Peter Mansoor

January 3, 2014

I am Colonel (Retired) Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq and now a professor of military history at the Ohio State University. AMA.

Happy New Year! I am Colonel (Retired) Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq and now a professor of military history at the Ohio State University. I arrived at Ohio State in 2008 after a 26 year career in the U.S. Army, which included two tours of duty in the Iraq War. I was graduated from West Point in 1982 and served in a variety of command and staff positions in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East during my career. I was fortunate to be a witness to history when the Iron Curtain came down in 1989 during my tour of duty in Bad Hersfeld, Germany. I also was the founding director of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center and helped to edit Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, which was used to reshape U.S. operations in Iraq during the surge of 2007-2008.

I am the author of three books:

The GI Offensive in Europe: The Triumph of American Infantry Divisions, 1941-1945 (University Press of Kansas, 1999)

A memoir of my tour as a brigade commander in Baghdad in 2003-2004, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq (Yale University Press, 2008) -

And my most recent work, Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War (Yale University Press, 2013) -

This is my first experience with the Reddit community. I’m looking forward to your questions – ask me anything!

Thanks for a great interchange of ideas today - sorry I wasn't able to answer all the questions! Time to go watch the Orange Bowl now. Go Buckeyes!

I understand that this might be a sensitive topic among the military community, but what is your opinion on the treatment of veterans with PTSD? Do you think that enough is being done?

Great question. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put a great deal of stress on our volunteer soldiers, who often serve multiple tours in combat zones (I know – I served 28 months in Iraq during two separate tours). Fortunately, DOD has finally realized the scope of the PTSD problem and has committed resources to deal with it. Perhaps the greatest need is to provide a way to help military personnel make sense of what they have gone through and put their experiences into some sort of context that helps them sort out their memories and emotions.

I’m really excited that the Ohio State University offers one such program for veterans, called the Veterans Learning Community. The purpose of this program is to help students connect their experiences in the field with academic approaches to learning and provide them with a platform to communicate their experience and research. Central to this program is a comparative studies course entitled “Experiences of War.” In this course, students are exposed to representations of the experience of war in art, literature, and film from diverse cultures and time periods. The course has been a huge hit, and it has enabled combat veterans to filter their experiences through the lens of others throughout history who have also gone to war and experienced danger at the sharp end of combat. It would be nice if other universities followed suit.

How do you think the rise of campaigns against non-state actors and the emergence of "4th gen warfare" will effect the manner in which future nation on nation military conflicts are waged?

There are several ongoing trends that will impact warfare in this century, among them increased urbanization, the "democratization" of media and information, and the rise of non-state actors who have been empowered by the first two trends. State-on-state warfare will not disappear, but wars in the future will increasingly include a variety of combatants who do not wear the uniform of a nation state. This certainty will require conventional military forces to be more flexible, versatile, and trained in such tasks as information and stability operations.

The U.S. military might wish to refight the Normandy invasion and the drive across France and Germany in 1944 and 1945, but this kind of war is unlikely in the foreseeable future. As much as Americans might not like the type of wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11, they are closer to the future of war than World War II.

Disclosure: have not read your books.

Question: did you really believe that surging troops would have any significant impact on our efforts in either Iraq or AFG?

If yes, do you still think that surging helped advance US policy and objectives?

The surge in Iraq accomplished its goal of enabling the competition for power and resources in Iraq to move back into the realm of politics, at least the kind of politics that doesn’t use bombs and bullets to make its point. In the winter of 2008 the Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a number of laws, such as amnesty legislation, de-Ba’athification reform, and an annual budget, that showed that Iraqi legislators could make deals with one another. After the Charge of the Knights operation in Basra and the clearing of Sadr City in the spring of 2008, all but one of the political parties in Iraq gave a vote of support to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The provincial elections of 2009 brought a large majority of Iraqis of all sects and political persuasions to the polls and brought the Sunnis back into the political process. The wheels started to come off the bus after the presidential election of 2010, when the United States backed Maliki’s candidacy for another term as prime minister instead of supporting the winner of the elections, Ayad Allawi. After that election the Sunnis lost faith in the political process and the jihadists were once again able to make inroads among them. The current violence in Iraq dates to that ill-considered decision, not to the outcome of the surge, which ended in July 2008.

In Afghanistan, the surge of forces has not advanced U.S. objectives. It staved off defeat, but has not resulted in the degree of success that the surge in Iraq enjoyed. There are a number of reasons: a dysfunctional leader (Karzai), guerrilla sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, the unwillingness of the Pashtuns to side with the national government, and the announcement by the president that the surge was not open ended - which had a tremendous psychological impact on all parties. President Bush was "all in" - President Obama was ambivalent at best. This doesn't mean a fully supported surge in Afghanistan would have worked, but does explain why Iraq was so different.

How does the Anbar awakening fit into this timeline? How much credit should be given to the Anbar awakening vs. the Iraq surge?

As I argue in my book, the surge was a catalyst that allowed other processes at work in Iraq - such as the Awakening - to have full effect. Most people do not know that Gen. Petraeus ordered his subordinate commanders to support the Awakening and the Sons of Iraq. Without this support, the Awakening would have been confined to the Ramadi area but with MNF-I support, it expanded across a number of key provinces.

What's your very best life advice?

I gave my children four tips for being successful in life, so I'll share them with you:

  1. Get as much education as you can.
  2. Marry well and for life.
  3. Start saving early and make it a habit.
  4. Find something you love, and figure out how to make money doing it.

(Admittedly, #4 is tough for a lot of people, but if you can pull it off you never work a day in your life.)

Oh! And I almost forgot - spend more for good bacon and never drink cheap liquor. :-)

What would you say are the top 3 most important battles in the known history of man?

Tough question, since there are at least a dozen that significantly impacted the course of history. But here are three:

  1. Salamis (480 BC) - The Athenian navy defeats the Persians at sea, turning back the Persian invasion of Western Europe. What would our world look like today without Greek civilization?
  2. Saratoga (1777) - The American victory over the British brought France and Spain into the war against Britain, and globalized what had been a regional conflict. The world today would look a lot different had the British defeated the colonists.
  3. Moscow (1941) - The Red Army turns back Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union and turns WWII into a two front struggle in Europe that Germany had no hope of winning from that point onward. The world today would be a dark place indeed had the Wehrmacht succeeded in defeating the Soviet Union.

No D-Day?

The Normandy invasion was an important campaign, but look at what would have happened had it failed:

  1. The Red Army would still have rolled over the Wehrmacht in the East.
  2. The first atomic bomb would have been dropped on Berlin.

So Normandy did not change the outcome of the war the way the Battle of Moscow did - IMHO.

The first atomic bomb would have been dropped on Berlin.

The Cold War would've been very different had this happened. Do you think a divided Germany would still have formed without Berlin? Would NATO have happened?

Good question. But Europe would have been much worse off had the war ended that way.

Well if the bomb wasn't ready in time Stalin may have considered continuing rolling West to spread his communist influence. After all there may have still been German soldiers out into France after the fall of Berlin (if Hitler wouldn't bring troops home to fight in the Fatherland). The Western invasion wasn't only to help the Eastern Front but also to secure Western Nations' foothold in Europe after the war.

Yes, in fact when Stalin was asked if he was satisfied with the Red Army taking Berlin, he replied, "[Tsar] Alexander III got to Paris."

What did you like most about attending West Point as a student?

What did you like least?

I wrote in my memoir, Baghdad at Sunrise, that I was raised in Sacramento, California, but I grew up at West Point. It's true! And it may out me as a total nerd, but I loved the academics at the Academy. Small class sizes (<20 students per class), faculty who are interested in your education (they are there to teach, not research), and a supportive environment in which to learn and grow.

What did I like least? That's easy. I hated the negative (and juvenile) examples of leadership I endured my first year at the Academy. I don't want to paint the entire Class of 1979 with a bad brush, but there were a few *&%holes among them. Once I got through the first year, life improved dramatically and, with a few exceptions, I loved my time at the Academy from that point onward.

What do you think the next big evolution in warfare will be (apart from drones)?

Drones are actually part of an ongoing trend that will impact war dramatically in the future - robotics. We will witness that evolution on the ground as well as in the air. If you look at drones, as advanced as they might seem, we are actually at the point where nascent air forces were in 1916 during WWI. Aircraft were first used for reconnaissance, then someone figured out how to drop bombs from them, then fighter aircraft were developed to attain air superiority, then aircraft were used for transport and strategic bombing. The same evolution will occur with drones, and we are at the leading edge of that evolution.

Robotic ground vehicles will also be developed in the future, as well as exo-skeletal suits that will dramatically improve the capabilities of infantrymen. It sounds like sci-fi, but it will happen.

Perfect. In fact, we should hire Amazon as a private military contractor to replace Blackwater. LOL

Yeah, I think ROFL might have been better.


yeah especially refreshing coming from a guy who loves murder and destruction. Lets just laugh everything off. 120,000 iraqi civillians dead since 2003 LOL

You obviously have no idea who I am. I lost 24 soldiers in the sands of Iraq. So get off your soapbox and realize that the war affected everyone involved. And by the way, this comment didn't even relate to the Iraq War.

That's exactly how I felt. :) Some 'human' remains, deep with in. :) Or unless an aid suggested it. :(

Sorry, I have no aide, administrative assistant, or other helper. Just me and my Siberian husky. And all she can do is howl.

What's your opinion of allowing drones to make autonomous decisions about killing a human?

Really bad idea - there should always be a human in the loop.


