Monday, July 02, 2007

Missed Opportunity

This article (opinion) from the Armed Forces Journal.
An examination of U.S. military operations in Iraq reveals several deficient policies. And although there is no guarantee that a change in these tactics would have assured stability in Iraq, ignoring these omissions will increase the likelihood of replicating our experiences in Iraq and elsewhere in future conflicts.
One specific policy would make a major difference, but it has not been previously understood or widely advocated: using indigenous personnel for a greater amount of the contracted defense logistics. This is an essential method of ensuring stability and security in a post-conflict environment. By using indigenous contractors in support of coalition forces in Iraq, several positive improvements would be made for coalition forces and the Iraqi population.

Stability and support operations are not new phenomena. Since nations and societies began engaging in wars of conquest, armies that conquered territory needed to pacify the people and make the newly gained territory suitable to produce benefits for the conquerors. Rome installed governors and demanded tribute; the modern imperial powers (Britain, France and Spain) established colonies and repressed the populations. Repressive methods are no longer acceptable, and the most successful approach to stability and support operations has been to interact with the conquered population. In post-war Germany and Japan, many of the needed supplies were procured locally, rebuilding the German and Japanese economies. In the present context, the U.S. needed to rebuild infrastructure and civil society after the liberation of Iraq to stabilize and democratize that country. Stability and support operations are the methods by which the U.S. attempts to achieve this goal.

In recent testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Toby Dodge of the Institute for International Strategic Studies articulated how the U.S. arrived at its current situation in Iraq. He identified the removal of the power of the state, its bureaucracies and its military as an enforcement mechanism as the leading cause of the insurgency. The state failure in Iraq has led to a complete breakdown of civil society and fostered civil, ethnic and sectarian strife that has made stability and reconstruction a dim prospect. The lack of basic services or police to protect citizens has increased lawlessness and politically motivated violence. It is because the Iraqis lost other alternatives to ensure their safety and the safety of their families that they decided to become criminals or join militias.

That's a difficult one to state without a great deal of reservation.

First there is the problem of who would provide the logistical support. It has been quite evident that the only groups at the start of the peace with the ability to provide those levels of logistical support were mainly former Baathist party members who frankly had no reason to assist. This also raises the topic of corruption that has been railed against in the MSM, though is not an uncommon method of business in Iraq.

May goes into the problem of logistics and the military structures that didn't exist to take advantage of the locals.
Defense logistics has always been a complex and demanding task for the military. Over the past few decades, it has become fashionable for the military to contract many elements of its logistical requirements to private companies. As we analyze defense logistics and its role in stability and support operations, we seek to understand whether different methods of procuring defense logistics are able to develop economic infrastructure in post-conflict operations. To answer this question, we must ask three supporting questions:

• Does the U.S. military require external logistical contracting?

• Can Iraqi contractors conduct work similar to U.S. companies?

• Will the effect of contracting with indigenous companies be beneficial for the local community?

The military must be ready at a moment's notice for any situation imaginable. Developing a system of logistics to support a force that can go anywhere in the world is complex and costly. Moreover, a typical military operation requires more logistical support than combat forces. Combat forces are mobilized and deployed at a faster rate than logistics forces; logistics forces take much longer to get to a theater of operations because of their lower priority and greater space requirements. To counter this burden, the military developed a program for each branch of the armed services under which private companies can provide logistical support for contingency operations anywhere in the world.

The supply of our personnel is where I part ways with the use of local suppliers. There is a great deal of built in risk with that methodology. Partially because the troops require a level of stable provisioning that likely cannot be provided locally, but also there needs to be a way to address threats from the local insurgencies trying to kill the troops. No doubt some amounts of logistics can be provided. Building materials and refuse removal being simple examples.
Iraqi companies and contractors would not have been able to meet the requirements from Day One, but an evolutionary development of logistical networks within Iraq could have been implemented. This effort could have begun with small contracts for nonperishable goods and services, such as laundry and bottled water, that then would increase in scope and size as Iraqi contractors showed their proficiency and professionalism. Building up the economic networks that the invasion destroyed would have rebuilt economic infrastructure and brought money into the local community.
Hmm. Personally, I doubt I'd be very happy drinking water provided by the locals. Cleanliness requirements aren't controlled even in this country, how would you assure them from a provider in Iraq? Just one shipment of bad or intentionally tampered with water would be sufficient to kill or dramatically harm a large number of service people. Professionalism is a nice spin word, but isn't relevant when you have an intensely interested party trying to kill you by any means possible. I'd even be reticent toward having laundry services.

No doubt May has an overall point of the use of local logistics for providing economic relief and incentives. The issue must be more carefully controlled when you're addressing supplies that directly impact the health and therefore the life of the troops.

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