Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Putting myself on report

The Washington Post screwed me. Actually, it is still my fault. I should have known better. I forgot that when it comes to many WaPo reporters and editors, it is all about politics and scoring points. I should have gone to the primary source. Thanks to reader Perry, I have.

WaPo=Lucy with football: Phibian=Charlie Brown

If you have not already, read my previous post. Now ignore it. WaPo cut out almost anything from the original work that could put a positive light on the U.S. actions in Iraq, and turned a balanced professional paper into what looks like a smear job.

First things first: Brigadier Aylwin-Foster, I offer my sincere apology. First for my knee-jerk reaction to a first-report by a known unreliable source (WaPo). Secondly, I apologize for the hatchet job I did for your valuable work.

I fully recommend reading and digesting Brigadier Aylwin-Foster's full work, as published in Military Review. As the editor of Military Review states, it is a "...thought provoking assessment.."

'Nuff said; now back to yelling at the WaPo's intentional malicious editing. This is what they left out.
OIF is a joint venture, and dedicated, courageous Americans from all 4 Services and the civil sector risk their lives daily throughout Iraq, but the Army is the pivotal, supported force, and thus the most germane to the issue.
That nukes my Marine comments. Sorry. (wiping egg off face so I can “tuck-in” to my crow breakfast.

Remember this quote from the WaPo hatchet job?
My own experience, serving at the heart of a U.S. dominated command within the Coalition from December 2003 to November 2004, suggests something of an enigma, hence the spur to study the subject further. My overriding impression was of an Army imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion, commitment, and determination, with plenty of talent, and in no way lacking in humanity or compassion. Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a pre-disposition to offensive operations, and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on. Many personnel seemed to struggle to understand the nuances of the OIF Phase 4 environment. Moreover, whilst they were almost unfailingly courteous and considerate, at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably
amounted to institutional racism.
Well, look what they left out.
To balance that apparent litany of criticisms, the U.S. Army was instrumental in a string of tactical and operational successes through the second half of 2004; so any blanket verdict would be grossly misleading.
Of course, we can’t have balance at the WaPo, can we? Much less this.
Other sources offer similarly divergent evidence. Extreme critics point to Vietnam and predict a long and bloody struggle, leading eventually to a withdrawal with political objectives at best partially secured. However, there is no weight of a priori evidence to support that view yet, and one senses that its proponents almost wish for failure in order to make some other wider political point. A more balanced view came from a senior British officer, in theatre for 6 months in 2004, who judged that the U.S. Army acted like ‘fuel on a smouldering fire’, but that this was ‘as much owing to their presence as their actions’.
He explains his, and others, different perspective. Not better or worse per se; just different.
The most striking feature of the U.S. Army’s approach during this period of OIF Phase 4 is that universally those consulted for this paper who were
not from the U.S. considered that the Army was too ‘kinetic’. This is shorthand for saying U.S. Army personnel were too inclined to consider offensive operations and destruction of the insurgent as the key to a given situation, and conversely failed to understand its downside. Granted, this verdict partly reflects the difference
in perspectives of scale between the U.S. and her Coalition allies, arising from different resourcing levels. For example, during preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over forty 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small section of the city. Given the intent to maintain a low profile prior to the launch of the main operation, most armies would consider this bombardment a significant event. Yet it did not feature on the next morning’s update to the 4-Star Force Commander: the local commander considered it to be a minor application of combat power.
Speaking of balance, you can't tell my it wasn't an accident the below missed the cut.
It should be stressed that this does not imply some sort of inherent brutality or lack of humanity: examples are legion of the toughest U.S. soldiers in Iraq exercising deeply moving levels of compassion in the face of civilian suffering, and often under extreme provocation. The issue is more a conceptual one about relative views of the value of lethal force.
Yet it would be simplistic and misleading to suggest that U.S. senior commanders
simply did not understand the importance of popular support. At least 2 evidently did. Major General (MG) David Petraeus, as Commanding General (CG) of the 101st Division and responsible for Northern Iraq in the period after the fall of Saddam, swung his troops routinely between offensive operations and an equally vigorous domestic construction and restoration programme.14 He is widely accredited with maintaining relative peace and normal functionality in Mosul, a city with an ethnic mix easily liable to ignite into civil conflict. Likewise, MG Pete Chiarelli, CG of 1st Cav Div, responsible for the demanding and volatile Baghdad area of operations
