The surge of ideas


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The surge of ideas

  1. 1. 314 VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAYable over time. choices—choices that will displease powerful people both Therefore, as the Defense Department begins the pro- inside the Pentagon and out.cess of preparing next’s years Fiscal Year 2012 budget re- I say this fully aware of the fact that I am not the firstquest, I am directing the military services, the joint staff, in this office to make this case and or call for this effort.the major functional and regional commands, and the Indeed, one of my predecessors said the following: “Acivilian side of the Pentagon to take a hard, unsparing person employed in a redundant task is one who could belook at how they operate—in substance and style alike. countering terrorism or nuclear proliferation. Every dollarThe goal is to cut our overhead costs and to transfer squandered on waste is one denied to the warfighter.” Thatthose savings to force structure and modernization with- was Secretary Rumsfeld on September 10th, 2001. Somein the programmed budget. In other words, to convert progress has been made since then, as well as since thesufficient “tail” to “tooth” to provide the equivalent of days of $800 hammers. But the proverbial wall has beenthe roughly two to three percent real growth—resources brought to our back. What might have been considered aneeded to sustain our combat power at a time of war and noble or worthy endeavor in the past is now a task that canmake investments to prepare for an uncertain future. no longer be denied or postponed.Simply taking a few percent off the top of everything on It is a task, in the final analysis, to defend the secu-a one-time basis will not do. These savings must stem rity, prosperity, and freedom of the American people infrom root-and-branch changes that can be sustained and this complex and dangerous new century. It is a callingadded to over time. to uphold the spirit of sacrifice of the men whose ser- What is required going forward is not more study. vice and triumphs we honor. And it is a mission worthyNor do we need more legislation. It is not a great mystery of the son of Kansas who led our forces to victory 65what needs to change. What it takes is the political will years ago, and whose legacy continues to sustain andand willingness, as Eisenhower possessed, to make hard protect us today.  The Surge of Ideas THE CHANGES WE MADE IN OUR ARMY Address by DAVID H. PETRAEUS, Commander, United States Central Command Delivered in acceptance of the American Enterprise Institute’s 2010 Irving Kristol Award, National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., May 6, 2010G ood evening to you all. Thanks for that warm welcome. And thanks, Arthur, for that very kind introduction. Earlier today, as I was talking with my wife about to- for what came to be known as “the surge.” Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additionalnight’s speech, she reminded me of a story about a young troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rareschool boy’s report on Julius Caesar. “Julius Caesar was think tank products that had a truly strategic impact.  born a long time ago,” the little boy explained. “He was a A key question they addressed was how many addi-great general. He won some important battles. He made tional forces were needed. After rigorous analysis involvinga long speech. They killed him...” I’ll try to avoid Caesar’s complex war gaming, Team Kagan recommended five ad-fate. But this is the Irving Kristol lecture--and I do need to ditional Army brigades. Now, I’m sure it was pure coinci-say something meaningful. dence that the number of brigades in our Army available Well, needless to say, it’s an enormous honor to be with for deployment at that time was precisely this evening especially given the many distinguished At about the same time Team Kagan was authoring itsguests here this evening--Vice President Cheney, Governor study, President Bush’s senior assistant on Iraq, MeghanAllen, Members of Congress, Ambassadors, serving and O’Sullivan, called me at Fort Leavenworth. “What do youformer cabinet officials, and many, many others—including think is needed in Iraq?” she asked. “Everything you cana number of wounded warriors as well. get your hands on,” I said. On reflection, it would have Indeed, I’m particularly pleased to have this opportunity been a bit more impressive for me to say that, based onbecause it gives me a chance to express my respect for AEI, complex analysis, precisely five more brigades were re-an organization whose work I know not just by reputa- quired. It might have made my subsequent Senate confir-tion—but also through first-hand experience. mation hearings a bit easier, too! One recent AEI effort, of course, stands out in particular. Well, I’ve been looking forward to tonight for someIn the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept time—and not just because it means I no longer have toVSOTD.COM
