Next Generation Generals

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the impact that the Iraq war is having on the next generation of leadership in the U. S. military.

The annual spring list of Army colonels promoted to brigadier generals will be shortly released. Already, rumors suggest that this year, unlike in the recent past, a number of maverick officers who have distinguished themselves fighting — and usually defeating — insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq will be chosen.

These “maverick” officers have been the key to success in Iraq, although no one could have predicted it at the outset of hostilities.

The terrorist bands that sprung up during the occupation were at first dealt with through conventional tactics and weapons. Only as American and Iraqi losses mounted did a few gifted officers begin to work with the Iraqis, learn the elements of successful counterinsurgency doctrine and slowly win back the hearts and minds of the civilian population.

However, Hanson sees an historical precedent for this changing of the guard among the military’s leaders.

Most wars are rarely fought as they were planned. During the fighting, those who adjust most quickly to the unexpected tend to be successful. And in almost all of America’s past conflicts, our top commanders on the eve of war were not those who finished it.


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