Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Any Good Soldier

Army Major General Cucolo, who is taking over the Army War college, is looking to rebalance the Army to make sure it can operate across the entire combat spectrum:

So which possibility must the Army prioritize? "You focus on the hardest one," Cucolo said. "The hardest one is high-intensity combat operations.... It involves air-ground integration, it involves intense and adaptable logistics tails, it involves disciplined, drilled units that can react to different levels of violence." Of the many missions outlined by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, he said, "if we focus on 'deter and defeat,' I firmly believe we can do almost anything else."

But doesn't that emphasis on the "high-intensity" sound unnervingly like the pre-9/11 fixation on nation-states, which rested on the assumption that an Army trained to defeat tank armies could handle "lesser included" cases like guerrilla war as well – an assumption painfully disproven both in Vietnam and in Afghanistan and Iraq? "We got smart," Cucolo said. "In Iraq and in Afghanistan, you took a general-purpose force, trained for a combat mission, and you gave them plug-[in] capabilities" for local languages, training friendly forces, and so on.

Remember that we did turn soldiers trained for high-intensity warfare into counter-insurgents very smoothly in Iraq once the officers and doctrine were there to guide the soldiers. Counter-insurgency--as any other military operation--requires good soldiers. And the speed of high-intensity combat means that it is far safer to prepare for that mission while being ready to adapt to an insurgency. That's what I wrote about here.

Just don't try to make the Army a second Marine Corps. Focus on making good soldiers.