Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

More from Lt. Gen. McMaster

General H.R. McMaster has been making the rounds lately, emphasizing the enduring difficulty of war and the fallacy of technological fixes.

‘Afghanistan needs military leaders of courage, competence and character’
The Combined Joint Interagency Task Force Shafafiyat commander, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited the National Military Academy of Afghanistan Dec. 7 to discuss the importance of military core values. McMaster provided the more than 1,800 cadets with the key factors into how and why, in the course of conflict, soldiers and leaders can at times be drawn into immoral or unethical behavior.

General H.R. McMaster has been making the rounds lately, emphasizing the enduring difficulty of war and the fallacy of technological fixes.

I caught him on Friday at the Institute for the Study of War. He repeated some of the things he said earlier in the week, but tossed out some other ideas:

–Fighting without intending to win “might be unethical as well as counterproductive.”

General H.R. McMaster has been making the rounds lately, emphasizing the enduring difficulty of war and the fallacy of technological fixes.

I caught him on Friday at the Institute for the Study of War. He repeated some of the things he said earlier in the week, but tossed out some other ideas:

–Fighting without intending to win “might be unethical as well as counterproductive.”

–In December 2006, President Karzai, feeling unsupported with the Americans, cut a deal with militias. “In exchange for their loyalty, President Karzai gave them impunity.”

–Don’t go to war without having a sustainable outcome in mind.

–Don’t assume the top guys know what they are doing. “At a certain point in our career, you realize, ‘Damn, man, nobody has a plan.’”

–As a nation, our big gap is political strategy — that is, something into which a military approach would fit

–When we have developed real strategies, it has not been in Washington, but in the field — in Iraq under Petraeus, in Afghanistan under McChrystal, in Colombia under Ambassador Anne Patterson

–He also did reprises of his greatest hits, such as “The Four Fallacies of Future Warfare,” no. 1 with a bullet on Radio Tradoc. Bottom line: “We can’t outsource war,” or make it nice through technology

He’s also on the bill at the big Future of War pow-wow beginning tomorrow (and streamed on CNN.com), but I don’t know if he’ll be taking requests.

Photo by Army Sgt. Tamika Dillard

Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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