The Fallacy of the Surge

This is important, and not just for what Gian Gentile says about the mistaken credit given to the Surge for reducing violence in Iraq. It’s a military truism that an army often prepares to fight the last war. So while there are a number of positive conclusions to be drawn about the U.S. Army’s adoption of a more nuanced counterinsurgency posture, it’s also important to remember that there is no guarantee that the next enemy the American military faces will be an insurgency.

Between the pre-invasion purges (Shinseki) and post-invasion failures (Sanchez, Casey) of the old school generals, Iraq has become a closed feedback loop selecting for new school counter-insurgency strategists (Petraeus, Odierno). Obviously Casey failed upwards, and General Fallon seems like a throwback. But the danger of the military establishment and, more likely, Congress getting seduced by “this year’s model” is a real one.

Given the size of the American defense budget, though, there’s no reason why the military can’t be balanced, with both classic and asymmetric capacities. Especially if people like Gentile, Thomas Barnett (here and here) and Fred Kaplan (here) continue to push back against the trend towards all COIN, all the time.

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