By Thomas E. Ricks Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, February 5, 2007

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals….in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war….But there is widespread skepticism that even this unusual group, with its specialized knowledge of counterinsurgency methods, will be able to win the battle of Baghdad.

…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.

….his chief adviser on counterinsurgency operations an outspoken officer in the Australian Army. Lt. Col. David Kilcullen holds a PhD in anthropology, for which he studied Islamic extremism in Indonesia. ….Among Kilcullen’s dictums: “Rank is nothing: talent is everything” — a subversive thought in an organization as hierarchical as the U.S. military….Beyond…. senior officers is a larger ring of advisers whose views already are shaping planning for the coming operation in Baghdad.

A Different Arena

Many military insiders are skeptical that the extra brainpower ultimately will make much difference, or that lessons learned by McMaster in Tall Afar or Petraeus in Mosul will be easily applied in the far larger arena of Baghdad.

…, experts agree that the basic problem in Iraq is political, not military, and that although a military campaign can create a breathing space for politicians, it cannot by itself reverse the dynamic driving Iraqis to fight a civil war.


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