Lieutenant General Caslen is currently serving as the Commander of the Combined Arms Center and the Commandant of the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. General Caslen is very successfully filling the big boots of General Petraeus and General Caldwell who served as the Commander before him.
Many people worldwide assume that soldiers in the military are solely focused on guns and war (I assumed that myself) but much of the military strategy in this post Afghanistan and Iraq war era, is focused on ways to achieve peace through military non-violence. One of my favorite quotes from General Caslen is "the best units were the units that didn't have to fire a shot." He is a great advocate of local cultural awareness and language development to help local communities establish self-efficiency and peace.
I have been sponsoring (through Greater Kansas City People to People) International Military Officers from around the world who train at the CGSC for a year or two. After having been involved with the CGSC for a decade now, I want to share some insight into this new era of the United States Army.
It is my honor to welcome Lieutenant General Caslen to The Global Townhall.
Gabrielle Reilly: I've been having discussions with my friend, Emmy Award winning journalist and former war correspondent, NJ Burkett from NY and Parag Khanna author of a bestselling book "How to Run The World," about the Egyptian Army. After visiting Egypt and sponsoring an Egyptian International Military Officer and his family for a year, I found a sophisticated, compassionate, tolerant culture within the Army (which shouldn't be confused with the police force or other organizations.) I made an unusually bold prediction early in the protests that once the Egyptian Army engaged they would pull Egypt from chaos. They didn't disappoint on that front. So please give us your professional view of the Egyptian Army and it how performed during the crisis?
General Caslen: Currently there are approximately 58 Egyptian graduates from the Command and General Staff College. We stay in touch with many of them, and during the crisis last month, we contacted a few. Their military has been very professional throughout this very sensitive situation. As the citizens of Egypt materialize their political views into political representative parties, and as they work to develop an economy that provides the employment and hope for a future for every Egyptian, the Egyptian army will play a critical role in their peaceful transition to democracy. I agree with you, and I think all of Egypt can be proud of the role their Army has played thus far, as well as all other democratic Armies of the world.
Gabrielle Reilly: This is what excites me the most about the CGSC. There is story after story in the support of peace and stability, developed through the Command and General Staff College. The training and lasting relationships developed between the military leaders from around the world (who sometime even go on to be Presidents of their own country like the current Indonesian President for example) is critical for global stability. Vice Chief of Staff General Chiarelli is one of many Generals who talk of the conflicts that have been averted behind the scenes through the relationships established at the CGSC.
I hope all the international military officers start their year off at the CGSC, with not only the training in mind, but in also having relationship building at the forefront of their agenda. I recommend to the Officers that I sponsor, that as a family unit, they extend out of their comfort zone and socialize with the other Officer's families at the CGSC who are from different cultures. These friendships, besides being enjoyable, may be very important one day. This will also assist them with language skills, cultural understanding and their career.
Gabrielle Reilly: The world is changing rapidly; we should not blindly rely on old "truths" as a foundation for our decision making without re-examining the very premise. So after hearing that the Muslim Brotherhood had changed throughout the last decade, I'm re-examining my premise. When I watched this Frontline segment on them http://video.pbs.org/video/1811886089 it left me wondering, have they really changed, or have they just become more sophisticated with public relations and marketing? What are your thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood?
General Caslen: More importantly than where the Muslim Brotherhood has been historically is the opportunity they now have to be a legitimate, legal part of the governing process in the new Egypt. Every Egyptian now has an opportunity to participate in the political process. I am optimistic for Egypt's future because if we have observed anything in this revolution, it is a grass roots desire to shed totalitarian rule, to seek opportunity, and to ensure all Egyptians are represented politically. So as these groups begin to organize themselves politically, I personally believe that another totalitarian regime just won't be tolerated. All Egyptians want to have a voice and be heard. As they demonstrated, I don't believe they will tolerate anything different.
Gabrielle Reilly: It has shocked many people that the book "Three Cups of Tea," by Greg Mortenson was on the recommended military reading list and that Mr. Mortenson consulted with the Army to offer advice on Afghanistan. General Maxwell Taylor once said "the goats of my acquaintance who have leapfrogged their classmates are men who continue their intellectual growth after graduation." What is the Army culture on continued reading, and on reading books that present different points of view?
General Caslen: The Army has developed an Army Learning Concept which is designed to drive the Army to think about how this new generation learns and what the Army needs to do to engage them at their point of need. What we do know, is that they do not warm up to learning from an instructor on a platform briefing a bunch of slides. They learn in small groups, led by a facilitator, with peer to peer discussions and reflections, and with technology that facilitates learning through simulations, gaming and applications. The instruction is designed for student needs, and is designed for lifelong learning. So we are modifying our instruction and training with these principles in mind.
