YOUR SYSTEM ADMINISTRATION FORCE CANNOT HAVE FEET OF CLAY
Much has been written about the immense difficulties experienced by the U.S military in occupying Iraq and defeating the multifaceted Iraqi insurgency. While tactics, politics and civilian leadership have all come under fire, most critics have zeroed in on having insufficient numbers of troops
, blaming in particular Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
and then Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
for overruling Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki's
recommendation for a much larger invasion force. As it turned out, Saddam's much-feared but ramshackle regime probably could have been toppled by a lower numbers of troops closer to what had been advocated by Wolfowitz but the occupation of Iraq would have been better served by the larger force recommended by Shinseki. Better served but I would argue not well-served
. Numbers alone are not the whole story - something critics and supporters of the war alike have missed entirely.Dr. Barnett
in The Pentagon's New Map
illustrated the "Leviathan" - " System Administration" division of task and structure
that the U.S. military is going to need to adapt to in the 21st century. In Blueprint for Action
, Barnett expounds on the lessons Iraq has had for that conceptual division. They are numerous and I will leave them for my future review of BFA . I will however, add my two cents to the discussion. The overlooked aspect of this debate has been the critical misallocation of skills in Iraq - something that will continue even if the military is re-orged into Sys Admin and Leviathan forces
unless the problem is recognized and taken into account.
Both Sys Admin and Leviathan forces - or any effective military for that matter - require a continuum of skills to function in the field for any extended period of time. Leviathan would have an overall systemic bias toward very high-end and specialized skill-sets but even so it would still need its share of clerks, cooks and humble enlistees to do mundane tasks like delivering the mail, emptying the trash, pulling guard duty and K.P. System Administration, being very human intensive in terms of security and interactivity with locals, requires a far larger number of personnel to perform low-end skill tasks that while not very glamorous, in the aggregate, if left undone, will create mission failure, low morale and numerous situational hazards. Sys Admin has its high-end skill slots to be sure, particularly in engineering and logistics, but the ratios are skewed differently than with Leviathan.
In Iraq the United States has a high-end skill-set military force configured structurally to destroy other great power conventional militaries attempting to do Sys Admin work while simultaneously waging a counterinsurgency war. We are not simply short " X" number of boots - though more boots would help - we have local commanders cannibalizing their highly skilled experts in a seat-of-the pants manner to do the mundane tasks needed to simply keep the unit functioning as a military force. We are short on the low-end skills and this is creating massive systemic ineffiencies, essentially diseconomies of scale. One contact of mine who served in Iraq doing some rather dangerous field work during the CPA period first as a USG official then as a private contractor, put it this way:"...The US Army is horrible understaffed,there are 33% of the interrogators in the military as there were 10 years ago and there weren't enough then. The army is short in nearly every manning position so if a commander happens to have an interrogator there is not guarantee that they will be working in that capacity, they may well be a mail clerk because the unit doesn't have enough of them either."
The absence of a robust amount of low end but vital support personnel are part of the problem and one not solved by getting more of the same. Or by hiring a legion of private contractors to to freelance problems as best they can. You don't use Navy SEALS to do bodyguard duty, you don't want psychological warfare experts supervising the motor pool. Any economist looking at what the military is doing or is forced to do with it's people would predict a series of negative outcomes as the effects of inefficiency begin to accumulate.
High-end skill-set personnel will do low-end jobs for a time, to pitch-in and help as it were, but in the end they get sick of being misused and leave the service, taking their valuable skills elsewhere.