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Thread: Vietnam collection (lessons plus)

  1. #61
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    What I find interesting about much of this discussion is how many people seem to be surprised by this (I'm not referring to board members, obviously). Even a casual student of history would have noticed the services, especially the Army, ran very quickly away from the counterinsurgency lessons they could have learned from Vietnam. Franks' conduct during Operation Anaconda was also questionable, a trend he carried over into Iraq it seems. Working with the Air Force, I even see them saying that they can "win" a counterinsurgency from the air!

    Given the nature of the organizations, I suppose it's inevitable. The Army was very heavily imprinted with the business school and mass production mentality of its senior leaders during World War II and after, and the Air Force has always been possessed by a need to proclaim itself capable of winning, on its own, ANY war it happens to face. This doesn't apply to all members of either service, but there is an organizational culture and identity that encourages these views and approaches. What is to me the most disappointing aspect of it is that our forces currently contain some of the brightest recruits they've ever had. These people are ready and willing to do the job, and for the most part quickly adapt to changing situations if they're given proper background and some guidance. That they could be let down so seriously by their senior commanders is very depressing.

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    Default Blame maneuver war, if you like.

    I think senior army commanders have largely avoided counterinsurgency for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's largely the province of the Special Forces or the Marines with their banana wars experience. Second, is the main stress placed on maneuver war.

    In the early to mid 1970's, the Army was reborn after Vietnam. The officers at that time woke up and saw just how powerful Warsaw Pact forces had become. Maneuver warfare offered the only doctrine capable of standing off such a large army. Previously, the Army had gotten by on mass, especially massed firepower. This worked great until they noticed the much greater mass just to the east.

    With a focus on defeating a massed threat that was always considered to be practically superior, and with literally the fate of the world hanging in the balance, is it any wonder that the army dropped its study of everything else? We talk about the focus on high intensity warfare in western Europe as if it were some kind of grand strategic mistake. Yet given the level of threat posed by Warsaw Pact ground and nuclear forces, how can you blame them? The Soviets might have seen all this small wars preparation and light infantry stuff and decided we were pushovers. The United States is a great power because of our focus on big wars - the defining feature of a great military power is the ability to fight that kind of war, after all. That US forces remained ignorant in the twenty first century is a matter of simple negligence - that they wilfully turned all of their attention to thousands of Soviet tanks thirty years ago was a matter of accomplishing their mission.

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    Default Ricks on Meet the Press

    Here is the transcript of Tom Ricks on Meet the Press this past Sunday. (scroll down to pick up where Ricks is interviewed).

    MR. RUSSERT: And we are back, talking to Tom Ricks, the Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post.

    “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.” That sounds like a very harsh assessment. Who did you talk to? What documents did you see?

    MR. THOMAS E. RICKS: I talked to over 100 senior military officers and, and soldiers of all ranks, from private to four-star general for the book. I did five reporting trips in Iraq and also talked to a lot of people back here. I read 37,000 pages of documents. Enormous amounts of information are available. And guys at the end of interviews would say, “Here’s a CD-ROM with every e-mail I sent to Paul Bremer when I was out there.” So there’s an amazing amount of information available.

    MR. RUSSERT: Here is the summary, early on in your book. “This book’s subtitle terms the U.S. effort in Iraq an adventure in the critical sense of adventurism—that is, with the view that the U.S.-led invasion was launched recklessly, with a flawed plan for war and a worse approach to occupation. Spooked by its own false conclusions about the threat, the Bush administration hurried its diplomacy, short-circuited its war planning, and assembled an agonizingly incompetent occupation. None of this was inevitable. It was made possible only through the intellectual acrobatics of simultaneously ‘worst-casing’ the threat presented by Iraq while ‘best-casing’ the subsequent cost and difficulty of occupying the country.”

    Let’s talk about the intelligence first. And, you write about the national intelligence estimate. And this is how you described it. “In September of ‘02 the U.S. intelligence prepared a comprehensive summary, called the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, of what it knew about ‘Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ ... It was prepared at the request of members of Congress who expected to vote on going to war with Iraq and wanted something on which to base their vote. ... As a political document that made the case for war the NIE of October ‘02 succeeded brilliantly. As a professional intelligence product it was shameful. But it did its job, which wasn’t really to assess Iraqi weapons programs but to sell a war. There was only one way to disprove its assertions: invade Iraq, which is what the Bush administration wanted to do.”

    You’re suggesting the intelligence community was an accomplice in providing information to Congress that wasn’t accurate?

    MR. RICKS: Yes. That document did not accurately reflect the information available inside the intelligence community. But you had a process of narrowing; as the information moved its way upward, doubts were stripped away. And so what you finally had in that document was something very different from what the experts actually thought. And it kind of just all veered off in one direction. It wasn’t like all the doubts were, were stripped off, it was all the doubts that said, “This may be wrong, they may not have WMD.”

    MR. RUSSERT: There were some caveats in the NIE.

    MR. RICKS: There were, but they tended to be ignored, especially in the summaries, which is what officials actually had. And you wound up with a situation where Colin Powell basically sacrificed his credibility and gave a speech at the U.N. based on that NIE that was utterly false, as he now admits.

    MR. RUSSERT: General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, you write in his book, he was “worried by the possibility of ‘a major influx of Islamic fighters’ from elsewhere to the Middle East ... concluded that it would be necessary ‘to size the postwar force bigger than the wartime force.’ [Shinseki] prepared carefully for the Capitol Hill appearance at which he would unveil that thought and effectively go into public opposition against the war plan being devised under Rumsfeld’s supervision.”

    That was the famous testimony where Shinseki said it may take a couple hundred thousand troops in order to success—be successful in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, a deputy Pentagon chief said that he was wildly off the mark.

    MR. RICKS: Mm-hmm.

    MR. RUSSERT: And that Shinseki really was stampeded into answering that question. You found something else?

    MR. RICKS: That was one of the surprises to me in reporting the book, that Shinseki had had his staff go and talk to historians, looked at other occupations and come up with a very concrete estimate based on historical precedent of how many troops might be needed. And he concluded several hundred thousand. The Bush administration saw that as an attempt to actually stop the invasion because they really came to distrust the Army because the Army was coming up with all these objections and doubts and saying things like this is not really—or invading Iraq would not be part of the war on terror. And ultimately, the joint chiefs of staff sent out an order saying you will consider an invasion of Iraq part, part of the war on terror.

    MR. RUSSERT: You said that General Tommy Franks, who was in head of the initial invasion of the war, used the phrase “speed kills” in terms of supporting a lower force than Shinseki had talked about. Talk about Franks, what he recommended, and the effectiveness of that initial invasion as opposed to the occupation.

    MR. RICKS: Another surprise to me in writing this was that I think this probably was one of the worst war plans in American history. When you talked to people who had to implement it, they said it didn’t speak to the basic problem. All the energy went to how you get to Baghdad, which was the easy part of it. Very little thought went to what do you do after you get there. So they spent 90 percent of their time on 10 percent of the problem. And they had a war plan that was effectively a kind of a banana republic coup d’etats: decapitate the Iraqi regime. When actually the plan that they were supposed to do was supposed to change Iraq and change the Middle East. So the war plan really didn’t speak to what top authorities, the president, had asked them to do.

    MR. RUSSERT: Donald Rumsfeld, when the first looting was shown on the TV screens criticized the media for showing the pictures over and over again. He said that, “Stuff happens.” That sometimes these things are untidy—freedom’s untidy. And then there was a debate between Rumsfeld and the press corps as to whether we were involved in a guerilla warfare. You said that Secretary Rumsfeld was paralyzed when the looting began. Talk about that.

    MR. RICKS: This would have been, I think, the time when Rumsfeld’s forceful personality really could’ve helped if he’d come in in this late spring and early summer of 2003 and said, “This is different from what we thought it was going to be.” But what I heard from officials who were at the CPA, the American Occupation Authority, was there was kind of a paralysis at the top, that they couldn’t get Rumsfeld to change, couldn’t get him to adjust, couldn’t even get him to say yes, we are fighting a war. And so for about eight weeks, a crucial time early in the occupation, June and July, you really have the U.S. military frozen in place because it’s a hierarchical institution. And the guy at the top was not adjusting to changed circumstances.

    MR. RUSSERT: You end the book by saying that history will determine whether the president was correct in saying that the invasion will make our country more secure. Right now you have doubts.

    MR. RICKS: I have real doubts because while there’s a small chance, I think, that Iraq ultimately will become a stable pro-American democracy, I think there’s a much larger chance that it won’t. And I think it’s an extremely worrisome situation. We kind of have a low-level civil war there. If it becomes a more intensible war, it easily could spill over its own borders and across the Middle East and we’d have a regional war on our hands.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you do not think American troops should withdraw immediately.

    MR. RICKS: I think it would be irresponsible to go in there and do what we’ve done and then walk away from it. There’s a lot of Iraqis out there who have committed their lives to helping the Americans do something there. And to abandon those people, I think, would be absolutely shameful as well.

    MR. RUSSERT: How long do you think we’ll be there?

    MR. RICKS: Ten to 15 years, at least.

    MR. RUSSERT: At what size force?

    MR. RICKS: I think they’ll probably get it down to maybe 110,000 by the end of this year, and probably 50,000 by the end of next year. And then you could have a steady stay for five or 10 years, even 15 years, but I think it’s going to be a long, hard struggle.

    MR. RUSSERT: Tom Ricks. The book, “Fiasco: the American Military Adventure in Iraq.” We thank you for sharing your views.

    MR. RICKS: Thank you.

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones_RE
    I think senior army commanders have largely avoided counterinsurgency for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's largely the province of the Special Forces or the Marines with their banana wars experience. Second, is the main stress placed on maneuver war.

    In the early to mid 1970's, the Army was reborn after Vietnam. The officers at that time woke up and saw just how powerful Warsaw Pact forces had become. Maneuver warfare offered the only doctrine capable of standing off such a large army. Previously, the Army had gotten by on mass, especially massed firepower. This worked great until they noticed the much greater mass just to the east.

    With a focus on defeating a massed threat that was always considered to be practically superior, and with literally the fate of the world hanging in the balance, is it any wonder that the army dropped its study of everything else? We talk about the focus on high intensity warfare in western Europe as if it were some kind of grand strategic mistake. Yet given the level of threat posed by Warsaw Pact ground and nuclear forces, how can you blame them? The Soviets might have seen all this small wars preparation and light infantry stuff and decided we were pushovers. The United States is a great power because of our focus on big wars - the defining feature of a great military power is the ability to fight that kind of war, after all. That US forces remained ignorant in the twenty first century is a matter of simple negligence - that they wilfully turned all of their attention to thousands of Soviet tanks thirty years ago was a matter of accomplishing their mission.
    Obviously the Army needed to devote the majority of its attention to Central Europe, but did they have to neglect virtually every other possible conflict? That's more the question, I think. The large push into maneuver warfare actually originated with the Marine Corps, not the Army, if memory serves. And I would propose that another feature of a great military power is flexibility. Now I also believe that the Army is getting there, and perhaps making strides quicker than many of its critics felt was possible. The Army is also to a degree a victim of its history following World War II. We are still paying the price for some of the leadership by management ideas that came in during that time, and saw perhaps their ultimate expression during Vietnam.

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    Default Pockets of Excellence

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair
    Obviously the Army needed to devote the majority of its attention to Central Europe, but did they have to neglect virtually every other possible conflict? That's more the question, I think. The large push into maneuver warfare actually originated with the Marine Corps, not the Army, if memory serves. And I would propose that another feature of a great military power is flexibility. Now I also believe that the Army is getting there, and perhaps making strides quicker than many of its critics felt was possible. The Army is also to a degree a victim of its history following World War II. We are still paying the price for some of the leadership by management ideas that came in during that time, and saw perhaps their ultimate expression during Vietnam.
    I had the opportunity to observe the Army while working for the Marine Corps from 1997 to the present. Even got invited to be part of a CALL collection team on a MOUT-focused rotation at the JRTC, as well as other opportunities… This was during the time that Maneuver Warfare and Air-Land Battle were being flushed out and incorporated and my particular area - urban operations - were getting a serious look as a harbinger of our future.

    Without over-simplifying the crux of the issue - the Army had many, many individuals and organizations that "got it". Unfortunately, these same individuals and organizations were buried within the combat branches which led to a sum-of-the-parts does not equal the whole scenario. The Army is huge and branch turf battles were on par with service battles within the Pentagon. At least that was this outsider’s humble opinion.

    Sometimes I think that we as Marines forget that our size, organization and the power / influence of the Commandant make for a relatively more rapid "sea change" when it comes to concepts, doctrine and organizational issues.

    The Army is huge, had a lot of Cold War baggage to overcome and had to deal with branches that were hell-bent on not losing their place in the future operational environment.

    In the last decade I have met as many Army officers, SNCOs and NCOs that “got it” as I did Marines. The Marine Corps’ future thinkers had the luxury of being a big fish in a small pond whilst our Army counterparts were the proverbial little fish in a big pond.

  6. #66
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    Default Is the hug an insurgent approach working

    I raise some questions about the new approach in Iraq at PrairiePundit.

    Much has been made recently of a new approach to counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq that has been dubbed "hug and insurgent." Thomas Ricks' new book Fiasco implies that the US old appraoch in Iraq caused the insurgency, but the new hug an insurgent approach may be a winner.

    It is my observation that we looked more like we were winning under the old approach than under the new approach. The new approach has put the troops in more danger and has hurt morale. A recent story quoted a troop as saying they were just going around waiting to be blown up. That does seem to be what the hug an insurgent approach requires.

    If you read stories from Ramadi that describe the action, they are mainly about Marines or soldiers in defensevie positions who are dodging snipers and waiting to be attacked, while occassionally going on patrols through neighborhoods. Even the aggressivenes is reactionary. Here is an example of the new approach. There are some who are optimistic about the new approach.

    It is certainly hard to say that the approach is working in Baghdad where more troops are being brought in to try the ink blot approach to neighborhood policing. Right now the Fallujah and Tal Afar approach certainly give more immediate signs of success, The metrics of the hug an insurgent approach appear to be much mushier at this point.

    I think that one of the problems with this change in strategy is its false premise that the old approach was driving people to the insurgents. This certainly seems to be one of the themes of Ricks' Fiasco.

    This may be the most unpopular insurgency in history. It is making war on the people of Iraq instead of the US and the Iraqi government. Classic insurgents attack the governemnt in hopes that it will lash back and alienate the people. In Iraq the insurgents are making war on non combatants and only fight government and US forces in defensive actions when attacked.

    ...
    I am sure there are many who may disagree with this take, but I think it is worth discussing the premise of "driving people to the insurgents" in Iraq as well as the effect of the new approach on morale. When you consider that the insurgence is composed of three primary elements, al Qaeda, former regime elements, and Iraqi rejectionist, it is pretty clear to me that the first two are the biggest problem and also the least likely to have been motivated by how the US approached Phase IV operations of the Iraq war plan. Al Qaeda is primarily motivated by religious bigotry that has nothing to do with any approach to counterinsurgency warfare. The former regime elements are just continuing to do what they did when Saddam was in power, only now they have people shooting back at them. The Iraqi rejectionist are the hardest to define, but perhaps they may have been motivated by a reaction to the troops, but they also could have been motivated by native tribalism that would react to any outsider no matter what the treatment.

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    Default Hug is Not What They are Saying...

    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson
    I raise some questions about the new approach in Iraq at PrairiePundit.

    I am sure there are many who may disagree with this take, but I think it is worth discussing the premise of "driving people to the insurgents" in Iraq as well as the effect of the new approach on morale. When you consider that the insurgence is composed of three primary elements, al Qaeda, former regime elements, and Iraqi rejectionist, it is pretty clear to me that the first two are the biggest problem and also the least likely to have been motivated by how the US approached Phase IV operations of the Iraq war plan. Al Qaeda is primarily motivated by religious bigotry that has nothing to do with any approach to counterinsurgency warfare. The former regime elements are just continuing to do what they did when Saddam was in power, only now they have people shooting back at them. The Iraqi rejectionist are the hardest to define, but perhaps they may have been motivated by a reaction to the troops, but they also could have been motivated by native tribalism that would react to any outsider no matter what the treatment.
    Merv,

    Longer response later as time permits. I have read American Soldier, Plan of Attack, My Year in Iraq, No True Glory, Cobra II and Fiasco.

    Moreover, I know or am at least acquainted with the authors and many, many of the primary sources of the later three books. To be sure - I work on these issues in my "day job".

    The Franks and Bremer books are basically single-sourced autobiographies - whose authors have a vested interest in their "legacy", while West, Trainor, Gordon and Ricks relied on multiple (read hundreds) of primary first-hand sources.

    The bottom-line here is that we efed up – especially Phase IV planning and execution (and the shaping that should have been resident in Phases I - III) – and need to learn the lessons of that ef up to insure we do not repeat the same ef ups we seem to relearn (more like do not learn) time and time again. By efing up Phase IV planning we indeed created an insurgency that was not "pre-ordained."

    S/F

    Dave

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    Default "...some white kid named Elvis Presley"

    Dave,

    I look forward to your longer response. I still do not think we created al Qaeda or the former regime elements. I think a case can be made for the suggestion that the Iraqi rejectionist may have been reactions to our actions. I am not arguing that we did not make mistakes. I am still waiting for some author to take on the small footprint, large footprint debate that effected troop levels. I think the early belief that we needed better intelligence instead of more troops led to many of the problems, by encouraging large roundups of suspects and engaging in aggressive interrigation. Certainly the intelligence got better as more Iraqi troops came on line and improved the force to space ratio at the same time. A better force to space ratio should and did result in better intelligence.

    However, the situations in Fallujah or Tal Afar could not have been resolved by being nicer to the terrorist. I think the reactive approach at Ramadi has resulted in not just slower progress, but may result in greater casualites and lower morale. Cobra II is still a deeply flawed book in my opinion. I look forward to reading Fiasco even if I don't care for the title.

    My point about the insurgents making war against the people rather than the government or the US still argues against the hug an insurgent approach.

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    Default Charlie Rose Show...

    ...on PBS - An hour with Tom Ricks (video) - 27 July 2006.

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    Default Question

    What is your day job? I know you are a consultant but can you elaborate some or is SS? secret stuff?

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    Default Hardly Secret...

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9
    What is your day job? I know you are a consultant but can you elaborate some or is SS? secret stuff?
    Consultant - urban operations and Small Wars issues for the Marine Corps at Quantico. Lead Marine Action Officer for the USMC - JFCOM Joint Urban Warrior Program as well as many Emerald Express (Insights and Observations) seminars that addressed OIF to include MCO (Phase III), SASO, COIN and Interagency Operations. Producer of the new USMC documentary - New Challenges for Military Operations in the 21st Century: Emerald Express Insights and Observations from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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    Default Companion Thread...

    ... Cobra II.

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    Default Slate Book Review

    Taking It to the Streets by Michael O'Hanlon.

    It is not an exaggeration, or at least not much of one, to say that with his new book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Thomas Ricks has changed the debate over Iraq. Others have criticized much of the decision-making of the Bush administration—on going to war in the first place, on hyping Saddam's purported links to al-Qaida and his progress in pursuing nuclear weapons, and most of all on the shoddy, cavalier preparation for the post-Saddam stabilization of Iraq. But almost all these previous critiques focused on President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders of the Bush administration.

    Ricks hardly spares the war's civilian architects, but his is the first major book to take on the U.S. military as well. Ricks critiques its acquiescence in the development of the war plan that paid little heed to "Phase IV," the postinvasion activities needed to rebuild a shattered state, with a particular focus on CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks. And he goes well beyond that, also severely scrutinizing the performance of U.S. armed forces on the streets of Iraq in the period since April 2003 when Saddam was deposed—until now a neglected, if not largely taboo, subject. That is what makes his book different, and important.

    To be sure, Ricks is precise and selective in his criticisms of the military. He goes out of his way to say that most individual soldiers and Marines worked very hard, endured great sacrifice, and displayed remarkable courage during their deployments to Iraq. (Though he occasionally criticizes the mega-bases that provided cheeseburgers and CNN and workout rooms in true American style, saying that they kept GIs too far from the indigenous populations they should have been working to protect.) And there are numerous individual military heroes in Ricks' historical account—Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, as well as Army Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Marine Maj. Gen. James Mattis (I am using their ranks at the time of their original service in Iraq).

    Yet the chief contribution of the book is to stoke a debate over the performance of the American military. In this vein, Ricks focuses his sights most intensively on four uniformed officers: CENTCOM Cmdr. Tommy Franks, 4th Infantry Division Cmdr. Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno (who ran operations around Tikrit and other areas north of Baghdad in 2003-2004), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, and America's top commander in Iraq in the early going, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

    The main lesson the military took from Vietnam, according to Ricks, was not to improve counterinsurgency techniques, training, and doctrine, but simply to avoid that style of warfare in the future. Ricks has a fairly convincing body of evidence to substantiate this allegation, including the testimonies of several important Army leaders and intellectuals who confirm that field manuals and other doctrine have not placed any real focus on counterinsurgency in the 30 years since Vietnam ended. As a student of the military myself, I would concur with this judgment. Peacekeeping of the type done in the Balkans in the 1990s was hardly the same thing, so our recent experiences there did little to alleviate the problem (except to the extent they may have influenced the education of the Petraeuses of the world at the individual level).

    The substantive heart of Ricks' critique is that Franks, Odierno, Myers, and Sanchez failed to understand counterinsurgency warfare; repeated many of the mistakes made in Vietnam, including the overuse of destructive force; and put America as well as its coalition partners on a path that may well lead to defeat...

    How does Ricks prove his case? It is here that the book reaches its limits, not through any fault of Ricks' so much as the difficult nature of his enterprise. By necessity, most of Ricks' evidence comes by way of anecdote from individual soldiers and Marines and quotations from well-placed military officers and other officials. In this pursuit, Ricks is doggedly thorough; there are many anecdotes and many quotations, including some from Anthony Zinni, former Pentagon official Dov Zakheim, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

    But in the end, testimony from soldiers, no matter how compelling, is not proof that the problems Ricks describes were as pervasive as he alleges, nor proof that the misapplication of American military power was the defining characteristic of the mission. Ricks' thesis is summarized by his subtitle "The American Military Adventure in Iraq." (If there were any doubt, he clarifies on the book's opening page that "this book's subtitle terms the U.S. effort in Iraq an adventure in the critical sense of adventurism—that is, with the view that the U.S.-led invasion was launched recklessly, with a flawed plan for war and a worse approach to occupation.") Having read this and many other books about Iraq, I say that I found his thesis more persuasive than I might have expected. But Ricks deliberately dwells on the negative. There is much more on Abu Ghraib and Fallujah than on Mosul or the Shiite heartland or Basra, for example, and more citations in the book's index about someone like Odierno than about Petraeus and Chiarelli combined...

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    Default FYI - Another Review

    Washington Post - The March of Folly by Daniel Byman.

    ... As the title implies, Fiasco pulls no punches. Sure enough, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith come off badly in Ricks's account. But so do most Democratic members of Congress (whom Ricks labels not doves but "lambs" for their failure to oversee the executive branch) and the media, particularly the New York Times, which failed miserably to probe the Bush administration's war justifications and postwar planning. Ricks is also particularly scathing toward L. Paul Bremer, who led the civilian occupation authority in Iraq in 2003-04. Ricks quotes one colonel who described the efforts of Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority as "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck."

    Troubling as these failures are, they are by now reasonably familiar; what's far less well-known is the bungling of the senior military leadership. With devastating detail, Ricks documents how U.S. generals misunderstood the problems they faced in Iraq and shows how poorly prepared the Army was for the unanticipated danger of a postwar Sunni rebellion. For ignoring the risks of an insurgency after Saddam Hussein's fall, Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command, "flunks strategy," Ricks writes; the war's commanding general designed "perhaps the worst war plan in American history." Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the invasion, and his deputy, Gen. Peter Pace (who's since been promoted to take Myers's old job), come off as smiling yes-men who went along with amateurish impulses from the Bush administration's political leadership and who forsook their duty to offer detached, professional judgments, acting instead as administration flacks in both private and public.

    As a result of the lapses of the top brass and the haughtiness of Rumsfeld's men, the U.S. military came into Iraq inadequately prepared -- and hard-pressed to adapt. From the start, it failed to recognize that ensuring public order was the key to postwar success. As one general puts it, "I was on a street corner in Baghdad, smoking a cigar, watching some guys carry a sofa by -- and it never occurred to me that I was going to be the guy to go get that sofa back."

    As the insurgency deepened, the Pentagon's military and civilian leaders first ignored it, then worsened it by using wrongheaded tactics. By emphasizing killing the enemy rather than winning over the people, the U.S. military made new enemies more quickly than it eliminated existing foes. Mass arrests and other attempts to intimidate Iraqis backfired, swelling the insurgents' ranks. U.S. units and troops deployed to Iraq turned over quickly, shuttling in and out of the country with little attempt to build a coherent intelligence picture of the situation on the ground or to sustain hard-won relationships with the local Iraqi officials trying to make their country work. Cities such as Mosul and Fallujah were liberated from insurgents and then abandoned; inevitably, the insurgents took over again. Such mistakes are depressing but not entirely surprising: The U.S. military has forgotten many of the lessons of counterinsurgency warfare that it learned bitterly in Vietnam and elsewhere. Having neglected counterinsurgency in the military's training and education programs, we should not be shocked that we are ill-equipped to wage it.

    Indeed, the picture Ricks paints is so damning that it is, at times, too charitable to say that the military and civilian leadership failed. Fiasco portrays several commanders as misguided but trying their best, but others -- particularly the hapless Franks -- appear not to have tried at all. Worse, the overall war and occupation effort lacked the high-level White House coordination essential to victory, allowing Bremer to operate on his own, making major decisions without consulting the Pentagon or the National Security Council, let alone his counterparts on the military side of the occupation.

