June 12, 2010

Book Review - The Surge: A Military History

The Surge by Kimberly Kagan

Kim Kagan's book is just what the title says it is; a military history of the Surge. It does not cover the political aspects in Washington DC, or the formation of the Surge plan. Nor does she discuss the politics in Iraq or Iraqi society. Most important to note for commenters, she does neither weighs in on whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003 or on whether the surge itself was a good idea. What she does is simply discuss the military aspects of what happened in Iraq.

Dr Kagan is very well qualified to write on military topics. After taking her Ph. D. in history from Harvard, she taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale University, Georgetown University, and American University. She is currently president of the Institute for Understanding War in Washington DC. She has traveled many times to Iraq, interviewing people from General Odierno himself down to lower ranking officers and soldiers. This is not to suggest that such qualifications make her right by definition in her analysis, rather that she has the background to write intelligently on the topic.

Kagan is married to Frederick Kagan, a military scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has been described as one of the "intellectual authors" of the surge. His brother is foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan. Their father is Donald Kagan, who is a professor at Yale and a fellow at the Hudson Institute. A more distinguished family is hard to find.

Those who are opposed to our involvement in Iraq will be tempted to dismiss Kimberly Kagan's book because she and her husband did speak out in favor of the surge plan, and as mentioned earlier Frederick's work at the AEI was one of, if not the, impetus behind it (more on that below). But again, this book is not about whether the invasion or surge were good ideas, but is rather a history of what did happen.

Introduction: The Players

The Insurgents

  • Al Qaeda in Iraq - AQI - Sunni - Commanded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri just before and during the years of the surge. Based in Falluhah.
  • Mahdi Army, also knows as Jaysh (or Jaish) al Mahdi (JAM) - Shiite - created and led by the Iraqi Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003
  • Special Groups - Shiite - Small, cell based groups created and sponsored by Iran
  • JAM and Special Groups were primarily based in the northeast neighborhoods of of Baghdad, called Sadr City
The Sunni and Shiite insurgents fought each other as much as they did the Coalition. JAM and AQI fought each other for control of Baghdad and it's environs throughout 2005 and 2006 because if you controlled the capital you effectively controlled the government. There was in effect several insurgencies taking place at the same time: Sunni v Coalition, Shiite v Coalition, Sunni v Shiite, Awakening Movement v AQI, and insurgent group v insurgent group. Sometimes the insurgent groups cooperated and sometimes they didn't.

Key Events Leading to the Adoption of the Surge Strategy

  • Mid-term Elections - November 7, 2006 - Democrats capture the House and Senate, having run partially on an "end the war" platform
  • Iraq Study Group - December 6 2006 - Report released which recommended major changes in war strategy
  • New Strategy - December 15, 2006- Team led by then-Lt. Gen. Petraeus releases U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24
  • American Enterprise Institute report - December 14, 2006 - Report by Frederick Kagan, Gen Jack Keane (ret) "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" outlines many of the concepts that eventually make up the Surge plan
  • Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno - December 2006 - The Corps commander told his boss, Gen. Casey, that his approach of fewer American troops and handing off responsibility to the Iraqis as soon as possible will not work and recommends to President Bush that he needs at least 5 addition U.S. brigades

Announcement of Surge - January 10, 2008 - The surge plan is announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address

U.S. Personnel Changes 2006-7


  • Multi-National Corps - Iraq - December 14 - Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli. is replaced by Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno
  • U.S. National Intelligence Director- January 5 - John Negroponte resigned and was replaced by retired Admiral John M. McConnell will take his place.
  • CENTCOM commander- March 16 - Navy Admiral William Fallon replaced General John Abizaid as CENTCOM commander.
  • Commander of Multinational Force Iraq - February 10 - Counter-insurgency expert General David Petraeus replaced General George Casey as Commander of Multinational Force Iraq.
  • U.S. Ambassador to Iraq - March 26 - Bush U.S. diplomat Ryan C. Crocker replaced Zalmay Khalilzad, as the new ambassador to Iraq.


The Iraqi Leader

Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki or Nouri Kamil al-Maliki - Prime Minister of Iraq, Islamic Dawa Party. Elected PM May 20, 2006.

U.S. Military Unit Definitions

Division - typically commanded by a major general (two star) - 17,000 to 21,000 troops - a division typically consists of four brigades. A division is the smallest permanent unit in the United States military

Brigade (Regiment in the Marine Corps) - typically commanded by a Colonel - 2,500 to 4,000 troops - A brigade is important because it is the smallest unit that consists of all of the "parts" typically needed for a ground unit to fight a war; infantry, armor, artillery, medical, intelligence, helicopters, logistics, etc

Book Summary

The Background

The situation in Iraq was dire by the late summer of 2006. Coalition forces were not able to put down the insurgency that had started shortly after the invasion of March 2003. The death toll among Iraqi civilians and military personnel had been going up. The bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque"), a Shiite Muslim holy site, by al Qaeda in Iraq on February 22, 2006 and again on June 13, 2007 fueled the fire that was already raging. Some analysts that Iraq was in or headed towards a civil war, and whether that was correct or not from a technical aspect, it was starting to become clear that the insurgents were winning.

As insurgencies vary in nature, the center of gravity varies with each one. Sometimes control of the countryside is all-important, in others it's control of the capital, in still others a key industrial or crossroads. With the war in Iraq, the key to victory was controlling the capital city.

With violence was spiraling out of control in and around Baghdad, General Casey, along with his Iraqi counterparts, devised Operation Together Forward I in the summer of 2006. OTF I kicked off on July 13 and concluded on August 6. It was mostly reactive in nature, responding to insurgent attacks as they occurred.

Because sectarian violence continued to rise, Operation Together Forward II started immediately following OTF I. As with it's predecessor, it involved all elements of the Iraqi security forces as well as American troops.

The plan failed because although we could clear the neighborhoods we could not hold them. There were neither enough Iraqi or American troops. Further, many Iraqi units had been infiltrated by militia members who simply used the offensive to pursue the very violence it was supposed to stop.

Worse, the operation actually increased violence. Coalition troops would clear a Shiite neighborhood of JAM forces, but because they could not stay, AQI would move in and kill residents. Or, in Sunni neighborhoods, we would clear out AQI, only to have JAM move in as soon as we left. Commanders stopped the OTF II in mid-October precisely for this reason. Because coalition forces concentrated on clearing Sunni neighborhoods, they ended up suffering more than the Shiites.

American and Iraqi military leaders operated under fundamentally flawed concepts in 2006 and before. One was that their objective was not to secure the population, but to chase after the terrorists in a series of raids. They could not have made their primary objective to protect the people even if they had wanted to for two reasons. One, they simply didn't have enough troops, and two, the ones they had were based on large Forward Operating bases (FOBs) and thus were separated from the population.

General Casey thought that it was the presence of American troops that was fueling the insurgency, a concept that would turn out to be utterly mistaken. He wanted to get our troops out from responsibility for areas in Iraq and out of the country, thinking that if only we could train the Iraqis fast enough they could take over. This set up a race between the trainers and the insurgents; could we train Iraqis fast enough to defeat the insurgency before it won? The answer proved to be a resounding no.

As such, after we had secured an area, rather than keep our own troops there to make sure the insurgents didn't come back, we rushed to get the Iraqi Army and police in and us out. The Iraqis could not maintain control and before long the area was back in insurgent hands. The average time Iraqi forces could control a neighborhood before insurgents took it over again was 2 weeks, and this despite constant U.S. assistance.

Cart Before the Horse

From 2003 until Gen Petraeus took over, we operated under the premise that if we could get the Iraqi economy going again, and a legitimate government in place, security would follow. Readers will recall that it was primarily the Democrats in Congress who insisted on a series of political "benchmarks." The Iraqi government had to pass certain laws by certain dates or aid would be cut off and the troops brought home.

While there was a certain benefit to the benchmarks, by themselves they would have had no effect on ending the insurgency. Insisting on political progress before security had been established was putting the cart before the horse.

One of the main conclusions of Field Manual 3-24, mentioned above, was that political and economic progress can only occur after security is established. The authors of the work studied the history of insurgencies looking for trends, and it became clear that the path to victory lay in establishing security first.

The Genesis of the Surge

Commanders offered different plans to correct the situation. As mentioned above, Generals Casey and Abizaid believed that it was the presence of American troops that was fueling the insurgency, so favored plans that stressed recruiting and training more Iraqi troops. Lt. Gen. Odierno argued in favor of an increase of 5 to 10 brigades as a way of transforming the military situation. In response, Casey and Abizaid argued that an increase would only have a temporary effect because of the infighting among Iraqi politicians.

In Washington, the Iraq Study Group released a paper arguing for the plan Casey and Abizaid had put forth. The ISG was a ten person non-partisan appointed in 2006 by Congress, having first been suggested by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA-10).

Meanwhile, over at the American Enterprise Institute, scholar Frederick Kagan and retired Army Vice chief of Staff General Jack Keane presented a plan that involved sending 5 Army brigades and 2 Marine regiments to Iraq to support a new strategy of protecting the Iraqi population.

At the end of 2006 President George W. Bush adopted a new strategy for our war in Iraq, which was announced in a televised speech on January 10, 2007. As discussed above, there was a concurrent a change in commanders, the most important of which was the replacement of General George Casey with David Petraeus. The new strategy was explained by Lt Gen. Odierno as military operations designed:

...to create stability and security to protect the Iraqi people, first and foremost in Baghdad. The population and the government of Iraq are the center of gravity. Creating a stable environment in Baghdad should provide time and space for the Iraqi government to continue to mature as a government and continue to guild its capacity.

The team of Petraeus and Odierno considered two strategies to implement this new strategy of protecting the people of Baghdad. One was to attack the enemy in their safe havens outside of Baghdad, the other was to patrol the city's neighborhoods, clearing them of insurgents and then staying to ensure they didn't come back.

The answer came from Petraeus' new counterinsurgency doctrine, as ___ in the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. FM 3-24 had been written by a team led by then-Lt Gen Petraeus starting in October 2005, and was released on December
15, 2006.

As explained in FM 3-24, the path to victory lay in securing the population (or "populace," the term used in the book), not in chasing insurgents around the countryside. As such, as one element of the new strategy Odierno deployed his new surge brigades to Baghdad itself with the objective of clearing them of insurgents and keeping them from returning.

The other thing Odierno died was to assign other units to the belts around Baghdad to destroy AQI safe-havens, which extended 20 to 30 miles outside the city. OTF I & II only concentrated on security within the city, the new effort would secure the capital as well as its environs.

Surge Units

via Wikipedia, the 5 additional Army brigades sent to Iraq were:


  1. 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, January 2007
  2. 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, February 2007
  3. 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to southern Baghdad Belts, March 2007
  4. 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker): 3,921 troops. Deployed to Diyala province, April 2007
  5. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to the southeast of Baghdad, May 2007

This brought the number of brigades in Iraq from 15 to 20.

In addition, Marines in al Anbar province from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 1st Battalion 6th Marines and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines had their tours extended. All troops had their 12 month tours extended to 15 months.

From FOB to COP and JSS

p 32
Before the surge, most U.S. troops were stationed on one of five large well-protected Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), and only ventured out to patrol or take part in specific operations. They tended to be reactive rather than proactive, and reinforced Iraqi operations rather than leading the way themselves. Because the Iraqi forces were not able to conduct offensive operations effectively, they tended to rely on checkpoints. The strategy didn't work.

The first of the oft-cited Zen-like "Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency" in the first chapter of FM 3-24 was that "Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be." In other words, keeping our troops on well-protected bases most of the time made them less safe, not more so.

The reason for this was that by staying on their FOB most of the time the troops weren't as familiar their patrol area as they should have been, and because they obviously weren't sharing the same risks as the Iraqi people, the latter weren't going to take the risk of overtly helping our effort. As such, the troops were at a high level of risk from insurgent attack when on patrol or on an operation.

Odierno dispersed the troops from the FOBs into the neighborhoods, where they established Combat Outposts, or Joint Security Stations. The COPs were American only, the JSSs were set up in concert with the Iraqi security forces.

Whether stationed at a COP or a JSS, being in the neighborhood eliminated the problems they faced earlier. As has been reported many times, when the troops arrived in the neighborhoods, the Iraqis asked "are you staying this time?" When our answer was "yes," the Iraqis responded "then this time we will help you." In addition, our troops became intimately familiar with their assigned Area of Operations (AO). From FM 3-24:

7-7 ...Effective commanders know the people, topography, economy, history, and culture of their area of operations (AO). They know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance within it...

"Will you stay this time" was the question Iraqis asked American commanders when they saw our units coming into their areas. When the answer they got was "yes," the Iraqis decided they could safely support the Americans. With that support came timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence, not to mention more and more Iraqis signing up to serve in their own security forces.

Preparing the Battlefield

It is important to understand the difference between operations designed to prepare or "shape" the battlefield, and "prepare the conditions" for victory, from decisive operations themselves. The former three involve deploying forces to the area nearby or in the area where they willll eventually fight the decisive battle, and getting set up in their bases. This involved setting up the COPs and JSSs, getting supply lines set up, getting to know the neighborhoods, meeting the people, developing intelligence, etc. As part of establishing these neighborhood bases, our commanders became intimately familiar with their AO, and used that information to prepare for the fight ahead.

To be sure, preparing the battlefield involved much fighting. As most of these neighborhoods, towns, and cities were controlled by the insurgents we had to fight our way in. Insurgents then attacked our new bases. We sent out scouts to reconnoiter the area and they fought battles. But these were not decisive actions, but rather getting the troops in place and set for what would become the decisive action later.

So that the fight for Diyala province and eastern Anbar were preparatory operations. Indeed, even clearing operations in Baghdad as late as April and May were preparatory operations for the decisive battles that occurred in the second half of 2007.

Going After the Militias

The additional American troops gave Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the strength and confidence to go after the militias. On January 11 he ordered them to disarm or face attack. Within a few days many Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM) commanders had ordered their troops to stand down. Just as or even more importantly, Moqtda al Sadr issued a cease-fire, ordering his JAM forces not to fight American or government forces.

Not all JAM members complied. American and Iraqi forces went after them, arresting or killing rogue commanders and their troops. In addition, Moqtada al Sadr left the country for Iran, which left the organization leaderless and its commanders confused. As a result, JAM fractured and ceased to function as a coherent fighting force.

The result was that JAM was effectively neutralized, at least for the time being. This had am immediate and positive effect on the political scene, because without their militia Sadrist politicians ended their boycott of parliament, and became part of the political process.

The Baghdad Security Plan: Operation Fardh al Qanoon

The Baghdad Security Plan, or Operation Fardh al Qanoon ("Enforcing the Law") began on February 14, 2007. It was not the first true offensive operation, which would not come until June with Operation Phantom Thunder. Rather, it was part of what is called "preparing the ground" for the main battles that lie ahead.

Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and the First Cavalry Division, explained the operational concepts behind the plan:

This new plan involves three basic parts: clear, control and retain. The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population. And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation. Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city. This effort to re-establish the joint security stations is well under way. The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area. An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed. During these three phrases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure. These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood advisory councils, district advisory councils and the government of Iraq.

In short, the main difference between the Fardh al Qanoon and OTF I & II was that this time we had more troops, and they would remain in the neighborhoods after they had cleared them of insurgents to ensure they didn't return.

The Anbar Awakening

Some people would have us believe that it was the Anbar Awakening alone that turned Iraq around, or that it was developed and was successful apart from the Surge. Neither assertion is true. Kagan

The truth is that (the Awakening) began emerging in 2006 thanks to the hard and skilful fighting and negotiating of Army colonel Sean MacFarland and a number of Marine officers and their subordinates. General Odierno met with Sheikh Sattar abu Risha in December 2006 and encouraged U.S. soldiers in Anbar to continue fighting and negotiating in support of Abu Risha's efforts.

She further explains that

"The presence of U.S. forces conducting counterinsurgency missions to secure the population made the local rejection of al Qaeda possible and effective. The leadership and example of the sheikhs of Ramadi inspired sheikhs in neighboring cities to cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces. As a result of their efforts, especially in late 2006 and early 2007, al Qaeda no longer controlled Ramadi or Fallujah"

More,

The awakening started when in the summer of 2006 Sunni Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu al-Risha grew weary of al Qaeda brutality against is family and decided to fight back. He enlisted other sheiks in the fall of that year formed the Anbar Salvation Council. Sattar and the other sheikhs encouraged their men to join the Iraqi police, which in Anbar had been basically non-existent.

For U.S forces, securing Baghdad was the primary objective in 2007. We concentrated on what are called "shaping operations" in Anbar and Diyala that year. Shaping operations "create and preserve conditions for the success of the decisive operation...they may occur before, concurrently with, or after the start of the decisive operation."

One objective of our operations in Anbar in 2007 was to integrate all levels of government; central, provincial, and local. De-Baathification had kept many Sunnis out of government, the insurgency frightened many into staying home, and Sunni leaders had boycotted the 2005 election. In 2007 the process of turning this around was started.

Concerned Local Citizens - Sons of Iraq

As in Anbar and elsewhere, Concerned Local Citizens groups were formed in Diyala. They complemented the Iraqi Security Forces, and protected villages when our forces were absent. Some of the CLC members were former insurgents. Having enemy troops join your side is better than killing them because it demoralizes and fractures the enemy. It also gives you another soldier.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Concerned Local Citizens (CLC, later called Sons of Iraq), as they were discussed during many of the press briefings of this time. Essentially, the CLCs were an organization formed by the U.S. as a sort of "super-neighborhood watch." They were paid, but not armed (at least by us, everyone in Iraq seems to own an AK-47), by t he United States. The objectives were several. One, to give a job to unemployed young men who might otherwise fight a job planting IEDs. Another was to turn around former insurgents and bring them into the process. Because they worked in their own neighborhoods, CLC members provided the Coalition with valuable intelligence. Finally, it was a means of combating al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

In order to be effective Iraqi police had to be recruited from the neighborhoods they would patrol, otherwise they'd be considered "outsiders" and not trusted by the people. Worse, "outsiders" would themselves engage in sectarian cleansing.

AQI Reacts to the Surge

"In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts."

Carl von Clausewitz

AQI reacted to the surge by attempting to undermine the credibility of Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces by escalating its vehicle bomb campaign. They also hoped to spark the very sectarian violence we were trying to tamp down. Their car bomb campaign was well organized and thought out. The attacks were not at random but targeted specific locations and people. The campaign started in January of 2007 and persisted in intensity through March.

For a time it was act and react. Reacting to their campaign, Coalition and Iraqi forces took actions such as erecting barricades around populated areas such as markets. Denied these targets, AQI went after locations such as bridges. The Coalition, in turn, redoubled efforts to take out the AQI networks that made and distributed the vehicle bombs. Eventually, though the walls and Coalition attacks took their toll and AQI vehicle bombs slowed down.

Operation Phantom Thunder - The Decisive Battle Begins

Operation Phantom Thunder, the start of decisive operations, kicked off on June 15, 2007. It was a highly coordinated corps-wide offensive across all of Iraq that involved all commands and many sub-operations. It was followed by Phantom Strike on August 15, and finally, Phantom Phoenix on January 8, 2008.

Planning for Phantom Thunder had actually begun in December of 2006, even before President Bush announced the "surge" of troops. "Generals Petraeus and Odierno had determined...that securing Baghdad would require a major campaign to dislodge Qaeda from the belts around Baghdad."

By June, Baghdad was encircled by Coalition troops. Not literally, of course, but circled in the sense that we had control of all major road intersections and such.

Phantom Thunder was a corps-level offensive in that it was it was coordinated with all units in the country. Unlike previous operations, in which each division or brigade operated more or less without concern for the others, this time everyone would be working in concert.

The intent, again, was to protect the Iraqi population. Doing so would allow economic and political activity to start again, buying time for the government. Negotiations among political parties and factions only work when security has been established, not the other way around.

Phantom Thunder was the largest counterinsurgency operation in history. While previous operations had degenerated into a game of "whack-a-mole," this time the insurgents were separated from the population. We were also aggressive in avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage, which built all-important trust among the people.

Phantom Thunder and Phantom Strike in Diyala Province

Kagan: "The overarching objective of Phantom Thunder was to stop insurgents in the provinces from supporting violence in Baghdad. Controlling Baqubah (the largest city in Diyala), advanced U.S. forces toward that objective."

Following Phantom Thunder was Phantom Strike. General Odierno explained the objectives of Phantom Strike:

"This week, we launched Operation Phantom Strike, a series of targeted operations designed to intensify pursuit of extremist elements across Iraq. With the elimination of safe havens and support zones due to Phantom Thunder, al Qaeda and Shi'a extremists have been forced into ever-shrinking areas, and it is my intent to pursue and disrupt their operations. ...Over the coming weeks, we plan to conduct quick strike raids against remaining extremist sanctuaries and staging areas, carry out precision targeting operations against extremist leadership and focus missions to counter the extremists' lethal accelerants of choice, the IED and the vehicle-borne IED. We will continue to hunt down their leadership, deny them safe haven, disrupt their supply lines and significantly reduce their capability to operate in Iraq" (DoD Press Briefing, August 17, 2007).

Diyala illustrated the benefits of the strategy of securing the population first. (p141) Our primary objective was to control territory, and killing or capturing the enemy was second. (p 116) After eliminating enemy safe-havens, we were able to convince some tribal leaders to join our side, or at least turn against the insurgents. Tribal reconciliation followed the establishment of security.

Although al Qaeda attempted to reconstitute itself, we were able to fragment them into small groups. They were not allowed safe havens, as this time the Coalition had enough troops to secure all critical areas of the country.

