Looking back on his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen believes the United States is not going to jump into another big land war anytime soon -- and neither will its NATO allies.
Speaking yesterday at a four-hour, invitation-only roundtable on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War -- held at FP's offices, in conjunction with RAND -- the former ISAF commander said, "My guess is...that it'll be 20 years before we undertake something like this again. It's going to be a long time before NATO is going to be interested probably in undertaking something that could look like this again." He added: "Coalition development and coalition management is going to be extraordinarily important in the future. I'm not sure that we've put enough emphasis on that."
If Western allies do embark on another massive counterinsurgency effort, Allen argued, the development side of the affair must be done better.
"Something I worry about increasingly as time goes on is the sense that the development strategies in Iraq and now Afghanistan have failed," Allen said. "And that the development dimension of what we have attempted to undertake was either the wrong approach or was just flawed from the beginning...and I think that really deservers some rigorous testing."
"Development with a little 'd' that was wielded day-to-day" by company commanders, Allen contended, was "enormously successful." It was the larger planning and implementation of aid and civilian governance that troubled him. Allen, who retires on April 1, said he worried about people drawing the "wrong conclusions" on development during the counterinsurgencies.
Allen recently turned down President Obama's nomination to lead NATO as supreme allied commander.
Allen was a deputy brigadier commander in Anbar province and played a key role in the so-called Awakening there. Still wearing his 4-starred Marine Corps uniform on Wednesday, he credited the military's effort to learn about local culture for its success in winning local support.
"We spent an extraordinary amount of time preparing ourselves for what we would face in the Anbar province," he said. Understanding the local tribes, where there was "complete absence of governance," he said, gave the military "entree to the tribes" and helped his forces recognize "the potential value of the Awakening when it occurred. We really sensed something was changing in the battle space."
Allen said he is concerned about how the military will retain the lesson of learning local culture as the military services refocus on other types of warfare after Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We're really at a critical moment here, right now," he said.
"The challenge I think for the future for us is how to best prepare our forces for irregular warfare....We must always have a fundamental understanding of the social fabric of the environment in which we're going to be serving. We spent a great deal of time before going to the Anbar province studying the tribes. Tribe by tribe, from the Syrian border right down to Baghdad. I don't think anybody spent more time with the sheikhs than I did. I could tell the sheikhs stories about their grandfathers. Because we spent the time learning about the tribes, thus we were able to operate within the tribes.
"I can remember the day Ken Pollack was sitting with Michael O'Hanlon and Tony Cordesman in the D1 in Fallujah, where we had the sheikhs assembled and we were talking about how, then, do we do the next thing, which is more important, and that's the outlying government with the central government. And that was for us the challenge.
"I remember the sheikh reaching over and patting my thigh and saying here is my government. Well, I couldn't be his government, it had to be al Maliki."
Allen said he was most successful in connecting a local government to the national government.
"That doesn't come naturally. That kind of capacity within our military does not come naturally," he stressed.
"For the future, the intellectual preparation of our officers -- we cannot lose these intellectual qualities that we purchased so dearly over the last 10 or 11 years. As we reset our forces for the future, and our service seeks to re-grasp what makes them essential to the national security of the United States...we've got to maintain our faithfulness to the basic intellectual principles of irregular warfare, the components of which are such things as the proper deployment of development, understanding the relations of subnational and national governance, the social fabric in which you're going to operate. These are Ph.D.-level intellectual demands on our officers, we cannot permit that to go."
Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI), who was arguably one of the toughest lawmakers of recent times, succumbed to respiratory complications and passed away today at 5:01 pm at Walter Reed National Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 88 years old.
Inouye has represented Hawaii in Congress since it gained statehood in 1959, first as a representative and, since 1963, as a senator. At the time of his death he was president pro tempore of the Senate and chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
While his political accomplishments were many, it was his legendary actions on an Italian battlefield during World War II that made him seem larger than life, despite his tiny size (he stood about shoulder high to yours truly, who is a mere six-feet tall).
For those actions, Inouye -- who joined the Army at the age of 17 shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- received the Medal of Honor. (The award was presented to him in 2000 by President Bill Clinton after Congress upgraded the Distinguished Service Cross he originally received.) Here's his citation for the Medal of Honor. Read it, take inspiration, and feel completely inadequate.
Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper's bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
His last word was "aloha," according to his office.
Sen. Dan Inouye
Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.