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Dr. Joseph Collins discusses the strategic lessons of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq

On November 9, 2015, The Institute of World Politics was pleased to welcome Dr. Joseph J. Collins for a lecture entitled “Strategic Lessons of the Campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Dr. Collins started his lecture by introducing two key questions that would serve as pillars for his newly published book, Lessons Encountered: Learning from the Long War: (1) what were the cost/benefits of the campaigns in the Long War? And (2) what were the strategic lessons? He then delineated the structure of his book, chapter by chapter, discussing the main points and topics. 

Dr. Collins continued his lecture speaking about the character of contemporary conflict. He mentioned, “In conventional warfare and logistics, the U.S. has no parallel, maybe never has had any peer. Particularly in logistics, in the middle of this war [Afghanistan], the Pakistanis got mad at us after the Bin Laden raid and closed down the line of communication over which 80% of our material came into theatre and nobody noticed. The logisticians redid, overnight mostly, the whole line of communication… and nobody noticed.” He also stated that the current U.S. military is very modern and adaptable to different situations and circumstances. 

On the other hand, Dr. Collins noted, the U.S. does face challenges, commenting “I find it ironic that the country that invented so much of modern communications, and the country that has Hollywood, the country that has Madison Avenue in many cases lost out to people who were doing their graphics in a cave.” He proceeded to speak about solutions and how different types of troubleshooting procedures would result, as it is talked about in his book.

In Dr. Collins’s conclusion, he mentioned that decisions have consequences, and he proceeded to give warfare statistics. For example, these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to more than 6,800 U.S. deaths, more than 1,200 coalition deaths, more than 52,000 U.S. wounded, 128,000 reported PTSD cases among those who were deployed, 3,212 contractor personnel dead, and $1.6 trillion in direct costs. He gave special mention to the fact that not all of the people reported were directly U.S. citizens explicitly — those people could have been contractors hired by Americans. 

Dr. Joseph J. Collins was appointed Director of the Center for Complex Operations, INSS, and National Defense University in July 2014, after a decade on the National War College faculty as Professor of National Security Strategy. Prior to that teaching assignment, Dr. Collins served for three years as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations, the Pentagon’s senior civilian official for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and stabilization and reconstruction operations. His team led the stability operations effort in Afghanistan and created the Global Peace Operations Initiative, which President Bush took to the 2004 G8 Sea Island Summit. From 1998-2001, he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he did research on economic sanctions, military culture, and national security policy. In 1998, Dr. Collins retired from the U. S. Army as a Colonel after nearly 28 years of military service.​