In 2006, the Iraqis were supposed to control territory through checkpoints after we had cleared an area. The problem with this approach is that it froze units in place where they could not respond to anything that happened save in their immediate area. More, operations in 2007 and 2008 were successful precisely because their primary objective was not immediate transition to Iraqi control, a control that was beyond their capability. Rather, their objective was simply that of establishing security.

To be clear, combat ("kinetic operations," in U.S. military parlance) operations were not second or subordinate to non-combat ("non-kinetic," i.e. nation building) operations, as has sometimes been charged. Rather, the purpose of combat operations was to allow non-combat operations to take place. Indeed, the two took place simultaneously. The goal of kinetic operations was to separate the insurgents from the population and defending those Iraqis willing to work with us and their new government. Only when they felt safe would Iraqis work with Americans and their new government. To facilitate this, the American strategy was a carrot-and-stick approach, with protection and financial benefits only going to tribal leaders who rejected violence.

Iran's Proxy War in Iraq

Iran began planning operations against American forces in Iraq in 2002, some months before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom that started on March 20, 2003. While their overall strategy and goals are not completely clear, it is clear that they have supplied weapons, fighters, and advisers to the insurgency in Iraq. Iran has supported both Sunni and Shia groups throughout all of Iraq. Iran also supported Ansar al Islam, a Sunni terrorist group tied to al Qaeda, as well as AQI itself. Iranian support increased with time. At the start of the insurgency, Iranian influence was relatively low. By August of 2007 Iranian influence accounted for half of all attacks on Coalition forces.

As such, Coalition attention to the problems posed by Iran was relatively low at first, and only after achieving success against AQI and other insurgent groups did we turn our attention to Iran.

It didn't take any deep intelligence or decryption of encoded documents to detect the Iranian influence. It was stamped on weapon after weapon captured by the Coalition. Everything from the special copper disks on Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP) to the tail fins of mortars told the tale.

The organizing force in Iran was the Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods(or "Quds") Force (IRGC-QF)(also known as "Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution" or "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps"). The Qods Force is part of the Revolutionary Guards, and they report directly to the Supreme Leader, who as of this writing is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. From what I can tell, the IRGC is roughly equivalent to the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel). The Qods Force is responsible for exporting the Iranian revolution. Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, is probably the most important group formed by the Qods Force.

Qods Force and Hezbollah personnel teamed to train Iraqis in groups of twenty to sixty in Iran so that they would function as a unit; hence the term "Special Group," a term given to them by the U.S. military. Hezbollah training of Iraqis in Iran began in 2005. Special Groups usually remained separate, but possibly teamed with JAM for some operations.

Special Groups functioned alongside and in cooperation with JAM and other militia groups. Some of them came from JAM and other militia groups, being their more extreme members. Perhaps the best description is that Special Groups are an "outgrowth" of JAM and other similar groups

It's possible that Iranian support for insurgent groups was simply to create a "quagmire" for U.S. forces so as to divert attention from their operations elsewhere, rather than militarily eject us from the country. It's also possible that they thought they could infiltrate the democratic Iraqi government and get people more sympathetic to their idea of a theocracy in place. Likely they also simply did not want a successful Western-style democracy on their doorstep. Or perhaps they simply had the more limited goal of ensuring that the Baghdad government could not control the southern portion of their country. Most likely of all is some combination of the above. Either way, it was clear that Iranian influence served to undermine the nascent democracy.

The U.S. countered Iranian influence with both a diplomatic and military response. Ambassador Ryan Crocker discussed the situation in direct talks with high ranking Iranian officials, including the Iranian ambassador to Iraq. The military response targeted JAM and Special Forces directly, capturing or killing leaders, breaking up networks, and intercepting arms shipments. These operations met with some success, but Iranian influence continues to be a problem.

Final Thoughts by Kagan

The last of the surge brigades left Iraq in the summer of 2008.

As can be seen by the following chart, the surge clearly worked

Iraq Security Incidents May 2009

As the surge progressed, violence decreased. By late 2007 it was half that of mid-2005. Attack trends dropped 60 percent in Baghdad in 2007. Civilian deaths dropped 70 percent. Iraq dropped off the media's radar, itself a sign of success.

Three U.S. operations were responsible for the success. The first was Faradh al Qanoon (Baghdad Security Plan), in which Gen. Odierno placed surge units in and around the capital. Next came Phantom Thunder, which cleared AQI from the belts around Baghdad. That was followed by Phantom Strike, in which Coalition forces pursued AQI as they fled and attempted to reconstitute.

Iraqis ended up rejecting AQI and other extremist groups. The "Awakening" in Anbar and elsewhere was evidence of this. However, despite what some in the media insinuate, the"Awakening" was not independent of Coalition efforts and did not turn Iraq around by itself. The Awakening would have failed had U.S. leaders such as U.S. Army Col. Sean McFarland, some Marine officers, and Gen Odierno not seized the moment and encouraged and supported it.

Another criticism one hears is that American forces simply bribed insurgents into laying down their arms. While this is true in some cases, it overlooks the larger picture. Most of those insurgents who took money to change sides or go back to civilian life were also "encouraged" to do so by aggressive and successful American military operations.

Gen. Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 provided the overall theory on how to win, but it didn't get into specifics of what units should be deployed where or precisely how they were to be used. That task was left to Lt. Gen. Odierno, who drew up and oversaw the execution of what was know as the Surge. As Kagan concludes

It was Odierno who creatively adapted sophisticated concepts from conventional fighting to the problems in Iraq, filling gaps in the counterinsurgency doctrine and making the overal effort a success. For all the sophistication of this integrated political-military and kinetic/non-kinetic approach to the conflict, Odierno is likely to be remembered in military history as the man who redefined the operational art of counterinsurgency with a series of offensives in 2007 and 2008.

My Take

One book, and one author, cannot and should not cover everything. Those who may complain because this book does not discuss the domestic or Iraqi politics, or whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003 or execute the surge miss the point. The fact is that the surge plan worked, and Kagan explains why in this book.

The strongest part of the book is simply that Kagan explains clearly why we failed before the surge, and how the change in strategy coupled with additional troops worked. Although she does not get into the details of counterinsurgency, she discusses it well enough from a higher level so that one gets the idea. If you want to know why we once failed and then succeeded, this is the book for you.

Kagan also does a good job at outlining the various insurgent groups, and how they fought both one another and Coalition troops. Al Qaeda in Iraq, Jaysh al Mahdi, Special Groups, they are more are all there.

This is not to say the work is not without its flaws. There is not much on the commanders, and their decision making process, whether at the division or brigade levels. Discussing units without their commanders seems an omission to me. As someone who watched and blogged on every briefing by a combat commander in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2007 on, I was hoping for more names to appear.

There is also not enough about small-unit counterinsurgency strategy, but perhaps Kagan just decided to concentrate on the "big picture." There are also some grammatical and I think a few errors in word use, no doubt the result of a work rushed into print without enough editing.

All in all, this is a must-read if you want to understand the war in Iraq, especially the surge and why it was successful.

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May 26, 2010

General Petraeus Explains the Intellectual Origins of the Surge

Iraq is not much in the news these days, which must mean we're winning. Afghanistan is sometimes in the news, and there the going is decidedly tough.

On this blog I have examined in some detail the situation in Iraq before and during the surge of forces in Iraq. From 2007 on I covered every press briefing by a combat commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. I reviewed the all important U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, which was written by a team led by then-Lt Gen David Petraeus and released in December of 2006. It became the "bible" of the new strategy that made the surge of troops possible.

In October of 2008 Gen Petraus gave what I called a "how we did it" speech before the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, DC.

All this, however, mostly covered the surge of troops itself, and not the situation predating the surge. It was this time period, specifically ate 2005 through 2006, the General Petraeus covered in a speech on May 6 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC. Excerpts follow:

One recent AEI effort, of course, stands out in particular. In the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept for what came to be known as "the surge." Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additional troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rare think tank products that had a truly strategic impact. ...

At about the same time Team Kagan was authoring its study, President Bush's senior assistant on Iraq, Meghan O'Sullivan, called me at Fort Leavenworth. "What do you think is needed in Iraq?" she asked. "Everything you can get your hands on," I said. On reflection, it would have been a bit more impressive for me to say that, based on complex analysis, precisely five more brigades were required. It might have made my subsequent Senate confirmation hearings a bit easier, too!
...

Change starts, again, with getting the big ideas right. Developing the proper constructs is essential to having the right intellectual foundation for all that follows. And doing so typically requires an ability to think creatively and critically about complex challenges, constantly testing one's assumptions and often embracing new concepts.

In my experience, big ideas don't fall out of a tree and hit you on the head like Newton's apple. Rather, they start as seeds of little ideas that take root and grow. The growth takes place primarily in discussion--spirited, freewheeling, challenging discussion of the kind that Irving Kristol would have enjoyed.
...

Now, while getting the big ideas right is critical, simply developing them is not enough. The big ideas must also be communicated effectively throughout the organization. And this is the second step in the four-step process I described earlier.

Communication should flow in multiple directions to be effective. In the military, it involves communicating downward through leaders and units, upward through the chain of command, and outward through coalition partners, interagency elements, and the press. The most important of these directions is downward--communicating the big ideas throughout the breadth and depth of the organization, and then ensuring they're understood, operationalized, and, ideally, embraced by leaders at all levels.
...

Well, having gotten the big ideas right and having communicated them throughout the organization, the next responsibility of leaders in the process of change is to oversee their implementation. This meant spending time with those turning the big ideas into reality on the ground. And, in 2006 in the United States, it meant, in particular, overhauling the process of how we prepared our units for deployment.

Now, careful oversight should not be taken to imply micromanagement.
...

The final step of the change process is to capture and share lessons and best practices, to use them to refine the big ideas, and to then begin the process all over again.

Enabling this in 2006 was the fact that all of us in uniform had worked hard over the years to ensure that our services were "learning organizations." For example, we'd established lessons learned centers in our organizational structures, routinely conducted after action reviews in the wake of exercises and operations, and developed formal processes to capture and share best practices. These initiatives had long been hugely important to the long term effectiveness of our organizations. And they were--and continue to be--especially important in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, war requires constant learning and adaptation, and that is particularly true in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations. As the COIN Manual observed, the side that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails.
...

I can remember a time when members of our military did not always receive the support they deserved. Two generations ago, we were engaged in war in Southeast Asia. American men and women in uniform fought with skill and valor for the sake of the country they loved and took an oath to defend. Many of them bled, and more than 58,000 of them died. With every one of those casualties, a family and a community were heartbroken, mourning a loss that could never be recovered, whose grief could never fully be assuaged.

But those returning from Vietnam often were not treated as the heroes they were. Recalling that, those of us in the military today are thankful beyond words that the American people seem to have such high regard and affection for their men and women in uniform.

Working with those men and women every day, seeing them perform missions in the toughest of circumstances imaginable, I can tell you that the regard and affection accorded our troopers are fully merited.