Sir, I do robotics research and one of the major applications for our work is in military drones. While I fully agree and support the idea of using drones in place of human soldiers, I wonder if using them somehow removes some of the horribleness of warfare and could lengthen conflicts.
I look forward to your thoughts and and comments thank you for your service.

War is still horrible regardless of how it is fought. I don't think drones will prolong conflicts; rather, the importance of the political goals at stake will continue to drive the amount of blood and treasure leaders are willing to apply to conflict.

In the context of the rapid advancement in drone capabilities that we are seeing do you have any concern that the F35 program could be a modern 'battleship' moment?

Air forces will still need manned aircraft for the near future. However, I believe that in the longer term unmanned aircraft - perhaps controlled by a few manned aircraft flying nearby - will be the way air battles are fought.

I think we should plan our way to Peace, it will cost the same in money, but be much better spent.

And how exactly do you intend to "Plan our way to Peace?" Of course peace is the ideal, but the world is a place where, in the words of Thucydides, "The strong do what they can and the weak accept what they must." I am not a big fan of the Obama administration drone campaign, but Americans benefit from the security gained from having a strong military that keeps the peace by deterring conflict.

Plan our way to Peace

Did you ever get a response on this?

Yes, he did.

I know it's very long past this AMA, but I hope you might see this and weigh in on an aspect of robotic warfare that troubles me. I realize that putting lives on the line is always a tough decision, and the idea of engaging in warfare where none of your trips have to risk their lives on the battlefield, such as with drone strikes, can be very attractive.

But when I look at the volume of strikes, and their associated collateral damage, it seems we are undertaking missions that would never be contemplated were our own trips required to step onto the field. The only price being paid up front is by civilians or other non-combatants who are in the area of the strike.

This brings me to my question: isn't having to commit our own actual troops to these kinds of attacks in fact a good and vital thing? By requiring us to have skin in the game, this acts as a barrier of entry to any engagement. With drone strikes there is no human cost to us, and we seem to be very good at marginalizing or outright ignoring the cost to others (with policies like considering any military aged male killed in the strike zone to be an "enemy combatant"). When there is a chance our own soldiers may die, good commanders like yourself would be more discerning with the missions they will undertake, and hopefully prevent tragedies like blowing up a wedding party because their SUV's look somewhat similar to the enemy's.

Your analysis of drone strikes is very thoughtful and you're right, they make it easier for the president to use force in situations where he otherwise might not. Drones are here to stay, but since their use comes with so little political cost, the administration has failed to develop a strategy to deal with the root causes of the terrorist problem. Instead, drones simply mow the terrorist grass, which will grow back. And hitting noncombatants has the effect of creating new converts to the terrorist cause. I think we should be much more selective in who we target with drone strikes, and work more closely with host nation governments to control the land within their borders. Easier said than done, of course.

Also, in the time since you joined the military, you have seen new technologies be developed and applied to military operations, such as the use of UAVs and ROVs. From your experience, how have new technologies changed the way a war is fought and approached both strategically and logistically?

If you look at the evolution of warfare in the last half century, the biggest change has been the creation of precision guided munitions and the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems to target enemy forces. This means that one bomb can now achieve the same effects that required dozens (or hundreds) of bombs in the past. PGMs are more expensive, but a force needs fewer of them to accomplish its tasks - which reduces the logistical tail.

The speed of communications has also increased dramatically, making the world a smaller place strategically.

Having said that, war will always be a human endeavor and, as the Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted in his famous book On War, will always be governed by politics, passion, and chance. Technology can help reduce the fog and friction of war, but will never eliminate it. If the Iraq War taught us anything, it reawakened us to these enduring truths.

Do you think this technology has given us a certain level of arrogance in how we execute the war, by believing we know more and can affect more than we actually do/can?

Absolutely. For an example of that arrogance in action, look at the Iraq War in 2003. After destroying the Iraqi army and Republican Guard, the Bush administration decided the war was all but over and started to stack arms. The resulting insurgency was a dose of reality that didn't sink in until it was in full swing. I discuss this dynamic in Chapter 1 of my new book, Surge.

I spent the last 6 months writing an undergraduate dissertation on counterinsurgency, and I have to say it is one of the most engaging aspects of military history I have ever studied.

I would love to get an your opinion on the extent Islamism has presented new counterinsurgency challenges, as opposed to resurrecting familiar ones.

The impact of religion on military affairs is an age old phenomenon. In this regard, insurgents who claim Islam as their guiding force are guided by similar motivations as many insurgent groups in the past - among them Jewish and Christian forces. For an excellent look at the history of guerrillas and insurgencies, I recommend Max Boot, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (Liveright, 2013).

What's your favourite colour m&m?

Yellow - the branch color of armor and cavalry in the U.S. Army. (I was an armor officer during my military career, so yellow is my favorite color).

Unlike Van Halen, though, I can't demand an entire bowl full of just yellow ones.

Do you think that the war in Afghanistan is or was winnable and could you please describe what you would consider a win?

I think the United States had to fight the war in Afghanistan, but we took our eye off the real objective, which was the destruction of Al Qaeda. The mishandling of the fight at Tora Bora in 2001 was incompetence at its finest. The Bush administration then took its eye off the ball again through its ill-considered invasion of Iraq, leaving Afghanistan to fester.

At this point the best the United States can hope for is to support an Afghan government that can keep the country together after 2014 and convince the Taliban that it cannot win the war in any conceivable time frame. In my view, this will require the election of an Afghan president with some real leadership abilities, unlike Hamid Karzai. With good leadership and support from the United States and our NATO allies, anything is possible.

For a view of what winning might look like, look at Colombia. A decade ago the country seemed on the verge of disaster with the FARC on the ascendancy, but now the war there is all but over. Good Colombian presidential leadership and U.S. support were the keys to victory.

I think the United States had to fight the war in Afghanistan, but we took our eye off the real objective, which was the destruction of Al Qaeda. The mishandling of the fight at Tora Bora in 2001 was incompetence at its finest. The Bush administration then took its eye off the ball again through its ill-considered invasion of Iraq, leaving Afghanistan to fester.

COL Pete,

Your words looked familiar because they were copied almost verbatim from a 2004 John Kerry speech against George Bush. And I'm afraid you are wrong. General Tommy Franks addressed them long ago:

"First, take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that "we had him surrounded." We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp. ... Contrary to Senator Kerry, President Bush never "took his eye off the ball" when it came to Osama bin Laden. ... As we planned for potential military action in Iraq and conducted counterterrorist operations in several other countries in the region, Afghanistan remained a center of focus. Neither attention nor manpower was diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. When we started Operation Iraqi Freedom we had about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, and by the time we finished major combat operations in Iraq last May [2004] we had more than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan."

BTW, not only I am I a long time Redditor, but I am currently a Major in the US Army and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We tried to fight at Tora Bora with Afghan militia rather than risking U.S. ground forces in the mountains. Gen. Mattis was willing to put his Marines in harm's way and was told to stand down. That to me defines the incompetence of the leaders in Afghanistan who allowed Al-Qaeda to escape to fight another day.

And for the record, my words are my own and copied from no one's speech. That's insulting.

What is the greatest lesson the West needs to learn about war?

The greatest lesson is not one that needs to be learned, but relearned: War is governed by politics, passion, and chance. When the Iron Dice roll, unexpected things can and will happen. The resort to war, therefore, should be the last choice of policy makers, undertaken only for the most serious of national security reasons, and not entered into lightly.

Colonel, you mentioned that the development of PGM has been the biggest development in the last half century. Do you feel that the ...convenience weapons like this can offer will make politicians and generals more likely to go to war?

Yes, they already have. Or they have convinced some political leaders that they can fight war on the cheap - just look at the massive use of drone strikes masquerading as a strategy in the current administration.

"It is well that war is so horrible, else we might grow too fond of it"- Ulysses S Grant

It is well that war is so horrible, else we might grow too fond of it

Nope - Robert E. Lee after the Battle of Fredericksburg in Dec. 1862

Do you believe that assassination has a place in the future strategies of the United States Armed Forces? I'm asking in the context of drones and the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound as well as past actions like Admiral Yamamoto's death during World War 2.

I would differentiate assassination from the deliberate targeting of enemy combatants. The two examples you use both fall into the latter category and are in accordance with the laws of war.

Might be tough to pull that one past a professor of military history. Kind of a silly question, but what's your favorite quote from history?

Actually, it is from a 17th century political treatise:

"Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man…In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Thomas Hobbes

In your opinion, what are the 5 most formidable militaries in the world after the US?

Not surprisingly, they are all nuclear powers:

  1. Russia
  2. China (will soon jump to the top of this list as its economy continues to grow)
  3. Great Britain
  4. France
  5. North Korea (a powerful but also very brittle force)

But there is a huge gap between the United States and these five.

Is there anything that you regret doing whilst you served in the military?

I was in command of a convoy that was traversing a difficult area of Baghdad on Christmas Eve in 2003. We were hit by an IED, which killed my Command Sergeant Major, Eric Cooke. Watching him die was exceedingly difficult. If I had to do that night over again, I would make different decisions. But in war, the enemy gets a vote. I was proud of the way the brigade reacted to that tough night - with professionalism and discipline.

Was the area Sadr city or the infamous route Pluto?

Zone 18 - Omar Street in Adhamiya.

Good morning, Sir. I was a soldier with the 3d ID during the Iraq invasion. I was attached to TF 4/64 armor for the push to Baghdad under LTC DeCamp.

I've always been curious about the intelligence reports we received just prior to breaching the berm. We were told to expect light resistance, no enemy armor and a metric shit-ton of EPWs.

As we all know, little to none of that panned out. Were we given the wrong intelligence brief or did someone over in MI fuck up?

