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June 24, 2008

Why stability operations matter to Gen. Caldwell

Greetings from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas! I am visiting here for the first time, and I must say this base feels very different than other military installations. Instead of rows and rows of Humvees and Bradleys, Fort Leavenworth has a series of learning and training centers. It is in the military’s academic hub, home to the Counterinsurgency Center, United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center. And throughout, soldiers here talk about Iraq, Afghanistan and the future of the military in academic terms.

At its helm is Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who I first met in Baghdad. Through this base, Caldwell sets the tone for how the military trains and talks about its future. It’s a freedom few base commanders enjoy. Caldwell’s focus is stability operations, or how the military trains to stabilize nations. He picks who writes doctrine, what kind of classes are taught and on and on.

I assumed that his drive was shaped by Iraq or his colleagues’ experiences in Afghanistan. But as it turns out, it is based on his tours in Panama and Haiti and the first Gulf War, examples where he says the military figured out how to win the war, but not the peace.

In Panama, he was part of the U.S. effort to remove Manual Noriega, who surrendered. But then what? “All we ever planned for the initial assault takedown and transition of authority within the government. Nobody ever talked about picking up trash, reestablishing the police force, figuring out what do with their military. …So we go in, take down the government, then somebody turns around and said ‘How are we going to get the police back out on the street?’”

After the first Gulf War, he was at the Euphrates River when Saddam Hussein’s government began slaughtering the Shiites in the south. Caldwell watched the violence unleashed across the river, night after night. His unit was ordered to stay out, but was allowed to move a hospital nearby. They treated “lots and lots of causalities” until one day they were ordered to leave.

“We did a great military operation but didn’t think through the end state again.”

And in Haiti, the U.S. military helped put Jean-Bertrand Aristide in power. Afterward, “it was all the same stuff.”

With Iraq and Afghanistan, Caldwell fretted that if the military didn't talk about stability operations during those conflicts, it would not learn the importance of stability operations. Through Fort Leavenworth, he can lead the discussion, by deciding who writes the doctrine and leads the training.  “We’ve been learning the same lessons because we never codified it in writing.  We never wrote the doctrine that said stability operations were critical to winning the peace.

“We have to get it right this time. …We can’t afford to lose the lessons.”


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Persona non grata

Dear Titus,

"Get some real knowledge of the topic and then perhaps you will have a leg to stand on."

Do you have a monopoly on knowledge?

I speak with people, some frequently, with whom I served, that are still in service and or mercenaries who are quite adept at relaying up to date info on events taking place inside Iraq and Afghanistan.

What is happening inside Iraq is genocide pure and simple. If you would open your eyes and ears to the tragic events that have transpired in Iraq you would see/hear the hell the Iraqi people have been placed in due to an elective war based wholely upon lies.

I feel 110% for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who must endure this hell-hole created soley for the benefit of enriching the merchants of death and expansion of Pax Americana.

All war is bad. There are no heros there is no glory, these are terms used by the powers that be to send young men and women off to do their bidding. A war based on lies that has murdered hundreds of thousands, quite possibly millions, is a dark stain that will take generations to remove from the US's soul, if ever.

If you have studied:

FM 3-24
MCWP 3-33.5

You would know that what you have typed about COIN and what FM 3-24 calls out are diametrically opposite and your position is untenable.

I must say they sure do give the boys and girls abroad alot of time to surf the net.



Where do I start?... First of all, a lot has changed since 1991. Perhaps you should update your travel itinerary and see what is going on in this century!

Secondly, Thank you for providing the Webster's Dictionary definition of ignorance which so eloquently makes my point... Get some real knowledge of the topic and then perhaps you will have a leg to stand on.

From a person who has been there (more recently than 18years ago) The United States Military takes every action that is humanly possible to protect innocent lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, many times, US Soldiers place themeselves in more danger to ensure the safety of innocent civilians. Do doors get kicked in? Yes, at times, in order to find and capture insurgents who threaten the safety of the innocent population. Not unlike raids that take place across our own country every day to catch murders, drug dealers and other criminals. Are we holding insurgents? Sure we are. What would you suggest we do with them? Perhaps we should release them in your neighborhood. Would you prefer that over the current situation? Finally, do innocent civilians die? Absolutely, war is a terrible, terrible thing and many innocent civilians have been caught up in the crossfire and the fog of war. However, as I stated earlier, no military in the history of the world has taken more precautions to prevent the lost of innocent life than the United States.

We aren't perfect, there were problems with intelligence and questions raised about the reasons we went to war. But in the end, the true question and what we are really debating here is whether or not you think the United States is a morally good nation with good intentions. I gather from your statements that you are solidly in the "NO" camp on that issue while I soldily and emphatically remain in the "YES" camp.

Persona non grata


Your quite the looker what do you do for fun?

Persona non grata


Shock and Awe is/was terrorism on a state sponsored scale.

Persona non grata

Dear Titus;

"You watch the war take place from thousands of miles away on a television screen and think you have a sense of what is going on.... That is ignorance."

No, Titus, the definition of ignorance is a lacking of knowledge.

"Have you been to Iraq?"

Well yes I have back in 1991 thanks for asking. I've also been to Laos, Thailand, PI, Japan, S.Korea, Maldives, Austrailia, Taiwan, Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen, Baharain, New Zealand, Kuwait and a host of other places I can't remember all care of Uncle Sam.

" No military in the world takes more precautions to protect innocent human life than the United States."

That statement is nothing but unqualified propaganda shoveled out and eaten raw.

" I want us out of Iraq more than anyone, I have been there, I have lost friends there and I have friends there right now."

As have I, as do I.

Your point?

We are typing about stability operations involving foreign military occupations?

Are you familiar with:

FM 3-24
MCWP 3-33.5


"Have you ever had an Iraqi man in Baghdad approach you and show you the scars he received at the hands of Saddam's henchmen and thank you for giving him the chance at freedom?"

Your idea of freedom is?

Kicking in doors?

Holding MAMs indefinitely incognito?

Holding female family members hostage in a scheme to force their male family members into surrender?

Calling in tactical strikes in civilian population areas with weapons whose effective blast radius can exceed 1000 meters?

Building the new "Berlin Wall" through Baghadad?

Leveling cities and towns as collective punishment?

Torturing people for spurious intel?

Destroying a sovereign nations civil infrastructure during an elective war based upon lies?

Stealing a sovereign nations natural resources by force of arms?

The wars of aggression based upon lies are lost and we, the US, needs to extract our arses quick fast before our boys and girls fall flat on their faces from unending deployments to the popping of psychotropic drugs to keep them operating.

Nancy Youssef

Hello dear readers: As always, thank you for such a thoughtful discussion. Every post has raised interesting points. If I may though, I would like to propose that we keep the discussion as civil as possible. After all, name calling goes against everything counterinsurgency and anti-war supporters stand for, right? :)



P.S. to your P.S.

You continue to display your utter ignorance of the topic. If the enemy won't face you because he knows if he goes toe to toe with you he is going to get his A** kicked, then the enemy chooses to go to ground and operates as an insurgent. At that point you have to adapt to his strategy and that is what counterinsurgency is. AND... you're quoting a Frenchman about military strategy and tactics? When is the last time they won a war? (jokingly)



You watch the war take place from thousands of miles away on a television screen and think you have a sense of what is going on.... That is ignorance. Have you been to Iraq? Have you ever had an Iraqi man in Baghdad approach you and show you the scars he received at the hands of Saddam's henchmen and thank you for giving him the chance at freedom? Well, I have!!! No military in the world takes more precautions to protect innocent human life than the United States. Unfortnately, war is ugly and insurgency warfare is even uglier because it is difficult to distinguish the enemy from the populace. But ask the millions of Iraqis who, for the first time in their lives have the opportunity to vote and speak freely if it was worth it to them. I want us out of Iraq more than anyone, I have been there, I have lost friends there and I have friends there right now. But, the consequences of leaving before the job is done would be horrible for the Iraqi people, our National Security and ultimately, the security of the globe.

Persona non grata


The war/occupation in Iraq/Afghanistan are already lost causes.

“If you find yourself needing to use counterinsurgency, it means the entire population has become the subject of your war, and you either will have to stay there forever or you have lost.”

I can't remeber the French man who spoke these words but truer words have never been spoken.

Persona non grata


All of the actions I have mentioned are on grand display, for all the world to see, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although I have left out indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, do you know what the blast radius of a surgical strike GBU or Hellfire missile is?

Let us not forget the holding hostage of female family members of Iraqi and Afghani insurgents in hopes of forcing their male family members to turn themselves in.

Or the torture that was and is still being carried out in the many detention centers that have mushroomed up during the US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ignorance, look in the mirror pal.

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

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