From the end of the Cold War to the beginning of the war in Iraq, the U.S. Army marched relentlessly toward ever greater capacity to fight a peer competitor in a high-intensity conflict despite the ever-growing body of evidence that it would almost certainly not have to fight this kind of war again. The United States was dealt a humiliating defeat by militias in Somalia, yet the U.S. Army refused to change. A U.S. military intervention in Haiti failed to produce political change on the ground, but rather than reflecting on this failure, the U.S. Army dumped the conflict on the United Nations and went home. The Army’s inability to forge a political settlement in Bosnia and Kosovo trapped the United States in a decades-long quagmire, but Army leaders refused to institutionalize the lessons of these conflicts. A growing chorus of observers, inside and outside of the Army, warned that these low-intensity conflicts were the new face of warfare in the twenty-first century, but the U.S. Army’s senior leaders—steeped in a culture that emphasized preparation to fight high-intensity conflicts over all other activities—continued to develop expensive, high-tech weapons to fight a third world war.

Thus, when the twin towers fell on 11 September 2001, the stage was set for a slow-motion military disaster. The U.S. Army that invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in March 2003 was ill-prepared for the character of warfare that it ultimately faced.

Lessons Unlearned examines why senior Army leaders ignored the arguments that low-intensity conflict observers were making and how they kept the Army from building its capacity to engage in low-intensity conflicts. However, this book is not intended merely as a simple history or as an exercise in blame-laying for past sins. It is an intervention; the U.S. Army is in the process of making the same mistake again—intentionally forgetting the hard-fought lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq. By understanding why and how the Army of the 1990s refused to prepare to fight low-intensity conflicts on the eve of the war on terror, it might be possible to prevent the U.S. Army of today from drifting toward a similar disaster.

About the Author

Colonel (ret.) Pat Proctor, PhD. is an assistant professor in the homeland security program at Wichita State University. Colonel (ret.) Proctor is a U.S. Army veteran of both the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars with over 25 years of service in command and staff positions from Fort Hood, Texas to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He most recently deployed to Jordan, on the front lines of the war on ISIS, as the commander of the Gunner Battalion (4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery). In 2012, Pat served as the Chief of Plans for Regional Command-East in Afghanistan, planning the transition of the war to Afghan security forces ahead of the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. In 2009, Pat deployed to Iraq as operations officer for Task Force Patriot (2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery), an artillery-turned-infantry battalion battling insurgents in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. In 2007, Pat was drafted to work in Iraq as part of a handpicked, 20-man team of soldiers, scholars, and diplomats led by Col. H.R. McMaster and commissioned by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to create a new strategy for the war in Iraq. Pat worked with a State Department counterpart to write the strategic communication plan for what has since become known as the Iraq “surge.”

Colonel (ret.) Proctor holds a doctorate in history from Kansas State University.  He also holds a masters in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College and masters of military arts and sciences for strategy and theater operations from the US Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies, respectively.

Pat is the author of Containment and Credibility (Carrel Press, 2015), about the domestic politics of the Vietnam War, and Task Force Patriot and the End of Combat Operations in Iraq (Government Institutes Press, 2011), an account of his deployment to Iraq from 2009 to 2010. Other recent publications include “Message versus Perception during the Americanization of the Vietnam War” (The Historian, Spring 2011), “Fighting to Understand: A Practical Example of Design at the Battalion Level” (Military Review, March-April 2011), and “The Mythical Shi’a Crescent” (Parameters, Spring 2008 and Iran International Times, 23 May 2008).

To learn more about Pat Proctor and his other works, click here.


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