  2. 2. DAVID H. PETRAEUS 315keep tinkering with this speech!   Irving Kristol Award has been presented since his father Indeed, I’ve thought long and hard about what to discuss passed away. And I know that all of us here tonight jointhis evening. I thought, for example, I might provide an up- me in expressing our sympathy to Bea, Irving’s intellectualdate on the Central Command area of responsibility, a region companion and best friend for more than sixty years, andthat clearly encompasses many challenges. But I’ve given the to Bill and his sister Elizabeth.“CENTCOM 101” pitch far too many times in this city, and I But while Irving Kristol may be gone, his influence willthought tonight’s event called for something different. be felt for generations to come. He was, of course, one of So tonight, I’m going to speak about a period in our our Nation’s foremost thinkers on a host of topics, fromArmy’s recent history near and dear to my heart—and to the economics and religion to social welfare and foreign policy.hearts of some in this room as well. This period has not re- He was a man of staggering intellect who possessed a viewceived anywhere near the attention given to that of the surge of human nature and American politics that has, in manyin Iraq. Nonetheless, what we did during this period proved respects, stood the test of time. And, he was a man whocritical to the progress that we ultimately achieved in Iraq. loved his country deeply and who served it admirably—in The period in question—late 2005 through 2006—pre- uniform as a combat infantryman in Europe during Worlddates the surge. Indeed, it was during this period that we War II and, subsequently, as a scholar, editor, founder ofdeveloped the intellectual underpinnings that proved so journals, and perennial contributor to the most importantcritical when additional forces were deployed to Iraq in debates of the day. Again, in all that he did, he was a man2007. Indeed, as I have noted on a number of occasions, who believed deeply in the power of ideas and who con-the most important surge in Iraq was not the surge of forces; tributed enormously to their development.rather, it was the surge of ideas that guided the employment So I am deeply honored to receive an award namedof our forces in Iraq. Without these ideas on the conduct of for Irving Kristol, though I note that I can accept it onlycounterinsurgency operations, we would not have achieved insomuch as I do so on behalf of the more than 210,000the gains that were made during the surge and beyond. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen So tonight, I want to talk about the effort that developed deployed throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibilityand institutionalized those ideas—ideas that ushered in a and the hundreds of thousands of coalition and Iraqi troop-generational transformation that touched all aspects of our ers with whom I was privileged to serve in my nearly fourArmy, from the doctrinal manuals that describe our opera- years in Iraq. These are, after all, the men and women whotional concepts to the education of our leaders, from the have turned big ideas from guys like me into reality on thetraining of our forces and the conduct of actual operations ground, in the air, and at sea. They are the true heroes. Andto the ways we sought to capture and share lessons identi- likely to be serving in their ranks soon is Irving’s grandson,fied in training and on the battlefield. Similar transforma- Joseph M. Kristol, whom I had the privilege of commission-tions, of course, took place during this time in our sister ing a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corpsservices; indeed, much of what the Army did was done at Harvard last spring. Irving had to be very concert with the other services, especially the MarineCorps. And each service has changed significantly in recent Laying the Groundwork for the Engine of Changeyears. However, this evening, I’d like to focus on the trans- Well, let me take you back some four and a half years.formation in our Army, as it has had far-reaching implica- Our effort in Iraq was beginning to struggle. Despite prog-tions for the conduct of our operations in Iraq and, more ress in a number of areas, the insurgency was spreading.recently, in Afghanistan. Levels of violence were escalating. Political progress was at a virtual standstill. And in the wake of the February 2006Tribute to Irving Kristol bombing of the Samarra Mosque, one of the holiest sites in This topic—the ideas that helped transform our Army— Shi’a Islam, sectarian violence, in particular, began to growis one that I think would have appealed to Irving Kristol. He at an alarming rate. A sense of fear and terror grew throughwas, after all, a man who believed deeply in the importance the summer as the violence began to tear apart the veryof ideas and who understood that ideas precede action. fabric of Iraqi society. And while new operations periodi- “The truth is that ideas are all-important,” Irving Kristol cally arrested the downward spiral at various intervals, inobserved over three decades ago. “The massive and seem- their wake the violence grew even more.ingly-solid institutions of any society” he continued, “are In truth, by late 2005, a number of us—including myalways at the mercy of the ideas in the heads of the people Marine counterpart, General Jim Mattis—had felt it waswho populate these institutions.”   