Finished with the review essay

Well, happy to report the review essay is done!  Sorry to have been gone a while, but life often interferes with my blogging...argh...but I had a wonderful time writing it and enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the SMH again.

All of the books were good, although From Kabul to Baghdad and Back was the pick of the litter.  

I won't spoil all the fun, but here is the meat of my conclusions: 

The war in Afghanistan will no doubt be dissected and analyzed on a number of levels for years.  The conflict offers a myriad of lessons learned to both civilian and military leaders on the challenges and perils of nation-building, population-centric COIN doctrine, and the challenge of waging what the U.S. Army calls “Full Spectrum Operations,” an intentionally nebulous term covering everything from training friendly allies to intense combined arms combat.  As the leadership seminar outlined, the U.S. military did an exceptional job of adapting over time to the intricacies of COIN warfare, but this adaptation took a long time and came at a high cost.  Future military and political leaders will likely not have the luxury of time the U.S. military did in 2005-2006.  The more significant challenges for the U.S. national security community in the future will be how to allocate scarce resources and manage contentious and often less capable allies in wars of unclear goals and uncertain timelines.  Both the volumes by Maloney and Ballard, et. al., describe the shortcomings U.S. forces faced and provide valuable insight on how events in Afghanistan have played out.

America is ending two of the longest and most controversial conflicts in our history.  For the military historian, chronicling these wars will present both challenges and opportunities in providing conclusions and lessons learned for future military and civilian policy makers.  What national or international interests justify U.S. military actions?  What will be the proper application of force and how can the U.S. build and maintain an international coalition of militaries, NGOs, and especially host-nation governments to defeat Islamist or other insurgencies?  Most of all, how will success be defined and how will the conflict be successfully terminated?  Even if the U.S. remains reluctant to commit large ground forces to near future conflicts, threats and military challenges will remain, and the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan will no doubt influence American strategic thinking in how best to deal with the rapidly changing landscape of the Middle East.  Historians must do their part in contributing to this conversation and these volumes are a significant first contribution to this long-term dialogue. 
 Of course I had to behave myself and not get into the whole discussion, which all the books avoided, of how the Obama Administration bungled the Afghanistan "Surge" because he was never REALLY serious about trying to win,  but was trapped by his campaign speeches and had to do something to show he was a serious foreign policy and national security candidate (Obama got Osama, after all!!) and not the most dangerous and inept President since Jimmah Carter.

Needless to say, I am not convinced that Afghanistan is not going to turn into another Mali or ungoverned wild west where terrorists and warlords plot mischief while an ineffectual government tries to appear in charge.

Hopefully my essay will be published soon...I am VERY excited since the SMH will be publishing special issues on the Civil War at 150 years and the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.