Small Wars Journal


Can the United States Build a Foreign Army?

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 7:54pm

Excerpts from Owen West's book "The Snake Eaters" are published at Slate.


By the fall of 2005, reservists like Mark Huss had become, haphazardly, the main effort in America’s exit from Iraq. Unable to identify insurgents posing as civilians in the complicit population, the befuddled Pentagon recruited indigenous troops, embedding small teams of U.S. advisers as coaches. With the right support, local soldiers can far better expose the insurgents among them. President George W. Bush explained the strategy in an address to the nation, saying, “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

It was a decision that would be repeated by President Obama in Afghanistan five years later. No matter how America entered its 21st-century wars among the people, all roads out led through advisers and their foreign protégés.

These orders had precedent. Throughout the 20th century—from the Banana Wars, when small bands of Marines helped indigenous troops put down Central American insurrections, to World War II, Korea, and Panama—the U.S. military successfully employed similar adviser models.