The Invasion of Panama


The U.S. invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989 was a mark of
excellence on the behalf of the U.S. armed forces ability to effectively use the
principles of war. The years leading up to the invasion set the climate for
conflict; drug trafficking became a major problem between Panama and the U.S. in
the 1980\'s, as well as Manuel Noriega\'s interference with the Panama canal
employees rights under the Panama Canal Treaty; the final action that sparked
the invasion was Noriega\'s attempt to fix the national election and the military
enforcement of the fix after the election. Once this took place the U.S. began
to make a plan for the invasion. The overwhelming success of this mission
stemmed from the U.S. military\'s competent use of the principals of war.
The primary success of a mission is the ability to define an overall
attainable objective for the mission. In the formulation of the mission to
invade Panama, the U.S. military set out four main objectives of the mission.
First, they wanted to "protect American lives" (Watson 69). This meant they
wanted to protect the lives of the 35,000 U.S. citizens in Panama from attacks
by Noriega\'s Panama Defense Force or PDF; they also wanted to protect the lives
of Americans at home by attempting to eliminate drug trafficking. Second, they
wanted to "protect American interests and rights under the Panama Canal Treaty"
(Watson 69). This could be done by abolishing Noriega\'s control of the workers
who operate the canal, and his control of the canal itself. Third, they wanted
to "restore a democratic and freely elected government to Panama" (Watson 107).
Here, the U.S. would gain control over the country and ensure a fair election.
And, finally, they wanted to "apprehend Noriega" (Watson 69) for prosecution in
the U.S.. This would ease the difficulty of restoring democracy and eliminating
drug trafficking, as well as giving Americans a feeling that justice was being
served. These objectives gave the mission clear goals to achieve, allowing for
the planing of each task that needed to be completed in order to accomplish the
mission.
Once objective has been established, the next step was to derive a
simple plan, following the principle of simplicity, which is the formation of
"Direct, simple plans and clear, concise orders to minimize misunderstanding and
confusion" (Stofft 7). That is just what the U.S. did. They used direct and
simple plans to carry out their mission; that is not to say the invasion was a
simple operation, on the contrary, the command and control measures were very
difficult. Thus, the plan was as simple as it could be with concern to the
difficulty of the operation.
The next principal of war is the concept of taking the offensive, this
gives the commander the ability to "impose his will upon the enemy" (Stofft 6).
Thus the commander keeps his enemy on the run, reacting instead of acting. This
is a principal the U.S. military did well; they attacked with speed,
accomplishing mission after mission until their objectives had been reached.
The U.S. did not allow the PDF to retaliate; according to Watson the purpose of
the U.S. offensive was to "defeat the PDF so decisively that those loyal to
Noriega would be thoroughly demoralized and unable to organize a guerrilla
campaign..." (Watson 70). From the initial attack to the capture of Noriega
only spanned 12 days, leaving no time for an effective counter-attack. In this,
the U.S. obeyed the principal of offensive, which helped lead to victory.
In order to maintain an effective offensive there must be effective
unity of command. This principal of war is vital to any mission. Unity of
command "obtains unity of effort by the coordinated action of all forces toward
a common goal...it is best achieved by vesting a single commander with the
requisite authority" (Stofft 7). From the beginning, the U.S. heeded this
principle of war. Flanagan points out that General Thurman "insisted on its
application in this operation" (Flanagan 34). He also states that, "General
Stiner would be in overall command of all U.S. combat forces, regardless of
service, including Special Operations Forces" (Flanagan 34). In this a strong
chain of command was formed, everyone knew who was in charge. Thus, there was
no room left open for conflicting orders from two different commanders.
The next principle of war is the concept of mass, which states,
"Superior combat power must be concentrated at the critical time and place for a
decisive purpose" (Stofft 6). The U.S. military effectively used this principal
during the invasion, using "over 26,000 U.S. personnel from all