Saturday, December 2, 2006

FT Article on US Army

Jacob Weisberg’s article in the Financial Times “the International Way forward in Iraq” incorrectly asserts that “US troops are not trained or experienced at peacekeeping”. The truth is that the US does, but they were committed piecemeal as individual enhancements to Regular Army units not designed for peacekeeping, nation building, consolidation operations or, for that matter, no other foreseeable contingency. They were not committed in the battalions, brigades and groups that they have been configured in early WW2. I am referring to the Civil Affairs, formerly Civil Affairs and Military Government, units with the institutional memory of the successful occupations of Austria, Germany, and Japan. They are also staffed with Army Reservists who civilian occupations include local and state government and the skills not possible to replicate in a garrison bound Regular Army. One of the principle jobs of Civil Affairs is to secure public facilities such as power plants, museums, hospitals, police stations, and such. If they had been used in accordance with existing doctrine and training, the looting would not have taken place.

A Civil Affairs plan to rebuild Iraq was presented to Bremer’s staff but was rejected and GOP activists and friends of Dick used this opportunity to try to convert the Muddle East into the Middle West.

In a similar vein, it is widely understood that the expectation of the Pentagon that the Iraqis would welcome the US with flowers instead of IED’s. Any competent Psychological Estimate of the Situation would have readily discounted this wishful thinking. And the PSYOP capability of the Army is in the Army Reserves.

We continually read of our convoys being ambushed on roads and the initial attack into Iraq was stalled for a few days when Fedayeen irregulars attacked the lines of communications. The National Guard had light infantry brigades and Military Police brigades trained specifically to protect the lines of communications and Rear Area Operations Centers and logistics control centers to orchestrate the whole movement of troops and supplies in the rear. These were not called up as such. Initially the Guard Brigades were used to guard US bases in Germany and in other Gulf states.

The underlying cause for this failure to commit the proper forces to meet the mission, enemy, and terrain inherent in the War on Terror is a military fad called Transformation in which such factors as who are going to fight, with whose help, where, and for what reason are deemed irrelevant. All efforts in the Army is to form “modular brigades” configured in identical formats to be rotated to and from foreign battlefields without regard to maintaining a stable presence to stabilize unstable regions. The grip that Transformation has on the Pentagon is a perfect example of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Emperor’s New Clothes”.

Imagine if WW2 had been fought by rotating the 98 combat divisions sent over seas, thirty at a time. Or without the flexibility that allowed US forces to adapt to war in mountains, jungles, deserts, and urban areas against Asians and Europeans.

The US has only had a large standing Regular military force since 1980. The earlier Cold War army was a temporary force with large numbers of draftees and reserve officers. After we withdrew from Vietnam, it seemed likely that the Cold War would continue and a large force would be needed and that could be done with an “All Volunteer” force which the Pentagon interpreted as an All Regular Army. Unsexy, un-warrior skills such as maintenance, logistics, intelligence, PSYOP, and Civil Affairs were sloughed off to the Reserves and out of sight, became out of mind.

In short, the Pentagon views the military as a closed union shop run by the personnel department. The Reserves are deemed non-union suitable for seasonal and part time work at best and scabs at worst. The Pentagon’s full court press to disarm the Guard and reduce the Reserves to replacements is motivated by the revelation that Guard and Reserve troops have more combat experience plus extra life experience that makes them better suited for the eclectic war on Terror.

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