important to produce a doctrinal manual on counterinsur- I couldn’t agree more. And that is why I feel particularly gency operations. The developments in 2006 heightenedhonored to receive an award that bears Irving Kristol’s name the imperative to identify what changes might be necessaryand why I welcome the opportunity to talk about ideas be- in Iraq as well. Indeed, as events marched on in 2006, wefore an organization that is devoted to their development. increasingly came to recognize the need for change if the As Bill reminded us earlier, this is the first time the forces in Iraq were to arrest a steadily deteriorating situ- juLY 2010
  3. 3. 316 VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAYation and help the Iraqis knit back together the fabric of worth, he gave me some simple, direct guidance. “Shaketheir society. up the Army, Dave,” he told me. I was delighted to salute Now here I want to emphasize the word “we” in that last and help do just that.sentence. What I’m about to describe was not a task I un- So there we were. The Army had just put an insurgent atdertook alone. Indeed, you don’t change an organization as the controls of its Engine of Change. The Chief of Staff hadlarge as the US Army by yourself. Quite the opposite. I may ordered me to shake things up. And that’s what our teamhave been the front man for a good bit of our work, but set out to do. Irving Kristol would have loved it…this was the effort of a team of teams comprised of peoplewho were passionate about transforming our Army. I just Process of Changehappened to be the coach of some of those teams after I left When I arrived at Fort Leavenworth, I’d been in theIraq in the fall of 2005 following a second tour there and in Army for over three decades. During that time, I’d spentSeptember 2005 became the Commander of the Combined thousands of hours executing change. I’d spent countlessArms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.   hours more thinking about how one should plan for it and The position at Fort Leavenworth brought with it carry it out.considerable influence over the organizations capable of As I saw it then—and as I still see it now—there are fourchanging the Army as an institution. Indeed, the Com- steps to institutional change. First, you have to get the bigbined Arms Center Commander’s responsibilities included ideas right—you have to determine the right overarchingdeveloping the Army’s doctrinal manuals, which are the concepts and intellectual underpinnings. Second, you haverepositories of our big ideas; supervising some 15 schools to communicate the big ideas effectively throughout theand centers across the US that educate all of the Army’s breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have toleaders; disseminating the big ideas and fostering debate oversee implementation of the big ideas—in this case, firstabout them through various additional organizations; over- at our combat training centers and then in actual opera-seeing the scenarios at the combat training centers where tions. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessonsbig ideas are put into practice by units preparing to deploy; from implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refineand, finally, capturing lessons that need to be learned about the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.the application of the big ideas. And that’s why the folks at Now, as anyone who has been involved in transformationLeavenworth have long claimed to have their hands on the knows, change can be hard. It can be challenging. And it cancontrols of the Army’s “Engine of Change.” be frustrating. Inevitably, all institutions resist change to some That notwithstanding, when my assignment to Fort degree—even when all recognize that change is needed.Leavenworth was announced, some suggested I was be- Our effort to change the Army fit all those sent out to pasture. Indeed, as those of you who have But, it was also fun—and even exciting. It was, in essence,visited that historic post know, it is located in the middle a retooling of important aspects of our cherished institu-of America’s heartland on the west bank of the Missouri tion, with the full support and encouragement of ourRiver, that wonderful body of water that farmers describe Chief, General Schoomaker, and my boss at Training andas being too thick to drink and too thin to plow. Some Doctrine Command Headquarters, General Scott Wallace.observers—particularly some in this fair city, which report- Here’s how the process unfolded.edly likes to see itself at the center of every map—felt thatFort Leavenworth was a place where you went to think Step 1: Getting the Big Ideas Rightdeep thoughts and never be seen again. That, obviously, Change starts, again, with getting the big ideas right.was not the case. Developing the proper constructs is essential to having the Now, some additional context. By the time I arrived at right intellectual foundation for all that follows. And doingFort Leavenworth in late 2005, the Chief of Staff of the so typically requires an ability to think creatively and criti-Army, General Pete Schoomaker, had already launched a cally about complex challenges, constantly testing one’s as-number of transformational initiatives. Under his leader- sumptions and often embracing new concepts.ship, the Army had begun migrating from a division-cen- In my experience, big ideas don’t fall out of a tree andtric force configured for fighting one or two major-theater hit you on the head like Newton’s apple. Rather, they startwars to a brigade-centric, modular force more appropriate as seeds of little ideas that take root and grow. The growthfor the operations we were conducting in Afghanistan and takes place primarily in discussion—spirited, freewheel-Iraq. Accompanying this initiative were a number of other ing, challenging discussion of the kind that Irving Kristolsignificant changes in how we equipped, managed, and would have enjoyed.deployed Army forces. So, by the fall of 2005, substantial In early 2006, we set about capturing the big ideas onchange was already underway. counterinsurgency operations. This most famously in- But General Schoomaker wanted even more change, volved drafting the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, butas he, too, was beginning to recognize the urgency of the it also entailed developing the overarching concepts forsituation in Iraq. And so, when he sent me to Fort Leaven- full spectrum operations and for what we call “Pentathlete”VSOTD.COM
  4. 4. DAVID H. PETRAEUS 317leadership, as well as guidelines for human intelligence employed successfully, if unevenly, in Iraq. These ideasoperations and a host of other subjects. But the counter- highlighted, for example, the importance of:insurgency—or COIN—manual was our principal focus, • focusing on security of the population;and working with our Marine partners, we published it in • living among the people to do so;under a year, a timeline unprecedented for the publication • olding and building in areas that have been cleared; hof a major manual—and just in time to inform the surge of • romoting reconciliation—while pursuing the ir- pideas that would guide us in Iraq in 2007. reconcilables relentlessly; Mindful of the invaluable experience I’d had in grad • achieving civil-military unity of effort;school, which provided a truly out-of-my-intellectual-com- • living our values;fort-zone experience, we sought to broaden the usual pool • being first with the truth;of participants involved in drafting a doctrinal manual. In • fostering initiative; andso doing, we engaged not just members of our military and • learning and adapting.partner militaries, but also diplomats, aid workers, repre-sentatives of NGOs and human rights groups, think tank Many of these ideas derived from the critical recognitionmembers, journalists, and, also, of course, those with ex- that, in counterinsurgency operations, the human terrain isperience in Iraq and Afghanistan. These individuals formed the decisive terrain. Even as we were drafting the manual,something of a guiding coalition for the development of the that recognition and the emerging big ideas guided themanual and our overall process of change. Pundits even de- overhaul of all our courses for our Army’s leaders, the train-veloped a phrase for those who contributed to the manual ing of our units, and, ultimately, the employment of ourand embraced its concepts. They called us “COINdinistas.” forces during the surge. The collaboration and discussions spurred by the COIN-dinistas created a good bit of debate—and, periodically, Step 2: Communicating the Big Ideassome healthy discord. For example, one early and promi- Now, while getting the big ideas right is critical, simply de-nent critic of a preliminary draft, Ralph Peters, felt pas- veloping them is not enough. The big ideas must also be com-sionately that it was overly non-kinetic. Conversely, other municated effectively throughout the organization. And this iscommentators, including several of our drafters, felt we the second step in the four-step process I described earlier.were being too kinetic. Similar debates ensued over wheth- Communication should flow in multiple directions to beer to include recommended force densities in the manual, effective.  