Death before dismount? : mechanization, force employment, and counterinsurgency outcomes in Iraq
Author(s)Moyer, Raphael (Raphael E.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Roger D. Petersen.
MetadataShow full item record
Recent research suggests that heavily mechanized armies perform worse in counterinsurgency campaigns than those that use fewer vehicles. The U.S. military's 2007 operations in Iraq, however, present an empirical quandary for the mechanization hypothesis: a vehicle-heavy army proved able to suppress an insurgency, allowing Iraqi leaders to work towards a long-term political solution. This paper argues that force employment, not mechanization, drives counterinsurgency outcomes-what matters is not that armies have many vehicles or soldiers, but how they choose to use them. When heavily mechanized forces change their tactics and doctrine to line up with counterinsurgency principles, shifting from an enemy-centric to a population-centric approach, outcomes dramatically improve while military-wide mechanization levels remain constant. Using an original dataset, this paper conducts a large-n regression analysis of the impacts of mechanization at the provincial level in Iraq, and finds little support for the mechanization hypothesis. A subsequent comparative case study, of the heavily mechanized 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's operations in Tall Afar and the light infantry 82nd Airborne Division's operations in Fallujah, indicate that force employment rather than mechanization is a key indicator of counterinsurgency outcomes. The finding has important implications for force structure policy, as it indicates that mechanized forces can indeed conduct successful counterinsurgency campaigns.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2011.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 100-105).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology