Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First 2010 Reading Assignment for Our Crew

Stumbled across this in my morning reading of the IHT. The manuscript of Leavenworth's Combat Studies Institute history of operations in Afghanistan from Oct 2001 until Sep 2005. It's 422 pages, so don't think you can digest it too quickly. I haven't begun to read it, as I hate reading material this voluminous on the web, but will start to read it tomorrow night, once the New Year festivities are behind us.

However, the Times did print their synopsis here.

So, start reading it and as time goes by, perhaps it can provide fuel for discussion.

Happy New Year to all.


  1. Long overdue document, thanks. On a quick scan, using the search, I didn't find anything on the alleged anthrax lab of al Qaeda. We had a few chemical units in theater assisting the exploitation of "sensitive sites" (concern about terrorist CBRN use) but don't see them listed. Not surprised, Army did a lousy job capturing the CBRN defense efforts during OIF in its "On Point" books, too. But I'll dig in, see what's what.

  2. "In the days following the attacks President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had provided the strategic vision and overall direction of OEF as well as for what became known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Working from this guidance, Franks designed OEF to eliminate Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group Al Qaida and take down the ruling Taliban regime which harbored these terrorists."
    page 27

    I can think of various other words to use instead of "vision".

    The view of the history is pretty much that 9/11 "triggered" the GWOT so what were we to do in the face of such historical determinism, being as we all are simply tiny gears in the great clockwork? In fact even questioning the GWOT is not part of this group think's equation. As Rice is quoted as saying, "We didn't choose Afghanistan, Afghanistan chose us".

    My response, from a strategic theory perspective - bullshiz.

  3. Yes - the worst thing about these Army histories is their tendency to either gloss over or praise the strategic issues/decisions made. Doesn't matter how half-assed these decisions were, the Army is careful not to offend. But the histories are good for background data, look elsewhere for objectivity.

  4. J.-

    Point taken. I guess I'm always looking for something more . . .

  5. Seydlitz,
    This is called -A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR- by DOD but I just can't grasp this concept.
    It is ssdd imho.
    We want, or should i say DOD wants this to be a different type of conflict simply to cover up incompetance and lack of flexibility.

  6. Ok Jim, this is how your comment appears to me. In previous postings you've stated that COIN is very bad for DoD and that we shouldn't be doing it (if I understood you correctly). And now you are blasting DoD for being incompetent and lacking flexibility as if DoD should be able to conduct this "different kind of war?"

    Is DoD incompetent and inflexible because of its execution of a "different kind of war" that you have stated are not a "real" wars? If DoD is fighting a war it wasn't designed for, shouldn't we expect it to be incompetent? Shouldn't we expect a huge organization like the Army to be somewhat slow moving and inflexible to fight a war that it wasn't designed for? After all, didn't you say that we will lose the next "real" war because of the COIN BS. Maybe we shouldn't be that flexible and change in order to fight a "dead horse", as you say.

  7. bg,
    First of all , none of this is about war.
    2nd,DOD is incompetant and unrealistic in calling the PWOT warfare and pretending that the threat of AQ can be dealt with on the battlefield.
    If it is warfare then we're really screwed since shitbirds in shower shoes are the ones possessing the initiative.
    Now having said that let me add- a limp dick is flexible but you can't fuck with it.
    No matter how you cut it we're limp dicked fuckers ,imho.
    Whether COIN or War.

  8. As an old political science major, I once used to actually purchase those thick tomes produced by former presidents, statesmen, etc., and then actually read them. I read Kissinger, I read Nixon, I read about LBJ. You name it. I read it. With few exceptions, it was a waste of time. So no more.

    As an old soldier, I once actually read official military histories. But then I got old and wise and figured out they were every bit as self-serving as the politicians' books. The one saving grace about the politicians' books was that we the taxpayers didn't pay for the publishing costs. Official military histories from WW2 and before are fairly honest. Korea? Sort of. Vietnam and later? Nope.

    So I'm going to decline the assignment, Al. I don't have the stomach for it. Does it really take 422 pages to say, "We fucked up," or, "We accomplished squat in eight years?"

    Bg, I line up with the Ranger in your spitting contest. There are of course bright spots, most of them due to the individual initiative of more junior personnel, but on the whole, DoD IS incompetent. It is incompetent in tactical, operational and strategic matters; equally distressing is that it is every bit as incompetent in core areas such as personnel and acquisition.

    DoD is the monster that ate Cleveland. We can all only hope that at some point the president and the congress will be able to muster the courage to somehow tame this voracious beast, which is currently totally out of control.

  9. Found this on the web

    I first noticed this on CNN and followed the links. Haven't yet read it, but CNN states that it points out the failings of military intelligence in COIN operations.

  10. Publius, tell me, has DoD ever be truly competent in personal or acquisition? IMO, DoD has always been best at one thing, killing people and breaking their stuff. Sometimes with style, but usually not. All the other bureaucratic aspects of such a ginormous organization have always seemed faulty, antiquated and inefficient.

