FT. LEAVENWORTH, KAN. — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld may be leaving under a cloud of criticism over his handling of the Iraq war, but his invasion plan -- emphasizing speed over massive troop numbers -- has consistently been held up as a resounding success.
Yet with Iraq near chaos 3 1/2 years later, a key Army manual now is being rewritten in a way that rejects the Rumsfeld doctrine and counsels against using it again.
The draft version of the Army's Full Spectrum Operations field manual argues that in addition to defeating the enemy, military units must focus on providing security for the population -- even during major combat.
"The big idea here is that stability tasks have to be a consideration at every level and every operation," said Clinton J. Ancker III, head of the Army's Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate and an author of the guide.
Officers use the field manual, the authoritative guidebook on how to conduct ground operations, to develop tactics for military endeavors including war, counterinsurgency and peacekeeping. When completed, the manual will be taught to officers at all levels.
Before the war, Rumsfeld prodded Gen. Tommy Franks and other officers to design an invasion plan to fit his beliefs about how modern militaries should fight. When Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed and Baghdad seemed to fall in just 21 days, Rumsfeld and his emphasis on speed over mass got the credit.
But after the initial military success, the Pentagon was criticized for not doing enough to plan for postwar stability. And Rumsfeld drew objections for his dismissive attitude toward the disorder and looting in Iraq, particularly when he said, just days after the fall of Baghdad, that "stuff happens" in democracies.
The old manual emphasized that stability operations usually follow combat. The draft version of the 2007 ground operations manual instructs commanders that they cannot wait for offensive operations to end before providing security and services for the population, and stresses a combination of offense, defense and stability operations.
"Army forces must defeat enemies and simultaneously shape the civil situation through stability or civil support operations," says the manual, the contents of which were described to the Los Angeles Times by its authors. Scheduled to be completed and made public next year, the guidebook does not explicitly criticize the invasion, and in fact notes how the Iraqi military forces collapsed in the face of the swift American attack. Nevertheless, some of the ideas the guide embraces contrast sharply with Rumsfeld's invasion blueprint.
"Iraq is the hardest test case you can dream up," said manual coauthor Michael D. Burke, who works at the doctrine directorate. "There is a lot of value in overwhelming your enemy and ending intensive combat."
But he added: "In Iraq, military operations were the catalyst for collapsing the Baathist regime and leaving a complete power vacuum."
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on the new doctrine, citing the manual's draft status. But he pointed to a November 2005 directive that established "nation-building" as one of the military's core missions. Though it said that such efforts were best performed by civilians, the directive arguably set the stage for the Army's more thorough examination of its role in stability operations.
The new manual does not contradict Rumsfeld's belief that a smaller American force can defeat a larger enemy military, but it does say that dealing with the collapse of a government is likely to require more troops than the military action itself.
And when civil authority collapses in the face of an American assault, U.S. commanders must ensure the population is protected and fed, even if the offensive operations have not concluded, the manual says. That means, Ancker said, the Army can be fast or it can be small, but it cannot be both and also lay the groundwork for winning the peace.
Rumsfeld's critics generally have pointed to summer 2003 as the period when the most important misstep was made in Iraq. American forces were drawn down, and the military did not react quickly to confront a rising insurgency.
The draft manual says the seeds of an insurgency can be planted early on, even during initial military operations. And the guide's authors say the missteps that gave rise to the insurgency may have occurred during the march to Baghdad.
"There is a period of time in the immediate aftermath of any fight where the population will rely on the [American] military to keep them safe and provide essential services," Ancker said.