I would argue that Operation Iraqi Freedom was inevitable. The Saddam Regime had it coming for over a decade. In 1991 George H. W. Bush protected Kuwait, one of our allies in the Middle East, from Saddam Hussein’s irrational and preemptive invasion. The war lasted 100 hours and was unequivocal in its success. Critics however questioned why the President did not go into the heart of Iraq and overthrow the megalomaniacal and brutal dictator. Many inside and outside of the United States government believed the opportunity had slipped away and the world was a more dangerous place with him in power.
Since 1991, a host of UN resolutions were passed in an attempt to protect Kuwait from another Iraqi invasion and to prevent Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime from acquiring nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Saddam’s defiance of Resolution 687 was one of the justifications utilized by George W. Bush for another US invasion. In a post 9/11 world and without the benefit of hindsight, who could disagree with this position?
Before the invasion in 2003, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton used humanitarian assistance and no fly zones without a full blown war against Saddam. Saddam routinely obstructed, harassed, and even trespassed the inspectors from doing their jobs. In 1994 the Iraqi Army began mobilizing units near the Kuwait border, causing the deployment of 54,000 US troops to Kuwait to repel a potential attack. Both in 1994 and 1998 Iraqi antiaircraft batteries fired at US warplanes policing the no fly-zones. Firing at American aircraft enforcing UN resolutions with regard to no fly-zones in and of itself is an act of war.
In addition Saddam Hussein invaded two sovereign countries in eleven years (1980 Iran and 1991 Kuwait), thus losing its own legitimacy as a sovereign nation. Not to mention Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people, killing over 5,000 Kurdish people in a single day. Moreover, the United States passed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 under President Clinton. The resolution passed directed the President of the United States as commander in chief to overthrow Saddam Hussein and nurture a free and democratic Iraq.
As a side note, I do not believe fighting the Jihadists in Iraq created Jihadists themselves. This logic is known as “blowback,” but is inherently flawed.
When briefing an operations order the Platoon Leader (PL) must go beyond merely making observations or regurgitating what the commander passed down to him or her. The PL must arrive at significant conclusions and make deductions about how a factor will affect friendly forces (FF) and the Enemy.
O – Observation and Fields of Fire (FOF)
A – Avenues of Approach (AOA)
K – Key Terrain (KT)
O – Obstacles and Movement
C – Cover and Concealment
What is the Key Terrain for both friendly and enemy forces?
Keep in mind observation, fields of fire, cover, and concealment when analyzing this crucial question.
With regard to AOA the PL must locate “intervisibility lines” (terrain that inhibits observation from one point to another). FM 3-21.8
The PL must not use predictable AOA. For safety concerns, the platoon must travel a route that the enemy would not think of. Friendly forces (FF) need to avoid high speed AOA or natural lines of drift. Natural lines of drift can be detected due to high foot traffic that preceded your presence (i.e. trampled down grass, or goat trails). FF should travel via the “hard right” over the “easy wrong,” and patrol regularly irregular.
Observation and FOF – What are the capabilities of our weapons systems? The enemy weapons systems? (Importance of a Red Check book) Be able to depict maximum effective range of weapons systems and FOF on operations order.
“Cover is protection from the effects of fires. Concealment is protection from observation but not direct fire or indirect fires.” (FM 3-21.8) Concealment is vulnerable to recon by fire. The goal is to find clear FOF against the enemy and effective cover and concealment from the enemy.
“As a leader responsible for every American in the platoon, plus Abdul our interpreter, I had to project confidence around my men at all times. Truth was, half the time that was the last thing I was feeling inside. I had come to know my men and their families. I knew that their wives and parents, children and friends had entrusted with me the safety and well-being of their loved ones.” Sean Parnell – Outlaw Platoon
“I was a leader in a combat zone, entrusted with the role after the army had invested millions of dollars in my training. Any decision I made could have unseen consequences. I second-guessed myself constantly, concealed it from the men, and did my best to absorb every lesson thrown my way.” Sean Parnell – Outlaw Platoon
“For a young lieutenant still trying to find his way, such leaders are pure gold. A good platoon leader is one who will let his sergeants mentor him.” Sean Parnell – Outlaw Platoon
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