February 16, 2008

The Evolution of Odierno

The Washington Post has an article on the evolution of Gen. Ray Odierno from a division commander focused on breaking heads to a theater commander focused on winning hearts and minds.

Now this Post story is fascinating for a number of different reasons. First, Abu Muqawama agrees that Odierno's evolution and learning curve largely mirrors that of the U.S. military. In fact, Abu Muqawama wrote this a week ago and suspects the reporters at the Washington Post basically comb this website whenever they're stuck and can't think of a good story. 10 days ago, we wrote:

When the final histories of America's experience in Iraq are written, Odierno's personal journey might speak volumes about the evolution the U.S. Army has gone through as an institution.

Today, the Post wrote:

Odierno's evolution over the past five years is in many ways the story of how the U.S. military has transformed its Iraq strategy and helped to ease back the country from the brink of civil war.

All we're saying is that we want a little credit, Amit R. Paley and Joshua Parlow. (If those are your real names. What? You scared your editor will laugh at you if you quote our ridiculously monikered blog? Suck it up.) The second reason this story is interesting was this bit at the end:

Staff writers Josh White and Thomas E. Ricks in Washington contributed to this report.

If you have read Tom Ricks's book Fiasco, you know exactly why Odierno was considered a knuckle-dragger for so long by, among others, this blog. The next time Abu Muqawama gets a chance to harass Tom Ricks in an airport (as he tends to do from time to time), he's going to ask him what he thinks about all this. Does he think Odierno has really learned? Does he think Odierno intellectually grasps counterinsurgency warfare? Or is he just, as one officer said in the article, following Petraeus's lead? Some people think the portrayal of Odierno in Fiasco was grotesquely unfair, but Abu Muqawama's take on it is that it wasn't like Ricks invented this perception of Odierno and the 4th ID. It was out there for some time before the book came out and was talked about in military circles quite a bit. You guys and gals who were in Iraq in 2003/2004 know what we're talking about.

But now on to more important things. Abu Muqawama is going to sit down and read H.R. McMaster's new article in Survival on military transformation this afternoon and will then turn his attention to two sports that do not usually get lumped together: soccer and NASCAR. This blog's predicitions? Manchester United will beat Arsenal in their FA Cup tie this evening, and then Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win tomorrow's Daytona 500. By the way, check out the hilarious picture of Richard Petty with George W. Bush from Petty's wikipedia page. You don't think that was an awkward conversation, what with Petty trying to be all good old boy with the Andover/Yale/Harvard-educated son of a president? The look on the president's face says it all: "Crap, this guy is really excited to meet me and I have no idea what to say to him or talk about." The answer? Short-track racing, Mr. President! Or, jeez, anything. Pick the man's brain, for cryin' out loud. He can probably help you out on everything from social security reform to Iraq strategy. After all, you're just a president. He's King Richard.

P.S. Manchester United and Arsenal in the FA Cup inevitably brings back memories of this classic, the 1999 re-play featuring a young David Beckham, two legendary teams, and that goal -- perhaps the finest in FA Cup history.