In the military, it involves communicating down-over the emphasis on various historical cases, and even on ward through leaders and units, upward through the chainwhether money was the best ammunition in the conduct of of command, and outward through coalition partners,counterinsurgency operations—a debate I ended quickly interagency elements, and the press. The most importantby pointing out that, while money can be very valuable, of these directions is downward—communicating the bigwhen you’re actually being shot it, the best ammunition has ideas throughout the breadth and depth of the organiza-a full metal jacket. As each discussion evolved, we sought tion, and then ensuring they’re understood, operational-to create situations in which individuals could thrash out ized, and, ideally, embraced by leaders at all levels.  different views—after which my West Point classmate Dr. To enable rapid dissemination of the emerging big ideasConrad Crane, the lead author, and then I would adjudi- on counterinsurgency in the institutional Army, we pursuedcate by editing the final drafts, in close coordination with a variety of initiatives. Many of them focused on changingmy Marine wingman for this endeavor, General Jim Mattis. the curricula at the various military schools where leadersUltimately, the various debates resulted in a sharper, more learned their trade. To facilitate that, we hosted gatheringsthoughtful product, and they also likely helped with the ul- for the branch school commandants and combat trainingtimate communication and implementation of the concepts center commanders. We visited each of the schools andwhen we completed the project. centers where the Army’s commissioned, warrant, and The resulting Counterinsurgency Manual proved to be very noncommissioned officers were educated. And we used thetimely and important. Following its publication in December Center for Army Leadership, located at Fort Leavenworth,2006, it received such an enthusiastic response—to include to issue instructions on curriculum development.1.5 million downloads in the first month—that it was pub- One of the places where changes were made was the USlished not only in the normal military manner, but also by Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Thethe University of Chicago Press. It even became the first field process there was particularly interesting. While runningmanual to be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. I with several young captains one morning during a visitjust wish we’d been the ones to publish it commercially. there in early 2006, I learned that a fair amount of the ma- The wide dissemination was very helpful, as the COIN terial they were studying in the Captains Career Course wasmanual filled a critical doctrinal gap. It captured those big outdated. This was not entirely surprising, as at that time,ideas that had been used in previous counterinsurgencies the instructors at the school generally had far less timeand were still relevant, many of which had already been deployed than did the captains who were their students. juLY 2010
  5. 5. 318 VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAYWhen I shared my concerns with the Field Artillery School tions—what we were really conveying was a significantCommandant, a sharp Major General, he got it immedi- change in our approach to thinking. In the past we hadately. In fact, he called me a few weeks later to tell me that tended to teach leaders what to think, and we generallyhe’d shut down the course, engaged the captains in an in- gave them a finite number of conventional missions andtensive review of the curriculum, and overhauled the entire enemy approaches on which to focus. Now, we were striv-program. This was the kind of initiative we needed, and I ing to teach them how to think and telling them that theytold our Army Chief about it shortly afterward. “Excellent!” had to be prepared for anything from conventional opera-he responded. “In fact,” he observed, “there are three great tions to stability and support operations, and everything inaspects to the Commandant’s actions. First, he made the between. Above all, we sought to encourage young leaderschanges needed. Second, he didn’t ask permission. And, to think for themselves, to improvise, to exercise initiative,third, he didn’t ask for more people or more money.” and to challenge the conventional wisdom. We also used a number of other means to disseminate A year after I returned to Iraq to command the surge,our big ideas. We funded the creation of virtual communi- after completing a patrol with a company in western Bagh-ties to enable online discussion of branch-specific issues. dad, I noticed a sign that the company commander hadWe established a Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leaven- posted on the wall of his command post. “In the absenceworth. A number of us traveled around the country to dis- of guidance or orders,” the sign said, “figure out what theycuss the big ideas at military bases, think tanks, universi- should have been and execute aggressively.”ties, and even on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (though I realized then that we’d begun to achieve our desiredI left that latter task to COINdinista LTC John Nagl). We effect. And I brought the sign back to the headquarters,worked closely with