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Thread: Countering Lind-dinistas - if the mission is impossible, don't blame me

  1. #61
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Paper completed, submitted to WOR.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I'll throw out a few ideas:

    (1) Not emphasizing to the political leadership the military resources that would be required to conduct such a mission; one general did that in his testimony to Congress and was promptly fired. Everyone else subsequently cowered.
    (2) Not having a long-term plan of occupation; in Iraq, the plan was to push the regime out of power and hope for spontaneous democratization, which failed to materialize after the whole Iraqi government was dismantled indiscriminately. And in Afghanistan, the reliance on the Northern Alliance and ANSF proved equally problematic in a state with very little history of centralized political control. Notwithstanding the political policies aimed at making good politics instead of good strategy, someone somewhere in the military bureaucracy should have placed a contingency plan of some kind on the shelf rather than wait until orders from their political masters.
    (3) The ad-hoc and troublesome pattern of 6-18 month rotations that destroyed any operational continuity in whatever plan that was visualized.
    (4) Focusing on the political end-state (democratization) at the expense of the military end-state (disarmanent and/or defeat of the opposition). Victory on the battlefield comes before the collection of the spoils of war!
    (5) Minimizing the enormority of the conflicts at hand while gathering all the benefits (i.e. budget, new powers, etc) that came with it. Institutionally, DoD was never put on a 100% war-footing - there was still competing priorities with the "small wars" (i.e. in procurement) that shaped strategic decisions. Following procedures and future force visions were never completely subordinated to the war effort.
    AP,

    First off apologies for the delay in responding. I don't think any of the above comments reflect on our professional military education. Not to defend the numerous military errors that were made by an excessively conventional military whose leaders at the operational level failed to adapt to their environment, we ultimately failed at the strategic level and even if our officers were better at the operational level (and they need to be) I believe we still would have failed because our strategic aims were unrealistic and our civilian leaders as you stated above didn't mobilize sufficient forces or ask Americans to pay for the war (war tax). It was a half hearted effort politically.

    Taking your points one by one,

    1) Some uniformed leaders spoke up, and as you said they were not listened to by the likes of Rumfield. This doesn't represent a failure of our military education system. Other factors point to where our education should be improved, but this isn't it.

    2) Absolutely, but I suspect if we dug into this we didn't have a plan based on civilian guidance. Also hard to develop an occupation plan when you didn't have the forces to facilitate effective occupation operations.

    3) Different schools of thought on this, but according to some studies soldiers begin losing their combat effectiveness if they're in combat more than 6 months at a time. This may not apply to the non-combat arms types, and the conclusion of these studies may be flawed, but at least there was a reason for it. Also doubt we could have retained our recruitment levels if Joe, Mike, Bob, etc. thought they were going to be deployed for multiple years without a break. The professional force has a lot of advantages, but also some disadvantages if you think you need to employ them like conscripts. I think the real argument isn't so much the annual rotations (quicker for SOF), but the lack of continuity in approach/objectives between the different units.

    4) Agree that we pursued a very politically correct doctrine that didn't address the reality of the enemy has a vote, and the reality that not everyone in the world desires to be like us. I still it is imperative that the political objective be supreme and that all military operations ultimately support achieving that objective. If the political objective was flawed and I believe it was critically flawed and couldn't be achieved, then our military operations were doomed to fail before they started. I also think you may be under estimating how much fighting we did, but to what end? The same can be said about our aid projects, a lot done, but to what end? Both were executed based on false assumptions. Our biggest fault was not admitting it sooner. We kick ourselves for pulling out of Beirut and Somalia after minor set backs, but maybe in hindsight we should applaud the strategic decision makers that realized the limited utility of military force in these situations and decided to cut our loses? I don't know, but being stubborn is not the same as being courageous, and in fact it can be cowardly.

