In early 2005, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) launched a joint study of British and U. S. approaches to stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) operations in Iraq. In addition to presenting the study's findings during a September 19, 2006, meeting in Washington, DC, the Institute released the two monographs reprinted below, one by Hoffman and the other by Garfield, with its permission.
The Marines spent much of 2002 planning for the invasion of Iraq, what eventually came to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Their focus, like that of U. S. Central Command (CENTCOM), was on the complexities of deploying tens of thousands of Marines and their equipment to theater, and then on devising a way to rapidly pierce Iraq's military defenses. From time to time, some thought was given to the inevitable question, what happens after Baghdad is captured and the Hussein regime is dismantled? The California-based Marines of the I Marine Expeditionary Force were assigned to CENTCOM as part of the intervention. Their leaders anticipated some key challenges during this phase of the operation, which proved to be accurate. However, the conditions existing in the area of operations after OIF were not anticipated, nor was the scale of the post-conflict problem. This exacerbated the obstacles brought on by the collapse of an autocratic state and a badly decomposed national infrastructure.
Nor did Marine commanders anticipate other key factors, particularly the decisions of U. S. policymakers regarding Iraq's existing institutions and military forces. These decisions also severely impacted the post-conflict phase of OIF (Phase IV). So too did a lack of cultural sensitivity and basic intelligence regarding the Iraqi people. This gap was further compounded by large-scale cordon and sweep operations by U. S. forces that hoovered up large numbers of detainees, but little intelligence and even fewer insurgents. These tactics and techniques violated the basic principles of counterinsurgency and stability operations and did much to accelerate a latent but potentially lethal response to the American-led intervention.
The Marines, who found themselves unexpectedly responsible for serving as temporary governors and mayors in April 2003, were not specifically trained for these roles. However, the Marine Corps' overarching war-fighting philosophy, maneuver warfare, is ideally suited for chaotic environments like those found in April 2003. With its emphasis on decentralized leadership, mission orders, and empowerment to lower leaders guided by an overarching commander's intent, this doctrine is well-suited to fluid and fast-paced environments that cannot be mastered by hierarchal bureaucracies. Likewise, the noted conception of three-block warswhere Marines units are conditioned to transition, literally block-to-block, between combat, constabulary, and civil affairswas well suited for the conditions found in Iraq.
Thus, the Marines were intellectually prepared for Phase IV. Many were surprised, but most learned very fast. As one Marine regimental commander observed after the war, All of the sudden I was the mayor of eight cities. . . . I had no idea I would be responsible for getting the water running, turning on the electricity, and running an economy.
The combination of events the Marines faced in April 2003 is analogous to changing tires on a moving car. It's difficult if not impossible. It's equally difficult to transition from high-intensity conflict to intense civil-military operations with the same people who were antagonists in the combat phases. To shift gears from aggressive fighting to constructive relationship building in the span of hours is near impossible.
To win over the suspect civilian population, the Marines needed to rapidly establish some sense of public order and begin repairing critical pieces of the infrastructure. They realized that they would enjoy a brief honeymoon with the Iraqis, in which order and services needed to be restored. The Marines' focus quickly shifted from the violence of combat to the reestablishment of local governance, adequate law enforcement means, and requisite public services, including power production, the distribution of potable water, sanitation, etc. The task was immense given the dilapidated nature of Iraq's infrastructure. The calamity of what was Iraq at this point in time is not fully understood by analysts reviewing the adequacy of Phase IV operations.
It would have been very natural for the Marines, honed as their skills were and as oriented as they were during high-intensity combat, to continue focusing on the kinetic side of things and chase down the remnants of opposition that were visible and occasionally active. Instead, then-Major General James Mattis, the commander of Marine ground units, adroitly issued a new mission order and a new code phrase to ensure his force made the necessary shift in attitude and deportment. By issuing this order and adding the phrase Do no harm to the Division's rules of engagement, Mattis successfully shifted his troops from fighting against an enemy to fighting for a population. Armored vehicles and heavy weapons were shipped home, and local town council meetings and foot patrols were introduced to enhance local perceptions of self-government and security. A sense of ownership or a stake in events was introduced. A velvet glove approach was introduced to replace the mailed fist that had driven out Saddam.
The entire Coalition faced the challenges of establishing security and some semblance of rule of law in a society devastated by a generation of misrule, repression, and neglect. This early period involved constructive stability tasks and tense periods of patrolling to maintain order and to ensure that the former regime elements did not successfully disrupt the transition. This enemy was stunned at first, but eventually became organized and became progressively more lethal. The honeymoon passed, and the marriage produced too many irreconcilable differences.
The nature of transition operations cuts both ways. For the Marines who came to Iraq a year later, in March 2004, both fully prepared and determined to substantially redress the security and overall stability conditions in Al Anbar, the epicenter of the Sunni-led insurgency, it was even more difficult to have to re-transition from people-centric stability operations to offensive urban combat on two days' notice in Fallujah. That operation, an overly visceral response to a provocation, had to be aborted by policymakers who failed to anticipate the political fallout of their strategic decisions.
