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Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario

Authored by Dr. Conrad C. Crane, Dr. W. Andrew Terrill. | February 2003

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Summary

During the latter half of the 20th century, U.S. military leaders and planners focused heavily on winning wars, and not so much on the peacekeeping or nation-building that comes afterwards. But national objectives can often be accomplished only after the fighting has ceased. With the winds of war swirling around Iraq, it is time to begin planning for the post-conflict reconstruction of that state. This monograph presents some historical insights from past occupations and peace operations, provides some additional analysis of the unique requirements involved in remaking Iraq, and, most importantly, develops a detailed list of potential tasks to help contemporary military commanders plan for post-conflict operations there.

Most analysts and commentators focus on World War II for insights about occupying states and replacing regimes. Clearly, the American experience with occupations after major wars provides valuable insights about the importance of long and detailed planning for such missions, and about just how difficult demilitarization and democratization can be, even under the best of conditions. The world has changed a great deal since 1945, however. The experiences of the 1990s are generally more relevant to shape post-conflict operations in Iraq. They reveal past inadequacies in Army planning and preparation, and the difficulties in finding competent and resourced civilian agencies to assume responsibilities from the military. Recent experiences also show that even when the Army plans and performs well in a post-crisis environment, as it did in Haiti, strategic success is not guaranteed. That state quickly reverted back to chaos when military forces left.

Iraq presents far from ideal conditions for achieving strategic goals. Saddam Hussein is the culmination of a violent political culture that is rooted in a tortured history. Ethnic, tribal, and religious schisms could produce civil waror fracture the state after Saddam is deposed. The Iraqi Army may be useful as a symbol of national unity, but it will take extensive reeducation and reorganization to operate in a more democratic state. Years of sanctions have debilitated the economy and created a society dependent on the UN Oil for Food Program. Rebuilding Iraq will require a considerable commitment of American resources, but the longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop.

The monograph concludes by developing and describing a phased array of tasks that must be accomplished to create and sustain a viable state. The 135 tasks are organized into 21 categories, and rated as ?essential,? ?critical,? or ?important? for the commander of coalition military forces. They are then projected across four phases of transition? Security, Stabilize, Build Institutions, and Handover/ Redeploy?to reflect which governmental, nongovernmental, and international organizations will be involved in execution during each phase. To reduce the amount of resentment about the occupation in Iraq and the surrounding region, it is essential that military forces handover responsibilities to civilian agencies as soon as practicable.They, in turn, should relinquish control fairly quickly to the Iraqis, though not until well-defined coalition measures of effectiveness have been achieved for each task.

The U.S. Army has been organized and trained primarily to fight and win the nation?s major wars. Nonetheless, the Service must prepare for victory in peace as well.

Introduction

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, detailed Allied planning for the occupation of that nation had been ongoing for 2 years. All staff sections at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces and Army Group headquarters invested considerable resources in developing what became Operation ECLIPSE. The plan correctly predicted most of the tasks required of the units occupying the defeated country. Within 3 months, those formations had disarmed and demobilized German armed forces, cared for and repatriated four million POWs and refugees, restored basic services to many devastated cities, discovered and quashed a potential revolt, created working local governments, and reestablished police and the courts.1

In contrast, LTG John Yeosock, commander of Third Army in Operation DESERT STORM, could get no useful staff support to assess and plan for post-conflict issues like hospital beds, prisoners, and refugees, complaining later that he was handed a ?dripping bag of manure? that no one else wanted to deal with.2 Neither the Army nor the Department of Defense (DoD) had an adequate plan for postwar operations to rebuild Kuwait, and civilian agencies were even more unprepared. The situation was only salvaged by the adept improvisations of Army engineers and civil affairs personnel, and the dedicated efforts of Kuwaiti volunteers and the Saudi Arabian government.3

Some of the deficiencies in postwar planning for DESERT STORM can be attributed to the fact that Third Army was the first American field army in combat since the Korean War. Post- conflict planning historically has been a function of headquarters at echelons above corps, and continuing problems with more recent operations are at least partly attributable to the generally small scale of American interventions. Difficulties also result from the fact that for at least the latter half of the 20th century, U.S. Army leaders and planners focused predominantly on winning wars, not on the peacekeeping or nation-building that comes afterwards. But national objectives can often be accomplished only after the fighting has ceased; a war tactically and operationally ?won? can still lead to strategic ?loss? if post-conflict operations are poorly planned or executed.

With the winds of war swirling around Iraq, it is already past time to begin planning for the post-conflict reconstruction of that state. Many historical insights can be gained from past occupations and peace operations. With some additional analysis of the unique requirements involved in remaking Iraq, a list of potential tasks can be developed to help contemporary military commanders envision what they need to do in order to achieve the effectiveness of Operation ECLIPSE if a lengthy occupation of Iraq is required.

Endnotes

1. MAJ Kenneth O. McCreedy, Planning the Peace: Operation Eclipse and the Occupation of Germany, Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, 1995.

2. John J. Yeosock, remarks in ?What We Should Have Done Differently,? Part II of In the Wake of the Storm: Gulf War Commanders Discuss Desert Storm, Wheaton, IL: Cantigny First Division Foundation, 2000, p. 25.

3. Ibid, p. 29; Janet A. McDonnell, After Desert Storm: The U.S. Army and the Reconstruction of Kuwait, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 1999.