An Alternative Strategy for 9/12/2001
“Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most.” — Thucydides You’ve heard the platitude that hindsight is 20/20. It’s true enough and, though I’ve been a regular skeptic about what policymakers used to call the Global War on Terror, it’s always easier to poke holes in the past... Read more
War Without War Powers
On Sept. 1, 1970, soon after Pres. Nixon expanded the Vietnam War by invading neighboring Cambodia, Democratic senator George McGovern, a decorated World War II veteran and future presidential candidate, took to the floor of the Senate and said, “Every senator is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young... Read more
Counterinsurgency, Policing and the Militarization of America’s Cities
I can remember both so well. 2006. My first raid in South Baghdad. 2014. Watching on YouTube as a New York police officer asphyxiated — murdered — Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner not five miles from my old apartment. Both events... Read more
The Hazards of Military Worship
This story originally appeared on May 15, 2017. More, more, more. I was guilty of it myself. Commanding a small cavalry troop of around 85 soldiers in southwest Kandahar Province back in 2011, I certainly wanted and requested more. More troopers, more Special Forces advisers, more Afghan police, more... Read more
When It Comes to the War in the Greater Middle East, Maybe We’re the Bad Guys
I used to command soldiers. Over the years, lots of them actually. In Iraq, Colorado, Afghanistan and Kansas. And I’m still fixated on a few of them like this one private first class in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011. All of 18, he was short, scrawny and popular. Nine months... Read more
The Folly of the Next Afghanistan ‘Surge’
We walked in a single file. Not because it was tactically sound. It wasn’t—at least according to standard infantry doctrine. Patrolling southern Afghanistan in column formation limited maneuverability, made it difficult to mass fire, and exposed us to enfilading machine-gun bursts. Still, in 2011, in the Pashmul district of... Read more
America’s Iran Hysteria
“Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on a mid-April 2017 visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I must admit that when I stumbled across that quote it brought up uncomfortable personal memories. East Baghdad, Jan. 25,... Read more
How to Lose the Next War in the Middle East
Make no mistake: after 15 years of losing wars, spreading terror movements, and multiplying failed states across the Greater Middle East, America will fight the next versions of our ongoing wars. Not that we ever really stopped. Sure, Washington traded in George W. Bush’s expansive, almost messianic attitude toward... Read more