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by Master Gunnery Sergeant John Ubaldi
For the second time in a generation America went to war prepared to fight utilizing a conventional war strategy against an irregular army. Again, the U.S. failed to understand the premise that Clausewitz articulated, by entering into a war that we wanted to fight, not the war that we ended up with. Historically the U.S. defense and military establishments have focused efforts on the institutionalized combat operations of modern warfare, never completely understanding the enemy we were fighting. This lack of strategic vision crippled efforts to stabilize Iraq & Afghanistan and now has the U.S. embroiled in counterinsurgency campaigns in both countries. The United States is again seeing the emergence of fourth generation warfare, where terrorist groups and other factions use irregular warfare to devastating effect. Defense and military staff planners failed to move beyond the concepts of high technology and conventional attrition warfare that is ingrained in U.S. military doctrine. The insurgency the U.S. found itself fighting after the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the result of three failed premises of American strategic planning: over-utilization of traditional military doctrine; failure to plan for post stabilization operations; and failure to embrace the concept of civil military operations.
Debate rages within the U.S. defense community whether to embrace counterinsurgency techniques or to fall back on traditional conventional war fighting strategies. Unfortunately, current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown a lack of strategic thinking in counterinsurgency operations, resulting in hampered U.S. operations in both countries.