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"The Americans are winning everything--except the war”


Almost all of the Americans he had met were pleasant enough. None, however, could tell him how they were going to win the War. Most could not even give him a convincing reason why the US had to be [there] in the first place; at last one had said that, had [the President] been presented with a way to get out, he would have jumped on it and withdrawn his troops. What really infuriated them was any attempt to question their motives. As far as they were concerned their cause was noble and just. The fact that the [adversary] States did what they could to support the [Insurgents] was bad but understandable. They were, however, puzzled by the attitude of their European allies. Those Europeans supposedly shared America’s liberal-democratic values. Still many of them were strongly critical. At a loss to explain the problem, the Americans attributed it to cowardice, envy, and the resentment that arose from Europe’s own recent failure in waging "Imperialist" war. To make things stranger still, the determination of American decision-makers to ignore world public opinion was counterbalanced by their extreme sensitivity to the views of their own electorate.

'There' - Vietnam. President - Johnson. 'Adversary' - Communist. 'Insurgents' - Viet Cong and North Vietnam. Moshe Dyan the interviewer visiting the US on his way to Vietnam as a war correspondent in the 1960s. Title from Dayan's Vietnam Diary.

Who says Iraq cannot be like Vietnam? Who says we are wining? What defines 'win' and what will it cost? Zbigniew Brzezinski doesn't flinch from the cost, lack of will and resources, and likely outcome:

Iraq is not another Vietnam, he says, but it could be "a protracted mess." Since he does not believe the country is willing to commit 500,000 troops and hundreds of billions of additional dollars to create a democracy in Iraq, "we have to scale down our objectives, because we're not prepared to commit the means necessary to achieve these objectives." Prospects for success are dim, he said, "We have to accept the probably reality of a Shiite, theocratic government, which is not going to be a genuine democracy…And we'll have to accept, probably, a limited role for ourselves in Iraq."


nothing could make up for the lack of accurate and timely tactical intelligence. Its absence was due partly to cultural obstacles, partly to the physical conditions of the country, and partly to the nature of the war itself; in Dayan’s own words, the information available to the Americans was limited to: "1. What they could photograph; 2. What they could intercept (SIGINT); and 3. What they could glean from low-ranking prisoners." As a result, they were using sledgehammers to knock holes in empty air. So far they had not succeeded in inflicting unacceptable losses on the enemy who kept reinforcing. Even if they did succeed, it was hard to see how the South Vietnamese would be able to set up a viable government in the shadow of the gigantic machine that "protected" them; whether that machine would ever be withdrawn was anybody’s guess. As to what he was told of the war’s objectives, such as defending democracy and helping the South Vietnamese people, he considered it "childish" propaganda; if many of the Americans he met believed in them, clearly nobody else did.

Wryly noted:

[Walt Rostow] was the first American to whom Dayan spoke who was prepared to admit that the US objective was not just to help South Vietnam but to set up a permanent military political presence in South East Asia so as to counterbalance the growing power of China.


[McNamara] admitted that many of the figures being floated by the Pentagon—particularly those pertaining to the percentage of the country and population "secured"—were meaningless at best and bogus at worst. No more than anybody else could he explain to Dayan how the Americans intended to end the war. What set him apart was the fact that he was prepared to admit it

Part 2 of Winning the War

Annus Horribilis in Iraq
By Joseph Cirincione
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dec 2004

How Not To Fight Terrorism
Martin van Creveld
Center for Unconventional Security Affairs
CUSA Occasional Paper #1, September 2003
[originally presented April 5, 2002]

Gordon Housworth

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Implications beyond the lessons learned, Part 2


A wider group of potential adversaries beyond insurgents are analyzing our performance in Iraq and may find us wanting or find simpler ways to check US efforts. (This could be as simple as denying US access to the region thereby preventing the regional buildup that we have come to prefer. It is instructive for US nationals to remember that many nations other than France see the US as a hyperpuissance, or "hyperpower" that must be contained. A nation other than the target could cooperate just to keep us at arms length.)

India observed that "developing countries, especially the threshold powers, need to review their threat perceptions," given that the US may "willy nilly" attack less advantaged states. Deterring US action in third world nations required:

acquisition of electronic technology, consolidation of research and development, covert acquisition of technology, establishing priority thrust lines, and developing dual- use technologies, to name a few means to close the technological gap with the US. To this technological approach, they suggested practical additions, including deception, increasing automation, developing both passive and active means to protect critical sites, and developing integrated command, control, communications, and intelligence. Of particular interest, they suggested research and development efforts in lasers, electronic countermeasures, UAVs, thermal imaging, and missile guidance technology.

