01 April 2013

Pushing the Great Commanders Overboard

An interesting commentary - from Commentary Magazine, natch - about how the US has pushed out most of the great GWOT commanders. Losing any one of them might not have been too bad, but booting all four of them is really causing some well-earned soul-searching in the US military.

First, they talk about the achievements of the different generals - Mattis, Allen, Petraeus, and McChrystal - and it's McChrystal's achievements that seem to be most undervalued as he's most famous for a Rolling Stone article instead of his actual counter-terror work.
McChrystal has been credited with four innovations. First, he invited other intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and NSA, to send liaison officers to his headquarters, where he shared information generously with them—a radical change for the secretive culture of the special-operations forces. Those agencies, in turn, reciprocated by sharing more intelligence with JSOC than in the past. Second, he improved JSOC’s interrogation facilities and trained interrogators to extract useful information without the use of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that became so controversial and notorious. Third, he emphasized “sensitive site exploitation,” ordering his men to take the time to gather up all the hard drives, papers, and other information they could grab at a target site. Fourth, McChrystal wrangled more manned and unmanned aircraft and more Internet bandwidth for JSOC, vastly increasing its ability to monitor potential targets. All this made it possible for JSOC to ramp up its operations, often launching a dozen missions a night in Iraq and Afghanistan similar to the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. In some instances, new missions would be planned and executed within minutes to take advantage of intelligence generated at a target site.

But the comments about the loss of these four overall are sobering.
Petraeus, McChrystal, Allen, and Mattis would be the first to deny that they are irreplaceable—the graveyards, they would no doubt remind us, are said to be full of irreplaceable men. And clearly there are a number of capable officers who will strive to fill their combat boots. Some heroes of the last decade of war—including General Ray Odierno, General Martin Dempsey (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Admiral William McRaven (McChrystal’s successor at JSOC and the man who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid), and Major General H.R. McMaster (a noted military intellectual and counterinsurgency commander)—remain in uniform. But the experience and savvy of the four will be hard to replace. Certainly they deserve more public appreciation than they have gotten so far and, at the very least, an honored role in helping to teach a new generation of soldiers and Marines how to operate at the pinnacle of command. We do not have such a surplus of brilliant commanders that we can afford to wave away those like Petraeus and McChrystal and Allen and Mattis, who have demonstrated a mastery of the modern battlefield. We can only hope that President Obama’s cavalier attitude toward the loss of their institutional knowledge, their leadership abilities, and their complex understanding of a dangerous world does not prove to be a tragedy for the nation.

What do you think? Are the remaining leaders worthy of the same levels of deference and respect as the four who have been sent packing?
By: Brant

No comments: