The human face for the article is Col. H. R. McMaster, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, a West Point graduate who earned a Silver Star in the 1991 Gulf War. His regiment, according to Packer, "greatly reduced the violence" in Tal Afar using counterinsurgency techniques, which consisted, in large measure, of not treating the locals like hostiles: "When we first got here, we made a lot of mistakes. We were like blind men, trying to do the right thing without breaking a lot of things.... You gotta come in with your ears open. You can't come in and start talking. You really have to listen to people." In Packer's words, "The classic doctrine, which was developed by the British in Malaya in the nineteen-forties and fifties, says that counterinsurgency warfare is twenty per cent military and eighty per cent political."
McMaster earned a doctorate in history after the first Gulf War. His dissertation, which raised quite a few very powerful eyebrows, was titled, "Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam." Says Packer,
The book assembled a damning case against senior military leaders for failing to speak their minds when, in the early years of the war, they disagreed with Pentagon policies. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, knowing that Johnson and MacNamara wanted uncritical support rather than honest advice, and eager to protect their careers, went along with official lies and a split-the-difference strategy of gradual escalation that none of them thought could work.The guest on this morning's Diane Rehm Show was Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of CENTCOM (1997-2000), plugging his book The Battle for Peace. He added a detail about McMaster that made my ears perk up:
Rehm: All right, and here's [an email] from Ken, who says 'Our generals and admirals are certainly subject to civilian control, but must be expected to speak out -- even if it costs them -- when there is so much at stake. The current crowd around the Defense Secretary look and act like a bunch of whipped dogs. It's frankly disheartening. What can be done to straighten out some general officers' spines?' First of all, do you agree with that?"
Zinni: Uh, no, not exactly, and I'm not going to criticize people that are making decisions, and I'm not part of the process to understand it -- but I will say this. When I was a four-star general, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton, sent us a book -- seventeen four-stars -- sent us a book entitled Dereliction of Duty. It was written by a young Army officer and it was the story of how the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior generals kept silent during Vietnam when they knew the conduct of the war was not being done in a militarily sound way. And later they regretted that silence, they kept quiet. That book was given to us to read, we were called to Washington and at a breakfast we had young Major McMaster, who wrote the book -- now a fine colonel in the Army -- and he described what went on. General Shelton in a very angry way, said that that will never happen with this group while I'm here as Chairman. If you feel strongly about something, you come to me or you go directly to the Secretary of Defense. You express your honest views to Congress when called on.