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December 29, 2006

New Plan for Iraq III

If we're going to surge troops, let's make sure we do it right, say Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, authors of a proposal to win the war in Iraq that has received a favorable review by the White House. Writing in the Washington Post two days ago, they say that

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

The key to the success is to change the military mission -- instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.

Writing in the New York Post, Ralph Peters largely agrees. The theme of his article is do it right or not at all, but if we do it, go for broke:

Focus exclusively on security. Concentrate on doing one thing well. Freeze all reconstruction and aid projects. Halt every program and close every office that doesn't contribute directly to pacifying Iraq.

Empty the Green Zone. Pack off the contractors. Reduce the military's overhead to those elements essential to support combat operations. Make it clear to "our" Iraqis that it's sink-or-swim time. Remove our advisers from any Iraqi unit that can operate marginally without them (and let the Iraqis do security their way without interference).

Above all, establish unity of command: Stop pretending there's a fully functional government in Baghdad, recall our ambassador until the fighting's over and make this a purely military effort until Iraq has been pacified.

Peters may go a bit far in some of his ideas, but he's generally on the right track, as are Keane and Kagan; the war is still winnable, we must prevail, so no more half-measures.

Opinion on whether the Keane-Kagan plan is a good one or not is split, mostly but not exclusively along predictable lines.

Barack Obama and John Edwards, both presidential hopefuls, have come out against a troop surge surge. Hillary Clinton says that she's against it too, "unless it is part of a larger plan to end the violence in Iraq".

Democrat presidential candidates Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack have are against a surge, as are Senators Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd.

John Kerry says that he's against increasing the number of troops "absent some kind of political resolution in Iraq".

Unsurprisingly, Senator Joe Lieberman is strongly in favor of a surge. Writing in today's Washinton Post, he says that our basic problem in Iraq is a lack of security, and unless that is fixed, nothing else much matters. Money quote

In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops. In both places these soldiers showed a strong commitment to the cause of stopping the extremists. One colonel followed me out of the meeting with our military leaders in Ramadi and said with great emotion, "Sir, I regret that I did not have the chance to speak in the meeting, but I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we believe in why we are fighting here and we want to finish this fight. We know we can win it."

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has been calling for an increast in troop levels for some time. Recently he urged the president to reject the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and increase the level of troops in Iraq. As Larry Kudlow points out, if the president does decide to send in more toops, McCain's support will be crucial.

To be fair, there are some Republicans against a surge too, notably Rep Duncan Hunter, who believes that the job can be done with existing Iraqi troops.

Others, such as conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, are also skeptical, writing that "unless there is very good reason to believe that a sustainable troop surge can bring permanent security to Baghdad, it may be time to redefine what constitutes success."

Likewise, Glenn Reynolds points out that some generals are "not thrilled" with the idea of a surge either, because in their view "the strife in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress."

So there you have it. Not a comprehensive survey, but I believe that from it we can reach a few conclusions. One, the hard left is unalterably opposed to any increase in troops no matter how good the plan. They do not care whether we win or lose, apparently seeing no ill effects from a loss.

A few Democrats hedge their bets. They say that they might be in favor of a troop increase, but only if certain vague conditions are met. Call me partisan, but think that they're just trying to have it both ways; if it succeeds they can say they were for it, and if it fails they can say that they had been against it all along.

On the left, Lieberman is the odd man out, but this is hardly a surprise. With the death of the Cold War Democrats over twenty or thirty years ago, he's the only one to have picked up the mantle of the late Henry "Scoop" Jackson.

On the right opinion is much more split. A few seem to have given up on the enterprise, some just think that a surge is the wrong strategy, and others will support it if their questions can be answered.

So in the end it all falls on mostly predictable fault lines. Those who turned against the war once it was discovered that there were no WMD do not think that anything we do can win it, and those in favor of the war believe that it can be won but are divided on strategy.

As I've mentioned in previous pieces on this matter, I think it can be won and that the Keane-Kagan plan represents our best choice for success. I used to think that more economic development and free elections would do the trick. I now believe that without security they don't matter so much, or at least they won't have as much effect as we would like.

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New Plan for Iraq II
Here's the New Plan for Iraq

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December 21, 2006

New Plan for Iraq II

In a post earlier this week I predicted that there would be a shake-up in CENTCOM, that both Generals Abizaid and Casey would be replaced. It was reported yesterday in the LA Times that Abizaid would retire in March. However, the storys says that Abizaid made his decision a few months ago, so it was apparently not the result of any recent decisions to change strategy.

According to unnamed officers cited in the Times article,

Gates faces a clear choice between generals who have agreed with Abizaid's push to quickly hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces and a small but increasingly influential coterie of officers backing a more aggressive U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign.

My guess is that he'll go for a general who favors the more aggressive strategy. This would mean that General George Casey will be replaced too, since he and Abizaid advocated the "small US footprint" strategy, and the rapid handover to Iraqi forces. The article says that Casey is due to leave his current assignment early next year, and the question then is whether he will go up or out.

I'll stick my neck out and say that Casey will not move up to become commander of CENTCOM. He'll either retire, or like General Ricardo Sanchez, he'll be "reassigned".

They're both good men and have tried their best. Even a casual reading of their biographies indicates that they're pretty smart, and there's no guarantee that if others had been in their place the situation would be better. By saying they need to be replaced i am not disparaging them. But Lincoln replaced his generals when they couldn't produce results, and Bush needs to do likewise.

More Troops?

New Sec Def Gates traveled to Iraq, and one of the things he discussed with commanders was whether more troops were needed. An AP story in the Washington Times has Abizaid noncommittal to the idea, and Casey more wary. Understandably, they want to know what their exact mission would be. Additional troops, they say "might only bring a temporary respite to the violence" while denuding other theaters of personnel who would be needed in a crisis.

Fox News "All Stars" Fred Barnes and Morton Krondake worried that if we do decide to send more troops, whether it will be enough to make any difference. Krondake refers to the Kagan-Keane plan that I reviewed in my "New Plan for Iraq" post on Tuesday, and says that it

... involves cleaning out the bad guys, holding the territory, having troops living in the neighborhoods to provide ongoing security, and then when the Iraqi security forces can take over, then you move on to Anbar. This is a two-year operation and the question is, is 30,000 enough to do it?

In other words, no more halfway measures.

The always insightful Mario Loyola also worries that more troops might not make any difference.

The generals know what they are talking about: There is no reason to believe that an increase in force levels will have any effect at all on the levels of violence in Baghdad. The violence is occurring in a security vacuum, but that doesn't mean that it's occurring because of a security vacuum. Remember Algeria in 1990s — a huge army was powerless against a modest insurgency. ...

The president has a problem: all the violence in Baghdad makes it look like we're losing the war, regardless the pace of reconstruction or political progress. Now the violence in Baghdad has become the political determinant of victory and defeat—and hence the primary focus of military strategy.

The generals have kept their eye on the ball: The deteriorating security situation in Baghdad is at root not a military problem but a political one. All the troops in the world will not reduce the violence if a political reconciliation continues to elude the major warring factions—and the increased presence of U.S. troops is more certain to increase the violence than reduce it. Occupation is a "toxin," as Abizaid points out, and "a wasting asset," as MacArthur once said.

On the other hand, Stanley Kurtz countered (on The Corner) that

Mario, the other day you said, “all the violence in Baghdad makes it look like we’re losing the war, regardless [of] the pace of reconstruction or political progress.” Yet it strikes me that there is no political progress, only regress. Baghdad is a Hobbesian anarchy of independent militias (see that Robert Zelnick article, “Iraq: Last Chance.”) In such an atmosphere, there can be no political stability and no hope for anything other than the dominance of militias. A troop surge may or may not work at this point, but I don’t see how we save Iraq without one. The current situation is not one of gradual military-political progress. It is one of hastening decline toward inevitable disaster if nothing substantially new is done to stop it.

Mario, you say that the “deteriorating security situation in Baghdad is at root not a military problem but a political one.” Well, that’s true in a sense. Yet politics, at its root depends on a monopoly of the legitimate means of force. In Iraq, there is no such monopoly on the national level. It exists–and then only tentatively–within tiny, local, militia controlled patches. So the root political problem is also, and simultaneously, a military problem. We either break the militias in the achingly slow, complicated, and methodical way recommended by Gerecht, or we concede that Iraq has fallen apart.

He also cites an editorial by Ruel Marc Gerecht in the New York Times, “In Iraq, Let’s Fight One War at a Time,” in which, after reviewing the situationwith the Shia militias, Gerecht's bottom line is that

The key for America is the same as it has been for years: to clear and hold the Sunni areas of Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle to the north. There will probably be no political solution among the Iraqi factions to save American troops from the bulk of this task. The sooner we start in Baghdad, the better the odds are that the radicalization of the Iraqi Shiites can be halted. As long as this community doesn’t explode into total militia war, Iraq is not lost, and neither is Mr. Bush’s presidency.

I tend to go with what Kurtz and Gerecht say. Loyola makes great points, and may well turn out to be right. To be honest the situation is so complicated, and I just don't have time to go through it all (it's amazing I get as much written here as I do), that I could be mistaken. But my impression is that waiting around for a political solution is not going to produce results.

So my assessment right now is to go with the Kagan-Keane plan, and replace the commanders.

Consequences of Failure

I know I keep harping on this, but it's so important that I think it a useful reminder whenever we're discussing Iraq strategy.

An article in yesterday's Washington Times tells of a CIA exercise in which some 75 analysists and outside experts conducted a simulation of what might happen if we were defeated in Iraq.

The CIA this month conducted a simulation of how the Iraq war affects the global jihadist movement, and one conclusion was that a U.S. loss would embolden al Qaeda to expand its ranks of terrorists as well as pick new strategic targets, according to sources familiar with the two-day exercise. ...

A source familiar with the simulation said it was a "red team" exercise in which participants played the role of global jihadists and war-gamed how the U.S. involvement in Iraq will influence their terror movement.

Although it takes no policy positions, the simulation's key finding appears to bolster Mr. Bush's contention that a U.S. loss in Iraq will have far-reaching ramifications.
...

Al Qaeda has made stopping democracy in Iraq a top priority, according to U.S. military officials. It has recruited hundreds of suicide bombers to come to Iraq and inflict mass casualties to spur a Sunni-Shi'ite Muslim civil war. The group wants to wear down U.S. troops to the point where they will retreat. Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to turn Iraq and other Middle East countries into hard-line Islamic states, U.S. military officials say.

One key finding from the "red team" exercise is that al Qaeda will follow past practices. Jihadists perceived the victory over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1988 as a seminal event that spawned the creation of al Qaeda under the direction of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda leaders thought that if jihadists could defeat a global power in one theater, it could bring down governments in other nations.

Update

Bill Roggio is in Iraq, embedded with the Marines. While there, he's also been able to spend some time with the Iraqi Army. He reports on their shortcomings and successes. Check it out; what he says may not be quite what you expected.

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Here's the New Plan for Iraq

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December 19, 2006

Here's the New Plan for Iraq

There's a new plan for victory in Iraq.

Ok, it hasn't been officially adopted yet, but according to Fred Barnes a "senior advisor" said that the President's reaction after being briefed on it was "very positive."

The plan was authored by Retired General Jack Keane and Frederick W. Kagan, and is posted on the American Enterprise Institute's website. Here's a quick summary by Barnes

It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population. Local government leaders would receive protection and rewards if they stepped in to provide basic services. Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.
...

The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

Some people may be shocked to learn that yes, we did destroy the VC and most NVA troops in the south. Indeed, Linebacker II (December of 1972) put the fear of god into the communists to the point where they returned to the negotiating table as we wanted them to. As Barnes indicates, had not congress cut off funds the ARVN troops would have stood a fighting chance of holding off the NVA in 1974-75. But I digress.

On to the actual plan. I have not read the whole thing, as I just don't have time right now. Here's the important part of the executive summary on the AEI site

We must act now to restore security and stability to Baghdad. We and the enemy have identified it as the decisive point.

There is a way to do this.

o We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
o We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.
o These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
o After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.
o As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government

This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:

o The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
o Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
o The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
o The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age.

Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances.

It would seem to me that the key here is in the 3rd recommendation at top: "After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security." I base this on our attempt to secure Baghdad in October and why it didn't work; see my posts Baghdad Security Plan and Baghdad Security Plan II.

If adopted, will it work? Beats me. Opinions are a dime a dozen, and I'm sure there'll be a million of them soon, some undoubtably in the comments section of this post, too. Just on NRO's The Corner blog alone, opinions on increasing troop strength vary. Mario Loyola says that " if we send 60,000 more troops to Iraq, the effect on the violence could easily prove to be negligible-to-zero", and compares the situation to the insurgency that Algeria went through in the 1990s, which "arose volcanically in the very teeth of an enormous army that was fully in control of the security situation everywhere." On the other hand, Rich Lowry and others there have consistenly argued for more troops. Anecdotal evidence (sorry, no links) from a variety of other sources seems to indicate that we can clear, but we can't hold, because the troops are always needed elsewhere and the Iraqis can't or won't themselves.

General Keane discussed the plan on This Week with George Stephanopoulos (quotes from The Corner)

GENERAL KEANE: In terms of the strategy itself, it's a fundamental change in the mission. The mission, people are focusing on the surge of the troops, but the essence of it is we changed the mission to the security of the people in Baghdad. We've never taken that on as a military mission before. Our mission has been transition to the Iraqi security forces and we made some inadequate attempts to secure Baghdad twice in the past.

We cleared out the insurgents and the Shia death squads from the areas but never committed ourselves to phase two of the operation, which is significant, and that is to put a 24/7 force in the neighborhoods to protect the people and they do not go back to their bases at night. It is a security of the people that's the key to success.

Baghdad would probably take . . . well into the fall of the year. And then we would turn to al-Anbar with a different mission. . . . And that would take another six to seven months, and that would probably go into '08, as well.

The economic package to this is very important. It has two phases to it. The first one would be basic services while we're protecting the people. And then another economic package for enhanced quality of life services that would be tied to an incentive package in terms of their cooperation and their willingness to help us in turning over who the death squad members are and who the insurgents are.

And that takes time for the people to realize that this really is a secure situation. And bring the economic packages in and they begin to isolate the insurgents who are trying to sneak back in. Our problem in the past in Fallujah, in Samara, twice in Baghdad, has always been the same problem, we ran the insurgents out and we never put the protection force in to secure the people.

So Keane and Kagan are not just agitating for "more troops" without any real idea as to what they'd do. That's a good thing, too, because Ralph Peters has some very hard questions for anyone who would do so

What would the specific tasks be? "Restore security" is too vague - we need to identify no-nonsense objectives. And which new tactics would be authorized? Would the rules of engagement change?

How would we handle prisoners, given that a crackdown would generate tens of thousands (and the Iraqi system releases the worst offenders)? What if the Maliki government rejects our plan?

At that point, the think-tank boys give you a deer-in-the-headlights look and spurt empty generalities. Our military is supposed to figure out the pesky details.

But it's the details that make the difference between succeeding and failing.

Read the whole thing. Peters has often been very critical of the way we've been fighting in Iraq, but it's only because he wants us to win.

BTW, there is an existing plan, and it's on the White House website.

And I know I've said this many times, but it bears repeating what Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", said about defeating insurgencies, that it's like "eating soup with a knife". In other words, you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time. (see my post on this here) This said, citizens of a democracy want to see progress. I think that the American people can be patient and can accept casualties, as long as they see the goal as worthwhile and that progress is being made. Fortunately we've got a president who doesn't give up easily.

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December 16, 2006

Iraq War Update

Time for a general update on where I think we are in this war. And although this post says it's about Iraq, it's really not just about that country. Iraq is only part of a larger war. And call this larger war what you will; Islamic fascism, extremism, or radicalism, or even just Islamism or Jihadism. Just don't use "War on Terror", because we're not fighting a tactic. Our enemy is the ideology that has infected Islam.

And just to make myself even more clear, no I do not believe that Islam is an evil religion, or even necessarily violent. I made that clear in this post. Islam in the way it is practiced does have a problem with intolerance, violence, and extremism, but that is another matter.

As such, it is a mistake to see Iraq or Afghanistan as "the war". They are theaters in the war. Important ones, to be sure, but only in the sense that France and the low countries were an important theater in World War II. Even then, our enemy was that varient of totalitarianism that went by Nazism or Fascism.

Overview

This is no doubt the most important theater of the war. Although some American liberals do not see it as part of the War on Islamic Fascism(the term I'll use), that's not what the radicals believe. They think that Iraq is the main front in the war. If some folks don't want to listen to President Bush, they ought to at least listen to the enemy.

Now, I know perfectly well that much of the problem in Iraq is intersectarian fighting.

But much of this was prompted by al Qaeda in Iraq, and their constant attempts over the past several years to prompt a civil war between the Sunnis and Shias.

The point is that the situation does not seem to be getting better. We are apparently in a sort of stalemate, which I would think in the long run favors those who want an Islamic dictatorship.

No doubt there is much we could and should have done differently. But even if we had not made the mistakes that, say, Thomas Ricks says we made, there is no guarantee that things would have turned out differently. As Charles Krauthammer said, "We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it". There is only so much that we can do. Either the Iraqis will pick up the ball and run with it or they won't. As StrategyPage reminds us, corruption and military incompetence is endemic in that part of the world, and awefully hard to overcome. To be fair, the Iraqis are just coming out of 30 years of vicious dictatorship. One wonders how we would have faired if, rather than George III, our colonies had been ruled by Louis XVI. Perhaps it's not a wonder the French Revolution turned out the way it did.

We also shouldn't blame the American people too much. There is a temptation on the right, I think, to become frustrated that American's won't tolerate a long war, even one that by historical standards isn't very costly (see chart). I think Mara Liasson has it right when she commented on Fox News that "I don't think the American people are rising up against casualties. I think that they're looking at Iraq and they don't see success. They see Iraqis killing each other, they don't see the government coming together, and that's the problem. I don't think it's the casualty level."

Here's the chart I referred to above, click on it to enlarge


It's also not that our troops aren't killing the enemy in droves. They are. But Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has proven ineffectual, and can not or will not deal with either the insurgents or private armies such as the Badr Organization (armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)) or the Mahdi Army (controlled by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).

Consequences

The consequences of failure could be horrific. Independent journalist Michael Yon is in Cambodia, and visited one of the museums dedicated to "The Killing Fields" of the 1970s. It's a post well worth reading, for the horrors inflicted by the Khymer Rouge rival anything the Nazis did. If we leave Iraq, it's quite possible the country could descend into Cambodia or Rwanda-levels of violence.

Retired General Barry McCaffrey spells out what withdrawal could look like:

We could immediately and totally withdraw. In less than six months, our 150,000 troops could fight their way along strategic withdrawal corridors back to the sea and the safety provided by the Navy. Several million terrified refugees would follow, the route of our columns marked by the burning pyres of abandoned military supplies demolished by our rear guard. The resulting civil warfare would probably turn Iraq into a humanitarian disaster and might well draw in the Iranians and Syrians. It would also deeply threaten the safety and stability of our allies in neighboring countries.

And this doesn't even speak to the general loss of US prestige and power that would no doubt result from a precipitous pull out. It would mean a return to Carterism, to the 1970s. Just as the Soviet Union was newly ascendant then, the Islamic Fascists would gain much strength if we lose in Iraq.

A Coming Change of Strategy?

Many of us wondered what President Bush would do about the report by the Iraq Study Group ("The Baker Commission"). Fortunately, he seems to have rejected most of it's conclusions, especially the ones that suggested that we essentially plead with Syria and Iran to help us stabilize Iraq. The question is, what comes next?

I think that the President is on the verge of a major announcement. I know you're also probably read that elsewhere, so I'm not claiming any special insight. Charles Krauthammer is one, for example. Fred Barnes also suggested as much on the Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume last Thursday night.

The President won't want to interrupt the holidays, so he will probably make it sometime in early January. He will, I predict, announce a fairly significant change in strategy. It will consist of two parts; a temporary "surge" of troops, and various leadership changes.

Many on the right, at least, have been advocating more troops as of late. The Washington Times and National Review(and here) have each advocated sending in more soldiers and marines. According to this story in the Los Angeles Times, it's what the Pentagon wants, and has recommended to the President be done.

To be sure, simply sending in more troops won't by itself do it. As Michael Ledeen points out, we ought to loosten up the rules of engagement as well. This is not without risk, because it will result in additional damage and casualties it will likely alienate some Iraqis (see this undated video of a firefight in Fallujah for a taste of realism).

I also think it likely that General Abizaid and General Casey will be replaced as well. They're both good men, but they've had their chance. Lincoln changed generals quite often when they weren't getting the job done. Unfortunately, President Bush has not. It is possible that he or Rumsfeld General Sanchez over Abu Ghraib, but there is no hard evidence to support this. Bush tends to appoint someone, and then stay with them until the bitter end. He stayed with Rumsfeld for years, and when he finally did fire him it was at the worst possible time, just after the GOP had lost the November elections so as to make a defeat look worse. Nevertheless, it's time for new blood at CENTCOM. We've got many talented generals, and it's time to give some of them the top slots.

Another benefit to doing these things is that it would show the Iraqi government, the militias, and the terrorists that yes we do mean business and no we're not going to quit the fight as you hope we will. Amir Taheri raised the point in an op-ed a few weeks ago that it's not just that we doubt the Iraqis; they doubt us, too; "uncertainty about the United States' policies is also the No. 1 issue of Iraqi politics", he reminds us. They can read history too, and know that from Vietnam to Beruit to Somalia, we've bugged out before victory was secured.

Additional Plans

I would be remiss to suggest that "more troops" or "new people" were all that was needed. The situation is more complicated than that.

First, we ought to beef up the size of our military as a whole. Now, as I pointed out even this is not so simple.

