View Full Version : The Col. Gentile collection and debate

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08-08-2013, 03:27 PM
Hat tip to War on the Rocks, where Crispin Burke reviews Gian Gentile's latest book, Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency with some pithy comments and some good marks:http://warontherocks.com/2013/08/the-wrong-debate-reflections-on-counterinsurgency/

Link to Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Turn-Americas-Embrace-Counterinsurgency/dp/1595588744

In case you wonder why this post is on an old thread, read on.

Moderator's Note

Being an outsider to the protracted debate in the USA over COIN I am familiar with some of the names and prompted by a new book review of Colonel Gian Gentile's latest book, I have merged six threads today. On a quick review some were single posts and others longer discussions here. This thread was called 'Eating Soup with a Spoon' and is now 'The Col. Gentile collection and debate'. Somehow I suspect there are other threads as 'Gentile' appears in 162 threads, but for now this is enough.(ends).

08-09-2013, 10:20 AM
I missed that on SWJ Blog there is an discussion going on about Col. Gentile's views, based on a shorter e-article 'Counterinsurgency: The Graduate Level of War or Pure Hokum?' and includes reviews of the book itself:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/counterinsurgency-the-graduate-level-of-war-or-pure-hokum

Since Col. Gentile often refers to British COIN, here is a contrary viewpoint by a British academic from 2012:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-tradition-that-never-was

John T. Fishel
08-10-2013, 04:32 PM
Crispin Burke generally critiques Gian Gentile's new book very well but he appears to accept Gentile's critique of the myth of the savior generals without serious question. A careful reading of Woodward's The War Within, Linda Robinson's Tell Me How this Ends. and Tom Ricks' The Gamble paints a far more complex picture than Gentile presents or than Victor Davis Hanson articulates in his book of that name (and elsewhere). Indeed, John Nagl in his chapter called "The Emprire Strikes Back" begins it with the quote of Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery where he says that first Malaya needs a plan, then a man. In the previous chapter, John goes into detail on the Briggs plan which was adopted by Templer (the man).

I tend to lean part way toward the "savior general" hypothesis but as I noted above it is much more complex. Who is in charge does make a difference. But also the question is: in charge of what. It certainly made a difference that Lincoln was president and not Buchanan or Stephen Douglas. Leadership is about both choices and the intangibles that make one want to follow the leader. Weber called it charisma. Gentile argues that Abrams approach showed operational and tactical continuity with Westmoreland. But Nixon's strategy marks a real change from LBJ's and Abrams was the man who carried it out. That said, it was a significant change of leadership from Westy to Abrams both in style and substance. Abrams imposed a unity of command and sense of purpose that did not exist under Westy. (I served under Westmoreland in the Pentagon when he was CSA. My shop produced the daily current intel brief for the SECARMY, CSA, VCSA, and the rest of the senior DA staff. The Secretary and the Vice (GEN Bruce Palmer), and every other recipient read the book in the presence of the courier/analyst except for Westy who had his WO receive it and called for it to be picked up at the end of the day. The only thing Westy seemed interested in was that officers' haircuts met the regulation!)

While GEN Abizaid and Casey followed the conventions of COIN they both analyzed the problem in Iraq as too large a US footprint. Those who designed the surge - and Petraeus was only one of a fair sized group - made a different analysis. More important was that Petraeus and his State counterpart, Amb Crocker recognized the ambiguous structure of authority for US actions in Iraq and THEY determined not only that they would always speak with one voice but how they would go about making sure that this happened. It was their solution to the problem that the Brits solved in Malaya by making Templer "supremo." It is interesting that Crocker's successor in Iraq, Amb Chris Hill, refused such a relationship with Pretraeus's successor, Odierno.

Another point, returning to the trio of books I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is that Woodward focuses on the leadership of Steve Hadley (NSA), retired GEN Jack Keane, Fred Kagan, and of course Pres Bush while Robinson focuses on Petraeus and Crocker, and Ricks on Odierno. So, there is no single savior general but rather a number of key leaders exercising effective leadership. Contrast this with the story Woodward tells in Obama's Wars.

People matter.



SWJ Blog
09-16-2013, 04:24 PM
COL Gian Gentile Twofer (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/col-gian-gentile-twofer)

Entry Excerpt:

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