One symptom of a nation’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop) is a disconnect of our national dialog from reality. IMO this is the strongest evidence of America’s dysfunction. A broken OODA loop means that we can neither recognize nor prioritize problems. If uncorrected, we cannot effectively fix those problems that we do see. We become a blind giant.
Wars magnify social prolbems, making them easier to see. So it is with our broken OODA loop. Today’s post discusses one example of this, posing it in question form.
Discussion of counter-insurgency theory has dominated our view of the Iraq War. The role of well-known military natmes — such as General Petreaus, David Kilcullen, John Nagl — are associated with COIN. FM 3-24 (see the PDF) was the most-discussed doctrinal change. Military discussion sites — such as the small wars council — featured vast numbers of papers and comment threads on its intricacies and application.
The key question was seldom asked, and IMO never answered. Let’s take a crack at it today.
Did COIN — in theory or practice — have any substantial effect on the Iraq War?
Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired), stated what should be considered the null hypothesis:
General Petraeus has abandoned the counterinsurgency manual in favor of the tactics which served us so well in Vietnam: massive firepower on civilian areas, search-and-destroy sweeps, and funding Popular Force militias.
These things are the trinity of counter-insurgency theory, the dirty reality beyond the shiny surface of COIN (or in Vietnam, unconventional warfare).
For details about this trinity at work in Iraq, see this Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant, 6 February 2009. It was obvious even then, and should be more obvious by now. Please at least glance at this post before commenting. It provides essential evidence.
The other force shaping Iraq was Iran. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in exile there from 1982-1990. Key elements of his government had long-standing ties to Iran. The struggle for dominance within the Shiite Arabs between the factions headed by al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr was largely ended when Iran threw its support to al-Maliki.
In fact, a history of the Iraq War could explain almost every significant development without any mention of COIN. Except for one aspect of the war: the public relations battle in the US. Here, unlike Iraq, COIN was a major factor clouding the discussion and obscuring events.
That’s my summary. Let the comments flow!
Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.
For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
- About Iraq & Sub-continent Wars – my articles
- About Iraq & Sub-continent Wars – studies & reports
- About the Iraq War – Goals and Benchmarks
Posts about the war in Iraq:
- The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace, 13 March 2007
- Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq, 27 September 2007
- Iraq, after the war, 20 May 2008
- Slowly the new Iraq becomes visible, 18 July 2008