Editor's Note: This is the second of two essays on the challenges facing the U.S. Army. Don't miss the first, “Learning from the 1970s.”
In military operations after 9/11, U.S. conventional warfighting dominance was on full display. The Taliban and Saddam Hussein's military were quickly routed. However, the decisive initial operational and tactical successes in Afghanistan and then Iraq turned out to be illusory. It was soon evident that the campaign plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom, although delivering as promised in toppling Saddam and his military, did not have a realistic vision for what would follow. Consequently, there were not enough forces on the ground to deal with a post-Saddam Iraq, and that country soon went off the rails. Coalition forces were suddenly in the midst of a full-blown insurgency. The challenges of Iraq, coupled with a worsening insurgency in Afghanistan, presented a different problem that, while not existential, created a political crisis and demands for military solutions. The Army and the other services responded.