Are Lessons Being Learned?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Are Lessons Being Learned?

Is the U.S. military learning lessons in the Iraq war or just mindlessly following the same script day after day? The New Yorker's Don Baum wrote this January '05 article, noting that the U.S.'s 1983 invasion of Grenada
... should have been relatively straightforward but instead was a mess. Communications were so poor that soldiers had to rely on pay phones. Intelligence was so spotty that troops used tourist maps to find their way around the island. Nineteen service members died in the operation, some needlessly.

In response, the Army opened the Center for Army Lessons Learned — or CALL — at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. CALL was supposed to gather and distribute more efficiently the insights that soldiers glean from battle.

... I asked (CALL's director, Col. Larry) Saul what lessons the Army has learned in Iraq, and he said, “Not much, because lessons learned, in past tense, means you’ve modified behavior. Until you demonstrate changed behavior, you haven’t learned a lesson.”
This was a disturbing revelation — that we had not capitalized on knowledge gleaned on the ground from the first 1-3/4 years of the Iraq war.

Now, we are well beyond 3 years into the war. It would be interesting if Baum did a follow-up and asked CALL: Has our military incorporated anything it has learned from frontline troops into its ongoing operations over there?

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