Thoughts on Generalship: Lessons from two wars

MAJGEN Stephen Day

Generalship is an intellectual endeavour; generals must understand the character of war and create a vision of success. They must be resolute in their commitment and bold in their execution to achieve this success. But, they must also never let go of their humanity, their compassion for innocent civilians, their own soldiers and even the enemy. In the abstract, this seems straightforward, but on the ground when you are exhausted, when information is confused and you are being shot at, even straightforward things are difficult.In Iraq and Afghanistan I experienced the challenges and rewards of generalship. And the scale of those wars dwarfed my early experiences in Africa and East Timor. The positions I held were senior and privileged; the Deputy Operations Officer of the Multi National Force — Iraq, a force in excess of 400,000, and Chief of Plans for ISAF Joint Command in Afghanistan for a force in excess of 100,000. As part of a small group of generals who met each morning to plan and direct the progress of these wars, I share responsibility for their prosecution. The eight key lessons that are outlined in this following paper come from my experience of war in Iraq and Afghanistan — the good and the bad.