As an aside, it should be noted that these items bracket the Military Critical Technologies (MCTs) that remain the target of sustained state and commercial intellectual property theft against US commercial firms and military contractors. (See What are they stealing now?)

Russia seconded the fear of US hegemony while marveling at its first use of "joint operations" (the integrated use of multiservice assets coupled with precision munitions) and its ability to operate in maneuver-intensive environments. Presaging problems yet to materialize, Russians felt that US/UK forces didn't counter "urban warfare well and felt that a well-executed urban fight would give the US pause," that the US did not achieve "contactless" battle, and that the US "may be vulnerable to close combat." Russians went so far as to state that Iraq had the means to inflict major damage on US forces but chose not to do so. I think the jury still out as to the reasons why, e.g., enlightened self interest, prior planning by certain units or command personalities, opportunistic planning, etc.

It is now painfully clear that Ba'athists, insurgents, and jihadists have shown us that a 'rear area' no longer exists and that we have returned to an Old West "battlespace" with a "mobile, lethal, and determined enemy, prone to acts of "terrorism," could attack at any time and from any direction [against] long lines of communication, along which there were relatively few friendly forces available to provide security."

The US must still find a way to deal with urban operations as urbanization is only increasing, opponents will not confront US forces symmetrically and so will include urban/complex terrain and socio-political issues to their advantage. Army planning drawn on recent Army experience involving urban operations, contemporary Russian and Israeli efforts, and historical assets from Vietnam and WWII has yet to show an efficient and politically sensitive (read minimize collateral damage) response posture that works. At a minimum, the reliance upon sigint sources and the blindness to non-romance languages and cultures must end -- an admitted mighty effort but one absolutely necessary in a multipolar world where adversaries can come from any corner.

Perhaps I read in too much, but a second reading of On Point gave me the impression that its authors were telegraphing a message as to US vulnerabilities and what external observers could learn from OIF:

They might conclude that apparent US dependence on technical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance may afford opportunity to shield, hide, or deceive. They may conclude that RPGs with more powerful warheads, including perhaps tandem warheads, may offset US armor. For that matter, they may conclude that the Iraqis did not make the best use of urban terrain, and they may confront the next US operation rather differently. They may conclude that the US forces in the field transition too slowly and are vulnerable to classic insurgency operations. They may even believe that US forces are vulnerable in nonlinear, noncontiguous operations.

Part 8

Gordon Housworth

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Looking at implications beyond the lessons learned through establishment eyes


While Iraqi conventional and auxiliary forces could "not match the US forces in marksmanship, tactical technique, and the ability to adapt rapidly" in intense close combat, they:

did show "considerable competence in shielding forces, in reaching similar conclusions as their opponents on what constituted defensible terrain, and in demonstrating the ability to maneuver forces despite coalition control of the air and tremendous advantages in technical means of gathering intelligence. The Iraqis successfully shielded some of their equipment and managed to mount coordinated counterattacks… executed ambushes and, in some cases, attained tactical surprise. They found ways to close the range and, in more than one case, fought effectively enough to compel reaction.

So much for the popular received wisdom that US ground forces achieved "absolute tactical dominance based on Iraqi ineptitude," equipment, and actions. The Center for Army Lessons Learned issued On Point in May 2004, an 'after action' report issued after Baghdad fell but without the achievement of OIF's strategic goals. While parts of On Point dealt with tactical lessons learned, the Survey Group authors, which included Major Wilson, who recently asserted that the US invaded Iraq without a Phase IV Post-combat plan for occupation and stabilization, and that the Army fails to recognize a "a people's war" even as they fight it, also looked at implications that transcend tactics and will only be become clearer in later training and combat developments.

The report went so far as to examine US vulnerabilities though its own analyses as well as those of other nations. Iraq learned and applied lessons from Desert Storm, Serbia, and Chechnya, and I think that Iraqis prospered the farther they moved to asymmetrical warfare. On Point's identification of a wide range of Iraqi threats from army to insurgents, the "combination of enemy conventional, unconventional, and information operations" along with a number of conditions that included humanitarian assistance, and changing political/social factors were signposts for the insurgent/jihadist attacks still to come.

It becomes quickly evident that apparent success in urban operations meant Phase III combat operations in urban areas, and not a Phase IV rejuvenated insurgency. With the advantage of hindsight it is painful to read:

Rather than simply viewing urban areas as complex terrain occupied by an enemy force, Army planners took the approach that a city is a system of systems. Political, civil, social, religious, military, power generation and distribution, transportation, water distribution, and a host of other systems combined, interacted, and adapted constantly. Understanding these systems and how they interacted seemed key to understanding how to conduct military operations there. Accordingly, intelligence officers and planners joined traditional intelligence analysis with the system-of-systems approach in an attempt to truly understand Iraqi cities--starting with Baghdad.

How woefully inadequate this appears today. The paramilitary threat that confronted US/UK forces was not anticipated. While it was understood that urban operations "would be characterized by a series of transitions: battles and engagements followed by security operations and humanitarian assistance," only the very few anticipated the "frequent transitions from major combat to support operations and back again."

Worse, our intel capability to predict and interdict insurgent actions has paled in comparison to our early successes against uniformed, conventional forces:

military intelligence and national intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance means worked well. For the most part, [we] knew where the Iraq uniformed forces were, could target them, and could provide data on their whereabouts to tactical units. Tracking the paramilitary forces and estimating Iraqi intentions proved more difficult.

Now it is US/UK forces that are on the receiving end as insurgents improve their intel gathering and penetration capability as they build organizational depth:

The insurgents have good sources in the Iraqi interim government and sometimes in local U.S. and coalition commands… 'sympathizers' within the Iraqi government and Iraqi forces, as well as the Iraqis working for the coalition, media and NGOs, often provide excellent human intelligence without violently taking part in the insurgency… [Civilians and noncombatants] are often pushed into providing data because of family ties, a fear of being on the losing side, direct and indirect threats, etc.

Our intel assets did not have the humint streams to gather operational information on Iraqi forces, relying instead on signals intelligence collection that insurgents have learned to counter:

U.S. intelligence is optimized around characterizing, counting and targeting things rather than people, U.S. dependence on Iraqi translators and intelligence sources is a key area of U.S. vulnerability and one the insurgents have learned to focus on.

I fear that we are nearly as blind as we were in the early days of the Afghan effort. Much as in Afghanistan, insurgents countered by restricting cell phone use for C2 while increasing use of couriers and the net, and halted bank transfers in favor of off-books charities and criminal activities for funds.

Technology's impact was also diminished in Phase IV as US forces had difficulty in tracking insurgent/jihadist elements and so controlling the fight. Precision munitions had to be used much more sparingly. The "rapid fielding" of urban combat equipment was not rapid enough for resourceful insurgents with IEDs, RPGs, and suicide bombers.

Part 2 of Implications

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Looking at resultant military performance through the eyes of a skilled, serving insider


While it is now little surprise that the US military "invaded Iraq without a formal plan for occupying and stabilizing the country [no Phase IV Post-combat] and this high-level failure continues to undercut what has been a "mediocre" Army effort there," it is a surprise to hear it from a serving Army officer, historian, planner and strategist who was also part of the study group that wrote the first official After Action Report (AAR) of OPERATION Iraqi Freedom for the Center for Army Lessons Learned, On Point - The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The officer, Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, has chosen an interesting vehicle to publicize his views, an essay presented in academic conferences as a personal view with "no plans to publish the essay, in part because he would expect difficulty in getting the Army's approval," yet he is happy to have it written about and discussed as he thinks that "this is something that has to get out, so it can be considered. There actually is something we can fix here, in terms of operational planning."

Given that Wilson extends his criticism beyond the administration and OSD to Army commanders who have "failed to grasp the strategic situation in Iraq [, suffer] from "stunted learning and a reluctance to adapt [, and exhibit] a collective cognitive dissidence on part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even when they were fighting it," I find it all the more telling that active duty feedback "has been relatively positive [with] general agreement with the premises I offer in the work."

I have felt the war lost for some time and that we are on the unfortunate glide slope to create a ‘neo-Taliban exclusion zone’ that permits insurgents and jihadists to operate unhindered, but within a far more advanced industrial base, accessing proven conventional and WMD scientific talent, and drawing upon an established – some might say vibrant – overt/covert import-export capacity, but it is both sad and refreshing to hear a serving officer scheduled to teach at West Point in 2005 state that:

the U.S. military lost the dominant position in Iraq in the summer of 2003 and has been scrambling to recover ever since. "In the two to three months of ambiguous transition, U.S. forces slowly lost the momentum and the initiative [gained] over an off-balanced enemy… The United States, its Army and its coalition of the willing have been playing catch-up ever since."

Army commanders still misunderstand the strategic problem they face and therefore are still pursuing a flawed approach... "Plainly stated, the 'western coalition' failed, and continues to fail, to see Operation Iraqi Freedom in its fullness."

It was only in November 2003, seven months after the fall of Baghdad, that U.S. occupation authorities produced a formal "Phase IV" plan for stability operations.

