Unprecendeted Power: Petraeus To Lead Creation Of New Type Of Military

November 17th, 2007 Posted By Pat Dollard.

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David Petraeus will run for President in 2012.

WAPO:

The Army has summoned the top U.S. commander in Iraq back to Washington to preside over a board that will pick some of the next generation of Army leaders, an unusual decision that officials say represents a vote of confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus’s conduct of the war, as well as the Army counterinsurgency doctrine he helped rewrite.

The Army has long been criticized for rewarding conventional military thinking and experience in traditional combat operations, and current and former defense officials have pointed to Petraeus’s involvement in the promotion board process this month as a sign of the Army’s commitment to encouraging innovation and rewarding skills beyond the battlefield.

Some junior and midlevel officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been particularly outspoken in their criticisms, saying the Army’s current leadership lacks a hands-on understanding of today’s conflicts and has not listened to feedback from younger personnel.

“It’s unprecedented for the commander of an active theater to be brought back to head something like a brigadier generals board,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former head of the Army War College. A senior defense official said Petraeus is “far too high-profile for this to be a subtle thing.”

The board, composed of 15 Army generals, will examine a pool of more than 1,000 colonels to select about 40 brigadier generals, expected to lead the service over the next decade or longer. Although each board member has an equal vote on the candidates, Petraeus will be able to guide the discussion.

Petraeus, a four-star general with a doctorate in political science, has spent three of the past four years in Iraq and has observed firsthand many of the colonels under consideration for promotion. He is well-regarded by military officials for his political skills in Iraq and at home, including winning support from a skeptical Congress for a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

“Dave Petraeus in many ways is viewed as the archetype of what this new generation of senior leader is all about,” Scales said, “a guy . . . who understands information operations, who can be effective on Capitol Hill, who can communicate with Iraqis, who understands the value of original thought, who has the ability through the power of his intellect to lead people to change.”

The information revolution “is dramatically changing everything about the way we fight,” said Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, an Army counterinsurgency expert. “These enemies cannot defeat us on the battlefield but are trying to sap the public will, so to win you need a very different kind of leader, someone who understands information and asymmetric warfare, and that sort of flexible, adaptive thinker is not necessarily the kind the training and education programs of the Army grow and the skill set we select for.”

Petraeus’s involvement coincides with the Army’s consideration of initiatives to change its promotion system to reward a new generation of officers skilled in today’s counterinsurgency warfare.

The Army is struggling to retain experienced younger officers — recently offering $35,000 bonuses to captains — who are leaving partly because of their extended deployments in war zones but also because they are alienated from leaders who lack their combat experience, Army officers say.

“There are some great captains and majors who have great insight into this type of warfare. They are not leaving because they don’t have enough money; they are leaving because no one is listening to them. They don’t trust the people above them,” said an Army officer who served two tours in Iraq, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

In a speech at a large Army conference last month, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates raised the need for holding onto young combat veterans and “reexamining assignments and promotion policies that in many cases are unchanged since the Cold War.” Gates also stressed that the Army must retain lessons on irregular warfare from Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons he said were learned but lost after the Vietnam War.

“All these so-called ‘nontraditional’ capabilities have moved into the mainstream of military thinking, planning and strategy — where they must stay,” he said. Gates later met with Army leaders and discussed promotion policies, according to Army officials.

One initiative would transform the way officers are selected for nontraditional but vital jobs such as leading the military training teams that are in growing demand in Iraq and Afghanistan. Key officers for those teams, which total roughly 7,100 personnel, would be chosen from the same lists as commanders of combat units — placing the Army’s new leaders in those jobs.

“Senior Army leaders are supportive of this idea, and the personnel system is taking a very close look at it,” said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who is responsible for officer training as head of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The training officers now volunteer or are assigned in an ad hoc manner, and many see the jobs as career detours, often resulting in weaker leaders for jobs that the Army now considers essential, several officials said.

