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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-20-2006, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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Army Aunts

The US Army Learns from its Mistakes in Iraq

By Ullrich Fichtner
Weapons alone aren't enough to win a war -- you also need to dig wells and build schools. Lessons from the war in Iraq have caused nothing short of a cultural revolution in the United States Army. In Fort Leavenworth, leading officers are training troops for the wars of the future.

Fort Leavenworth, where America's armies of the future are being shaped, is a perfect optical illusion. The camp looks like an idyllic, small American city, where walnut trees provide shade for the verandas of old houses, the Stars and Stripes flutter in the wind from every gable and the gray fast-moving waters of the Missouri River are visible from the hills to the north.

Bulky American-made cars are parked along quiet streets in a community complete with its very own Burger King restaurant, health club, shopping mall, golf course, baseball field, movie theater and church. But the aura of serenity is deceptive. Everything in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas revolves around war.

The headquarters of the US Army's officer training program was long seen as a last stop for deserving soldiers en route to retirement. In the 20th century, anyone who was transferred to Leavenworth was no longer considered part of an active-duty unit. "Nowadays," says Army spokesman Stephen Boylan, a colonel with a moustache who served for several years in Germany, "everyone knows that the road to Baghdad leads directly through Leavenworth."

The best way to fully understand Boylan's comment is to take a grueling tour of the 16 schools, institutes and colleges at the fort where about 2,000 young officers enroll each year for special training. The tour passes through windowless conference rooms, classrooms and lecture halls, and it requires enduring hours of slide presentations and talks by generals, historians, diplomats, Vietnam veterans and soldiers serving in Iraq. It also means wading through documents filled with unfamiliar acronyms, but in the end the visitor is left with the feeling that a revolution is being launched here in Fort Leavenworth, one that will radically change the face of the United States military and the wars it will fight in the future.

The military's conscience

Scott Lacky, a civilian with a doctorate who speaks fluent German and wears a dark suit, is in charge of one of the schools, the Center for Army Lessons Learned -- that is, lessons learned from past and current operations. Lacky studied in Munich and Vienna and was even a visiting scholar at the German parliament, the Bundestag, when it was still in the former capital, Bonn. When his workday has ended, Lacky, a heavyset man, can be seen strolling through the fort wearing a Tyrolean hat. Lacky is the US military's conscience.

His job here has changed by quantum leaps in recent years. It all started with the computer and Internet revolution of the early 1990s, and it continued after Sept. 11, 2001, a day Lacky sees as marking a radical turning point. Before this seminal date, Lacky says, it would take two to three months until the information gleaned from an experience with value for the entire army had been processed, printed and distributed.

But these days, when a brigade reports from Iraq that the insurgents are hiding their roadside bombs in dead cats, all it takes is a few inquiries, a few e-mails and a few mouse clicks and, within the space of a few hours, the news has been distributed to everyone. Lacky and his staff used this approach to develop concepts for building checkpoints after US military personnel had repeatedly fired unnecessarily at civilians in Baghdad. The regulations for convoys were rewritten, as were those for how to behave during mass gatherings and while on foot patrols.

Lacky's department now has precise location descriptions for every sector of every Iraqi city, descriptions that are a far cry from the information the military would gather and disseminate in the past. While the old documents described the world topographically merely as a battlefield, officers nowadays can consult information that tells them where kindergartens, mosques, Koran schools and meeting points are located. They can also learn a great deal about the social makeup of a neighborhood, including ethnic affiliations, local customs and unwritten laws.

Military leaders used to view these "soft factors" as secondary details, at least until they began learning from experiences in Afghanistan and Iran. The Army's worldview was still colored by the logic of the Cold War, which divided the world into clear-cut blocs. Military leaders were primarily focused on a big picture that envisioned a decisive battle against the Soviet military, where tank divisions would clash with tank divisions and where the chains of command practiced over and over again for the eventuality that a nuclear war could take place.

Struggling to gain the upper hand

Not much changed in this basic approach until the fall of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the ensuing debacle in Iraq. The military's top brass and the Pentagon continued to view everything in black and white. For them, there was a clear distinction between combat missions and the tools and mechanics of war, on the one hand, and the peacekeeping missions, on the other. The latter were multinational and had a decidedly civilian flavor, and consisted of things like providing policing for nation-building in Kosovo -- not exactly something that was particularly appealing to the US military.

The notion that the world's most modern and powerful military machine could end up struggling to gain the upper hand over scattered insurgents was inconceivable and hit the US military like an earthquake. Until a few years ago, no one in the US military would have believed that instead of dropping bombs and engaging in fierce combat, it would one day be drilling wells, directing traffic, building schools and organizing local elections -- and that it would be doing all of these things not after but in the middle of a war. Finally, no one would have imagined that these civilian tools would end up being described as the most-effective weapons on the road to victory.

