Proceedings February 2012 Vol. 138/2/1,308 : Page 74

BOOK REVIEWS Fighting Today’s Wars: How America’s Leaders Have Failed Our Warriors David G. Bolgiano and James M. Patterson. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2011. 192 pp. Intro. Notes. Index. $19.95. Reviewed by Colonel W. Hays Parks, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired) I n this well-researched volume, two combat-seasoned senior judge ad-vocates general (JAG) challenge the way the U.S. military prepares for, trains, and fights its current conflicts. Fighting Today’s Wars identifies pretation, and implementation of rules of engagement (ROE) by commanders and their judge advocates in Iraq and Afghanistan. By way of full disclosure, I identified this problem in a Proceedings article prior to 9/11 (“Deadly Force Is contemporary deficiencies, some preced-ing the past decade of combat, many precipitated by the U.S. military’s unpre-paredness for the conflicts in which it has engaged. The authors lay out their argu-ment in an articulate, well-documented fashion. Jim Patterson, a Special Forces soldier before becoming a JAG, begins the book by describing his experience in reporting to his current assignment. To use military computers, time-consuming online infor-mation-security training in “thumb-drive awareness” is required, notwithstanding the fact that thumb drives and other re-movable media have been banned from use in government computers for more than two years as a result of the alleged leak of classified documents to WikiLe-aks by Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. But to undergo the training, it is necessary to have someone log in under his or her name and turn the computer over to the trainee—itself a violation of computer security. This is an example of one of the au-thors’ points: today’s military emphasis on form over substance through institu-tional overreaction to a single, serious but isolated incident. The authors also cite social programs, such as mandatory annual classes on financial responsibility, equal opportunity, and sexual-assault pre-vention, along with political correctness. (The book’s description of the response of senior Army leaders and others to Army Major Nidal Hassan’s 2009 murder of 13 soldiers and civilians and the wounding of another 31 at Fort Hood is damning.) These have replaced emphasis on combat skills, warfighting, and war winning—the military’s raison d’être. One the authors’ primary focuses is the overly restrictive construction, inter-Authorized,” January 2001). The authors demonstrate, through examples, that the problem has been exacerbated in the con-flicts of the past decade. Caution in engaging armed insurgents began in Iraq following the transition from the Phase-I offensive operations that led to the defeat of conventional Iraqi forces and then to the Coalition occupation of Iraq. Military command-ers were untrained and unprepared for the transition. Military units continued to apply overwhelming firepower in response to any threat, resulting in the death of civilians. The military leader-ship responded by directing the inves-tigation of any discharge of a weapon, even if the discharge did not result in injury or death of a civilian. I have been told that a brigade on average experi-enced 1,000 or more investigations dur-ing a tour of duty. As the authors ex-plain, this “leadership-by-investigation,” coupled with risk-averse training, had a chilling effect on the decision-making process of the individual soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine, regarding his or her use of force. As insurgency operations gained a foothold in Iraq and Afghanistan, many commanders were unable to adjust to the changing battlefield environment by doing something other than labeling it “asymmetric warfare.” U.S. military cir-cles seem surprised that smart opponents know better than to play to our strong suit. While some commanders responded positively to the changing combat envi-ronment, concrete steps could not be taken until the Army and Marine Corps researched, wrote, and published new counterinsurgency doctrine in December 2006—more than five years after U.S. forces entered Afghanistan, almost four years after the U.S.-led Coalition in-vaded Iraq, and more than three decades after U.S. military leadership turned its back on the counterinsurgency lessons learned in Vietnam. The new doctrine was flawed from the outset in its seeming infatuation with the lessons learned from the 1948-1960 British conflict in Malaya (today Malaysia) and contemporary British emphasis on “soft power,” which Frank Ledwidge sharply criticized for its lack of success in Iraq and Afghanistan in Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan (Yale University Press, 2011). Errors in im-plementing the new doctrine are best illustrated by a comment a JAG made in addressing a class on the subject: “In COIN [counterinsurgency], you may have to ‘take one for the team’”—mean-ing that a soldier had to be shot before he could respond with force, provided, of course, he or she survived. 74 r'FCSVBSZ

Book Reviews

Read the full article at

Previous Page  Next Page

Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here