Form follows function
Bill Roggio's experience with Military Transition Teams in Habbaniya highlights how crucial mission selection and rules of engagement are in setting directions in Iraq. Regarding the question of setting directions, Roggio's post is full of amazement at how much money is used in efforts that have no obvious operational impact while so little is available for certain crucial operations themselves.
During my first embed in December of 2005, I had an odd experience which did not register immediately. After being picked up at Al Asad Air Base by Lieutenant Rob Dolan, then the Public Affairs Officer for Regimental Combat Team – 2, he took me for a tour of the airbase. After about 15 minutes of driving, we were pulled over by a Military Police patrol for speeding on the empty desert roads of the airbase. While the trigger pullers outside the wire struggled for resources, the Al Asad base commandant had the luxury of devoting Military Policemen to serve as traffic cops in Anbar province.
Large organizations respond to stimuli and the military is probably no exception. Once directed to establish large FOBs, these bases inevitably create a constituency to which the bureaucracy caters; they become goals in themselves. Their improvement and elaboration become, somewhat to the surprise and chagrin of men living in the outposts, the focus of many an officer's life. It is the mission that drives the culture just as surely as form follows function among living organism.
The same dynamic probably applies in shaping rules of engagement in dealing with the enemy.
"We are fighting a Politically Correct war,"said Major Owens. "Specifically, Abu Ghraib has taken exponential importance " in how we approach fighting the insurgency, and has led to an excess in caution in dealing with arrest and detainee issues. The interrogation process has been neutered due to past errors. "PC has filled us with false fear," said Major West. "We treat detainees better than I treated my college roommates."
This absurdity is probably rooted in the organizational behavior as well. Like a gigantic beast prodded in the budgetary testicles by the red-hot iron of adverse publicity, the Green Machine will shy away from what hurts it organizationally. With "catch and detain fraught with organizational peril, "catch and release" becomes the inevitable alternative.
Bill Roggio's experience is an interesting vantage from which to view the "Surge". Will adding more troop numbers make much difference in Iraq? Maybe. Yes, perhaps not as much as changing the way they are used. The slogan that "it isn't how many troops you have but how they are used" is simply a way of saying that the cart must come before the horse. Strategy and objectives should define activity and not the other way around. Activity without a clear goal is effort waiting to be hijacked. Le Clerc must have known, when he headed for Paris in 1944, that missions, like everything else, create constituencies. Once the the process of liberating Paris was underway it acquired a fatal momentum, whatever its military merits. The Surge will never be a replacement for clear goal-setting. The danger to strategic fuzziness is that fuzziness itself may become the mission.