The Army is rethinking how to fight the next warand win the current one
At the forefront of the effort to absorb the lessons and remake the Army are two veterans of Iraq. Gen. William Wallace, one of the first to raise questions about the potential for insurgent attacks in Iraq, began the hard look and the overhaul of the nation's training centers when he led the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Today, as the head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, he leads the effort to make sure that all Army schools are teaching counterinsurgency and new ways to fight. General Petraeus, who led the 101st Airborne Division during the first part of the war and then oversaw the training of the Iraqi Army, has more Iraq experience than almost any other American military man. As Wallace's successor at the Combined Arms Center, he is shepherding the effort to write a new doctrine and remake how soldiers train. Together the two men have helped put into motion a quiet evolution in Army thinkingone that seems to recognize missteps that have occurred in Iraq.
The School of Advanced Military Studies is an elite program at Fort Leavenworth that attracts some of the brightest majors in the American Army. Its students are often called the "Jedi Knights," because commanders in the field tap their innovative thinking. This month, inside one sams class, students refought the Iraq invasion with a whole different battle plan. In this war game, one team, playing the American military forces, moved into southern and northern Iraq to secure the oil fields. And then they used diversions to pull their opponentsthe Iraqisaway from Baghdad. That allowed them to drop the 82nd Airborne Division into central Iraq so they could execute a raid aimed at forcing Saddam Hussein to surrender and replacing him with a U.S.-friendly strongman. The plan has nothing to do with creating a democracy in Iraq. It has everything to do with trying to preserve the systems that make the country work. "We want to get our guy in there and then try to transform the way that government works over time," says Maj. Kris Arnold, one of the students playing on the American team. "As opposed to shocking it, taking away the structure. Then we have a big mess on our hands."
Experiments. For the record, the American team's effort failed. In the war game, Baghdad fell into chaos and a guerrilla movement developed, forcing the team to execute a more conventional invasion. Up next for the class: an Iraqi civil war. James Schneider, a professor of military theory, notes that such classroom exercises are intellectual experiments designed to help teach the students to think the way commanders do. But what is interesting is how much emphasis the sams students' plan puts on stability. And the importance of preserving stability is one of the biggest lessons the Army has learned from Iraq, one the military is weaving into its official doctrine.
The office of the Army's chief doctrine writer, Clint Ancker, is filled with 350 military coins, the calling cards of commanding officers that are handed out in friendship or awarded for good work. The coins are a symbolic representation of the war stories Ancker has listened to, stored, taken apart, and assimilated. Ancker, a retired colonel, studies such war lessons and puts the best into the field manuals that tell soldiers how to win wars both big and small.