Click here to download the summary provided by Sally Graham.  

In fact, Iraq is at risk of becoming a forgotten conflict; certainly interest in Australia is not high. This is a shame.[1]

The war in Iraq exists in the living memory of many field grade officers and higher, although is quickly becoming just another chapter in our military history.  The recent War in the Sandpit Conference offered an intervention, an opportunity to re-consider what lessons can be learnt, albeit, we have yet to see these be truly integrated into our future preparations for war. The Iraq Dossier put together by Al Palazzo offers a rare opportunity for dialogue about a variety of issues associated with Australia’s involvement in the conflict. Click here for the link to the original full papers which are well worth reading in their entirety.

A key facet of any discussion regarding Australia’s involvement in Iraq is an understanding of Strategy itself. This may be an ‘ends, means and ways’ framework or a Clausewitzian perspective regarding the enduring nature but the changing character of war.  Whilst there are many more lessons to be learnt from the war in Iraq, many of these stem from understanding the strategic context which was influencing key decision makers.  To this end, the key learning point for these papers is regarding the development and implementation of strategy.

A presentation provided by LTGEN Peter Leahy AC at the War in the Sandpit Conference provides interesting context by which to begin an examination of Iraq, noting that his integral involvement in this era of the Australian Army.

‘We arrived at this situation, because of what I see quite clearly, is decades of errant strategic guidance and an under investment in Defence capabilities, especially the Australian Army in the later quarter of the 20th Century’

As a starting point some questions that may be relevant to consider are

  • What was the Australian Government’s strategic endstate in Iraq?
  • What was Australian Army’s operational endstate in Iraq?
  • What were the various formed rotations’ tactical endstates in Iraq?
  • What lessons can be learnt from the C2 arrangements made for Iraq at the various phases?
  • How do we avoid underestimating Phase IV operations in the future?

Selected Excerpts and Questions The papers themselves are worth reading as a whole, however attached are key excerpts and questions which are designed to assist readers in questioning different aspects of the Australia’s involvement in the conflict. The material provided can also be easily modified to support an in unit PME activity. There is also value in concurrently viewing the War in the Sandpit videos, particularly that of the former CA, Peter Leahy. For additional perspectives, (albeit US centric) the two books provided as optional reading, explore in more detail the strategies involved with the war in Iraq.

In putting together the excerpts into a coherent order, it is worth identifying that there are many common themes throughout the paper, and as such, there are many quotes which could easily be placed under a multitude of headings.  For even the most time constrained reader there is value in reading through all of the material before then attempting to go through and answer the questions posed.

Additional material

Kilcullen, D., Blood Year Ricks, T.E., The Gamble, [1] Iraq Dossier p527