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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part I

Setting the Stage

Chapter 2
The US Army's Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

The US Army’s history during more than two centuries of service to the nation has significantly influenced the way modern American Soldiers see themselves and the way they understand their missions. Throughout its history, the US Army often fulfilled its role of securing the nation by preparing for, conducting, and winning conventional wars. In 2001 the Army reinforced this understanding of its mission by stating in its capstone doctrinal work, Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, “Fighting and winning the nation’s wars is the foundation of Army service—the Army’s non-negotiable contract with the American people and its enduring obligation to the nation.”1 This emphasis on conventional warfighting is driven by the fact that the United States has repeatedly required its Army to organize, train, and deploy large numbers of forces; to conduct conventional combat operations across great distances and for long periods of time; and to defeat the uniformed military forces of other nations.

The heavy demands of conflicts such as World War I, World War II, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war make this focus on conventional warfighting understandable. Indeed, the Army’s efforts during the last 100 years have been focused on preparing for and fighting major conventional wars. It is clear the US Army’s attention to and preparation for conventional conflicts were critical factors in its most recent successes in conventional warfighting—the victory over Iraqi forces in Operation DESERT STORM in 1991 and the lightning campaign against Saddam Hussein’s regime in early 2003. However, in May 2003 when Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) became a “full spectrum” campaign that required the simultaneous use of lethal and nonlethal measures in an attempt to achieve US national objectives, the US Army found itself in a conflict for which it was less than well prepared. (For a complete discussion of full spectrum operations, see the Introduction to this study.)

During its lifetime, the US Army has fought eight foreign wars, one civil war, and the War for Independence. These conflicts traditionally garnered the most attention from Soldiers as well as from the American public due to the critical security issues and foreign policy goals at stake. Remarkably, since 1798 the American military forces have also conducted approximately 320 operations that cannot be characterized as conventional wars.2 Put simply, the American military establishment in general, and the US Army specifically, have a long, well-established, and multifaceted history of conducting missions that do not feature conventional combat. These conflicts, taken as a group, have dominated the Army’s historical record, even though they have not dominated its culture and training focus.3

In 2003 both the Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Doctrine and the Army’s FM 3-0 described these conflicts using the term “military operations other than war” (MOOTW).4 In the past, American Soldiers have identified these types of campaigns using a variety of other names, including small wars, contingency operations, and low-intensity conflict. Regardless of their official classification, MOOTW normally included one or more of the following missions: peacekeeping, peace enforcement, security assistance, humanitarian assistance, foreign internal defense (including counterinsurgency), and counterterrorism.

This chapter will examine the Army’s experience in these conflicts, using the term “stability and support operations” to describe the wide variety of noncombat tasks conducted by Soldiers within those conflicts.* Stability and support operations are two of the four categories of military actions that together comprise full spectrum operations, the others being offensive and defensive operations. These four types of actions are employed in varying sequential or simultaneous combinations to accomplish the mission, while a single type may predominate in particular places or times.5 The discussion that follows will focus on important historical examples (including those from the recent past) to understand the attitudes, experiences, and preparation American Soldiers brought into the new campaign in Iraq. It will also look closely at the evolution of US Army doctrine, training, and planning for these types of missions, ultimately explaining how all of these factors shaped the planning for postinvasion operations in Iraq.

*Because of its common usage in recent years, changes to doctrinal definitions, and its importance to understanding and assessing Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the precise meaning of the term “stability and support operations” will be further examined in the section that covers planning for OIF.


Chapter 2. The US Army’s Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

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