Some officers have also advocated the creation of a permanent Army advisory corps to nurture a new type of leader. “The people who would gravitate toward service in an Army advisory corps would be the type of adaptive, flexible leader skilled in unconventional warfare,” said Nagl, who is involved in training the military advisory teams.

Another initiative, favored by many young officers, would incorporate reviews by peers and subordinates into a rating system that now depends largely on ratings by superior officers; the idea is to make the system less hierarchical and prone to producing conformity. An Army task force is looking into incorporating such reviews, known as “360-degree evaluations,” into the “officer efficiency reports” that are now completed only by superiors, said Col. Paul L. Aswell, chief of the Army’s officer personnel division.

“Now the system is very risk-adverse because to advance in the officers corps, you really only need to make your senior rater happy,” said the officer who served in Iraq. “There is every disincentive to challenging that senior officer’s worldview. He has the power to stop you in your tracks.”

Army Secretary Pete Geren, who was involved in choosing Petraeus to head the board, declined to comment on it but said the board was set to recess this week and give him its recommendations. Petraeus will return to Baghdad by early next week, officials said.


18 Responses

  1. TTS

    Petraeus 4 prez!!!

  2. Dan (The Infidel)

    The complaints about senior officers are nothing new. Even in peacetime, officers will leave the military if they feel the chain above them is unresponsive to their needs. And it is true, the officer rater can make or break an officer’s career. So what else is new?

    What’s new is Petraeous has input into the process and the development of seniors at the 0-6 level. If you can make it to the 0-5 rank and remain on the 0-5 promotable list…you are either the best suck-up in the world…or you are one helluva leader.

    Weeding out the suck-ups would keep some of the losers out of the Pentagon and beyond. JMO.

  3. Valerie

    Yeeps, big, honking grammar error. The second-to-last last sentence has been changed, with apologies.

    You mean, Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower did not have a say in selecting the officers under their command during WWII?

    Has Petraeus been selected to preside over this panel, or to supply expert testimony to it?

    I can’t tell whether the reporter and editor understood what they were being told, and their commentary about who would head the board and it all being unprecedented comes from people with no no actual knowledge. In particular, the name of Army Secretary Pete Geren is used in a sentence as if to confirm a fact, even though he refused to comment on the board action. So I can’t tell if Petraeus was chosen to head the board, or not.

  4. Brian H

    It’s all good. But where did the headline about running for Pres in ‘12 come from? Not the article.

    I have unbounded admiration for Gen. P., and am frankly astonished that the Army hierarchy is trying to take such good advantage from his skills. I wonder if the CIC isn’t pushing this along.

  5. Frozen Tex

    He’ll have my vote!

  6. markg8

    Changing the way younger officers are promoted is a good idea. But isn’t it ironic that pleasing your immediate higher up as the sole criteria is now seen as a poor method for promotion when CENTCOM commander Fallon himself has reportedly called Petreus an “as*-kissing little chickensh*t”.

    The fact that Petraues “is well-regarded by military officials for his political skills in Iraq and at home” isn’t good. Generals should carry out orders, not come home to politic on behalf of a president’s policy as Petraeus did this summer.

    There’s reasons the counter insurgency lessons of the Vietnam War were abandoned and we never developed a occupation plan for hostile nations that haven’t militarily surrendered. No military officials ever thought our civilian leaders would be dumb enough to engage in these kind of wars again and we’ve never aspired to be a imperial power.

    The British have a long history of such operations and they know their presence in Basra was counter productive. It’s way past time we took a few lessons from them. Arming all sides to the teeth, paying Sunni Insurgents $300 a month each to stand down isn’t a strategy for success. It just guarantees all hell will break loose when we leave.

  7. Vanessa

    What I get from my son is that he has GREAT RESPECT for those leading him and his buddies but a lot of stupid crap thats not important is driving the young men out of the military instead of reinlisting that is coming from higher up.

