May 25, 2007

The Center for Lessons Learned

Four years into the Iraq War, what have we learned? Soldiers, civilians, Iraqis, and Americans talk—and sometimes yell—about what they've learned in the last few years...including how to stay alive and why the aftermath of a war can be the trickiest time of all.


There's a 200-person operation based out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas called the Center for Army Lessons Learned. Host Ira Glass speaks with Colonel Steve Mains, who runs the Center, and with Craig Hayes and Lynn Rolf, two men who answer soldiers' requests for information. They explain what they're learning from soldiers in the field in Iraq, then and passing on to other soldiers. (6 minutes)

Act One


This American Life producer Nancy Updike tells the story of Conrad Crane, the head of the U.S. Army Military History Institute. Along with Andrew Terrill, he was commissioned by the Army to look at previous post-war occupations and give advice about how to stabilize and reconstruct post-war Iraq. The booklet they produced, which includes nine pages of detailed instructions on how to occupy Iraq, predicted many of the problems that eventually came to haunt the occupation. Although it was admired by successful commanders in Iraq, including H.R. McMaster, Updike explains why it was ignored by Pentagon officials. (22 minutes)

Second Half Prologue

Ira speaks with Milt Hileman of the Center for Army Lessons Learned about the single most-requested publication they put out, Soldiers' Handbook: The First 100 Days: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. It explains how to avoid getting killed in your first hundred days in Iraq, which is when a disproportionate number of U.S. casualties occur. The information in the booklet came from Iraq vets. (5 minutes)

Act Two

Am Not. Are Too. Am Not. Are Too.

What lessons are civilians taking from the War? One journalist has said that Americans seem condemned "to relive the prewar debates over and over because they were never thrashed out in the sunlight." In Salt Lake City on May 4, the prewar arguments—and some other arguments as well—were re-argued, on stage, by Salt Lake's liberal mayor Rocky Anderson and conservative radio and TV host Sean Hannity. Scott Carrier attended the event. (13 minutes)

Act Three

The Lessons Of Tomorrow, Today

For all the discussion in Congress about withdrawing troops, there seems to be very little serious discussion about why, about what'll happen to Iraq once we leave, about responsible ways to withdraw. To understand better these and other rarely-discussed questions about the war, we turned to Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks in Baghdad. A new edition of his book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq was released with an afterword discussing some of these questions. (9 minutes)