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Thread: Officers With PhDs Advising War Effort

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Officers With PhDs Advising War Effort

    5 February Washington Post - Officers With PhDs Advising War Effort by Tom Ricks.

    Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including a quirky Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist who is the son of a former U.S. attorney general and a military expert on the Vietnam War sharply critical of its top commanders -- in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war.

    Army officers tend to refer to the group as "Petraeus guys." They are smart colonels who have been noticed by Petraeus, and who make up one of the most selective clubs in the world: military officers with doctorates from top-flight universities and combat experience in Iraq.

    Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way...

    Petraeus, who along with the group's members declined to be interviewed for this article, has chosen as his chief adviser on counterinsurgency operations an outspoken officer in the Australian Army. Lt. Col. David Kilcullen holds a PhD in anthropology, for which he studied Islamic extremism in Indonesia...

    Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser, wrote recently on the Web site Small Wars Journal, "All that the new strategy can do is give us a fighting chance of success, and it certainly does give us that."...

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    Default Smart Troopers, Dumb Press

    MSM implies in a subtle way that it is rare for military personnel to be educated/intelligent. All the team is lacking is an old hippy who has had to shoot a few men in his day and as Forrest Gump would say, " and that's all I have to say about that."

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    It's perculiar that Ricks referred to LtCol Kilcullen as a quirky anthropologist first, and then as an officer of the AUS Army.

    I can onyl imagine the backlash from the 1/3 who don't get it. I just pray that they are not in positions of significant influence.

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    Council Member bismark17's Avatar
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    Default Re:

    Interesting article. From what I am reading in Poole's latest book and from a few threads here it sounds like the local Iraqi Police and Army is heavily infiltrated with militias. Getting rid of FOBs and setting up strongpoints with the locals sounds great but I'm not sure I would like to be bunking up with them....

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    The local cops sure, the national police and Army havge traditionally not been a big problem as far as advisor/Iraqi relationships. I am fan of this idea personally. As one of the paradoxes nlisted is " The more secure you are the less security you have".

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Lt. Colonel (Dr.) David Kilcullen, Australian Army

    Let me suggest we get a few things clarified:

    1. Winston Groom, of Mobile, Alabama, who I personally like, is a University of Alabama graduate, as am I, and is of course the author of FORREST GUMP. Groom is a many time accolated, world recognized author and was a Captain, USA in Vietnam.

    2. Lt. Colonel (Dr.) David Kilcullen, Australian Army is of course a PhD anthropologist, with current expert knowledge both hands on in Iraq and academically dealing with Islam in various settings and forms. There is no reason to be dull and deny his academic focus which operates to compliment his military identity,which military side paid for his PhD.

    3. Being a maverick and operating literally and in a think tank sense outside the box is desperated needed in all walks of life, worldwide, but especially in our War on Terrorism today. It is good to know we have the likes of Lt. Colonel David Kilcullen working for General Petraeus now.

    Let's kick the old school, hide bound, military academy ring knocker thinking and snide remarks and find solutions to save lives and shorten this war on terrormism and in Iraq/Afghanistan, whose lifespan will last for generations to come, whether the yellow journalism practioners like it or not. "It's a fact" as Forest Gump would say!

    The writer of this note served 1963-1965 as a young USAF office with the US Embassy then in Karachi, Pakistan. He is now retired as a reservist from HQ USSOCOM. He is a mean old coot, some would say. GS.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 02-05-2007 at 02:42 PM.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    I think it's also interesting to look at the disciplines involved. Just reading the article, I felt that a "Ph.D." was being hailed almost as if it was a technology golden BB. I'm still undecided if it is a good thing hat everyone also has in the field experience. On the one hand, it means that they can operate well in a military environment. On the other hand, it means that their thinking will still be influenced by the military institution even if it is in reaction against the older norms. I guess we'll just have to wit and see.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Kilcullen and SWJ

    Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser, wrote recently on the Web site Small Wars Journal, "All that the new strategy can do is give us a fighting chance of success, and it certainly does give us that."
    Seems appropriate to quote that last line of the WP article.

    And I will say that historically, the services in general and the Army in particular because I was Army have a long-standing love and distrust/disregard (not hate) relationship with those who are viewed as "too intellectual." We go in cycles and we are hopefully now re-entering a cycle where history is not viewed as a "background setting" for events. I actually had a self-declared historian use those very terms in telling me a history page was of less value than a web page on urban operations.

    There is another article in this vein worth reading on Ike Skelton and history on the EBird and US News and World Report called "Armed With History."

    Best

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 02-05-2007 at 03:00 PM.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi George Singleton, Roll Tide!!! College degrees....uhhhh...lets see, I am a 3rd degree Redneck

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    What I'm hoping is that this doesn't mark a return to or reaffirmation of the business school mentality that the military saw in the 1960s and beyond. Just substituting the requirement for an Anthropology or International Studies advanced degree instead of business management isn't going to change anything. It may, in fact, just promote intellectual stereotypes and box-checking instead of business ones. Graduate schools can be just as hidebound, if not more so, than service schools and academies.

    What we also need to watch for is the "system" setting up those internal dissidents for failure. I'm hoping this is a true conversion for some of the powers-that-be and not a stalling tactic designed to "stay the course" until the next elections and then blame failure on those who happen to have been in charge last (Petraeus and the like).

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Agreed

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    What I'm hoping is that this doesn't mark a return to or reaffirmation of the business school mentality that the military saw in the 1960s and beyond. Just substituting the requirement for an Anthropology or International Studies advanced degree instead of business management isn't going to change anything. It may, in fact, just promote intellectual stereotypes and box-checking instead of business ones. Graduate schools can be just as hidebound, if not more so, than service schools and academies.

    What we also need to watch for is the "system" setting up those internal dissidents for failure. I'm hoping this is a true conversion for some of the powers-that-be and not a stalling tactic designed to "stay the course" until the next elections and then blame failure on those who happen to have been in charge last (Petraeus and the like).
    Agree completely, Steve

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Steve,

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    What I'm hoping is that this doesn't mark a return to or reaffirmation of the business school mentality that the military saw in the 1960s and beyond. Just substituting the requirement for an Anthropology or International Studies advanced degree instead of business management isn't going to change anything. It may, in fact, just promote intellectual stereotypes and box-checking instead of business ones. Graduate schools can be just as hidebound, if not more so, than service schools and academies.
    That is a truly scary thought, especially when it comes to Anthropology . I do feel that the press article does seem to be constructing a Ph.D. as a magic bullet, and that is a BIG mistake. I know too many people with Ph.D.'s who can't think their way out of a wet paper bag, let along think outside of any box .

    There's another problem that hasn't seemed to have come up yet, and that is what, exactly, a Ph.D. stands for. There is, really, very little uniformity in it.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Gen. PhD

    I think this is also a reflection of how difficult and competitive it is to reach the highest ranks in the US military. Because mistakes can be critical, it is a system that can be very unforgiving. Sometimes bad luck plops responsibility for the mistakes of others on an officer's blindside ruining a career. But, being perfect is no guarantee of promotion and thus you have people who will seek more education and study to help.

    Unlike many PhD's these guys have to test what they have learned in a very unforgiving arena. The real question is whether the Congress will give them the time to make their case.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Merv,

    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson View Post
    Unlike many PhD's these guys have to test what they have learned in a very unforgiving arena. The real question is whether the Congress will give them the time to make their case.

    I think you're right about that. One of the big problems with getting your PhD, at least in the social sciences, is that, often, you aren't allowed to test it . This means that a lot of PhD's tend to be very "theoretical" with little or no testing in the real world. It's a major frustration, and it also is one of the things that leads to the disconnect between academia and the "real world".

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Testing PhDs

    Marc,

    Tom and I already gave you a shot at the real test. Put the boots on, we get a grand (minus taxes ) and you graduate with new skills in ??? Ahhh, what does it matter.

    I think, that if you had been with Tom and I a decade ago (yes, that would be a sierra hole), we would have had a blast and learned a lot more !

    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Stan,

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Marc,

    Tom and I already gave you a shot at the real test. Put the boots on, we get a grand (minus taxes ) and you graduate with new skills in ??? Ahhh, what does it matter.
    LOLOL Yeah, that's true. Still and all, you, loose with a G in Estonia... Man, I don't now if I want that on my conscience!

    Actually, I did get to apply a lot of my Ph.D. research right after I graduated (one of the few in my cohort who did). As to "putting the boots on", well, if Rob gets those CSTs going I'd be happy to be involved in that. Letting me loose in Iraq or Afghanistan with a weapon in hand might, I suspect, be a bad idea, even if my brothe-in-law would laugh himself silly .

