10 years, 5 months ago
Remaining highly recommended is the Marine Corps Small Wars Manual (large PDF document). The war in Afghanistan is more than 4.5 years old, and the war in Iraq is about 3.5 years old. The SWM has something to way about timeliness that will edify and enrich our understanding of the various blunders that have been made in these wars so far. By way of editorial note, I would comment that there seems to be an undercurrent among supporters of the war(s) that is unhealthy and unproductive for the prospective of evolution in our doctrine, strategy and tactics based on our mistakes. Analysis, assessment and constructive criticism are generally taken to be opposition to the war or to our warriors. To be seen as patriotic and supportive of our troops, one almost has to be jingoistic. This is not a mature attitude, but more importantly, it is not supportive of the necessary changes that will mark the future of warfare and thus the warriors who will be participating in those wars. Proceeding now to the SWJ and what we may learn about timeliness (italics and bold are mine):
” … when forced to resort to arms to carry out the object of the intervention, the operation must be pursued energetically and expeditiously in order to overcome the resistance as quickly as possible. The campaign plan and strategy must be adapted to the character of the people encountered. National Policy and the precepts of civilized procedure demand that our dealings with other peoples be maintained on a high moral plan (sic). However, the military strategy of the campaign and the tactics employed by the commander in the field must be adapted to the situation in order to accomplish the mission without delay.” (Page 34)
“The force must be of sufficient strength and so proportioned that it can accomplish its mission in the minimum time and with minimum losses.” (Page 113)
From the modern days of Blitzkrieg forward, speed and surprise were useful as a strategy to prevent the enemy from implementing a coherent defense. Leaving behind the issue of conventional war versus COIN, rural operations versus MOUT, and all of the other issues that can cloud simple evaluations and make the lessons poignant for us, allowing a protracted period of time for [a] al Qaeda to recruit and train more foreign fighters to enter the fray, [b] al Sadr’s militia to strengthen from Iranian funding, and [c] the Baathist diehards to wreak havoc unimpeded, has caused the U.S. strategy to become muddled and weakened. It has also added to the perception of the U.S. as an occupying force rather than a liberator.
No matter what tactics were employed, if the strategy had included defeat of the known enemy with dispatch, the U.S. forces could have focused more on COIN operations for smaller groups of poorly-trained and poorly-led insurgents. The current U.S. mission in Iraq is not apparently one of defeating the enemy. Rather, it is training proxy fighters to defeat the enemy. This is strategically smart only to the degree that it is successful, useful, helpful and effective to accomplishing the final goals. Altruism (i.e., in this case, nation-building) is not particually useful as a military strategy.