COL. McMASTER….Aside from David Petraeus himself, probably the most celebrated soldier of the Iraq War has been Col. H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty and the guy who had about a thousand newspaper articles written about him when he successfully pacified the city of Tal Afar in 2005. He was practically a poster boy for the Army’s embrace of counterinsurgency in Iraq, and is currently part of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency brain trust.
In other words, seemingly a shoo-in for promotion to Brigadier General. But apparently not. It turns out he was recently passed over for the second time. James Joyner comments:
I never served with McMaster and I’ve never heard anything but positive things about him. But it’s hardly inconceivable that a rock star who is both a brilliant tactician and a leading scholar has managed to rub some people above him in the chain of command the wrong way — or even inspire a bit of jealousy at all the attention he’s gotten. And the odds are more than even that those on the promotion board, who came up the ranks in a Big Wars Army, look askance at handing the keys to their institution over to people who want to make radical changes in it.
Obviously there might be some good reason for passing over McMaster. Only the promotion board knows for sure. Still, it’s pretty damn odd, and it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence that the military has any intention of supporting serious institutional change in response to 9/11.
No comment yet from George Packer, who wrote extensively about McMaster and Tal Afar for the New Yorker, but I’ll be curious to see if he eventually has anything to say about it on his blog.