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Thursday, January 12, 2006
U.S. Army criticized ... by U.K. Army...
From today's Guardian:

A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations.
The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics.

What is startling is the severity of his comments - and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them.

American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were "almost unfailingly courteous and considerate". But he says "at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism".

The US army, he says, is imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion and talent. "Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."

Brig Aylwin-Foster says the American army's laudable "can-do" approach paradoxically led to another trait, namely "damaging optimism". Such an ethos, he says, "is unhelpful if it discourages junior commanders from reporting unwelcome news up the chain of command".

But his central theme is that US military commanders have failed to train and educate their soldiers in the art of counter-insurgency operations and the need to cultivate the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

While US officers in Iraq criticised their allies for being too reluctant to use force, their strategy was "to kill or capture all terrorists and insurgents: they saw military destruction of the enemy as a strategic goal in its own right". In short, the brigadier says, "the US army has developed over time a singular focus on conventional warfare, of a particularly swift and violent kind".

Such an unsophisticated approach, ingrained in American military doctrine, is counter-productive, exacerbating the task the US faced by alienating significant sections of the population, argues Brig Aylwin-Foster.

What he calls a sense of "moral righteousness" contributed to the US response to the killing of four American contractors in Falluja in the spring of 2004. As a "come-on" tactic by insurgents, designed to provoke a disproportionate response, it succeeded, says the brigadier, as US commanders were "set on the total destruction of the enemy".

He notes that the firing on one night of more than 40 155mm artillery rounds on a small part of the city was considered by the local US commander as a "minor application of combat power". Such tactics are not the answer, he says, to remove Iraq from the grip of what he calls a "vicious and tenacious insurgency".

Brig Aylwin-Foster's criticisms have been echoed by other senior British officers, though not in such a devastating way. General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the army, told MPs in April 2004 as US forces attacked Falluja: "We must be able to fight with the Americans. That does not mean we must be able to fight as the Americans."
There's more. Read the rest here. And read Aylwin-Foster's full report here.

This criticism, while unsettling in its own right, raises the question of what happened to Donald Rumsfeld's vaunted "transformation" of the U.S. military? Seymour Hersh has written much about Rumsfeld's disdain for the Army and its old school tactics of conventional warfare (pooh-poohing overwhelming force, armored vehicles and body armor and all that old-fashioned stuff...) but what has Rummy done to adapt the "military he went to war with" to the insurgency he's got?

This is just one opinion by a British officer, arguably no expert on the U.S. military. But the British are viewing the U.S. military in the theater, and some of his criticism, particularly about the officer corps, are echoed at places like the web-site of the late Col. David Hackworth, (fitting tribute here) who himself constantly criticized the way U.S. forces were being trained and utilized in Iraq, and who famously called Rummy an "asshole" who totally screwed up the war planning -- with much of Hack's info coming from U.S. troops in Iraq ...

Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Military
posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
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