An Orthodox Officer
Ricardo Sanchez grew up in the Army when it was a Cold War force oriented against a massive Soviet armored force with the capability to roll over NATO forces and take Paris within days. His formative experiences as a lieutenant, captain and major occurred in this context, with the result that Sanchez developed an impressive but extremely conventional view of warfare and the Army's role in it. This worldview hardened during Sanchez's assignment to the Armor School at Fort Knox, Ky., where he played a role in developing requirements for future combat vehicle systems.
But, of course, the 1980s were filled with more than just the Soviet-American military competition of the Cold War.
International terrorism dominated the headlines during this decade with attacks like the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1986 seizure of TWA Flight 847. Sanchez lists these events of these on pp. 51-53 of his book, telling us that they formed the backdrop for his career as an Army captain and major.
But he offers no thoughts on these events; no reflection on how they reflected a changing world; no ruminations on how warfare might be changing as non-state terrorist actors emerged as players on the world stage. Nothing. Sanchez just doesn't go there.
He just lists the events, and then moves on to tell us about his matriculation at the Army's Command and General Staff College, and his subsequent assignment to an armored cavalry unit in Germany. You can sense Sanchez's enthusiasm and nostalgia for this kind of Army activity: "REFORGER [was] one of the most massive and inspiring training exercises I had ever participated in. We literally had battalions, divisions and corps -- with thousands and thousands of men and equipment -- maneuvering all across the European countryside." Unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency are the furthest things from his mind.
Why so little introspection? To be fair, few officers looked at these events and accurately predicted the future. And it's not like the CIA told us a lot about the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Soviet Union. Studying terrorism and insurgencies was not a rung on the ladder to general officer rank. The Army embraced an overwhelming conventional orthodoxy during this time. Sanchez went along with that. But does this portend how Sanchez will view the insurgency 20 years later as a commanding general in Iraq?
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