The Mission: Marines are forward deployed to win our nation’s battles swiftly and aggressively in times of crisis (HQMC USMC PA • Media Team, 2019).
In 2003, Major General James Norman Mattis, Commander, First Marine Division, US Marine Corps, drew up his plans to invade Iraq. His call sign was ‘Chaos’; it was what his fellow Marines called him, and his battle plan sought to embrace and exploit the chaos of war (Wright, 2005).
His plan was simple: starting in Kuwait, Marine force recon scouts would drive light armored vehicles (like Humvees) very quickly through Iraq’s major cities. They would be supported byheavy fire and artillery, and air strikes would be used as a last resort (whenever needed and possible). But for the most part, Mattis would avoid the fight until the First Marine Division got to Baghdad. Then they would down and crush FedayeenSaddam, “Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice.” The rest of the Iraqi army would then capitulate. War over (Wright, 2005).
Mattis’s plan worked out exactly as he envisioned. Besides the minor inconvenience of Marines stationed on the East Coast of the United States not being able to communicate with Marines stationed on the West Coast of the United States due to different coms systems and food shortages due to the destruction of supply components, the war was over in few short months(Wright, 2005). Everyone went home, and the rest is history.
We know that the last sentence isn’t the way it played out. Mattis’s tactics were incredibly successful, if he was fighting the same war he fought in Iraq when he was a young LieutenantColonel in the first Gulf War. But he wasn’t. This time America needed to occupy the nation it just destroyed and build a new one in its place. And that went well too, until the bombings started. Then the NGOs and nation-builders left, which is exactly what the insurgents wanted (ISIS, 2016). Mattis tactics were effective, but he was just teeing up what would lead to the creation of ISIS. If you think the insurgency that ISIS waged in Iraq was bad, with twice as many weapons and twice as many people, Iran’s insurgency will approach Vietnam-level numbers.
“The Mission of the Army is to fight and win our Nation’s wars, by providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict, in support of combatant commanders” (Department of Defense, 2019)
T.E. Lawrence, the famous figure of the blockbuster hit “Lawrence of Arabia,” was a real military commander and the foremost expert on Middle Eastern insurgency of his time(WWI) (Morsey, 1984). He was quoted as saying, “War upon rebellion (insurgency) is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.” His quote is so accurate that the United States Army had their foremost expert on insurgency, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl, write a report about this very situation. He later turned it into a book and named it “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam” (Nagl, 2005).
The Iraqi Army had all it could handle and fell relatively quickly under Mattis’s tactics during the initial invasion (Wright, 2005).The Army’s major problem in Iraq after the invasion was “providing land dominance” without any actual land to capture. When the Marines stormed through Iraq’s cities, they left behind the tens of thousands of Iraqi army soldiers, leaders, and their arms (Wright, 2005) (ISIS, 2016). The Army would be tasked with “winning our Nation’s war” versus an invisible enemy. Any military commander will tell you that fighting a war on two fronts is hard and not recommended, but fighting a war on infinite fronts is impossible. And that is exactly what a war with Iran would be (Sun-tzu, 1964).
Nagl was passed over for promotion and left the Army in 2008. Here is an excerpt from Joe Klien’s award-winning article, “The Army’s Brain Drain,” in Time Magazine in January of 2008:“This continues a trend–the best and brightest, especially those associated with formulating the Army’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual–are either being passed over for promotion (as Colonel H.R. McMaster was) or simply leaving for a variety of reasons that almost always add up to frustration with a bureaucracy still controlled by the unsuccessful and the unimaginative” (Klien, 2008).
McMaster and Nagl come from a school of scholarly thought forged in the experience of being military leaders in multiple wars and conflicts. They left the military because their approach didn’t mesh with the ideas that non-Pentagon Bush Administration legal influencers like John Bolton. Bolton won the day and America swayed away from its insurgency experts, resulting in the deaths of 4,424 American troops (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action. Not to mention the countless victims of traumatic brain injuries and suicide that go unnoticed. The creation of ISIS contributed to an international refugee crisis from which the world is still reeling (Zoroya, 2012) (Pentagon , 2016).
Now Bolton is back. Despite never serving in the military—and actively and admittedly avoiding military service in Vietnam while he was at Yale (Kahn, 2005)—Bolton has beatenMcMaster again by taking his job (Holland, 2018). Now he is advising one of the most dangerous and incompetent Presidents of all time in Donald Trump. If we don’t learn from our past, we will relive it. All signs lead to that actually happening, but hey, you can’t say I didn’t try to warn you.
Department of Defense. (2019). Strategic Communication Joint Integrating Concept. Washington: Pentagon.
Holland, S. (2018, March 22). Trump picks hardliner Bolton to replace McMaster as national security adviser. Reuters , pp. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-bolton/trump-picks-hardliner-bolton-to-replace-mcmaster-as-national-security-adviser-idUSKBN1GY394.
HQMC USMC PA • Media Team. (2019). MARINE CORPS COMMUNICATION PLAYBOOK. Washington: US Marine Corps .
ISIS, B. F. (2016). Joby Warrick. Anchor Books.
Kahn, R. G. (2005, 28 April ). Bolton’s conservative ideology has roots in Yale experience. Yale Daily News, pp. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2005/04/28/boltons-conservative-ideology-has-roots-in-yale-experience/.
Klien, J. (2008, January 16). The Army’s Brain Drain. TIME, p. http://swampland.time.com/2008/01/16/the_armys_brain_drain/.
Morsey, K. (1984). T.E. Lawrence: Strategist. In S. Tabachnick, The T.E. Lawrence Puzzle (pp. 185–203). Athens : University of Georgia Press,.
Nagl, J. A. (2005). Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pentagon . (2016). “OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) U.S. CASUALTY STATUS * FATALITIES AS OF: June 29, 2016, 10 a.m. . Washington : Department of Defense .
Sun-tzu. (1964). The Art of War . Oxford : Clarendon Press.
Wright, E. (2005). Generation kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the new face of American war. Penguin.
Zoroya, G. (2012, January 7 ). 20,000 vets’ brain injuries not listed in Pentagon tally. USA Today , pp. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/military/2007-11-22-braininjuries_N.htm.