Sunday, June 04, 2006

Those Who Ignore History

I've just gotten to the part of "Cobra II" where the U.S. has declared, by executive fiat, that major combat operations are over in Iraq, and it will be transitioning to post-war operations. Rumsfeld is putting significant pressure on Franks to not only stop deployment of further units to Iraq, but to plan for removing the units already there. Franks' plan (or, more accurately, guidance from the administration) is that the existing 140,000 troops would be reduced to somewhere around 30,000 within six months (that would be November 2003), and reduced further to a skeleton advisory force afterwards.

For those of you wondering how well this plan turned out, here is a chart of the strength of U.S. ground forces in Iraq from 2003-2006.
"Do not innovate on business models. " -- Guy Kawasaki, presentation at TiEcon 2006
This is something I've run across in the start-up world, and it's as true there as it is in politics. If someone tells you that the rules have changed, the old rules do not apply, and everything is going to be different this time, do not walk to the nearest exist. Run screaming in fear.

At its heart, this is the one, basic mistake the administration made -- the assumption that they could sufficiently control the conduct of the war so to simply lop off the head of the Iraqi government and leave the body intact, thus entirely eliminating that mess post-war operations phase. Administration planners, instead of starting with assumptions and working towards a goal, started with a goal and worked backwards to find their assumptions.

It's not that people didn't know that these requests were illogical -- Jay Garner, McKiernan, the Joint Chiefs, and most of the rest of the people tasked with implementing the war and the post-war knew there were serious problems with the assumptions being made. However, with the administration's mind-set firmly fixed, information only flows one-way, and the commentary that "Hey guys, this isn't going to work" never got back to the president.

Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes reading this book so painful I have to, well, put it down and rant for a while.

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