Why America Needs Optimistic Generals

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

It’s not very often that a US commander in Afghanistan sets off a social media firestorm. But recently, Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson in his final press conference as outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, was accused of wearing rose-colored glasses or blinders. Others took out their frustration on him for the interminable nature of America’s long war in Afghanistan. One voice even went so far as to indict America’s senior military leadership and wrote that the “indefatigable optimism of [America’s] generals is a national liability.” Continue reading “Why America Needs Optimistic Generals”

Was the war in Afghanistan worth it?

On March 26, 2015, the University of Utah’s Center for Peace & Conflict Studies and the Hinckley Institute of Politics sponsored three others (listed above) and I to debate this proposition: was the war in Afghanistan worth it?  I spoke in support; I made the argument, that, to my mind, the war in Afghanistan was worth the effort. Continue reading “Was the war in Afghanistan worth it?”

Superempowered Bogeyman: Why you should not listen to Hank Crumpton about war

Image courtesy of Foreign Policy; Tengku Bahar/AFP/Getty Images. Image courtesy of Foreign Policy; Tengku Bahar/AFP/Getty Images.

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

 

I think Ambassador Hank Crumpton, formerly of the CIA, deserves great admiration for his service to the country.  But having just listened to a speech he gave (titled “A New Era of Conflict”) at the World Affairs Council of Dallas in 2008 (iTunes link here, date: April 8, 2008), I doubt I’ll ever listen closely to his opinions on warfare again.  There are two substantial reasons from the talk that led me to such a conclusion: Continue reading “Superempowered Bogeyman: Why you should not listen to Hank Crumpton about war”

Money as a Nuclear Weapon

Image courtesy of Flikr user The U.S. Army. Image courtesy of Flikr user The U.S. Army.

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

In Iraq and Afghanistan, one commonly heard phrase was to “employ money as a weapon system.”  The idea was a simple one in Iraq – if you can get what you want with a dinar or dollar as opposed to a bullet – that is clearly preferable.  This tracks with common sense.  My Dad used to tell me that if you’ve got a problem and a check that can cover that problem – then you don’t have a problem.  Supporting military counterinsurgency techniques with financial resources designed to connect the people to their established government makes sense. Continue reading “Money as a Nuclear Weapon”

In retrospect: was Afghanistan worth it?

Image courtesy of Flikr user U.S. Army. Image courtesy of Flikr user U.S. Army.

Friday’s Last Word – Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend…

In teaching Military Strategy we cover Clausewitz (as one might expect).  Yesterday I taught the back half of a two-part lesson on this important war theorist, and tied in two of his concepts with Sun Tzu’s.  The two “megaconcepts” are interaction and rationality (and come from Bradford Lee of the Naval War College’s work). Continue reading “In retrospect: was Afghanistan worth it?”

COIN in Afghanistan (& a small country’s role there)

I’ve recently been listening to some amazing lectures available from the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago…one can find the series of authors and historians discussing topical issues and their books on iTunes for free. An amazing resource, especially Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln. Anyhow, I came across two interpretations that I was interested in and agreed with, so I thought I would transcribe them here.

First comes Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and influential author, with a simplification of the objective of the operational technique of counterinsurgency (COIN) from 2007: Continue reading “COIN in Afghanistan (& a small country’s role there)”

The Costs of War: Osama, Afghanistan, and Iraq

National Journal has run an excellent story on the financial aspect of Osama bin Laden’s death. Frankly, it’s pretty sobering to think about. The article begins:
“By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.”

It continues to discuss the implications of those economic costs, as well as the lack of direct economic benefits the U.S. has gained since incurring them. For example, WWII brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression and created an enormous middle class via the GI Bill. The only tangible advancement of this past decade is a great expansion in unmanned military technology (primarily aviation).

Continue reading “The Costs of War: Osama, Afghanistan, and Iraq”