the Counterinsurgency Academy that shared it with our commanders, and incorporated it intoGeneral Casey had developed in Iraq to help reinforce the my counterinsurgency guidance.big ideas to leaders as they began their deployments. Andmany of us wrote articles for military journals and encour- Step 3: Overseeing Implementation of the Big Ideasaged others to do the same. Well, having gotten the big ideas right and having com- One article that was published in the journal published municated them throughout the organization, the next re-at Leavenworth, Military Review, confirmed for us that sponsibility of leaders in the process of change is to overseethe Army Chief of Staff really did want us to shake up their implementation. This meant spending time with thosethe Army. A month into my tenure at Fort Leavenworth, turning the big ideas into reality on the ground. And, in 2006one of the COINdinistas sent me an article by a British in the United States, it meant, in particular, overhauling theofficer named Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who hap- process of how we prepared our units for deployment.pened to have been my deputy in the so-called “Train and Now, careful oversight should not be taken to implyEquip Mission” Iraq in 2004. His piece was quite critical micromanagement. Indeed, micromanagement is impos-of how US forces had conducted counterinsurgency in sible when one is leading large organizations with manyIraq, arguing that our forces were, and I quote, “weighed subordinate elements, as was the case in which I founddown by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a myself in 2006. Instead, what we sought were leaders at allpredisposition to offensive operations, and a sense of duty levels who understood the big ideas and then exercised thethat required all issues to be confronted head-on.” He also initiative needed to make changes in how their organiza-described our soldiers as “culturally insensitive.” This was, tions helped prepare units getting ready to deploy. And so,in short, an unflattering assessment—and one that I didn’t the only sensible approach was to have a light hand on theagree with in all respects. But it was also an assessment that reins and to encourage everyone involved to get on with itI thought would stimulate discussion among the majors at and do what they thought was necessary given the intentthe Command and General Staff College at Fort Leaven- we’d mapped out.worth, in particular. And so I directed its publication. Our overarching intent was to provide more realistic Little did I know that this essay would receive attention training for the units preparing to deploy, to ensure thatfar beyond the gates of Leavenworth, thanks, in large part, units were schooled on and then able to practice executionto an article Tom Ricks wrote about it in the Washington of the ideas that were being codified in the COIN manualPost. Once again, the Army Chief’s response was hearten- before those units headed to Iraq (or Afghanistan). Ouring: instead of questioning my decision to publish such a overhaul included creation in January 2006 of a week-longcritical essay, he applauded the decision and sent the article counterinsurgency seminar to properly launch units downto all our general officers, noting that it would be a good the road to deployment. We added numerous additionalpiece to discuss with subordinate officers. Needless to say, I leader and staff training opportunities to help units follow-was relieved to learn of his reaction. ing the seminar. And we focused particular efforts on the In truth, when one thinks of the big ideas we were com- capstone pre-deployment exercise, a brigade-size, multi-municating—ideas like securing and serving the people week event at the Army’s combat training centers in theand performing tasks across the full spectrum of opera- Mojave Desert, central Louisiana, and Germany. Essentially,VSOTD.COM
  6. 6. DAVID H. PETRAEUS 319the commanders at those critical training centers trans- processes to capture and share best practices. These initia-formed the so-called “mission rehearsal exercises” from tives had long been hugely important to the long term ef-a series of traditional, offensive and defensive force-on- fectiveness of our organizations. And they were—and con-force engagements to the kind of the continuous, complex tinue to be—especially important in Iraq and Afghanistan.counterinsurgency missions units were going to conduct After all, war requires constant learning and adaptation,downrange. They made these new exercises as realistic as and that is particularly true in the conduct of counterinsur-possible, creating replicas of Iraqi villages; bringing in hun- gency operations. As the COIN Manual observed, the sidedreds of native-speaking Iraqi-Americans to role-play local that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails.nationals; incorporating civilian counterparts; and using So, in 2006 and 2007, we tried to speed our learningsoldiers to replicate IED emplacers, car bombers, host na- process. We deployed additional personnel from our Les-tion forces, and suicide vest attackers. In short, we devel- sons Learned Center at Fort Leavenworth to the combatoped very realistic scenarios in which units could test their training centers and to Iraq and Afghanistan.  