19 August 2009

Links of the Day

A few articles from around the Mil-blogosphere from the past day or so.

  • Robert Haddick of Small Wars Journal and Foreign Policy Online fame just participated in a staff ride at Gettysburg with Dave Dilegge and a number of senior leaders from the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). I've always despised the Army's obsession with the Civil War, and particularly, the Air Cavalry's obsession with the old Cavalry battles and Native American campaigns of the past. The glorification of the linear battlefield and the emphasis on a "scorched-earth" approach to counterinsurgency were laughably outdated and horribly inapplicable to modern-day operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Yes, OH-58D guys, I'm talking to you in particular). Unfortunately, it's a lot cheaper for the US military to tour a Civil War battlefield than it is to fly to Italy, Germany or France and view those battlefields, so we're stuck with US Civil War analysis. Robert Haddick, however, shows us how the US Civil War actually can be relevant to modern-day military operations, when viewed in the right context--not a concentration on the tactical aspects of who charged whom on Cemetery Ridge--but the grand strategic questions we should all be concentrating on. Staff rides provide an incredible opportunity to explore these issues.

...Capt. Robert Chamberlain, also writing in Armed Forces Journal, calls it a “Leeroy Jenkins” situation, comparing Army advisers to the World of Warcraft player who famously botched a delicately planned raid on a dragon’s lair, pictured, through a dangerous combination of recklessness and insensitivity. (Video not safe for work.) The Leeroy Jenkins parallel highlights the “blunt ignorance with which [soldiers] approach advising,” Chamberlain writes.

There are two major problems, Chamberlain asserts. “The first is the Lawrence of Arabia fantasy.” Advisers are taught to heed the legendary British leader’s advice, codified in his autobiography, to facilitate local solutions and put native forces out front. But U.S. advisers “are much more apt to imagine themselves in the movie version: dashing Peter O’Toole taking center stage and persuading their Arab counterparts to go trekking across the desert to capture eternal glory,” Chamberlain laments. “Shockingly, egomaniacs tend to make terrible team leaders.”...

...Incidentally, Chamberlain reflects a growing trend in the Army, to harness World of Warcraft for itstraining, conceptual and metaphor value. There’s a good reason for this, according to my new favorite roboticist, Missy Cummings from MIT. The best gamers, she told me this week, are great at strategic thinking, always planning several steps ahead...

  • Finally, a discussion on Small Wars Journal's posting board highlighted much of the hidden backstory behind the removal of General McKiernan as the commander of forces in Afghanistan, and the changing dynamic of military leadership. Quoting an article from the Washington Post:
[General Petraeus] broke the mold [of the typical officer]. The traditional responsibilities were not enough anymore. You had to be adroit at international politics. You had to be a skilled diplomat. You had to be savvy with the press, and you had to be a really sophisticated leader of a large organization. When you judge McKiernan by Petraeus's standards, he looked old-school by comparison."

As SWJ poster William F. Owen mentions:
So basically the mould breaking was being like the majority of successful wartime leaders anywhere on the planet in the last 3,000 years.
Indeed, this is why the Army, despite incredible institutional resistance, pushes the model of the "Pentathlete" (or whatever sports analogy you use--Haddick, Boss Mongo, et. al. have commented on these)

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