H.R. McMaster gets his star

H.R. McMaster gets his star

Last year, a lot of folks noticed when Col. H.R. McMaster, the by-all-accounts brilliant commander who led counterinsurgency efforts in Tal Afar, got passed over for promotion to one-star general. Commenting on the move, Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly wrote, “it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence that the military has any intention of supporting serious institutional change in response to 9/11.” Desert storm veteran James Joyner called McMaster “just the type of scholar-warrior that the military needs in its flag ranks right now.” The counterinsurgency gurus at the Small Wars Journal saw it as “a type of reverse Peter Principle” at work.

These commentators will be pleased to note that McMaster was not doomed to be a lowly colonel forever. After failing to make the Pentagon’s annual promotion list twice, he’s just been given his first star:

[President Bush nominates] Army Col. Herbert R. McMaster Jr. for promotion to the grade of brigadier general. He is currently enroute to serve as director, concepts development and experimentation, Army Capabilities Integration Center [ARCIC], U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va.

The ARCIC is a relatively new center that has the potential to be very influential in setting Army doctrine. As the Washington Post‘s Ann Scott Tyson suggests, the promotion indicates that the counterinsurgency types in the Petraeus mold are gaining the upper hand against the big war crowd.

UPDATE: Via e-mail, retired Lt. Col. John Nagl (now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security) comments:

The selection of my friend and mentor H.R. McMaster for promotion to Brigadier General is another indication that the Army is learning and adapting to the wars of this century–and putting the right people in the right places to drive change. H.R. has had strategic influence on the Army since he was a Major, and he’ll be able to do even more with the power of a star behind him. Although I don’t know many of the other officers selected for promotion to Brigadier, and many great officers didn’t make this list, from all accounts these officers who were picked have the experience, vision, and drive to continue to improve one of America’s best learning organizations.”