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re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

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  • re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

    I watched yet another documentary on the Iraq war that I had not yet seen. It's being aired on DiscoveryHD, and it's called 'Delta Company: The Push to Baghdad'. It came out in 2005, obviously it was filmed in March of 2003 during the initial invasion of Iraq. It was actually quite good in that the commentary is remarkably unbiased, and the footage is excellent. It simply documents the push to Baghdad from the perspective of one Marine platoon.

    A few things in this film caused me to re-examine the battle plans and execution of the early days of this war. I'm wondering how many important lessons were learned from the paradox that resulted - the invasion was lightning-fast (advancing troops did not sleep for days, constantly on the move, with one tank going into the Euphrates because the driver fell asleep) and completely successful at the goal of sacking Baghdad. What it failed at, however, was allowing much of the Iraqi army (young Sunnis) to walk away.

    The evidence of this is overwhelming in this film. As they approached Baghdad, the Marines continually observed civilian-clothed 'military age' men leaving the battlefront on foot and in civilian cars. It was repeatedly said that the Marines were not trained or equipped to handle what they took to be defectors. In most cases they would stop and search the men, find nothing, and being under orders to keep moving, let the men drive off. It is estimated that in total some 500,000 Iraqi troops 'dissapeared' during this initial invasion period - worsened by the fact that Paul Bremer made a declaration to 'disband' the standing troops that remained - a decision With no plans to capture, contain or re-employ these men, it's very difficult to accept what we now see as the current reality in Iraq. The roots of this insurgency literally walked (and drove) right past the advancing Marines in March of 2003. You can see it for yourself in this film.

    It's been certainly been mentioned before and debated among these forums how various factors led to the situation that unfolded in the four years since this war started. After watching this film I was reminded of how incredibly important it is to plan for the capture and containment of any existing army, whether they are fighting or not. Secondly, I was reminded of the costs of rushing into battle. The invasion moved so fast that there was no time to take stock, relay intelligence, and adjust plans. I can't imagine how the Marines in this film must feel now looking back on that invasion - watching hundreds of young, future insurgents walking right past the armor lines and literally dissapearing into the crowd. Those Marines cannot be blamed - they had their orders and they followed them dutifully. They had no idea what lay ahead.

    There were far too many assumptions made in the planning of this war, and it's resulted in a catastrophic situation for both U.S. troops and Iraq itself. I can only hope that lessons were learned here, both by the troops themselves (probably likely) and the civilian leadership that put them there (probably unlikely).

  • #2
    Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

    Originally posted by AMosely View Post
    The roots of this insurgency literally walked (and drove) right past the advancing Marines in March of 2003.
    You're also talking about the roots of the new Iraqi security forces, though. I think that this insurgency is very small in relation to the number of Iraqi soldiers that are trying to make their country a better place. The problem is that guerrilla tactics are so very effective...
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    • #3
      Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

      I don't see how imprisoning 500,000 people would have made the situation better.
      A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

      "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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      • #4
        Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

        Which Facility are you proposing to place them in, Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo? Just a really odd position to say let's throw half a million people in jail.

        Lucky Shot

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        • #5
          Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

          I don't know if there is anything they could have done differently. Our army is equipped and trained to be an army of liberation. The main concepts of which are that the people we are "liberating" will be glad we are there and will be willing to take over the non-military/logistical aspect's of the operation once the liberation has occurred.

          Nothing our army could have done back then short of "kill any male over the age of 12" would have changed the current situation, that had to be avoided by smart political moves which anyone can see we made a grand total of zero in this regard.

          The basic premise you have of "think of the future" is correct, but honestly, did anyone believe the Iraq army would have for all intents and purposes ceased to exist about 10 minutes after we launched our offensive? You can't plan and train for something like that. The entire reason to have an army is to FIGHT the enemy, not desert your posts wholesale the minute the enemy offensive begins. Historically this might be the first such occasion that an entire defending army ceased to exist as a cohesive fighting unit instantly upon the enemy commencing offensive operations.

