RANGER AGAINST WAR: Operational Success: DOA <

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operational Success: DOA

What are you fighting for?
It's not my security
--Broken English
, Maryanne Faithfull

Why do something just for the sake of doing it to show face,
when it doesn't have any tactical value?
--Dogs and Ponies, "Gruntshit," The Sandbox (3/21/08)

But tactical victory did not translate

to operational success

--WWII Magazine
, April/May 2008

--VP Dick Cheney, on being told 2/3 of Americans
favor withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan

The statement from WWII Magazine grabbed my attention. The German 11th Panzer on the Chir River in December '42 fought against the odds, defeating large enemy formations. But those successes were not translated into operational successes, as the Germans had lost the strategic ability to impose their will upon the enemy.

They are parallels with Iraq and Afghanistan, but of course, neither of the latter are actual theatre Army scenarios which see conventional forces arrayed for classic ground combat. Both countries are unconventional/guerrilla warfare (UW/GW) arenas and as such operational success will not be measured by conventional yardsticks such as destruction of enemy forces and the ability and will of the enemy to engage in meaningful operations.

In fact, simply defining who or what the enemy is can be a difficult task in both scenarios. Moreover, defining the mission seems even more difficult than defining the enemy, and a clearly-defined mission statement should be the first step in any military operation.

Regardless of the nature of a conflict -- whether conventional or UW -- the mission statement lays out what the engaged troops are expected to achieve. What does success entail -- does it smell like napalm in the morning, or will it be a quiet walk in the bazaar for visiting senators?
Today's parallel with 1942 is the current inability to translate tactical successes into operational successes.

The difficulty is defining a mission that [1] entails destruction of al-Qaeda, [2] establishes functioning governments AND [3] instills democracy. That is a mish-mash. Such missions are not and can not be stated in a military manner. The destruction of al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the battlefield sounds easy ("mission accomplished"), but it doesn't translate so neatly into operational success.

You can kill the people fighting you, but you can not force them to love America or the phony puppet regimes established solely via our combat power. There is no meaningful military way to describe operational success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you can't describe it, you can't achieve it. What one sees is the entire U.S. Army pissing up a rope.

Without a doubt, the U.S. Army is performing admirably at the Battalion and Company level. The Brigades and Divisions are performing their assigned missions. But to borrow Mr. Cheney's unfortunate interrogative--"So?"

Operational success accrues to theatre armies and echelons above corps (EAC). The captains are successfully fighting their Companies, so too Battalion, Brigade and Division Commanders. But how is that winning an unquantifiable, undefinable war lacking a clear definition of what success would entail?

The German 11th Armor defeated an entire Russian tank army, but Stalingrad was not relieved and everyone knows how it ended. In the U.S. involvements in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. dominated the military equation yet there is today a North Korea and a united Communist Vietnam. Close to 100,000 Americans died for those illusions. Now 4,000 have died for the current fiction that these countries are essential struggles in the survival of the U.S.

If tactical successes can't be translated into operational opportunities, then these were all meaningless exercises in futility.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Will said...

First, allow me to say that I enjoy your blog. Your insight into most of the current "events" is right on, in my opinion.

To succeed in a mission, the goals must be laid out. What are the goals in this war at any avenue? To "win the hearts"? How would any American react to an invasion from a foreign nation? And to then expect us to change our views?

Our military is doing their job, and that is, to kill those who wish to kill them. Hell, I have friends who have come back and still refuse to talk about their actions.

The one thing we can't forget is that Saddam Hussein had a blatent disregard for Al Qaeda, or any religious groups. He never dealt with them, period. Never were there weapons trades, no affiliations. For Christs sake, he didn't even like his sons. Remember all the horrible things they did?

Once that is realized, we see what the Iraq war is really about. Ego. Revenge. Oil. Power. Showmanship.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 9:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thank you for your comment and kind words.

Reading between the lines I would guess that you are a vet and could share your experiences. If you wish to do so, feel free to contact us. All private email stays private; we only publish what you write to the blog.

Please don't forget in your laundry list that we are fighting EVIL. lol

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 10:28:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Will said...


You have no need to thank me. Hell, you're the one who is giving insight to the people who need. If only more would listen.

Kind sir, I am not a veteran. While I have had a certain amount of military training on the civilian side thanks to an ROTC program and an amount thereafter, I would never want to infringe on those men who have served.

As you said, we are fighting an evil. Yet, as you know, there is a certain evil that must be dealt with accordingly. While I admit Hussein did horrible things, there are far worse countries in the world who make him look like a child in comparision. I see Bush Jr's result an act of vengeance, instead of one of punishment. Revenge, in my opinion, isn't a valid choice.

