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Thread: Roadside Bombs & IEDs (catch all)

  1. #61
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default 'The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces'

    30 Sep Washington Post - 'The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces' by Rick Atkinson.

    It began with a bang and "a huge white blast," in the description of one witness who outlived that Saturday morning, March 29, 2003. At a U.S. Army checkpoint straddling Highway 9, just north of Najaf, four soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, part of the initial invasion of Iraq, had started to search an orange-and-white taxicab at 11:30 a.m. when more than 100 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive detonated in the trunk.

    The explosion tossed the sedan 15 feet down the road, killing the soldiers, the cabdriver -- an apparent suicide bomber -- and a passerby on a bicycle. Lt. Col. Scott E. Rutter, a battalion commander who rushed to the scene from his command post half a mile away, saw in the smoking crater and broken bodies on Highway 9 "a recognition that now we were entering into an area of warfare that's going to be completely different."

    Since that first fatal detonation of what is now known as an improvised explosive device, more than 81,000 IED attacks have occurred in Iraq, including 25,000 so far this year, according to U.S. military sources. The war has indeed metastasized into something "completely different," a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants -- including "suicide, vehicle-borne" -- has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan, as iconic as the machine gun in World War I or the laser-guided "smart bomb" in the Persian Gulf War of 1991...

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    Default Weapon of Choice

    I indexed the Washington Post series on IEDs at the SWJ Blog here ---> Weapon of Choice. The series includes articles, video interviews and graphics.

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    Council Member SabreXray's Avatar
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    I believe somebody with a sense of humor purposely manipulated the acronym CEXC for the name. Got to admit I thought it was a joke when I first heard of the staff section called "Sexy" when I was on the Vth Corps (MNC-I) staff for OIF IV.

    JP

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    Quote Originally Posted by SabreXray View Post
    I believe somebody with a sense of humor purposely manipulated the acronym CEXC for the name. Got to admit I thought it was a joke when I first heard of the staff section called "Sexy" when I was on the Vth Corps (MNC-I) staff for OIF IV.

    JP
    Try going through all those long marches and cadence calls in basic training when you're the only one in the unit whose name rhymes with "sex" ...

    (and now back to our regularly-scheduled thread)

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Default How To Stop IEDs

    How to stop IEDs

    Gian P. Gentile

    Friday, November 9, 2007

    Want to stop Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, from going off in Iraq and killing American soldiers and Marines? Then end the war.

    This is not a political or policy statement on my part but a simple matter of fact based on my personal experience as a tactical battalion commander in west Baghdad in 2006 and on history. How did the warring sides in World War I stop the deadly artillery barrages that became endemic to that war? When the states involved agreed politically to end the war and the deadly artillery stopped...

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    Quote Originally Posted by GG
    ....For a combat soldier to be on a WWI battlefield, meant to be hit and killed by artillery. To be in Iraq, sadly, means American combat soldiers and Marines will be hit and killed by IEDs....
    Wow, talk about lack of context and false analogies manipulated for effect. And this guy teaches history at the academy. Sad.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 11-10-2007 at 02:21 PM.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Even the best counter-insurgency tactics applied by competent military units have limits to what they can accomplish in a civil war. That's when I concluded that IEDs in Iraq were a condition of the battlefield that I could not completely stop.
    I think he raises an important question here - when we treat everything as a problem with a solution we sometimes miss the bigger issues. I also think IEDs (of all flavors) will continue to figure prominently when we consider METT-TC from here on out. The types of insurgencies and civil wars we may find ourselves involved in will mean greater involvement of combatants equipped and fighting not as uniformed combatants, but as combatants seeking the advantages of fighting in a culture and environment where they can blend in and neutralize our strengths. IEDs generally play to their strengths and even if not employed directly against U.S. forces, still have effects against providing security and helping a host government work toward stability. Information technology and the media have made both the technical skills required to design, build and employ IEDs available to those who would use them, and the media has shown how their use effects us and the domestic will to achieve a political purpose. IT and media are also conditions in this regard.

