Iraq, Afghanistan, and the controversy of “The New U.S. Army”

by kris bishop on June 26, 2009

Caldwell_cover_small The U.S. Army Stability Operations Field Manual, published by the University of Michigan Press, signals a stark departure from traditional military doctrine. In doing, it has led to a divided response on the U.S. Army’s fundamental role in overseas operations at this critical moment in history. Click here to read more about the U.S. Army Stability Operations Field Manual.

See below for commentary from both sides of the issue and let us know what you think.

“More in sorrow than in anger, I see the utopian social engineering craze might affect actions of people with guns. I am sad for Iraqis and Afghans that the U.S. Army is operating in their countries guided by such misguided ideas…Who is going to do all this? The US Army is going to be assisted by other US government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, international and region organizations and the private sector, i.e people who have different approaches, different objectives, different incentives, and answer to different bosses, with no credible mechanism for coordination (the Manual suggests a “Civil-Military Operations Center”) The danger is that, if put into practice, such delusions create excessive ambition, which creates excessive use of military force, which kills real human beings, Afghans and Iraqis.”

“On his NYU Post, in which Easterly takes on the new U.S. Army Stability Operations Manual for being too utopian and exemplifying a tendency toward “social engineering” gone awry, I think his analysis is mistaken…The Army has learned the hard way that the failure to prepare for the intensely political machinations of war can cost both military and civilian lives. It was apparent within days after the fall of Baghdad in April of 2003, that navigating the political landscape of Iraq would become paramount for any consolidation of the operational successes that had just occurred. U.S. political leaders failed to understand too. Over and over again, accounts during the next few years in Iraq, revealed how many young captains, majors and lieutenant colonels had to learn on the ground, under fire, literally, as they sought to figure out the murky politics of getting Iraqis to stop killing each other. Yes, we could have just left, but most agreed that a bloodbath would have ensued – an outcome that was not in U.S. interests. This manual reflects the Army’s first effort, in a long, long time, to institutionalize lessons related to the political challenges inherent in any war. It reflects an understanding that wars are not just about force on force combat, but fundamentally about politics.”

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