A very good article from Newsweek about how the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are changing the Army and Marines:
When Wright wrapped up his tour in 2005, he wrote an article in Infantry Magazine, an Army publication, criticizing the traditional “light infantry” tactics that had flopped in Afghanistan. He recommended more-flexible approaches, like mixing with the locals and (more implied than directly stated) buying off the enemy. When Petraeus drafted his counterinsurgency doctrine in 2006, he was able to draw on the experiences of resourceful frontline officers like Piatt and Wright. “All the stuff in the Petraeus manual, we had kind of figured it out there [in Afghanistan],” says Wright. “It was all the stuff we had seen work on the ground.”
American officers learned very similar lessons in battling the Viet Cong. But much of that knowledge was simply lost. “It’s said we fought that war nine times, a year at a time,” says Petraeus, noting that because they had been drafted rather than volunteered, many combat-hardened troops left the Army as soon as their yearlong tours in Vietnam were up. By contrast, with the Army stretched thin and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on, soldiers like Wright find themselves heading back into the fight for a second (or third or fourth) tour. “They have a level of experience that I don’t think our Army has had at that rank certainly since Vietnam, and maybe not even then,” says Petraeus.
Petraeus has institutionalized that knowledge. Herding a team of researchers at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, he was able to get his manual written and approved about three years after the invasion of Iraq, lightning speed in Pentagon time. But even Petraeus says that the much-lauded document can provide only principles to follow. The hard work is still being done in the streets of Baghdad. “What they’re dealing with is much more complex and much more nuanced than what we were trained to do when I was a captain,” he says. “You have to understand not just what we call the military terrain … the high ground and low ground. It’s about understanding the human terrain, really understanding it.”
In order to shrink the Gap, America needs to transform its Leviathan big-war force, and the Military-Industrial-Complex that supports it, so that it stands-up a SysAdmin counter-insurgency force, and a Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex to enable it.
The longer the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and those like it, continue, the more the Army and Marines will be transformed into the “occupation” fighting-forces we need.
This is one reason why it’s so important to continue the Afghan and Iraq Wars until those states are successfully processed. Only one candidate this cycle, John McCain, is straightforward enough to both plan on continuing the wars, and letting his plan be known.