Also, thanks for serving, sir.

Unfortunately, I was not in Iraq during the initial invasion - I arrived in June 2003 after the end of major combat operations. So I don't have the answer to your question.

In general, however, Gen. Franks and his leadership team wargamed a fight against a mirror-imaged enemy. So when the force confronted paramilitary forces such as the Saddam Fedayeen, Lt. Gen. Wallace, commander of V Corps, stated that this was not the type of enemy his corps had wargamed fighting against. It shows how narrow the U.S. Army's vision of operations had become by 2003.

Your book Surge has harsh words for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stating that he "rightly" offered his resignation after the Abu Ghraib scandal and President Bush was wrong not to accept it. You write that Rumsfeld "demanded a war plan for Iraq predicated on the best-case scenario ... then refused to admit that his assumptions were wrong," which is a disastrous trait for a wartime leader. What are the biggest lessons future Pentagon leaders should learn to avoid being another Rumsfeld?

Senior leaders must be willing to listen. Rumsfeld thinks he was open to criticism, but he was not. If a leader cannot listen to contrary opinions and make informed decisions based on a full range of views, then he/she courts disaster - as Rumsfeld did in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib was a moral failing of the U.S. military that should have resulted in the resignation of the Secretary of Defense. President Bush was faithful to his subordinates to a fault. He should have let Rumsfeld go in the spring of 2004 and put different leadership in place in the Pentagon.

Hello sir,

What's your opinion of Edward Snowden and the NSA spy scandal?

Edward Snowden would be a sympathetic figure if he had limited his disclosures of NSA activities to their intrusiveness into the lives of U.S. citizens. But by divulging the details of U.S. spying on other nations and foreigners, he has done great damage to U.S. national security and therefore in my view deserves no sympathy. The fact that he went to China and Russia - those paragons of liberal ideals - instead of staying in the United States (like Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971) speaks volumes.

Serious question. Do you really believe he would have been able to disclose what he has if he stayed in the U.S.?

Yes, I do. He may have had to go to jail, but that is what a civil dissident does.

Do you genuinely think in this climate he would get treated similarly to Ellsberg in the 70s? I think it's a different situation, truthfully. A lot of the things the NSA is accused of doing are based on what people believe to be "legal" but ultimately unconstitutional and overreaching acts of congress. How do you expect appropriate justice within that framework? He had to leave.

Yes - perhaps even better given the influence of social media on the administration in today's world. Again, I think he would have been a sympathetic figure to most Americans had he limited his disclosures to the collection of Metadata on U.S. citizens.

Hello from facebook, sir!

I served as a CBRN (NBC) weapons defense in the USAF and you're the first servicemember I've interacted with since my discharge. Funny how that happens.

Questions: -Generally, what do you believe the role of special operations will be in the Pivot-To-Asia?

-Do you have any insight as to why France in the past years has become more active militarily, aiding heavily with Libya, advocating hard for war in Syria, intervening in Mali and in CAR?

-Did you ever meet Gen. McCrystal? Or, alternatively, did you ever meet Michael Hastings? If so, what were they like in person?

-If you were made king of the US Army, what one change would you like to make?

One of the most important aspects of the pivot to Asia will be the ability of the U.S. military to work with foreign armies. In this regard, special forces play a crucial role in advising and assisting other military forces. A good example of the role of SF in Asia is the great work they have done working with the Filipino military in recent years.

Due to its history in North Africa and the Levant, France believes its national interests are at stake in those regions. Remember that a number of these countries were French colonies. So expect continued French involvement in those areas.

I met Gen. McCrystal once in Balad in 2007. He struck me as an extremely competent leader who had the implicit trust and confidence of his subordinates. He did great work with JSOC in Iraq and the American people should be grateful for leaders like him. I have never met Michael Hastings.

King of the Army - I like the title! I would change the professional military education (PME) system to make it more challenging and rigorous. Allow only the top officers to attend these schools, and then take the top graduates and place them in positions of influence in the Army. PME is the key to producing great officers - and therefore should be of paramount importance to the Army as it enters this next interwar period.

Sir, given your history and the fact that you do not shirk from the difficult, I respectfully ask the following.

Would you comment on the near impossible conundrum faced by all military men when they must weigh what they believe is an unlawful order. I say this knowing that the burden that this imposes must make for some excruciating moments in a military person's life.

Let me follow that question up by asking, what do you believe happened at Abu Ghraib? Was there a breakdown in the chain of command or was this something which was tacitly allowed to happen? How could our troops engage in many of these acts without understanding that they had crossed an ethical line?

At the risk of wearing out my welcome, how do you feel about the rise of the mercenary, contract military and do you believe that this might present a threat to our continued freedoms?

Thank you.

Military personnel indeed sometimes must make difficult decisions when they receive what they believe to be unlawful orders. But principled disobedience is essential to the healthy functioning of a military force of a democracy - My Lai and Abu Ghraib are both examples of what can go wrong in toxic leadership climates.

I don't have any first-hand information on Abu Ghraib, but reading the investigation and other reports, I believe there was a serious breakdown in the unit leadership climate and the chain of command. I doubt the guards received guidance to engage in the kind of criminal conduct they performed, but the fact is that no one was checking on them. Clearly, the guards had not been trained or educated on the moral standards of an army of democracy, and for this you can blame the commanders higher in the chain.

I do not believe that security functions in a combat zone should be performed by mercenaries - and I have said so publicly. They lack the accountability that comes with wearing the uniform of a nation state. Contract workers are fine for logistics functions, but should be limited to those non-combat roles.

Sir, Active SSG here. I feel that I have to call you out on this:

. I doubt the guards received guidance to engage in the kind of criminal conduct they performed....Clearly, the guards had not been trained or educated on the moral standards of an army of democracy, and for this you can blame the commanders higher in the chain.

"Criminal" being the key word here. They knew full well what they were doing, and that it was wrong.

To say, as a leader, that you think they needed more training is ridiculous, and it is this shared (going on a nice sturdy limb here) mindset from Army leadership that "more training" is always needed to prevent this crap from happening. This leads to wastes of time like LOW, CTIP, SHARP, IA, POV risk assessments, ETC.

Hours and hours and hours of wasted soldier time because some dickbag somewhere messed up. And every time this sort of crap happens, what does leadership do? "Oh well, they just need more training. Make it annual, and mandatory for all personnel"

Why is this mindset so prevalent? As adults we know that the shit we are being "taught" (we all just skip right to the end for that certificate, so EVERY last one of these things is a check the box exercise) is wrong no matter who you are. Is there anything that can realistically be done to end the insanity?

It seems to me to be a knee jerk, CYA action and nothing more. No disrespect to you sir, but as you are aware, I don't often get the opportunity to ask these sorts of candid questions.

SSG - I hear you, but the difference in the case of Abu Ghraib is guarding prisoners was the duty of the military police unit stationed there, so the standards of conduct in performing that duty is part of their METL. I agree there is a lot of wasted training time in the Army as you indicate, but this is not one of those cases.

In multiple comments you reference 'an army of democracy' -- what different types of armies are there and what are their fundamental differences?

Armies of dictatorships are certainly different - like Saddam's army or the army of North Korea. In those armies soldiers are shot for disobeying orders, whether legal or illegal. When the Iraqi army took Kuwait in 1990, it proceeded to rape every woman in Kuwait City with no consequences for these criminal acts. A bit different, by any measure.

Thank you for your honest answer, Sir! Would you say, that what happend in Abu Ghraib, water boarding, taking peoples sleep, etc. is infact torture? What can America do to avoid such things in future and how big is the damage for Americas image because of those things?

Yes, much of what you describe amounts to torture and should be banned from use by American forces (and indeed Congress has already passed legislation to this effect). As for what Americans can do - they can organize politically. I am part of the Campaign to Ban Torture - you will see my name on the web site at

If you could go back to the day you signed your name on the piece of paper that gave your life to the Military...

What would you tell yourself?

Keep calm and carry on.

That and probably to go Infantry.

Not with my bad back - armor was the perfect choice! I loved having that 65 ton monster to carry my gear around. And my cooler - couldn't fight without lickies and chewies on hand.

Hello sir. How do you feel about our role as nation builders? It seems like in WW2 we fought civilized societies with standing armies, beat the hell out of their military and infrastructure, then the fighting basically stopped their after surrender. We helped them rebuild and those countries are doing great today. But ever since then we've fought limited wars that tend to drag on the fighting and suffering for a lot longer, and essentially without success. The Korean peninsula is still bitterly divided, Vietnam didn't turn out so well for us, the first Gulf War didn't really resolve much and lead directly to OIF which left a barely-functioning Iraq in a civil war, and it looks like the same or worse will happen in Afghanistan when we pull out despite over a decade of our work. I think we're making more enemies in the long-run than friends with our actions in the middle east.

I'm active duty Air Force and a fan of history, and I'm trying to think of what future historians will say about our military actions after WW2. We are amazing at getting in there and destroying things, but I can't say that we do a very good job cleaning up once the main battles are done. Thoughts?

Your analysis is accurate with one exception - South Korea. Our presence there has helped the Land of the Morning Calm become a vibrant democracy and economic powerhouse. But it did not happen overnight and required a sustained U.S. presence and support for more than half a century.

We should disabuse ourselves of the notion that U.S. military forces can conduct regime change in foreign countries and then rebuild them in our image in a matter of years. When the political conditions are favorable, U.S. support can help other nations to develop. But in the end, it is their country, not ours - and we can only help, not do the job for them.