Thank you for your time, Ranger.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 11:05:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

here's the thing to remember about iraq. first and foremost: our current policy and strategy, along with the tactics are straight out of saddam's playbook. he armed local militias and paid them off to patrol and control the neighborhoods. he cleared whole cities and regions of insurgents and installed his own minions and pet militias. he bought peace in dyala province the same way that fucking acclaimed genius of REMFs petraeus is doing. so what has really changed in iraq? first off, five years into this we haven't gotten the damage from the invasion cleaned up. the water is not safe, not even for us, the electricity grid is fubar and not rebuilt.

after gulf1 saddamn's people had the electricty grid and the sewage system fixed and running in 41 days. they had already rebuilt 115 bridges and highways in less than two months.

what do we have working in iraq?

oil. the oil delivery system is running at about 60%. the 40% shortfall covers both system disruption and plain old looting.

of course, without a revenue sharing system, most of the iraqi share is going into swiss and cayman accounts and halliburton is making more off it than anybody in iraq.

basra is exploding right now. it is the only industrial point of shipping for iraqi oil. of course, anything that gets to sea still has to sail past hormuz which the iranians can close with conventional artillery, which they already have emplaced.

so, even with an acceptable flow of oil to the port. the ships got no where to go safely.

if we bomb iran the first thing that a reasonable military man would do is take basra, thereby totally choking off the only way to get the only thing in iraq worth fighting about to market.

own basra, own the nation.

muktada al-sadr fucking owns basra.

al-maliki and the "government" forces have fled their HQ there. they are beating feet back to bagdhad where al-sadr's people have declared a general strike, and have fought the americans to a standstill in sadr city.

shit meets fan, results as expected.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 12:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Your observations on the port city of Basra are spot-on. FUBAR describes everything perfectly.

You mention Saddam's timely fix of the destroyed / damaged infrastructure. Two problems today: everyone that was capable of public service has fled the country, or they are dead. Alternately, they are holed up and afraid to emerge and offer their services, or unwilling to collaborate with the Americans.

There is no replacing those assets. The profits being detoured to Haliburton can not overcome that loss.

If the oil would flow as smoothly as your able play-by-play of events, we'd have no troubles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 5:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


You are correct--there are "evils" throughout the world, far in excess of what we have invested in the person of Saddam. Some of those evils we call allies.

For the second time in as many days, poor Ranger's humor falls flat. I reject, as you, the simplistic construction that this is a campaign vs. evil.

As you say, it is revenge at best; at worst, cold and callous profiteering stepping on casualties.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 6:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the constant whine of the convential force leaders in a counterinsurgency campaign is the "they won't come out and fight us man to man!" well, petraeus got his wish didn't he? he's been in a stand up fight for nearly five days now and hasn't budged the mahdi army a block. he has lost control of the city of kut, he's been beaten in basra.

it took him two days of over 60 bodies a day to notice that his cease fire was a shambles.

it's a good thing they fired fallon at centcom. he would have sacked his remf ass by now.

in counterinsurgency, in occupation, in invasion, if you aren't winning, and winning decisively, you've lost.

petraeus = loser.

he's only the last of a long line though. there will be another loser after him. they'll probably wait for a lull long enough to safely transfer him to a training command or something so they can save his ass and face and career.

sheesh...if they do a good enough ass covering and saving job he'll probably run in 2012.

i'm buying stock in pepto bismol.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 12:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Remember, I was against Petraeus when everyone was singing his praises. He is a conventional soldier whom they are trying to portray as a COIN expert. He is, however, the closest they could find.

In addition, the SOF forces are not COIN experts b/c we have converted them into direct action troops. As such, their UW/GW skills have died on the vine. These facts add up to the scenario of the last five days.

I find it intriguing that we have OAC, CGSC, War College and all the various staff colleges in the military which teach technical and tactical topics on military opns., yet we forget it all when faced with unique situations.

Iraq and Afghanistan are not new types of war. As you point out regularly, they are variations on very old themes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 5:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


My fear is that the little COIN outposts become isolated and destroyed piecemeal IF there is a general Tet-type scenario. I see this as distinctly possible if not probable.

Having units out of mutually supporting posture is insanity in urban settings. Think Blackhawk Down. This is an example of ignoring history and prudent military precepts taught to even squad leaders.

Even a new cherry 2LT wouldn't employ a platoon w/o providing for mutual support and interlocking fires. Nor should a legion be split when facing the Gauls or Germania. It's a recipe for disaster, and you and I know that in war it will be exploited and at the worst possible moment.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 5:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

it shouldn't take a couple of beat up old SOG grunts more than a couple of minutes to figure this one out.

i saw some google earth photos of sadr city and thought "that's hue with fangs."

petraeus just ordered in the fast movers...gonna destroy basra to save it or some shit like that.

(i must admit, the single most welcome thing i ever heard on a radio was an a-6 jockey coming in low and hard who shouted "ever'body on mah side duck NOW!" before unleashing napalm)

one of the things that really gets my back up is when i hear folks talk about "this is a different war." they've obviously never read thucydides, homer, or xenophon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 6:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


"Hue with fangs"--yeah, what a great description, sadly. The air power Petraeus has available would be negated if the Iraqis have a general coordinated strike against our forces. The assets would have to be used on a more controlled basis. Most of those assets would then be required simply to protect the Green Zone.

IMHO, the Sadrists have been using the cease-fire to prepare Hezbollah-style bunkers in their neighborhoods. As we saw in the Battle of Khe Sanh, massive aerial bombardment was utilized to kill a lot of lizards.

Proper bunkers will protect from everything, except B-52 strikes. As you said, you must destroy the city to save it. Vive la People's Democratic Republique gryphon.

At best, this is a damaging overreaction; at worst, this is our effort to ratchet it back up to ensure the troop drawdown will remain a fantasy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 7:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Our tactics are based upon the hubris that our enemies are too incompetent our weaknesses.

Again, think Tet. Has our current military forgotten so soon about Hue and Tet and Mogadishu? If they have, they shouldn't have forgotten about the last Israeli effort vs. Hezebollah.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 7:17:00 PM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home