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Old 03-22-2012   #1
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Default Analyzing the Iraq War Surge

This is my first council post. I am working on a Master's thesis that explores how and why the strategic shift of 2007 (to borrow a phrase from Dr. Steven Metz) occurred. The general gist of my research plan is that a cultural preference within the army for "big" wars blinded many to the adaptations required for success in Iraq. If you are a glutton for punishment take a look at my prospectus for more specifics. This research is based on my own experience as a young officer in 2005 that did what he was trained to do, which was mechanized high-intensity war, and didn't really accept counterinsurgency until I was facing the prospect of defeat as a member of one of the last surge units in 2007.

What I am looking for is: 1. general feedback on my research question, and
2. personal anecdotes from any soldiers out there (my research is admittedly army-centric) who may or may not have shared the confusion that I felt from 2004-2006 about our strategy and tactics in Iraq (I'm specifically comparing the Casey transition strategy - big FOBs and transition to ISF - and the Odierno/Petraeus surge strategy).

Many thanks,
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File Type: docx chastain, research prospectus, 18NOV11.docx (52.4 KB, 207 views)
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Old 03-22-2012   #2
Mark O'Neill
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Hi Brent,

I think you might be helped by reading Doug Ollivant's excellent piece:

Ollivant, Douglas A. "Countering the New Orthodoxy: Reinterpreting Counterinsurgency in Iraq." In National Security Studies Program Policy Paper. Washington DC: New America Foundation, 2011.

I am using the 'surge' as one of the case studies in my PhD, I think there is a fair bit more complexity to the issue than the narrative suggests. I am certain from my research that it was not quite as binary as you seem to imply. As someone who was working in one of the major organisational 'change agencies' in theatre during 07/08 I am also quite reserved on the issue of how much 'organisational change' accounts for what happened. I believe it can be put down as much to other elements (including 'luck' with issues such as the JAM cease fire and the 'awakening') combined with increased tactical acumen gained from years of painful experience.

I also suspect that you are walking thorugh a semantic minefield wrt you conceptions of 'strategy' 'politics' and 'war' as presented in the accompanying document. Some of the ideas seem a bit 'loose'. I would urge you to clarify some of the concepts you are using very early on in the process, although I have no doubt that your supervisor will be urging something similar..

Good luck with your research,

Best regards,

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Old 03-22-2012   #3
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Default Cavguy, if you haven't already ...

Admittedly, a little odd looking

with some odder friends

but a good writer and teacher on your topics, as well as a cigar smoker,

subject to adequate decompression in Hawaii.

BTW: Welcome to SWC.


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Old 03-22-2012   #4
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Default 3-7 cav?

Hi Brent,

From a cursory search of the internet, it looks like you were in 3-7 CAV. As I did some time in 1-64 AR, I'm a bit familiar with your unit, and I would state with some authority that 3-7 CAV was conducting COIN operations starting in 2003. Jason Fritz and Mike Burgoyne would probably disagree with you as well.

From the unit's history,

Combat operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20th when the squadron crossed into Iraq as the lead element of the 3ID. The Squadron attacked to Baghdad fighting both the Republican Guard and the Sadam Fedayeen. It was the longest cavalry charge in the history of the world and it ended in the capture of Baghdad.

With the capture of Baghdad, the Division and the Squadron transitioned to stabilization operations. By the time the Squadron had redeployed it had killed 2,200 Iraqi personnel, 64 tanks, 41 armored vehicles, numerous active air defense systems, as well as trucks and civilian vehicles used as suicide bombers.

The Squadron was reassigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division in 2004 and as the Brigade's Armored Reconnaissance Squadron. Combat operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom III began on February 4, 2005 when the Squadron arrived at Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah located in southeast Baghdad. Immediately upon arrival, the Squadron began patrolling the area east of the Tigris River in the Rusafa and New Baghdad districts as well as securing Route Pluto North, one of the primary supply routes for the Division.

The Squadron played a major role in the success of the Mada'in Province. The Squadron was first assigned to this area in April 2005 after the police station in Salman Pak had been destroyed by insurgents and many police officers had been killed. The Squadron immediately brought security to the area and facilitated the local governance to flourish.

When the Squadron redeployed in January 2006, it had conducted over 5,500 combat patrols throughout southeastern Baghdad in an area of operations that covered 500 square kilometers. The Squadron also detained over 150 insurgents making the streets safer for the people of Iraq.
So, how is this not COIN?
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Old 03-22-2012   #5
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I guess invasion, occupation and subsequent suppression of popular resistance to the same has a little "COIN" in it...
Robert C. Jones
Intellectus Supra Scientia
(Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 03-22-2012   #6
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Default Also Jon Custis

who has a down to earth Worldview

and who can provide you with a Marine's view of conventional and "COIN" warfare in Iraq, from 2003 on.


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Old 03-23-2012   #7
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Default Iraq War and Marine's View

Talk to Bing West, read his books...his anaylsis is spot on (at least in my opinion) because he startes at the eyeball to eyeball level of war and moves it to the strategic very effectively. In addition, he has spent a considerable amount of time with the Army and can compare and contrast approaches and tactics.
"If you want a new idea, look in an old book"
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Old 04-05-2012   #8
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Cpt Trav. Abu Risha.AQI losing their ever loving banning smokes and killing little kids Bing West almost got me killed by a retired/recalled LtCol lookin for snipers with his shotgun and his Uah window down. Regional training academies and tribal engagement Potus to Sheiks my brain drizzle
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Old 04-24-2012   #9
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I think Thomas Daly's book "Rage Company" may be worth a look as it comes from the Marine perspective. Its pre Awakening and moves on to the Awakening in Ramadi. I used it in my MA thesis as a source.
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