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    Default West Point Colonel Questions Petraeus's Strategy

    I posted the whole thing because I don't think the WSJ keeps articles on their website for more than a day. Anyhow, there's a link at the end.

    I think LTC Gentile is right on - the Army is losing its ability to fight a conventional war because it is training to fight the unconventional war.

    -----------------
    Officer Questions Petraeus's Strategy
    Iraq War Veteran Says Focus on Counterinsurgency
    Hinders Ability to Fight Conventional War
    By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
    April 7, 2008; Page A3

    WEST POINT, N.Y. -- When Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress on Tuesday, lawmakers from both parties will praise him for reducing violence in Iraq. President Bush will try to use his popularity to bolster support for the war. Some Republicans will muse about the general as a vice-presidential candidate.
    [David Petraeus]

    Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor here who served two tours in Iraq, begs to differ. He argues that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars.

    "We've come up with this false narrative, this incorrect explanation of what is going on in Iraq," he says. "We've come to see counterinsurgency as the solution to every problem and we're losing the ability to wage any other kind of war."

    Col. Gentile is giving voice to an idea that previously few in the military dared mention: Perhaps the Petraeus doctrine isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's a big controversy within a military that has embraced counterinsurgency tactics as a path to victory in Iraq. The debate, sparked by a short essay written by Col. Gentile titled "Misreading the Surge," has been raging in military circles for months. One close aide to Gen. Petraeus recently took up a spirited defense of his boss.

    It's hard to quantify how many people stand in Col. Gentile's corner; his view is certainly a minority one. But increasingly, the Pentagon's top brass are talking in similar terms. Two of the five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have warned recently that the military's ability to fight another kind of conflict -- say a war with North Korea -- has eroded.
    MORE

    Lt. Col. Gian Gentile argues that the counterinsurgency strategy Gen. David Petraeus is pursuing in Iraq by isn't primarily responsible for reducing violence there and that the U.S. military's focus on such tactics is eroding its ability to wage large-scale conventional wars. Read some of his writings.

    At a February hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said troops have been unable to train for any other type of conflict because of the short time between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that month that the focus on counterinsurgency means the Marines will "have to take extraordinary steps to retain the ability to serve as the nation's shock troops in major combat operations."

    Other testimony from military brass as recently as last week has echoed these complaints. Some of the griping is likely geared toward protecting big expenditures on new equipment.

    The gist of Col. Gentile's argument is that recent security gains in Iraq were caused by the ceasefire declared last year by Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr as well as the U.S. decision to enlist former Sunni militants in the fight against Islamist extremists. Col. Gentile notes that violence spiked after Mr. Sadr's militia briefly resumed fighting last month.
    [Gian Gentile]

    More fundamentally, Col. Gentile, 50 years old, worries that the military's embrace of counterinsurgency -- limiting the use of heavy firepower and having soldiers focus on local governance -- means it isn't prepared to fight a traditional war against potential foes such as Iran or China. He says the more time soldiers spend learning counterinsurgency, the less time they spend practicing combat techniques like fighting alongside tanks and other armored vehicles.

    Gen. Petraeus, 55, who is set to appear on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday, has the highest public profile of any Army officer since General William Westmoreland during Vietnam.

    His reputation as one of the military's pre-eminent thinkers was capped with the 2006 release of a new counterinsurgency manual for the Army and Marine Corps., which he helped draft. It outlined the long list of tasks from rebuilding infrastructure to training local security forces that would have to be accomplished to defeat insurgencies. This February, the Army added "stability operations," a subset of counterinsurgency, to its core missions of offensive and defensive operations, the first such change in more than 232 years.

    Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for Gen. Petraeus, said the surge deserved credit for enabling the other dynamics contributing to Iraq's security gains. "The surge was definitely a factor," he said. "It wasn't the only factor, but it was a key component."

    Col. Boylan said that he was familiar with Col. Gentile's arguments but disagreed with them. "I certainly respect the good lieutenant colonel," he said. "But he hasn't been in Iraq for a while, and when you're not on the ground your views can quickly get dated."