    This does not mean we should not work where possible to stay out in front in terms of mitigating the conditions in which we will operate given the political purpose. Technology can mitigate it some, TTP & Doctrine can mitigate it some, winning at the tactical and operational levels can mitigate it some. Consider that IEDs were not first encountered in Iraq - VBIEDs of various flavors have been employed for awhile - The Oklahoma City bombing, Khobar Towers were VBIEDs, the attack on the USS Cole was a type of Suicide IED and the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC were also a type of IED. Also woth noting that many a Vietnam veteran mad the early analogy to booby traps. While we have done our best and had some successes at mitigating and denying opportunities to employ IEDs of such large scale - we have not eliminated them - they are not a problem with a final solution because they fall under means and ways of achieving a purpose.

    It does seem our ability to mitigate the IED as a condition corresponds to the environment in which takes place. The more unstable the environment - like a war zone, the less control we have over the conditions, and the less success we have in mitigating them. Because IEDs are employed where people live and because the fighting takes place in and amongst the population, our purpose for being there puts us at odds with avoiding IEDs. In the same ways insurgents are able to blend in with the population, so IEDs blend in with the environment around the population.

    We've generated some success in distinguishing what belongs and what does not in Iraq - but when IED craters on the road start to look normal it creates problems in distinguishing what truly is a threat - and that is just one example. So - I agree - IEDs are here to stay - where ever the population will become the prize, and wherever the enemy can not stand up to us in a conventional sense we will see IEDs employed against us and our allies. TT and Frank Hoffman have done some good thinking on hybrid wars or what Terry referred to as complex Irregular Warfare where the enemy capabilities are blended and designed to be complimentary leaving us few choices but to be full spectrum - a hard thing to pull off, which may work counter to our achieving a given political purpose in a time period that makes the object in view worth the blood and treasure in the first place.

    Our enemies have the luxury of only having to consider how to defeat us - and they are well versed in our strategic culture of how we address problems, and what lines we will not cross, and what happens to our political support when we do. This makes fielding a force capable of serving a political purpose a hard thing to accomplish, it may make it more expensive then we are willing to pay because either we choose not to acknowledge what a full spectrum force really is and what recruiting, retaining, training, educating and equipping really requires, or because we choose to not acknowledge that the enemy has the luxury of time, the advantage of home court, and the benefit of facing an enemy (us) who cannot agree on what are vital interests, and what is the cost benefit of securing them. No easy answers here, often just the best of some hard choices.

    Eventually, it became clear that the only sure way to eliminate the IED threat in Iraq would be to end the civil war. The chances of that happening seemed remote, however, because the many warring sides had plenty of fight left in them.

    Civil wars are the most uncivil of human activities; they take time to work themselves out through fighting and killing.
    I also think he makes a valid point here. A question I heard once and stuck with me is why some wars take longer to resolve. Consider our own Civil War - Lee fought to the very end - there were several times where looking backwards through time, it appears obvious to us that he should have surrendered - but not to him, and often not to the men he led, the Confederate political leadership, or the people who lived there. Even when Sherman was demonstrating he was operating in the Confederate interior - away from the Union Navy, many in the South refused to believe he was imposing his will where he wanted. The political object in view to the South was so attractive (or the alternative so unbearable), and some of the events that had occurred in the first years of the war so convincing that the idea of defeat had to be demonstrated to the hilt, in order to show the outcome was inevitable.

    There were no forgone conclusions for Grant and Lincoln either, hope yes, but right up to the end Grant thought Lee might make a run South, link up with Johnston and fight on - even when Lee's Army appeared broken and starving. The reason I bring up the Union point of view is to offer the possibility that even when one side appears to have sealed the conclusion, their mindset may be one of still doing everything possible to ensure it. Its one thing to discuss opponents who had religion and common experiences that might inhibit them from imposing a peace that would be unbearable, but maybe its another where the conditions that lead up to the war stem from distinct differences in religion & politics that have been heightened by favoritism or deprivation, violence, hatred, fears and sorrows that have have taken a life of their own.

