Hearts and minds? Overrated. If you want to run a successful counterinsurgency, it all starts with the person at the top.
Moyar takes issue with much of the current U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, which guided the “surge” in Iraq. Though its creation was overseen by Gen. David Petraeus, whose leadership he considers a near-perfect model for counterinsurgency, Moyar finds the general’s most important qualities de-valued in the manual, which suffers from what he calls a “population-centric” emphasis toward defeating an insurgency by depriving it of public support. Using case studies from the Philippines, Vietnam, and other conflicts over the last 150 years, Moyar argues instead that counterinsurgencies succeed or fail based on the leaders involved: their ability to inspire subordinates, adapt to complex situations, unify civilian and military efforts, and identify capable sub-commanders, both from their own ranks and the target population.
Though A Question of Command describes historical insurgencies around the world, Moyar posits that the American South, after the Civil War, may have been the best model for the situation in Iraq. Whereas Grant and Sherman had led major victories on the battlefield, it was lesser-known leaders like Brig. Gen. Robert F. Catterson and Maj. Lewis Merrill who had the most success against insurgent forces such as the Ku Klux Klan. A Question of Command attempts to capture the qualities and decisions that set those leaders apart, making their successors easier to find.
Mark Moyar is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Marine Corps University. He is also the author of Triumph Forsaken: the Vietnam War, 1954-1965 and Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam. Moyar’s writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He received a B.A. summa cum laude from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Cambridge.
DVD 2009-12-03: Mark Moyar
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