, who have conducted the new kind of warfare that the US has to learn to fight well, will leave before they see an opportunity to help apply the lessons they have already learned first-hand.
Again, much more.
Update 2: Another SWJ friend, Merv Benson, at his PrairiePundit blog - Petraeus Joins General Selection Process.
Petraeus selected some of the best colonels in the Army to be on his team in Iraq and develop the counterinsurgency strategy that has worked so well. One of them, the brilliant H.R. McMaster has already been passed over once, incredibly. Hopefully that will not happen this time. You knew that the system was not working when someone like McMaster could be passed over for selection for general. He is the author of Dereliction of Duty and was the commander of a unit in Iraq that cleared Tal Afar of al Qaeda with few civilian casualties that became a model for others. Small Wars Journal commented on the McMaster passover in July. My earlier comments on his non promotion are here.
Update 3: James Joyner at Outside the Beltway - Petraeus Picking Generals as Part of Army Overhaul.
The Army is in the process of overhauling its entire officer rotation and promotion system in order to combat problems identified in recent years. Senior leaders are apparently serious about rewarding those who take tough assignments training American and foreign soldiers on an equal basis with those who serve in traditional command assignments.
Once again, much more.
SWJ friend Jules Crittenden at his Forward Movement blog - Petaegon.
This could be the single most important step toward ensuring success in Iraq, given the uncertainty of our future political leadership, the direction it will take and the pressures it will face for withdrawal. Military leadership that gets, and is enthusiastic about counter-insurgency could be the last best defense against politically motivated impulses to throw out babies with bathwater.