The LA Times story linked to above points out that

The problem with any sort of surge is that it would require an eventual drop-off in 2008, unless the president was willing to take the politically unpopular move of remobilizing the National Guard and sending reserve combat units back to Iraq.

But military officials are taking a close look at a proposal advanced by Frederick W. Kagan, a former West Point Military Academy historian, to combine a surge with a quick buildup of the Marines and the Army. That could allow new units to take the place of the brigades sent to Iraq to augment the current force.

I would think that all of this would require additional monies, which only Congress can provide. It is, of course, now controlled by the Democrats, many of whom want just the opposite of a troop buildup, especially in Iraq. At best, they will want presidential concessions in other policy areas. While some negotiating will be necessary, the president can stem the damage by playing the "Truman Card". President Truman, after suffering a loss of congress to the GOP in 1950, said something to the effect that "the heck with them, I'm just going to do what I well please for the next two years."

Clifford May, writing at National Review, provides six steps we might take:

We might start by stabilizing Baghdad — as we said we would. When the United States says it’s going to do something that should not mean trying for a while, then giving up. If stabilizing Baghdad requires more troops — or different commanders — send them. A victory in the Battle of Baghdad, the most diverse area of Iraq with more than a quarter of the country’s population, would have major and beneficial consequences.

Second, we are at war with al Qaeda and al Qaeda’s most lethal forces are in Iraq. So we must stay and fight them in Iraq. We don’t flee the battleground.

Third, when we chased Saddam Hussein from his palaces, we thought we had broken his regime. Big error. Baathist insurgents still need to be hunted down.

Fourth, we have to deal with the regimes in Iran and Syria. That means finally demonstrating that we can and will hurt them if they to continue to conspire to kill Americans and Iraqis who work with us. Once that is done, once they understand we have the power and the will to take them on, sitting down to talk may make sense.

Fifth, we intensify and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces so that sooner, rather than later, they can stand up to the bad guys on their own.

Sixth, we act as an honest broker between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia communities. Who else can play that role? It may be that these populations need fences to be good neighbors — a process of separation is already underway. We can make that process less painful and perilous. We ought to consider what Brookings scholar Michael O’Hanlon calls the Bosnian model: Each of Iraq’s ethno-religious groups would establish autonomy within a unitary Iraqi state. Oil wealth would be shared by all cooperating and stabilized areas of the country.

All of these things make sense, although with most it's not a question of what but how.

Charles Krauthammer boils it all down to two things we must do

First, as I’ve been agitating, establish a new governing coalition in Baghdad that excludes Moqtada al-Sadr, a cancer that undermines the Maliki government’s ability to work with us. It is encouraging that the president has already begun such a maneuver by meeting with rival Shiite and Sunni parliamentary leaders. If we help produce a cross-sectarian government that would be an ally rather than a paralyzed semi-adversary of coalition forces, we should then undertake part two: “double down” our military effort. This means a surge in American troops with a specific mission: to secure Baghdad and (together with the support of the Baghdad government — a sine qua non) suppress Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

A little better and more succinct than what May offered, I believe, although he is essentially on the right track.

Lastly, we'll go back to Barry McCaffrey, in the Washington Post editorial cited above, for his ideas on how to win:

First, we must commit publicly to provide $10 billion a year in economic support to the Iraqis over the next five years. In the military arena, it would be feasible to equip and increase the Iraqi armed forces on a crash basis over the next 24 months (but not the police or the Facilities Protection Service). The goal would be 250,000 troops, provided with the material and training necessary to maintain internal order.

Within the first 12 months we should draw down the U.S. military presence from 15 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), of 5,000 troops each, to 10. Within the next 12 months, Centcom forces should further draw down to seven BCTs and withdraw from urban areas to isolated U.S. operating bases -- where we could continue to provide oversight and intervention when required to rescue our embedded U.S. training teams, protect the population from violence or save the legal government.

Finally, we have to design and empower a regional diplomatic peace dialogue in which the Iraqis can take the lead, engaging their regional neighbors as well as their own alienated and fractured internal population.

Hmm. I agree with the investment, doubt that it's a good idea to advertise a drawdown schedule, and wonder what in the world he's talking about with regard to a "regional peace dialogue"? Sounds too much like Baker-Hamilton to me.

Conclusion: Krauthammer gets an A, Mays a B, and McCaffrey a D+. Surge troops, replace the generals, and increase the overall size of the military. Dare the Democrats to oppose you, Mr Bush. It's crunch time, we're playing catch-up football, and it's not just your place in history that matters, but whether we're going to win a victory in this war on Islamic Fascism or go back to the days of Carterism and malaise.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 2, 2006

The Coming Loss of US Power Worldwide?

You don't have to go far to find advice on how to win in Iraq. Some say send more troops, others say that no, troop levels are not the problem and thus not the solution. I do not know which is right, but I do know this, that if we lose it will be a disaster that will rival or exceed that of the Vietnam debacle.

I extensively quoted from an article by David Rivkin the other day in which he laid out the situation with great clarity. Read the whole thing, but his conclusion is that

A U.S. loss in Iraq would be taken as a sign that the time had come to launch ever bolder attacks on American soil and against American interests overseas, and to push for the creation of a global caliphate. Thus, an America that fails to stop suicide bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi is likely to face them on the streets of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

The bottom line is that, with our ability to project power against the Islamist forces dramatically diminished, we would have to fight a largely reactive war, focusing mainly on homeland defense against an emboldened enemy. History’s lessons concerning such warfare are not encouraging. To take but one example, the Roman Empire in the 4th century ceased strategic offensive operations and, ultimately, was overwhelmed by the barbarians.

I think he is exactly right. In a comment on The Corner, Victor Davis Hanson adds that it would not just be the perception of a loss of power, but an actual loss of power

If we lost in Iraq and fled, it would not be the perception at all, but the reality of power that would be gone, in the sense the United States would never in our lifetime intervene successfully again on the ground abroad-convinced it would inevitably lose.

I think we are also close to seeing the permanent end of any Anglo-American military collaboration. And there would be legitimate questions raised also whether the U.S. military could win any future war—given the knowledge that, barring some instantaneous victory, the American public would not allow it the time or the latitude to destroy its enemies.

Unfortunately it looks like we're headed down that direction.

It is possible that we could tangle with China over Taiwan. If we do, it will be quick and decisive. One way or another, within a week or two we'll know who's won. Likewise, if North Korea goes nuts and attacks the South, it won't last more than a month or so.

But both of those are hypotheticals. We're in a real war now, one against Islamic fascism or Jihadism. Like the Cold War it's going to take decades to win, but unlike it this one's going to be hotter more often.

Giving Up?

We're all aware that the Iraq Study Group, sometimes called the Baker Commission, is about to issue it's report. We've all also heard the various reports of what it will contain. I tend to fear the worst in these situations, and have a bad feeling that the Bush Administration is looking for political cover so that it can begin to withdraw troops - yes you read that right.

Mona Charen believes that we're about to give up.

America is the world’s hyperpower. No other nation or group of nations can challenge us militarily or economically. Unlike sickly Europe, we are growing, not contracting. But we are about to be defeated in Iraq by a few thousand cutthroats.

How did this happen? It’s simple: The only thing powerful enough to defeat us is ourselves, and we’ve done it.
...

The writing is not just on the wall, it’s on the floors, ceilings, tables, and chairs — we are about to give up.



Charles Krauthammer
says that it's more the Iraqis fault than ours:

We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it. ...

The problem is not, as we endlessly argue about, the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops. Some serve the abstraction called Iraq. But many swear fealty to political parties, religious sects, or militia leaders.

He does see a "glimmer of hope" in the breakdown of the Shiite coalition, and says that we ought to try and form a new one that truely cuts across sectarian lines.

Lastly, we have Bill Kristol, who on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, declared that Four months from now, if things continue to slide downhill, if the president hasn't adjusted course, if hawks like Senator McCain haven't been satisfied that there's been an increase in troops or that we have a real strategy for victory, I think . . . we could be looking at a Democratic House and some Republicans who are willing to just pull the plug on Iraq.

He might be right.

Consequences Again

As I mentioned in the beginning, and in the other post of mine that I linked to, a loss in Iraq will embolden the Jihadists to a huge degree. Right now they're as tied up in Iraq as we are, but once we're gone, they'll be free to attack us elsewhere. And believe you me, they will.

As Rivkin said, we'd then be fighting a reactive war. The problem with defending against terrorism is that you have to be perfect, you have to stop them everywhere all of the time. The terrorists, however, can afford to lost most of the time as long as a few of their attacks are successful, because this is what our media will concentrate on.

Right now the ratio of US to insurgent casualties are incredible. Jim Geraghty has done the research

In Iraq, I’ve seen several sources cite “about 55,000” insurgents killed; they’re listed as “Iraqi insurgents,” but I have not seen any specification of what percentage are Iraqi and what percentage are foreign fighters.

As of this writing, the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq stands at 2,867. I’ve also seen the figure 2,493 for deaths from hostile action.

This suggests that about 22 bad guys are killed for every U.S. combat death; 19 to 1 if you use the total U.S. death figure.

I can find no clear and specific number as to how many Taliban and al-Qaeda have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of hostilities there in 2001. I would prefer a better source than Wikipedia, but they list 5,500 killed and 1,000 captured. According to Wikipedia, 187 Americans have died in hostile action, 102 died in non-hostile action.

Again, about 29 to 1 in terms of combat deaths, or 19 to 1 in terms of all U.S. deaths.

StrategyPage points out that contrary to the popular perception, Iraq is not the most dangerous place on the planet

There are other parts of the world that are more violent than Iraq. Africa, for example, especially Congo, Sudan and South Africa. Only South Africa has a sufficiently effective government to actually keep track of the death rate, mostly from crime, but it's over 50 per 100,000. It's worse in places like Congo and Sudan, but the numbers there are only estimates by peacekeepers and relief workers. In southern Thailand, a terror campaign by Islamic radicals has caused a death rate of over 80 per 100,

None of this is to say that the levels of violence in Iraq aren't unacceptably high. They are. My point is that that it's no reason to pull out. As I said in my last post, for the most part the same people who are telling us that we have to get out of Iraq because it's supposedly in a state of civil war were telling us that we had to get into Kosovo/Bosnia because it was, and now lament that we didn't go into Rwanda to stop that civil war.

But I've drifted off-topic. If we pull out of Iraq without winning, no country will trust us again. They'll make the smart play and make a deal with the Jihadists.

Don't think that we can put up the barricades and hide in our own countries. Mark Steyn is surely right when he says that Europe is already lost, to find out why read my post on his latest book.

So the left may get it's Vietnam, but unlike then the enemy will not be content to say at home and consolidate their power. The Vietnamese communists were nominally part of the worldwide communist movement, but unlike the Soviets they weren't expansionist. The Jihadists are, to say the least.

This goes so far beyond Iraq, and it's distressing that the anti-war liberals don't seem to know this, or even care to ask. At the least Iran will be even more emboldened than it is. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey will go nuclear as they won't trust the US. China may make it's move against Taiwan. Kim Jong Il may go even nuttier than he is and attack the South.