    You think having done a tour ( no piece of cake) he stayed dirty for about the whole time averaging about a shower a month (if you add them all together over 7 months), the whole group had dysentary for 3 weeks straight and not being able to take care of your butt properly made it a hell of a go, (and yes the medic was giving them butt plugs as my son calls them) then they went though the dysentary again in Iraq and then back in the states for training waiting your next deployment…. having leaves cut short for no good reason, going out in the cold for a week,
    there is stress, there has been a suicide a few weeks back, just you cannot believe.

    In Iraq you have to be hot, you have to be cold, if your neck gets so stiff you have to suck it up, you have to sleep on the ground, etc…they get it and they do their job, but after Iraq they are different and they will know and say what is crap and what is necessary.
    If they could cut out the petty crap…..

    But you know what he is the first to say to his sisters that he goes and fights agianst the bad guys because he has seen them and their handy work first hand and it is ugly.

  8. Irish Gal

    Muah David :beer: :beer: :beer:

  9. Grumpy

    I can’t believe this is happening. This is almost too good to be true. I never thought I would live long enough. I hope you all know how big of a deal this is.

    :arrow: Dan (The Infidel) is right on.

    All problems start from some failing of leadership. Now I don’t know exactly what the systemic changes are going to be, but if we are going back to putting an emphasis on combat experience, then this is a good thing. See, it used to be this way, but then at some point, college degrees and tradoc time was what got you ahead. So you ended up with a bunch of well educated guys who had never truly been in charge of anything.

  10. Irish Gal

    Markg8: It’s way past time we took a few lessons from them (the British)… Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha………. kiss off…

  11. drillanwr

    Re: The Brits

    Okay, I’m probably gonna get pounded for this but …

    I saw a documentary a while back on (maybe) The History Channel. It was about D-Day.

    It was mentioned that many of our officers were some of the first killed in the landing on Normandy Beach. And that our military trains our guys in picking up and taking over, especially the non-coms … That’s why, after all our fallen, we still made it up the beach.

    The next mention was that the Brits didn’t train their soldiers like that (mention of how they continuously had to check with Command whenever changes came up … needed permission or somesuch), and had the Brits been the ones storming the beaches they would have been completely exterminated if they had lost their officers the way we did …

    Okay, WWII/military historians, pile on.

  12. Dan (The Infidel)

    markg8:
    “The fact that Petraues “is well-regarded by military officials for his political skills in Iraq and at home” isn’t good.” How so?

    There are three things that an officer must do to reach the senior ranks: 1. an interservice assignment 2.Attend the Army War College and 3. An assignment at the Pentagon.

    At the War College they teach you to be political. That’s a part of the senior officer’s life. You must play well and get along with others, whether you like their politics or service or not. You might be called upon to testify in front of Congress or the UN or some other World Body. An officer is required to develop the sort of political acumen that is necessary to get along with civilian leaders and inter-service assignments.

    What works at the Company or BN level won’t work at the BDE or Division level of command.

    Not good, my eye. You don’t get to the three star or four star rank if you are a lousy politician.

  13. hegelbot

    I think history will show that the invasion of Iraq, the creation of veteran soldiers and commanders and the revisioning of a post cold war/911 military will prove vital to the sustainability of the US in the 21st century. Well done all and a big Thanks (from a civilian) for all the hard work and sacrifices that have been made in the last seven years.

    As unpopular as some might think GW Bush is, he will have left our country stronger and better able to deal with emerging geo-political conditions. Scrap the contemporary history books and get ready for some positive analysis in the future.

  14. Jim

    markg8

    First off Adm. William Fallon can fck off eat sht and die…
    Everyone has sensed bad apples with his BS.

    300 dollars to stand down…and later to have all hell break loose….Is a sound bite of a theory made popular by the same individuals who didn’t have the capability to execute the right war strategy to begin with.

    The rest of you rambling is 1 step above bullsh*t, but I will tell you who had and has a great perspective is David Kilkullen

    http://kilcullencounterinsurgency.blogspot.com/

  15. political.fish

    The incredible ignorance of the left is exemplified in the comments made by markg8. To wit:

    “But isn’t it ironic that pleasing your immediate higher up as the sole criteria is now seen as a poor method for promotion when CENTCOM commander Fallon himself has reportedly called Petreus an “as*-kissing little chickensh*t”.”

    A run-on sentence which mixes propositional arguments and confuses a.) The false assertion that pleasing the higher-ups was ever a method of promotion, and b.) the disingenous supposed quote from Admiral Fallon, who unlike Gen. Petraeus, has not spent time on the ground in Iraq.

    In acctuality, the greatest military kiss-ass in the history of warfare, is the disgraceful Gen. Wesley Clark, failed presidential hopeful.

    “The fact that Petraues “is well-regarded by military officials for his political skills in Iraq and at home” isn’t good.”

    False: Winning the regard of fellow commanders, both in theater, and at home, based on outstanding leadership and successful battlefield accomplishments, is a result of quality performance over-time. It is a good thing.

    “Generals should carry out orders, not come home to politic on behalf of a president’s policy as Petraeus did this summer.”

    False: Generals make policy, state missions, prioritize threats and issue orders. Junior officers and enlisted personnel carry them out. Generals do interface with civilian leadership while at home. The Secretary of Defense is a civilian dumbfuck!

    “There’s reasons the counter insurgency lessons of the Vietnam War were abandoned and we never developed a occupation plan for hostile nations that haven’t militarily surrendered.”

    False: A nonsense statement. Iraq is not Viet Nam, nor is Iran. To suggest that the American military has had no plan for counter-insurgency operations is asinine. Our forces have adapted to changing conditions on the ground like no other military force in the history of warfare. Very few comparisons can be made between today’s operations and past military experience. Military doctrine for counter-insurgency warfare is being written as we speak. Sit back and learn shitpole!

    “No military officials ever thought our civilian leaders would be dumb enough to engage in these kind of wars again and we’ve never aspired to be a imperial power.”

    False: Sort of, its true we never aspired to be an Imperial power, and we are under no such action. Strategic planning for various military engagements have been ‘on the shelf’ for years, and always will be.

    “The British have a long history of such operations and they know their presence in Basra was counter productive. It’s way past time we took a few lessons from them.”

    False Conclusion: It was the British success in Basra, which allowed them to hand-over security operations to the local forces. British forces relocated to border security.
    It is true that when we have defeated the enemy, and have turned over security operations to local forces, we can engage the Iranians with the British.

    “Arming all sides to the teeth, paying Sunni Insurgents $300 a month each to stand down isn’t a strategy for success. It just guarantees all hell will break loose when we leave.”

    False: Using these practices within the local custom and culture is working very well, if you have’nt noticed. This is not the larger strategy of course, but you would’nt recognise that. When we leave, the insurgents will be dead, and freedom will prevail. You can go on wringing your hands, wearing pink and voting treason. God bless our armed forces!

  16. hegelbot

    drillanwr your comments are not off base, I remember reading about this in F.M. Rommels personal letters concerning the flexibility allowed to german commanders to operate outside of strict orders at their discretion versus the inflexibility imposed upon british commanders who were (often to their detriment) obligated to follow orders rigidly and to get the ok from superiors before acting beyond or contrary to their orders.

    i think it was in Rommels papers, could have been another source, but i remember this being offered as at least one reason for german sucesses over the british expeditionary forces on the western front in 1941.

  17. drillanwr

    hegelbot -

    A “cheap” aside … While watching the movie “The Last Of The Mohicans” I couldn’t help but shout at the British Colonial Army who waited to be told to load their weapons, take their stance, and wait for the order to fire … all while the Indians were cutting them down. :???:

    While I know the story was fictional, I do confidently assume the military practice was fairly accurate.

  18. political.fish

    Re: hegelbot, drillnwr:

    Regardless of the diferences in command structure, the British and American forces soundly defeated the German army in WWII (despite what Rommel presumed). Arguing over hypothetical circumstances is a waste of time. The truth is that the Allies (in this case the British and Americans) defeated a clear threat to world peace then, and are doing so now. The assertion that Basra was a British ‘defeat’ or ‘retreat’ is just false on its face, proving that British command structure continues to be successful even today.

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