When one knows that Gen Tommy Franks, CENTCOM Commander who led the war planning in 2002 and 2003, is known as a "muddy boots sojer" (as opposed to a muddy boots soldier), it gives me little confidence in Franks' comments that "throughout the planning for the invasion of Iraq, Phase IV stability operations were discussed. Occupation problems "commanded hours and days of discussion and debate among CENTCOM planners and Washington officials… "I was confident in the Phase IV plan.":

There's a term in the Army that is not always used as a form of praise, but frequently is, calling somebody a "muddy boots sojer." And I say the word sojer, s-o-j-e-r. It's kind of, "Yep, he's a good muddy boots sojer." It is typically used as a compliment but not always. Well, everybody always said of Franks, "Yep, he's a muddy boots sojer." It's a loaded term in some ways. It means he's a great battalion commander. He's a good guy out there in the field. He's a good guy to have on your flank if you're a battalion commander in a tough fight.

It also tends to mean he is not a deep thinker. He's not one of those guys who goes off to the War College to read Clausewitz. He goes off to the War College to play some golf. So the image of Tommy Franks was a rather cunning, but not deep, general. Franks acquits himself well in Afghanistan and then turns to the question of Iraq. The challenge here for Rumsfeld is [dealing with] the classic Army background [that wants to go in heavy and so employs a] process where he kind of chips away and chips away at this belief asking questions: "Why do you need that? Why do you need that?" The Pentagon dubs this "iterative process." Really, I think it is more process of erosion. And after several months into this, Franks is more or less persuaded.

Consider this mindset along with the appalling treatment of Gen Shinseki for saying what ultimately proved to be true, the common private utterance among officers at any level that a request for more troops was a career-limiting move, and it is not hard to see that many commanders would take the path of least political resistance. This is not to say that Wilson is incorrect; it is added leavening to what was a fault-ridden planning process.

This linkage is strengthened for me as I read Wilson’s addressing of a "continuing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq -- the number of troops there. "The scarcity of available 'combat power'… greatly complicated the situation":

a lack of sufficient troops was a consequence of the earlier, larger problem of failing to understand that prevailing in Iraq involved more than just removing Hussein. "This overly simplistic conception of the 'war' led to a cascading undercutting of the war effort: too few troops, too little coordination with civilian and governmental/non-governmental agencies… and too little allotted time to achieve 'success'"

I agree with Wilson’s comment that Phase IV operations were "critical because they were needed to win the war rather than just decapitate" the government. I second his comment that due to this failure, the US remains "perhaps in peril of losing the 'war,' even after supposedly winning it."

Part 7

Gordon Housworth

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The annoying realism of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), foreign and domestic


The US Agency for International Development (USAID) was a principal contact point for domestic and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with Iraqi relief activities. By September 2002, most of them had turned their attention to Iraq, gathering weekly at USAID HQ for routine coordination meetings:

The weekly meetings at USAID quickly settled into a pattern. The representatives of the NGOs would say, "We've dealt with situations like this before, and we know what to expect." The U.S. government representatives would either say nothing or else reply, No, this time it will be different.

I can only imagine the frustration of these meetings, which became known as the Iraq Working Group, as the NGOs’ experience was vastly different from that of US citizens and many legislators who saw the nearly continuous regional or ‘low level’ conflicts as having no obvious connection to one another, i.e., these lay observers saw them as stand-alone cases, none of them a ‘proper’ war:

To the NGO world, these and other modern wars (like the ones in Africa) are not the exception but the new norm: brutal localized encounters that destroy the existing political order and create a need for long-term international supervision and support. Within the U.S. military almost no one welcomes this reality, but many recognize that peacekeeping, policing, and, yes, nation-building are now the expected military tasks. The military has gotten used to working alongside the NGOs-and the NGOs were ready with a checklist of things to worry about once the regime had fallen.

NGOs heard administration recovery models anchored by the successes of Germany, Japan and part of Eastern Europe. Many NGO representatives "assumed that postwar recovery would not be so automatic, and that they should begin working on preparations" before the combat began. They needed feet on the ground to estimate need prior to hostilities and so asked for a Presidential directive exempting NGOs from US sanctions against Iraq making it illegal for US humanitarian organizations to operate there. (Never granted.)

NGOs knew from years of postwar reconstruction that even a short period of disorder had lingering effects. Aid groups were forecasting massive refugee flows, power vacuum, lawlessness and ‘day after’ looting.

I find it interesting that the one forecast that did not materialize, refugee flows, was based on the administration’s own assumption that Saddam Hussein would use CW/BW agents against US, Kurdish or Shiite groups, thus causing Iraqi civilians to flee. That the administration then used this unfulfilled prediction as evidence of success is, I think, unfair.

Unfortunately the NGOs remember a unilateral dialogue at IWG in which "We would tell them stuff, and they would nod and say, Everything's under control… They were there to just dribble out the clock but be able to say they'd consulted with us."

The NGOS were further surprised when those same individuals refuted the aid groups’ assumption that the US would adhere to the Fourth Geneva Convention’s commonsense obligations placed upon a victorious military as the "occupying power," e.g., protecting hospitals and minimizing reprisals. The NGOs were told that "The American troops would be 'liberators' rather than 'occupiers,' so the Fourth’s obligations did not apply."

Archaeologists briefed DoD as to the location of key historical sites and museums so as to insure that they were not bombed. The subsequent establishment of civil control did not match the success of precision-guided munitions as most were shortly sacked and looted.

By early February 2002, the International Rescue Committee and Refugees International made public their prediction of incipient collapse of law and order after invasion unless US/UK forces acted immediately even if it required the imposition of martial law.

NGOs reacted negatively to the Administration’s announcement that reconstruction authority, under Jay Garner, would be under DoD control rather than State. NGOs believed, rightly, that the international community would find it politically difficult to fund humanitarian and reconstruction aid through the US DoD. Garner attempted the impossible, gathering together an interdisciplinary group that included State’s director of the Future of Iraq project. Garner later stated that Rumsfeld had instructed him to fire the director even after Garner stated his value to the mission.

AS little as two weeks prior to commencement of hostilities on 19 March - when the US was not yet technically at war, USAID was able to persuade OMB to set aside the funds that AID would need for immediate Iraqi postwar efforts. Immediately prior to combat operations, AID secured an emergency grant from USAID to the World Food Programme in order to immediately purchase food for Iraqi relief operations. It is not clear to me that without this USAID effort postwar civilian food shortages could have been averted.

Less than a week prior to hostilities, the last IWG meeting saw humanitarian organizations being told, "It's going to be very quick," she said, referring to the actual war. "We're going to meet their immediate needs. We're going to turn it over to the Iraqis. And we're going to be out within the year."

Part 6

Gordon Housworth

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Civil war within the pentagon, Part 2


Marine General Anthony Zinni, CENTCOM commander preceding Tommy Franks, said that the two extra divisions in his war games were for "the security situation. Revenge killings, crime, chaos-this was all foreseeable."

A more recent, but prewar Army War College analysis, Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario supported this view. Its report contained:

  • A review of 20th century occupations, large and small, to identify common conditions that US/UK occupiers would likely face in Iraq
  • An assessment of specific problems rising from Baathist rule and Iraqi ethnic and regional tensions
  • A Mission Matrix of tasks would have to be done in Phase IV and who was to do what. "The matrix was intended to lay out a phased shift of responsibilities, over months or years, from a mainly U.S. occupation force to international organizations and, finally, to sovereign Iraqis."

The report seconded the idea to come in heavy and draw down fast:

Long-term gratitude is unlikely and suspicion of U.S. motives will increase as the occupation continues. A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time. Occupation problems may be especially acute if the United States must implement the bulk of the occupation itself rather than turn these duties over to a postwar international force.

One of the report’s preparers noted that "we went in with the minimum force to accomplish the military objectives, which was a straightforward task, never really in question [and] then we immediately found ourselves shorthanded in the aftermath. We sat there and watched people dismantle and run off with the country, basically."

Tasks listed as critical but have since become noticeable failures included "securing the borders so that foreign terrorists would not slip in (as they in fact did), locating and destroying WMD supplies, protecting religious sites, performing police and security functions."

Part 5

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Civil war within the pentagon; tampering with the ‘tipfid’


As we will be talking about ‘phases’ of conflict and how actions in one phase affect events in subsequent phases, it is useful to know that the US military model divides the prosecution of war into four phases: Phase I, Deterrence and engagement; Phase II, Seize the initiative; Phase III, Decisive operations; and Phase IV, Post-conflict.

While Phase III, Decisive operations, is the portion of war that ‘meets the news’ it is Phase IV, Post-conflict, in which victory is sustained and a future war is deferred or eliminated. To that end, Phase IV planning should commence well before Phase III, but it is hard given the desire of the warfighter to be on point. In Iraq, we will see that despite military predictions of need on ‘day after’ that Phase IV was treated as an afterthought ('That's Jerry Bremer's job') with the appalling consequences unfolding before us.

