Of all the services, the Army is likely to see the greatest longer-term effects of the Iraq war, many experts predict, beginning with the clear need to prepare for messy political conflicts, insurgencies, and peacekeeping operations rather than focusing so much on conventional combat.
"The Army's most recent failure to accelerate transformation for these new types of operations can be somewhat understood given that the administration came in saying 'no nation-building,' " says military analyst Marcus Corbin of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. "Now that the administration has dumped on the Army the biggest nation-building in decades, no longer can the Army leadership hide behind that excuse."
In Iraq, "shock and awe" from the air allowed for US ground troops' quick dash to Baghdad. But it also sent most of Saddam Hussein's loyalist forces underground, thereby setting the scene for an insurgency that continues to seriously undermine efforts at reconstruction.
"The real lessons of Iraq are that the nature of conflict has changed and that our military doesn't perform very well in these new circumstances," saysretired Navy Capt. Larry Seaquist. For example, says Captain Seaquist, the so-called information revolution did not furnish critical intelligence information.
"The huge investment in computer networks, drone aircraft, and the other high-tech gadgetry failed to provide situational awareness about the only thing that counted - which Iraqis favored and which opposed the occupation," says Seaquist. "That failure led to the need to snatch thousands of Iraqis for interrogation - a strategy that turned out not only to be ineffective but a strategic disaster for the entire enterprise."