We sup-mastery of the counterinsurgency ideas we were develop- ported a new organization, the Asymmetric Warfare Group,ing and communicating. that embedded experienced combat leaders with deployed Of course, after developing and communicating the units. We created web-based virtual communities to linkbig ideas and then changing how we trained on them, our those in combat with those preparing to deploy. We fundedunits in Iraq were faced with an even more daunting task: the network administrators for a virtual band of bloggersexecuting the big ideas during combat operations. That from all our Army’s branches and communities to supporttask began in earnest in early 2007 with the commence- the actual bands of brothers deployed in Iraq. And, afterment of the surge, though, to be sure, some of the ideas we launched the surge, I ensured that each of our com-had been employed previously in Iraq by certain units at manders’ gatherings in Iraq included time for leaders tovarious times. But we needed all our units to employ them. share best practices and lessons of general interest. OverThus, as the first of the surge forces arrived in Baghdad, time, these and other initiatives enabled us to rapidly refinewe focused on securing the population; doing so by living the big ideas, communicate the refinements, and overseewith the people, rather than by commuting to the fight their implementation, first in the States, and then in Iraq.from big bases; fostering reconciliation where possible And, so, there you have it. That’s what we oversaw fromwhile relentlessly pursuing Al Qaeda and the other irrec- the pastures of Kansas in 2006 and how it helped us inoncilables; achieving civil-military unity of effort; and so Iraq in 2007. This was the process that enabled the realon, all enabled, of course, by the additional forces being surge in Iraq, the surge of ideas. Armed with, and traineddeployed as part of the surge. It got harder before it got on, these ideas, leaders and troopers who “got it” abouteasier, as you’ll recall, and we experienced tough fight- counterinsurgency deployed to Iraq and enabled the con-ing and many difficult days. But ultimately, coalition and siderable progress that we have seen there over the pastIraqi forces were able to reduce the level of violence by three years. This was an exciting endeavor and one thatwell over 90% and to achieve a level of security that, while was, needless to say, of enormous importance not just tonot without periodic horrific attacks, allowed the repair of the effort in Iraq but to our efforts in Afghanistan and in ainfrastructure, revival of the economy, investment by inter- host of other difficult missions around the world. It goesnational firms, and the conduct of elections—all of which without saying that Irving Kristol would have enjoyed be-gave rise to new hope in the Land of the Two Rivers. ing a COINdinista. In large part, this hope was created as a result of the Well, my goal tonight was two-fold: first, to explainchanges our Army, together with the other services, made the changes we made in our Army in 2006; and, second,in the United States in 2006 that enabled the subsequent to give a speech that I’d like to think Irving Kristol mightimplementation of our big ideas on counterinsurgency in have enjoyed.Iraq in 2007. As I noted earlier, I accept the Irving Kristol award this evening on behalf of the more than 210,000 troopers de-Step 4: Capturing and Sharing Lessons and Refining the ployed at sea, in the air, and on the ground in the CENT-Big Ideas COM area of operations. As all of you know, these troopers The final step of the change process is to capture and endure long separations from their loved ones; operate inshare lessons and best practices, to use them to refine the cultures vastly different than our own; confront ruthless,big ideas, and to then begin the process all over again.   barbaric enemies; and carry out complex missions under Enabling this in 2006 was the fact that all of us in uni- tough conditions.  And I know that this audience agreesform had worked hard over the years to ensure that our that they—and their families—deserve enormous supportservices were “learning organizations.” For example, we’d and admiration.established lessons learned centers in our organizational I can remember a time when members of our militarystructures, routinely conducted after action reviews in the did not always receive the support they deserved. Twowake of exercises and operations, and developed formal generations ago, we were engaged in war in Southeast Asia. juLY 2010
