GWOT in perspective – Five years later
The War in Iraq and Afghanistan, triggered by 9/11 hasn’t been won, but neither has it been lost, the final verdict may take years to assess, and even then there will be arguments over the verdict. Saddam has been removed from power, but the Baathists and the Republican Guard haven’t given up yet despite the proudly display “blue finger” of those who voted. The Taliban is like St Augustine grass in the flower bed.
But that is more the rule than the exception in war, there being a tangential connection between what caused a war, what were the objectives (if any save survival), and the results:
The American South seceded over slavery, when staying with the Union would have preserved slavery in the South as the South had enough states to stop the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.
The British opposition to Imperial Germany was triggered by a German threat to Britain’s naval superiority defined as equal or greater than any two opposing fleets, yet gave up this notion of superiority to parity in the Washington Naval Treaty on 1922.
Japan went to war over it’s desire to get their “fair share” of China, then divvied up between the English, French, Italians, Germans and Americans in extra-territorial “concessions”. FDR and the China Lobby on the Hill sent supplies and the Flying Tigers to “save” China for US commercial and Christian interests. The Communists won, everyone else lost. But after forty years of Communism in China, China has reverted in fact to more open markets than were the object of their enmity.
The victory of the North Vietnamese over the French, the Republic of Vietnam and the US failed to establish communism in Vietnam shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Chinese went capitalist.
The United States Congress was unwilling to declare war on Germany on the December 8, 1941 despite Japan’s attack. Hitler solved that problem for us. There were serious objections within the US over the wisdom of the war on Germany until the Holocaust was uncovered in the Spring of ’45. WW2 is now justified on evidence found at the end of the war. The political results were determined at Casablanca, Tehran, and Potsdam, while the course of combat had it’s own logic of fire and maneuver.
The contemporary babble over whether there was or was not a connection between Saddam and Bin Ladin, and over whether there were or were not weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sounds like a domestic squabble over who did what to whom first. It isn’t useful in determining what has actually transpired, what effects there have been, or what needs to be done in the future. As usual, intent and effect are marginally connected. This is also known as the Law of Unintended Effects.
The effects of the war have had substantial impact on military doctrine, theory, and practice. Of the most significant are the role of women in combat, the recognition of the military and political value of the Guard and Reserve, the evolution (resurrection) of a new paradigm of military doctrine called Full Spectrum Warfare, and the evolution of a new paradigm in the sophistication of military operations in and beyond battle.
The old argument that women have no place in battle loudly proclaimed five years ago is silent today. Women, it has been found, can be more deadly than the male. Many volunteered for the gunner’s position on HUMMV’s and due to their lower center of gravity, holistic view of the world, and maturity have caused the early transfer of many a terrorist to Paradise.
At the beginning of expanded military operations in the Balkans and early on in Iraqi Freedom, Guard and Reserve (RC) personnel were deployed as a personnel reserve for the Active military. It has been found, however, that often RC personnel have more combat experience than their full time counter parts and additional talents from civilian life immediately useful in the protracted war of insurgency. Defense against cell phone detonated IED’s was crafted by a Reservist who worked with the cell phone industry as a civilian.
Military doctrine in place at the beginning of the war was focused on Expeditionary war which called for a quick solution for small conflagrations deemed the dominant for of battle after the Fall of the Wall. It took four years for the US military establishment, mainly it’s school system, to realize that “Protracted War” of Mao and Giap had returned with a turban and AK47.
Protracted war is multi dimensional and multi leveled including military, economic, political and social operations. This was the dominant form of war in the religious wars between Catholic and Protestant, and of the Communists until Pestroika. The new Army Field Manuals FM 3-24 on Counterinsurgency and FM 3-0 on Full Spectrum operations stress a multi handed approach in which economic stability, essential services (water, sewer, roads) , effective governance are just as important (often more) than combat operations.
LTG William Caldwell, Commander of the Combined Army Center where Army doctrine is developed appeared in the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on March 10, 2008 and described both the eclectic nature of counterinsurgency protracted war as requiring our troops in any one given area (town, village, province) to be, at the same time surveying for a water well, having tea with a tribal sheik, fixing up a market place and engage with a hostile foe with firepower.
That’s the doctrine, and that’s the new paradigm. Never in American military history have troops been required and been able to function on so wide an array of missions and skills. In short, the real “Incredibles” are our troops.