So What Now?
In 2008, Andrew Bacevich wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, that “Iraq represents a harbinger of things to come.” It is sad to find that he was right.
The Petraeus doctrine, much like the man himself, is a thing of smoke and mirrors —a parlor trick that dazzles but has little substance. The doctrines were replaced when not convenient, and the only lesson that was ever put into use was the concept of “cash for cooperation,” which Petraeus reinforced when he pushed Congress to arm Syrian rebels against the Assad regime.
COIN widened the gap between the troops on the ground and the policymakers. Ideas became the primary machines in this new warfare, and money replaced the hearts and minds. Nation-building will never work when the heavy lifters don’t believe in the end state, but that is the result of war by proxy.
The security forces set up by Petraeus in 2004 fled before the ISIS onslaught, leaving money, weapons, and material behind. In Libya, guns and money provided by the United States were used in the Benghazi attack, and in Syria our arms, training, and money fuel a never-ending cycle of violence.
In retrospect, the only doctrine that Petraeus really follows is selling himself to the media. His ability to influence military conditions by using his press relations set a dangerous precedent amongst the fellow officers. Some would say that his actions in Iraq weakened the chain of command, and provided a fragmented narrative of omissions and distorted interpretations that have been accepted as fact. FM 3-24 has become the antidote that contained the disease, and it has infected our country’s foreign policy. The current administration, loath to actually finish a war that has been going on since 2001, seems to be content with letting the violence in Syria and Iraq spread to the United States and Europe.
Most likely there will be no answers coming from Petraeus’ testimony before congress. ISIS and other radical jihadists will continue planning and conducting attacks, and any response we have will be another attempt to put lipstick on the pig. Maybe in another ten years, someone will be able to answer the question posed so long ago.
“How does this end?”
Joshua Hood is a combat veteran and former member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He is also the author of “Clear by Fire,” a military adventure novel published by Simon and Schuster and available on Amazon.com.