The U.S. Army is taking a close look at the decisions made in planning and implementing the war in Iraq and what happened during the nation-building effort that followed.
That process and its discoveries are outlined in a recent book, "On Point II, Transition to the New Campaign," which was discussed Sunday at Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics. The book focuses primarily on the two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"That was our job to make sense of," said Don Wright, a historian at the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, who co-authored the book.
The book was not intended to place blame. "Explain what happened but let the reader decide," Wright said.
The study was also a chance for the Army to learn the lessons of Iraq sooner rather than later, said Kevin Benson, a retired colonel who was involved with the war planning and now teaches at the fort.
"If you are going to be retrospective, it has to be immediately useful," he said.
Disbanding the Iraqi Army and the de-Baathification of Iraq's bureaucracy were decisions that had significant effects on the growth of the insurgency against coalition forces, the book concludes. The Baath Party was Hussein's political movement.
But the U.S. military went into Iraq with too small of a force to deal with the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, said Adrian Lewis, a KU history professor and director of a KU-Fort Leavenworth program, who also took part in the discussion.
The Army also was operating in an atmosphere fostered by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that a small force with high-tech weapons was all that was needed, Lewis said. He said the Army was too small to adequately meet its commitment in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Soldiers and Marines at the infantry level, however, made what proved to be the right decisions in trying to engage the populace and begin the nuts and bolts of rebuilding the country, Wright and Benson said.
More than 200 people attended the discussion, including Mission Hills resident Mark Anderson, who said he just took a commission as an Army lieutenant. He said he wanted to read the book, as well as an earlier one called "On Point I."
"Any information about the future, what went wrong in the beginning and how we can fix it, I'm open ears," he said.
The book can be downloaded for free at usacac.army.mil/CAC2/CSI/.