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View Full Version : "Odierno: Former door-kicker now reflects Iraq progress"



h2harris
09-17-2008, 05:30 PM
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By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON Soon after he took over as the new U.S. military commander in Iraq Tuesday, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno greeted the U.S. troops standing before him in Arabic: "As-Salam Alaikum," or peace be upon you.

For a soldier once known for his aggressive tactics and his impatience with local residents, his budding Arabic marked an extraordinary evolution.

When he arrived in northern Iraq in 2003 as the 4th Infantry Division commander, the physically imposing Odierno was more likely to level a community than reach out to it.

On his second tour this past year, he and his fellow soldiers mastered Iraq's tribal structure, customs and the finer points of counterinsurgency, which helped lead to a dramatic drop in violence.

Odierno, who succeeds Gen. David Petraeus, is charged with the task of maintaining the security gains of his predecessor while managing a U.S. troop drawdown.

To many in the military, Odierno personifies the transformation of the American military in Iraq.

"Gen. Odierno didn't know much about counterinsurgency five years ago. He reflects the American Army, which also didn't understand counterinsurgency very well," said retired Lt. Col. John Nagl, who drafted the counterinsurgency manual with Petraeus. "You can't kill or capture your way out. I think there was a time when the Army believed that" it could.

URL for continued story http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/52636.html

Mark O'Neill
09-18-2008, 05:45 AM
It also stacks up a bit too neatly with what I interpreted as Tom Rick's not too subtle hatchet job on Odierno in Fiasco.

There is a dissonance between the way that Odierno was depicted in Rick's book and in this article , and my personal experience of meeting the man and having heard him speak quite a few times at the CFE in Taji.

I think that two things have occurred here. Firstly, Odierno and his Division's action when they first got to Iraq are being viewed with the clarity of 20 / 20 hindsight. I beleive that the criticisms that are levelled at Odierno and his Div are equally applicable to 99% of the coalition force in country at the time in one respect or another. Now that apparently 'everyone' knew at that time that an insurgency was developing, people seem to forget that the situation on the ground at the time was remarkably less clear than many now claim. The amount of revisionsim that I have noticed occuring about who 'understood first or most' does neither the journalists, historians, commentators or soldiers involved in it any credit. Nor does it actually change anything.

Which leads me into my second point. Great stories or narratives need heroes and villains. For every saint you need a sinner. So the 'popular' Iraq COIN narrative serves us up both. Problem is if you look at it objectively and critically you can make out either sinner or saint to be in either camp, depending on your haigiographical bent. (I don't see Ricks and the cheer squad up for a robust analysis of MNSTC-I triumphs during 2004/2005 for some reason....)

Granted, I only saw Odierno as MNC-I commander. But there was no doubt in my mind that he not only 'got it', but that he was driving the bus regarding the day to day conduct of the surge (which was his job - the MNF-I job is and was distinctly different). Now, maybe he did have a 'road to Damascus' moment between Div Comd and Corps Comd. But I doubt it. So I think it is a bit rich that the correspondent presents the situation vis a vis his appointment in such a manner.

In a related observation, I think that a portion of the 'COIN community of interest' needs to 'chill' and to move beyond the Animal Farm style simplistic reductionism that is becoming evident in their increasingly strident calls for more change.

The way ahead is through professional, objective engagement, underpinned by logic and reason. Backhand , offhand or inaccurate comments about key players are unlikely to help.

Cheers

Mark

William F. Owen
09-18-2008, 07:25 AM
In a related observation, I think that a portion of the 'COIN community of interest' needs to 'chill' and to move beyond the Animal Farm style simplistic reductionism that is becoming evident in their increasingly strident calls for more change.


If I understand you correctly, I can only wholeheartedly agree, and congratulate you on your insight and candour.

More over I will add that I think there is about to be an unseemly rush to take personal credit for insights which the US Army and Marines reached as a whole, rather than as the observations of any particular personality.

The "COIN Industry" probably has an interest in creating their own opposition to ensure what passes for debate, continues to be held to the fore.

Thank G*d for SWC!

Virgil
09-20-2008, 12:03 PM
It also stacks up a bit too neatly with what I interpreted as Tom Rick's not too subtle hatchet job on Odierno in Fiasco.


I have to disagree here in that I don't think it was a hatchet job so much as a widely held view of Odierno early on.

I was attached to 1st MARDIV and Odierno's 4th ID was seen there as stirring up trouble with the natives by virtue of their heavy handed approach in 2003/4.

I remember first hand a mocking criticism of 4th ID's entry into country during a division morning briefing during which they supposedly opened fire on several abandoned and/or destroyed Iraqi tanks.

I think Ricks was writing exactly what the perception of the time was or at least certainly the one held by Mattis's staff down in Babylon at the time who I believe he sourced.

Then again I found that Uncle Sam's Misguided Children consider criticizing the Army a sport of sorts but that's another post. Hell it's a book to be honest. ;)