General McMaster Meets with Students and IPJ

Monday, February 1, 2010

Brigadier General H.R. McMaster met with the masters students in the Peace and Justice Studies program during his visit to USD as the keynote speaker in the 13th Annual James Bond Stockdale Leadership and Ethics Symposium.

McMaster spoke with the Peace and Justice Studies students, IPJ staff and School of Peace Studies faculty in a small, private lunch to address issues pertaining to the military’s role in conflict and post-conflict situations. In particular, McMaster addressed the missteps in the military’s role in the war in Afghanistan and offered suggestions for improvements as the military continues its efforts in that region.

Historically, McMaster stated, the U.S. military tends to make two errors in its wartime strategy. First, the military often uses a linear approach to conflict and expects progress to be continuous. However, as is evidenced in Afghanistan, progress is not always linear and therefore the military needs to learn to be flexible. Second, he stated that the military tends to underestimate the enemy and what their strategy is. What he referred to as the American military’s “narcissistic view” allowed our foes in Afghanistan to regroup and regain power.

In an effort to better understand and serve local populations in Afghanistan, McMaster underscored the importance of soldiers learning about a culture before they arrive in a foreign country and said that the military is actively working to provide soldiers with this type of education. Additionally, he agreed that training local Afghan security forces is the ultimate strategy in providing security in Afghanistan.

The general stated that he thought President Obama had done an outstanding job by inviting input from a wide variety of sources regarding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan before committing to do so.

When asked about Obama’s 18-month timeline, McMaster said that a gradual reduction of forces may be possible in 18 months, but that realistically it will require a ten-year effort to rebuild the civilian sector. He predicted that Afghanistan will require a large international presence for a long time to come.

McMaster currently serves as the director of Concept Development and Learning at the Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command in Fort Monroe, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His 1998 book Dereliction of Duty harshly criticizes high-ranking officers of the Vietnam War, charging they inadequately challenged Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson's military strategy.

For more on General McMaster’s visit to USD, go to Inside USD.

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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