"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Friday, September 30, 2005

Winning Wars: Applying Five Lesson from Past Conflicts to the "Battle" of Iraq

Lesson One: Winning wars is more than winning battles. This is not to suggest that we are on the losing end of the fight in Iraq-far from it. As previously mentioned, strategic trends in the region and in Iraq itself are hopeful. But to win the war that Operation Iraqi Freedom has become, and probably to win future wars as well, planners and commanders have to learn to think beyond the campaign level to war winning-to the actual mechanics of achieving strategic objectives-which are almost always stated in political, not military, terms.

Historically, winning wars is more complicated than one campaign.
Insurgencies present a particular challenge to war winning for a number of reasons.
They are not neat-the defeat of the enemy's conventional forces does not tie everything up in a bow. The U.S. experience has been that successful counterinsurgency wars are much more complex, with more immediate political overtones: supporting and reforming the local government where necessary, rebuilding security forces and, at the same time, fighting inconclusive tactical battles until reforming and rebuilding can take hold.

Lesson Two: The true revolution in military affairs is the social revolution of the modern information age. Technology is only a supporting actor. The second lesson to emerge thus far from the Iraq war is that civil populations can no longer be overlooked or disregarded in war strategy. Civil uprisings against corrupt governments or invading armies are an old story in war, but modern conditions empower populations to play a more central role in warfare for a number of reasons.

Lesson Three: Counterinsurgencies are long wars. The direction in Defense Department thinking over the past decade has been generally oriented toward high-tech "splendid little wars" of rapid movement, precision strike and limited duration. American superiority in weaponry and in highly trained soldiers has been convincingly demonstrated in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. Potential opponents, many of whom maintain sizable conventional forces for reasons of local or regional security, should have no illusions about their ability to stand chest to chest against U.S. power, and can only confront American military forces in one of two ways, neither of which has easy solutions.

Lesson Four: The locals have to win their own war. Nothing is so important in counterinsurgency as to understand that, eventually, local forces have to beat their own insurgents.

Lesson Five: Army education is more, not less, important as the 21st century advances.

Read the whole article.


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