    Col. Gentile joined the ROTC at the University of California's Berkeley campus, an unusual military recruiting ground, before earning a doctorate at Stanford. He served two combat tours in Iraq, first as the executive officer of a combat brigade in Tikrit in 2003 and then as the commander of a battalion in a restive area of northwest Baghdad in 2006.
    [chart]

    The colonel acknowledges being bothered by the suggestion that the U.S. was losing in Iraq until Gen. Petraeus took command. Five of his soldiers were killed in Baghdad, including one sergeant shot by a sniper shortly before the squadron returned to the U.S. "If I and my men had pretty much quit the country in 2006, then how did soldiers under my command 'just get dead?' " he wrote in an op-ed article for the International Herald Tribune.

    Col. Gentile bases his broader critique in part on his own experience. When he returned to Texas' Fort Hood after his second stint in Iraq, the colonel wanted to give a refresher course on basic combat techniques.

    His brigade commander vetoed the idea, Col. Gentile says. "You have to go train your guys to deal with a sheikh," he says he was told.

    He also argues that Israel struggled in its 2006 war with the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah -- which operates more like a traditional army than a terrorist group -- because the Jewish state had spent years focusing on counterinsurgency. His conclusion is echoed by a historian at the Army's Combat Studies Institute, who concluded in a recent paper that Israel lost the war because "counterinsurgency operations had seriously diminished its conventional war-fighting capabilities."

    Col. Gentile's arguments have drawn fierce criticism from counterinsurgency advocates, in particular from Gen. Petraeus's chief of staff, Col. Pete Mansoor, who is retiring from the military to teach at Ohio State.

    In a posting to Small Wars Journal, a blog devoted to counterinsurgency issues, Col. Mansoor wrote that Col. Gentile "misreads not just what is happening today in Iraq, but the entire history of the war."

    "I do not agree that the U.S. Army's growing focus on counterinsurgency is leaving the service unprepared to fight high-intensity conventional wars," Col. Mansoor said in an interview. "The belief that an army that focuses on counterinsurgency warfare cannot at the same time fight well in conventional combat is a false dichotomy."

    Col. Gentile relishes his self-appointed role as military gadfly. He has already been scheduled to be promoted this summer and his teaching post here is effectively tenured.

    "Really, what's the worst they could do to me?" he says.

    Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1207...s_inside_today

  2. #2
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    Jeff, you have more strategic training than anyone else here that I'm aware of. What are your thoughts on this? My initial take is that in a way Gentile is almost like those leading the British Redcoats, 'You're leaving us unable to wage conventional war', when 'conventional' has changed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathianne View Post
    Jeff, you have more strategic training than anyone else here that I'm aware of. What are your thoughts on this? My initial take is that in a way Gentile is almost like those leading the British Redcoats, 'You're leaving us unable to wage conventional war', when 'conventional' has changed?
    agreed.....

    "Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor here who served two tours in Iraq, begs to differ. He argues that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars."

    a large scale conventional war has not been waged since the 1940's.......his premise is flawed.....

    "I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is."

    ~Albert Camus

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    Quote Originally Posted by manu1959 View Post
    agreed.....

    "Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor here who served two tours in Iraq, begs to differ. He argues that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars."

    a large scale conventional war has not been waged since the 1940's.......his premise is flawed.....
    large scale conventional wars are what make or break nations when they happen, when was the last major conventional war before WW1? If you restructure our entire military to fight pissing matches in the desert we are going to be f**ked when we have to fight a real war.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    large scale conventional wars are what make or break nations when they happen, when was the last major conventional war before WW1? If you restructure our entire military to fight pissing matches in the desert we are going to be f**ked when we have to fight a real war.
    Who cares, let the Air Force handle it.
    No matter where I've traveled or how great the trip was, it's always wonderful to return to my country, The United States of America......... me

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    We will not be fighting any conventional wars in the near future. Even a war with iran or n. korea would be very similar to iraq. The combat techniques are similar. Counter insurgency is simply learning to deal with the locals and getting them on your side. It's an addition to the regular combat techniques that all soldiers learn.

    I think Gentile is just getting his name out there for future political ambitions or a slot with cnn as a military annalist.
    When I die I'm sure to go to heaven, cause I spent my time in hell.

    You get more with a kind word and a two by four, than you do with just a kind word.

