Great commanders often come in pairs: Eisenhower and Patton, Grant and Sherman, Napoleon and Davout, Marlborough and Eugene, Caesar and Labienus. Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno can now be added to the list.
It's natural to assume that successful pairs of commanders complement each other's personalities (the diplomatic Eisenhower and the hard-charging Patton, for example) or that the junior partner is merely executing the vision of the other (Sherman seen as acting on Grant's orders). In reality, the task of planning and conducting large-scale military operations is too great for any single commander, no matter how talented his staff. The subordinate in every successful command pair has played a key role in designing and implementing the campaign plan.
History does not always justly appreciate such contributions. The role that Davout played in shaping operational plans for Napoleon is a matter for specialists. General Odierno deserves better. He played an absolutely essential role in designing and executing the successful counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. His contributions to securing Iraq offer many important lessons for fighting the larger war on terror. As he and his team return to Fort Hood, Texas, it is important not only to commemorate their achievement, but also to understand it.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
General Raymond Odierno
Hat tip to The Victory Caucus for the pointer to a great article by Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan over at The Weekly Standard called The Patton of Counterinsurgency