The history of the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom is replete with tactical and operational studies, and the shifts in strategy are well documented. The Chief of Staff of the Army’s (CSA) official study, The U.S. Army in the Iraq War, provides an excellent analysis of the operational level of war. “Riding the Hydra,” however, examines the institutional Army, specifically the Army staff, and its efforts to prepare the Army for war.
When President George W. Bush made the decision to launch the war in Iraq, the Army faced a two-front war for the first time since World War II. Though the Army in 2002 was much better trained, equipped, and ready than its predecessor sixty years before, it still showed the effects of declining budgets and lack of strategic focus. The modern, professional Army requires bureaucratic processes in order to coordinate a complex and highly sophisticated system. The defense budgets have declined over the years, but they remain as much as 14 percent of the total federal budget. Managing those funds properly and legally requires a system of firm controls.