- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
A reader writes from one of our formerly rebellious southern states:
I have consumed a fair number of 1st-hand (usually company/platoon level) accounts of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combat (currently reading Outlaw Platoon). While reading your post today on the Vietnam war, I had a thought/question — are you aware of any papers, articles, or books that research the ground combat experiences in each of these conflicts, and seek to specifically compare and contrast the experiences of small unit leaders (lieutenants and captains)?
I would love to see the results of solid research of selected first-hand accounts (like Outlaw Platoon and Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat) to see what was similar, what was different, what were the unique challenges in each conflict, what worked in one conflict that did not work it others, what worked in all three conflicts, etc. I can imagine that this research would not only be extremely interesting reading, but could also benefit our young commanders in the field today, and those who will be in the field in the future.
I think reading all the memoirs of platoon and company command or enlisted service during the three wars, and then looking for commonalities and differences, would make a fine master’s or even doctoral dissertation for someone.
I’ve mentioned in the past that one of the striking things to me about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been that the accounts by enlisted soldiers and younger officers have been much better than those by generals. And more intellectually and morally serious — just line up the books by Fick, Exum, Bellavia and Mullaney against those by Franks, Sanchez, Bremer, Rumsfeld and Feith.
By contrast, I can think of five good books by generals about Vietnam: Those by Bruce Palmer, Dave Richard Palmer, Ray Peers, Douglas Kinnard and (cheating a bit, since even though he is now a general he wrote it as a captain) Herbert R. McMaster.
General Barno, a highly decorated military officer with over 30 years of service, has served in a variety of command and staff positions in the United States and around the world, to include command at every level. He served many of his early years in special operations forces with Army Ranger battalions, to include combat in both the Grenada and Panama invasions. In 2003, he was selected to establish a new three-star operational headquarters in Afghanistan and take command of the 20,000 U.S. and Coalition Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. For 19 months in this position, he was responsible for the overall military leadership of this complex political-military mission, devising a highly innovative counterinsurgency strategy in close partnership with the U.S. embassy and coalition allies.His responsibilities included regional military efforts with neighboring nations and involved close coordination with the Government of Afghanistan, the United Nations, NATO International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. Department of State and USAID, and the senior military leaders of many surrounding nations and numerous allies.
From 2006-2010, General Barno served as the Director of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Concurrently, he was the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans and Families from 2007-2009. He frequently serves as an expert consultant on counterinsurgency and irregular warfare, professional military education and the changing character of conflict, supporting a wide-range of government and other organizations. General Barno is widely published and has testified before Congress numerous times. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
A 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, General Barno also earned his master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. General Barno has received numerous awards for his military and public service.| David Barno |