Gabrielle Reilly: A speaker made an interesting point today at a luncheon I attended recently... that the US Army plays far more of a diplomatic role internationally than the State Department does. That the Generals have met far more times with President Karzai than the State Department has. What is your opinion on this? What training do Army Officers go through to engage in diplomacy and the culture on all levels from local to government officials? How important is this in their job description?
General Caslen: I'm not sure I would agree with the basic premise of the beginning of your question -- the U.S. military and the State Department each fulfill specific roles in U.S. government communication, working together to complement each other's efforts. Specifically to the Army, though, back in 1999, a successful Army commander was one who could integrate lethal combat power at a decisive point on the battlefield. However, what we found out in the last 10 years of combat is that much of that, although important, did not matter in the stability operations battlefield.
What commanders found themselves doing, was trying to understand an incredibly complex operating environment, building teams among Army, Joint, Indigenous, and Inter-Agency partners, and work to inform friendly while influencing adversary audiences. The solutions to today's Iraq and Afghanistan problems are non-lethal; they require the whole of government to participate collectively in developing and implementing a solution. That's why our government must develop the doctrine, organizations, training, material, leader development, and personnel structure for all government departments to work together at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Our Army's leader development strategies must take this into account. Not only to be effective in their dealings with political leaders, but also to operate effectively as a member of an interagency government team. We have learned a lot through the experiences of the last 10 years, and we are also translating those experiences into doctrine and training programs for leaders of all ranks and cohorts.
Gabrielle Reilly: I'm so impressed with the International Military Officer (IMO) I am sponsoring from The Netherlands, LTC Jan Willem Maas (who is now Chief of Staff of the IMO's and in SAMS,) I asked him if he would like to ask you a question.
LTC Jan Willem Maas: International Politics and Strategic Studies Professor Colin Gray from the University of Reading in the UK, prepared a discussion paper for the Conference on the "Changing Nature of Warfare," in support of the "Global Trends 2020" for the U.S. National Intelligence Council. His paper "How has war changed since the end of the Cold War?" states four necessary caveats to answer the question. One of the caveats is that trend spotting and analysis is not a very helpful guide to the future. The strategic future is driven by the consequences of the trends we see. Trends which interact and can trigger nonlinear developments.
Who could have predicted that we would be engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq before 9/11? Who could have predicted that the regime in Egypt would be overthrown by its own population? How will this caveat impact the planning of military operations and even more important, how could consideration of this caveat, impact the education and training of our current and future military leaders?
General Caslen: As Secretary Gates said in his West Point speech a couple weeks ago, the one thing the Army is consistent with its planning, is that we get it wrong every time. Not only do we get it wrong in planning, but we get it wrong in readiness. Task Force Smith in Korea is a great example. So what we need to do is to build units with adaptability; which means they have the capacity to handle a number of contingencies across the spectrum of conflict. Further, our education and leader development must also build both adaptability and agility in our leaders. And from a training perspective, we must train across a wide array of enemy capacities in order to develop the skill sets necessary to fight and win across the entire spectrum of conflict.
Gabrielle Reilly: The first time I met your wife, I had to blink back the tears. She told me about a conversation that you and your son, who is serving in Iraq, were having about an on-the-ground situation he was in... and your family decided that is not the conversation to have in front of his worried, but proud, Mom. What are your thoughts and feelings on your son serving in Iraq?
General Caslen: Having a son in the Army is both rewarding and nerve racking. We could not be more proud that he has elected to serve his country, and is among the ½ of 1% of this generation that has answered the call of duty to stand in the gap between the evil that is out there and our Nation's values and way of life. Yet every day both his mother and I are on our knees keeping him in prayer. The incident you mention in your question was an interesting evening. He just got back from a patrol where he was hit by an IED, followed by a direct fire engagement. Thanks to modern technology, no sooner after he got back to the FOB, he sent me an email and then we were skyping back and forth about the enemy engagement. Well that's something you really don't want mom to be a part of and when we finally did tell her, it took a couple days for her to get over it. My son is back home now, but when he flew back, his mother was there to meet him, and she wouldn't let go of his neck for quite a while, as you could imagine.
Gabrielle Reilly: Thank you so much for the interview General Caslen; it is a great honor to get to know you and your family. The United States Army is that much more effective with you in a commanding role and Kansas is certainly privileged to have you interacting so well with our community.