GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Well written history...not so much of an analysis

In my never ending quest for good history of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars I came across this book, written by that modern rarity--a serving military officer that can write decent military history.

Although LTG Bolger is now retired after a very busy 35 year career, he has taken a crack at analyzing the Global War on Terror.
The best part about reading this book is that I received a review copy courtesy of my book loving colleagues at the New York Journal of Books...and my official review is posted there.

HOWEVER,  as Paul Harvey says, now for the rest of the story.

I didn't include these little snippets as they are my own snarky observations and not really part of a formal book review.

A)  I think LTG Bolger is FAR too nice to the bumbling keystone kops of the Obama Administration.  No matter what liberal talking head says to defend the collapse of American Middle East foreign policy on his watch..the U.S. won in Iraq.  It was ugly and messy but in 2011 when Obama retreated from the most critical country in the Middle East for no strategic reason, merely to satisfy his rabid MoveOn/Code Pink base, Iraq was functional.  Yes, it was a mistake to leave Maliki in office, and I think Bolger tries not too subtly to say we should have backed Allawi in the 2009 election, but overall Iraq could have been a stable bulwark except for Obama's rabid, insatiable desire to brand the war a failure and retreat.  Imagine how differently the whole Syria/ISIS debacle might have been in US forces had been able to stop Iranian resupply of Assad and perhaps bring the Syrian crisis to a close quickly in 2011.  Hmmmm....

B)  Although he tries to hide it...a little, ol Dan Bolger takes more than a few swipes at his fellow generals.  He uses a lot of left-handed compliments to be sure, but it appears to this  Grouchy Historian that he is no fan of David Petraeus (yes the man had more than a little hubris and a loose zipper), thinks Stan McChrystal got a raw deal from the media (yes he did...that little turd from Rolling Stone wrote a real hit piece), yet he doesn't really talk about himself at all.  NOW, this might be a good sign of humility...YET, in the introduction to this book he offers a huge mea culpa as one of the generals that lost these wars....but he doesn't offer any real confession. 

C) As I mentioned in my formal review...our retired LTG is NO FAN at all of COIN, nation-building, or armed democracy building.  In retrospect, I kind of agree with him...trying to drag a bunch of sheep herding, pot smoking fanatics who cling to their religion and guns into the 20th century..or shoot even out of the 7th century is a losing cause.  AND NO, for any liberals reading this, I am not talking about West Virginia, but Afghanistan.  I kinda endorse his roundabout way of saying the U.S. needs to relearn the joys of the punitive expedition, to wit: 
A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state.
Basically, the U.S. should whistle up some B-2s, B-52s, and B-1s....bomb the crap out of anyone who looks like a terrorist--rinse, repeat.  Or if you like your death more discriminating...use drones.  DON'T use 10,000 Marines to chase a bunch of morons with AK-47s and RPGs down the alleyways of the souk. I can certainly get behind this.  Islamic knuckleheads will never give us their hearts and minds...so we can just blow them to tiny smithereens when needed and keep GI Joe at home.  Sounds like a plan.

As a history book, it was pretty decent...our LTG does not shy away from telling messy tales of GIs breaking under pressure and occasionally doing bad things or dealing with bad situations with grace and courage.  Certainly on a tactical level the LTs, CAPTs, and SGTs did their jobs...they were just asked to do too much with too little for too long to achieve impossible goals.

As a strategic analysis...eh, not so much...I wanted at least a laundry list of what our culpable LTG thought went right and wrong...what to fix and do or not do in the future...after all, I thought that's what the title promised.  I didn't get that and the book just kinda of petered out for me....I may not have agreed with his conclusions, but I at least wanted to read some.

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