“American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. It may not be quite that simple. But then again it could.” — from a “pocket guide” prepared by the Special Service Division of the Army Service Forces, U.S. Army, 1943
Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, Commanding General, III Corps, has come home after another tour of Iraq. By some estimates his time in theatre exceeds that of any World War II general which, in and of itself, is indicative of the challenges over there.
This homecoming brings with it much praise for his leadership in implementing the counterinsurgency doctrines developed by General David H. Petraeus and set out in the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The implementation of these ideas, along with the surge of additional boots on the ground, proved to be more successful in reducing violence and casualties than many of us had imagined given the carnage and chaos then extant.
“It is not unfair to say that in 2003 most Army officers knew more about the U.S.Civil War than they did about counterinsurgency,” claims Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl, a veteran of both Iraq wars and author of the highly praised Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (2005). Nagl was a member of the writing team of the new Manual for which he wrote the Forward for the University of Chicago Press edition.
Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, along with the inimitable Col. H.R. McMaster, author of the Vietnam classic Dereliction of Duty, have worked hard to overcome the loss of institutional memory of irregular or counterinsurgency warfare which may have been misplaced during the great Cold War stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union.
General Odierno’s accomplishments have even caused at least two analysts to christen him “The Patton of Counterinsurgency,” an explicit reference to the late, “hard-charging” General’s relationship to the “diplomatic” Eisenhower.p>What is interesting, even compelling, about General Odierno’s triumphant return is that it may signify a very real turnaround from his prior reputation as a commander who acted contrary to the tenets of counterinsurgency doctrine. The Washington Post ‘s headline for a recent story on Odierno reads, “Evolution Of a U.S. General In Iraq. No. 2 Commander Transformed Tactics.” br> /p>
That tall man in the flowing robe you are going to see soon, with the whiskers and the long hair, is a first-class fighting man, highly skilled in guerilla warfare. Few fighters in any country, in fact, excel him in that kind of war. If he is your friend, he can be a staunch and valuable ally. If he should happen to be your enemy — look out!br> In Thomas E. Ricks’s in-depth, disturbing book,
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