World of India!: BLINK and you lose - the U.S Army's debacle in the Iraq War e

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BLINK and you lose - the U.S Army's debacle in the Iraq War

The mighty U.S defence machine will gobble up $532.8 BILLION dollars, in 2007. For such a well funded outfit, it seems to be doing remarkably poorly in Iraq, given that the insurgents number a few thousand and operate with weapons which can only be described as crude, compared to the sophisticated machinery used by the U.S forces.'The Hindu' reports the U.S generals as saying that their army is "outwitted" in Iraq.

Some excerpts from the news item
:


In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan "as smart, agile and cunning.By contrast, the U.S. military is said to have been slow to respond to the challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of engagement and turn them against U.S. forces, and quickly disseminate ways of destroying or disabling armoured vehicles. The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups because of their "flat" command structure within collaborative networks of small groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.Other officers said coalition rules of engagement were being used against the forces fighting the insurgency. "They know when we can and cannot shoot, and use that against us," said one officer, reflecting the comments of U.S. soldiers in the field. Another said recent video footage of an ambush on a convoy, posted on the Internet, was evidence that insurgents were filming incidents to teach other groups about American counter-measures."

All this is well known and already in the Public realm. So why am I repeating it? The reason is that the above news item reminded me of a chapter in Malcom Gladwell's latest book 'Blink'. In it Gladwell describes Paul Van Riper,a retired U.S army officer and a celebrated Vietnam vet being drafted in by the U.S Joint forces command (JFCOM) in planning a war game in 2000. The Pentagon spent a fortune on planning this war game which was going to be the most sophisticated and comprehensive war game in the Pentagons history. Paul was drafted to lead the opposition and be the rebel army leader in the Middle East. Paul opposition in the war game , the U.S team (known a a the Blue team in the war game) was given a sophisticated information system called the Operational Net Assessment, which according to Gladwell " broke the enemy down into a series of military, economic, social, political systems and then created a matrix showing how all these systems were inter-related and which links among these systems were the most vulnerable. The Blue team was also given a tool called the Effects-based operations, which directed them to think the conventional method of targeting and destroying an adversaries target. They were given a Comprehensive Relevant Operational Picture (CROP). They were given a tool for joint interactive planning. They were given an unprecedented amount if information and intelligence from every corner of the U.S Govt. and a methodology that was logistical and systematic and rational and rigorous.Paul's army on the other hand had roughly the same toys that the Iraqi insurgents have today.

The outcome?Red team (Paul's army) knocked the pants of the Blue team (U.S Army) by taking them by surprise in a series of guerrilla attacks and improvising. Ex: When the rebels came to know that their communications were being monitored, they used couriers on motorcycles. When the Blue team shut off systems for Paul's army to launch planes, he used a forgotten WWII technique to enable him to do so. Paul's army won the war game because they were - yes - smart, agile and cunning, with a flat command structure and ability to use the U.S army's known processes against them.

In the end a severely embarrassed Pentagon organized a second series in which they restricted Paul's army so much, that the Blue Team had to win. In essence the second round was rigged to create a false victory for JFCOM and its Operational Net Assessment Tool. Just in the same way that the CIA was to shortly present a series of reports which were 'touched up' or 're-interpreted' in a way which completely altered their meaning. The reports stated that Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (which has been subsequently proved as a totally false acccusation) and that in turn, became the pretext to launch a full scale invasion.

But the perils of ignoring the lessons from that war game in 2000, have come back to haunt the Pentagon and its mean war machine. Much in the same way as the political fallout of the military defeat in Iraq has severely tarnished President Bush's political legacy and the reputation of the U.S forever, in the eyes of the world.

What goes around, comes around.

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