Thursday, March 8, 2007

Lessons Learned

It's good to see this topic starting to get some media play:

Twenty years ago, David Petraeus, then a young Army officer, wrote a Ph.D. dissertation for Princeton University, saying many of the lessons U.S. military leaders learned from the Vietnam War were wrong.
Generals had become hesitant to commit forces except when they could win conventional battles with superior American firepower. "The senior military have universally been more cautious since Vietnam," Petraeus wrote.
That hesitancy posed a problem in Petraeus' view. The U.S. military was turning away from the very fight — insurgencies — that it would likely confront. The United States' enemies had also learned from Vietnam and would not want to confront U.S. military might head-on.
"We got so far out of this business when we got back from Vietnam," says Andrew Krepinevich, a counter-insurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "We had no institutional memory, no doctrine."

It is not enough to prepare to fight a conventional war. We have to be equally prepared to fight counterinsurgency, perform disaster relief, humanitarian ops, post-war ops, peacekeeping and small wars generally. The Bush Administration has made many mistakes, but not enough attention has been paid to the negligence of the military leadership over the past 30 years. Focusing solely on conventional war made it inevitible that our enemies would seek to exploit our weaknesses. The task that we have before us is not just adapting to the specific fight we are in now, but to institutionalize counterinsurgency and the variety of other missions for the long term.

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