U.S. technology, inept enemy led to Iraq victory, Army says

Next conflict might not be so easy, report warns

October 13, 2003|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The combined effect of U.S. technological superiority and an incompetent Iraqi military was the primary reason for the quick victory over Saddam Hussein's forces, according to a draft Army study of lessons learned in the Iraq war.

As a result, the authors caution against using the war as a model for planning future conflicts against more determined and capable foes.

It "would be dangerous to assume Iraqi-style scenarios as the future norm," the study said.

The Army study, led by Stephen Biddle, a professor of strategic studies at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., is not in final form. A senior Army officer warned against drawing firm conclusions yet.

Still, the preliminary judgments made by Biddle and a six-member team of military officers and academics coincide with the findings of a number of defense analysts, who point to the advantages of fighting a third-rate enemy such as Iraq. The analysts have also questioned whether the Iraq victory can serve as a model for future battlefields.

A slide presentation of the draft Army study, dated Aug. 18 and based on 176 interviews with Army, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel, as well as British military participants and Iraqi prisoners, was obtained by The Sun.

Officials at the Army War College declined to discuss the draft report, saying that work is continuing and that the final version will likely be released in the next few months.

"I do expect there's going to be some alterations," said a senior Army officer, who requested anonymity. He declined to say whether the draft report's key findings would change.

The lessons learned from any conflict are important, defense analysts and military officers say, because they provide potentially valuable insights about future wars, and help determine how forces are organized and trained and what weapons systems are bought.

In some important ways, the Army's study appears at odds with the Pentagon's broader study of lessons learned from the war, which found that the exceptional teamwork that officials say was displayed by the four military branches was the main reason for victory. The Army's report played down the effects of interservice teamwork, known in the Pentagon as "joint operations" or "jointness."

Titled "Iraq and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy," the Army's preliminary report found "little evidence" that the victory in Iraq "is attributable to a significant increase in jointness."

Instead, the combined effect of advanced U.S. technology and "Iraqi ineptitude" was the "key determinant," the report said.

Had the Iraqis decided to mount a skilled defense in their cities, such action would have blunted the U.S. technological edge in weaponry and surveillance systems, the draft said.

"Without Iraqi ineptitude, even 2003 technology could not have enabled a force this size to prevail at this cost," the draft said. Against an "adept enemy," the authors said, "results could be very different."

Biddle is a respected researcher who last fall completed a study of U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

The Army official said he expected the Army's report in its final form to be more in line with the Pentagon's study, which was led by Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

Giambastiani, who is overseeing preparation of the Pentagon's official report, told Congress last week that his study of the war found that the main reason for victory was the increase in joint operations, such as Marine ground units calling in airstrikes from Air Force planes. The study is not complete, but key findings were presented to lawmakers and reporters.

"Our forces operated at a new level of jointness forged through continuous operations," creating "a new joint way of war" that leverages knowledge, speed, precision and lethality, the admiral told the House Armed Services Committee.

One of the admiral's top aides, Army Brig Gen. Robert Cone, said later at the Pentagon that the study was based on more than 600 interviews during the war with military leaders.

"When I say, `What's the big lesson?' the word is jointness from key commanders across the board," Cone said.

Some Pentagon officials dismissed any differences with the Army and said the service's draft report offered a more narrow look at the victory in Iraq - focusing largely on the ground war - while the research conducted by Joint Forces Command provided a more comprehensive view.

"The jointness of this campaign and the essential contributions that jointness made to the speed and success of major combat operations constitute two of the most consistent observations made by the senior leaders who directed [the U.S.-led invasion] at the operational level," said Navy Capt. Greg Smith, a spokesman for Joint Forces Command.

Some independent analysts, without minimizing the importance of joint operations, say the key to toppling Hussein in three weeks was his ineffectual military and security forces.

"The important lesson is, if you want to win quickly and decisively, go fight an incompetent enemy," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.

"Inept adversaries do not teach very clear lessons," added Thompson, saying that such lessons "might not work against China."

Andrew F. Krepinevich, a retired Army colonel and a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, found in his study of the war, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: A First Blush Assessment," released last month, that the U.S. military's performance "may have been surpassed by the stunning ineptitude of its Iraqi adversary."

In an interview, Krepinevich said the "real question [for the U.S. military] is what can this force do against North Korea?"

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