The Army Monograph that Predicted Just About Everything that's Happened in Iraq

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Dr. Crane is currently the Director of the U. S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He joined the Strategic Studies Institute in September 2000 after 26 years of military service that concluded with 9 years as Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy. He has written or edited books on the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Korea, and published articles on military issues in such journals as The Journal of Strategic Studies, The Journal of Military History, The Historian, and Aerospace Historian, as well as in a number of collections and reference books. Dr. Crane holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.

Dr. Terrill joined the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) in October 2001, and is SSI’s Middle East specialist. Prior to his appointment, he served as a senior international security analyst for the International Assessments Division of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). In 1998-99, Dr. Terrill also served as a Visiting Professor at the U.S. Air War College on assignment from LLNL. He is a former faculty member at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and has taught adjunct at a variety of other colleges and universities. He is a U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and a Foreign Area Officer (Middle East).

HNN Editor: Dr. Conrad Crane is sometimes referred to as the historian who predicted what would happen in Iraq. In point of fact a lot of historians warned that we were headed into a mess. But Crane, Director of the U. S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, PA, bravely issued his warning from his perch at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. His monograph, co-authored with Dr. Terrill, was published in February 2003, a month before we went to war. Click here to read the entire monograph. Excerpts appear below. (In 2006 NPR interviewed Dr. Crane about counterinsurgency strategies.)

During the latter half of the 20th century, U.S. military leaders and planners focused heavily on winning wars, and not so much on the peacekeeping or nation-building that comes afterwards. But national objectives can often be accomplished only after the fighting has ceased. With the winds of war swirling around Iraq, it is time to begin planning for the post-conflict reconstruction of that state. This monograph presents some historical insights from past occupations and peace operations, provides some additional analysis of the unique requirements involved in remaking Iraq, and, most importantly, develops a detailed list of potential tasks to help contemporary military commanders plan for post-conflict operations there.

Most analysts and commentators focus on World War II for insights about occupying states and replacing regimes. Clearly, the American experience with occupations after major wars provides valuable insights about the importance of long and detailed planning for such missions, and about just how difficult demilitarization and democratization can be, even under the best of conditions. The world has changed a great deal since 1945, however. The experiences of the 1990s are generally more relevant to shape post-conflict operations in Iraq. They reveal past inadequacies in Army planning and preparation, and the difficulties in finding competent and resourced civilian agencies to assume responsibilities from the military. Recent experiences also show that even when the Army plans and performs well in a post-crisis environment, as it did in Haiti, strategic success is not guaranteed. That state quickly reverted back to chaos when military forces left.

Iraq presents far from ideal conditions for achieving strategic goals. Saddam Hussein is the culmination of a violent political culture that is rooted in a tortured history. Ethnic, tribal, and religious schisms could produce civil war or fracture the state after Saddam is deposed. The Iraqi Army may be useful as a symbol of national unity, but it will take extensive reeducation and reorganization to operate in a more democratic state. Years of sanctions have debilitated the economy and created a society dependent on the UN Oil for Food Program. Rebuilding Iraq will require a considerable commitment of American resources, but the longer U.S. presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop.

The monograph concludes by developing and describing a phased array of tasks that must be accomplished to create and sustain a viable state. The 135 tasks are organized into 21 categories, and rated as “essential,” “critical,” or “important” for the commander of coalition military forces. They are then projected across four phases of transition— Security, Stabilize, Build Institutions, and Handover/ Redeploy—to reflect which governmental, nongovernmental, and international organizations will be involved in execution during each phase. To reduce the amount of resentment about the occupation in Iraq and the surrounding region, it is essential that military forces handover responsibilities to civilian agencies as soon as practicable. They, in turn, should relinquish control fairly quickly to the Iraqis, though not until well-defined coalition measures of effectiveness have been achieved for each task. The U.S. Army has been organized and trained primarily to fight and win the nation’s major wars. Nonetheless, the Service must prepare for victory in peace as well.



To be successful, an occupation such as that contemplated after any hostilities in Iraq requires much detailed interagency planning, many forces, multi-year military commitment, and a national commitment to nation-building.

Recent American experiences with post-conflict operations have generally featured poor planning, problems with relevant military force structure, and difficulties with a handover from military to civilian responsibility.

