Michael Yon has good advice about progress in Iraq: Ask the Battalion Commanders. The Majors and Lt. Colonels, especially infantry commanders, know the most about the tactical and strategic situation in their sector. If you want honest and well-informed assessments, ask them.


The reaction and input of military people will also undoubtedly be folded into the news about the General Petraeus’s report. I recall times when mainstream reporters flitted from soldier to soldier doing what I call “opinion shopping.” A variation on this theme would be the more typical tactic of asking a retired general or a newly minted private to render an opinion on a tactical or strategic matter, about certain salient points with which they couldn’t possibly be well acquainted.

But here is a hint to journalists who are seeking truth — good or bad. There is one group of officers whose input has invariably proved both relevant and revelatory for me in compiling my work: battalion commanders who are commanding infantry or special operations units.

Privates and sergeants are not in a position to see the big picture. Generals are too high up to see tactical situations on the ground and they may be perceived as politically biased (which is generally not true).

Combat Battalion Commanders work with their troops and Iraqis every day. They’re at the front lines in the worst places. They see the tactical situation on the ground and are aware of the greater strategic effort.