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Colonel Paul Yingling is a retired United States Army officer. In 2007 Yingling published an article in the Armed Forces Journal criticizing senior leadership for perceived failures in the conduct of the post-invasion Iraq War occupation. Yingling served three tours in the Iraq War, first as executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery in OIF I, as the effects coordinator for the 3rd ACR from March 2005 to March 2006 during OIF III, and finally as J5 for TF 134 (Detainee Operations) from April 2008 to July 2009. He retired from the Army in 2012 to teach high school social studies.
Yingling graduated from Duquesne University in 1989 with a degree in international relations, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Field Artillery through Army ROTC. His first tour was with the 1st Infantry Division, where he served as a fire direction officer during the Gulf War. He attended FA Advanced Course and was assigned to the 41st FA Brigade in Germany, where he commanded a target acquisition battery. In December 1995, he deployed to Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Endeavor.
He subsequently earned a master's degree in international relations from the University of Chicago, and taught at West Point. He is also a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Yingling was a division planner with 2nd Infantry Division prior to his deployment to OIF I as a battalion executive officer. In OIF I, his unit was tasked with collecting enemy ammunition and training the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. On his second deployment to Iraq, as the effects coordinator, he was responsible for information operations, public affairs, psychological operations, civil affairs, and Iraqi Security Forces development. On his third deployment to Iraq, as J5 for TF 134, he planned the transition from security detention under the UN mandate to criminal detention procedures under Iraqi domestic law. Yingling became a colonel in February 2011.
Criticism of the U.S. military
Yingling wrote an article called "A Failure in Generalship" that appeared on April 27, 2007, in the Armed Forces Journal. The Washington Post described it as "a blistering attack on U.S. generals" and a signal of the "public emergence of a split inside the military between younger, mid-career officers and the top brass". He argues that the U.S. general corps needs to be overhauled because it failed to anticipate the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq, and because of its reluctance to admit the onset of such an insurgency in 2004. He likened Iraq to the Vietnam War, stating, "for the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency". Because the Vietnam and Iraq wars were commanded by different generals, he concludes that the U.S. generalship as an institution, not individual generals, has failed. He proposes that the U.S. Congress take more interest in military affairs, especially when confirming generals. Generals, in his opinion, need to be aware that future U.S. wars will not involve one large enemy army but rather smaller, difficult-to-target groups of insurgents. He states that the United States needs generals to be more creative, as well as have a better understanding of military history, international relations, and foreign cultures.
Even before he published the influential Armed Forces Journal article, Yingling had made his dissatisfactions known in interviews conducted for the Army's oral history archives. He said that although "building host-nation institutions" was the crux of counterinsurgency strategy, "all our organizations are designed around the least important line of operations: combat operations".
- “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war” - arguing that Congress needs to be more bold when holding three- and four-star generals accountable.
- "It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties." - arguing that the U.S. generalship suffers from conformity, lack of vision, and lack of creativity.
- “For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq,”
- “The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship,”
- “Events over the last two decades demonstrate that insurgency and terrorism are the most likely and most dangerous threats our country will face for the foreseeable future. Our enemies have studied our strengths and weaknesses and adapted their tactics to inflict the maximum harm on our society.”
- "don’t train on finding the enemy; train on finding your friends and they will help you find your enemy."
- Lt. Col. John Nagl - co-author with Yingling in Field Artillery and Armed Forces Journal
- General David Petraeus - co-authored Counterinsurgency Field Manual with John Nagl
- Counterinsurgency operations in Tal Afar
- Colonel Gian Gentile - critic of counterinsurgency advocates
- Yingling, Paul (27 April 2007). "A Failure of Generalship". Armed Forces Journal.
- Yingling, Paul (2 December 2011). "Why an Army colonel is retiring early — to become a high school teacher". Washington Post.
- Ricks, Thomas E. (27 April 2007). "Army Officer Accuses Generals of 'Intellectual and Moral Failures'". Washington Post.
- "US Military Says 3 Marines Killed in Anbar Province", Voice of America News, 27 April 2007.
- Ricks, Thomas E. (21 November 2006). "Flaws Cited in Effort To Train Iraqi Forces". Washington Post.
- Armed Forces Journal "A failure in generalship" - May 2007
- SignOnSanDiego.com > In Iraq - U.S. Army officer accuses his generals of failures in Iraq
- Armed Forces Journal - New rules for new enemies - October 2006
- Interview with MAJ Mark Holzer