The Iraqi "Manhattan Project"

Legendary journalist Bob Woodward has discovered a new secret program instituted by the US military to find and kill terrorists.

Whatever you believe about the war in Iraq (or war in general), this new program sounds fascinating. Two quotes in particular struck me:
"'It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have,' Woodward said."
"The top secret operations, he said, will 'some day in history ... be described to people's amazement.'"
Part of me is just relieved to hear "American" and "ingenuity" used in the same sentence again.

For all it's bureaucratic faults, the US military has become very good (if slow) at adapting, especially to the new sort of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a testament to American military commanders. When I served, the AARs (After Action Reviews) we had to do after every trip outside the walls was painstakingly tedious. But it sounds as if all those AARs are finally working. My hope is this somehow saving the lives of civilians and combatants alike, though terms like "Manhattan Project" and "secret killing program" may undermine that hope.

But yeah, back the "American ingenuity". Americans invented flight, the automobile...most of the innovations of the 20th century. American ingenuity is one of the things that makes me most proud to be an American. The US military has grasped the necessity of reinventing in a new world. Here's hoping our country as a whole gets the same message.

The chants Rudy Giuliani sparked of, "Drill, baby, drill!" at the Republican National Convention don't help.


  1. You're right. It is nice to those words together in the same sentence. It's too bad it's in relation to killing people, though. Even if they are terrorists.

  2. Great post. As a former soldier who served in Anbar Iraq with the 3d Armored Calvary Regiment (during OIF I), I can say without hesitation, that the American Soldier is the most innovative soldier in the world. The military term for this is "field craft."

    Unfortunately the command tone for higher command has been to disregard the comments (often made in those AARs) and successful field craft of the lower ranking troops (and by lower ranking I mean any enlisted soldier under the rank of Sergeant Major and any officer under the rank of Major or maybe even Lieutenant Colonel).

    What's sad here is that many of these lower ranking troops, especially in the National Guard and Reserves, hold college degrees in fields other than "Army Officer Training." They also bring with them the experiences of their civilian jobs. But these are not the only ones that can contribute to better methods in Iraq; the guys on the ground, putting our methods and policies to the test daily were often find things that worked and tossing out the rest.

    I often saw these soldiers coming together to find amazing processes that worked in areas ranging from better detention facility construction to better community building to better vehicle combat readiness to better communication technology to better building clearing and patrolling to better food preparation and water sanitation to better economic building and so on.

    The key: filed craft at all levels generally leads to "better." And we usually see more field craft at the lower levels because those are the guys with their boots in the dirt.

    My struggles were often in areas where the higher-ups would force a rejection of the better field craft in favor of the same old unsuccessful tactics. If Woodward is right, it sounds like something or somebody finally got through to the brass policy makers and tactic planners.

    On a different note, this is a good lesson for church leaders, pastors, and even the new Christian to learn from. We need to look for the field craft in our missionary work and in our teaching and serving in churches and in our communities. We can't simply stick with the same old stuff if the same old stuff isn't getting the results we want. On the other side of that coin, some of the stuff that works and has been around for hundreds of years might just have been field craft long before it became longstanding tradition.