That same force again shifted gears and returned to its previous operational areas throughout Al Anbar province determined to employ its ingrained understanding of what the Marines call Small Wars, drawn from its own Small Wars Manual. This 60-year old manual draws from over a century of British and U. S. military experiences, and was adapted and utilized by the Marines in light of the cultural context of Iraq's own tortured history. But the full-blown adversarial relationship that existed when the Marines returned in 2004 and took up positions in Al Anbar could not be tamed with smiles, soccer balls, or new schools.
It is pretty clear that from the moment Baghdad fell on April 9 the United States did not have the appropriate means or instruments at hand to exploit its military success. Winning the peace has proven to be much harder than winning the war. Instead of full spectrum dominance and strategic success, the desired strategic end state in Iraq was not attained.
The principal responsibility for the enormous challenge created in Iraq is more of a failing in both strategic culture and senior policy leadership than in the military doctrines of the U. S. Army or Marine Corps. The Cold War created an extraordinary emphasis on military muscle at the expense of other instruments of national power. This has badly misshaped the total capacity of the U. S. government in other areas, producing what can be called the one-armed Cyclops syndrome. This caricature captures the United States' predisposition to look at problems through a single military lens and considering itself capable of responding solely with its single military arm. Its diplomatic, assistance, and informational tools are anemic by comparison. Clearly, this lack of governmental capacity has left the military holding a larger and longer role than it was designed for, or culturally disposed to execute.
Thus the U. S. military and its Coalition partners had a difficult uphill challenge. A window of opportunity was missed as the proverbial car sped by on wobbly wheels with dangerously thin tread. The military handled the initial transition period very well, and the U. S. Marines' response highlighted the mental agility of its leaders and the organizational adaptability of its expeditionary and small-wars legacy. The Marines successfully worked with local Iraqis in a predominantly Shiite area from May to October 2003. They helped establish local security and governance, and only suffered a single casualty in five months. But, this experience also revealed shortcomings in specific capabilities or organizational capacities uniquely relevant to protracted complex counter-insurgencies. Shortfalls were found in cultural intelligence, language capacity, and human intelligence. New planning skills for meshing non-kinetic tools, civil affairs, and information operations into more traditional security operations were needed. The depth or capacity of civil affairs units and staff expertise in key areas were found wanting and rectified. An institutional need for formal training and preparation of units to train and advise foreign military forces was eventually relearned. In 2004, not all of these shortfalls were yet completely recognized or rectified.
These shortfalls have been identified and are being resolved with appropriate doctrinal, organizational, educational, and materiel changes. The Marines created more robust or more refined units and organizations to ensure that future generations can adapt even faster to the unique demands of post-conflict situations and complex contingencies in which military forces must integrate seamlessly with other partners including non-military agencies from the U. S. and international community. Without flogging my metaphor too much, the next generation of Marines will quickly change the tire before the car gains momentum.
PLAN WITH THE END IN MIND
COMPREHENSIVE AND INTEGRATED APPROACH
NUANCE COUNTS, HEAVY HANDED APPROACHES SHOULD BE AVOIDED
CULTURE MATTERS; IN FACT, IT IS CRUCIAL
CREATE GAPS, AVOID SURFACES
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
A command-wide approach taps into every man and asset you have, to include exploiting all foreign and US media. Politicians do it every day and very effectively. They learn to message and use sound bites. And their Public Affairs Officers have no problems getting on message and focusing media on the right story. We need to get past the notion that PAO's can never talk to Intel and PSYOPS guys. They need to fuse.
Such tactical fusion, however, will not resolve the larger problem of connecting the strategy to strategic IO themes and supporting operational and tactical actions. Regrettably, the processes that the U. S. government put into effect to manage the strategic end of the informational component of the counterinsurgency never seemed to click. Universally, operational commanders could not identify key strategic themes from Washington or gain any additional support for operational/tactical information activities. Equally frustrating were the long production and product-approval cycles for IO products that were completely out of sync with the rapid nature of information processing in modern societies and the need to rapidly counter gossip, misinformation, and outright distortions coming from the insurgents.
POLICING OVER WARFIGHTING
Hopefully, history will be exploited in the current case and the proper lessons drawn. The price of rapid and sudden military success need not always rely upon completely ad hoc solutions with tools ill-suited for the purpose. Nor should operations be conducted in such a way that they engender or actively motivate a resistance to our own policy aims. The U. S. military should consult with its allies and study its own history to better prepare for transition operations using predominantly military forces.
Changing flat tires is a messy necessity of modern life, but it doesn't have to be done on a moving carwhile being shot at. Nor does it have to be done with one arm (or agency). This will require additional educational, doctrinal, and some force structure changes within the American national security community. Just as important it will require additional investment in nonmilitary tools to ensure that tomorrow's Cyclops has a holistic lens and is fully armed with all elements of national power.
Republished by permission of FPRI, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphis, PA (www.fpri.org) from E-Notes.
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