U.S. General David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including an Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist and a military expert on the Vietnam War -- in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
These people are smart colonels who have been noticed by Petraeus, and make up one of the most selective clubs in the world: military officers with doctorates from top-flight universities and combat experience in Iraq, the report said.
Having academic specialists advise top commanders is not new, but the team being assembled by Petraeus promises to be both larger and more influential than anything seen in the U.S. war effort so far, both making plans and helping to implement them.
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, like Petraeus, also holds a PhD from Princeton, where he studied how the Army historically handled budget cuts.
Petraeus has chosen as 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.
The two most influential members of the group 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, according to the report.
"Petraeus's 'brain trust' is an impressive bunch, but I think it's too late to salvage success in Iraq," a professor at a military war college was quoted as saying.