The Real Questions Worth Asking To Assess The Army's War Record

The Long March
U.S. Army/Spc. Dustin D. Biven

Gen. Frederick Kroesen commanded a rifle company in World War II, a battalion in Korea, and a brigade and a division in Vietnam. When he talks, I listen.


But I think his column in the May issue of ARMY magazine is seriously off base. He sets out to assess the track record of Army generals in recent years. But then he says that the two criticisms of the Army are that military minds are inflexible and that those same minds always fight the last war.

That puzzled me because while I think the Army has been slow to adjust, I don’t think that is the primary critique. Foremost, I think, is that the Army doesn’t seem to know how to win its recent wars. The Kroesen view is that the civilians are to blame for that. But I wonder if Army leaders really have taken the risks they should have.

Here are my two basic questions for any serious critique of the Army’s performance since 9/11:

Did the Army shirk the mission given it by the Bush Administration in Iraq? I ask this because Paul Bremer led a revolutionary effort to transform Iraq. The Army’s response was to say, Nah, we don’t do revolutions, we do stability. But “stability” was not their assigned mission. Personally, I think the assigned mission was nuts. But the proper military response would have been to address that, instead of simply redefining it into something the generals were comfortable with. They undercut Bremer.

Has the Army candidly and soberly examined its shortcomings in Iraq? For example, how did its actions help create the Iraqi insurgency? Why did it make rookie mistakes like putting all prisoners into giant camps, effectively making them Universities of Jihad? Why did it take so long to become militarily effective in Iraq—I would say that happened in the spring of ’07. That’s almost as long as we fought in World War II.

But you don’t need to listen to me.  You can just turn a few pages of ARMY magazine to p. 19, where retired Lt. Col. Thomas Morgan writes that, “All our military seems to be able to do is ask for more troops and money. That is not the exit strategy we have been looking for. Today, the situation in Afghanistan is generally conceded to be worse than it has ever been.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States "is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Friday said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, insisting that a planned "safe zone" will extend much further than U.S. officials said was covered under a fragile ceasefire deal.

Read More Show Less

On Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference, Army families had the opportunity to tell senior leaders exactly what was going on in their worlds — an opportunity that is, unfortunately, all too rare.

Read More Show Less

The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the six-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.

Read More Show Less

A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).

But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.

Read More Show Less

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.

Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.

The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.

The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.

"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.

The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.

Read More Show Less