Monday, January 10, 2011

James A. Russell's "Innovation, Transformation and War"

James A. Russell is an Associate Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey. He previously spent 13 years in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, working on Persian Gulf-related strategy and security policy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Innovation, Transformation, and War: Counterinsurgency Operations in Anbar and Ninewa Provinces, Iraq, 2005-2007, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Innovation, Transformation and War dramatically illustrates a central feature of my book: it chronicles the struggles of military commanders to respond to an incredibly complex environment with organizations wholly unsuited to the task. In this particular case, the 2nd Brigade, 28th Infantry Division – a unit composed mostly of national guard units – found itself in Ramadi in the fall of 2005. This was one of the most violent places in the world at the time. This unit had not received adequate training for the environment; it did not have enough men; and it faced myriad other challenges in overcoming its own limitations on the battlefield.

The story that emerges from this unit is one that was repeated elsewhere on the battlefields of Iraq during this period of the war in which brigade, battalion, and company commanders tore up their existing manuals and designed new organizations on the fly to better deal with the insurgency. The 2/28, like other units in this book, built new organizational capacities because they had to in order to survive. In this war, at least, the rigid hierarchy of military units became much more flexible as authority got driven down the chain of command to the executing elements. These elements took the authority and built new capacities, organically – as it were – from the ground up.

This book does not argue that this process delivered victory or strategic success – claims that have received unfortunate endorsement in the public sound-byte delivered parlance on this issue. But it is clear that these brigade and battalion commanders did help the country avert complete strategic disaster and did so mostly on their own in spite of and not because of the dysfunctional and feckless political and military leadership at the top of the national command authority. This book is a tribute to those leaders placed in an untenable position and chronicles their struggle to overcome the ill-defined strategic environment into which their political and military leaders had placed them.
Read an excerpt from Innovation, Transformation and War, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue