Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Iraqi Army Can't Be Westernized

If we cannot get the highlighted line imprinted in our brains or at least tattooed on the inside of our eyelids we will never be successful at working through and with indigenous or host nation forces.  This is probably our single most problematic weakness with all the concepts of building partner capacity, train advise and assist, organize, train, equip, rebuild and advise, and yes even foreign internal defense.  We have spent the last 14 years believing we could organize and train Afghans and Iraqis and others and yet we have not learned from history and we have tried so hard to create not only militaries in our image but also many other institutions.  We have spent so much time coming up with new concepts with new names and variations on foreign internal defense that have NOT been built on the important history we should have learned long ago and instead we continue to conduct social experiments to try to create armies and governments in our image.  Until we understand and accept the sentence below we will never be able to work effectively with host nation forces.

Can the Iraqis readjust their army to better reflect culture and clan in time for the next offensive? Can the United States commit to an air campaign to rival Desert Storm? Can we provide enough moral and technical support to make all this possible by the beginning of the next campaign season in April and May 2016? I don't know. But I do know that history has been harsh to those who try to build alien armies in their own image. All the American firepower and "boots on the ground" will be for naught unless we allow the Iraqis to fight their war their way.

The Iraqi Army Can't Be Westernized

Arabs fight best in formations organized around familiar groups sharing more than the same national flag.

June 25, 2015 7:10 p.m. ET 
Twenty-four years ago, in June 1991, as American troops began to gear up to invade Iraq, I started writing and researching my book "Certain Victory," the U.S. Army's official history of the Gulf War. I spent nine months reading documents and interviewing soldiers ranging from private to four-star general. I asked one question of everyone: How did the U.S. defeat the world's fourth-largest military in only 100 hours of combat?
The universal answers from the soldiers: We fought with superior equipment, bought by the taxpayers during the Reagan years; our leaders overcame the malaise of Vietnam to build a new volunteer military; the revolutions in training and doctrine of the 1980s proved their worth.
All true. But as I started to write, I knew something was missing. One afternoon at my office I convened a roundtable discussion with some of the most successful operational commanders against Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm. I asked the same question and got the same stock answers. But then one general and dear friend of mine paused for a moment, looked into the air pensively and said: "You know, Bob, Arab armies really can't do this very well. Remember we not only fought an Arab army, we fought with Arab armies, and the Saudis and Syrians weren't any better than Saddam's Republican Guard."
It was a politically incorrect moment to be sure. But after watching nearly a quarter-century of history pass, I must conclude he had a point. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) certainly knew this to be true when he ignored orders from senior British Army officers to make his Saudi Bedouin brothers into a proper conventional force. The Israeli Defense Forces have racked up four wins and zero losses in wars against Arab armies that tried to fight them with Western methods and equipment. Our march to Baghdad in 2003 lasted only three weeks and crushed Iraq's conventional army.
The stark consistency of contemporary history tells us several things as we ponder why the Iraqi military is proving to be so inept in its war against Islamic State. First is the immutable tenet that wars are human endeavors and that culture counts. Arab culture is based on family, tribe and clan. Thus it should come as no surprise that Arabs fight best in formations that are organically grown and organized around familiar groups that share more than the same national flag.
(Continued at the link below)

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