Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 53

MYTH OF COMPLEXITY (Department of Defense photo by Sgt. Brendan Stephens) A young girl appears amused to find U.S. Army soldiers lined up against the walls of her house 21 February 2000 in Mitrovica, Kosovo. The soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and United Nations police were conducting a house-to-house search for weapons. The 82nd Airborne Division unit from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was deployed as part of Kosovo Force, a NATO-led, international military force conducting a peacekeeping mission known as Operation Joint Guardian. environment. Second, it undercuts the notion that our recent campaign in Afghanistan witnessed something particularly new, something more complicated than previous campaigns. If anything, our operations there have produced efforts, results, and lessons that are strikingly similar to those from before. More recent examples. Sixteen years ago, a retired U.S. Army general described a conflict in which there was “no clear international consensus to fight, no sure cause, ambivalent public support, no long deployment and build-up, an incredibly complex theater environment, and difficult climatic, demographic, and geographic conditions on the battlefield.”19 This was not a prediction about Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather, an assessment of the Kosovo conflict of 1999. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley K. Clark’s description of the largely forgotten campaign serves as a reminder that complexity in unstable operating environments certainly existed prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Was Clark exaggerating or were we simply not paying attention? Still, it is not hard to understand how the magnitude of 9/11 lead many Americans to view the world as a suddenly more dangerous, more complicated place. It was as if a multipolar world was born overnight. The campaigns MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 that would be fought as part of the Global War on Terrorism were filled with enough discovery, surprise, and frustration that the military looked for new ways (and terms) to define the task at hand. “Full spectrum operations” and “asymmetric warfare” became the focus, and a strategic shift to counterinsurgency operations brought sweeping changes in U.S. doctrine. In 2006, the Army produced the highly touted Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, which provided guidelines for fighting the “exceedingly difficult and complex” problem of an insurgency.20 By 2007, the United States was fully immersed in what former marine and Assistant Defense Secretary Bing West called “enlightened counterinsurgency,” which focused more on nation building and less on purely kinetic military operations.21 The results, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, were underwhelming, with very little in the way of measurable military or political success being achieved, to the point where Secretary of Defense Robert Gates referred to the wars as “an albatross around the nation’s neck.”22 Learning from the Past While we cannot yet speak or write about the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq wholly in the past tense, any significant change in the 51