Mansoor discusses missed Iraq opportunities
January 30, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan., Jan. 29, 2009 - The first director of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center returned to Fort Leavenworth Jan. 22 to speak as part of the Marshall Hall Lecture series at the Command and General Staff College.
Dr. Pete Mansoor focused his lecture on the lessons learned about the early missed opportunities in Iraq and his view of the development of the Iraq surge and how things turned around during his time as Gen. David Petraeus\' executive officer in Iraq.
"I have to say this is, without a doubt, the toughest crowd I have faced in speaking about Iraq, as many of you have been there and you have your own experiences," Mansoor said.
Mansoor, now the Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University, said leaders went into the war with ideas of it being similar to other wars the U.S. had fought.
"It quickly became apparent ... that we had opened up fissures in Iraqi society and, that by eliminating the government that had kept tabs on the Iraqi state for more than three decades, that we had unleashed forces that at the time were not well understood," Mansoor said.
He said the fundamental error the administration made was trying to fight the war they wanted to fight, rather than the war they were faced with.
"The assumption was that it would be a war of liberation - that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms," Mansoor said.
Mansoor said it was also assumed that the state infrastructure would remain relatively intact once Sadaam Hussein was removed and that once a government was back into place, the war would be over.
"These assumptions should have been re-examined by the summer of 2003 at the latest," Mansoor said. "And, they were not."
What happens after a regime collapses is more important than getting to that point, Mansoor said. In discussing counterinsurgency operations, he said there is a fundamental strategic question that has to be asked before designing a campaign.
"What is the center of gravity'" Mansoor asked. "Is it the enemy forces or is it the population'"
Mansoor said it is not always the population nor is an enemy-centric approach always correct. If the population is the key, the counterinsurgent force must secure or control the people to prevent insurgents from gaining their support, he said.
"Secure or control, that does not mean winning their hearts and minds," Mansoor said. "That means gaining their respect and confidence and trust, or it may mean just making it impossible for them to act as ... auxiliaries for the insurgent group."
A key point Mansoor said he wanted people to take away from his lecture is that professional military education should be continuously upgraded to take into account the added competencies required in irregular warfare.
"It has to change," Mansoor said, "or you are going to risk irrelevance of the Army in the wars that are being fought, at least in the next few decades of this century."
Mansoor retired from the Army at Fort Leavenworth in 2008. He is the author of "Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq."