The War College Study and Comments

Below is an article I wrote for Jewish Weekly Review . It appeared in the 14 Feb on-line  issue, I write for any forum willing to entertain my sometimes unconventional  but well researched  articles. You won’t see my name on the short list of NPR or PBS or any of the main stream media. Our so called “quality press” and media has descended to third world level in its veracity and politization. Even the international “news” articles are slanted to entertain domestic political orientations, Like polticians, todays news media write for their constituents, not to inform but rather to further  their owners and publishers political ideologies, and reinforce the prejudices of their readers……just like the Arab Press.

For instance, from the War College study, the media which even bothered to mention it, used only the one golden nugget they were able to find…….. “The Iranians appear to be the only victor……” in the Iraqi War.  Perhaps, but it is very early in the game to assess winners and losers. It was the same with the Final Survey team findings after the Irzq war ( the Duelfer Report) The media gloommed on to the  finding that there were no nuclear weapons found, ignoring the finding that Saddam had all the components available, including the talent to restart the program when the inspectors departed.

I plan to write a continuing series on the similarities of the “lessons Learned” from Vietnam and the same lessons still unlearned from Iraq. I plan to write a much longer article to include the 12 unleared  lessons from  Vietnam and Iraq and hopefully get them published, perhaps in the Lima Charlie News, which has publised a couple of my articles. The lessons unlearned incliude, not neccessarily in order of importance.

Trying to win expeditionary wars with a military inadequate in size and on the cheap.

Cultural ignonorance of the country

Lack of understandiing of Counter-insurgency. Insistence on fighting the “merican Way of War”

The use of metrics to assess success.

Poor general officer leadership

The importance of external actors

Hubris and ovrconfidence

Underestimating the enemy lack of undrstnading of his strengths

The lack of continuity the one year tour issue. Turbulemce.

Lack of coherent strategic communication

Over reliance on technology

Application of American political values on other cultures.

In tegration of civil Affairs with military operations

 

The article for the JWR is at https://www.jns.org/opinion/us-still-hasnt-learned-lessons-from-the-iraq-war/

The original version of the article is at follws:

“The Army War College report, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War, is a masterpiece covering the history of the army in the Iraq war ( Operation Iraqi Freedom), with incisive critique of the massive amount of mistakes, miscalculations, ignorance, and malfeasance that characterized our invasion/liberation of Iraq. One of the two primary authors of the report, Colonel Frank Sobchek, in an National Public Radio interview characterized the Report as an “academic after –action review,” intended to make the army better prepared for the next military action.

 

Unfortunately as a “lessons learned,“ it will be largely set aside as too long, too complex, and irrelevant to the next war. In fact it is largely applicable only to an Iraqi – peculiar environment. U.S. Government officials flying into Iraq reading accounts of our post WWII rebuilding of Japan and Germany found the lessons useless for Iraq, so it will be the next expeditionary war. It was a matter of different people, different culture, and different circumstances.

In the massive amount of post – mortem on Vietnam, one can find almost all the issues and problems that were surfaced in the study of the Iraq war. Obviously the “lessons learned” were not learned. First and foremost, in both cases, the army, as well as all the other American institutions and agencies involved, were abysmally ignorant of the people, culture, history, and terrain. On the ship transporting us to Vietnam I gave classes to the troops using an old text-book on Southeast Asia. During the Iraq wars both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom I presented cultural briefings of perhaps two hours, often with most of the officers and senior Non Commissioned officers (NCOs), who needed to be there, absent. The deployment schedules were so crammed with requirements, many non – combat related (another story) that much of the essential knowledge was simply a matter of checking the blocks.

 

Secondly, in both cases we went in blissfully assuming that somehow we could confine the war within the borders of Vietnam and Iraq. Unfortunately both Syria and Iran were deeply involved in supplying fighters, equipment, and sanctuary to our enemies. They were able to do this without cost to themselves, as we in typically cautious fashion, did not want to “widen the war.” In Vietnam, the Russians and Chinese poured armament into North Vietnam and we, eschewing the prospect of precipitating a world war III, did nothing. North Vietnamese used sanctuaries in both Laos and Cambodia with only sporadic and generally ineffective measures taken to punish the leadership allowing or condoning it. One would think that our intelligence and political leadership when contemplating a major operation in country A would assess the reaction of countries B, C, and D, that surround it. In Iraq, as the War College study points out, the Syrian regime facilitated hundreds of Sunni fanatics pouring into Iraq to kill Americans but more often Shi’a civilians, ultimately provoking a civil war. The Iranians perfected weapons for use against our armor and trained Iraqis well to use them against our troops. Again, we did nothing to raise the price of them doing so.

There are many other commonalities of misjudgments, hubris, arrogance, and poor leadership at the top that could be applied to both conflicts, but a glaring one is our national insistence that all people in the world share our values in political systems. In both Vietnam and Iraq we fell into the trap of “hearts and minds” dabbling in political cultures we did not understand. In Vietnam we conspired to overthrow the “brutal” Diem regime because of the Buddhist protests and general unpopularity. His rule, however unpopular, was stable. With his demise, the fortunes of South Vietnam and Americans began a slow but continual descent into failure. In Iraq, applying American political values to those of the Iraqis, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) assumed the Iraqis would enthusiastically acclaim the CPA turning over sovereignty to them. Instead the general disorder turned into chaos with crime, ethnic warfare, and the remaining fabric of Iraqi society being ripped apart.

 

In retrospect, after reading this report on Iraq and the hundreds of books, and articles over the years, the only viable solution to the Iraqi calamity, but one likely to be arbitrarily dismissed, would have been to have immediately declared martial law, imposed with draconian measures, combined with sending in another 100,000 American troops.  Of course it will be pointed out, quite rightly that we did not have the troops to send. In Vietnam we had to rely on draftees, and in Iraq we had to depend on the National Guard and reservists. For expeditionary war this is unacceptable.

 

IF we wish to continue as the foremost world power and maintain a military prepared, sized, and equipped for the Iraqs of the future, our senior political and military leadership cannot keep on making our soldiers pay, in blood, by trying to sustain our military on the cheap.

 

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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