The President’s Jesuits

There are two views of counterinsurgency that emerged from the Vietnam War, one represented by Jim Webb, the second represented by Bing West. Both Marine Officers were educated by Jesuits, took pride in their Irish-fighting tradition, had sons who served in Iraq, had their writings included on the Commandant’s Reading List, and rose to prominent policy making positions during the Iraq War. But, the two Marines had contrary views of counterinsurgency which was driven by their own Vietnam experience. Webb, who commanded Rifle Company Delta 1/5 in the An Hoa Basin in Northern I Corp in 1968-69 thought that a Marine Rifle Squad with two Vietnamese Squads in a Combined Action Platoon would have been run over by a North Vietnamese Main Force Unit in his Area of Operations. As a journalist for the PBS News Hour, Webb covered the Beirut Marines, one of whom advised him, “Sir, never get involved in a five sided war.” In late 2002, Webb argued against the invasion of Iraq because the invading Americans would quickly become targets for an Islamic insurgency, and by 2006, Webb had switched political parties to run for Senate on his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

West, who joined a squad from Charlie Company, 1/7 in a village further to the South of the DMZ and earlier in the war than Webb, emerged from Vietnam as a strong proponent of counterinsurgency in the model of the Combined Action Platoon (CAP), which consisted of a Marine Rifle Squad and two South Vietnamese Squads. As a journalist in Iraq, West covered but also influenced a resurgence of counterinsurgency doctrine in 2005-2007, when he published The Strongest Tribe, his book focusing on the Anbar Awakening. The CAP model had worked for Small Wars veterans like LtGen Victor Krulak, Sr., who fought in the Small Wars between World War I and World War II, and who rose to be the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, where he tried to convince the President to use the Small Wars Manual and the CAP model in Vietnam, to no avail. [Reference: Sheehan, Bright Shining Lie; Krulak, First to Fight] Bing West was the living, intellectual/doctrinal heir, to Brute Krulak, who had probably lost a 4th Star to his conviction that the Small Wars/ CAP Model should be used in Vietnam. In the end, Westmoreland fought an attrition war under Secretary of Defense McNamara. The Village recorded by Bing West was only a small experiment that was never widely adopted in Vietnam. In Iraq, the Small Wars/ CAP model would become the Petraeus/ Mattis doctrine behind the successful surge.

The Marines who invaded Iraq in 2003 in would become the President’s Jesuits — armed missionaries who left the large Forward Operating Bases of late 2003 to spread out among the population in Joint Security Stations which were very similar in composition to the Combined Action Platoon (CAP) portrayed in Bing West’s The Village. By the end of 2007, West’s positive view of counterinsurgency had prevailed over Webb’s more skeptical view.

A decade later, what is the lasting value of this successful transition from high intensity maneuver warfare to COIN? From a doctrinal viewpoint, the best answer may be that the Marines who became expert in COIN are expert at combined arms — using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon. The Small Wars Veterans of Nicaragua, Haiti and Dominican Republic became the colonels of World War II, who used Close Air Support as the distinctive edge for Marines in the Pacific Island Hopping Campaigns. Similarly, now that the post-9/11 Islamic Small Wars have wound down to Counter Terrorism or Advisory missions, possible global conflicts against some combination of Slavic Orthodox (Russian) and Sinic (Chinese) civilization are the most dangerous threat. From a spiritual perspective, the best answer may be in the missionary’s principle of service to a something bigger than one’s own narrow self interest. From an American/ Western civilization that encourages the individual to be as selfish as possible, the Marines who sacrificed their lives in Iraq gave to the greater good of their civilization. The Iraq Marines who continue to serve will find their most likely opponents along the routes that the first Jesuits followed — through the Suez, across the Indian Ocean to the South of Hormuz, and to the Straits of Malacca, where Western Civilization will compete with Slavic-Orthodox, Sinic, and Islamic civilization for the key strategic chokepoints which control the Global Reserve Currency [Reference: Kaplan, Monsoon; Eichengreen, Exorbitant Privilege]

About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.

About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.