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Granite TAHG Summer 2013, Unit 4. Post-Vietnam U.S. Military Conflicts. Day 3: After “9/11”. Afghanistan and Iraq . How to Avoid “Nation Building:” the Dream of Military “Transformation”. Per Bush Admin Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and multiple defense intellectuals, think tanks, etc.

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granite tahg summer 2013 unit 4

Granite TAHG Summer 2013, Unit 4


U.S. Military Conflicts

day 3 after 9 11

Day 3: After “9/11”

Afghanistan and Iraq

how to avoid nation building the dream of military transformation
How to Avoid “Nation Building:”the Dream of Military “Transformation”
  • Per Bush Admin Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and multiple defense intellectuals, think tanks, etc.
  • A “revolution in military affairs” has occurred, based on
    • Information technology
    • Precision targeting using unmanned aerial vehicles
    • Special operations forces, and
    • “Agile” air transportable, “modular” brigades
  • This makes short, decisive military interventions possible with less total force and less political cost
  • Hostile regimes and other threats can be neutralized without major national efforts (i.e. the Gulf War)
  • In effect, “War,” as previously understood, has ended
how a transformed military nevertheless ends up nation building
How a “Transformed” Military Nevertheless Ends Up “Nation Building”
  • If the U.S. is not to engage in “nation building”
  • Military interventions must terminate in a rapid withdrawal; otherwise “if you break it, you fix it”
  • If, however, an intervention becomes an occupation, it may trigger a counterinsurgency
  • Then, before withdrawing, the U.S. must reconstruct the nation it invaded, or in the case of Afghanistan, build a sovereign nation state from scratch, in order to have an “in-country partner” – this, then, is “nation-building”
  • This then is revealed as beyond the capacity of the United States as it is currently constituted
afghanistan 2001 to date

Afghanistan, 2001 to date

Twelve Years and Counting

two types of withdrawal
Two Types of Withdrawal
  • After a decisive victory or a negotiated end of the conflict
    • i.e. a withdrawal under conditions of peace
  • In the absence of a decisive victory or a negotiated peace
    • i.e. while the war continues
  • Vietnam and Afghanistan are both examples of the second, far more difficult withdrawal
strategic similarities 1 of 2
Strategic Similarities, 1 of 2
  • Both conflicts are “Counterinsurgencies” in which the U.S. is simultaneously attempting to
    • Reform (VN) or establish (Afghanistan) a sovereign state
    • Defend it from both internal and external threats, and
    • “Hand over” internal security to the client government (which stubbornly refuses to reform/build its capacities)
  • Both conflicts are “asymmetric:” conventional military power is largely irrelevant to the outcome
  • While Taliban/Haqqani forces lack the ideological motivation of the Vietnamese Communists, equally intractable cultural factors create widespread resistance to the U.S. presence
strategic similarities 2 of 2 focus on afghanistan
Strategic Similarities, 2 of 2(Focus on Afghanistan)
  • The U.S. is unable to “isolate the battlefield” – we cannot “seal off” the Afpak border, which means
    • The Taliban can receive ongoing material support
    • And can control the “tempo of operations,” their casualties and, most critically, the duration of the conflict
  • Limits on domestic mobilization (and the Iraq War) starved the U.S. effort of sufficient forces to
    • Operate aggressively along the Afpak border, while
    • Also, simultaneouslypacifying Pashtun-majority areas in the South and West of Afghanistan
role of a third power
Role of a Third Power
  • During the VNW, the U.S.S.R. was a “great power patron” to the DRV, sending anti-aircraft systems (1965 on) and heavy maneuver forces (1972 on)
  • Soviet aim: to distract U.S. from unrest in Warsaw Pact and prevent U.S. from modernizing its strategic weapons
  • During the Afghan War, Pakistan is unable or unwilling to assist ISAF along the Afpak border
  • Pakistan’s aim: to assert hegemony over Afghanistan after a U.S. withdrawal
  • Q: Is the Afghan War not a struggle with Pakistan?
strategic dis similarity and the analytic bottom line on afghanistan
Strategic Dissimilarity, and the Analytic“Bottom Line” on Afghanistan
  • Vietnam was a sovereign nation-state, however weak
    • RVN decision-making authority was over-centralized in Saigon
    • Defects in centralized leadership were thus fatal
  • Afghanistan has never been a sovereign nation-state
    • Afghani regions / ethnic groups have never subordinated themselves to the faction temporarily occupying Kabul
    • Absence of centralized leadership will prove fatal
  • So, Vietnam we were supporting a weak sovereign nation-state that suffered from poor leadership
  • In Afghanistan, we’re supporting a sovereign nation-state thatdoes not actually exist, and cannot be created in the short or medium term by an external power
vietnam in 1973 afghanistan in 2013
Vietnam in 1973; Afghanistan in 2013
  • In both Vietnam and Afghanistan the U.S. had / has a client state that refuses to behave as a client state
    • This is the “diminishing leverage dilemma”
  • “Dates and numbers, not needs” drove the withdrawal from VN and seems to be driving the withdrawal from Afghanistan
    • i.e., Domestic politics, not international considerations, ended the VNW and will probably end the Afghan War
  • The economic condition of the U.S. is roughly as poor in 2011 as it was becoming in 1973-4
    • 1973-4: Beginning of “stagflation” - high inflation and slow growth
    • 2009-?: High unemployment and contracted credit and investment
politicized islamic ethnicities in iraq
Politicized Islamic Ethnicities in Iraq