I wrote a few months ago in two posts that the stars seem to be aligning against us, and it's 1938 or even 1939 all over again. I see no reason to change the conclusions I reached in either of them.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Civil War? Not

There's been a lot of talk about whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not. NBC News said that after "careful consideration" it has decided that it would now use the term "civil war" to label what was going on over there. In fact, as you shall see if you keep reading, the liberals in the media plan on using the term "civil war" as a reason for us to pull out of Iraq regardless-of-consequences.

StrategyPage has another view, one that I think is really more accurate. In a piece called "The Final Solution", and published almost a week before NBC's announcement, they say that

There's been a lot of talk about whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not. NBC News said that after "careful consideration" it has decided that it would now use the term "civil war" to label what was going on over there. In fact, as you shall see if you keep reading, the liberals in the media plan on using the term "civil war" as a reason for us to pull out of Iraq regardless-of-consequences.

StrategyPage has another view, one that I think is really more accurate. In a piece called "The Final Solution", and published almost a week before NBC's announcement, they say that

Most of the Iraqi troops are Shia Arab, and they talk openly fighting for a "Sunni Arab Free" Iraq. Shades of the "Final Solution." While the faint hearted Sunni Arabs continue to flee across the border, or to the few Sunni Arab areas in Iraq that do not host Sunni Arab terrorist groups, many Iraqi Sunni Arabs have vowed to fight to the end. This is a major issue in the Arab world, where the struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches has long been fought without much violence. But in Iraq, this thousand year old feud is very real, very deadly, and being closely watched by Iraq's neighbors.

Ethnic cleansing has been a StrategyPage theme for several months now, and indeed it seems that is what is happening. James Robbins points out that most people think of a civil war as a situaion in which there are rival governments,, and concludes that

...this is not merely a civil war; it is an international conflict with significant regional impact. Reducing the conflict in Iraq to a civil war does not clarify our options. Maybe the people who are so committed to the expression can explain what difference it makes in policy terms, that is if this is anything more than a semantic game. If it is a civil war, what then? How does that affect our over all strategy? What changes need to be made? How can we win it? Unless this word play leads to concrete policy recommendations, it is a great waste of time.

The anti-war people are telling us that we have to get out of Iraq because it's in a civil war and we cannot stop civil wars. Or that it's not worth the price. Something along these lines.

But aren't these mostly the same folks who told us that we had to get into Kosovo/Bosnia because they were in a civil war and we had to stop it? And aren't they mostly the same people who go around saying "never again" with regard to Rwanda, where the fighting between the Tutsi's and Hutu's was a civil war if there ever was one?

Now, I think that President Clinton was right to stop the bloodshed in Kosovo and Bosnia. It became apparent that the Europeans couldn't put out a fire in their own backyard, and that the UN was as usual useless, so he did what he had to do. Good for him. I don't blame Clinton for not acting on Rwanda, as it was a situation that the UN was supposed to have been controlling, and it's easy to moralize after the fact.

No, what bugs me is these people who are using the term "civil war" as a political weapon.

So if the whole "civil war" business isn't about the reality on the ground, what is it about? In his Media Blog, Stephen Spruiell has it about right, I think:

Let's cut right to what this "civil war" fanfare in the media is really all about: It has nothing to do with the ongoing violence in Iraq, and everything to do with the fact that these media organizations, which are struggling to maintain their relevance in a rapidly changing industry, feel the need to assert themselves and remind the public of their importance, and what better way than by calling the war for the insurgents and starting a push to solidify public opinion in favor of immediate withdrawal?

Spruiell links to another post at NewsBusters where they post the "screen cap" from the NBC story, which says "Civil War: How Can the U.S. Get Out of Iraq?"

Get it? This is going to be the new theme of the anti-war crowd, that because Iraq is in a civil war we have to get out. Look for more of this to come.

As usual, some of the berst analysis is over at Belmont Club. Check out Wretchard's latest. Here are some of the most important parts:

The first and fatal miscalculation by the Sunnis was to think they could drive the US Armed Forces from Iraq, a gamble which they lost. Encouraged by the absence of a crushing campaign in northern Iraq, itself possibly caused by the absence of the 4ID from the OIF order of battle, and alienated by the American decision to "de-Baathize" Iraq, many former military Sunnis chose to continue resistance using guerilla tactics. ...

The Sunni insurgency compounded its military failures by ruthlessly suppressing any attempts by their ethnic leaders to participate in political process sponsored by the Coalition and by murdering any Sunni who came forward to join the new Army and Police. The result was that Sunnis were underrepresented in both the Constitutional convention and in the elections of 2005. It was a double-whammy. Not only were Sunni military resources depleted, but they self-selected themselves out of the American sponsored Iraqi government.
...

Westhawk observes that American officers believe that "Iraq’s Sunni Arabs will continue to fight because they believe they face either extermination or banishment if they do not." With the Sunni military struggle essentially hopeless, efforts to redress the balance within the Iraqi political process arrived too late. The door had been barred by Shi'ite extremism fueled by Moqtada al-Sadr and separately, the agents of Iran. In a remarkable display of nonstatesmanship, the Shi'ite parties headed by Iraqi PM Maliki and goaded by al-Sadr proved less interested in building an Iraq than upon obtaining revenge upon their former masters.

I suppose one can say that it's a civil war in the sense that you have two camps, Sunni and Shia, who are fighting each other. Each has a militia and/or terrorist/death squads. Unfortunately the debate is marred by bad faith on the part of some in the anti-war camp, such as NBC News, who are using the issue to advance their political agenda.

But either way, I'm not sure what difference it makes. If we went into Kosovo/Bosnia to stop a civil war, and are supposed to regret that we didn't go into Rwanda, shouldn't we stay to stop the violence in Iraq?

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2006

"No Substitute for Victory"

Apologies for the light blogging recently. Holiday and other events have conspired to keep me away from the computer.

I'm gathering information for a general Iraq update, but since it will be somewhat depressing I thought that first I'd lay out the stakes. Lo and behold but David Rivkin did that for me in the November 20 print edition of National Review. You can view his article on-line if you have a digital subscription.

Rivkin's thesis is that "Iraq matters". Whether it was right for us to have gone in or not is now beside the point. Dithering over who is to blame for the mistakes we have made is also not productive. Rather, Iraq "is an integral part of the war against Islamist terrorism... and that the consequences of defeat would be dire."

Iraq matters a great deal in the broader War on Terror precisely because building democracy in the heart of the Islamic world enables us to pose an ideological challenge to our enemies — unlike ineffectual soft-sell efforts to convince Islamists of our basic goodness.

I said much the same thing in August of 2004 in a post in which I said that going into Iraq put us on the strategic offensive, the advantage of which was that we were taking the war to the enemy. Rather than skirmishing with his advance units, we had gone straight to his headquarters in a daring raid. What Rivkin adds is the ideological element, and I think he has a point.

We can argue over concepts of liberty and democracy, and of course while the two are related they are not quite the same thing. And we can also say that while Iraq may have democracy and some liberty, since it does not have security the former two don't matter much. Fine and good. But the Islamists are certainly worried. They know that if democracy and liberty take hold in Iraq they are doomed. Rivkin spells it out for us

The Islamist ideology is animated by the idea that sharia-based governance is both inevitable and the only alternative to the Middle East’s existing corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Just as the Soviets understood that the demonstration of one Communist regime’s illegitimacy would be a demonstration of all Communist regimes’ illegitimacy — the real reason for the enunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine — al-Qaeda and other Islamists readily grasp that the success of democracy in Iraq would have catastrophic consequences for their legitimacy. Indeed, because Iraq’s much-maligned constitution fuses Islam and democracy — unlike, say, the secular Turkish constitution — it poses a uniquely powerful challenge to the jihadist ideology. U.S. critics of the Iraqi government focus solely on its shortcomings and fail to realize that the jihadists view its mere survival — no matter how weak it is, or how plagued by internal fighting, or how tenuous its ability to provide security — as a grave threat. The jihadists know that the establishment of a democratic polity that empowers women and calls for all of Iraq’s communities to enjoy political and economic rights would be a fundamental blow to their cause. This is the main reason Islamic extremists of all stripes have unleashed horrific violence on Iraq.

I remember all the angst when the Iraqi constitution was first announced. Many Americans were very disappointed that it incorporated Islam, and did not include many protections that we would consider vital, such as a Western-type bill of rights.

But before we despair we need to consider a few things. One, our own constution initially allowed for slavery and did not give the vote to women. Yet we have been able to rid ourselves of the first and enable the latter while keeping the originial document. Further, the only democratic example in the Islamic world is in Turkey, and the "Mustafa Kemal model" is much despised by Arabs. Further, it depended too much on the force of will of a a single powerful person.

The simple fact of the matter is that any Arab constitution is going to incorporate Islam and we might as well get used to it. Better, I think, to work towards long-term reform of Islam than try and marginalize it, which didn't work for the Shah and won't work in Iraq. Perhaps we can reform it if we can install some sort of democratic government.

The Consequences of Defeat

There is a certain type on the left, and even some on the paleo-right, who almost laugh at the idea that there will be dire consequences if we are defeated in Iraq. They point to Vietnam and say "See! You tried to scare us with your domino theory and nothing happened!"

But Iraq is not Vietnam, for a million reasons. The Islamists will use Iraq as a springboard to overthrow the regimes in surrounding countries. They will ally with Iran. They will come after us in Europe and America.

Given these stakes, even partially successful democracy promotion in the Islamic world and the creation of a modestly pro-American and strongly anti-jihadist government in the heart of the Middle East would be a stunning strategic defeat for al-Qaeda and its allies. It would be a brilliant geopolitical stroke, fusing American idealism with the imperatives of realpolitik. Conversely, the consequences of a U.S. loss in Iraq would be manifold and dire. Most obviously, the fates of Baghdad and Kabul are inextricably intertwined. This is because the Taliban and Qaeda elements in Afghanistan would surely be emboldened by a U.S. defeat in Iraq, while the pro-Karzai forces would be demoralized. A defeat in Iraq would also make it difficult to retain support, both in the U.S. and internationally, for Western efforts in Afghanistan.

More fundamentally, those who claim that the current Hobbesian chaos in Iraq can be neatly separated from other Middle East trouble spots, and that it does not affect America’s influence in the region, are utterly wrong. The war of all against all, with nationalism and Islamic extremism thrown in as the major motivating forces, is not limited to Iraq; it occurs frequently throughout the region, appearing in places where American troops have never set foot.

Certainly at this point the goal of a democratic, anti-jihadist Iraq looks difficult to achieve. We should consider, however, that in most past wars there were points at which the eventual victor faced severe setbacks if not outright defeat. But sticking to the point, I concur that Rivkin's essential point that a defeat in Iraq would have devastating consequences across the region if not the globe. Those who see everything through the lens of Vietnam ought to consider what happened in the 1970s after our defeat in Vietnam.

