Generation Kill: A Conversation with Stanley McChrystal

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 demonstrated the vulnerability of the United Sates on the international level. The government was forced to respond to the existing situation quickly. Thus, military techniques and approaches to counter-terrorist operations were revised and improved. General Stanley McChrystal, who led the U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, explained what main changes occurred in the U.S. Army after the 9/11 attacks, and what might be their consequences (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Technological advancements made it more effective during the counter-terrorist operations in Iraq and Afghanistan because they allowed monitoring vast territories and battlefields and made information transfer among troops faster.

Before the September 11 attack, the U.S. military did occasional operations with a high degree of intelligence to counter Al-Qaeda. However, after 9/11, terrorist networks increased, and associated movements exploded. Thus, the military did not only fight against terrorists, but also insurgents, sects, and other social problems (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). To be successful, the U.S. Army needed to become a network to ensure that information flowed quickly. Troops were based in 27 countries at the same time, and in Iraq, they were in up to 30 locations simultaneously. All of them were connected through modern technologies that gave the ability to learn about changes very quickly. Troops also started working with intelligence much faster. Previously, it took weeks for them to turn intelligence into a new operation (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Later, they learned to perform a scheme of capturing someone, gaining information, and going after another target three times in one night. The number of raids increased from 18 to almost 300 per month. By 2007, troops had managed to synchronize their efforts completely (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Therefore, the speed and effectivity of operations increased significantly.

McChrystal asserts that the technological change was one of the main transformations in tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. First, the American military started using global positioning systems. This technology allowed troops to be exactly where they wanted to be (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). This way it stopped being a complicated task to get from point A to point B. McChrystal asserts that today the ability to get to some position is taken for granted. However, previously, without this technology, a half part of an operation was to get to some point in the map. Second, the military started using night-vision goggles and equipment on distinct machines (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). These technologies gave advantage to the U.S. military as they could see and act in the dark. This way they did not have to use visible lights at night. Weapons also had laser-aiming lights, and infrared illumination was used if it was too dark to see with night-vision goggles. As a result, US troops dominated night operations and firefights. Finally, the military started using predators, unmanned aerial machines, and manned aircraft (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). These technologies allowed seeing images and videos of battlefields in real time. Even though these videos did not give complete awareness of the situation, they still allowed understanding what was happening.

The use of new technologies was successful and proved that it could increase the productivity of the U.S. Army significantly. McChrystal explained that before the technological improvement, even though the operation required 20 commandos to participate, still 120 were taken because they had to ensure security around the location to counter enemy reinforcements (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Moreover, some operations also required support and command-and-control sections, which protected soldiers from unexpected attacks. However, with new technologies that allowed being aware of the situation and the surrounding environment and having good communication, only 20 commandos participated in one operation. With the ability to see everything, they could maneuver in case of any threat or danger. With such advancements, the number of commandos needed for one operation was reduced, and 120 could do not only one but six raids at the same time. This way the U.S. Army began doing 300 raids per month (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). It was a very important change since to battle an enemy network, it is important to hit it on the regular basis, otherwise it will have enough time to heal itself. With simultaneous attacks, it barely recovers. Thus, technological advancements made the U.S. military significantly effective.

Technological advancements have a number of limitations and risks. McChrystal asserts that tactics that involve new technologies are effective, but require some complementary activities. For example, without the counter-insurgency approach, capturing and mass killing in Iraq and Afghanistan were not very productive. For example, drone strikes can simply keep the enemy at bay (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Moreover, even though drone strikes seem to pose little risk to the United States, people who face results of their work still feel it like a war. For common Americans, drones do not symbolize large-scale military campaigns. However, McChrystal asserts that if new technologies are used carelessly (though the U.S. military uses them with full responsibility), there is always an opportunity that terrorists may respond to them with an attack on some public place (Rose & McChrystal, 2013). Therefore, the U.S. government and the military need to understand what may be consequences of military campaigns for common citizens of America.

In conclusion, the American military forces managed to implement a number of changes in existing methods used in counter-terrorist campaigns that increased the overall effectiveness of the U.S. Army. Technological advancements allowed enhancing the number of raids because the amount of people needed for one operation was significantly reduced. This way, American troops managed hitting and eliminating entire networks of terrorist groups. Even though technologies allowed increasing the effectiveness of the American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is still important to understand that terrorists may respond to these raids with terrorist attacks because they perceive the American intervention as a war.

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Generation Kill: A Conversation with Stanley McChrystal