West Point Is Divided on a War Doctrine’s Fate

For 2 centuries, United States Military Academy has produced generals for America’s wars, among them Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, George S. Patton and David H. Petraeus. It is where President George W. Bush delivered what became known as his pre-emption speech, which sought to justify the invasion of Iraq, and where President Barack Obama told the nation he was sending an additional 30.000 American troops to Afghanistan. Now at another critical moment in American military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate. Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government, is dead. Broadly, the question is what United States gained after a decade in two wars. “Not much,” Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. “Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.” Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael J. Meese, head of the academy’s influential social sciences department and a top adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and Kabul when General Petraeus commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Nobody should ever underestimate the costs and the risks involved with counterinsurgency, but neither should you take that off the table,” Colonel Michael Meese said, also in an interview last week. Counterinsurgency, he said, “was broadly successful in being able to have Iraqis govern themselves.” The debate at West Point mirrors one under way in the armed forces as a whole as United States withdraws without clear victory from Afghanistan and as the results in Iraq remain ambiguous at best. (On ABC News program “This Week” on Sunday, the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, called the Taliban “resilient” after 10 and a half years of war.) But at West Point the debate is personal, and a decade of statistics, more than 6.000 American service members dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than $1 trillion spent, hit home. On Saturday, 972 cadets graduated as second lieutenants, sent off in a commencement speech by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with the promise that they are “the key to whatever challenges the world has in store.” Many of them are apprehensive about what they will find in Afghanistan, the news coming back from friends is often not good, but still hope to make it there before the war is largely over. “We’ve spent the past four years of our lives getting ready for this,” said Lt. Daniel Prial, who graduated Saturday and said he was drawn to West Point after his father survived as a firefighter in NYC on Sept. 11, 2001 (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/world/at-west-point-asking-if-a-war-doctrine-was-worth-it.html


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

One Response to West Point Is Divided on a War Doctrine’s Fate

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: West Point is the ideal platform to discuss US future wars. The classical thinking of ‘war is a political act’ remains valid in the 21st century. However, theoreticians must add ECONOMICS (the science of scarcity) as a fundamental variable into their thinking. After all, the US military is the MOST money-intensive army in history. Thus, before talking about future wars, strategists must talk about money. Modern US military thinking ALWAYS take for granted unlimited financial-economic resources to back up their military objectives and goals. The political masters take the (difficult) decision to wage war and the military asks for FINANCIAL resources to accomplish victory. In my view, this is not possible any more. Even limited conflicts can become extremely costly. For example, the current state of the US economy plays a MAJOR role in Pres Obama’s decision of not striking Iran’s nuclear installations. “Doable” wars is something of the past. In my view, US military planning and thinking face a major challenge i.e., how to incorporate budget constraints into their model. If this is the case, the (military) lessons from previous wars become less relevant to plan future wars.



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