Academic journal article Military Review

Revisiting CORDS: The Need for Unity of Effort to Secure Victory in Iraq

Academic journal article Military Review

Revisiting CORDS: The Need for Unity of Effort to Secure Victory in Iraq

Article excerpt

IN NOVEMBER 2005, the National Security Council published its National Strategy for Victory in Iraq [hereafter called National Strategy], articulating the broad strategy President George W. Bush set forth in 2003 and providing an "update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining."1 The report

* Describes conditions for victory in the short, medium, and long term.

* Describes the three integrated political, security, and economic tracks.

* Defines eight strategic pillars with associated lines of action, subactions, and objectives for military and civilian entities.

* Presents a three-tiered "organization for victory" to achieve the strategy.

Three-Tiered Organization for Victory

According to the National Strategy, weekly strategy sessions at the highest levels of the U.S. Government ensure that Iraq remains a top priority. At the operational level, the "team in Baghdad-led by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George casey-works to implement policy on the ground and lay the foundation for long-term success."2 Each of the eight pillars have corresponding interagency working groups to coordinate policy, review and assess progress, develop new proposals, and oversee the implementation of existing policies.

The multitracked approach (political, security, and economic) to counterinsurgency in Iraq has historical parallels with the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program of the Vietnam War era. Established in 1967, CORDS partnered civilian and military entities engaged in pacification of Vietnamese rural areas. The program enhanced rural security and local political and economic development and helped defeat the Viet Cong (VC) insurgency. Significantly, CORDS unified the efforts of the pacification entities by establishing unity of command throughout the combined civil-military organization.

Lack of unity of effort is perhaps the most significant impediment to operational-level interagency action today. The victorious conditions the National Strategy describes might be unachievable if the interagency entities present in Iraq do not achieve unity of effort. To help achieve unity of effort, Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and the Nation should consider adopting a CORDS-like approach to ensure integrated action and victory.

The Impediment

The lack of unity of effort is the principal impediment to operational-level interagency integration. Simply put, no one is in overall control of the efforts. Matthew F. Bogdanos writes: "According to Joint Vision 2020, 'the primary challenge of interagency operations is to achieve unity of effort despite the diverse cultures, competing interests, and differing priorities of participating organizations.'"3 Joint doctrine suggests that the cause of our inability to achieve unity of effort is the wide-ranging backgrounds and values of the agencies involved. Joint Publication 3-08, Interagency Coordination During Joint Operations, states: "If the interagency process is to be successful, it should bring together the interests of multiple agencies, departments, and organizations. . . . The essence of interagency coordination is the interplay of multiple agencies with individual agendas. . . . Each agency has core values that it -will not compromise (emphasis in the original)."4

Because of the agencies' different backgrounds, values, and agendas, unifying command appears to be the only approach to efforts at the operational level. Bathsheba Cracker says: "As with any mission . . . , the key question for post-conflict operations is who is in charge. To date, true unity of command between civilians and the military in Iraq has so far proved elusive in American operations."5 More so than the wide-ranging backgrounds of interagency entities, lack of unity of command at the operational level has been the most significant factor in failing to achieve unity of effort. Interagency coordination is centralized only at the strategic level. …

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