Reality Check

Read this interview with David Petraeus. The guy on the ground has a pretty clear view of the situation.

Update: Link fixed... sorry.

2 comments:

JP

4:15 PM

This links to a Lancet study, not a Petraeus interview...

JP

11:40 PM

Good interview. General Petraeus seems to have the right idea, that is, get the troops out of the base camps. He's finally doing what I lamented upon leaving Iraq a year ago, perhaps soon to be in an upcoming book (don't hold your breath...):

"There is a mantra in the military today that force protection is the number one priority for all commanders. This is the natural outgrowth from many highly visible incidents where proper force protection measure weren’t taken, such and the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia several years ago. The lesson learned is that soldiers must be kept in high-security locations lest they be killed indiscriminately in mass-casualty disasters. This is all wonderful, but it seems to me that the pendulum has swung a little too far. We expend so much energy on protecting the force inside fortified base camps that we avoid putting the force on the battlefield to do the job it was sent there to do in the first place.

We can triple the number of troops in Iraq overnight without sending a single additional soldier. Kick all the maneuver units out of the base camps and make them operate from the field. This would require them to live, operate, sustain, and protect themselves while operating in the enemy’s territory. It would force units to gather and process intelligence locally, act on it, strike unpredictably, team up with the Iraqi army and police, and take the initiative away from the enemy. When we ensconced ourselves in concrete-walled base camps, we gave the initiative away without a second thought. A tradeoff is the increased risk of casualties, but the argument can be made that a more vigorous prosecution of the war will reduce the total end number of casualties than continuing on the risk-averse course that we’ve currently set.

I remember a prize-winning essay published in the Marine Corps Gazette very early in the 1980s. If I recall correctly, the title was “Risk Avoidance and the Absence of Moral Courage,” and it discussed the leadership dilemma of making the tough choices regarding audacity, risk, and reward in the setting of warfare. The author, a Marine captain named R. Scott Moore (whom I later served with in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, in 1986 and 1987), was two decades ahead of his time. His description of military leaders that lacked the moral courage to take appropriate risks at the decisive time and place could have been written to describe this war. I believe a can speak for a good many soldiers when I say this: I volunteered to serve in the military, and I am willing to accept additional risk if it is in the aggressive pursuit of victory. To be less than aggressive in the pursuit of victory and to elevate force protection (risk aversion) over taking the fight to the enemy is not leadership. It is the absence of moral courage."