in 2004, referred in briefings to his Division’s SWETI ops: Sewage, Water, Electricity, Trash, Information. He considered his role to be as much city chief executive as soldier. Before his Division’s deployment to Iraq he took his senior commanders and staff on a seminar with U.S. industrialists, because he realised from the outset that they would need to understand how to manage a population and restore and rebuild a city at least as much as they would need to know how to kill and capture terrorists.
However, to apply the judgement of cultural insensitivity universally would be similarly misleading. Troops could undoubtedly be damagingly heavy-handed, as they could in any army, but there were many reported instances of U.S. Army courtesy and empathy with the local population. As an illustration of the contrasts, one senior Iraqi official who worked closely with the Coalition had his house twice subjected to routine search by U.S. Army personnel.15 On one occasion the troops displayed exemplary awareness of cultural sensitivities, such as appropriate treatment of women in the household. On the other, the aggressive behaviour of troops from a battalion newly arrived in theatre led to his formal complaint, with consequent apology from a U.S. General Officer.
Here is some of his good constructive criticism. You can find this in the Navy as well.
Commanders and staff at all levels were strikingly conscious of their duty, but rarely if ever questioned authority, and were reluctant to deviate from precise instructions. Staunch loyalty upward and conformity to one’s superior were noticeable traits. Each commander had his own style, but if there was a common trend it was for micro-management, with many hours devoted to daily briefings and updates. Planning tended to be staff driven and focused on process rather than end effect. The net effect was highly centralised decision-making, which worked when serving a commander with a gift for retaining detail and concurrently managing a plethora of issues, but all too readily developed undue inertia. Moreover, it tended to discourage lower level initiative and adaptability, even when commanders consciously encouraged both.
Near the end he offers his perspective of some Army trends...again, good for everyone to think about.
On balance the available evidence indicates these U.S. Army trends:
• Exceptional commitment, sense of duty, and unquestioning loyalty to the wider cause, the mismission,
the force and superior officers.
• Insufficient adaptability to the requirements of Phase 4 caused by:
•• Process rather than effects orientated command
and control regimes.
•• A hierarchically conscious command ethos, which encouraged centralisation, and conversely discouraged low level initiative or innovation even when senior commanders stressed the need for them.
•• Commander over-optimism, which could sometimes compound the disinclination to adapt plans, since it raised undue confidence in higher headquarters that existing plans were on track.
• A shortage of manpower from which to draw troops into theatre, leading to very varied levels of expertise, which tended to compound the issues noted above.
Looks like we have some more reading to do.
In his seminal book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, LTC John Nagl contrasts the development of organisational culture in the British and U.S. Armies, in order to determine why the former succeeded in Malaya but the latter failed in Vietnam.24 The book pre-dates OIF by a year. Nonetheless the parallels with the evidence arising from OIF Phase 4 are too marked to ignore, a feature which evidently did not escape the notice of the COS of the Army, General Peter J. Schoomaker, who in 2005 ordered copies for every 4-Star General Officer currently serving, and provided a Foreword to the second edition.25 Nagl notes that ‘The American Army’s role from its very origins was the eradication of threats to national survival’, in contrast to the British Army’s history as ‘an instrument of limited war, designed to achieve limited goals at limited cost’. And, ‘As a consequence, its historical focus was almost unfailingly and exclusively to be a conventional war-fighting organisation’.
Bingo, that explains the focus. Also, towards the end he discusses problems that go back to the Clinton era WRT officer problems, but I'm not going to quote it here. Interesting perspective. Parallels what I saw on the Navy side....he also DOES mention Marines.
Improve skills and tactical repertoire for IW across the wider force—broaden the knowledge base outside Special Operations Forces and Marines. In short, much seemingly apposite work is in progress.
And a final goodbye kiss, that the WaPo didn't put in either. Not on the agenda, don't you know.
However, to conclude, as some do, that the Army is simply incompetent or inflexible, is simplistic and quite erroneous. If anything the Army has been a victim of its own successful development as the ultimate warfighting machine. Always seeing itself as an instrument of national survival, over time the Army has developed a marked and uncompromising focus on conventional warfighting, leaving it ill-prepared for the unconventional operations that characterise OIF Phase 4.
I know I used up a lot of space on this one, but I am mad at myself - I forgot about The Scorpion and the Frog. Using a flawed reference I didn't investigate (to be honest, I dimly thought the WaPo version was 90% not 10%) I smeared a good officer who wrote an honest paper of value. The WaPo owes someone an apology, and it isn't me. Even their title "Get Past the Warrior Ethos" is bogus. Pure spin. Once again, my bust. Good paper. Read it.

No comments: