Hi Reddit, I am Colonel (Ret.) Peter Mansoor, former brigade commander and executive officer to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq and now a professor of military history at The Ohio State University. I am a 1982 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the US Army for 26 years, including tours of duty in Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq. I witnessed the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and served two extended tours of duty in the Iraq War. I was the founding director of the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center and helped to edit FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency (2006). I have authored three books and co-edited four others, including my memoir, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq.

In 2016 I was one of the signatories to the "Never Trump" pledge and four years later joined Operation Grant, Ohio Republicans supporting Joe Biden for president.


One of the questions during my previous AMA six years ago was: "What do you believe to be the greatest threat against the US?" My answer was eerily prescient: "Collapse from within - the increasing polarization of our domestic politics. We need to find common ground and work from the middle outward, not from the extremes inward."

Well, six years later things have only gotten worse. I'd be happy to take another stab at this and other questions you might have. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/6HAJpf2

Comments: 528 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

Turbulent_pig143 karma

Do you believe justice was served with the General's sentence?

ColonelPete203 karma

Gen. Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information and received two years of probation and fined $100,000. I felt this was sufficient given the circumstances.

Turbulent_pig86 karma

Even with the fact that it was SCI information he leaked and used draft emails to communicate?

ColonelPete271 karma

He shared his personal notebooks with Paula Broadwell, who was a US Army reserve major with a security clearance (albeit not an SCI clearance). None of the information leaked into the public domain, nor did she use it in her published work. He was wrong, but the punishment fit the circumstances.

ColonelPete129 karma

Time to wrap up - thanks to all for your questions. Make a plan and go vote!

raymerm101 karma

General Petraeus had some interesting ideas on how the rebuilding and formation of the Iraqi government should be after Sadam was ousted from power. Do you think that we would look on the Iraq war differently if the administration at the time would have followed General Petraus' recommendations after Saddam was ousted?

ColonelPete380 karma

It wasn't just Gen. Petraeus's ideas that were ignored; the administration paid scant attention to anything beyond regime change. Iraq might have turned out much differently had we seized the ammunition depots, closed the borders, retrained and used the Iraqi Army for security, and built representative government from the ground up, as the 101st Airborne Division under Gen. Petraeus was doing up in Mosul. The decision to invade Iraq was a mistake; the decision to invade with no plan for post-hostilities was madness.

coryrenton99 karma

What are some interesting details you've noticed that will likely be lost or largely ignored by history (For example, profound effect of dysentery or other unglamorous diseases in warfare, windows software bugs disabling submarines, etc...)?

ColonelPete249 karma

As a historian I am concerned that the real history of many events will go unrecorded as so much correspondence today is done via electronic means. I can go to the archives to look at paper copies of World War II records, but where do I go to look at records from the Iraq War? And what happens 200 years from now when the IT systems of the future can't read our emails?

coryrenton27 karma

From that POV, what's the longest timeframe do you think records should be allowed to be redacted?

What's the most shocking or interesting thing you've discovered from digging through old archives?

ColonelPete95 karma

I think the 40 year rule used for WWII records is a pretty good one, although there might be reasons to extend the classification longer if sources (spies) are still alive and need to be protected. What I find most interesting in digging through the archives are not secrets that have finally come to light, but revelations about what people actually thought at the time and not the vanilla version presented to the public. I'm writing a book on the liberation of the Philippines during WWII right now. During my research I discovered this tidbit: "On October 29 MacArthur sent a note to Halsey thanking him and his command for their support of the Leyte invasion: 'I send my deepest thanks and appreciation to your magnificent forces on the splendid support and assistance you and they have rendered in the Leyte operation. We have cooperated with you so long that we are accustomed and expect your brilliant successes and you have more than sustained our fullest anticipations. Everyone here has a feeling of complete confidence and inspiration when you go into action in our support.' In private, however, MacArthur’s thoughts took on a completely different tone. The following handwritten note appears on the file copy of the message: 'This follows verbal castigation of Halsey by Gen. MacArthur who repeatedly charged him with failure to execute his mission of covering the Leyte operation. When Halsey failed to get into the Battle of Leyte Gulf, thus threatening the destruction of our shipping, Gen. MacArthur repeatedly stated that Halsey should be relieved and would welcome his relief, since he no longer had confidence in him; that he would never again support us.'"

BigfootSF684 karma

Based upon your experience and knowledge of the quality of documents from WWII do you think the current data archiving done by the US will be adequate for future historians?

ColonelPete12 karma

See the comment above and the response by two archivists regarding digital data storage today. In a word, no.

exwasstalking96 karma

Who do you support for president and why?

ColonelPete410 karma

I support Joe Biden. I believe he has better programs to benefit Americans (support for the Affordable Care Act, a plan for infrastructure investment, a tax plan that will get the deficit under control), he will listen to science when it comes to battling the pandemic and climate change, and he will reassure America's allies, without which our security is significantly lessened. Plus I think the last four years have been a hot mess inside a dumpster fire on a moving trainwreck...

therockethornet145 karma

Halfway up shit's creek to hell on a handbasket going nowhere fast. I'm sorry, I felt the metaphor needed extension sir.

