The following is drawn from an email sent by a fellow retired naval officer and noted naval strategist in his own right, Peter Swartz whom I’ve worked closely with for a number of years. Peter, currently an analyst at CNA, was one of the principal authors of what many consider to be the “classic” Maritime Strategy that was published int he 1980′s. His email, re-printed here in full, is done with his permission and the proviso that the views expressed are his alone.
RADM Phil Wisecup just passed me the following passage from Tom Ricks’s best-seller THE GAMBLE: General Davis Patraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006 – 2008 (2009) (which I had not seen before):
“But Fallon prided himself on being a strategic thinker, a sense he may have developed because there was little competition in that arena in the Navy, which in recent years has tended to be weak, intellectually, aside from its elite counter-terror force in Special Operations, which is practically a separate service. It is difficult, for example, to think of a senior Navy officer who has played a prominent role in shaping American strategy since 9/11, or of an active-duty Navy officer who has written a book or essay as influential as those produced by the Army’s Col. H.R. McMaster, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, and Lt. Col. John Nagl.”
My view: Ricks is flat wrong. Not to take anything away from ADM Fallon, and whatever one may think of the merits of the particular positions they took, Admirals Clark (CSGs, ESGs, FRP), Cebrowski, Stavridis, Mullen, Morgan, Martoglio, CAPT Wayne Porter, & recent Navy retirees CAPTs Bill Luti, Ryan Henry, Jim Kelly, and Joe Benkert all played prominent roles in shaping American strategy & policy after 9/11. A succession of Navy officers, including Kurt Tidd, drafted key national security documents while seconded to the NSC staff. It was a Navy officer — Mike Mullen — whom a President and SECDEF chose to be CJCS, based in part on their view of his strategic acumen, by all accounts. And two Navy officers — Mike McConnell and Denny Blair — were chosen by successive presidents to be their DNIs, also — by all accounts — in part due to their track records in thinking about and developing strategy. Navy officers and enlisted at sea imaginatively sought ways to implement new national strategies in unforeseen operational ways (e.g,.: Doug Crowder responding to the Tsunami, and Phil Cullom taking GW etc. around South America, and the Sailors who set up the first partnership stations, hospital ship cruises & NECC commands). (I’ve no doubt forgotten somebody; this e-mail isn’t based on exhaustive research, and the number of Navy thinkers and implementers since 9/11 has been large).
Retiree CAPT/Dr. Bud Cole’s GREAT WALL AT SEA came out in 2001, Active Duty CAPT/Dr. Sam Tangredi’s edited GLOBALIZATION AND MARITIME POWER came out in 2002; Active Duty CAPT/Dr. Terry Pierce’s WARFIGHTING AND DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES came out in 2004; CAPT USNR Dave Rosenberg & LCDR USNR Chris Ford’s ADMIRALS’ ADVANTAGE came out in 2005, and Retired ADM Holloway’s AIRCRAFT CARRIERS AT WAR came out in 2007. All related significantly to past, present and future American strategy.
There probably is no good analogy in any other service to what the 2 Army & 1 ex-Army authors Ricks cites wrote — interestingly, including the USMC. There are numerous USAF articles trying to counter/ supplement the Army COIN literature, though. One could argue that the Army was screwing up the lead it had been given in the big war of the day, and needed the 3 books/articles in question. The Navy has been performing its various supporting roles well in the 2000s — even enthusiastically — having overcome its own big strategy-implementation issues during the 1990s (when there was an even more significant Navy literature: Bill Owens’s 2 books, PD Miller’s 3 monographs, etc.).
To not even mention the enormous outpouring of naval strategic and operational thinking triggered by John Morgan in 2004-8, fostered by ADM Mullen, aided and abetted by Jake Shuford and recent retiree Barney Rubel, and crafted into prose by then-CDR Bryan McGrath and his team over the past several years is just plain disingenuous. The pages of Proceedings and Naval War College Review, especially the latter, have brimmed with debate by CAPT (Ret) Wayne Hughes and others on national and naval strategy and policy (probably leaving their readership a bit exhausted from it all, and wondering why those same pages haven’t brimmed with more articles about resources, procurement, budgets, overruns, acquisition, and the naval industrial base — where we’ve got real difficulties) (although RADMs Stark and Houley and CDR Jerry Hendrix and others are changing that). And, of course, the Navy and its sister maritime services published” A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” a year and a half ago — probably before Rick’s book went to press.
A service that has ADMs Walsh and Stavridis — 2 Fletcher Ph.Ds – in its 4-star ranks is hardly “weak intellectually,” whatever its other problems.
Ricks just hadn’t been paying attention.
I will no doubt be accused again of being “too defensive” in my reaction to Ricks’s ignorant blast (as Chris Cavas did a few months ago during a Strategy Discussion Group mtg). But defending against silly accusations from people who should know better seems more appropriate than just letting them pass.
Follow on issue: Ricks is pretty well plugged in. How come he doesn’t know this stuff? Who’s to blame? Him? Us? “Them?” Other?
And Ricks may be right in one small but significant item: Serving mid-grade & senior mainstream URL officers have not gone public in a series of public “we gotta change the Navy and the Nation” books and articles and studies. Retirees like Jan van Tol, Bob Work (a Marine) and Wayne Hughes have, but there haven’t been many (any? except Jim Stav) active Navy front-runner pointy-end platform counterparts to McMaster, Yingling and Nagl in the open literature. Is that a big deal? Does it matter? Does writing an influential article trump, say, Wayne Porter staff work on Global Fleet Stations or Doug Crowder staff work on the FRP or a CNO decision to stand up an NECC and revive riverine warfare, in the world of naval policy and strategy?
- Midrats this Sunday, May 17 2013 – Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC
- Remembering our Fallen Coast Guard Shipmates and their Families
- On Midrats 10 Mar 13, Episode 166: “Expeditionary Fleet Balance”
- Guest Post by LTJG Matthew Hipple: From Epipolae to Cyber War
- For Strength and Courage: Neptunus Lex