Jan 18, 2006

Transforming the Army to fight the insurgency

British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster has written what WaPo calls a "scathing critique of the U.S. Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism there."

The report, "Changing the Army for Counter Insurgency Operations," praises the Army for the "speed and style" in which it was able to defeat Saddam in 2003 and addresses problems encountered since then, specifically regarding the insurgents. Aylwin-Foster frequently praises the Army and "the ultimate fighting machine" and points out that the Army has already begun implementing some of his suggestions. He criticizes the Army for a lack of adaptability to non-conventional roles and finds that this hidebound behavior can partially be attributed to a devolution of Army professionalism that occurred in the 1990s--after the first Gulf War, when a certain Democrat with a decided antagonism towards the military was in office. He concludes that the Army's planned transformation should emphasize:
  • The realisation that all military activity is subordinate to political intent, and must be attuned accordingly: mere destruction of the enemy is not the answer.
  • The development of a workforce that is genuinely adaptive to changes in purpose, as opposed to merely adapting to be even better at conventional warfighting.
  • Keeping the lure of technology in perspective, and realising that the human component is the key to adaptability. As important, the Army needs to learn to see itself as others do, particularly its actual or potential opponents and their supporters. They are the ones who need to be persuaded to succumb, since the alternative approach is to kill or capture them all, and that hardly seems practicable, even for the most powerful Army in the world. General Schoomaker asks, rhetorically: ‘When the historians review the events of our day, will the record for our Army at the start of the 21st Century show an adaptive and learning organisation? I think so, and we are committed to making it so’.52 His intent is absolutely right. But he faces a challenge potentially no less tough than his post-Vietnam forebears, and it is to be hoped that the historians from all nations, not just America, will agree with his provisional verdict.

  • David Adesnik has more here and here.

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