The President will spend this Christmas week at his ranch in Texas, and while he's there, it was revealed, he will take a few books with him. One of those books is Imperial Grunts : The American Military on the Ground by journalist Robert Kaplan. Hugh Hewitt's radio interview with Kaplan (transcribed by the Radio Blogger) reveals something the President and the planners in Washington need to know
Yes, one of the things that I think really kind of unnerved the elite, is that while there are all these conferences and discussions in Washington and elsewhere about should we support Afghan warlords or not, should we create an Afghan national army or not, what should our foreign policy be in Yemen or Colombia or in Iraq. I discovered a world of basically working-class people, who were operationally far more sophisticated and knowledgeable about all these issues, who spoke languages, who had personalities that didn't fit into any one neat division. They were evangelical, but they spoke two exotic languages. People like that who...so while all these discussions are taking place, foreign policy is being enacted on the ground by majors and sergeants and lieutenants, who are utterly oblivious to most of these discussions. And you know what? They're doing these things very, very well.
The Military is, more than anything else, a huge bureaucracy and functions like one. The saving grace of our armed forces is not so much our superior equipment (which is important) or our logistical ability (which is critical as well), but the ability of our small unit commanders to act autonomously within their operational objectives. Success on the battlefield has so often been the direct result of this quality which was severely lacking in Soviet military doctrine.
To get things right faster, mechanisms should be adopted to allow combat-level leaders, from Lt Colonels down to squad-leaders to be part of the strategic planning conversations.
(hat tip to Glenn Reynolds)