ColonelPete117 karma


ColonelPete95 karma

A user from the first (deleted) thread asked my opinion on the killing of Qassem Soleimani. The Iranian leader of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps was responsible for the deaths of around 600 American soldiers during the Iraq War. He was traveling to Iraq to coordinate further attacks against American troops. Targeting him was justified. A number of fellow veterans called me afterwards to share satisfaction that in this case, justice was done. Feel free to follow up if this didn't answer your question.

the-player-of-games50 karma


ColonelPete81 karma

I think the justification was that he was planning attacks against American personnel in Iraq, which was true. The fact that we had designated the Qods Force a terrorist organization was not the deciding factor. After the Iranian retaliation (missile attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Iraq), the Iranians dialed back their attacks in Iraq and in the Gulf region. So apparently we hit the right guy.

warmkittenmittens77 karma

Hi Peter! What advice can you give to my husband, (a Marine who served two deployments in Iraq) who is working on a service-related memoir?

He was a history major in college, with special interest in military history. I think he would be jazzed at your response!

ColonelPete155 karma

He should read other war memoirs to see what makes them special. I recommend E.B. Sledge, "With the Old Breed," George MacDonald Fraser, "Quartered Safe Out Here," and Nate Fick, "One Bullet Away." And he could read my memoir, "Baghdad at Sunrise." Each of them conveys deeper truths about war and combat than just a recitation of what someone did while deployed in combat. Think about what would separate his story from all the others waiting to be published.

warmkittenmittens25 karma

Thank you so much! I believe he’s added your recommendations to his Amazon wishlist!

macetheface26 karma

Not to butt in but 'Helmet for My Pillow' by Robert Leckie and 'Good-Bye to All That' by Robert Graves are also great reads.

ColonelPete15 karma


Suibian_ni2 karma

Would you recommend Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by TE Lawrence?

ColonelPete3 karma

It's ok as a history of the Arab rebellion from Lawrence's viewpoint, but as a memoir I like others better.

WildBore432167 karma

We need to find common ground and work from the middle outward, not from the extremes inward.

Can we recover and get to this point? The news, social media, the water cooler - it really seems likes it’s us versus them more than ever before. I worry that the election will only lead to further polarization, regardless of outcome.

Is this just the new norm in American politics?

ColonelPete173 karma

American politics have never been civil, but politicians in the past worked to find common ground and compromise once elections were over. The difference today is there are no incentives for politicians to compromise, since their survival in office depends on appealing to an increasingly polarized base. I think reforms at the state level regarding drawing Congressional district boundaries to make elections more competitive would help. Ohio passed a constitutional amendment in this regard that goes into effect in 2022.

We also need to consider forcing social media companies to take responsibility for the content on their websites. This would force them to tackle disinformation and conspiracy theories, which have poisoned the political atmosphere.

We should also revamp civics education in our high schools, so that high school graduates understand how to research an article or website for legitimacy.

Tamping down the vitriol in politics will take time, but the future of our democratic experiment depends on restoring civility and compromise to the political process.

wr_dnd58 karma

Was the Iraq war a mistake in hindsight? With what you know now, what would you have advised?

ColonelPete212 karma

It was a mistake both in hindsight and at the time. As I mentioned in another answer, I argued at the time to my US Army War College classmates that we should have leveraged our NATO allies and the United Nations to contain Saddam rather than invading. The result has been 400,000+ Iraqis dead, 5,000+ US service members dead, a trillion dollars in lost treasure, and Iran ascendant in the Middle East. It was perhaps the worst strategic error in US history.

sephstorm49 karma

How should the US approach nations such as Cuba and North Korea in the future and how can the US match the skills and capabilities of nations such as Russia and China in offensive cyber warfare?

ColonelPete113 karma

North Korea is a difficult challenge, but the way to approach it is to strengthen our alliance with Japan and South Korea and convince China that it is its interest to check Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons program. NK is a wicked problem, but I don't think that Dear Leader has a death wish. His nuclear weapons are a deterrent to an attack by the United States, and they have worked in that regard. It is best to be patient and allow diplomacy and sanctions to contain the regime.

ColonelPete95 karma

Cuba is a different challenge. After President Obama opened relations, the Trump administration has pulled back to a certain extent. This is a diplomatic issue, not a military one. Provided Cuba doesn't try to export its revolution as it did during the Cold War, the United States could slowly improve relations with it even given the authoritarian nature of the regime.

ColonelPete129 karma

Regarding US cyber capabilities, they are more powerful than most people imagine. But US law prohibits us from using them to steal intellectual property the way China does. Russia has used its cyber and social media warriors to destabilize our democracy and those of our NATO allies. I believe a Biden administration would be tougher on Russia, which is the reason why Russia continues to use its cyber capabilities to try to tilt the election in Trump's favor. (I'm not saying this is collusion, by the way. It is what it is.)