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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-20-2006, 07:37 PM
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Fine hindsight but not doing a WWII occupation would have been smarter.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-20-2006, 07:40 PM
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Read the book "Fiasco".

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-20-2006, 08:05 PM
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BUSH: Well, I, you know, I understand why those polls are like that, because of the coverage that we see every single day in Iraq, and it is not encouraging coverage, for instance — for sure. There’s no doubt about it. But I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren’t covered. And I think the drumbeat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what’s happening unless they happen to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging and you know — I know that the facts are not as discouraging.

O’DONNELL: But there are a lot of deaths every day.

BUSH: Absolutely, there are, and people do know that and see that, but there are also good things going on that people don’t have the chance to see.

O’DONNELL: What are some of those good things that people should know about?

BUSH: Schools that are being built; parts of the country that are peaceful; and people are trying to rebuild their lives in a large part of Iraq. And we hear that, we hear that from friends, we hear that from Iraqis, we hear it from our troops who are there, and — so, I’d like to see the media get a little bit more balanced view of it.
In response

from here

Iraq’s schools, long touted by American officials as a success story in a land short on successes, increasingly are being caught in the crossfire of the country’s escalating civil war.

President Bush has routinely talked about the refurbishment and construction of schools as a neglected story of progress in Iraq. The U.S. Agency for International Development has spent about $100 million on Iraq’s education system and cites the rehabilitation of 2,962 school buildings as a signal accomplishment.

But today, across the country, campuses are being shuttered, students and teachers driven from their classrooms and parents left to worry that a generation of traumatized children will go without education.

Teachers tell of students kidnapped on their way to school, mortar rounds landing on or near campuses and educators shot in front of children.

This month insurgents distributed pamphlets at campuses, some sealed inside an envelope with an AK-47 bullet.

“To the Honest People of Baghdad,” one pamphlet read, “we want you to leave the schools, hospitals, institutes, colleges and universities until the illegal government of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki is put down. We want your full cooperation on this.”

No credible current national school attendance statistics exist in Iraq, whose education system was once considered a model in the Arab world. But examples abound of schools being closed or left mostly empty as parents flee the country or keep their children home.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 12-21-2006, 04:37 AM Thread Starter
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"No credible current national school attendance statistics exist in Iraq, whose education system was once considered a model in the Arab world. But examples abound of schools being closed or left mostly empty as parents flee the country or keep their children home."

"... once considered a model in the Arab world." Don't you hate reporters who do that? Who considered it a model? What was that consideration based upon? Who was the credentialing agency? None of that stuff. just slop any ol' comment out there.

Curiously, shortly after the invasion folks where I work met with a handful of Iraqi university officials and professors with whom we shared scientific interests. They wanted to reacquaint themselves with western science. It seems that since Saddam had been in power that universities were directly under the control of the much-lauded Baathist visionaries. The goal of Baathists--prevent politically incorrect science from rearing its ugly head.

Which of course meant: Suppress ecology.

Why suppress ecology, isn't that just a buncha' tree-huggers and sh*t? Yes.

If what you want to do is develop agriculture and industry at all costs then you don't need a bunch of whining do-gooder scientists crying about bugs and mice and flowers.

The same phenomenon of control was present in all fields taught in the universities. Each department was stovepiped like a spy agency. Interdisciplinary studies were nearly impossible. Foreign research journals were under careful access controls and Iraqi researchers were almost never allowed to either cooperate with foreign scientists or to publish outside of Iraq. As a result, Iraqi biological sciences were stuck in a 1970's time-warp, advancing as though marching in cool molasses.

God help the rest of the Arab world.


PS In a curiously parallel universe, the US government is clamping down on government scientists ability to publish in ANY medium. All PowerPoints, abstracts, peer-reviewed outside pubs, grey-lit, inter-agency transmissions, and popular press articles must now go through an internal vetting process for policy implications. This started under the Clinton Administration when Gore re-invented government. The intent was to tie gov science more closely to government policy, with the intention of increasing accountability and responsiveness. Ha! The current administration has seized on this like a Mexican street dog after roadkill. Now there is a whole series of internal reviews.

The result? Self-censorship. Research scientists in the government (like universities) are graded by their publication quality and quantity. By downplaying or expunging politically sensitive issues in their research and manuscripts, the process is not slowed so much and the manuscript is sent to outside review more quickly.

You gov at work.

Last edited by Botnst; 12-21-2006 at 04:45 AM.
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