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The U.S. Army recently announced that it would pay captains up to $35,000 in retention bonuses to stem the tide of junior officers leaving the Army, in part because of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bonuses may temporarily retain a few captains, but the problem will continue well into the future unless policymakers address a more fundamental issue: A military lifestyle makes the pursuit of a career nearly untenable for military wives.

I know the challenges that Army wives face. I've been a lawyer and an Army wife for 10 years. In that period, I've moved seven times. I've taken four different bar exams and held five different jobs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Traveling in Iraq and Afghanistan in late January, I kept encountering two themes that cut across the usual U.S. political debate about these conflicts: The hard-nosed operations of U.S. Special Forces are increasingly effective, and so are the soft-power tactics of provincial reconstruction teams.

The debate over troop numbers may be missing the point. What's making the real difference isn't how many Americans are on the ground but how they are being used. That's true at both ends of the spectrum -- hard power and soft. And, as commanders learn to use these tools of counterinsurgency effectively, they may also be able to operate with fewer people and a lighter footprint.…  Seguir leyendo »

The relative calm that America’s armed forces have imposed on Iraq is certainly grounds for cautious optimism. But it also raises some obvious questions: how was it achieved and what does it mean for future defense planning?

Many analysts understandably attribute the success to our troops’ following the dictums of the Army’s lauded new counterinsurgency manual. While the manual is a vast improvement over its predecessors, it would be a huge mistake to take it as proof — as some in the press, academia and independent policy organizations have — that victory over insurgents is achievable by anything other than traditional military force.…  Seguir leyendo »

By George F. Will (THE WASHINGTON POST, 09/09/07):

Officers studying at the Army War College walk the ground at nearby Gettysburg where Pickett's men walked across an open field under fire. They wonder: How did Confederate officers get men to do that? The lesson: Men can be led to places they cannot be sent.

Today's officers lead an Army that was sent into Iraq in 2003, and by 2004 the operation became, as an officer here says, "a deployment in search of a mission." Since then, missions have multiplied. Today's is to make possible an exit strategy. Gen. David Petraeus's Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual says counterinsurgency's primary objective is to secure the civilian population rather than destroy the enemy.…  Seguir leyendo »

By William Rees-Mogg (THE TIMES, 03/09/07):

General Sir Mike Jackson is a soldier’s soldier. His doctrine, as told to The Daily Telegraph, is that “everything starts and finishes with the soldier”. He adds, ruefully, that he failed to persuade the Ministry of Defence of that doctrine when he was Chief of the General Staff. He has now written his memoirs that put the strategic blame, where it almost certainly belongs, on Donald Rumsfeld for the US failure to follow up their victory in Iraq with a postwar plan. He also recognises the weakness of British defence policy in its failure to match resources to commitments.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Gary Younge (THE GUARDIAN, 13/08/07):

Mom, I had another friend die today from a massive ied [improvised explosive device] and many more wounded with shattered bones and scrapes. We used to be in the same platoon. 1st platoon and the same squad when I first arrived at fort hood for a good 7 months or so. He was 17 then and barely a day over 19 now that he has passed away.It's tearing me up so badly inside. I just can't stand it. I can't get rid of the feeling that I probably won't make it home from this war.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Charles a Krohn, deputy director of public affairs for the American Battle Monuments Commission (THE WASHINGTON POST, 12/08/07):

Muslims are obliged to make at least one trip to the holy city of Mecca during their lifetime. This pilgrimage is known as the hajj. It is mandatory for men, voluntary but encouraged for women. A basic dress code ensures that there's no visible difference between rich and poor, weak and powerful. This simple requirement unites the faithful.

I started thinking about the hajj in the spring, when my wife and I visited nine American military cemeteries in Europe. With the exception of the Normandy American Cemetery, which attracts thousands, others are virtually devoid of visitors, especially American visitors.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Jack Jacobs, a retired Army colonel and a military analyst for MSNBC (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 09/08/07):

BY now, most Americans know the story of Cpl. Pat Tillman. He bravely chose military service rather than the National Football League, and he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 by fire from his comrades.

My own units in Vietnam were occasionally the victims of errant rifle fire, mortar rounds and bombs — indeed, the very success of an infantry attack is dependent on leaning forward into friendly supporting fires.

But, after the fact, the Tillman death played out differently. His unit reported that he was killed in a ferocious engagement with the enemy, and the truth was hidden by the chain of command until, as is almost always the case, the truth escaped.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Jeff McCausland, a retired Army colonel, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and a visiting professor at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. He commanded an artillery battalion during the Gulf War in 1991 (THE WASHINGTON POST, 02/07/07):

Asoldier's day was once regulated by bugle calls, from morning reveille to chow call at noon to retreat at sunset and taps late at night. Thus the phrase "to answer the bugle call" has been used to describe citizens responding to a national threat. Those who rise to this call to defend their country are the young, and they sacrifice accordingly.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Stephen Benjamin, a former petty officer second class in the Navy (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 08/06/07):

IMAGINE for a moment an American soldier deep in the Iraqi desert. His unit is about to head out when he receives a cable detailing an insurgent ambush right in his convoy’s path. With this information, he and his soldiers are now prepared for the danger that lies ahead.

