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November 17, 2007

Petraeus & Future Military Leaders
Posted by Shawn Brimley

In a highly unusual display of influence, General David Petraeus has been called back to Washington to chair the promotion board that selects new Army Brigadier Generals.  The Washington Post carried the story on the front-page today.  It’s an interesting and encouraging sign that Secretary Gates and others at the highest levels are attempting to ensure that the next generation of senior leaders possess the type of acumen and understanding of irregular warfare that will help future policymakers make better strategic decisions.

The Army is a highly traditional institution and its culture has been extremely resistant to the type of changes that Gates seems to be pushing.  In a speech to the Association of the U.S. Army last month, Gates told the crowd that he found it “hard to conceive any country challenging the United States directly on the ground – at least for some years to come.”  In the conflicts of the future, Gates argued that “success will be less a matter of imposing one’s will and more a function of shaping behavior – of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between.”

The type of top-cover Gates seems to be providing for reformers within the Army is a good sign, but the risk is that it may be too little, too late. Readers might recall the controversy generated by the bold article that Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Yingling penned in the May issue of Armed Forces Journal, where he criticized the Army’s senior leadership for repeating the mistakes of the Vietnam era, including a failure throughout the 1990s to “envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly.” Yingling pleaded for action, arguing that “We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security.”  Clearly, Gates seems to have heard and heeded the call.

For Democrats, it is important to listen closely as well. If the next President is a Democrat, he or she will inherit a military that is exhausted, bitter in many ways toward civilians many in uniform see as having led their soldiers and Marines into a quagmire, and in a state of confusion regarding their role in a future that seems as uncertain and as unpredictable as the last time they returned from the Iraqi desert.  It is vital that the next cadre of civilian leaders be aware of those in uniform who have the experience and the wisdom to lead the military and to provide the type of military advice the next president will surely need – the future may depend on it.


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I take issue with the comment that many of us are bitter toward the civilians who have led us into a "quagmire". Speaking for my fellow Iraqi War Veterans you've got it all wrong. We are not bitter at those civilians who've led us, we're bitter at those civilians who "Report" (Media) and "Govern" (Congress) us. We are not losing and we will not lose this war! Most of us feel the US media and most of the elected officials in congress want us (their country) to lose.

To JMH, could you quit with this stab in the back nonsense that I here from right wingers in the military. Sure casaulties maybe down, but there is still no political solution to the problems in Iraq regarding the oil sharing deal among the various Iraqi sects or a unified Iraqi government. Without a unified and stable government there will always be an insurgency and various militia groups. Maybe future conflicts in the Middle East can best be resolved with those in the State Department and CIA who know the region and not provincial right winged military officers who only believe that military victories are needed and not statecraft. Right wingers in the military are not serious students of Clausewitz, who write that military strategy should be subordinated towards a greater foreign policy objective.

shaping behavior – of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between

According to B.F.Skinner behavior can be modified by rewarding good behavior and not rewarding bad behavior. That process is now being employed by the US in the true spirit of America. General Musharraf, the brutal dictator of Pakistan, is rewarded with a hundred million dollars in untraceable cash every month. Smaller fish, like Iraqis, the ones still alive, are rewarded with less. Tribal members who were formerly killing US troops are now paid $600 a month to refrain from bumping off Americans while "concerned citizens" manning road checks and informing on neighbors are paid $300. Young US citizens are receiving twenty thousand dollar bonuses for serving as 'cannon fodder'.

This methodology will now, it appears, be extended to other countries, and just in time, too, because US popularity is nearing single digits in every country of the world except perhaps El Salvador and Burkina-Faso. Even Karen Hughes couldn't reverse Uncle Sam's downward spiral--but I betcha some more money can. Anyone can be bought and the US Congress is proof!

The good news is that this policy of rewarding behavior with dollars will get cheaper as time goes on. news reports: The US dollar, which has weakened considerably against the euro and other currencies this year, also came under pressure from a separate government report which revealed a lower-than-expected flow of international capital into the US during September. . . The dramatic decline of the US dollar may have become so entrenched some experts now fear it is irreversible.

In the meantime, before the new policy fully kicks in, we should support the Iraq Veterans Against The War. Why are veterans, active duty, and National Guard men and women opposed to the war in Iraq?
1. The Iraq war is based on lies and deception.
2. The Iraq war violates international law.
3. Corporate profiteering is driving the war in Iraq.
4. Overwhelming civilian casualties are a daily occurrence in Iraq.
5. Soldiers have the right to refuse illegal war.
6. Service members are facing serious health consequences due to our Government's negligence.
7. The war in Iraq is tearing our families apart.
8. The Iraq war is robbing us of funding sorely needed here at home.
9. The war dehumanizes Iraqis and denies them their right to self-determination.
10.Our military is being exhausted by repeated deployments, involuntary extensions, and activations of the Reserve and National Guard.

JMH, you don't speak for everyone in the military. Some of us are angry with our military leaders (and I'm including the commander-in-chief here) for stranding us in this hopeless situation.


It is hard for us here in the US to say at this point precisely what the military mission in Iraq is. The government doesn't tell us much. Even our presidential candidates won't speak of it directly. But as I understand it the US has built, or is currently building and expanding, a system of massive military bases, prisons and naval platforms in Iraq, along with the largest US "embassy" anywhere.

It appears to me that what is being built is the infrastructure for the permanent occupation of Iraq, the central political headquarters for an imperial administration and control system in the Middle East, and the framework of military muscle to back up that imperial system. It appears to me like the current mission is to create just enough stability in Iraq to establish the space and security needed for building these installations, and then to defend these installations in perpetuity.

These imperial practices are a toxin that is poisoning and corrupting the American soul, and will in the long run also bring more violence and material harm to Americans. If you define winning as doing whatever your masters command, even when those commands are contrary to the moral, spiritual and material interests of the United States, then then I am afraid I do not want you to win. But if you define victory more broadly, as triumphing over all those forces, both at home and abroad, that seek to destroy whatever is left of American justice and decency, then I do want you, and all of us, to win.

You have to ask yourself this: Are you working for the country? Or are you merely working for men - men who are pursuing their own material lusts, zealous cravings for power, vengeance and domination and mad ideological dreams under the flag of the United States?

Your commander-in-chief is a war criminal, a liar, a murderer, a savage barbarian and a betrayer of our founding values. He should be locked up, along with his neo-fascist backers and allies. I want the imperialists to lose so that my country can win. Which side are you on?

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