    My point was that should we expect the DoD to be competent in fighting a war that we don't want it to fight? It is like criticizing a football team for not hitting enough homeruns at the company softball game. Unless playing softball is in the contract, should we really expect 300 lb lineman to make a base hit or run out a grounder?

  11. bigbird, this one is easy to answer. Because we don't train intelligence for shit.

    A couple of reasons:

    1. No easy to follow, cookie cutter doctrine exists that can teach an intelligence officer/analyst how to do intelligence in COIN in the couple of months of training they have.

    2. The TRADOC requirements for changing course standards literally takes years. The instructors are hand cuffed to teach the formulaic curriculums handed to them.

    3. And even if the intel community changed the way it trained, it is still interdependent of the combat arms leaders who don't get the training. As a community we fail because we refuse to accept that we send under qualified, under experienced intel officers/analysts to the fight.

    It is ridiculous that a CPT should be a Bn S2 competing with an XO and S3 who are both MAJs with, on average, 5 more years of experience, and a Cdr with 10 years more experience. I told the MI Corps CG that we should bump up all billets by one pay grade so we can best support the decision makers. You should have seen the dismissing look I got.

  12. Bg, of course, you're right. DoD has always been incompetent. However, I'd also observe that, in the words of a former SecDef, "we go to war with the Army we have, not the Army that we'd like." And, to use your parallel, the football team is still sucking up the tax dollars even if it can't play softball. The problem with your defense of the DoD is that it never turns back any of the money, even if it can't do the job. Add it all up. Between the DoD, the intelligence community and the homeland security boys, we're talking near a trillion dollars a year. Ever see one of those drawings showing how high a trillion one-dollar bills would go? As I recall, it's the moon. I'd suggest we don't get our money's worth.

    Bg is also correct in noting the Army's shameful performance in managing its intelligence branch. It is always been thus. Your poster here lived through much of this. I recall in particular when the Army decided to make S2s at the battalion level MI officers. There was absolutely no reason to do this. Branch-material officers generally did an acceptable job at the battalion level, especially since they had a robust MI presence at higher levels—e.g., guys like me in MI groups—to help out. The intelligence posture of one unit I supported in Germany in the 70s suffered when the armor captain who'd been the S2—and he wasn't a wizard by any means—was replaced by an MI captain, who unfortunately didn't have a clue as to what he was doing. This was at the same time as the elimination of the combat arms detail requirement for MI second lieutenants in the RA.

    WRT that branch detail issue, one of the lieutenants in this unit who was MI and was coming off his combat arms detail asked me to set up an interview with my commander for a job. He also asked if I'd recommend him, something I was glad to do; he was a fine young man. For that, I got a royal ass chewing. The squadron commander, a good friend who retired as a general officer, told me he was trying to change an MTO&E position to MI to keep this young officer from going to an MI unit. In his words: "MI eats their young. Guys like you can always survive, but many can't."

    He was right. MI became a bad branch as it matured. In the early days, it wasn't even a branch. Officers were detailed and then stayed. It was reserve officer heavy, and it was very similar to the way it, and the OSS had been in WW2. Vietnam saw a major expansion of the branch, with the intake of many people, lots of friends of mine, most of whom would never be accepted by today's MI branch. Shit, most of the people in the MI Hall of Fame would not be accepted by today's MI branch. Of course, the same could be said of many of the most storied soldiers in U.S. history: today's Army wouldn't want them.

    The Army's MI branch has fallen prey to the same illness that's beset CIA. Hung up on process and procedural nonsense, these organizations do not suffer iconoclasts lightly. Yet intelligence work never changes: despite the best efforts of systems lovers—and that's all we have in government these days—intelligence is an art rather than a science. They tolerated all of us "artists" after Vietnam, but it was clear they wanted nothing more than to see us go.

    Actually, the entire Army has gone this way. Any time you care more about a man's weight and percentage of body fat than about his heart, courage and ability to get the job is when you've gone off the tracks. We have a faux Army, more concerned with appearance than with performance.

  13. publius,
    I always thought that the only reason 2LT's were detailed MI was to get a tricked year out of them in the combat arms.
    Here was the shuffle- go MI and avoid the combat arms . OH boy -ok where do i sign.
    After branch assignment-oh by the way ,you're detailed Infy. Have a nice day.
    The entire shuffle in ROTC was to avoid combat arms at all cost.
    As a DMG i voluntarily choose IN and my old classmates still think i'm crazy.
    To think of it they're probably right.

    It's not so much that you support my position but rather you are trained to give credence to observable events and synthecize what it all means. That's our cross to bear.
    I don't believe that my CEOI meshes with bg's.

  14. publius,
    An after thought.
    QM did the same hustle on young 2 LT's.