Reports like these are regularly sent from military translators’ desks, providing critical, often life-saving intelligence to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military has a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate such invaluable information and convey it to the war zone.…  Seguir leyendo »

By James T. Quinlivan and Bruce R. Nardulli. Both are military analysts at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization (THE WASHINGTON POST, 27/04/07):

For nearly 50 years, many Americans saw the communist states as a vast monolith, able to act as one in the service of a single unified doctrine. Because that monolith was able to reach anywhere in its attack on democracy, America's leaders believed it needed to be confronted everywhere. As a result, the United States tried to confront the monolith around the globe at immense expense in blood and treasure.

In retrospect, that view and the policies it led to were mistaken in many ways.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Mario Vargas Llosa (EL PAÍS, 28/01/07):

Un reportaje puede ser una gran obra literaria o un memorable ensayo histórico como mostraron un Arthur Koestler con Un testamento español, un George Orwell con Homenaje a Cataluña, o Ryszard Kapuscinski con los libros que dedicó a Haile Selassie, Reza Pahlevi y al derrumbe de la Unión Soviética.

Robert D. Kaplan pertenece a esa dinastía de periodistas capaces de documentar la actualidad con tanto rigor y precisión como elegancia y astucia narrativa, en reportajes que, a la vez que ayudan a esclarecer hechos dramáticos de la vida contemporánea, se leen con el placer y la ansiedad que producen las buenas novelas.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Gordon Adams and John Diamond, a fellow and a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, respectively (THE WASHINGTON POST, 31/12/06):

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pete Schoomaker, The Post, the New York Times, and many Democrats and Republicans have converged over the past month in support of a serious expansion of the U.S. Army -- a permanent addition of 40,000 to 90,000 over the current ceiling of 507,000 troops.

This proposal is a bad idea. It is irrelevant to the stresses the Army is experiencing in Iraq. It would build enormous long-term costs into the defense budget, and it presumes a role in the world for the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Paul E. Schroeder, managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland (THE WASHINGTON POST, 03/01/06):

Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."

Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Robert D. Kaplan, colaborador de la revista estadounidense The Atlantic Monthly (EL MUNDO, 04/03/05):

Mientras el portaaviones Abraham Lincoln regresaba esta semana a su base de San Diego después de su misión de socorro en Indonesia, aún nadie ha reconocido la gran lección del extraordinario esfuerzo de socorro que ha desplegado el Ejército de Estados Unidos ante el tsunami. A saber, que la guerra planetaria contra el terrorismo, en lugar de distraer a los militares de la realización de operaciones humanitarias, los ha vuelto mucho más eficaces en este terreno. Conviene tenerlo presente, especialmente ahora que la petición del presidente Bush de otros 82.000 millones de dólares [cerca de 61.000 millones de euros al cambio actual] para gastos militares de carácter extraordinario ha reabierto el debate sobre el ya antiguo plan del secretario de Defensa, Donald Rumsfeld, de reforma de las Fuerzas Armadas para convertirlas en una máquina militar más reducida y más flexible.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Paul Kennedy, catedrático Dillworth de Historia en la Universidad de Yale y autor de Auge y caída de las grandes potencias. © Tribune Media International, 2003. Traducción de News Clips (EL PAÍS, 23/05/03):

Hace treinta años, Estados Unidos era la mayor potencia del mundo, a pesar de la formidable amenaza soviética. Pero sus fuerzas armadas se vieron sometidas a la derrota más humillante de todos los tiempos, vencidas por un ejército de campesinos en las selvas de Vietnam. Sin embargo, en las tres décadas transcurridas desde entonces, las fuerzas estadounidenses vuelven a no tener parangón, y los celosos rivales de Estados Unidos están horrorizados por la pura potencia y eficacia de los despliegues del Pentágono.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Gardner Botsford, the author of A Life of Privilege, Mostly (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19/03/03):

Sixty years ago when I was drafted, howling all the way, into the infantry of the United States Army, the infantry was a dangerous place to be. I am knowledgeable on this point, because my presence in its ranks caused me to be landed, along with the rest of the First Infantry Division, on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Until I set foot on the Normandy sands, I was a chap of calm and sanguine disposition whose worst anxieties were on the order of seeing a traffic cop in the rearview mirror; now, in a single tick of a clock, I became a marionette on a string, ducking and weaving in an effort to get away from the invisible bits of metal I could hear buzzing like bees above my head and past my ears.…  Seguir leyendo »