March 18, 2008

Scions of the Surge

We haven't yet blogged on the Newsweek articles about how Iraq and Afghanistan are changing the U.S. Army's officer corps, but until we do, you guys should at least read both The Scions of the Surge and -- most importantly -- The Fight Over How to Fight, which touches upon a lot of the issues we've been blogging about for the past twelve months.

The men who ran the lightning invasion of Iraq and the long, botched occupation that followed tended to be Desert Storm vets who knew little or nothing about counterinsurgency warfare.

Now, however, a younger generation of officers has been bloodied in the city streets of Iraq, fighting against hidden foes. (Some of these same officers were deployed on nation-building missions to the Balkans or Africa or Haiti in the 1990s.) In Iraq, these young captains and majors and lieutenant colonels have had to desperately improvise, to make up tactics as they go along. Naturally, some are furious at their higher-ups for sending them to war so unprepared. In May 2007, one of them, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, wrote a blistering piece in Armed Forces Journal called "A Failure of Generalship." He painted the Army's high command as a bunch of none-too-bright conformists. The promotions system, he wrote, "does little to reward creativity and moral courage." On the contrary, to move up, an officer "must only please his superiors." Yingling pointed out that no one seemed to be taking the fall for failure in Iraq.