Sunday, September 07, 2008

Military Strategy in Iraq

Usually I am not a friend of the military or even of foreign missions that seek to establish our notion of democracy. However, I am a fan of military tactics in history and always read a lot of books about it. It is fascinating and horrible at the same time, horrible because of the vast losses of human lives and opportunity and fascinating because of the tactical component. It is a bit like chess but with dire consequences along the road.

Since I am a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, this may come as a surprise, but I think the strategy employed by the US troops in their "Surge" in January 2008 will work and better the country.
However, I have advocated such a strategy from the beginning of the War on Terror in Iraq. Unlike the war against Saddam's Republican Guard, this conflict is one of assymmetrical information and the ancient idea of two armies battling each other is out-dated.
I am not sure why the strategic geniuses in the US Army didn't adopt such strategies earlier, perhaps the US army isn't prone to changes in strategy anymore (?!), because they yield higher results.

It wasn't the increase of troops that brought a change in Iraq and pacified many quarters of the country side. No, it was rather the change in strategy. Instead of employing a big peace keeping force in all parts of the country, which then was centrally controlled, they now use small strike teams (equivallently to the terrorist's idea of fighting). And it is obvious why they have so much better results:

a) They are small, that means communication and decision-making is much faster and more efficient without attrition.

b) They are localized that means they have easier access to local information that is not yet out-dated

c) They can integrated much faster and act coveredly in a matter of hours, unlike hughe warhosts that have a huge deployement time and arrive when all is said and done.

d) Small strike teams don't mean a loss in global strategy and control, but rather a horizontal hierachical integration rather than the standard vertical integration of command lines.
It offers more independence for the local team captains to solve situations on the spot and to find the best possible resolution while still generally backing the decision-making.
Of course, the amount of feedback is an essential function of this strategy.

All in all, the results prove that against terrorist cells this strategy is far more effective. The only thing I don't understand is why I have come to those conclusions years before the US army employed them? Is decision-making a problem in the US army? Had the troops to be secifically trained for these tactics? Were the logistics a bottle-neck for this kind of strategy? Were there doubts on the highest level about the success of the strategy? Were there additional factors that denied a sudden implementation of these strategies (f.e. special needs in specific regions that disallowed the regrouping and redressing of units?)?

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