Too long to post (four pages), Ricks (Washington Post Military Correspondant)has set the discussion terms of an outstanding topic, long overdue. Ricks suggests that the broader lessons of Vietnam WEREN'T adequately absorbed by our military in the intervening years. So too, the lessons of Algeria are highlighted as the second most relevant example of our diffuse interpretations.
Did we learn from Vietnam? Certainly, many valid war-fighting lessons were taken for infantry and artillery forces at the tactical and operational level of conventional war, from corps down to squad. Fieldcraft, camoflauge, individual fire and movement skills, marksmanship, controlling fires, small unit TTPs for low-intensity conventional combat operations-both urban and rural/semi-rural, etc. All valuable, but the higher order lessons seem unlearned, in retrospect. Our senior political and military leaders have again failed our troops.
How can you win, and STILL lose? As suggested, by having your tactics correct, but your strategy wrong. Reversed, and the battle is winnable by correcting your tactics. Postured by a poor strategic objective (the insurgent), the tactics don't stand a chance.
Consider. Our infantry are absolutely expert now in small unit patrols of urban/semi-urban environments. They are disciplined in their use of all fires, adept at identifying IEDs, and aggressive in their pursuit of identified attackers. Finally, their behavior to the Iraqi people, I believe, is generally correct to excellent, given our past history. In short, a fine job by our conventional forces, operating in small, often adhoc units. In short, seeking contact with the enemy while trying to be as polite as possible while doing so.
But their target- the "enemy". Essentially Ricks, in a grander analogy, is suggesting bluntly that we've missed the forest for the trees in misconstruing our objectives. Critical early command mistakes, from the failure to appreciate the threat offered by the insurgency by August, 2003, to the cancellation of certain U.S. units scheduled for deployment, inappropriately conceived force replacement policies, easily anticipated language deficiencies not forecasted, etc.
Anyway, the series appears to highlight most of the mistakes which have brought us here in July, 2006. Bit of a ramble, to be sure, but a review of our mission would seem to be in order.