Friday, November 21, 2014

Warfare Welfare?

Former Lt. Col. John A. Nagl has written a memoir titled “Knife Fights: Modern War in Theory and Practice.” Narrated by Brian Hutchison, it details the shift toward counterinsurgency within the military after the Gulf War, in which Nagl saw action as a tank commander after leaving West Point. Nagl’s path led him to study and write about this shift in “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife.” He next became an operations officer, then worked for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, eventually writing a new field manual on doctrine. “When it comes to modern war, there are only bad choices,” he says. “The question is which are better and which worse.” He details this new reality on the battlefield, showing that the old shock-and-awe way doesn’t work, and only creates more enemies. Iraq? “It’s a war that did not need to be fought,” he says. Serious mistakes were made by Rumsfeld and others, with a slow and bureaucratic Pentagon needing a reboot on policy so as not to repeat those mistakes (and bankrupt the country in the process.) It’s a sobering book that in some ways parallels another new book, not on audio yet, titled “Why We Lost” by former Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, who said that if we go in and fight ISIS for Iraq with full on-the-ground operations, “It would be like four times biting that poison apple: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and then Iraq again.” What’s needed is to fight smarter, not harder. Enlist the locals, and force them to defend themselves, too. Otherwise it’s no different than warfare welfare. The audiobook is very ably narrated by Hutchison, who brings both theory and personal history to life with an engaging and nimble tone. A must-hear. 

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