The three regions of today correspond roughly to three different autonomous Ottoman provinces

Northeast Iraq is dominated by the Kurds, with a Saddam-Era minority of imported Shia from the far South

Future crisis point: Kirkuk, which sits on a large oil reserves

The “Triangle” above Baghdad and the Western desert are Sunni-dominated

Ethnic cleansing in 2005-6 removed most Sunnis from Baghdad East of the Tigris

Southern Iraq and the lower river courses are Shia Dominated

the players ugh 2003 2011
The “Players” (ugh), 2003-2011
  • The “Coalition” i.e. the U.S. Military
  • Resistant Shia parties / militias (never a unified front)
    • Those more influenced by Iran – SCIRI and Dawa
    • Those less influenced by Iran – the Sadrists / Mahdi Army
    • Willing to observe an unofficial truce from 2007 on
  • Resistant Sunni populations to the N and W of Baghdad
    • Traditional ethnic leaders (“sheiks”)
      • Coopted into the “Anbar Awakening”
    • “Former regime elements” and Al Qaeda in Iraq
      • Gradually killed off by U.S. Special Operations forces
  • Cooperative Kurds (more or less a unified front)
the iraq war aim 2003 2006
The Iraq War Aim, 2003-2006
  • Build a unified, stable, democratic Republic of Iraq based on a market society, at peace with its neighbors and an ally of the United States in the Global War on Terror
    • In effect, this meant transform a terrorized totalitarian nation into a Western-style liberal democracy
    • However, this aim was impossible within the existing capacities of the United States
why the initial war aim was not achieved
Why the Initial War Aim Was Not Achieved
  • Before 2003 Iraq was marked by vast “state-society distance,” due to
    • Baath Party tyranny and sponsored inter-ethnic tensions
    • The affects of U.N. imposed (at U.S. insistence) sanctions
  • Initial U.S. failures delegitimized the Occupation during 2003-4
    • Public order, i.e. looting, revenge killing, militia seizure of neighborhoods etc.
    • Collapse of minimal existing public services and social safety net
  • Public order could then only be achieved by empowering local and sectarian actors rather than the state, or “Government of Iraq” (GOI)
  • Failures to “reconstruct” Iraq reinforced the illegitimacy of both the U.S. occupation and its temporary in-country allies
  • By December 2006 the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq had become the orderly withdrawal from Iraq - hence the Nixon-like “Surge”
  • The Surge then allowed the U.S. to declare success and begin going home
the iraq war aim 2007 2008
The Iraq War Aim 2007-2008
  • Create the preconditions for a U.S. drawdown
    • By reduce Communal Sunni-Shia violence , and
    • Securing Sunni acquiesce in a Shia-controlled Government of Iraq (GOI)
  • This aim was achieved by the “Surge,”, but
    • Only because Sunni and Shia leaders decided to support this aim for their own reasons, which
    • Worked directly against the transformation of Iraq into a liberal democratic state IAW the 2003 Aim
elements of the iraq surge 2007 8
Elements of the Iraq “Surge,” 2007-8
  • War aim: transforming Iraq revised to prevent/end Iraqi Civil War
  • Strategic direction deeper in, with more troops used differently, not out
  • Multi-National Corpsreinforced from 15 to 18 brigades (barely enough)
  • Operational level: additional brigades to secure “Baghdad and the Belts”
  • Tactical level: empty FOBs, disperse troops to combat outposts: (“COPs”)
  • Major risk: loss of entire COPs, with 30+ KIA per COP (never happens)
  • Political level: we begin making deals with individuals who used to kill us
    • In Anbar Province, we support the “Sunni Awakening,” risking anger of Shia controlled Iraqi Gov’t
    • In Sadr City, we honor Muqtada al-Sadr’s truce, killing only “special groups” (Iranian proxies?) who, by trying to kill us, reject his authority
  • Focus is on “good enough” ISF units (minimizing sectarianism, corruption)
the iraq war aim 2009 2011
The Iraq War Aim, 2009-2011
  • Withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq but retain enough political leverage on the GOI to ensure a unified, sovereign Iraq outside the Iranian orbit
  • However, the refusal of the GOI to enter into a “status of forces” agreement with the U.S. led to a total withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, which then led to
  • A complete loss of leverage over the GOI, and its future policies, both domestic and foreign
consequences for u s veterans of service during the long war
Consequences for U.S. Veterans of Service during the “Long War”
  • Casualties are lower in COIN than in maneuver warfare, thus almost no in-theater “combat fatigue”
  • The ratio of wounded to killed is (thankfully) higher in post-9/11 conflicts than even in Vietnam
  • However, more men are permanently physically disabled by horrific wounds, creating long-term justice/equity issues
  • Both legal and illegal killings of civilians seem to be a major factor in high rates of post-traumatic stress to vets
  • However, in post-9/11 conflicts casualties seem not to have the domestic political impact they had during Vietnam
from 1952 niebuhr speaks to 2013
From 1952, Niebuhr Speaks to 2013
  • “[Americans] ...understand the neat logic of either economic reciprocity or the show of pure power. But we are mystified by the endless complexities of human motives, and the varied compounds of ethnic loyalties, cultural traditions, social hopes, envies and fears which enter into the policies of nations, and which lie at the foundation of their political cohesion.” (41)