As other writers have addressed the trajectory and defense implications of Rumsfeld’s career, including military force streamlining, I will address only the impact of his altering the bible of US military planning, the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD) or ‘tipfid’ to its users, in the run-up to OIF.

The tipfid is "a way of doing business that is methodical, careful, and sure; [a] complex master plan governing which forces would go where, when, and with what equipment, on which planes or ships, so that everything would be coordinated and ready at the time of attack." The thoroughness of tipfid planning accounts for its lengthy planning cycle time and from what I can discern, the TPFDD still has a ‘heavy armor’ Powell Doctrine flavor to it, but it is still an open issue if it as ponderous and risk averse as its detractors say.

I support the idea that an apparent success in the prosecution of the Afghan campaign (I’m on record as saying that Afghan democracy is a veneer and that Karzai dies when the US withdraws his personal security detail) influenced the idea that a similar approach could be used on the larger, more fractious Iraq.

Army war-gaming resulted in a force recommendation of 400,000 strong "of as many Americans as necessary and as many allied troops as possible," whereas Rumsfeld had a figure of 75,000 in mind. With Bosnia and Kosovo fresh to mind, General Eric Shinseki supported the Army's position that "with too few soldiers, the United States would win the war only to be trapped in an untenable position during the occupation." This support of a larger force made Shinseki "uncooperative" in Rumsfeld’s view.

The military reminds Rumsfeld that changes/reductions to the TPFDD "will ripple back to every railhead and every company." Still, the total manning at onset of combat was 200,000; principally US, secondarily UK forces. All else was what I like to call Snow White and the seven dwarfs. As expected ally participation did not materialize.

I find it prescient that the Army saw clearly that:

  • Phase IV, Post-conflict, fell most heavily upon it as other services withdrew.
  • Its "ops tempo," or pace of operations would suffer in a long-term commitment to Iraq as Reserve and National Guard elements "had no expectations of long-term foreign service when they signed up" only to find themselves deployed to Iraq for long tours.
  • The manning that Rumsfeld presumed "wastefully large" were as much for Phase IV as Phase III, i.e., The first few days or weeks after the fighting were crucial in setting long-term civilian expectations. i.e., "Insights from successful occupations suggest that it is best to go in real heavy and then draw down fast," so that "Civilians would see that they could expect a rapid return to order, and would behave accordingly."

With Bosnia and Kosovo fresh to mind, General Eric Shinseki supported the Army's position that "with too few soldiers, the United States would win the war only to be trapped in an untenable position during the occupation." The Army saw OSD as reckless while OSD saw the Army as risk-averse. This support of a larger force made Shinseki "uncooperative" in Rumsfeld’s view. OSD went so far as to bar General John Abizaid from a military-civilian conference addressing which would be the more difficult issue, winning the war or winning the peace:

The [OSD] planning assumptions were that the people would realize they were liberated, they would be happy that we were there, so it would take a much smaller force to secure the peace than it did to win the war. The resistance would principally be the remnants of the Baath Party, but they would go away fairly rapidly. And, critically, if we didn't damage the infrastructure in our military operation, as we didn't, the restart of the country could be done fairly rapidly.

Part 2 of Civil war

Gordon Housworth

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Abrogating an established government tradition of preparing for postwar duties


General Eric Shinseki began "ordering war-game exercises to judge strategies and manpower needs for possible combat in Iraq" in 1999 because he thought that "the greater Caspian Sea region, including Iraq, would present a uniquely difficult challenge for U.S. troops, because of its geography and political tensions," not because of any assumption that war was imminent. War gaming Iraq began in earnest after 11 September.

In late October 2001, State' Future of Iraq project had "quietly begun its planning for the aftermath of a "transition" in Iraq. [By January, 2002, working groups were] putting together a list of postwar jobs and topics to be considered, and possible groups of experts to work on them." Future of Iraq rose from a:

well established U.S. government tradition of preparing for postwar duties before there was a clear idea of when fighting would begin, let alone when it would end. Before the United States entered World War II, teams at the Army War College were studying what went right and wrong when American doughboys occupied Germany after World War I. Within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor a School of Military Government had been created, at the University of Virginia, to plan for the occupation of both Germany and Japan. In 1995, while U.S. negotiators, led by Richard Holbrooke, were still working at the Dayton peace talks to end the war in the Balkans, World Bank representatives were on hand to arrange loans for the new regimes.

The Future of Iraq would ultimately comprise seventeen working groups "designed systematically to cover what would be needed to rebuild the political and economic infrastructure of the country." Democratic Principles and Procedures looked at the legal framework of a new government. Transitional Justice addressed reparations, amnesty, and de-Baathification laws. Public Finance, Oil and Energy, and Water, Agriculture and Environment addressed economic issues. Groups involving fractious exile communities and confrontation groups did not fare as well, e.g., Preserving Iraq's Cultural Heritage and Education.