    5) Generally agree, but the reality is we are/were the global cop and the security interests/threats we had prior to 9/11 never went away, so based on the scope of our self-imposed responsibilities we couldn't afford to focus entirely on OIF and OEF-A, but we definitely could have done more and should have in my opinion. We executed both wars on the cheap relying our asymmetric advantage in kinetic fight, while forgetting that advantage would do little for us once we transitioned into the occupation phase. We shocked and awed ourselves more than our adversaries. On the other hand, I disagree with Secretary Gates comments about the Pentagon not purchasing the mine resistant vehicles quick enough. I think they're were good reasons for doing so, because those vehicles were hardly decisive and simply reinforced our bad tactics of drive by COIN. If you want to defeat IEDs you need to control the populace and terrain, and that means sending in sufficient forces to do so. We never had the political will or wisdom to do this, and instead passed blame to the Pentagon for not wanting to dedicate limited funds (again no war tax) on a vehicle that had limited utility.

  3. #63
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    1) Some uniformed leaders spoke up, and as you said they were not listened to by the likes of Rumfield. This doesn't represent a failure of our military education system. Other factors point to where our education should be improved, but this isn't it.
    I think it raises some important issues regarding the dynamics of the civil-military relationship and the actions available to military officers who find themselves in this situation. I don't think military education is the fix for this - though perhaps better institutional communication and civilian education (on both sides) would facilitate more functional relationships.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Absolutely, but I suspect if we dug into this we didn't have a plan based on civilian guidance. Also hard to develop an occupation plan when you didn't have the forces to facilitate effective occupation operations.
    I'd be interested to know what plans, if any, existed before 2003 or 2001 regarding executing an occupation of Iraq. And this goes back to point one - this a political question or a military question?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    I think the real argument isn't so much the annual rotations (quicker for SOF), but the lack of continuity in approach/objectives between the different units.
    Let me clarify that I do not mean that individual soldier rotations should be extended. But there has to be a way organizationally to maintain continuity - I don't know what that looks like or what we've done in the past. Maybe that means small unit formations (battalion and below) rotate in theater as a unit on a regular schedule (6-12 months), while headquarters formations remain in place and rotate servicemembers individually.

    Just a few random thoughts.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    AP,

    Overall it is a policy question and then the strategy (whole of government) to achieve the policy goals. I can't describe what I was privy to until I validate it is now unclassified (I assume it is, and has already been written about), but overall I think our strategy was based on an assumption that the Iraqi people would embrace us, embrace democracy, and that the transition would be easy because this is the natural drift of civilization. We just needed to remove Saddam to let it blossom. If that was the underlying assumption then we didn't need a plan, we just needed to remove Saddam.

    There is no excuse for poor officership in combat, but my point remains no matter how great our officers could have been it wouldn't make a difference if the policy objective and underlying assumption were deeply flawed from day 1. GEN Petraeus has a famous quote that goes along the line of "tell me how this ends" which indicates he experienced similar frustrations with the policy goals.

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    Well done Stan, good article. I responded as follows:

    Mark May 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm ·
    Rather than add the task of achieving “political objectives by other means” to the already long list of skills required by the officer corps would it not be more intelligent – in the light of near universal failure of national building efforts – to just accept it is not a military task?
    A significant contributing factor in the demise of the British military has been the 'can do' response to any challenge by the military to the politicians when it was quite clear the objective could not be achieved. Is the same problem happening in the US?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Well done Stan, good article. I responded as follows:



    A significant contributing factor in the demise of the British military has been the 'can do' response to any challenge by the military to the politicians when it was quite clear the objective could not be achieved. Is the same problem happening in the US?
    I am not sure if the conditions that existed in this country from 2002-3 were unique or if that 'can do' response is just inherent in the attitude of the American military. Certainly, at other times, less drastic courses of action prevailed. We did not invade Iran when our Embassy was taken. We also did not nuke China during the Korean War. Those were probably as much a result of the civilian leadership at that time as it was the military advice given.

    I do think that it is important that senior military leaders understand the nature of political legitimacy and democratization at least at the level I discuss in the piece if for no other reason than to temper the ambitions of those who might want to try this kind of action again.

    I don't think that, if anyone in the military had told the civlian leadership that democracy in Iraq was not possible, that the leaderhip would have accepted that answer or would have passed it on up the chain of command. If they had they would have met the samd fate as General Shinseki.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 05-06-2014 at 09:16 PM.
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