The Cable

Joint Chiefs Chairman Doesn’t like Insurgents, Big Deployments, Fast Food

In the course of an almost shockingly long question-and-answer in the latest issue of the Joint Force Quarterly, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey — often criticized by hawks in Washington as being too risk averse and unwilling to recommend sending in the troops — plays to that perception in a pretty ...

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY HARO CHAKMAKJIAN (FILES) -- File picture dated December 8, 2005 shows US Soldiers having lunch at "Burger King" at their military base in southern Baghdad. For a growing number of young US troops in Iraq, boredom is becoming the new enemy as major anti-insurgency raids turn rarer and their disengagement from the country starts to take shape.    AFP PHOTO/SAMUEL ARANDA (Photo credit should read SAMUEL ARANDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY HARO CHAKMAKJIAN (FILES) -- File picture dated December 8, 2005 shows US Soldiers having lunch at "Burger King" at their military base in southern Baghdad. For a growing number of young US troops in Iraq, boredom is becoming the new enemy as major anti-insurgency raids turn rarer and their disengagement from the country starts to take shape. AFP PHOTO/SAMUEL ARANDA (Photo credit should read SAMUEL ARANDA/AFP/Getty Images)

In the course of an almost shockingly long question-and-answer in the latest issue of the Joint Force Quarterly, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey — often criticized by hawks in Washington as being too risk averse and unwilling to recommend sending in the troops — plays to that perception in a pretty creative way.

Asked about how military leaders craft combat options, and if they present all possible options to civilian leaders or only the handful of ideas they think have the greatest chance for success, Dempsey essentially rejects the American way of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When insurgents and other non-state actors are involved on the battlefield, he said, going big isn’t always smart. “The options are far broader in conflicts with nonstate actors because decisions are temporal in a way. If I am right about the need to adapt more frequently, then the last thing we want to do is flop in there with 150,000 [personnel], 12 mega-forward operating bases, [and then] begin to funnel in TGI Friday’s and Baskin-Robbins.”

Dempsey’s comments sting precisely because all of the big American bases in Iraq, and Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, featured an artery-clogging array of fast food options — including a Pizza Hut that delivered — in addition to massive 24-hour dining halls that served an unending variety of food, with ice cream and cake stations.

The general also sounds a bit like the arguments made by Vice President Joe Biden when President Barack Obama was planning his “surge” in Afghanistan, which sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into the fight in 2009. Biden favored relying more on small-footprint special operations and counterterrorism forces, as opposed to going big with tens of thousands of more troops.

We’ll see how much more of this sort of thing we hear from Dempsey during the last days of his tenure, as he kicks off one last round of overseas trips and interviews with the media before handing off the reigns as the president’s chief military advisor on Oct. 1.

Photo Credit: SAMUEL ARANDA/AFP/Getty Images

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