  7. 7. 320 VITAL SPEECHES OF THE DAYAmerican men and women in uniform fought with skill and their families. And so, tonight, I’d like to close byand valor for the sake of the country they loved and took thanking all of you on behalf of all of us who wear the uni-an oath to defend. Many of them bled, and more than form for that tremendous support.58,000 of them died. With every one of those casualties, It has, needless to say, been the greatest of privileges fora family and a community were heartbroken, mourning a me to have served with our men and women in uniformloss that could never be recovered, whose grief could never for nearly 36 years. Indeed, I can imagine no greater honorfully be assuaged. in life than serving with them in defense of America and But those returning from Vietnam often were not treated our interests around the the heroes they were. Recalling that, those of us in the Our first president once captured very eloquently themilitary today are thankful beyond words that the Ameri- feelings of those who serve our nation: “I was summonedcan people seem to have such high regard and affection for by my country,” he said, “whose voice I can never hear buttheir men and women in uniform. with veneration and love.” Working with those men and women every day, seeing And so it has been my great privilege this evening to ac-them perform missions in the toughest of circumstances cept the Irving Kristol Award on behalf of all those deployedimaginable, I can tell you that the regard and affection ac- in the CENTCOM area of responsibility—individuals whocorded our troopers are fully merited. likewise have been summoned by their country, whose In truth, the members of this audience are foremost voice they can never hear but with veneration and love.among those who recognize and support those in uniform Thank you very much. “We See Your Sense of Duty” “IN THESE QUIET HILLS, YOU’VE COME TOGETHER TO PREAPRE FOR THE MOST DIFFICULT TEST OF OUR TIME” Address by BARACK OBAMA, President, United States of America Delivered as commencement address for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2010I t is wonderful to be back at the United States Military Academy—the oldest continuously occupied militarypost in America—as we commission the newest officers To the United States Corps of Cadets, and most of all, the Class of 2010—it is a singular honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. As your Superintendent indicated,in the United States Army. under our constitutional system my power as President is Thank you, General Hagenbeck, for your introduc- wisely limited. But there are some areas where my powertion, on a day that holds special meaning for you and the is absolute. And so, as your Commander-in-Chief, I herebyDean, General Finnegan. Both of you first came to West absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conductPoint in the Class of 1971 and went on to inspire soldiers offenses. I will leave the definition of “minor” to those whounder your command. You’ve led this Academy to a well- know better.deserved recognition: best college in America. And today, Class of 2010, today is your day—a day to celebrate allyou’re both looking forward to a well-deserved retirement that you’ve achieved, in the finest tradition of the soldier-from the Army. General Hagenbeck and Judy, General scholar, and to look forward to the important service thatFinnegan and Joan, we thank you for 39 years of remark- lies service to the Army and to America. You have pushed yourself through the agony of Beast To the Commandant, General Rapp, the Academy staff Barracks, the weeks of training in rain and mud, and, I’mand faculty, most of whom are veterans, thank you for your told, more inspections and drills than perhaps any class be-service and for inspiring these cadets to become the “lead- fore you. Along the way, I’m sure you faced a few momentsers of character” they are today. Let me also acknowledge when you asked yourself: “What am I doing here?” I havethe presence of General Shinseki, Secretary McHugh, the those moments sometimes.members of Congress who are with us here today, includ- You’ve trained for the complexities of today’s missions,ing two former soldiers this Academy knows well, Senator knowing that success will be measured not merely by per-Jack Reed and Congressman Patrick Murphy. formance on the battlefield, but also by your understand- To all the families here—especially all the moms and ing of the cultures and traditions and languages in thedads—this day is a tribute to you as well. The decision to place where you serve.come to West Point was made by your sons and daughters, You’ve reached out across borders, with more interna-but it was you who instilled in them a spirit of service that tional experience than any class in Academy history. You’vehas led them to this hallowed place in a time of war. So on not only attended foreign academies to forge new friend-behalf of the American people, thank you for your example ships, you’ve welcomed into your ranks cadets from nearlyand thank you for your patriotism. a dozen countries.VSOTD.COM
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