To conduct their share of the essential tasks that must be accomplished to reconstruct an Iraqi state, military forces will be severely taxed in military police, civil affairs, engineer, and transportation units, in addition to possible severe security difficulties.

The administration of an Iraqi occupation will be complicated by deep religious, ethnic, and tribal differences which dominate Iraqi society.

U.S. forces may have to manage and adjudicate conflicts among Iraqis that they can barely comprehend.

An exit strategy will require the establishment of political stability, which will be difficult to achieve given Iraq’s fragmented population, weak political institutions, and propensity for rule by violence.

Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces and Army Group headquarters invested considerable resources in developing what became Operation ECLIPSE. The plan correctly predicted most of the tasks required of the units occupying the defeated country. Within 3 months, those formations had disarmed and demobilized German armed forces, cared for and repatriated four million POWs and refugees, restored basic services to many devastated cities, discovered and quashed a potential revolt, created working local governments, and reestablished police and the courts.

In contrast, LTG John Yeosock, commander of Third Army in Operation DESERT STORM, could get no useful staff support to assess and plan for post-conflict issues like hospital beds, prisoners, and refugees, complaining later that he was handed a “dripping bag of manure” that no one else wanted to deal with.

Neither the Army nor the Department of Defense (DoD) had an adequate plan for postwar operations to rebuild Kuwait, and civilian agencies were even more unprepared. The situation was only salvaged by the adept improvisations of Army engineers and civil affairs personnel, and the dedicated efforts of Kuwaiti volunteers and the Saudi Arabian government.

Some of the deficiencies in postwar planning for DESERT STORM can be attributed to the fact that Third Army was the first American field army in combat since the Korean War. Post- conflict planning historically has been a function of headquarters at echelons above corps, and continuing problems with more recent operations are at least partly attributable to the generally small scale of American interventions. Difficulties also result from the fact that for at least the latter half of the 20th century, U.S. Army leaders and planners focused predominantly on winning wars, not on the peacekeeping or nation-building that comes afterwards. But national objectives can often be accomplished only after the fighting has ceased; a war tactically and operationally “won” can still lead to strategic “loss” if post-conflict operations are poorly planned or executed.

With the winds of war swirling around Iraq, it is already past time to begin planning for the post-conflict reconstruction of that state. Many historical insights can be gained from past occupations and peace operations. With some additional analysis of the unique requirements involved in remaking Iraq, a list of potential tasks can be developed to help contemporary military commanders envision what they need to do in order to achieve the effectiveness of Operation ECLIPSE if a lengthy occupation of Iraq is required.


Recent history provides a number of useful examples to illustrate the missions and challenges involved in post-conflict operations. Though recent cases have more often involved restoring regimes than changing them, many valuable insights still can be gained from careful analysis.


Operations in Panama leading to the overthrow of the Noriega regime have been touted as a model use of quick and decisive American military force, but post-conflict activities did not go as smoothly. The crisis period was exceptionally long, beginning with public revelations about General Manuel Noriega’s nefarious activities in June 1987 and culminating with the execution of Operation JUST CAUSE in December 1989. Planning for military intervention began as early as February 1988.

When Noriega annulled the election of May 1989, sent his paramilitary thugs to assault opposition candidates, and increased his harassment of Americans, the United States executed Operation NIMROD DANCER. This show of force, executed by U.S. Southern Command, was designed to show further American resolve, in the hope that it would pressure Noriega to modify his behavior. When there was no obvious modification, the President directed the execution of Operation JUST CAUSE. A textbook example of the quality of the new armed forces and doctrine developed in the United States, it encompassed the simultaneous assault of 27 targets at night.

Due to a focus on conducting a decisive operation and not the complete campaign, the aftermath of this smaller scale contingency (SSC) did not go as smoothly, however. Planning for the post-conflict phase, Operation PROMOTE LIBERTY, was far from complete when the short period of hostilities began. Missions and responsibilities were vague, and planners failed to appreciate adequately the effects of combat operations and overthrowing the regime.

Though guidance from SOUTHCOM on post-hostility missions was fairly clear, tactically oriented planners at the 18th Airborne Corps (in charge of the joint task force carrying out the operation) gave post-conflict tasks short shrift. For instance, the plan assigned the lone MP

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