State grasped the notion that:

The role of the U.S. government and State Department is to see what the Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans want…The impetus for change comes from [Iraqis], not us. This is the job of Iraqis inside and outside.

"Most of the project's judgments look good in retrospect." e.g. much effort was paid to the "corruption endemic in Iraqi life and laid out strategies for coping with it." Iraqi participants emphasized issues "that ran through all working group reports":

the urgency of restoring electricity and water supplies as soon as possible after regime change. [noting that this could] go a long way to determining Iraqis' attitudes toward Coalition forces."

the need to plan carefully for the handling and demobilization of Iraq's very sizable military... The trick would be to get rid of the leaders without needlessly alienating the ordinary troops-or leaving them without income… The decommissioning of hundreds of thousands of trained military personnel that [a rapid purge] implies could create social problems."

All working groups emphasized "how disorderly Iraq would be soon after liberation, and how difficult it would be to get the country on the path to democracy… [the] period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting." In the short term the occupying forces would have to prevent disorder. In the long term, [they] would need to recognize that "the extent of the Iraqi totalitarian state, its absolute power and control exercised from Baghdad [cannot] be overestimated in their impact on the Iraqi psyche and the attendant feeling of fear, weakness, and shame."

State’s implication was that Iraq demanded a long and substantial US commitment even as it inculcated the concept of "resentful dependence" of weaker states upon the stronger, i.e., wanting US support without US control and oversight, and so stated that "the military occupation itself had to be brief" and that US nationals must be seen as assisting Iraqis, not employing them.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard from experts in July-August 2002 on the case for war against Iraq and likely "day after" consequences of US victory. Replies divided between security in the short term, maintaining control while transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis in the mid-term, and the reality of commitments and costs in the longer term.

CIA’s parallel war-gaming highlighted:

  • risk of civil disorder after the fall of Baghdad
  • finding and securing the WMD assumed to be in country
  • finding and protecting WMD-knowledgeable scientists "before they could be killed

CIA came to believe that an Iraqi government couldn’t be assembled by the Bonn conference process being used for Afghanistan as the "rivalries in Iraq were so deep, and the political culture so shallow, that a similarly quick transfer of sovereignty would only invite chaos."

While DoD participated in early CIA war-game sessions, they withdrew under instruction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). "'OSD' is Washington shorthand [for] strong guidance from Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, [and] William Luti."

Fallows makes the argument that "detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems, and thus weakened the case for launching a "war of choice" (the Washington term for a war not waged in immediate self-defense)" was seen as an "antiwar" effort that would raise public questioning:

It was also politically essential, in delaying the time when the Administration had to argue that regime change in Iraq was worth a specific number of billions of dollars… When asked how much the war might cost, officials said that so many things were uncertain, starting with whether there would even be a war, that there was no responsible way to make an estimate.

After Lawrence Lindsay was forced to resign for stating that costs would be $100 billion to $200 billion, no further plausible estimates were offered "until months after the war began."

Part 4

Gordon Housworth

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Acting upon knowledge is different from its gathering


Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, "Wolfowitz's Wolfowitz," have advocated regime change in Iraq throughout the 1990s. Feith now acknowledges yet disagrees with the growing "conventional wisdom" about the Administration's failure to adequately plan for postwar events, offering what I feel to be weak arguments:

  • Oil wells not on fire (but their pipelines and compressor stations are bombed)
  • Iraqis have not starved or fled (omitting the fact that the wealthier middle class have and others cannot)
  • Replacement of old Iraqi dinars, containing Saddam’s image, with a new currency without causing a currency run (who needs Saddam back with the Sunni/Ba’athist insurgency now in progress - could you live on the difference?)

If one is speaking of scenario planning per se (which can never end, often results in analysis paralysis, and usually misses the scenario that delivers the payload), I agree with Feith’s shying away from expectations and predictions. And while many make fun of Rumsfeld’s knowns and unknowns, notably the ‘unknown unknowns, I agree there as well. And I am sympathetic to Feith’s comments on the limits of future knowledge, implying a need to be ready for any eventuality of the Iraqi postwar landscape:

"[Rumsfeld] is death to predictions." "His big strategic theme is uncertainty"… The need to deal strategically with uncertainty. The inability to predict the future. The limits on our knowledge and the limits on our intelligence."