By the way, President Bush used to say that his vision of Iraq was along the lines of South Korea rather than Vietnam. Regrettably, it does not seem to have turned out that way.

Hi Colonel,

Do you think things should change with how sexual assaults in the military are handled, and if so, how?

Note: This isn't meant as argument bait, just an honest question as I know at least 2 people who've suffered from assaults while in the military.

Congress has already changed military regulations in this regard to give more rights to service members who file sexual assault charges. In my experience in the military, however, nothing permanent happens without sustained involvement by commanders. I fear by taking the prosecution of sexual assault cases out of their hands, we might be making the situation worse, not better. But clearly sexual assault is a scourge that the military needs to eliminate from the ranks. Doing so begins with continual and sustained command involvement.

if you could pick one thing you did in the military, and either undo it or change what you did any way you wanted, what would it be, why and how would you change it? how would the outcome of that choice change?

See my answer here:

Did you, like General Petraeus, read The Centurions? If so do you think it still holds valuable lessons for modern armies in the field of counter-insurgency?

Yes, I have - in fact, I wrote a review of the book in Military Review 86:6 (Nov-Dec 2006)

Here is an excerpt: "For the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, The Centurions is not just a timeless story, but a timely one as well. In Lartéguy’s novel one can find many of the principles and paradoxes of counterinsurgency warfare. The primacy of politics, the need to secure the population, the criticality of good intelligence (which can only be obtained by engaging the people), the requirement to adapt conventional units to fight in an unconventional manner—all of these lessons and more can be found in Lartéguy’s masterpiece. The novel also explores the dangers of going too far in the quest for victory. The moral dilemmas of the French in Algeria echo only too loudly in Iraq and Afghanistan today. The Centurions is a compelling story and a good read, too, one that I highly recommend be included in an officer’s program of self-study and professional development.

Although the threat of communist revolution has all but ended, the use of insurgent methods is on the rise. Until the West can show itself capable of defeating insurgents, it will continue to be challenged in this manner. Larteguy, in a sense, foretells this when one of Raspéguy’s officers, a French-Algerian taken prisoner at Dien Bien Phu, reflects that he may soon be a rebel himself, but on behalf of Islam, not communism. The reflection is meant to foreshadow the looming conflict in Africa, but it speaks to our own predicament 50 years later, in the Middle East."

What is the most under-appreciated weapon in our arsenal?

The American soldier. We could trade weapons with most nations and still win a war against them.

Nations like the UK, Canada, and Australia who are all crippled by the size of their militaries (the UK has 220,000 personnel at the largest of those 3) must undergo less specialized training and focus on broadening the skills of their soldiers. The US has the luxury of a vast arsenal of men and women and has the ability to specialize their soldiers. It's been often said that troops who require a broader range of training skills often turn out as the superior soldier simply due to the additional training they've incurred. Do you still stand by your statement that American specialized soldiers could fight against those that are not and have received more training?

"Every Marine a riflemen" pretty much sums it up. Soldiers are soldiers first, specialists second. I stand by my comment. And I did say "most nations" - the ones you list could be exceptions.

Good evening,

I'm not sure if you're at liberty or willing to discuss the topic, but do you think the ad run by about Gen. Petraeus' report to the Congress about the state of Iraq was justified or in any way raised important questions?

Thank you for taking your time to answer here at Reddit.

The ad attacked a principled leader of U.S. military forces and basically accused him of lying. And the article was factually incorrect, to boot. In my new book, Surge, I discuss how the report to Congress was created (I co-wrote a draft with Liz McNally, his speechwriter, and then Gen. Petraeus and his initiatives group polished it) and the fact that the White House, Central Command, and the Joint Chiefs had zero involvement in its writing. So far from being a mouthpiece of the White House, as the ad alleged, the report to Congress was Gen. Petraeus' professional view on the state of the war in Iraq - and no one else's.

Thank you for answering! That's very interesting to now, I also read they supposedly took away the entire ad / site that claimed this when Obama was elected and nominated Gen. Petraeus for the top position in the U.S / NATO Afghanistan operation.

Was this something to expect, though, that the report would unleash such massive criticism and attacks on Gen. Petraeus' character?

It very much surprised all of us who worked for him.

What is something you learned about General Petraeus serving under him that you thing the average citizen without military service doesn't grasp about Petraeus as a military mind/General either positively or negatively?

I don't think the average person understands just how open Gen. Petraeus was to advice from below. He had an open e-mail channel to anyone in Multi-National Force-Iraq - and often received messages from junior leaders on problems in their areas that they could not get resolved through their chain of command (or problems that the chain of command were creating). I often discussed issues with Gen. Petraeus and found him willing to listen - provided you had something intelligent to say and were ready for the give and take that followed. I think this aspect of his leadership style is one that other leaders can and should follow - but they have to be willing to listen and accept advice and thoughts from below (which means reining in their egos).

Professor Mansoor! I don't have any real questions, so I just want to tell you that it was a tremendous honor to take your class at Ohio State. I enrolled in the WW2 study abroad (hence the name of my throwaway), but I had to withdraw in order to keep my graduation goals on time. I sincerely wish I had been able to go. In short, you are amazing, and anyone who can take one of your classes should.

Actually, I did just think of a question! What are your thoughts on board games like Axis & Allies and grand strategy games like Hearts of Iron? Do you play any of them, or would you be interested in playing any of them?

Appreciate the very kind comment. And yes - I love board games! The old Avalon Hill game, Third Reich, is by far my favorite. But kids today, they can't seem to get off their computers... :-)

But you're forgetting: Age of Empires! Arictus!

Most definitely - especially if I get to be the Persians. Armored elephants rule.

There is a board game parlor opening up in the Short North, tomorrow actually, called Kingmaker's. You should stop by sometime and say hello. :D

I used to play a game called Kingmaker - great parlor game, especially if some adult beverages are involved.

Was the carte Blanche firing of all Ba'ath Party members largely responsible for the insurgency? Would a policy similar to de nazification after ww2 been a more prudent policy? Why was the occupation of Iraq so different than that of Germany?

There were three decisions made in the spring of 2003 that, in my view, created the insurgency in Iraq:

The occupation of Iraq was significantly different from the occupation of Germany after WWII. Germany was devastated from end to end and its armed forces annihilated. Millions of Germans died in the war and the Germany people were starving. Simply put, the level of distress made the Germans more open to cooperating with the occupying forces.

I discuss these issues in both Baghdad at Sunrise and Surge.

Thank you sir, for doing this AMA. I am wondering your opinion on what is happening in Iraq today. There is a lot in the news right now about Al Queda organizations taking over major cities in Iraq again.

Do you think that there was enough done to prepare Iraq for these problems in the long run?

Last question - what's your score prediction for the game tonight? Go Buckeyes!

Al Qaeda is on the upsurge in Iraq today due to miscalculations by the Maliki administration and spillover from the civil war in Syria. It didn't have to be this way, but decisions by the Obama administration (and Iraqi intransigence) that led to U.S. forces departing Iraq in 2011 have resulted in the deterioration of the security climate in Iraq. But the biggest problem is Maliki's sectarianism and his unwillingness to share power with other groups in Iraqi society. I think the United States could have moderated his conduct had we been willing to remain engaged, but the Obama administration was more concerned with bringing the troops home. We are now reaping the rewards of that policy.

Bucks 56-49. Not sure we'll see a lot of defense tonight.

Good morning, sir. Thank you for your service and thank you for answering questions! Just one question from me; Would you have done anything differently while serving in the military knowing what you know now? If so, could you elaborate?

See my answer here:

Do you ever have any student veterans recognize who you are?

Also, as a guy who was in Al Anbar from 07-08, in my highly anecdotal opinion the surge seemed like a stunning success.

Student veterans often come up and talk to me. They appreciate getting life advice from someone who has shared experiences similar to theirs. Ohio State has roughly 1,500 veterans on campus - they are an important and meaningful part of the university community.

Thank you for your service in Al Anbar during the surge - Semper Fi and Army Strong!

Where were you in Al Anbar? I was at Al Asad. I wonder what that area looks like now, especially Hit.

No, never served there except for a brief stint with my brigade outside of Fallujah in Aug-Sep 2003. I was in Baghdad and Karbala.

How did the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan change America's strategic policy toward conflicts, namely in urban centers?

I don't think the tactical conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed America's strategic policy. Rather, the results of those wars (messy, long term counterinsurgency campaigns with lots of boots on the ground) have made Americans and their political leaders much less willing to get involved in overseas conflicts. This is, to an extent, a good thing, but also can be taken to an extreme might lead to an isolationist America and a much more chaotic world.

As a Military Historian, what would you say was the riskiest tactical maneuver that had paid off?

There are two gold standards in this regard:

But I would add that neither of these tactical victories led to enduring strategic results. Thus the lesson: poor tactics and operations can be overcome, but mistakes in strategy live on forever.

But is the strategic failure Hannibal's or the Carthaginian ruling class that refused to support arguably the greatest general in human history?

Hannibal could never bring enough Latin allies over to his side to defeat Rome. Not sure more Carthaginian troops would have helped. What Carthage really needed was to rule the seas, but they lost that ability after the First Punic War.

How about Lee and Jackson at Chancellorsville ?

Chancellorsville, I would argue, ended in a draw. The Union soldiers felt so angry at Hooker's withdrawal that they were ready for another showdown with the Army of Northern Virginia. That came a month later at Gettysburg.

In regard to the second point you had mentioned, do you think there was anything the French could have done to prevent it?

Yes, they needed to better evaluate what actually happened in 1917 and 1918 and create a military doctrine suitable to the kind of war they would soon face. The best source here is Robert Doughty, The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919-1939 (Archon, 1986).