    These failures feel particularly raw given the sacrifices, grit and determination of the heroes of Ricks's book: the junior and noncommissioned officers risking their lives in Iraq's streets, as well as the few innovative senior officers, such as Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who have shrewdly tried (as the New Yorker's George Packer has put it) to win "over the civilian population by encouraging economic reconstruction and local government." Whether getting supply convoys past insurgent strongholds, identifying ways to defeat the rebels' dreaded IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or deciding whether to cow or charm local leaders, creative officers often invented new tactics and strategy on the spot...

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    My uncle flew supplies in to Father Hoa and he also flew him into Saigon for meetings. He gave my uncle a swallow pin. It was during his 61 or 63 tour.

    This report states F. Hoa settled in Taipei:

    http://www.uneeknet.com/fam/dad/072399C.htm

    Sorry I don't have any solid info for you.

    -a

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    Taking out the surprise of an insurgency developing after Saddam fell I find a lot of similarity in America's tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan as described by David Galula. Overall, I would think we didn't apply good counterinsurgency tactics in Vietnam from a civil perspective (we did cream the opposition militarily, which didn't win the conflict). The opposite is true in Iraq. Based on my observations I can see the 80% civil and 20% military formula for a successful counterinsurgency has been unfolding in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is more ironic is that Mr. Galula's book was published in 1964. I find no reference to it as source of information as well as the USMC Small Wars Manual during the Vietnam period, though both are very popular today within the military. It seems we have radically changed our tactics from those of the Vietnam period and to good measure. As for a civil war breaking out in Iraq? An insurgency is a civil war. No one should be surprised of the sectarian violence that is occurring. Iraq has been in a civil war basically since the Baathist Fascist Party gained controlling power decades ago. And our military has always had a history of going into military action ill prepared and adapted and improvised from there. From starving our Continental Army, to the Union's winter campaign at Fredericksburg, to the Spanish Flu epidemic of the Expeditionary Forces, to the hedgerows of Normandy, to the ill equipped military to hold back the North Koreans when they stormed the south, to Operation Anaconda, to playing catch up on civil affairs in the "wild west" of Iraq. And as tragic as casualties are by this time in Vietnam, as well as Korea, our military suffered over 30,000 KIA in each conflict. I credit our low in comparison casualty rate at the present time to a change in tactics. I think we have learned from mistakes in the past and American lives have been saved in the process. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a well oiled counterinsurgency, whether it is being successful or not, because the enemy gets a vote as well. And with the counterinsurgency having a indigenous government in place that controls the propaganda I would bet the counterinsurgency is going better than most would think. For crying out loud, they blow up a recruitment line, they clean up the mess, and get right back in line.

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    Default Iraq: Phase One

    Bing West e-mailed his review of Tom Rick's book Fiasco. This review will appear in the 11 September issue of National Review. Here is an excerpt:

    (Mr. West, who served in the Marine infantry in Vietnam and later as assistant secretary of defense, is the award-winning author of several military histories, including The Village: A Combined Action Platoon in Vietnam and No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah. He has been to Iraq nine times, accompanying over 20 battalions on operations.)

    ... Ricks builds a devastating case, with a focus exclusively upon the military aspects of Iraq. He portrays systemic failures of political-military leadership, of a kind not seen since World War I. The scale is vastly different, of course, but there are undeniable similarities—both in the initial unwillingness to adapt and in the unswerving loyalty accorded to self-assured incompetents. At the end of 2004, President Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Gen. Tommy Franks and Amb. L. Paul Bremer. Ricks does not mince words about his opinion of those three men: “The U.S.-led invasion was launched recklessly (Bush), with a flawed plan for war (Franks) and a worse approach to occupation (Bremer).”

    Ricks’s premise is that invading Iraq turned into a military mess that could have been avoided...

    ... a portrayal of Franks, then head of Central Command, as abusive and impatient, “a cunning man, but not a deep thinker,” who “ran an extremely unhappy headquarters.” Franks, according to the author, had no plan for the occupation, and no intention of remaining the commander responsible for implementing it.

    In the middle section of the book, Ricks explains in detail how the U.S. military, once confronted with an insurgency, responded in 2003 and 2004 with sweeps, raids, and arrests that only inflamed the opposition. He lays the blame on three factors. The first was the appointment of Paul Bremer as the president’s proconsul. Bremer wielded his wide-ranging powers decisively but not judiciously. His key failure was to disband the Iraqi army, an error the American military did not appeal to secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld to overturn. The second mistake was the appointment by Central Command of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq. Sanchez was out of his depth, at loggerheads with Bremer, and incapable of developing a comprehensive campaign plan. This led to the third error: unilateral American offensive operations...

    ... Gen. Tony Zinni is quoted time and again, damning the civilians for geopolitical naïveté, but Ricks does not let the generals escape criticism: He points out that it was not Rumsfeld but rather the Joint Chiefs and Central Command who dismissed Zinni’s operational plans as half-baked...

    Iraq marked a sea change in the American way of war. “Force Protection” meant minimizing casualties—so that over three years, there were fewer fatalities than in that one awful day of 9/11. Mess halls morphed into “dining facilities” offering salad bars, pizza bars, fast-food counters, Middle East cuisine, or good, old-fashioned steak and lobster, followed by ice cream, at a cost of about $34 a meal. Soldiers slept in air-conditioned rooms, chatted on the Internet, and played video games. We chose to fight a war that a veteran of Vietnam would not recognize. (Thrown into the cauldron of Fallujah, though, U.S. soldiers and Marines displayed courage and aggressiveness equal to any American generation.)