MommaJess0844 karma

How much do you love being a grandpa? Do you have any names you hope to be called? Do you want to be grandpa? Or pawpaw? Or grampy? Something else maybe?

ColonelPete55 karma

LOL! I love being a grandparent - the GrandDaught is a cutie! Since half of my heritage is German I have chosen "Opa" as my title. My wife is "Nana."

MommaJess0826 karma

She is a cutie! Your daughter is also beautiful. You raised her well

(I'm from your daughter's mommy group, we met up a few weeks ago)

ColonelPete21 karma

Nice to meet you virtually!

ClaytonBiggsbie41 karma

Do you think we are close to the ''end of the US empire''? If so, at what point does our internal conflict lead to other nations ''choosing sides'' and actively engaging in their desired outcomes?

ColonelPete173 karma

If by the US empire you mean US domination of the global system, then yes, we are at the end. Americans have tired of the burdens of global leadership, and even if a Biden presidency tried to restore the US into a position of leadership, other nations would never be certain that another Donald Trump isn't lurking around the next election corner.

Other nations are already choosing sides, but most prefer a relationship with the United State vice one with China or Russia. I think a lot of foreign leaders are awaiting the outcome of this election to see what comes next for the United States, and then they will make their decisions accordingly.

FastWalkingShortGuy40 karma

What did you think of the movie War Machine starring Brad Pitt?

It was obviously a comedy, but do you feel like there was some truth to its depiction of the US's approach to the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq?

ColonelPete169 karma

I didn't like the way he portrayed Gen. Stan McChyrstal (whom I have met), but there was some truth in the idea that each new command team would come into Afghanistan thinking they would win the war then others couldn't. H.R. McMaster says it well in his new book (Battlegrounds) that we haven't been in Afghanistan for 19 years; we've been there for one year 19 times in a row.

Blewedup37 karma

It’s clear in retrospect that Dick Cheney was correct when he stated that invading Iraq and taking Baghdad was a terrible idea because it would destabilize the Middle East and give rise to extremism in the region. Why didn’t more people heed his advice, including himself?


ColonelPete77 karma

He was correct in 1991, but completely ignored his own advice in 2003. In the interim a consensus in the foreign policy elite (aka, the Blob) emerged that Saddam had to be removed from power, and the neoconservatives (Cheney among them) believed that US military power could do this quickly, cheaply, and at minimal cost in lives. They simply wished away the aftermath of an invasion, however, believing that Iraqi ex-pats or the UN would come in to clean up the mess.

UriahHeep135 karma

The US has been in armed conflict 222 out of 239 years. Will there ever be a time when the US isn't at war with someone?

ColonelPete84 karma

As a major global power the United States has a vested interest in the stability of the international order. Our economy depends on the free use of the global commons, for instance. The American people want to be kept free of terrorist threats, and a large majority support our overseas alliances. This puts the United States in the crosshairs of strategic competitors such as Russia and China, regional powers such as North Korea and Iran, and terrorist groups with global reach. We can refrain from wars of choice (such as Iraq), but unless we want to retreat into isolationism the United States will need to continue to use its military power to defend our national security objectives overseas.

UriahHeep137 karma

Thank you for your answer, sir. If I could ask a follow up, don't armed conflict create the terrorists we have to fight later?

ColonelPete94 karma

Sometimes. A good book on this is David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla. His thesis is that US interventions into some areas actually create blow-back that creates more insurgents than they eliminate. I think what we have discovered since 2001 is that more limited use of military force is better than massive invasions, such as Iraq. The war against ISIS was better conducted, I think - airpower, advisors, and special forces teaming up with allies on the ground. The key is to keep the pressure on terrorist groups so they don't recover, as they did after 2011 when President Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq.

sidekickbananaduck18 karma

At least you admit that wars are pretty much based on economic interest.

ColonelPete73 karma

There are based on fear, honor, and interest - as the Greek general turned historian Thucydides wrote nearly 2,500 years ago. Economics are certainly a crucial aspect of national security, but they are not the only reason why nations resort to the military instrument of power.

holodeckdate11 karma

What is your opinion of Eisenhower's warning of the military industrial complex?

ColonelPete4 karma

Eisenhower grew up in an era when the United States did not maintain a large standing military. He wanted to return to that policy, but the creation of the national security state during the Cold War prevented a return to the past. His warning about the military-industrial complex may have been heartfelt, but until the Cold War was over it was not going away. After the fall of the Soviet Union the defense industry shrunk dramatically, only to resurge after 9/11.

haroldtitus42534 karma

I come from a big military family and have many active duty friends. It seems to me Trump is widely very popular among servicemembers. Here's my question. In my lifetime, no president has dodged the draft more times, nor disrespected servicemembers more, nor undermined leadership/brass more than President Trump. Considering all this, and the fact that he's a billionaire socialite from Manhattan, how do you account for his widespread popularity in the military? I'm seriously asking, btw. Genuinely curious about your take.

ColonelPete65 karma

I think that many military members initially approved of President Trump because they believed he supported the military and was willing to increase defense spending. These views have changed over time as more information leaks about the president's actual feelings about people who serve in uniform. A Military Times poll released on August 31 found that "In the latest results — based on 1,018 active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August — nearly half of respondents (49.9 percent) had an unfavorable view of the president, compared to about 38 percent who had a favorable view...Among all survey participants, 42 percent said they “strongly” disapprove of Trump’s time in office."

jackconnery7932 karma

In your opinion, was Market Garden worth the expenditure of men, time, and resources?

ColonelPete46 karma

Absolutely not. The plan was flawed from the beginning - even if XXX Corps had reached the Rhine River, it would not have had the logistics to carry it into the Ruhr. Eisenhower should have ordered Montgomery to open the Scheldt Estuary immediately after the seizure of Antwerp, instead of putting it on the back burner for a long shot at glory.

Freemontst30 karma

What is the hardest choice you've faced?

ColonelPete73 karma

I was directing a brigade operation in the city of Karbala when one of my units came under fire from a building that was adjacent to a holy shrine. To protect my soldiers and destroy the enemy I called in an airstrike on the building. This may seem like an easy decision, but any damage to the shrine would have meant disastrous consequences to the US position in Iraq. It was around 2 o'clock in the morning, the AC-130 gunship was flying unseen overhead, and it was my decision to make. I called in the airstrike and talked the aerial gunners onto the target. The action resulted in the destruction of the enemy force and ended the battle for Karbala.

Freemontst23 karma

Thank you. Were the consequences what you anticipated or was everything so disorganized that there wasn't much outcry?

ColonelPete60 karma

The consequences were far better than I had expected. The airstrike did not damage the shrine, and no civilians were killed. The end of the fighting enabled the people to begin cleaning up and restoring the city. Coalition forces never had to return to Karbala - there was a brief gun battle there in August 2007, but it was Iraqi militias vying for control.

FecalPlume29 karma

100 Modern day Marines (2020) vs. 112,000 British soldiers from the American Revolutionary War (1775) : Who wins?

Each group is armed with the weapons and tactics of their day. Marines have unlimited ammo. No air support or anything with vehicles. Brits do not have cannons.  The two groups are dropped a mile from each other, into a relatively open area with some trees and a few buildings.

ColonelPete63 karma

That's a lot of dead Redcoats!

TisTheParticles29 karma

Is your last name Arabic? What’s the story there?

ColonelPete66 karma

My father was of Palestinian descent - born as an American citizen overseas (my grandfather had become a naturalized American citizen in the 1920s and then returned to the old country to marry) in the West Bank and emigrated to the United States at the age of 8.

MommaJess0827 karma

What has been your favorite state to live in? Do you actually like Ohio?

ColonelPete72 karma

I have visited 49 of the 50 states (sorry, North Dakota) and have lived in 10 of them (Minnesota, California, New York, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, Kansas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania). There were things I liked about all of these states, but I think California and Ohio are at the top of the list. I was raised in Sacramento and really like that city, but I have now lived in Ohio longer than I have lived anywhere else. My wife and I love the Columbus area, the four seasons here in the Midwest, and of course the Buckeyes!

MommaJess0821 karma


ColonelPete39 karma


Adventure_Trevor27 karma

How do you response to this op-ed, arguing that military leaders (active or retired) should totally stay away from presidential endorsements or disendorsements, due to the risk of politicizing the military?

Edit: to be clear, I say this as someone who is VERY hopeful Trump is a one term president. I'm asking this not as a partisan, but wondering about whether this is or is not a useful guideline.

ColonelPete57 karma

Interesting op-ed. Retired officers, of course, have the same First Amendment rights as other citizens. But retired general and flag officers (admirals) are held in special esteem by the American people. The danger of their endorsement of presidential candidates is that future presidents may condition promotions based on political loyalty. This would actually be a return to the way the US military worked in the 19th century, before the professionalization of the institution. It would not be good for the nation to have promotions tied to politics. (I write this as a retired colonel who has endorsed Joe Biden for president, so I am aware of the risks. But promotions through colonel are controlled by the services with the consent of the Senate. The president has control over promotions to 3 and 4 star rank, albeit also with the consent of the Senate.)

Freemontst26 karma

What emerging threats are being discussed at the War College?

ColonelPete47 karma

The US Army, and by extension the US Army War College, are focusing on great power competition; specifically, potential conflicts with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. I think the Army would like to get out of the counterinsurgency business, even though it is in active conflict still in Afghanistan. There is also some focus on advising and assisting foreign militaries, although the Special Forces are also heavily involved in this area.

CMDC8226 karma

What are your thoughts on women serving in Special Forces?

ColonelPete112 karma

If they can meet the physical standards then they should be able to serve. I think SF will find women soldiers of value, and especially when dealing with women in foreign populations.

MarcusXL25 karma

What are the chances of a civil war in the United States? Would some states secede? How would such a conflict develop?

ColonelPete104 karma

I don't think a civil war in the United States today would be like the conflict fought in the 19th century. It would play out more like the Iraq civil war, with car bombs, roadside bombs, urban and rural guerrillas, rocket and mortar attacks, snipers, population cleansing, etc. It would be nasty, deadly, and brutal. I hate the way too many people casually mention the possibility. It would be awful.

sephstorm24 karma

What is your opinion of actions the US has taken in pursuit of what appear to be short term goals, and then the long term results seem to put us worse off?

As an example, the overthrow of the Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran seems to have been a decision of which we are still feeling the effects.

As an additional question, considering the fact that the US military, and intelligence agencies do lie to the American people with the aim of serving the US' political interests, how can people trust the military or these agencies? As an example there are well known examples of the military misleading the public about the war in Afghanistan, politicians lying about Iraq and the IC going along with it, or the CIA's refusal to acknowledge Levison for years after any intel would have been valuable or any sources compromised, and despite the claim that he was there on an "unauthorized" mission.

ColonelPete58 karma

There is a good case to be made that regime change as a policy has hurt the United States far more than it has helped. We intervene in the internal affairs of others nations at our peril. A lot of the reasoning for these coups disappeared with the end of the Cold War. As for the wars of 9/11, the result of the Iraq War has cured us of any desire to conduct regime change at the barrel of a gun, at least absent a clear and present danger to US security.

ColonelPete89 karma

As for the truthfulness of the government, the best antidote is a vigorous media (the fourth branch of government). President Trump likes to call it the "fake news media" because he doesn't like their coverage, especially when they call out his lies. The media is not always right and is sometimes biased, but we are far better off with it than without it.

holodeckdate22 karma

What is your opinion of Eisenhower's warning of the military industrial complex?

ColonelPete26 karma

Eisenhower grew up in an era when the United States did not maintain a large standing military. He wanted to return to that policy, but the creation of the national security state during the Cold War prevented a return to the past. His warning about the military-industrial complex may have been heartfelt, but until the Cold War was over it was not going away. After the fall of the Soviet Union the defense industry shrunk dramatically, only to resurge after 9/11.

Bob_the_brewer22 karma

What would your advice be to the men and women who have taken an path to protect the country from all threats foreign and domestic, if the person inhabiting the white house refuses to step down after the election if he loses?

ColonelPete53 karma

This is a question on many people's mind right now. My advice to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs would be to stay out of the political thicket, and allow the legislative and judicial branches work out the outcome of the election. A good example is the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, which was contested until two days before inauguration day. But Congress came up with a political solution to the issue, keeping the military out of the equation.

Skibumntahoe14 karma

As a 16yr Army combat veteran I agree completely! I was on a CMATT team for the MNFTI mission 2007-8. I knew the mission intent and did the job, but trying to instill logistical discipline in part-time soldiers being paid poorly(constant theft) was frustrating. When ISIS rolled thru Iraq I was not surprised. I am glad we have a system to handle our political issues.

ColonelPete20 karma

Thanks for your service on the team during the Surge.

whatsthehappenstance20 karma


ColonelPete43 karma

I agree that the Iraq War was misguided, and I argued as much when the war started (I was a colonel attending the US Army War College, so I had no say in the matter). On the other hand, our support of the Syrian Defense Forces and the Iraqi Army in battling ISIS was an effort worth the cost in blood and treasure, as the destruction of that terrorist group made both the United States and our European and Middle Eastern allies safer.

fidelkastro17 karma

How equipped is the military to perform widespread domestic tasks like dispensing vaccines to the general population? Is this a reasonable solution?

ColonelPete66 karma

We do not need the military to dispense vaccines to the general population. We have a strong pharmacy system that can get this done - as it does every year with the annual flu vaccine. We do not need to reinvent the wheel here.

Freemontst17 karma

Regarding counterinsurgencies, what do you wish you'd known at the outset of Iraq? And, also, I have been worried about the degradation of our diplomatic apparatus at State. As a military leader, has and, if so, how has your perspective changed on how we use soft power around the world?

ColonelPete50 karma

We were not well educated or trained on insurgencies and counterinsurgency when we invaded Iraq in 2003. I would have benefited from understanding the various ways insurgents attempt to control the population in order to counter their techniques.

Regarding our Foreign Service officers, I couldn't agree more. They are worth their weight in gold - or tanks, planes, and ships - and I fear this administration has put a serious dent into the State Department. I was fortunate to serve with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the gold standard for diplomats as far as I'm concerned. America could use more diplomats like him.

Freemontst14 karma

Thank you, Colonel. I wish I had known this AMA was happening in advance. I have so many questions.

Do any of your books or scholarly works address your perspectives on the future of warfare and the most effective strategies to engage with non-state actors?

ColonelPete20 karma

My work is not focused on those areas, but you might enjoy some of the works by David Kilcullen, who served on Gen. Petraeus's staff during the Surge in Iraq in 2007-2008. He has written quite a bit on those topics and his analysis is usually quite good.

11BadBack15 karma

Why didn't you branch Infantry?

ColonelPete35 karma

LOL - said no tanker ever!

