Max Boot has a good article today about Iraq, especially its gifted colonels, which is a topic I also wrote about in NRO after returning from Iraq. He mentions specifically, the promotions of McMaster and Mansoor to BG, as emblematic of the military’s appreciation of the counterinsurgency efforts of Petraeus, and the sudden turn about in Iraq. I couldn’t agree more and mentioned others as well like Burton, Gibbs, Funk, Gibson, Kershaw, McFarland, and Sutherland to name a few. The public hardly knows their complete records, or the details of seniority — only that such officers have proved critical to the security of the United States these past four years in Iraq. We are at a critical juncture, one analogous to what George Marshall faced at the outset of World War II, when he did the right thing and (just in time) turned things upside down through a complete reappraisal of promotion.
No one wishes to interfere with a hallowed military process of examination, that, by needs, must be exempt from both political and public pressures. That said, the nation also has a great interest in the next 3 years in keeping about 40-50 brilliant colonels in Iraq, many with advanced degrees, past bravery in harrowing circumstances, and a proven record of initiative in exploring all sorts of novel strategies in combatting the insurgencies.
It is critical that we find a way to ensure they stay in the army and marines, especially after serial deployments to Iraq. The best answer is to promote the deserving to brigadier general, starting now.
It is often said that the military is worn out from the near continuous deployments to Iraq. Perhaps. But one way we can partially rectify that terrible burden, and gain advantage from that sacrifice, is to ensure over the next few years, that we promote to generals a cohort that proved itself repeatedly in battle in Iraq. We can ill afford to lose thousands of aggregate days of combat experience that may guide us in the future. That way the United States military for a generation will have sober, experienced, and savvy generals, who have served in the worst sorts of circumstances, to advise how and how not to approach any future conflicts. This is critical as we reach these do-or-die moments of juncture in dozens of careers between colonel and brigadier general.