Do you think Hannibal's results would have been different if he tried to lay siege to Rome after Cannae rather than trying to build Italian allies?

If not, can the lesson of these two instances also be that in a long war between equally determined adversaries, the party with better resources wins?

Hannibal lacked a siege train and command of the sea, so the Romans could have outlasted him in a siege. The keys to the war, in my view, were control of the Mediterranean and control of Spain. Carthage lost the former in the First Punic War, and the later in the Second. Hannibal's tactical genius could not make up the deficit.


I served with TF 11 during the initial surge into Iraq, and saw a lot of our Apaches come back from a deep attack riddled with holes and one shot down with the crew captured.

The Apaches were supposed to just go in and fuck shit up, but it seemed the enemy was more prepared than we were. Was that a failure on intel's part, or was the RGT CDR, COL Wolf, too impulsive?

The problem was neither, in my view - it was U.S. Army doctrine. The Army had faith in the Apache's ability to conduct deep attacks based on the results of computer wargames (like Janus simulations), ignoring real world experience at the National Training Center that suggested the going would be much tougher against an actual enemy (I was in the OPFOR from 1997-1999 and saw many deep attacks suffer the same type of casualties as the 11th Avn Bde suffered in Iraq in 2003). I'm just thankful the lesson the enemy taught us in 2003 wasn't more severe than it actually was.

The lesson here is the Army needs to conduct realistic training and experimentation in peacetime and pay attention to the results.

As a military historian and former military officer, what are your thoughts on pursuing the 'War on Terror' with no clear objectives or endgame?

I find the conduct of a war against a tactic (terrorism) to be ahistorical. Rather, the Bush administration should have named the enemy: Al Qaeda and like minded terrorist organizations. Military force is only part of the solution to the scourge of global terrorism. Regrettably, by painting the counterterrorist campaign as a "war," the administration overemphasized the use of military forces and downplayed other instruments of national power (diplomatic, economic, informational, etc.). We had the world basically united after 9/11 - the administration should have worked closely with friends and allies to maintain that solidarity.

Good morning Colonel. For the last few years I've been teaching social science classes at Ohio State as a graduate student. Some of my best students have been veterans (or ROTC cadets).

In my classes, we would touch on issues that I didn't realize some of my students actually had first-hand experience with (e.g. crowdsourcing humanitarian information in Africa, or geopolitics manifested in warfare). The class could really benefit from hearing about their experiences, but the students are often reluctant to talk about them publicly. The reason doesn't seem to be that they aren't proud of their experiences; it seems to come more from humility. I'd like to avoid the feeling of dropping a spotlight on someone and making them uncomfortable.

Do you have any advice for how to engage veterans in class discussions that might involve their experiences in the service?

Engage them privately first and ask if they would be willing to share their experiences with the rest of the class. I'm sure many would appreciate this outreach rather than being put on the spot in class.


Just saying that I'm honored my school has the opportunity to learn from someone like you. When you teach a class, do most of your students understand who you are what what you did?


I let them know the first day about my background - at least the basics. Many are surprised when they dig deeper and find out more about me. But I put the spotlight on what I teach, not on me.


I-O! Go Bucks!

What do you believe to be the greatest threat against the US?

Collapse from within - the increasingly polarization of our domestic politics. We need to find common ground and work from the middle outward, not from the extremes inward.

where was his objection to us going into iraq with faulty intel? Oh right, he was toeing the line like every other schmuck bag who works in washington. They will toe the line straight to the grave. Thanks for your insight after you have no ability to do anything about it.

You obviously have no clue about me or my background. I was in the Army War College at the time of the invasion, and argued against the war. But I had no input on the decision to invade Iraq - in Washington or elsewhere.

Are you in any way related to Michael Mansoor, the Navy SEAL who gave his life by jumping on top of a grenade when it was tossed into the tend he and his team mates were in?

No, but I'm proud to be a member of the same military force as him. He is a hero.

Seems interesting, but can you elaborate on what you mean by "middle outward" in practical terms? (Could you give an example of what a president could do to encourage this change.)

The ability to find common ground - like Ronald Reagan's ability to cut deals with Tip O'Neil despite their political differences. They save Social Security back in the 1980s. I despair we will find such moderate voices again in our government.


I was wondering what courses you instruct at OSU, I'm currently enrolled the international studies program and would love to look into taking one of your courses.

HI 2550 - History of War HI 3570 - History of World War II HI 3561 - American Military History, 1902 to the Present

But not every course every year.

Hello Colonel,

By bulking up their military and economy, do you think China could one day pose a great threat to the United States?

Also, what do you see in North Korea's future? Will Korea ever become unified again? Will North Korea ever stop being the hole that it is?

Even further, exactly how do we fight our future enemies? That is, enemies who are not known to us? They are no longer nations, but groups and organizations. Gone are the days I believe of powerful nations going to war with each other, especially the US. The US is so militarily dominant, a nation would be foolish to pivot it's armies against her. Guerilla warfare is a great tactic to fight an enemy much more powerful than yourself, as shown throughout history. Basically, how do we fight against non-state actors and terrorists, effectively?

Yes, the one great power challenge to the United States in the foreseeable future is a rising China. But war with China is not inevitable, and it should be U.S. policy to help to integrate peacefully a powerful China into the global community. Harder said than done, as history suggests that all rising powers go to war at some point.

North Korea will eventually collapse from within. We just need to ensure the NK leaders don't take out Seoul on their way to hanging from a lamp post. Perhaps we can call in Team America, World Police to help?

Fighting non-state actors requires good intelligence and allies. The best thing we can do is pay attention to our alliances overseas and help those nations that ask for it with their counterterrorism capabilities. Having said that, state-on-state conflict is still the most dangerous threat to the United States - just not the most likely.

curious: if the US and china were to end up going to war over something within the next 25-50 years, what do you predict it would be? thanks

The biggest issue is Taiwan, but a conflict over useless pieces of rock in the South China sea that have stirred nationalist passions in various countries is not out of the question.

Sir, I really enjoyed reading Surge and Baghdad at Sunrise, they were both excellent. Do you have any plans on writing more in the future?

Also, would you have any recommendations for further reading on the Iraq War?

Thanks for the note about my books. I would also recommend Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's Endgame. Long, but worth the read if you are interested in the history of the Iraq War.

My next project is a history of the U.S. liberation of the Philippines in WWII. WWII was the subject of my first historical monograph and I've been meaning to get back to it for quite some time. As I tell my wife, it's much less stressful writing about people who are dead and can't complain. Thank You, for your time and service. For obvious reasons members of the military should avoid politics , but given the risk to our capabilities brought on by dependence on fossil fuels, do you have an opinion on a why the DoD hasn't come out in support of alternative fuel research. It seems to make sense for purely strategic reasons. How capable will the military be without readily available fuel sources.

DOD actually is experimenting widely with fuel cells and alternative fuels. Military leaders understand the shackles the fuel supply chain puts on their forces.

Hi Colonel,

What was it like when the Iron Curtain fell?

It was a period of liberation - one of the greatest feelings in the world - for the German people. I witnessed families divided by the fence reach out and hug each other across what used to be no-man's land. The Germans celebrated in their usual, awesome style - with beer, bratwurst, and oompah bands. It was one of the high points of my career.

Hello sir, have you ever watched HBO's Generation Kill (or read the book ) and if so, what do you think about its depiction of the invasion of Iraq, and in general, of modern warfare? Thanks ! (sorry for poor english)

I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but I did read Nate Fick's One Bullet Away. Nate was the platoon leader of the unit depicted in the movie. I highly recommend his book.

Hello sir!

I have a question, just glancing at your bio, the bulk of your military experience seems to be with armored regiments, who operated under a Cold War stance/strategy. How was the learning curve and what difficulties did you encounter, if any, in addressing an urban, asymmetrical warfare situation?

Second question, sorry, I'm being greedy. Do you feel that there was a large disconnect between higher ranking officers who conducted much of the war planning, and junior officers, such as the West Point Class of 2001 forward, that resulted in some operation friction? And do you feel that was a major factor in the lower rates of said junior officers not renewing their commissions?

I found the most important experience in my career in preparing for the Iraq War was my time studying military history at Ohio State from 1990-1992. The courses I took under Allan Millett, Williamson Murray, and Joe Guilmartin expanded my horizons and were much more professionally relevant to what happened in Iraq than the courses I took at the Command and General Staff College or the Army War College. Being intellectually prepared helps one adapt to new situations, as I discovered in Iraq in 2003-2004.

The junior officers who served in the military since 9/11 learned by doing in the school of hard knocks. They became used to a lot of independence, which COIN requires. Then when they returned to garrison duty in the United States, they couldn't understand why the senior officers and the Army as an institution were so controlling. So a lot of them left, frustrated at the lack of initiative they believed they should have been granted. Not sure if this was the determining factor in junior officer retention in the last decade - the economy is usually a more important factor in this regard.

Thank you for your service, sacrifice and leadership, Col. Mansoor.

1.) How do you feel about yesterday's news reports re: the DoD's "Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap"? From a strategic perspective, do you believe it is a positive or negative thing that the military aims to create drones capable of making their own, independent targeting decisions without human verification?

2.) From a moral perspective, do you believe it is a positive or negative thing that the military aims to create drones capable of making their own, independent targeting decisions without human verification?

There should always be a human in the loop when life or death decisions are made by robotic vehicles. Do we really want to create Terminators?

Colonel: Is AQI seeing a major resurgence in Iraq? Will Iraq remain stable?

Also, I have you ever met author Bing West? I found his book "the strongest tribe" extremely informative and would be interested to know if you find his work accurate and useful to private citizens trying to learn more about the conflict in Iraq.

Unfortunately, AQI is blossoming once again in Iraq. There are many reasons for this, among them the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, Maliki's sectarianism which has led to Sunni discontent, and the civil war in Syria, which has created a terrorist safe haven. Given these trends, Iraq is regrettably spiraling downward. Whether the state can hold together remains to be seen.

Yes, I know Bing well and think highly of his work. He takes a "Marine centric" approach to his writing, as he spent a lot of time with Marine units in al Anbar province. You might also find my book Surge of some interest if you are interested in the conflict in Iraq. John Nagl has written that Surge will remain the standard work on the surge for some time to come.

Sir- For the past few years I've been regretting not joining the Armed Forces as a youth, due to strict opposition from my parents, but I continue to feel a calling. Could you provide your thoughts on someone joining that is in their late twenties/early thirties? Thanks

There are many reasons to serve, the most important of which is a willingness to, well, serve! I think a tour of service is an excellent decision for any citizen (and some non-citizens, too) who feel they can/want to contribute to the security of their nation. The military is also a good job and provides skills training. Many find life long friends in the military, and remember their military service as among the high points in their life. Don't expect a bed of roses - military life can be very challenging and difficult - but if you are called to serve, then I highly recommend joining up.

Sir, what is the best advice you received as a young officer and what is your best advice for a young officer?

Thank you Sir!

Listen to your noncommissioned officers and learn as much as you can from them.

Do the best you can at whatever task and job you are given.

What do you like on your pizza?

My favorite pizza is the Varsity Club deluxe combination with double anchovies. I think they might eventually name it after me.

Good Morning, Sir. I was wondering about your insight as a senior leader in regards to this article:

This discussion hits home with me as an NCO and a Guardsman. I have seen just how wasteful some of our spending is and am in favor of a reduced budget, but feel that we will cut the wrong things. I feel that we can be a more effective fighting force with a slightly smaller number of personnel held to a much higher standard. That said, however, I am unsure as to whether the Reserve component concentration proposed in this article is the right answer. While I agree that a trained-to-standard Reserve component is highly desirable if it can be obtained, from my narrow field of vision where I'm standing I simply cannot see it happening, considering the percentage of substandard Soldier combined with the limited amount of time NCOs will get with them. In other words, I feel it's impossible to accomplish without the Reserve component first "trimming the fat" itself. Conversely, expanding it will just bloat it further with poor performers.

With cuts ongoing and more coming, do you feel that the Guard and Reserves are truly a viable cost-effective alternative in the fact of active duty cuts? If there is no way around it, what do you feel the Army/DoD should cut?

A really BIG question. I agree with you that Guard and Reserve soldiers are, generally speaking, not as effective as active duty soldiers. If they were, then the entire force should be Guard and reserve immediately. But the Guard and Reserve fulfill an important function of providing troops for conflicts that don't require immediate readiness. The issue is the Guard and Reserve are better configured for "The Big One" where they can be mobilized and then brought up to standard through months of training prior to deployment. Yet the wars we have fought in the last decade require a constant rotation of units overseas in wars of indeterminate duration. We need both the active force and the Guard and Reserves; it really is a question of how much of each. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that one can be a substitute for the other.

Personnel costs are the largest part of the DOD budget. So cuts must come from personnel, which means cutting units. The Army is currently reducing in size to 480,000 personnel, but will go lower. My guess is it will stabilize at around 420,000 soldiers by the end of the decade, but we'll see. The American people don't have a lot of appetite for balancing the budget by cutting entitlements, so DOD will continue to be a target of budgeteers.

Hey sir!

2LT ALARNG here. Who was your first salute during your commissioning?

My tactical officer, Major Fox. I don't remember the first enlisted person I saluted - I didn't personally know him. But he got a dollar!

Who are the most over-rated, and under-rated, military leaders in history, in your opinion?

Overrated: General Omar Bradley - failed to listed to advice that would have ensured effective fire support on Omaha Beach (because the Pacific War was "bush league" in his view); failed to close the Falaise Gap, which might have ended the war in 1944; sent U.S. troops into the teeth of a tenacious German defense in the Huertgen Forest; need I go on? And yet he still got five stars. Yeesh.

Underrated: Ulysses S. Grant - masterful campaign to take Vicksburg plus other victories in the West; at least as good at R.E. Lee at maneuver warfare; understood politico-military affairs at the highest levels. Unfair reputation as "Butcher Grant."

Were you aware of the General's affair with his Biographer before it was uncovered by the FBI?

Did you ever meet Paula Broadwell in the course of your duties as the General's XO?

No and no - she never came to Iraq during my tenure there to my knowledge. I first met her in June 2008 at a reception hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

This is an exceptional AMA. The questions and especially responses are thoughtful, productive, and informative. If you for some odd reason see this, I just wanted to say "thanks" for doing this, Colonel Mansoor.


What is your opinion on European military spending?

The good news is Europeans feel so much at peace that they can reduce their military expenditures year after year. The bad news is this has in many cases produced military forces incapable of action outside their borders. In the sense that Europe remains at peace, this is wonderful. But we saw the downsides of this lack of capability in Libya (not a comment on whether the operation was justified or not, just that European forces couldn't pull it off without lots of help from the United States).

As a Reddit reader from the United Kingdom, I'm curious as to your perception and experiences of the UK armed forces.

In the UK there can often be negative comparisons drawn between the US and UK armed forces, mostly on the lines of training as it goes without saying the US is better resourced financially. What is your view?

I have the utmost respect for the UK armed forces. I served with them in Iraq and they are top notch in every respect. The issues I had with the UK forces (and which I wrote about in my book, Surge) stem from the lack of support at the political-strategic level and not from the conduct of the troops in Iraq, which was exemplary. The special relationship lives.

How could it not? Winston Churchill was half American. :-)

How much did the decision of the Allies to invade Normandy in 1944 have to do with the successes of the Red Army in the East? Is there any evidence that you have come across that indicated that an important driver of the decision had to do with the imminent collapse of the Wehrmacht and the possibility of the Soviet Union steamrolling to Western Europe?

There is no evidence to support that view. Stalin himself demanded a second front at the Tehran conference in Nov. 1943. The Wehrmacht was still very much viable at that time, and didn't really start collapsing until the destruction of Army Group Center in June 1944 - after the invasion of Normandy.

Are you originally of Lebanese heritage ? Mansoor is a Lebanese surname that translates into "Vincent" ! Nothing to ask really, just have a nice day :)

Ana auslee min Ramallah - my heritage on my father's side is Palestinian. And I understand that Mansoor translates into Arabic as "victorious."

What do you think had a bigger impact on the pacification of Baghdad — the surge of US forces or the de-facto Shi'i victory in the civil war?

The surge was the catalyst that brought to fruition a number of factors that influenced the outcome of the war in Iraq. Without the surge, the Awakening would have remained a local movement confined to Ramadi or, at most, al-Anbar Province. Without the improved security conditions in Baghdad created by the surge, Muqtada al-Sadr would never have offered a cease-fire after the gun battle between his militia and the shrine guards in Karbala in August 2007. Without the surge, Prime Minister Maliki would not have felt emboldened to confront the Jaish al-Mahdi in Basra, Sadr City, and Maysan Province. On the other hand, the surge would not have had the same results had it been attempted earlier in the war. It needed the other elements at play in Iraq in 2007 to succeed.

Hello Colonel, thank you for your service. What do you think the future holds for American counterinsurgemcy doctrine? Is it going to be shelved again like kind of was after Vietnam COIN operations or will it be reinvented? Also did you work with Petraeus at CIA as well? How did you feel about the scandal that caused him to resign? What's your assessment for the future of Iraq and Afghanistan? Thank you!

I hope that the military does not ignore training and education for counterinsurgency as it did after the Vietnam War, but we'll see. I didn't work for Gen. Petraeus at the CIA, and was surprised and saddened by the revelations of his affair with his biographer. I thought he was the last person on earth who would engage in that type of conduct. Very disappointing (and he realizes that as well).


Both good books written in the moment. I waited to write Surge to gain perspective that only time (and declassified sources) can provide. Hopefully you'll find it of value as well.

What were your thoughts about the Iraq War before Bush and Co. started it?

I argued against the Iraq War in a debate at the Army War College, where I was a student in 2002-2003. My thoughts were that the strategy of dual containment (against Iraq and Iran) was working, and there was no reason to roll the Iron Dice in a very uncertain venture in Iraq.

Who in your opinion was/is America's best president? Abraham Lincoln or Abraham Lincoln?

Please add George Washington to your list - we would not have a country without him. My third choice would be Franklin D. Roosevelt, who handled America's involvement in WWII very deftly.

How do you prefer your eggs to be cooked?

Sunny side up - runny yolks rule. To be eaten with Cholula hot sauce.

I'm having trouble placing you, classmate. What company were you in at West Point?

I-3 - go Polar Bears!

Hello, sir, I didn't have a particular question so much as I wanted to thank you for your service, and equally importantly, thank you for not retiring into obscurity but continuing to provide educational accounts of your life's work in the form of books and teaching.

Appreciate the comment.

Mr. Mansoor, I saw you speak in 2012 at Ohio Wesleyan University and I want to let you know that you have been the most insightful speaker I have seen at that school. You did handle some of the more aggressive students well and I just wanted to thank you for talking to us. Have a great day!


When you reached Colonel did you still do PT with the soldiers?

