Monday, March 20, 2006

Old dogs and new books

If you are a subscriber to the WSJ, there was an article about some new and old books that are becoming required reading; one was given to SECDEF Rumsfeld by General Casey when SECDEF visited Iraq recently - Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife : Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam by Lt. Col. John Nagl.

Also on the reading list for Phibian are A Better War by Col. Lewis Sorley, and Andrew Krepinevich's The Army In Vietnam and the book that I should have already read, Dereliction of Duty by Col. H.R. McMaster.

If you think Rumsfeld only surrounds himself with sycophants - then General Casey wouldn't have given him this book.

Being that the Navy leadership is more concerned with dressing us like the folks on Battlestar Galatica, getting jobs with defense contractors after they retire, and chasing down LT's that have a potty mouth that wouldn't even have been noticed on any of the ships they commanded as LCDR, CDR, and CAPT - I am going to have to spend more time watching, and reading, as the Army leadership does some serious intellectual lifting as they build towards the USMC standard.

Yes, that swipe sounded cynical, but I am serious. The Army is being forced to change because it was challenged and found lacking. Good on them. The Navy has not been challenged at sea, yet is not trying to leverage the fundamental failings that the Army has relearned - so that when we are challenged we don't have Sailors die because we wished away the lessons of the past. Damage control. Manning for extended combat operations. Multi-mission capabilities. Weapons reliability in a realistic name a few.
UPDATE: The good folks at The Corner like it too....and they cut and pasted some goodie.
Col. Nagl's book is one of a half dozen Vietnam histories -- most of them highly critical of the U.S. military in Vietnam -- that are changing the military's views on how to fight guerrilla wars. Two other books that have also become must-reading among senior Army officers are retired Col. Lewis Sorley's "A Better War," which chronicles the last years of the Vietnam War, and Col. H.R. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty," which focuses on the early years.

The embrace of these Vietnam histories reflects an emerging consensus in the Army that in order to move forward in Iraq, it must better understand the mistakes of Vietnam.

In the past, it was commonly held in military circles that the Army failed in Vietnam because civilian leaders forced it to fight a limited war instead of the all-out assault it longed to wage. That belief helped shape the doctrine espoused in the 1980s by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. They argued that the military should fight only wars in which it could apply quick, overwhelming force to destroy the enemy.

The newer analyses of Vietnam are now supplanting that theory -- and changing the way the Army fights. The argument that the military must exercise restraint is a central point of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine, which runs about 120 pages and is still in draft form, is a handbook on how to wage guerrilla wars.

It offers Army and Marine Corps officers advice on everything from strategy development to intelligence gathering. Col. Nagl is among the four primary authors of the doctrine. Conrad Crane, a historian at the U.S. Army War College, is overseeing the effort.

Welcome aboard Army types! Honored to be on the 21 MAR 06 Stand-to. Oh, and your service has a great reading list and writing tradition. Support it. The Navy could learn a lot. (you didn't read that)

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