- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The January-March issue of ARMOR magazine offers an article provocatively titled “How to Eat Steak with a Knife and Fork! A Return to the Core Competencies That Make Our Maneuver Force Indomitable.”
Let’s call it “HTESWAKAF” for short.
I am all for being competent. But I also am for winning our wars. I worry that we are not trying to do both. In other words, is the new emphasis on “core competencies” a way of turning away from the lessons of the last 12 years of our wars? Like, what if the enemy isn’t serving steak?
Overall, I am a bit puzzled by such a focus on tactical abilities, because I think our biggest flaws in the post-9/11 wars have been strategic, with generals neither able to recognize the nature of their conflicts or to adjust to them. Yet I see little work being done there. And one lesson of Iraq 2003-06 was that good tactics won’t fix bad strategy.