Does U.S. really learn anything new in Iraq?

11:02, March 21, 2010      

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Photo taken on March 19, 2010 shows a faux tombstone on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., capital of the United States. Veterans and activists set up thousands of faux tombstones near the Washington Monument, gearing up for an anti-war rally Saturday, marking the seventh anniversary of the start of Iraq War.
(Xinhua/Wang Fengfeng)

On the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the United States can point to many lessons from the conflict.

But some lessons are not new. Rather, they are forgotten lessons that had to be re-learned. And the question remains whether Washington is doomed to re-learn them yet again, experts said.

At the start of the war in 2003, the “shock and awe”campaign quickly overwhelmed Iraq’s armies and U.S. forces claimed victory in a matter of weeks. But as the Bush administration celebrated, attacks on U.S. forces began to occur. And after a period of denial, the administration was forced to concede that it had an insurgency on its hands.

But while the United States had engaged in a number of counter insurgency operations throughout its history, the Pentagon had forgotten how to fight an unconventional enemy.

Nate Hughes, military analyst at Stratfor, a global intelligence company, said the United States had forgotten much of the counter insurgency knowledge it gained in Vietnam.

After that conflict, the Pentagon shelved its counter insurgency manuals and busied itself planning for a “conventional war” – an army-to-army conflict on an open battlefield, as opposed to a “guerrilla war” – as Washington never thought the United States would fight another Vietnam, he said.

“It’s not that we wrote our first counter insurgency manual in the last decade,” he said. “We just stopped publishing one.”

Indeed the United States has fought insurgencies everywhere from the Philippines to Haiti – two long forgotten conflicts of the early 20th century. But some experts say the United States is doomed to repeat the mistakes it made in prior wars, including Iraq.

“As soon as Iraq and Afghanistan are over, and the resources are strained, are we going to retain all the knowledge we have gained or are we going to throw it aside like we've done every other time in the past?” said James Carafano, defense expert at the Heritage Foundation.

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