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          • #6
            Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

            Politically, things would have gone even worse for the US if they began detaining every civilian looking man that they suspected to have been a combatant prior to their advance.

            I think the fact that the US didn't killkillkill allowed the locals to appreciate the difference between the US military and their own. How many of those men would have walked away if Saddam's forces were marching on them for whatever reason?

            That said, it probably produced less insurgence than if there had been videos of the US slaughtering or apprehending 'surrendering soldiers' on al jazeera.

            We're in a bad situation because we put ourselves in it. I wouldn't be too eager to start blaming individual battle field oversights for creating problems in a war that is a political blunder to begin with.
            |TG|Switch

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            • #7
              Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

              Originally posted by Morganan View Post
              Historically this might be the first such occasion that an entire defending army ceased to exist as a cohesive fighting unit instantly upon the enemy commencing offensive operations.
              That's actually quite common, historically. The concept of a standing professional army is linked to a strong national identity or allegiance to a centralized state, of which there are limited examples. If your army consists of conscripts, mercenaries, vassals, or peasants, typically your first concern as a commander is getting them NOT to fold the instant they see a formidable enemy.

              Iraq's army, despite all the Newsweek graphics depicting bloody street battles with Iraqi regulars, was pretty clearly broken at the infantry level. The first Gulf War illustrated the beginnings of that. The Saddam loyalists, Baathists, and other nationalists made the correct strategic decision to not engage the US in a frontline battle, but to switch to guerrilla tactics. The fact that the White House and the Pentagon did not seem to anticipate this move, and did not plan to deal with a protracted insurgency, suggests a tremendous failure of leadership and strategic foresight on their parts.

              Originally posted by Switch
              We're in a bad situation because we put ourselves in it. I wouldn't be too eager to start blaming individual battle field oversights for creating problems in a war that is a political blunder to begin with.
              Too true. But there will always be political blunders. Some big, some small. I think it's important to have a strong, level-headed tradition of warfighting academia to advise political affairs. Whether or not politicians LISTEN to that advice is a matter of our doom or salvation, but at least let's have the information and expertise available to provide it.
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              • #8
                Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

                Originally posted by Morganan View Post
                I don't know if there is anything they could have done differently. Our army is equipped and trained to be an army of liberation. The main concepts of which are that the people we are "liberating" will be glad we are there and will be willing to take over the non-military/logistical aspect's of the operation once the liberation has occurred.
                There's quite a bit that could (and should) have been done differently, and you've actually brought a primary example up. The leadership should have anticipated some kind of insurgency. To make the assumption that the entire population would greet the invasion as liberators was a tremendous mistake. Tactically, the initial invasion force should have been better prepared to capture and contain the Iraqi army, whether they were fighting, surrendering, or as it turned out walking and driving past U.S. forces in blue jeans and Toyotas. Further, I've always thought Bremer's decision to 'dissolve' the remaining Iraqi army was a trememdous tactical mistake.

                There is much that could have been done differently, aside from not starting this war in the first place of course. But, as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20-20.

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                • #9
                  Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

                  The "leadership" expected to take control of Iraq without a shot being fired. They expected Saddam's top generals and aides to defect under the mere threat of force. They expected these aides to turn over Saddam, to maintain temporary orderly control of the country, and then to assist in the transition to democracy.

                  I'd say they were wrong.
                  A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

                  "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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                  • #10
                    Re: re-examining the insurgency in Iraq

                    Related random overhead:

                    I heard someone on BBC (I'm sorry, I do not recall the specifics) who in response to the U.S. caputre of "Al Qaeda In Iraq's" #2 leader stated that in addition to the only evidence between the 'real' Al Qaeda and this group is ideological suggestion, the group is not even responsible for the vast majority of insurgent fighting in the region. It's still predominantly former military and Baath party loyalists that are fighting this war - the very same people that coalition forces let walk through the advancing Marines in 2003. While this is something I already knew, for some reason it's increasingly bothersome to me after watching it on video in hindsight. Now that they are scattered within the remaining civilian population and plugged in to Islamic sympathizers in other countries, I seriously begin to doubt any near-term solution to this conflict.

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