Yes, although the first 13 months we were deployed to Iraq and didn't have a chance to PT as a unit, and several months after returning to Germany I had a knee operation and was in rehab.

My greatest accomplishment during my second tour in Iraq was beating General Petraeus on every Tuesday afternoon run by cutting two miles off the course. The man is a gazelle.

Hi Colonel Pete, I'm a current strident and an ex marine.

I am wondering, as a war history professor , what is your opinion on Maj General Smedly Butler, his book and his sentiments that he was a "hit man for capitalism"?

He wrote the book after his career was over, and after he was passed over to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It smacks of "sour grapes" to me.

Sir. I was with the 716th MP Battalion during the invasion. I worked under Lt. Colonel Orlando around the time he was KIA in Karbala.

General Petraeus came down to Karbala after he discovered the MND, who we were tasked under, wasn't helping us with the counter-attack on the mosque there and leaving an MP battalion to remove an entrenched enemy. I remember him pacing around the TOC, with his back hunched, muttering to himself that he wasn't going to just help us, he had friends in the 1st AD and he was going to get some tanks in to scare the shit out of them.

"Nobody gets away with killing a Screaming Eagle."

Two things: one, thank you for the tanks - I don't know if you were directly involved in that or someone else, but they helped. The entire group of Al-Sadr's men surrendered when they saw the Abrams come in. Two, be honest: didn't General Petraeus remind you of Groucho Marx when he got worked up and paced back and forth like that? All he needed was the cigar and a mustache.

Great story - I never saw him in a mode quite like that. Those were 2nd Brigade's tanks, I believe - Col. Rob Baker. But you're welcome.

In case you're still participating:

What do you think of the change in demographics of the US military over the years? Military officer was once a common choice for children of the elite and the middle class was very well represented throughout the military...

Now it seems much less diverse: largely people with no economic alternatives plus quite a few foreign nationals earning a green card, or am I wrong?

At least the draft made it so that all Americans were affected by war, which really doesn't seem to be the case any more... thoughts please?

I think your stats are off - the vast majority of people serving still come from the middle class. But perhaps a Recruiter can weigh in here. A draft is a non-starter with most Americans, so the system we have is the one that will be in place for awhile.


Lots of talk about strategy in war here and some great discussion, but let's focus on the most important battle of all: Army-Navy.

How do you think the appointment of a new Army Football 6 will go for our Black, Grey, and Gold.

Thank you for doing this AMA. It is by far the most thoroughly answered I have come across. As an active JMO, I really appreciate the direct access into your insights from your long and storied career. Go Army. Beat Navy.

I think Jeff Monken is a great choice - proven track record of success with an option offense and experience at an Academy (the one down south, of course). Our biggest problem is defense, however. If he can't fix the Army D, he will be gone in five years as well. Time to hire a good defensive coordinator and fire up the recruiting pipeline!

This may be a silly question but I have to ask anyways. Can you envision a world without war? Are we fated to live from one conflict to the next, doomed to an existence where we have to kill each other because this is our nature? If lasting peace is possible, what would it look like and what basic changes need to be made before we can go down that road.

Thanks for your service and your time.

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." Plato

Hi dad! I have a question for you. Between me and my brother, who is your favorite kid? Also, how are you going to break the news to him?

Love, daught

P.S. Pet the Nikitalune for me!

P.P.S. Hi mom!

The answer is yes. Nikki says Ro-ro-ro!!!

What do you feel about females in combat units? (not support, but direct) One argument that we have heard was that females could not handle the physical challenges that males can. Supposedly the standards were not supposed to change, but recently the Marines have suspended the pull-up requirements for females. I imagine that like the APFT, females wanting to enter combat units will likely have their PT routines adjusted. Is this fair?

I'm on record publicly as supporting females in combat units, but only if they can meet the same physical requirements as men. It worries me that the military might change its standards to accommodate females - that is not a road we want to travel down.

What's it like teaching at such a large school?

How often do students have an effect on you?

I really love teaching at Ohio State. I know that many professors would rather teach in small seminars (and don't get me wrong, I love small group settings), but I really enjoy the big lecture halls filled with smiling faces as well. Well, except for the ones sleeping in the back of class.

Hello Sir,

How do you feel about the recent poll saying the US is the greatest threat to world peace with about 25% of the vote? Do you feel our current military presence and spending is in fact hurting our image and integrity as a country?

History suggests that should the United States withdraw from international affairs, the international environment will not magically stabilize. A quarter of the world hates the United States simply because it is the most powerful nation on earth. Reducing defense spending will not change our image in this regard.


Teaching history at the college level usually requires a PhD, which takes 5-7 years to complete after earning a BA. During that time you will make no money, so you must be committed to your goal.

To get into a Phd program you'll need top grades, excellent writing abilities, excellent Graduate Record Exam scores, and several letters of recommendation from your professors (so get to know them well).

Jobs are scarce, but not impossible to find. I would say if you are sure of your career path and are a top-notch student, go for it. But academia is not the career field for most people.

How about them Buckeyes.

Go Bucks!

Sir, I served in Iraq in late '06-early '07 with a combined joint special operations task force, and again in '07-'08 with 3rd brigade of the 101st. My time in Iraq with the 101st was a much different experience from that with CJSOTF. I was a young junior enlisted soldier, taking orders from even younger LT's with less combat experience than me, but also the missions were much different. I went from pulling dangerous missions on a nightly basis, to ordering air weapons teams to patrol MSR Tampa. Was there a decision made at this point to let the operators continue to do what they had been doing best, and let the more conventional units focus on the smaller tasks of finding the IED emplacers at the bottom of the ladder? In the 13 months I was with the Rakkasans, in the "triangle of death" we (thankfully) only had 1 KIA and a handful of wounded to actual combat, this was not the case when I was in al anbar with CJSOTF, was this due in part to the "awakening" and/or the surge itself, or due to the differences between AQI in anbar vs AQI in southwestern Baghdad? NSDQ!

What we discovered during the surge was the synergy created by having conventional forces and special operations forces working together. Conventional forces could clear and hold ground, which forced insurgents to move and communicate. They could then be identified and targeted by the special operations folks. One without the other was not nearly as effective.

Good morning, Sir.

I was part of HHC DIV, 101st ABN with Gen Petraeus at the time of the invasion of Iraq. Interesting to have served with that man as well. Seemed he was certainly politically sighted at the time.

I have a question regarding your thoughts on social media and how it will transform war in the future. Do you think that the instant sharing of information on social media will drastically change the face of war in an urban environment? What impact do you think it will continue to have on "insurgent's" strategies, etc?

What you are referring to is what is termed information warfare, and yes, the ability of parties to have a global, instantaneous information presence has already changed war to a certain extent. The battle of the narrative is much more important in this environment. Being right doesn't matter if you are last with the truth.

What was the most fulfilling personal experience you've had while serving?

Watching the Iron Curtain fall - tough for anything to compare with that.

What are the most important habits you have established in your life?

Read. Get enough sleep. Stay fit and stay healthy. Find the right balance between work and play. Appreciate the talents God has given you.

It seems like most universities, especially liberal arts schools really seem to have jettisoned military history as a subject from their curriculum.

Do you agree? And, what do you think the impact of that is on society?

I don't think it is a matter of them jettisoning it as never having it in the curriculum in the first place. Given that warfare has been one of the most important drivers of human civilization and development, one would think there would be more attention paid to it in academia.


As far as I know they met after General Petraeus left Iraq. I found out about the affair the same time as the public. And yes - it very much came as a surprise to me.

Not sure if the AMA is over sir, but I am extremely impressed with your breadth of knowledge and agree with you on many issues! Any political ambitions for your future?

No political ambitions - but thanks!

Going through your answers I noticed that you are critical of both Presidents Obama and Bush. Who is your favorite "wartime" President and/or what major qualities do you think a President should possess in matters of war and defense?

Abraham Lincoln - he kept his head when all around him were losing their's. A president needs to be able to think strategically, listen to contrary advice, make decisions, and then supervise those decisions down the chain of command. Few presidents did all of the above successfully - Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are the gold standard.

I just want to say your going down at 8:30 tonight. Keep Woody Hayes in check.

We'll see - should be a great game. Woody is rolling in his grave as we write.

Much respect sir! Former Cav soldier here that was stationed in Bad Kissingen in the early 80's. What unit were you with in Bad Hersfeld?

Commander, M Company, 3/11 ACR - Maulers!

Hi Colonel,

During your career, which other nations' militaries have you served alongside (either exercise or operations), and which made the best impression on you?

The one with which I served most closely (and this might surprise you) was in Karbala in 2004 - the Polish Army. We fought closely with a Polish brigade to retake the city from Sadr's militia which had risen up in April of that year. Great soldiers.

The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan?

Saving Private Ryan.

Greetings, sir!

I served with the Ready First with you in 2003. I can tell you that your were highly regarded by my peers. Question:

There are lots of talks about the cutting of ground forces and the Army is floundering in looking for a mission (i.e. wanting to do similar things to the Marine Corps) especially in the Pacific theater. My concern is that we are repeating history all over again. While we can all say that land intensive conflicts are a thing of the past, due to "technology, etc.) history has shown us that is not true, and the Army has suffered historically because of it. Right now, we are cutting much of the senior NCO leadership and field grade officers that have had comprehensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the idea solution for this dilemma?

First, thanks for the vote of confidence - it means a lot to me. Regarding your question, the army has a crucial role to play in the future, especially in the Pacific. History shows that all conflicts between great powers are decided on land. We need to cultivate allies and then help them with joint forces (including land forces) if (God forbid) war were to occur.

Ready First!

what's your family connexion to arabia, and has your last name ever caused you any problems in your career or travel?

My father's family was from Ramallah. They emigrated to the United States in 1938 when he was 8 years old. Unfortunately, he dropped the language in the great melting pot of American schools (Arabic would really have come in handy in the last 10 years). The family history has never been a hindrance.

Were you with the General when he went to a small village called Quargouli Village held by Second Brigade 10th Mountain? The site if the 07 dustwun? If you did, I pulled security for you.

Why were hardly any of you in proper uniform? No helmets, hardly anyone in body armor.. Looked like a bunch of 40 year old day one privates back on the block.. :)

*edited typo

Wasn't there - sorry.

General Pete, Navy Squid here and 46Q equivalent. The university marketing folks are going to have a field day with you because you failed to capitalize the "T" in "The Ohio State University".

I never do - it's grammatically incorrect. Go Bucks anyway!

The Iraq Study Group's report predicted that, even if a surge were successful, we'd face the problem that once we withdrew, the sectarian violence would return in the absence of a genuine national reconciliation. To some extent, this prediction appears to be prescient, given the huge increase of violence over the last year or so. What's your take on this?

I respectfully disagree with the report. The elections of 2009 and 2010 were successful and boded well for the future. The Sunnis had returned to the political process. We then blew the endgame. I don't think it was a given that sectarian violence would resume.

I always wondered, how is the student and other staff reception of famous professors from controversial backgrounds? We hear of famous lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc, going into academia, but i always wondered how there were received in and out of class.

I wouldn't call myself famous, but my reception has been cordial across the university.

What went through your mind when you heard the Berlin wall had opened up?

The Cold War is over - time to head back to school.

What do you think about your son's chest tattoo?

EDIT: I get reddit gold for this lol

Epic... just epic. LOL

Thank you sir for doing this AMA. As a long time soldier and warrior, I have a question of upmost importance. Would you fight one dinosaur sized duck or 100 duck sized dinosaurs?

One dinosaur sized duck, because after killing it with my bare hands, I would have mallard meat for months to put on the barbie. Would bring a whole new meaning to Duck Dynasty. :-)

Do you disagree with Obama's decision to fire Petraeus?

Yes, actually I did - and said so publicly at the time. I think the president should have given Petraeus a leave of absence to sort out his personal affairs, and then bring him back to continue his service to the nation. And no, for those of you who might think so, Gen. P did not plant this idea in my mind.

Thank you for clarifying which OSU.

I would have not been sure without the "the"

What is the military doing to combat the counterfeit OSU?

Actually, two of them:

Oklahoma State Oregon State

Hey Mr. Mansoor! I'm Morgan Keigley, JT's girlfriends friend Shannon's sister. :p I was in your house once! I cleaned your kitchen, how are you today?

Great! And the kitchen is still clean - great work!

I'm planning on attending Ohio State in a couple years. I've always been interested in history, especially when it comes to the military/war. What is your class like and what kind of prerequisites are there to get into it?

No prerequisites needed to take the History of War, since it is a GE course. You need to take another history course first before you can register for the others that I teach.

I'm going to the game tonight, for I am rooting for the Buckeyes!

Awesome - make some noise, and Hang on Sloopy!

Peter, just one question. Did you ever get to meet Woody Hayes?

Because in addition to being the tOSU football coach for all those years, Hayes also taught classes at Ohio State, and it is said that he had a passionate interest for military history.

Thank you for your service to our country. And Go Bucks, beat clemson!

No, he passed away before I arrived at Ohio State. But he indeed taught military history, and there is now a chair of national security studies named in his honor. Woody never took more in salary than the highest paid professor at the university. A great, principled man despite the lapse in judgment that ended his coaching career.


Hi, I'm a 17 year old senior in highschool that REALLY wants to go to Ohio St. It's been my dream to go there since I was a little kid. I've always wanted to be a military historian, but my history teachers have turned me off to it. They have said that getting a phd in history means that you have to, in their words, "become a monk, and eat, sleep, and read and not have a social life." Is this true? If I become a historian, will I really not have a social life?

Thank you so much for your service to our country, and hopefully I'll be in your class next semester!

You'll have a social life, but you won't be highly paid most likely. You really need to be committed to the goal if you want to go down this road. But if you are and can handle the academic load, then go for it! Go Bucks!

Hello Colonel! Come back to Aladdin's soon!

I hope to! Love my Middle Eastern food. :-)

Random question, are you at all related to a Jim Mansoor?

My brother and part-time ski instructor.

Where will you be watching the game tonight?

Oh yeah. AMA ends within the hour.

Did you agree with General Patraeus' request for a surge in troops in Iraq in 2006 or would you have preferred a quicker exit of troops from Iraq? Also, what is your opinion on President Bush's decision to use General Keane as a back channel between him and Patraeus in order to circumvent the chain of command?

Your post reminds me why I wrote Surge - all the misinformation in the public regarding what went on in Iraq from 2006-2008. Gen. Petraeus didn't request the surge, he merely led coalition forces during it. The strategy was developed by others (see Chapter 2). And the president didn't use Gen. Keane as a backchannel to circumvent the chain of command. He was a valued adviser to Gen. P, but not a go-between. President Bush had a video teleconference with Gen. P on a weekly basis - there was no reason to have a backchannel contact with him.

My question would be, during your military career, were you ever confronted by anything ufo related?

No, but I did wake up one night at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California to see a massive comet stretched from one end of the sky to the other. The most impressive site I've ever seen in the night skies!

Do you know Lt. Col. John Nagl? Dr. Nagl is the new head of the high school I went to. I'm wondering because I had heard that Nagl wrote the field manual on counterinsurgency and is also a good friend of Patraeus.

Yes, we're friends. He wrote a significant part of FM 3-24.

Listen to your PSG

have a student mentality

take the necessary time to get to know your joes

don't shy away from making tough decisions (as long as you can back it up)

Don't pull rank...earn your guys trust and they will follow your lead

Well said.

Do you ever feel bad about what you've done? You know... war and all

I served honorably and well, and sleep very soundly at night. Thanks for asking.

Do you think that the Galatic Empire would have been better served by pursuing a counter-insurgency strategy against the nascent Rebel Alliance after the Battle of Yavin or had the destruction of Alderan largely sealed it's fate?

I'm really not kidding, I wrote my senior capstone paper on how I thought you could apply counter insurgency techniques to crushing the Rebel Alliance. I can message it to you if you'd like.

Perhaps, but the Galactic Empire would never have followed a "protect the population" strategy. So destroying Alderan was part of their slash and burn counterinsurgency strategy - much like the Russians in Afghanistan in the '80s. It didn't work there, either.


The Ohio Union - on campus! Love Sloopy's Diner.

Colonel, thank you for your candid answers.

You mentioned Van Halen (and their M&Ms). Are you a Van Halen fan? ... who makes your favorite tunes? ... were there certain songs that really fired you up when you were operating heavy armor?

Many thanks for your service.

Love Van Halen! And '80s rock in general.

Happy New Year Sir!

Have you seen a trend of respiratory problems in soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?

I have heard the burn pits being referred to as this generations "agent orange" and am curious for your thoughts on it.

I'm not aware of any trends, but agree the air in both places was awful. Glad to be back in the land of the EPA again.

Since you were in Germany, when the wall came down:

Bad Hersfeld was fairly close to the border with the GDR. What were your thoughts during this time? I grew up near Frankfurt and I remember my family at first being a bit scared that someone "over there" might over-react and everyone waiting for Gorbachev's reaction to the events in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany.

I'm very interested to hear what the U.S. military's reactions/preparations were at the time.

Thank you!

We were very much on alert and ready to defend West Germany if the Red Army came across the border. My tank company occupied OP Alpha (now a museum), OP Romeo, and OP India as the fence came down. I still have a piece of the Iron Curtain in my study. A great moment.

Hello, sir.

First off, thank you for your service to our country. I myself never served and I'm thankful for men and women like yourself.

Col. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, has stated on many occasions that he has never lost a nights sleep over his role in the bombing of Hiroshima. Forgetting for a moment whether or not the US needed to use the bomb, should it really be that easy for members of our military to disregard truly horrific collateral damage and chalk it all up to "just doing my duty"? Does it really weaken any service member to express remorse over the loss of innocent lives. Or is this viewed as "questioning orders" or insubordination? I apologize if my question is vague.

I can understand Col. Tibbets' comment. While the bomb he dropped killed hundreds of thousands of people, in the end it also saved millions of lives - most of them Japanese - had the war continued with a U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands. Most of those Japanese would have died of starvation in the winter of 1945-1946 as the next target in the U.S. bombing campaign was the Japanese transportation system, the destruction of which would have rendered impossible the ability of the Japanese government to move food around the country.

This is the problem with messing with history - changing one thing often has second and third order consequences that go far beyond what most people think.

So RIP, Col. Tibbets - you're a great American.

a very interesting read, thank you from copenhagen

My wife and I have been to Copenhagen twice - love the city! Hope to return one day.

What should be our troops' strategy to beat the Clemson nation's Tigers in the Battle of the Orange tonight?

Score lots of points - turn the Orange Bowl into Hyde Park, and hope for a defensive stop every now and then.

This is random but were you a LTC in 04? Your name is VERY familiar and I think you may have awarded me a Purple Heart medal on Baghdad Airport. I'm going to try to find that picture...

Not me - I was a full colonel by then.

Sir, do you have a favorite war movie? A favorite military based videogame?

Kelly's Heroes!

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Peter Mansoor conducted on Reddit on 2014-01-03. The Reddit AMA can be found here.