H.R. McMaster et al: Petraeus selects team of warrior-intellectuals





Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including a quirky Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist who is the son of a former U.S. attorney general and a military expert on the Vietnam War sharply critical of its top commanders -- in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war.

Army officers tend to refer to the group as "Petraeus guys." They are smart colonels who have been noticed by Petraeus, and who make up one of the most selective clubs in the world: military officers with doctorates from top-flight universities and combat experience in Iraq.

Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way....

The group's members are very much in the high-energy mold of Petraeus, whose 2003-04 tour commanding the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, the biggest city in northern Iraq, gave the U.S. military one of its few notable success stories of the war. He also holds a PhD in international affairs from Princeton University.

"I cannot think of another case of so many highly educated officers advising a general," said Carter Malkasian, who has advised Marine Corps commanders in Iraq on counterinsurgency and himself holds an Oxford doctorate in the history of war.

As the U.S.-designed campaign to bring security to Baghdad unfolds, Petraeus's chief economic adviser, Col. Michael J. Meese, will coordinate security and reconstruction efforts, trying to ensure that "build" follows the "clear" and "hold" phases of action. Meese also holds a PhD from Princeton, where he studied how the Army historically handled budget cuts. He is the son of former attorney general Edwin Meese III, who was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, whose December critique helped push the Bush administration to shift its approach in Baghdad....

The two most influential members of the brain trust are likely to be Col. Peter R. Mansoor and Col. H.R. McMaster, whose influence already outstrips their rank. Both men served on a secret panel convened last fall by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review Iraq strategy. The panel's core conclusion, never released to the public but briefed to President Bush on Dec. 13, according to an officer on the Joint Staff, was that the U.S. government should "go long" in Iraq by shifting from a combat stance to a long-term training-and-advisory effort....

McMaster's command of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in northwestern Iraq in 2005-06 provided one of the few bright spots for the U.S. military in Iraq over that year. In a patiently executed campaign, he took back the city of Tall Afar from a terrorist group, and he was so successful that Bush dedicated much of a speech to the operation. McMaster, author of the well-received book "Dereliction of Duty," about the failures of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War, is expected to operate for Petraeus as a long-distance adviser on strategy. He is based this year at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, but is likely to visit Iraq every month or two, according to a top U.S. military officer....



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