    These are also the conditions we will likely face in the future where we operate - we are not likely to find ourselves violently engaged in places where peace exists unless it is because a state belligerent has invaded or threatened a neighbor - these are not where insurgencies and civil wars occur. It seems more likely that we will either find ourselves involved in multi-ethnic/religious/tribal disputes that are destabilized from within, by a non-state actor, or by a state actor who has managed to dominate its own population while supporting/exerting a destabilizing influence on its neighbor. We may at times find ourselves facing more then one component of this description to include making a choice to employ violence against a subversive neighbor.

    I appreciate the article - we need those who make major policy decisions to think about the environment that war takes place in. Its complex and enduring, and there are consequences. If we decide to employ military power to achieve our political ends, then we need to think about what we want to accomplish and what the enemy wants to accomplish, strengths and weaknesses (ours and theirs), and we need to recognize that the more populations are involved the messier it will be, and the greater the role chance and probability will play in the out come when our goals depend on the people who live in a given state or region sustaining a peace - since our strategic culture reflects our own values of free will and choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    ...we need those who make major policy decisions to think about the environment that war takes place in. Its complex and enduring, and there are consequences.
    Thanks Rob for the most thoughtful reply. The words you write above summarize the implicit point of the article perfectly which was the fundamental reason i wrote it. The piece started out at around 1200 words where i gave examples of World War 1 leaders devising very effective tactical innovations like German small group tactics and even the use of poison gas by the British and Germans but the editor for space constraints cut most of that out.

    I remember sharing my views of IEDs as a condition of the baghdad battlefield with other battalion and brigade commanders when i was there and they agreed that it was that way.

    As far as Jedburg's statement that i made a "false analogy;" ok, if that is how he sees it fine. However, when i was reeling from the effects of lethal ieds on my outfit and was trying to figure out how to deal with them in baghdad in 2006 accepting that they were a condition, by drawing on my sense of history and my understanding of World War I trench warfare, that i could never make them go away i think helped me to come up with realistic plans of action to deal with them.

    Again Rob, thanks for taking the time to pen this response and thanks too to Steve Metz for posting this piece as a thread.

    gian

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    Rob, your exegesis of what he wrote was far more cogent and thoughtful than the original article. Your final point that we need those who make major policy decisions to think about the environment that war takes place in is well taken. Strategic IPB is absolutely necessary to drive effective planning for conflict; conventional or unconventional. Take a read of Ceasar's The Gallic Wars for a good historical example, or review Knowing One's Enemies, which I've linked to before. The administration that led us into Iraq failed miserably on multiple counts.

    However, the original piece Steven linked to was written in a tone of frustration and defeatism, using multiple false analogies to reinforce points not put in an operational context and ultimately offered no recommendations or solutions, or than to leave Iraq. A simple opinion piece; yes, it made points, but it lacks substance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    and ultimately offered no recommendations or solutions, or than to leave Iraq.
    Mr. Gentile can speak for himself, but I didn't see any inference that the US needs to leave Iraq.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Eventually, it became clear that the only sure way to eliminate the IED threat in Iraq would be to end the civil war.
    If you believe we have a role to play in ending the civil war - and I don't see anywhere in the article where it says we don't - then we can stay.

    I also agree with Rob that IEDs are here to stay and we'll see more if them; they're too effective, and too cheap for them to go away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    A simple opinion piece; yes, it made points, but it lacks substance.
    I don't want to appear arrogant and aloof here but do you think, Jedburg, you could do better with a 650 word limit? Right i certainly could have given more detail in a 6000 word piece, but then no oped page in the world would run it. With 6000 words maybe i could have changed Jedburg's mind of claiming that i used a "false analogy."

    I am not a defeatist Jedburg, but a realist who has sadly had to talk on satellite phones with moms, dads, and wives after memorial services for soldiers in my squadron who had been killed by ieds and try to explain to them why it happened. Perhaps you should look into the mirror yourself and what you might see is an idealist who refuses to accept the fundamental cost of doing business in Iraq; dead American soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors from IEDs that are a condition of the battlefield. I am not at all saying that the cost is not worth it, but rather trying to point out what the cost actually means in blood and treasure for our continued presence in the land between the two rivers.

    gentile

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    However, the original piece Steven linked to was written in a tone of frustration and defeatism, using multiple false analogies to reinforce points not put in an operational context and ultimately offered no recommendations or solutions, or than to leave Iraq. A simple opinion piece; yes, it made points, but it lacks substance.
    I am not as clear as to the author's ultimate intent in writing the piece. LTC Gentile has since given us a little more insight in his response to Rob's post. But what his intention was really matters little anymore, for at least two reasons.

    First, the piece is no longer what the author submitted. As LTC Gentile noted, the editors of the SF Chronicle chose to evoke editorial privilege and gut his 1200 word article. (I have my suspicions about their reasons, and they have nothing to do with an interest by the Chronicle's editors in saving ink and newsprint.)

    Second, I think it is very important to recognize that the written word, once released to the public, is freed completely of its author's intentions. I viewed the op-ed as an expression of the author's struggle to come to grips with the "mission-welfare of the force" dilemma. We see another intrepretation in the quotation from Jedburgh above. I suspect many other readers will take it as an argument for not continuing the fight and for avoidiing involvement in future conflicts that devolve into COIN battles.

    I hope that those who choose to publish, particularly in the mainstream meadia, carefully weigh the possibilities of their words and intentions being greatly misconstrued. When we mistake the effects of what we do or say on others, we can end up with some horrendous results. By most accounts, WWI resulted from a gross miscalculatiuon on the part of the Austro-Hungarians to the reaction to their crossing into Serbia in 1914. In a much less horrible example, we have recently been witness to a range of reactions to the Countererpunch piece in which Price mistook the intention of the authors of FM3-24.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default There is no question that Gian's OpEd is correct in potential effect

    and there is little question that the ending of the war would be in the best interests the Armed Forces elements now deployed in Iraq and probably of the Armed Forces as a whole. What is not addressed in that OpEd is whether that action would be in the national interest.

    I believe that action would be far more detrimental to the US than it would be beneficial.

    By extrapolation one can say that the killing of Soldiers and Marines by IED would not exist in Iraq were we not there. However, we are there. Whether we should be or not, whether all the ramifications were considered or not prior to commitment is really broadly immaterial at this point. One can also say with some justification that had several elements of the US government from the President through the SecDef and to include a number of agencies and the Armed Forces done their jobs a little better we might well not have an IED problem in Iraq at this time. Also immaterial. The issue is not how to stop IEDs, the issue is what actions best serve the national interest at this time.

    While the recommended action would please many around the world on several levels and a large number of Americans would be quite happy, that action would leave a vacuum in the ME with even more uncertain effects than would our continued presence. It would also tacitly fulfill the expectations of many who would see it as a vindication of their belief that America has no staying power and is not to be trusted. That potential effect deserves even more thought that did the original intent to commit.

    Rob eloquently makes many excellent points on the issue but I submit his final paragraph is the most critical in his comment:
    "I appreciate the article - we need those who make major policy decisions to think about the environment that war takes place in. Its complex and enduring, and there are consequences. If we decide to employ military power to achieve our political ends, then we need to think about what we want to accomplish and what the enemy wants to accomplish, strengths and weaknesses (ours and theirs), and we need to recognize that the more populations are involved the messier it will be, and the greater the role chance and probability will play in the out come when our goals depend on the people who live in a given state or region sustaining a peace - since our strategic culture reflects our own values of free will and choice."
    Arguably that analysis was not applied by many to the attack on Iraq and, regrettably, in the first couple of years to our actions and efforts there. That is history. The history of World War I is really analogous in the areas of bad decisions, bad tactics and death -- it is not all analogous politically and in the context of today's ease, visual effects and rapidity of communication or of todays battlefield where effects are not local but international in ways World War I could never have been.

    Given the thrust of the OpEd as it appeared, one can pretty much be assured that the "end the war" desired is our withdrawal. If the rest of the piece is considered and further comments on this board are considered, one is left with the thought that we are intruding in a civil war and can only continue to provide targets, thus removal of the targets is desired.

    I agree strongly with WM and Jedburgh. I'm not sure that the OpEd serves anyone well. Gian says his is not a political or policy statement -- that will be ignored and it will be widely used as a de facto political and policy condemnation.

    No sane human wants the death and destruction that exists in Iraq, we all want it to end -- but to end it on the wrong note will only lead to more and possibly greater death and destruction. History tells us that. World War I emphatically tells us that; that is the true analogy between then and now...

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Nuance and Honesty

    I appreciate Lt. Col. Gentile's article. I also appreciate Rob's elucidation of the thoughts behind it and of his own. Allow me to weigh in.

    I think Iraq is more complex than to call it a civil war, and leave it at that. There are aspects of that, indeed, just as there are aspects of Islamic jihad, and aspects of inteference by Iranian and Syrian elements (regional conflict), sectarian strife, indigenous insurgency, terrorism, etc. It is a complex affair. I believe these things not simply because of what I read in the MSM or even blogs written from the front. I have also extensively talked with Marines who have recently returned.

    Rob and Jedburgh are right. I count myself as a conservative, but this administration failed us in too many ways to count. Rumsfeld's idea of fighting a war in Afghanistan with a few special forces operators, satellite uplinks for airmen as they guided bombs in on target, and indigenous fighters has been a failure. We needed force projection, and we got gizmos. He and Wolfowitz bullied Shinseki out of a job, and we got Iraq on the cheap. We needed force projection, we got gizmos.

    The intelligence was poor. I was never impressed with the whole WMD argument (chemical weapons aren't as effective as conventional ordnance), and was in fact opposed to the whole idea of OIF to begin with, excepting the possibility of the nuclear option (which again, was poor intelligence). But I am in that category who believes that once started, losing is the worst of options (unless we intend to lose it - discussed below). Michael Ledeen and Victor Davis Hanson, both of whom have been incorrectly criticized over this forum, are also in that same category. Neither one supported the idea to begin with, but once started, found no option except success to be acceptable.

    If my view is correct, many tens of thousands of foreign fighters who would have otherwise fought us elsewhere (Afghanistan, or even U.S. soil) have died in Iraq. My son has killed some of them. The unintended consequences of OIF is that it has become a killing field for al Qaeda, Ansar al Sunna, and other anti-American fighters. This is positive, along with the possibility that if we take the region seriously, Iran might be couched between what can become two stable states with U.S. presence as a deterent for their aspirations.

    As to IEDs, I see the problem as tactical and local, but not simply as local. Rumsfeld's bold new vision for the region and our naive belief in the healing powers of democracy caused us to ignore the advice from Israel who had already encounted the IED and created V-Hull technology. Hence, we were surprised on a tactical level when, upon stupidly running an AAV down a desert road in Iraq with 14 recon Marines, it exploded into a pile of rubble and twisted metal in August of 2005, losing every Marine aboard.

    http://www.cnn.com/interactive/us/05...t.exclude.html

    We could have done better, and our leadership is to blame. And it IS THAT SIMPLE. I have advocated dismounted patrols as better for COIN at my little blog, but in the end, Lt. Col. Gentile is right. IEDs are here to stay, and will become part of the landscape into the future.

    My own view is that we have made advances, but there are more necessary before we can call this finished. The JAM must be taken on and finished, and Syria and Iran must be dealt with. If Syria and Iran are dealt with (and I am not talking about talky-talk and "negotiations" with them), my opinion is that this will get a WHOLE . HELL . OF . A . LOT . EASIER.

    If we are not goint to take all of this seriously, if we are engaged in order to keep this from appearing as a loss, or if things start to deteriorate towards a high level civil war where we refuse to take on Sadr and the Badr forces directly, then it is time to withdraw.

    I think that the frustration with a large portion of the public has more to do with the lack of will to win than it does anything else. I see the public every day, I work with them, I talk with them, unlike many in the professional military. Releasing Sadr, supporting a regime in Iraq (Maliki) which is secretive and completely inept (and beholden to Sadr, Sistani and Iran), the refusal to take on the JAM, and all of the things that lead to the continuing violence, contribute to the perception that we are simply there being blown up, in the middle of a fight we didn't start and cannot control.

    Not that anyone in a position of authority listens to me, but I don't want my son to go for a second combat tour under these conditions. If we continue to argue for more troops in Europe and continue to deploy forces along the DMZ to allow South Korea to pursue its childish "sunshine diplomacy" while troops in Iraq are doing 15 month deployments, and ignore the EFP factories in Iran while Carriers with aircraft and ordnance sit in the Persian Gulf unused, then bring all of our boys home, and immediately.

    Yes, IEDs are effective, and cause the public to see the campaign in a negative light. But who is to blame for this, when we ignore the counsel of Israel years back on V-Hull vehicles, we won't shut down the factories in Iran, we allow Sadr to remain unmolested, and troops train with German and South Korean forces rather than Iraqi forces?

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/...egic-thinking/

    Point? The failure is at the HIGHEST LEVELS OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP, and always have been.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Ken's comment on the need for

    Balance and Consistency awhile back (I can't remember the thread) got me over a hump (Ken is good at planting seeds that way). Terry telling me about what he and Frank Hoffman discussed (and then Frank's piece on the blog recently) speak to our evolving thinking on current and future threats, how they will structure themselves and what tactics they might use against us.

    With all the discussion on organizational structure and doctrine in terms of our perspective, I lost sight of what I'm always saying people should not lose sight of - war is a social phenomena and as such we eventually fight where we live and live where we fight. I'm not trying to be confusing, but that helps me remember that people are involved and always have been. Perhaps because military history is not taught in the context of an engine of social change, it often is reduced to binary content where we only examine civilians in minor roles and concentrate instead on those things clearly identifiable with the combatants - until we started conducting counter-insurgency, then it became undeniable. I'm not saying that military history is devoid of such work, only that in our desire to examine military historical significance we tend to isolate it from its social roots. This is why I like reflections done where the author or theorist considers war within the context of society. I think this is important given the probabilities and possibilities of war, our political objectives given our perspective on why what happens in other places matters to us domestically, and our evolving understanding of what constitutes a threat and the social environments which create those threats (from the horrific events of 9/11 to the possibilities of pandemics and beyond).

    I think this is important in considering IEDs - not only because they reflect the tactics and organizational structure of those employing them, but because they are telling of the enemy's political objectives and their will to continue its pursuit.

    One side must decide that its no longer worth the effort to continue the pursuit of the original objective - either because new objectives have replaced the old ones, the original objectives have been met to some degree, or because the conditions and assumptions which gave rise to the original objectives are no longer valid.

    IEDs I think offer a range of options commensurate with their type and effects. SVBIED types where 2 x dump trucks and an assault element designed to destroy a fortification, inflict mass casualties, gain public attention through the media, challenge resolve on different levels and deny the public a sense of security are high risk, high yield operations. As such they are planned out more, and if possible the enemy mitigates his own risk by conducting near simultaneous operations with his available means to diffuse our attention and create opportunities at the target. One of the best ways to target this operation I've seen is to disrupt it by desynchronizing his effort and increase his risk- and while there are ways to accomplish this, its not a given - you can do everything right, and sooner or later if they are committed enough they are going to get through to a target - unless the object in view no longer secures the commitment of the people required to carry it off, or those still committed are no longer available or no longer have the means to execute it.

    As means become easier to come by and alternative ways offer similar effects at less risk, the level of commitment across the broader spectrum is easier to come by. So maybe the SVBIED into the IP station is no longer doable, but a directional EFP type IED with a high probability command detonation system in terrain that offers high yield/low risk is still a doable means of achieving the political goal even if the enemy lacks larger scale public support.

    Its also important in considering how what has for sometime been one of our strengths, our ability to develop and field technological solutions to tactical problems, have been challenged by greater lethality in small packages that are hard to keep pace with, and further strain our ability to operate in the "away games". The evolution of the IED challenges the physics of deploying and sustaining a force big enough to meet the demands of securing a populace at price tag that is hard to beat. I'm a fan of the MRAP because I have no choice but to be - I want the best tech available to mitigate the easier to come by/easier to employ IEDs that result in MTBI and the BB in the beer can effect - I've seen guys in Buffaloes, Cougars, and RGs walk away from big VBIEDs and SVBIEDs where I've seen whole 1114/1151 five person crews killed and/or severely wounded.

    We should absolutely do everything actively and passively technologically possible to provide the means by which our soldiers and marines can gain tactical and operational advantages. This is a long chain of stuff that includes ISR assets, force protection and Command & Control technologies - but these technological advantages are not silver bullets - they are only as good as the people who employ them, communicate through them, and analyze the information made available by them.

    Technology quickly becomes dated, and because it is produced by people, its advantages are quickly identified by the enemy who will take the required steps to mitigate it. Only through agility and adaptiveness can we extend its shelf life. The shelf life might be sufficient if the objective is more military and less political, but if the objective requires greater political solvency as in the case with civil wars and popular insurgencies, then the longer the enemy will have to counter our technologies and increase both the physical and political strain on us - physical in the sense of fiscal means, R&D, production throughput on logistical burdens - political in the domestic strains which change the value of our original objectives. This is how I interpret the impact of IEDs and like technologies and tactics on the wars of today and tomorrow.

    As if that were not bad enough, Frank and Terry have taken it to the next level - a smart state with sufficient resources is going to take advantage of the full curve either by developing the organic capability or through proxy and alliances. They will have a significant conventional capability while at the same time laying the ground work for a speedy transition to an Insurgency with all the middle ground covered - this all the while we question the value of our object in view (fear/honor/interest rationale) and the greater body politic exerts its own pressures. It should be understandable by the discussions we've had here how difficult it is for us to develop a force with military capabilities that counter that without a 3-5 year learning curve and strains that force us into other undesirable choices at home elsewhere around the globe.

    With so much at stake I don't believe we can roll over, or become apathetic, but we must start looking at the problems differently, and making choices that provide the best long term flexibility and offer us the opportunity to be consistent in our goals through a balance we can sustain. It ain't easy, and I think we have a ways to go (maybe it never stops).

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 11-10-2007 at 07:38 PM. Reason: needed to qualify something about countering SVBIEDs against fixed locations

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    I am not at all saying that the cost is not worth it,
    It's interested that if someone mentions the cost of the war, many assume that the individual must be opposed to the war.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I lost sight of what I'm always saying people should not lose sight of - war is a social phenomena
    If I've learned anything in my brief time here, it's that war is a very human endeavor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    I don't want to appear arrogant and aloof here but do you think, Jedburg, you could do better with a 650 word limit? Right i certainly could have given more detail in a 6000 word piece, but then no oped page in the world would run it."
    There is no disrespect or other uncivil motive intended in asking this question, but what message in this oped was so important to convey that it was worth the highly likely risk that the article will have unintended or incorrect interpretations trumpeted by the likes of moveon.org and other fringe groups? While the disclaimer at the end of the article makes it clear that the views presented are only those of the author, it nonetheless seems obvious that the authority of the author's view (by virtue of being an LTC with command experience in Iraq) will give the interpretations of this article greater credibility to be exploited by groups that have a purely political agenda.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    I appreciate Lt. Col. Gentile's article. I also appreciate Rob's elucidation of the thoughts behind it and of his own. Allow me to weigh in.
    At the risk of getting even further off thread, while I disagree with you on several points, most of them like Afghanistan and the admittedly inexcusable treatment of Shinseki are not at all germane to this thread. Let me address one factor you emphasize that is slightly less off thread.

    "Point? The failure is at the HIGHEST LEVELS OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP, and always have been.
    That is, IMO generally correct. I suggest there have also been failures at intermediate levels as well. However, those at lower levels have several reasons that led to many of their failures (they also recovered far more rapidly). You cited one, very poor intelligence at the national level and both Langley and Bolling are to blame. Another is that which Rob mentioned, a failure prior to commitment to address the potential battlefield and problems realistically. The latter is indeed directly attributable to poor performance by the senior leadership. So is the possible greater failing by earlier senior leaders -- poor training.

    Let me provide some boring background. The US army was sent to Viet Nam. For seven long years under the command of Paul Harkins and William Westmoreland, the Army tried to fight a land war in Europe. Those two commanders had such a war as their formative war and they tried unsuccessfully to emulate it. Fortunately, another WW II in Europe graduate was smarter and Creighton Abrams turned Viet Nam around. Too late; the politicians, more concerned about their reelection than the nation pulled the plug. Many of today's politicians would cheerfully do the same thing for the same reason -- reelection over national aims -- they do not need to be encouraged

    Contrary to much common wisdom, the politicians were not the cause of the loss in Viet Nam (other than in their hubris and failure to understand what they were doing prior to commitment) -- nor were the Media (who like to credit themselves with that...). The Army blew it. The politicians do what they will always do, take the easy way out. The Media do what they will always do, credit themselves with far more clout than they really have.

    The point of all that -- the Army allowed the pols and the media to share the blame and set themselves to the task of rebuilding the army to fight a land war in Europe. They did that in spite of all evidence that such a war was unlikely. Thus, the Army got to skate because their failings were obscured.

    That's important because some will try do the same thing again if they can. You correctly point out that the senior leadership failed. What you do not point out is that the mid level leadership compensated and pulled us back from the so-called brink. What you do not point out is that most -- not all (and that is important and germane to this point and the entire thread) of the senior leadership has done a course correction and is trying to repair the damaged legacy their predecessors bequeathed. That is unfair on your part.

    No question the flaws in intelligence and leadership need to be cited so that those errors are corrected. We failed to learn the lessons of Viet Nam -- we better not fail to learn the lessons of this one because it's far more important. There should also be no question that stating the problems as knowledgeably, accurately, concisely and fairly as possible is important.

    Back to the thread. You say:

    "Not that anyone in a position of authority listens to me, but I don't want my son to go for a second combat tour under these conditions. If we continue to argue for more troops in Europe and continue to deploy forces along the DMZ to allow South Korea to pursue its childish "sunshine diplomacy" while troops in Iraq are doing 15 month deployments, and ignore the EFP factories in Iran while Carriers with aircraft and ordnance sit in the Persian Gulf unused, then bring all of our boys home, and immediately."
    To use your term, I am not "professional military" though I once was; I've been a civilian, disregarding my first 17 years, since 1977, thirty years and I too interface with civilians from all walks of life on a daily basis. Like you, I have a serving son though mine has three tours and is more than ready (not eager, but ready) to go back again and again if necessary.

    Unlike Gian and unlike you, that son and I are quite convinced that the all sentiments you express in that last quote I provided and in particular the "...bring our boys home, and immediately" sound bite is badly misguided. It's in the interest of the serving and it's in the interest of the institution(s) which will try to protect itself (or themselves) at any cost -- it is not in the national interest. That trumps.

    As an aside, I'm over 75, so a lot of people are boys to me -- the men and women in Iraq and all over the world in the Armed forces are not.
    Last edited by Ken White; 11-10-2007 at 09:08 PM. Reason: Typo

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    There is another way to stop IEDs - used successfully in OIF III: make the cost of emplacing them prohibitively high. I'll err on the side of OPSEC and omit the city and nitty-gritty details, but the basic gist of it is that we flooded the city with small teams whose sole purpose in life was to observe, report, and kill anyone emplacing an IED. The going rate for digging in an IED went from $25 to over $500 because the imminent threat of death resulting from IED emplacement become so apparent to the populace. Now, this is not a strategy to defeat our enemies, but it was an approach that stopped IEDs and enabled us to get the IA and IP into the city with their unarmored vehicles with a greatly diminished threat of them incurring mass casualties.

    Also, I take issue with one assertion in the article:
    "But it seems clear that the necessary condition that has lowered IED attacks was a political agreement between the tribal sheikhs in Anbar and the Americans to stop fighting each other."
    I think this is an incorrect assessment of what occurred - or at least a significantly incomplete assessment. The violence in Anbar was much more than simply US forces fighting against Anbar tribes. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups were killing US troops and intimidating the Anbar tribes. The necessary condition was not for the US forces and Anbar tribes to stop fighting one another. The necessary condition was to convince the Anbar tribes to drive al-Qaeda in Iraq out of the province.

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