Is it possible to “it’s classified” ourselves to failure?
I’ve repeatedly noticed a disturbing trend in my conversations with Marines as they head to Iraq—most know next to nothing about the specifics of their AO, their enemy, the AO’s recent and past history, tribes, key leaders, the insurgent(s)’ “cause” and the “cause” that they’re supposed to get the indigenous populace to buy into, etc.
What follows are a few key quotes from highly respected authors on war, along with parts of the discussion that I had with a Lt earlier today. This Lt will be on the ground in Iraq, leading a platoon, in less than a month.
From LtCol/Dr. David Kilcullen’s “The Twenty-eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency” (Dr. Kilcullen is now a senior advisor to Gen Petraeus in Baghdad):
1. Know your patch. Know the people, the topography, economy, history and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your particular district... read the map like a book: study it every night before sleep, and re-draw it from memory every morning, until you understand its patterns intuitively… study handover notes from predecessors… share out specific aspects of the operational area among the platoon leaders and non-commissioned officers… Neglect this knowledge, and it will kill you.
Conversation with an infantry Lt deploying to Anbar shortly:
Me: Do you know your AO?
Lt: Yes and no. IVO COP ___, that’s all I know.
Me: What about the local tribes, tribal leaders, key government leaders, Iraqi Army/Police presence, enemy activity, trend/pattern analysis on the past 3 years of enemy activity, roads in the AO?
Lt: No. I’ve been asking since we found out about our AO 3 months ago. I wanted to give maps to all my Marines and have them memorize important info. I asked for a map and was told it’s classified. I asked for the names of the tribes. Classified. I asked for enemy activity. Classified. Names of roads/trafficability? Classified.
Me: So have you or your Marines even seen a map of your specific AO?
Lt: The only info I’ve received was from Google Earth and one powerpoint floating around. Aside from the combat outpost though, I know next to nothing. And, my Marines don’t know anything either. It’s kind of frustrating given that we’re all forced to read “28 Articles” and then we can’t do what it says.
SunTzu: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Here’s what I don’t understand and would definitely appreciate help from the crowd in understanding:
- Why is the name of the tribes in a given area classified? Haven’t they lived in what is now "our" AO for hundreds of years? Given that most insurgents are from the same area don’t they already know what tribes are present, where the tribal boundaries are located, and who the key leaders are? I think yes. After all, every time that I stopped to ask an Iraqi the name of his tribe, its leader and how I could contact him, answers were provided. So why is this classified?
- Why are the names of the roads classified? The grids to enemy activity? Does the enemy not know where and when and how he ambushes us? After all, he often videotapes his ambushes and puts them on the internet. Further, we already know the enemy has used GPS and Google Earth to attack us (type "google earth gps mortars insurgents" into Google). So who benefits from us classifying that at grid 12345678910, the insurgent set-in a certain type of IED and used a certain type of triggering device and then fled most likely along X route? The answer is the enemy. If the Lt and his Marines don’t know these locations because they're “classified” and we don’t give them access to SIPR computers, we’re making the enemy’s life too easy. Wouldn’t it be great if, as a squad leader, platoon, company or battalion commander, you could ensure that every one of your Marines knew his enemy before ever leaving the states? By knowing enemy I mean specific details about ambush sites, how long ambushes lasted, egress routes, best ways to isolate these egress routes, how frequently an ambush site has been used and possibly even had pictures and videotapes of these ambush sites posted all over the COC for Marines to constantly see back in the US? This would certainly make the Lcpl, Cpl, Sgt, Lt’s job easier in “hunting” the enemy. This is our biggest problem when it comes to our Marines not possessing "tactical cunning." Under the current “it’s classified” rule system, this Lt and his platoon are conducting a RIP while in contact with the enemy, knowing next to nothing about the enemy. We owe these Marines more. WE’VE BEEN IN THIS AO FOR 3 YEARS NOW! If all this info must stay classified, then we need to invest millions on SIPR computers, security systems and the like IOT ensure our Marines are given the info they need to succeed.
Last edited by Maximus; 03-30-2007 at 08:34 PM.