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    I think, that if you had been with Tom and I a decade ago (yes, that would be a sierra hole), we would have had a blast and learned a lot more !
    Probably . And I probably wouldn't be an out of shape academic, either!!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    I think it's also interesting to look at the disciplines involved. Just reading the article, I felt that a "Ph.D." was being hailed almost as if it was a technology golden BB. I'm still undecided if it is a good thing hat everyone also has in the field experience. On the one hand, it means that they can operate well in a military environment. On the other hand, it means that their thinking will still be influenced by the military institution even if it is in reaction against the older norms. I guess we'll just have to wit and see.

    Marc
    One of the best military strategists and tacticians I knew while posted in Karachi was the late Australian Colonel George Humphrey Bates, who after his attache job in Karachi became the Commandant of Australia's equivalent of our West Point. If my memory serves me correctly, as I am now 67 and was 25 when I knew Colonel Bates and his family in Karachi.

    George Singleton, Colonel, USAF, Ret.
    USA

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi Steve,



    That is a truly scary thought, especially when it comes to Anthropology . I do feel that the press article does seem to be constructing a Ph.D. as a magic bullet, and that is a BIG mistake. I know too many people with Ph.D.'s who can't think their way out of a wet paper bag, let along think outside of any box .

    There's another problem that hasn't seemed to have come up yet, and that is what, exactly, a Ph.D. stands for. There is, really, very little uniformity in it.

    Marc
    Let us not belittle those who have surpassed our education levels and earned their PhDs. True, the school of hard knocks is a great teacher but that school in the main works poorly on job resumes!

    Below letter to ed by me may be of parochial interet to you and some of the other PhD comments site readers just now. I have to get moving, worked all weekend, today is my day to work on federal and state income taxes.

    George Singleton

    PESHAWAR FRONTIER POST (a daily)

    Today is:
    February 01 , 2007 Thursday 12 Muharramul Haram, 1428 A.H.

    George L. Singleton
    USA
    GSingle556@aol.com

    Mr. Noorullah Khan Khattak of Karak wrote in part in his January 30, 2007, letter to the editor of the Peshawar FRONTIER POST: "As Iran has learnt during its painful journey, the South must carve out its own defense, political and cultural world. Keeping the rude and risqué comments of the boastful western elites, how long our enlightened intelligentsia would kid itself that it can integrate into west-controlled international system? This is the time to reconsider our belonging and regional commonality."

    Iran today is the worst example of all theocratic nation states. After 80% of the former Iranian Parliament were disqualified from seeking reelection, being found by the ruling mullahs to be "too moderate", just last week over 150 newly elected members of the new Iranian Parliament demonstrated against the new, irrational and hate mongering President of Iran, Mr. Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

    At issue is not a simple difference of religion and culture, as Mr. Khattak supposes. At issue is the never will be resolved struggle between warring factions of Islam which began after the death of Muhammad (pbuh), and the subsequent throughout recorded history convoluted disregard for the connectivity of the Judaic and Christian traditions and faiths without which there would not be any form of Islam today.

    No, there is no such thing as a violence "gene." But their is taugt and learned institutional religious intolerance and violent bloodshed both among and between various Muslim sects and then against all non-Muslim religions. I for one am a devout Christian who is willing to agree to disagree for us to coexist. A similar tolerant local and world religious view has to exist in Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere where you have a Muslim majority, no matter what the variance of sects, and in my view can only exist with better, free, non-religious public education throughout all of Iran, Pakistan and the so-called Muslim world.

    Turkey is a sectarian nation with a tolerant governmental structure. Turkey's future membership in the European Union is inevitable and will in my view as a former New York City international banker happen.

    I, for one, am otherwise fed up with people looking to take offense at any non-Muslims views and comments, while we non-Muslims are abused daily, officially and unofficially by such letter writing hate mongers.

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    Default Will there be a Phase-two Surge?

    My first reaction to reading this article was that these guys are all too sharp and ambitious to take the ball if it's just to run out the clock. Am I the only one expecting initial successes in Baghdad to lead to a full court press, second-phase Surge throughout Iraq?

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Btw...

    Hi George,

    Quote Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
    Let us not belittle those who have surpassed our education levels and earned their PhDs. True, the school of hard knocks is a great teacher but that school in the main works poorly on job resumes!
    BA Sociology and Comparative Religion,
    MA Canadian Studies (Cultural Studies concentration)
    Ph.D. Sociology (Social Anthropology)

    Just an FYI

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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