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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Odierno ready?

GEN Raymond Odierno, new MNF-I commander, contemplating

I have maintained from the beginning that the only reasons GEN Raymond Odierno, a career artillery officer, continues to be promoted is because his wife runs a great officers' wives club, his son was badly injured in Iraq, and he is a yes man [see Nomination of LTG Odierno for MNF-I commander]. As a major general in command of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID), Odierno overflooded Abu Gharib and did not even know what counterinsurgency was. Meanwhile, his peer, then MG David Petraeus, referred to as "King David" by Iraqi tribal leaders and mocked as a "perfumed prince" by fellow officers who thought his tactics were ridiculous, followed a much different course. Petraeus, the "pied piper of Northern Iraq" in NBC parlance, was constantly preaching about "winning hearts and minds" in Mosul and was billed "Iraq's Repairman" by Newsweek; clearly he got it from the beginning. In striking comparison, the only nickname Odierno, a New Jersey native, earned was "Tony Soprano." Odierno shunned Petraeus' tactics and instead followed the limited guidance given to him in the sermons of his boss, LTG Ricky Sanchez, who also happened to be Petraeus' boss. Odierno killed or captured the Iraqi "bandits" while denying that there was an insurgency, all tenets of the Sanchez Doctrine. Here is an Odierno quote from a June 18, 2003, USA Today article:
"Although major combat operations have concluded, our soldiers are involved in almost daily contact with noncompliant forces, former regime members and common criminals," said Odierno, whose troops operate north of Baghdad to Kirkuk and east to the Iranian border. The area includes Tikrit, Saddam's former hometown.

"We are seeing military activity throughout our zone, but I really qualify it as militarily insignificant," Odierno told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Tikrit. He added that the attacks are "having no impact on the way we conduct business on a day-to-day basis."

Apparently, Odierno just didn't get it! Doesn't America deserve adaptive leaders with foresight and vision? Odierno's performance as a division commander should have ended his career, but it didn't.

Odierno began to see the light in the summer of 2004 when Petraeus was promoted ahead of him to lieutenant general on May 18, and his son lost his left arm due to injuries sustained in an ambush. From that point on, Odierno worshipped at the altar of counterinsurgency. Odierno read the French Coptic texts of David Galula and the Gospels of John, also known as Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife and FM 3-24. Odierno forced himself to believe that his diminutive former peer, David, could perform miracles and slay Goliath.

I truly hope that I am wrong about Odierno and he can run this war himself. Hopefully, his years of Counterinsurgency Bible study have prepared him for his apostolic succession. I hope that he is thinking of what the transition from counterinsurgency operations to nation building entails and reads Nation-Building: Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, by Francis Fukuyama of The End of History and the Last Man fame, as a way to start to wrap his mind around the issues he could face. I hope he is prepared to start from scratch if the oil spots dry up; this time, however, there will be no surge forces available to keep the peace unless the selective service system is activated. I also hope he is prepared to execute a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and take the last chopper out of Baghdad if he is called to do so (which I think is highly unlikely). Finally, I hope that he does not take Petraeus' focus off of the strategic issues he needs to deal with as CENTCOM commander and he will not be calling Petraeus every few hours asking him what to do...

Odierno will have an able corps commander to help him, LTG Lloyd Austin, who, while serving as the ADC-M for the 3ID during the initial invasion of Iraq, was awarded the Silver Star. Austin, an infantry officer with numerous light infantry commands, is described as a "soldier's soldier" by peers and will bring a needed perspective to the heavy handed Odierno, who has a proclivity, as evidenced by his command of the 4ID, to fall back on his more than 25 years of conventional/force-on-force/3GW warfare training as a heavy artillery officer. On Monday, when asked if he thought progress could be moved along any faster or if he expected any changes from Petraeus to Odierno, Austin said, "I'm not sure that pushing them [the Iraqi government, the IA, and IPs] forward is the right thing that we want to do. We tried that once before and found that that didn't work." Hopefully, Odierno's heavy hand does not reverse the limited gains made in Iraq during the reign of the infallible David and he does not prove the Peter Principle as MNF-I commander, which I argue he already proved as a major general from March 2003 to April 2004.

See also:

Odierno's Conversion