9 August 2021

Episode 005: Red Teaming The Invasion of Iraq
How the U.S. Army realized and responded to constraints on strategic planning


Welcome to another episode of The Thinking Leader podcast, brought to you by Red Team Thinking. In this episode, your host Bryce Hoffman talks to Colonel Kevin Benson, U.S. Army, ret., the man who planned the invasion or Iraq, about the painful lessons of that war, and how they led to the creation of decision-support red teaming and the establishment of the Army’s red teaming school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Col. Benson was a senior instructor at that school. He is now dean of The Red Team Thinking Academy, which provides comprehensive red team training and support to the U.S. and allied militaries, intelligence community and national security agencies, and the former director of the School of Advanced Military Studies, the Army’s most elite institution for training strategic thinkers. Today, he also writes for a number of professional journals and websites from Parameters and Army Magazine, to Time and POLITICO.

“We were constrained in our thinking by what [General Schoomaker] termed the ‘gravitational pull of Western military thought’ ... we were so constrained by it, that we were not thinking more broadly.” – Col. Kevin Benson, U.S. Army, ret.

Top 10 Takeaways:


[02:47] Planning the invasion of Iraq.

[13:20] Kevin talks about the unexpected arrival of Paul Bremer in Baghdad and how that turned the Army’s plan for the occupation of Iraq on its head. 

[20:02] The origins of decision-support red teaming.

[24:24] How the Army’s failure to challenge its assumptions led to problems in Iraq.

[30:09] Kevin talks about red teaming the Army’s withdrawal from Iraq.

[33:59] Red teaming the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

[37:11] Kevin talks about the lessons businesses can learn from his experiences.

[39:34] The Pentagon’s decision to close the Army’s red teaming school at Fort Leavenworth.

[41:09] The new Red Team Thinking Academy.

[42:08] Kevin talks about the evolution from red teaming to Red Team Thinking in the military.



Mentioned in this Episode:


Brought to you by Red Team Thinking

Red Team Thinking Academy

University of Foreign Military & Cultural Studies

Kansas City Police Department



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