Strengthening the intellectual foundation for our profession of arms.

Episode 2 – David H. Ucko

January 3rd, 2016 by Clare O'Neill

David H. Ucko was interviewed at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. His latest book, co-authored with Robert Egnell, Counterinsurgency in Crisis: Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare has recently been published See Emile Simpson’s book review here.  Some of David Ucko’s thoughts on junior commanders:

  • “Junior commander’s have an unenviable role to play because on one hand it’s the eternal dictum of ‘Do No Harm’ … but of course that’s impossible because through our actions we’re always going to create winners and losers, even in something as benign as building a well or setting up some local economic project, it’s going to create people who benefit from that (project) and those people who don’t benefit from that.”
  • Junior commander’s “first role and responsibility is to understand that through their actions, they’re always going to upset entrenched interests and therefore they need to think through the secondary, tertiary and unintended consequences of every action and that’s why I say it’s a very unenviable position to be in because I can think of few other professions, where at such a young age, you are bestowed with such an awesome responsibility.”
  • Junior commander’s second role “is that it’s not enough just to ‘Do No Harm’ or not screw things up, that’s part of the puzzle, but what makes it more complex is that we’re working towards a mission objective and what’s the role of the junior commander in that. Well, of course, it’s the realisation again that war is ultimately about politics and so what is the political objective that is actually being served.”
  • “I think every commander, no matter where they are in the hierarchy, needs to appreciate exactly how their actions and what they’re doing on a day to day basis correlates, relates to or leads to ideally the mission objective or the campaign plan. So what does that mean? It means understanding local politics, local preferences and how one’s actions mesh with those politics and preferences so as to create the new political compact that the war is ultimately trying to create.”

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Biography

From CISA:

David H. Ucko, Ph.D., is the author of Counterinsurgency in Crisis: Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare (Columbia University Press, 2013), The New Counterinsurgency Era: Transforming the U.S. Military for Modern Wars (Georgetown University Press, 2009) and co-editor of Reintegrating Armed Groups after Conflict (Routledge, 2009). He has also published in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals.

Prior to joining CISA, Ucko was a Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin, Germany, and at the RAND Corporation in Washington D.C. At King’s College, he examined the adaptation of the U.S. military for counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worked for several years as a research fellow and program coordinator in the Department of War Studies, focused on conflict analysis and the challenges of third-party intervention in war-to-peace transitions.

During his career, Ucko has enjoyed visiting fellowships at several think-tanks and research institutes, including the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the NDU’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), both in Washington D.C. From 2001-03 he served as Deputy Defence Analyst (Armed Conflict) at the IISS office in London, where he helped create and develop the Armed Conflict Database.

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