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    The Army tends to get tunnel vision, i.e. "fighting the last war." I agree with Gentile in many ways, in that at the end of the day, the Army has to be able to fight a large-scale conventional war, whether to defend America or an allied nation. If the Army puts too much emphasis on counterinsurgency, it will necessarily lose its ability to fight large-scale conflicts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5stringJeff View Post
    The Army tends to get tunnel vision, i.e. "fighting the last war." I agree with Gentile in many ways, in that at the end of the day, the Army has to be able to fight a large-scale conventional war, whether to defend America or an allied nation. If the Army puts too much emphasis on counterinsurgency, it will necessarily lose its ability to fight large-scale conflicts.
    Can't they teach both? Seems that many if not most issues today involved COIN, yet the possibility of large scale conventional war seems evident, if only in our own minds?

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    They can, and they should. The problem that LTC Gentile points out is that they don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5stringJeff View Post
    They can, and they should. The problem that LTC Gentile points out is that they don't.
    That strikes me as strange. I thought the military always had at least 5 scenarios going for contingencies? Most anything I've read from someone with military background, even just 'grunts' has a depth missing from many of the great 'academic' writers, whether in history or politics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathianne View Post
    That strikes me as strange. I thought the military always had at least 5 scenarios going for contingencies? Most anything I've read from someone with military background, even just 'grunts' has a depth missing from many of the great 'academic' writers, whether in history or politics.
    Training does not work like that, just like training your body to do anything (power lifting to martial arts is something I am experenceing). You cant expect an entire army that has spent years fighting conterinsurgency in iraq to take a couple month course and voi la they are now large scale war fighters not to mention they are hella burned out and the fact that a movie is being made about stop-loss speaks volumes about the sentiments of many soldiers, how are we suppost to fight a large scale war with people who dont want to fight anymore. We are also jipping our soldiers out of the use of many very destructive national assets we posses that would make there jobs way easier and cut deployments without a draft but that wouldent be politicaly correct so we are going to take it in the pants as a result. Maybe the phylosophy and high level planning account for many scenarios but you have equipment issues (much equipment has been damaged or destroyed in iraq and most of our air force assets are due for retirement) and training issues. We have been bleeding off our national assets with this war and rebuilding and repairing expensive complicated complex war equipment is not cheap, easy or fast no matter what warm and fuzzy you get from the statement you made above.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sitarro View Post
    Who cares, let the Air Force handle it.
    That's a very valid point. When you have such a huge superiority in long range air power, I don't think that anyone could wage a "large scale war" against us. Just think of any major battle would have been in WW2 if we had just the AF technology that we have today. In Europe, we would have simply annihilated all German factories, bridges and fuel depots, leaving their army unsupplied and useless. We would have sunk all German and Japanese battleships within hours. In the Pacific theater, we would have simply ignored the string of islands leading up to Japan and attacked her head-on.

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    That's exactly why we won't be fighting any large scale war in the near future. Our air power gives us the capability to destroy a countries fighting force and allow our troops to move in within weeks. We took down iraq with THREE divisions. As you said we can by pass out lying areas and go straight for the juggler. Even fanatical troops have to have command and control.
    When I die I'm sure to go to heaven, cause I spent my time in hell.

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    That's exactly what we did to Iraq, twice now. I remember in GW1 we took out their communications first, and had free reighn to decimate any battlre groups present. I especially remeber the tank kills, where the much touted Republican Guard had tanks bunkered in for weeks, and our AF would locate them, then our tank guys would simply pop out over a hill and take them out before they could aim their guns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaffer View Post
    That's exactly why we won't be fighting any large scale war in the near future. Our air power gives us the capability to destroy a countries fighting force and allow our troops to move in within weeks. We took down iraq with THREE divisions. As you said we can by pass out lying areas and go straight for the juggler. Even fanatical troops have to have command and control.

    With the advances in unmanned aircraft technology, satellite technology, etc., much of the military will be obsolete in a decade ....... kind of what happened to thousands of draftsmen when CAD appeared.... only a handful were needed to do the work of many.

    Unmanned aircraft will be able to easily out maneuver anything with a human in it, G forces don't have the same effect on a Radio Controlled aircraft. The Russians, with their cute, air show fighters will be destroyed as an after thought by a generation that has been raised on video games. Add StarWars technology to this and voila, serious ass kicking of most large scaled threats.
    No matter where I've traveled or how great the trip was, it's always wonderful to return to my country, The United States of America......... me

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