ColonelPete34 karma

Seriously, when I was at West Point we were introduced to the various branches of the Army, including infantry, armor, field artillery, engineers, signal corps, etc. I really enjoyed the week we spent with tanks and armored cavalry at Fort Knox, and I decided to branch armor.

Mofreaka12 karma

Do you have any thoughts on the Mobile Protected Firepower program? I yearn for a tracked vehicle in my IBCT.

ColonelPete25 karma

We keep relearning old lessons. The Army discovered in WWII that every infantry division needed tank support, so it added a tank battalion to the infantry division TO&E. After Korea Army added a second tank battalion to the mix. Fast forward fifty years and the Army created IBCTs without tanks in them. I hope the Mobile Protected Firepower program comes to fruition - crossing the deadly ground requires those capabilities.

Freemontst14 karma

I can't recall whether Gen. Petraeus or McChrystal had the committee of committed dissenters. If you were in that crew, did you find the structure valuable? How did you build enough trust among your troops that they could feel confident in disagreeing with you?

ColonelPete35 karma

First I've heard of that particular group. Petraeus was open to receiving emails from any soldier who thought their idea was worthy of examination by the 4-star commander, and sometimes he received valuable feedback in this manner. The key is to appreciate the feedback without taking it personally if a soldier is just airing grievances.

kuroosbae13 karma

How would you rate the US performance in Iraq, especially considering that you advocated for deployment of additional troops?

What are/were the primary US interests in Iraq?

Do you think Iraq and other countries would have been better off without the US involvement?

ColonelPete46 karma

I would start with first principles: strategic mistakes, once made, can rarely be corrected. We should not have invaded Iraq, and all of our failures begin from that premise.

The military did a wonderful job demolishing the Iraqi Army and forcing Saddam from power, and then stumbled for nearly four years trying to figure out how to stabilize Iraq, create the instruments of government and a new military, and fight a growing insurgency. The development of new counterinsurgency doctrine in 2006 and the Surge of forces in 2007-2008 helped to stave off defeat, but could not overcome the fractures in Iraqi society that eventually led to the rise of ISIS.

I won't go into what the Bush administration thought US interests were in 2003, because they were wrong and their ideas have been overtaken by events. Today the United States desires an Iraq that doesn't splinter, that is an ally in the war against ISIS, and is not a pawn of Iran. I'm afraid we might only achieve two out of three, but time will tell.

And the answer to your third question is absolutely yes.

JudgeHoltman12 karma

What's the best balance between Micro and Macro Management when managing large projects?

ColonelPete35 karma

A leader needs to establish a vision and set the goals for an organization, provide guidance for planning, and then empower his/her subordinates to get the job done. Leaders need to check on the organization without making every single decision, which leads to micromanagement and paralysis. Gen. Petraeus did this through the morning update brief, where he received feedback on the status of Multi-National Force-Iraq and gave guidance on the way ahead. He would also go into the field to meet with brigade, battalion, and company commanders to check the pulse of the organization at lower echelons and get a visceral sense for what was happening where boots met sand. I though his balance in this regard was spot on.

baulrog7610 karma

Have you ever seen combat?

ColonelPete65 karma

Yes, I was a brigade commander in Baghdad and Karbala in 2003-2004 for thirteen months of combat, and then served as executive officer to Gen. David Petraeus for fifteen months in Iraq in 2007-2008. I've been shot at, rocketed, mortared, and targeted with roadside bombs, and hit back with artillery and air strikes in support of my soldiers in close combat with the enemy. My memoir, "Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq," details my first tour in the Iraq War. My brigade, the Ready First Combat Team (1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division), was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for collective valor in combat. I earned a Bronze Star for valor for the fighting in Karbala in April-May 2004.

baulrog7616 karma

Thank you for your service

ColonelPete39 karma

It was an honor to serve.

ChefRickRock9 karma

Do you remember a translator to General Petraeus named Odi?

ColonelPete13 karma

Sorry, but no.

mensch758 karma

Are you associated with the Lincoln project?

ColonelPete41 karma

I am associated with Operation Grant, which is a group of Ohio Republicans who are supporting Joe Biden for president. I was a "Never Trumper" back in 2016, and my position regarding President Trump has not changed.

Piratesfan028 karma

What could the president have done to change your mind?

ColonelPete95 karma

Had President Trump after the 2016 election stopped his tweeting, listened to his advisors (some of whom were good, at least in the first couple of years), stopped his attack on immigrants, refrained from supporting white supremacists, and focused on governing, I might have been more supportive. But then he wouldn't be Donald Trump.

Koronakesh8 karma

What, if anything, do you believe should be taken away from the Battle of Ganjgal?

ColonelPete23 karma

Never leave your base without dedicated fire support and a standby quick reaction force at the ready.

NonThrowAway0077 karma

Thank you for your time this evening. Can you briefly share your thoughts on the Impeachment and the GOPs decision to not hear evidence, despite such? Additionally, based on the Mueller Report’s 10 cases of obstruction of justice noted, and the fact that indictment was withheld based on a “longstanding rule”, would you like to see Trump indicted for his crimes as President? Thank you for your service.

