Questioning Counterinsurgency

By Bumiller, Elisabeth | International Herald Tribune, May 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Questioning Counterinsurgency


Bumiller, Elisabeth, International Herald Tribune


Faculty at the U.S. Military Academy are debating what counterinsurgency gained in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For two centuries, the U.S. Military Academy has produced generals for the country's wars, among them Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, George S. Patton and David H. Petraeus. It is where President George W. Bush delivered what became known as his pre- emption speech, which sought to justify the invasion of Iraq, and where President Barack Obama told the nation he was sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Now at another critical moment in U.S. military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate. Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the troop- heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government -- is dead.

Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars.

"Not much," Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point's military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. "Certainly not worth the effort. In my view."

Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael J. Meese, head of the academy's influential social sciences department and a top adviser to General Petraeus when he commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Nobody should ever underestimate the costs and the risks involved with counterinsurgency, but neither should you take that off the table," Colonel Meese said, also in an interview last week. Counterinsurgency, he said, "was broadly successful in being able to have the Iraqis govern themselves."

The debate at West Point mirrors one under way in the U.S. armed forces as a whole as they withdraw from Afghanistan without clear victory and as the results in Iraq remain ambiguous at best.

But at West Point the debate is personal, and a decade of statistics -- more than 6,000 U.S. service members dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than $1 trillion spent -- hit home. On Saturday, 1,032 cadets graduated as second lieutenants, sent off in a commencement speech by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with the promise that they are "the key to whatever challenges the world has in store."

Many of them are apprehensive about what they will find in Afghanistan -- the news coming back from friends is often not good - - but still hope to make it there before the war is largely over. "We've spent the past four years of our lives getting ready for this," said Lt. Daniel Prial, who graduated Saturday and said he was drawn to West Point after his father survived as a firefighter in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. "Ultimately you want to see that come to fruition."

At West Point the arguments are more public than those in the upper reaches of the Pentagon, in large part because the military officers on the West Point faculty pride themselves on academic freedom and challenging orthodoxy. Colonel Gentile, who is working on a book titled "Wrong Turn: America's Deadly Embrace With Counterinsurgency," is chief among them.

Colonel Gentile's argument is that the United States pursued a narrow policy goal in Afghanistan -- defeating Al Qaeda there and keeping it from using the country as a base -- with what he called "a maximalist operational" approach. "Strategy should employ resources of a state to achieve policy aims with the least amount of blood and treasure spent," he said.

Counterinsurgency could ultimately work in Afghanistan, he said, if the United States were willing to stay there for generations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Questioning Counterinsurgency
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.