The alternative to scenario planning is to understand the key actors and processes at play, how they might interact (without locking into "the" prediction), especially in a region and culture so different from our own and one in which our own cultural assumptions could lead to under or overrating events, good and bad. (See the Berlin Wisdom Model.) In the light of the current situation, I am both buoyed and appalled that:

Almost everything, good and bad, that has happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime was the subject of extensive pre-war discussion and analysis. This is particularly true of what have proved to be the harshest realities for the United States since the fall of Baghdad: that occupying the country is much more difficult than conquering it; that a breakdown in public order can jeopardize every other goal; that the ambition of patiently nurturing a new democracy is at odds with the desire to turn control over to the Iraqis quickly and get U.S. troops out; that the Sunni center of the country is the main security problem; that with each passing day Americans risk being seen less as liberators and more as occupiers, and targets.

All this, and much more, was laid out in detail and in writing long before the U.S. government made the final decision to attack. Even now the collective efforts at planning by the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marine Corps, the United States Agency for International Development, and a wide variety of other groups inside and outside the government are underappreciated by the public. The one pre-war effort that has received substantial recent attention, the State Department's Future of Iraq project, produced thousands of pages of findings, barely one paragraph of which has until now been quoted in the press. The Administration will be admired in retrospect for how much knowledge it created about the challenge it was taking on. U.S. government predictions about postwar Iraq's problems have proved as accurate as the assessments of pre-war Iraq's strategic threat have proved flawed.

Acting upon knowledge is different from its gathering. Fallows ranks the "missteps of the first half year in Iraq" with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1965 escalated involvement in Vietnam. I cannot think of a similar one, unless one includes the ROK-DPRK impasse on the Korean peninsula, also a work in progress:

The problems the United States has encountered are precisely the ones its own expert agencies warned against.

Having broken the pot, we’ve no choice but to attempt reassembly, yet our:

missteps have come at a heavy cost. And the ongoing financial, diplomatic, and human cost of the Iraq occupation is the more grievous in light of advance warnings the government had.

Part 3

Gordon Housworth

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Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF): analysis and prediction for a year-end After Action Report


Numerology is replete with arbitrary belief in random numbers imbued with special significance, the end of a year, for example. Bowing to that tradition, this note commences a series on the Iraq war, more precisely Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), its prewar intel (for both WMD and Iraqi conditions on the ground) mission planning, administration response, TGW and TGR (Things Gone Wrong and Things Gone Right), current situation, possible next steps, and implications for the future.

The US military outperforms many, if not most, commercial firms in its tradition of completing an After Action Report (AAR) to look for applicable lessons learned and to find out what can be done better. Most AARs are single loop learning, i.e., questioning performance against a largely fixed set of questions. Few are double loop learning, i.e., seeking to determine if the right questions are being asked. Time permitting; we will attempt some of the latter.

The picture will not be an attractive one, the needed changes will be wrenching and likely rejected, the outcome - a loss already in progress - will be difficult to absorb, and an amelioration, if possible, will require some extraordinarily gifted diplomacy and geopolitical footwork to recover.

Following are the principal citations for the series but others will doubtless find their way in:

Blind Into Baghdad
by James Fallows
Atlantic Monthly
January/February 2004

Out On The Street
[US de-Baathification program]
By Jon Lee Anderson
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-Nov-15
Posted 2004-11-08

Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan
Major Calls Effort in Iraq 'Mediocre'
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 25, 2004; Page A01

Transition to and from Hostilities
Defense Science Board, 2004 Summer Study
December 2004
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140

On Point - The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Center for Army Lessons Learned
26 May 2004

The Believer
Paul Wolfowitz defends his war
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-11-01
Posted 2004-10-25

What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq?
Middle East Report N°34
International Crisis Group
22 December 2004

Strengthening Iraqi Military and Security Forces
Anthony H. Cordesman
With the Assistance of Patrick Baetjer and Stephen Lanier
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Working Draft: Update as of December 23, 2004

The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End-2004
Anthony H. Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Working Draft: Updated December 22, 2004

A hard week in a long Iraq mission
Increasingly, US military experts say Americans need to prepare for a decades-long counterinsurgency campaign
By Dan Murphy
The Christian Science Monitor
December 24, 2004

Europe's Muslims May Be Headed Where the Marxists Went Before
New York Times
December 26, 2004

For Bush, Key Foreign Policy Goals Intersect
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 27, 2004; Page A19

Footage on Web Site Purports to Show Planning of Attack on U.S. Base in Mosul
Associated Press
December 26, 2004 9:39 p.m.

Attacks on Shiite Leaders Raise Fears of Sectarian Violence
New York Times
December 28, 2004

Part 2

Gordon Housworth

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