ColonelPete12 karma

I'm not a fan of impeachment, but in my view the president obstructed justice in a number of ways laid out by the House. The refusal of the Republicans in the Senate to hear witnesses set a bad precedent. But that is over now, and I do not think that Trump should be indicted once he leaves office, except for crimes he may have committed prior to entering the presidency (e.g., tax fraud). We do not want to set a precedent of exacting revenge on our political leaders once they leave office (which is why the "lock her up" chants are so awful).

AusTurner7 karma

As a young (Never Trump) Republican, is there any reason to be optimistic about the future of the party?

ColonelPete14 karma

I would like to say yes, but I'm not optimistic. After this election the Republican Party can go one of three ways:

  • Remain the party of Trump, led by Donald Trump, one of his family members, or someone like Tucker Carlson
  • Treat Trumpism as an aberration and try to expand the Republican voting base under a new leader such as Nicky Halley
  • Flip ideological positions with the Democratic Party and become the party of the blue collar working class

We'll see how the election goes. If Trump wins, the party becomes his personal fiefdom; if he loses small, it could stagger on in something like its current form; if he loses big, stand by for changes.

Peekachooed6 karma

Post-1991, do you think the US military has become less proficient in all-out conventional conflict against near-peer adversaries (Russia, China) as a result of engagements in the Middle East against weak state militaries or non-state organisations, eg by taking air superiority for granted?

ColonelPete7 karma

It didn't happen post-1991, but the wars of 9/11 required different skills sets and equipment that dulled our edge in conventional combat. The services are regaining those competencies today, albeit in stiff competition with Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

elesaofthesea5 karma

Being of Palestinian descent, do you have any hopes for how a Biden administration may handle the ongoing conflict of Palestine-Israel? Are you okay with the current handling of it, is there anything specifically that you think could be done better on our end, etc?

ColonelPete8 karma

This is a terrible situation for the Palestinians, but they need to realize they lost the wars in 1948 and subsequently. Time for the Palestinian leadership to cut the best deal they can and make peace with Israel. Sadly, I do not see this happening. There isn't much the United States can do to affect this situation - we tried supporting the Palestinian authority, and we tried cutting off aid. The result was the same.

Freemontst5 karma

Do you feel Paula Broadwell's punishment was adequate?

ColonelPete13 karma

As far as I know she was stripped of her security clearance, which was an adequate response by the Army.

li8loll7l874 karma

How do you feel about Trump instating a new federal judge during an election and during covid?

ColonelPete6 karma

I think you mean installing a new Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett. Hypocritical as hell - the Senate couldn't be bothered to vote on Merrick Garland's appointment 8 months before the election in 2016, but the Senate Republicans didn't event wait until Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in the grave to begin confirming her replacement, which they accomplished in just five weeks.

The Supreme Court is too powerful and needs to be reformed. Here's my idea: Pass an amendment to limit Supreme Court Justice terms to 18 years, and stagger them so each president gets to nominate one in his/her first and third years in office. The court would turn over every 18 years, keeping 9 justices on the bench. Not quite lifetime appointments, but still lengthy. And every president would be guaranteed two nominees, instead of the mortality crapshoot we have now.

TolPM714 karma

Was the invasion of Iraq a mistake?

ColonelPete6 karma

Yes - answered elsewhere in this AMA.

Sea-Seaweed-97913 karma

respect to you for your service. I must ask, how do you feel now about Iraq and the war we waged with the country??

ColonelPete3 karma

Answered elsewhere - the war was a strategic mistake, perhaps the worst in the history of our country.

prophet5833 karma

What is your opinion of the military history books and criticism of Victor David Hanson? Do you use them at Ohio State?

ColonelPete8 karma

I use Victor Davis Hanson's "Carnage and Culture," but in tandem with John Lynn's "Battle" so students can see both sides of the argument.

SAMAKUS3 karma

Some insurgency experts have claimed that the increasing reliance on mechanized and advanced military assets such as UAVs, tanks, etc. don’t actually aid coalition forces as much as hurt them, due to decreasing cooperation with locals and driving them to aid or even join insurgent groups. FM 3-24 even shows with a list of paradoxes specific to COIN operations that we are aware of some of these issues, but even with those in mind, the US military still has lots of problems combatting insurgent groups.

Do you agree that these problems are partially due to the increased reliance on advanced technology by the US military? If so, should we consider shifting back our usage of military technology when combatting insurgencies, and if we should, how do you think we should convince the American people of this, when the technology we employ has prevented, at least in the short term, American casualties?

ColonelPete4 karma

One of the things Gen. Petraeus emphasized during the Surge in Iraq in 2007-2008 was to get out of vehicles and patrol on foot. But the vehicles, such as MRAPs, were still extremely useful and I would not get rid of them and transition to a light infantry force, even in a counterinsurgency war. UAVs were also highly useful, especially when armed. The bottom line is advanced technology helped us fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops needed to patrol on foot, but supplemented by technology and not divorced from it.