    Somewhere between 1966 and 2006, the conditions of war and the acceptability of misery and friendly casualties had changed. We didn’t have enough troops in Iraq partly because of how we chose to fight the war; Ricks blames this on shortcomings in military doctrine, but it may be equally attributable to the current mores of American society...

    Secretary Rumsfeld has said repeatedly that the U.S. military does not do nation-building. He is mistaken. In Iraq, building a nation is exactly what Gen. Casey and his subordinates are trying to do. It is the only way to succeed. The U.S. military has undertaken that staggering task because the rest of the U.S. government did not show up for this war.

    If, in the end, Iraq emerges intact and moderate, it will not be because of its political leaders. It will be because the Iraqi army, modeling its behavior to live up to the standards of the American army, is able to defeat both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militia. Of course there will be all kinds of political deals; and underlying each of them will be the cold calculus of who will prevail in a fight. The Iraqi Army - not its national assembly or its police or its religious and political personages - is the last, best hope for Iraq.

    While acknowledging that the U.S. military is beginning to get it right, Ricks concludes by asking whether it is too late to head off a low-level civil war that will result in a fragmentation of Iraq equivalent to that of Lebanon in the mid-1980s (or perhaps today). Ricks’s pessimism rests on his doubt that America will sustain its effort. That happened in Vietnam after the Tet offensive in 1968; although battlefield conditions markedly improved over the next two years, attitudes had hardened against the war and against our South Vietnamese allies...

    With the critique offered in Fiasco, Ricks makes a solid contribution to our shared understanding.
    Bing has much more to say - be sure to check out the entire review in the National Review. I will give a heads up when it goes online.

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    Default Additional Reviews

    Fiasco reviews:

    Weekly Standard by Max Boot

    This is a good book with a bad title. Anyone picking up a volume called Fiasco, with a snarky subtitle referring to "The American Military Adventure in Iraq," might expect another tome from the Michael Moore School of Policy Studies, with its level of analysis restricted to bumper-sticker slogans like "Bush Lied, People Died."

    In fact, this is a carefully researched account of the Iraq war by one of America's premier defense correspondents--Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post. His findings of pervasive high-level ineptitude, based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of documents, will be much harder for reflexive defenders of the Bush administration to dismiss than the usual farrago of ideologically motivated accusations from political adversaries.
    Los Angeles Times / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Tony Perry

    His book is not a screed but a well-researched, strongly written account of the miscues that led from shock-and-awe to rampant sectarian strife. Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize winner, had access to top officers and their planning as well as "after-action" documents. More important, he was accorded candor.

    Much of the mess, he concludes, began with the Army and the Pentagon bureaucracy, their institutional rigidity, a lack of planning for combating an insurgency and poor personnel choices.

  19. #79
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    Default Iraq Postmortem

    Marine Corps Gazette book review - Iraq Postmortem by LtCol Frank Hoffman, USMCR. Reposted here with permission of the MCG.

    FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. By Thomas E. Ricks. Penguin Books, New York, 2006, ISBN 159420103X, 481 pp., $27.95. (Member $25.15)

    This is an autopsy, not a book. In Fiasco, veteran Pentagon reporter Tom Ricks painstakingly dissects the American planning for and conduct of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). This forensic examination is dispassionately professional and excruciatingly detailed. Many will disagree with this reviewer’s assessment of America’s Iraq policy and operations as moribund. But after reading this book, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the patient, the administration’s aspirations for the Middle East, has died due to a combination of incompetent diagnosis and malpractice on the operating table. At best the current coalition posture in Iraq is little more than a life support system, and when we pull the plug, the patient will flat line. One cannot overlook the innumerable acts of great valor demonstrated for a noble cause, but the patient is just beyond saving.

    Tom Ricks’ written work is well known among Marines. His stints at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post cover more than two decades of insightful defense reporting. He has been a member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for national reporting. Both of his books, Making the Corps (Scribner, 1997) and A Soldier’s Duty (Random House, 2001), reflect his deep understanding of the culture of America’s Armed Forces. The former captured the incredible transformation of Marine enlistees at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, while also raising concerns about the growing rift between our society and the U.S. military. Fiasco will further extend Ricks’ reputation due to his balanced and carefully crafted prose and his ability to exploit the collective observations of a vast network of Pentagon contacts and national security experts.

    Fiasco traces the development and conduct of current U.S. policy in Iraq from its roots in the messy endgame of Operation DESERT STORM in 1991 to the present postconflict situation. You do not have to cut through layers of history to get to the author’s thesis. On the very first page the author summarizes his conclusions. The U.S.-led invasion was launched recklessly, with a flawed plan for war and a worse approach to occupation. Spooked by its own false conclusions about the threat, the Bush administration hurried its diplomacy, short-circuited its war planning, and assembled an agonizingly incompetent occupation.

    The front portion of the book makes it very clear that the civilian policymakers were incompetent and arrogant in the extreme and that the current situation in Iraq can be laid at the feet of America’s highest officials. Several other books have already assessed prewar policy lapses and intelligence shortfalls. But the bulk of this book is oriented on delving much deeper into the subject’s vital organs, including the:

    . . . leadership of the U.S. military, who didn’t prepare the U.S. Army for the challenge it faced, and then wasted a year by using counter-productive tactics that were employed in unprofessional ignorance of the basic tenets of counterinsurgency warfare.

    The policy debacle is attributed to the many senior civilian and military officials responsible for intelligently assessing the nature of the Iraqi threat, and for devising an appropriate strategy. Ricks provides a number of concise vignettes in which the personality flaws of the characters in this American tragedy are pithily summarized. The serial exercise in self-deception and maldeployment of American military might that comes from this collection of personal interactions produces a grim toxicology report. It now seems more likely that history’s judgment will be that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 was based on perhaps the worst war plan in American history. It was a campaign for a few battles, not a plan to prevail and secure victory. Its incompleteness helped create the conditions for the difficult occupation that followed.

    Marine readers will find much to agree with, including Ricks’ characterization of many Marine leaders. Both retired Gen Anthony C. Zinni’s and retired LtGen Gregory S. Newbold’s well-founded reservations about U.S. policy before the war are chronicled. So too is the impressive combat performance of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) in 2003 led by LtGen James T. Conway, then-MajGen James N. Mattis, and then-MajGen James F. “Tamer” Amos. The performance of the California-based Marines in the tenuous postconflict phases is not given its due, but the planning and execution in both fights for Fallujah in April and November of 2004 are well covered.

    One interesting portion of the book deals with the different styles and operating methods used by the Army and the Marine Corps during the postconflict phases. This difference bubbled up from time to time in the media in late 2003 as I MEF was preparing to return to Iraq and is very evident in Fiasco. Those Marines who made the first deployment to Iraq believed that the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) they employed in their 4-month extended postconflict period proved the merits of a more constrained and comprehensive approach. These TTP reflect an ethos that is derived from the Marines’ classic Small Wars Manual and from ideas absorbed from British counterinsurgency experts. Lessons learned from OIF emphasized the need to transition to more culture-sensitive and less firepower-oriented tactics in order to swing the neutral portion of the population toward the coalition and the fledgling Iraqi Government.

    Members of the U.S. Army resented the implications of the so-called “velvet glove” approach when it appeared in the media in mid- to late 2003. The impression that the Marines were better prepared for complex contingencies was seen as a bit unseemly, especially since the Marines had previously worked largely in Shi’ite areas, and in the Army’s view may not have had a perfect picture on the volatile nature of Al Anbar Province. By the time Mattis’ team arrived in theater in March 2004, with the assistance of the 82d Airborne Division, the Marines had realized the true nature of the adversary in Iraq’s “wild west.”

    Ricks lauds the overall approach of a population-centric and kinetically disciplined style that was successfully implemented by then-MG David H. Petraeus, USA in Mosul in 2003 and in Tall Afar by the 3d Armored Combat Regiment later in 2005. Ironically, abetted by a small cadre of institutional insurgents within the U.S. Army, LTG Petraeus has now incorporated the velvet glove approach into the Army’s latest doctrine. While a bit harsh with the Army early in the book, later Ricks shows that the Army is substantially overhauling its education system to better cope with the nature of unconventional conflict.

    There is little doubt that the planning failures and heavy-handed transition period through the end of 2003 contributed to the growth of a nascent insurgency. Large unit sweeps by American forces and mass detentions helped elements of the former regime to recruit, arm, and train the underemployed youth and disaffected elements of Iraq for a protracted insurgency. However, Ricks’ depiction of the insurgency as a monolithic entity has limits. Likewise, his endorsement of classical counterinsurgency principles and insights from Mao-inspired rural insurgencies begs for amplification about the more complex mosaic in Iraq. The direct extrapolation of David Galula’s observations from Algeria in the 1960s, or lessons learned from El Salvador in the 1980s, should be applied with some judgment regarding the peculiar nature of this war.

    While Ricks is absolutely correct in his assessment that the enduring principles of effective counterinsurgency were not applied, further exploration of the discontinuities is warranted. There is a need for what Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, calls “ruthless objectivity” when studying past cases of counterinsurgency for key lessons or models. As stated in the Small Wars Manual, “to a greater degree is each small war somewhat different from anything which has preceded it.” Thanks to globalization, the Internet, and Islam’s internal divisions, this conflict is certainly different in many respects. How different is a wonderful subject for a historian—or in this case, perhaps a pathologist.

    This book is a well-documented postmortem, not a compelling operational history. Contrary to the publisher’s dust jacket, “gripping accounts of battle” are not this book’s real strength. Ultimately, Fiasco relentlessly documents a badly flawed policy decision, inappropriate operational planning, and counterproductive tactics. Most Marines will be more comfortable with Bing West and MajGen Ray L. Smith’s The March Up (Bantam, 2003) and its riveting narrative about I MEF’s blitzkrieg in Mesopotamia. Fiasco will appeal primarily to military professionals and students of national security affairs who want to look past the battles and see how these are matched to policy aims and desired effects. Look elsewhere for what military force actually achieved under heroic conditions. If you want to find out how senior policymakers deluded themselves with an inexplicable paradox of worst-case threat scenarios and best-case planning assumptions, delve deeply into this remarkable book.

    LtCol Hoffman, a frequent contributor to MCG, is a Research Fellow, Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, Quantico.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson
    Dave,

    I look forward to your longer response. I still do not think we created al Qaeda or the former regime elements. I think a case can be made for the suggestion that the Iraqi rejectionist may have been reactions to our actions.
    In regards to your quote above, I was wondering who would be mainly to blame for creating Al Quaeda in Iraq, since before the war they did not exist within that country?

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