The Army is rethinking how to fight the next warand win the current one
Fifteen years ago, Pentagon doctrine suggested there was a strict division between combat operations and peacekeeping, or stability, missions. The Army's experience in Kosovo, Bosnia, and, especially, Somalia, Ancker says, proved that during humanitarian operations designed to stabilize a country, there was still a need for military muscle. But Ancker argues that the Iraq invasion showed that the Army did not grasp the flip side of the Bosnia lesson, that during combat operations there was a need for peacekeeping-style activities. "We did not have that down nearly as well as we thought we had," he says. The next operations field manual will tell commanders that even when engaged in combat operations they need to immediately focus on making the civilian population physically safe, establishing some sort of governance to allow society to function, and restoring essential services.
Stability. Embedded in the new doctrine is an implicit critique of how the Iraq invasion was conducted. The Army now argues that racing from city to city, with relatively little concern for security, is a mistake. "In particular, if you are conducting a major combat operation and you are thinking about the aftermath of how you are going to relate to the population after the fight, you are going to conduct the fight differently," Ancker says. "And part of that, frankly, is to decrease the opportunity for disgruntled elements to gain support from a population that is looking for things such as security, governance, and essential services."
Studying how to gain the support of civilians is a growing part of the curriculum at Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. Throughout the armed forces, military schools are gearing up their study of counterinsurgency. At the front of a classroom at Fort Leavenworth, Maj. Andy Johnson starts up a clip from the documentary film Gunner Palace. The clip shows an American unit raiding the home of suspected bomb makers. In the courtyard, as the Iraqi men try to explain something, the soldiers shout at them, "Keep your mouth shut!" and "Hey, shut up!" Crouching low, one of the Iraqi men says in English, "I know that 'shut up.' "
When the video ends, Johnson asks the class what they thought of the Americans' actions. "They weren't mistreating them," says one student, an Army major; "they didn't know what they were going to do." After more discussion, Maj. Christopher Schmitt, a teacher who helped design the course, pipes up from the back of the class. "These guys were just fence-sitters; these guys are noncommittal," he says of the Iraqis in the video. "But after being handcuffed in front of their wives, do we think these guys are fence-sitters anymore?"
The answer, clearly, is no. "Watch Cops," says Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Schlemmer, one of the students. "The state troopers always keep their cool, no matter what is going on." Johnson moves toward the center of the class and asks, "Did you hear them say, 'I know that "shut up"?' Who do they know that from?" Maj. Derrick Fishback answers: "Saddam." Johnson nods: "It goes from one oppressor to another. This is not easy stuff. It is counterinsurgency."