A good study is the Battle of Phase Line Gold in Sadr City in April 2008. Technology helped us win that very difficult fight.

abrarboston3 karma

Your last name Mansoor is shared with many Muslims around the world. Any affiliation or Muslims in your family?

ColonelPete5 karma

My family on my father's side is originally from Rumallah on the West Bank, but we are Christian Palestinians.

shadowpawn3 karma

What was the biggest mistake of the German Army in WWII? Invasion of Russia or Failure to secure oil fields in Middle East?

ColonelPete5 karma

Those decisions belonged to Hitler, not to the German Army. His biggest mistake was declaring war against the United States, something he was not required to do by the Axis treaty. That move ensured the largest industrial power in the world was brought into the war in Europe, an outcome that was not certain after Pearl Harbor.

SpreadHDGFX3 karma

What strategies would you suggest Penn State employee to beat Ohio State this weekend?

ColonelPete8 karma

Go back two years in time and make sure that Justin Fields sticks to his commitment to Penn State (he committed in 2018 before de-committing and going to Georgia).

Adenauer_Ghost3 karma

Good morning Mr. Mansoor,

If policies like a free public option for health care, free public college, and increased investment in high paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure become a reality after this election and in the next four years, how do you see the DoD competing in that sort of job market? Healthcare and college are two powerful incentives for recruitment and number are already on a downward trend.

ColonelPete3 karma

I doubt that Congress will approve free public college education, except perhaps for two years of community college. The GI Bill will remain a big draw. The military will also remain attractive to non-college educated high school graduates, regardless of what happens with college funding. College is not for everyone.

A Biden administration will also allow more immigration. Most people don't know that one does not have to be an American citizen to join the military. Allowing immigrants to join and then granting them citizenship after their commitment is done is a big incentive to enlist.

The bigger issue for the military is that most 18 year olds are not qualified to join the military - academically (high school grad), physically, or ethically (crime history). This is a societal issue over which the military has little control.

b200520133 karma

there is a common theme among high ranked ex military that support Biden, and have grave concern for the direction #45 is taking our country. I agree with you as well as Ret. Adm Mccraven said recently about #45 and his support for Biden for president. Shit, I agree with anyone thats against #45. What are your thoughts about Gen Mattis not wanting to comment more about #45? I feel he is missing a great opportunity to speak up more as Gen Kelly has recently. I dont think the time is now to remain silent. also just saw a news clip saying that if #45 is reelected, he will immediately fire FBI Director and Sec of Def Yesper....I mean... Esper. what are your thoughts about that?

ColonelPete6 karma

See my comments above about the involvement of former general officers in presidential politics - they need to abstain as much as possible. We do not desire a politicized officers corps, and too much involvement by retired general officers will lead the military into the political thicket. Best that they comment on specific policies rather than their support for candidates.

__swubs__2 karma

How did you become a military historian?

ColonelPete5 karma

I was interested in military history ever since I was in grade school. My mother would take me to the library once a week and I would gravitate to the military history section. I attended West Point and was going to focus my studies in civil engineering, but I kept getting drawn into history courses. So I ended up taking most of my electives in history but still took the honors course in civil engineering. After my company command in the late-'80s I applied to go to grad school and return to West Point to teach - in military history. My PhD from Ohio State and subsequent publications (including the award winning "The GI Offensive in Europe") made a career in academia possible. But I still wasn't planning on becoming an academic, until Ohio State reached out in 2007 and offered me a chair in military history. I then retired to become a professor. So it wasn't a path I set out to follow, but I kept getting pulled in that direction.

bullshit-name2 karma

Do you have a favorite president? If so, who and why? Also, what do you think future looks like in terms of international conflict? The days of all our wars almost seem archaic - it seems to be all about soft power plays and influence operations

ColonelPete3 karma

I would rank three presidents at the top of the list: Washington, without whom we would not have a country and who set the precedent for voluntarily giving up power after two terms in office - thus establishing the norm of peaceful transfer of power; Lincoln, who held the union together during the Civil War and freed the slaves; and Roosevelt, who fought both economic depression and global war and came out on top of both.

Bumpy1100112 karma

In retrospect, do you think invading Iraq was necessary to protect American? If it was not needed, when did you come to that conclusion?

ColonelPete4 karma

Answered elsewhere - it was a huge mistake, a conclusion I came to during my time in the US Army War College in 2002-2003 before the war even began.

Maurice_Clemmons-18 karma

How do you sleep knowing that you actively participated in the murder of countless civilians, including children and infants?

ColonelPete24 karma

Hardly countless. As a brigade commander I had officers investigate every civilian death in which our soldiers were involved. There were only a couple dozen, and we made restitution (solatia payments) to the families involved. Most were the result of civilians getting caught up in crossfire between insurgents and soldiers. Fighting a war in a large city like Baghdad is difficult; the presence of civilians sometimes results in tragedy. But as a soldier you do the best you can to limit civilian casualties while accomplishing your mission.