Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Long-Term Capability in a Long War

Max Boot's take on LTG McChrystal's first policy in Afghanistan. I like the idea, but I think it would have to be done properly. The Army has a tendency of making everything painful. There is a love of running marathons at a wind-sprint pace.
Making a long-term investment in building true regional expertise--with operations in mind, rather than the ancillary and peripheral reasons that we usually stick officers in foreign countries--is a good decision. Making the job so that it doesn't suck so much that people vote with their feet should be an implied task, but we'll see.
One aside: Boot claims that being on a staff is less stressful than being in combat. Not if you're on a good staff, pal. Being a staff officer is participating in a battle of a different kind. Doing the job well, over the long term, is one of the most stressful, physically debilitating endeavors one can undertake. Of course, there are plenty of weak staffs out there whose miscreant members work--maybe--nine-to-five, never miss a trip to the DFAC--or the dessert bar in the DFAC--and consider weekends the time to lounge around the FOB in their PTs. Then there are the guys who actually make the Army work by logging 16-20 hour days every day for a year, eating when they catch a break, or not, and considering PT a luxury, if not just a fond memory. You can be a "good" staff officer for a year or so in the combat zone and do the job right. Too much more than that, though, and you're taking the same nosedive in effectiveness that Boot cites for combat troops.

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