by Doctor Science
I protested the war when it was being launched, for reasons both moral (it's wrong!) and realistic (never get involved in a land war in Asia!). For all my realism, I didn't expect the war to go as poorly as it actually did -- because I assumed the US military would go in with, ya know, a plan for the post-war period.
I'm now starting to think that the lack of post-war planning wasn't specific to Iraq or the Bush Administration, but reflects pervasive problems in US military culture coming out of Vietnam and the Cold War.
For instance, Isaiah "Ike" Wilson's experience:Wilson was gobsmacked to discover that there was no Phase IV plan, because he knew that without Phase IV no war can be said to be "won". His fellow officers should also have known this, it should have been a gut, nearly-instinctive reaction in everyone who'd ever been to a War College or had advanced strategic training. Rumsfeld shouldn't have been able to get away with war plans that didn't include Phase IV, because flag officers should have been so appalled that they'd give him the runaround, or had some private words with members of Congress, or just plain affected not to understand him. You can't tell me that Generals can't be just as passive-aggressive as Privates, when they want to be.His job in Mosul would be to help refine and execute the plan to stabilize Iraq. From his studies of military history at ever level, he knew that war plans by nature contained four phases. Phase I: Set the conditions. Phase II: Initial operations. Phase III: Decisive operations. Phase IV: Post-conflict stability operations. This was elementary. By the time President Bush made his May Day victory speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the US military had accomplished Phases I through II, but Phase IV had yet to begin.
Looking over the cache of documents, Wilson realized--at first slowly, because he couldn't quite believe this was possible--that there was no plan for Phase IV. He and Petraeus would have to devise one on their own. [p71]
This kind of la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you approach to military problems wasn't only among the actual military, either:Rumsfeld .. didn't want to get bogged down in securing and stabilizing Iraq after Baghdad had fallen--so he didn't make any plans to do so, and he didn't approve any proposals for such plans from his top officers. He didn't plan for the postwar because he didn't want a postwar. It wasn't an oversight; it was deliberate.
Rumsfeld was far from alone in this failure.[p59]
But Kaplan's book, and Tom Ricks' The Generals (which I read later in 2013) convinced me that a willingness to overlook Phase IV is epidemic in the US military, and has been at least since the end of the Vietnam War.
From the POV of a student of military history, this is nuts. The only sane point of waging war is to change the status quo to a new, preferred status -- and keep it there. If you can't get to your goal and hold it, then it doesn't matter how many battles you've won, you haven't won the war.
The US military officer corps contains many intelligent people who think about warfare and military history *a lot*. How can they act as though winning battles and getting to say Mission Accomplished is enough?
I wonder if the problem started with Vietnam and the Cold War. Kaplan writes:
In the mid-1970s, after the debacle of Vietnam, the Army's top generals said "Never again" to the notion of fighting guerillas in the jungle (or anyplace else). Instead, they turned their gaze once more to the prospect of a big war against the Soviet Union on the wide-open plains of Europe ...Ricks says that, during the 80s and into the 90s, when there were few chances for officers to see actual combat, a reliable route for advancement was to do notably well at War Games -- military exercises which, in that period, were focused on "gaming" a European war against the Soviet Union.
When I thought about this, I realized of course this would discourage thinking about the "after-conflict", or even about planning at the grand strategy level (where you win the war, not just the battle). The whole point of the Cold War was that open war between NATO and the Soviet Bloc was likely to be one that *everyone* lost, where the very idea of post-war planning was delusional. When the Sprogs were studying the Cold War in their high school history classes, they watched Doctor Strangelove -- and really, that bitter black comedy is the best explanation of Cold War thinking they could get.
Basically, to do well at NATO-vs-Soviet war games, you had to be the kind of officer who *didn't* think about long-term consequences or grand strategy -- because then you might notice that what you were doing was bonkers.
I was reminded of this while I was working on my D-Day post, after I got a little sidetracked reading about Eisenhower. I consider him one of the very greatest of US generals, up there with Washington, because they both were superlative at grand strategy: always keeping an eye on winning the *war*, not necessarily the battle. Eisenhower's military biography notes that he spent the 20s and 30s discussing what kind of war was likely to be coming and how to fight it, while his experience in the Philippines taught him how critical diplomatic, non-fighting skills are for winning conflicts and keeping them won.
One thing I don't know is whether the epidemic of short-term thinking in the US military officer corps is related to pervasive short-term thinking in US corporate management, but it seems to me that they both got worse starting in the 1970s. Zeitgeist, coincidence, or the military-industrial complex?