Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq, 2003-09: A Case of Operational Surprise and Institutional Response
Brigadier Andrew Smith
Letort Paper by US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute
"The threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that has emerged in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 is a contemporary example of conventional militaries being confronted with a tactical surprise with operational—if not strategic—implications. Those implications can necessitate “institutional” responses to avoid strategic defeat in what, for many countries, are “wars of discretion.” Operational surprise, as defined in this examination, differs from strategic shocks as described by Nathan Freier, and the necessary responses are distinct from the military adaptations considered by John Nagl. The paper contends that the 6-year evolution of the IED experience from 2003 until 2009 constitutes a complete cycle of surprise and response, of which the most significant part is the institutional response."