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What about learning from our mistakes in Iraq?

ASK THIS | July 24, 2006

As the war drags on, Washington Post military correspondent Thomas Ricks, whose new book charts the U.S. misadventures in Iraq, suggests some timely questions for the Washington press corps.

By Thomas E. Ricks

Q. Why hasn't Congress held significant hearings on the conduct of the war?

Q. Why hasn't a single general been relieved for leadership failures? (By contrast, Gen. George C. Marshall relieved hundreds of officers during the course of World War II.)

Q. Has the military establishment mobilized for victory in Iraq? Why do the American military personnel serving as combat advisers for the new Iraqi security forces say they lack the resources they need? And why is that advisory effort (I am told) staffed with reservists, instead of tomorrow's generals?

Q. Why hasn't the U.S. Army looked seriously at patterns of abuse in Iraq -- that is, examine what sort of units are more prone to abuse? It seems to me that this would be part of taking care of our soldiers, and also would be more militarily effective. For example, are Guard and reserve units more likely to abuse Iraqis than regular duty units? Are infantry units more comfortable with direct confrontation than, say, artillery units? Are units on their second or third rotations more abusive than units on their first? How important is leadership at the division level in setting the tone for a unit? Why aren't successful units -- such as the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment on its recent tour – being studied and emulated more? (That unit, for example, had a program called "Ask the Customer" that asked detainees being released about how they were treated.)

Q. Do we have a force in Iraq that would rather protect itself than protect Iraqis?

[Ricks' new book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, is being excerpted in The Washington Post.]

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