Best Defense

McMaster: U.S. war plans for Iraq and Afghanistan smacked of ‘narcissism’

That’s a big thought from Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and one worth pondering.


That’s a big thought from Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and one worth pondering. I’ve never seen it made before. Reflecting on it, I suspect he is right.

Here is how he puts it, in an article in Survival magazine that was highlighted the other day by The Strategy Bridge:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, gaps between prior visions of future warfare and the nature of the eventual wars themselves complicated efforts to adapt strategy over time. Minimalist, linear plans – in place at the outset of both wars – were disconnected from the ambition of broader policy objectives and the complexity of the operating environment. Indeed, recent war plans have, at times, been essentially narcissistic, failing to account for interactions with determined enemies and other complicating variables.

I think he is also pointing to a civil-military problem. The military plans he notes, were essentially minimalist, while the Bush Administration’s ambitions were maximalist. That’s not entirely a hit on Bush, although ultimately he is responsible for overseeing a lousy planning process. It is also a big hit on the generals who failed to point out the discrepancy between their plans and the president’s goals. That was the purpose of those meetings, guys.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Army Public Affairs/Army Capabilities Integration Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command

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 Twitter: @tomricks1

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