by Evans A. Hanson
On December 15, 2011, the U.S. mission in Iraq became State Department-led, and all U.S. military activities became the responsibility of the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation–Iraq (OSC-I). There are few, if any, well-known examples of such a transition in U.S. history that might inform civilian and military leaders in Baghdad. Where can one look to find insight that might inform our future efforts in Iraq?
Recognizing how unique the post-2011 Iraq mission is, senior American officials from throughout government—to include former U.S. Army Combined Arms Center commander Lieutenant General Robert Caslen (who commands OSC-I today)—attended a conference in February 2011 hosted by the Institute of Peace and the Simons Center for the Study of Interagency Cooperation that sought answers to this question. Subsequently, the Simons Center published the insights from that conference in a 37-page pamphlet titled Interagency Handbook for Transitions. While the handbook laid out a number of considerations for strategic-level policymakers, it lacked specific operational-level recommendations for leaders like Caslen. Additionally, the handbook relied on lessons from only the past ten years. Yet, since the past decade has been dominated by Department of Defense-led efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, its lessons might not be appropriate to inform the years ahead— when the embassy will be in the lead.
Fortunately, there is at least one useful example from history. In 1947, President Truman established the American Mission for Aid to Greece within the U.S. Embassy in Athens to help the Greek government end an insurgency. Despite limited resources and declining U.S. political will, the U.S. mission in Greece achieved significant long-term success.
To succeed in Iraq, as in Greece, the United States will combine security cooperation efforts with broader economic development and governance improvement efforts as part of an approach that some experts call “security sector reform” (SSR). Because of the similarities of these missions, close examination of the Embassy- led SSR effort in Greece between 1947 and 1949 might offer useful lessons for similar efforts in Iraq. To glean lessons for today’s U.S. leaders in Iraq, this paper asks, What did the United States do in Greece to enable the Greek government to end an insurgency Greece will likewise be the essential ingredient in Iraq—interagency unity of effort in the field.
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Major Evans Hanson is a U.S. Army Field Artillery officer and a current student at the School of Advanced Military Studies. Hanson’s “Embassy in the Lead: Lessons on Interagency Unity of Effort for Today’s U.S. Mission to Iraq from the 1947–1949 U.S. Mission to Greece” won second place in the Simons Center Public Writing Competition conducted from September 2011 through March 2012. This IAP and the other two winning entries are also available in a special issue IAP which contains all three papers– download the IAP Special Issue here.
Download the IAP Special Issue 2012 which contains all three winning entries of the Simons Center Public Writing competition.