We also know that Islamist forces have perceived a long series of American retreats — in places ranging from Vietnam to Beirut to Mogadishu — as a sign that, in bin Laden’s charming words, the U.S. is a “weak horse.” His sentiment is not uncommon; Islamists are constantly searching for evidence of their foes’ weakness.

One of Reagan's biggest mistakes was pulling the Marines out of Beirut after the bombing of their barracks. At the time we did not see that we were setting a pattern, one that would be repeated in our pullout of Mogadishu, and the non-response to the bombing of the USS Cole.

The U.S. retreated from Vietnam after being engaged there politically and militarily for nearly a decade and suffering almost 60,000 war deaths and 150,000 casualties. It paid a huge geopolitical price in the form of emboldened Soviet foreign policy in the 1970s and ’80s and a precipitous decline in U.S. credibility worldwide.

Those who claim that "the domino's didn't fall" after our withdrawal from Vietnam ought to study the history of the 1970s more carefully. Carterism led to an agressive Soviet Union. The result was the invasion of Afghanistan, increased Soviet influence in Africa, and insurgencies in Central America. If anything, the Islamists will be worse. At least the communists didn't seek to directly attack our homeland; the Islamic terrorists will.

A U.S. loss in Iraq would be taken as a sign that the time had come to launch ever bolder attacks on American soil and against American interests overseas, and to push for the creation of a global caliphate. Thus, an America that fails to stop suicide bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi is likely to face them on the streets of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

The bottom line is that, with our ability to project power against the Islamist forces dramatically diminished, we would have to fight a largely reactive war, focusing mainly on homeland defense against an emboldened enemy. History’s lessons concerning such warfare are not encouraging. To take but one example, the Roman Empire in the 4th century ceased strategic offensive operations and, ultimately, was overwhelmed by the barbarians.

Eating Soup With A Knife

It is possible that we will lose in Iraq. I do not discount this.

It is also quite possible that we can win. Countries have pulled themselves out of seemingly impossible situations before and gone on to victory.

Insurgencies can be defeated. However, unlike fighting a conventional army, defeating an insurgency is difficult, messy, and takes a lot of time. In the words of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", it's like being like eating soup with a knife. Back in March of this year I wrote a post on this very subject, taking Lt. Col. John Nagl's recent book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife as a guide.

In his conclusion, Rivkin says much the same thing

There are no easy shortcuts to victory. Counterinsurgency campaigns are won by staying in the fight and grinding down the insurgents. Defeating the insurgencies in Malaysia and Algeria took years of hard fighting, with high civilian and military casualties.

Once again, whether it was right for us to have invaded Iraq is beside the point. The simple fact is that it is part of our war against Islamic terorrism, and those who say otherwise are dead wrong. The consequences of defeat would reverberate for decades, and it is not clear to me that we could recover. As Mark Steyn points out, we can lose this war; not the one in Iraq, but the entire one against the Islamists. Losing Iraq would only be the beginning of the end.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

Ratchet up the Pressure in Iraq?

I've seen several interesting articles recently about what to do with Iraq. Usually we just hear two options; "stay the course" or "pull out now". The first will probably not result in victory, and the latter certainly won't. For someone who does believe that victory must be our goal, I believe that we need to come up with something new and fast. Last July I wrote about some new ideas that had been suggested to me in a roundtable discussion in Foreign Affairs by commenter jason. I didn't agreeing with most of the ideas presented, but that didn't mean they weren't worth considering. As we've seen, our plan for securing Baghdad against the recent insurgent offensive isn't working (here and here).

The good news, as Chester reports, is that

A small group of officers assembled by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to draw up alternatives to the U.S. military strategy in Iraq is expected to conclude its work in December, according to defense sources. Some observers anticipate the recommendations will call for a dramatic change of course in the Persian Gulf nation and perhaps in the war on terrorism more broadly.

First today we'll take a look at what William J. Stuntz says in The Weekly Standard.

First off he talks about the natural inclination not to "throw good money after bad." Looking at Iraq the same way one would look at a financial investment, one could be excused for thinking it's time to cut our losses and pull out. But of course, Iraq is not a financial investment. Unlike in financial matters, in war a "willingness to raise the stakes often wins the game."

Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.

The proper response to that calculation is to make emphatically clear that the fight will not end until one side or the other wins, decisively. That kind of battle can only have one ending, as Abraham Lincoln understood. In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers be gan to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet--and won the war.

In other words, now is the time to ratchet things up by sending in more troops. Stuntz continues

Send just enough soldiers and guns and tanks to do the job, and you may soon find you have sent too few. The enemy concludes that if it can raise the marginal cost of the conflict just a bit, if casualties are a little higher or the expense a tad greater than you imagined, you'll quit the field. On the other hand, send vastly more soldiers and materiel than required to the battlefield, and the enemy soon decides that the fight is hopeless--that, as Lincoln so elegantly put it, our resources are unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible.

Maybe. One certainly has to think that the insurgents (and yes I know they're a mixed bunch) are just trying to wait us out, always figuring that if they can kill just a few more Americans we'll give it up.

Possibly referring to the policy review led by Gen Pace, Ralph Peters says that

One proposal under discussion within the administration is to "send everything we've got" - to deploy every possible Army and Marine unit, no matter how worn and weary, for six months to "clean things up.

Let's hope that it's at least under consideration. I'm tired of half-measures. So is Rich Lowry.

Richard Fernandez over at Belmont Club cites a post at Westhawk in which the latter runs through a point-counterpoint regarding the benefits of fighting in Iraq.

What contribution has offense made to preventing another terror attack on the U.S. homeland? This gets into controversial territory. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 seemed to shut down the Al Qaeda terrorist training factory that had produced thousands of trained cadres. Critics of the Iraq war claim that the terror training factory just moved to Baghdad and al-Anbar province, as a result of the American decision to invade Iraq.

Proponents of the “fly paper” theory argue that many foreign terrorists have been drawn to the Iraq jihad, only to die shortly after arriving. Critics counter by asserting that the Iraq war has energized a new generation of Islamic youth to take up arms against the U.S.

But, war proponents say, bringing a long and nasty war into the heart of a dysfunctional Arab world has accomplished two positive things for the West. First, it has shown the Arabs what a monster Al Qaeda really is. Second, it will force the Arabs to reform their neighborhood.

This remains to be seen.

I reprint this not to refight our justification for being there but because of what Westhawk says in the second sentence in the second paragraph; if Iraq is simply energizing Islamists and swelling their ranks, perhaps a troop drawdown would be best.

Moving to a bit more complicated analysis and suggestions, we go next to Armed Liberal. His post is rather long, and much of it quotes an article by Phil Carter at Slate. Following are excerpts from Carter's piece

First, the U.S. military must reverse its trend of consolidation and redeploy its forces into Iraq's cities. Efficiency and force protection cannot define our military footprint in Iraq; if those are our goals, we may as well bring our troops home today. Instead, we must assume risk by pushing U.S. forces out into small patrol bases in the middle of Iraq's cities where they are able to work closely with Iraqi leaders and own the streets....

Second, the United States needs to reinforce the most successful part of its strategy so far - embedding advisers ($) with Iraqi units. Our embedded advisers achieve more bang for the buck than any other troops in Iraq; one good 12-man adviser team, living and working with an Iraqi unit, can bolster an entire Iraqi battalion. Without these advisers, Iraqi army and police units remain ineffective - or worse, they go rogue....

To combat the insurgency, America must adopt a more holistic approach than simply building up the country's security forces. We have the seeds of this in Iraq today - the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Teams. I worked closely with the PRT in Diyala to advise the Iraqi courts, jails, and police, and I saw their tremendous potential. However, having been hamstrung by bureaucratic infighting between the State and Defense departments, these teams now lack the authority, personnel, and resources to run the reconstruction effort effectively....

Lastly, we're going to have a report from the Baker Commission pretty soon. Unlike some, I'm not optimistic about what it's going to propose. My guess is they're going to recommend some version of "declare victory and leave." Mario Loyola seemed to agree in a post yesterday at NRO's The Corner

In today's Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht has a great editorial (subscription) on the problems facing the new Secretary of Defense — and all of us — in Iraq. Among other things, it's time to begin massively diminishing the expectations for Baker's Iraq Study Group, which looks likely to confirm the dilemma we face in Iraq without resolving it:

As will soon be apparent, the Iraq Survey Group [sic*] of which Mr. Gates is a member and to which I'm an adviser, has not discovered any way for the U.S. to exit Iraq — except under catastrophic conditions. Its recommendations will probably be the least helpful of all the blue-ribbon commissions in Washington since World War II because it cannot escape from an unavoidable reality: We either declare defeat and withdraw completely tout de suite, or we surge troops into Baghdad and fight. The ISG will surely try to find some middle ground between these positions, which, of course, doesn't exist.

If one works through the different scenarios, they all return quickly to a Rumsfeldian position that the U.S. needs to do more in Iraq with less — a position that has been proven flatly wrong since the spring of 2003. This is why Washington has not been able to draw down even though the president, his defense secretary and his generals have dearly wanted to do so. Any meaningful reduction of U.S. forces is very likely to collapse the Iraqi Army into Shiite and Sunni militias and bring on massive carnage, the likes of which the Middle East has not seen since the Iran-Iraq War. If Mr. Gates signs off on the ISG's recommendations, which will probably be completed before he assumes office, he will be party to a doomed strategy — and everyone in Washington and abroad will recognize it as a failure as soon as they start to work through it — before he even sets foot in the Pentagon. It may not be easy for Mr. Gates to recover from this initial flop.

However, when the ISG bombs, the Bush administration may finally get serious about correcting its mistakes in Iraq.

Daniel Henninger nearby makes another interesting point. Baker's Iraq Study Group is weighted away from "neocons" and towards "realists" from the Bush I administration — the same people who betrayed Iraq's Shiites in 1991 by coldy standing on the sidelines while Saddam slaughtered them. It seems odd that this group of people (whom I generally admire) thinks maybe we should abandon them again.

[* An ironically Freudian slip — He means the Iraq Study Group — The Iraq Survey Group was the one that figured out that there are no WMD in Iraq]

And I post this not to slam Baker, as Loyola and I will hopefully end up being mistaken, but because it touches on the question of consequences if we draw down troops.

An no reader will be surprised, my inclination is to rachet things up along the lines of what Stuntz and Carter propose. Whether the Democrats will allow any of this is another discussion entirely. I suppose the Administration could just act quickly and hope for a quick resolution, but that would completely destroy relations with the Democrats and it's doubtful that we could win quickly in Iraq in any event. More likely Bush will wait for the Baker Commission's report, and then will consult with the new congressional leaders before acting.

But I'm not optimistic on the latter, because the AP reports that "George McGovern, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate, said Thursday that he will meet with more than 60 members of Congress next week to recommend a strategy to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by June.".

At this point a critic from the left or right would be forgiven for saying "if ratching up the pressure is such a good idea, why didn't Bush do it 2 years ago when he had the political capital?" Unfortunately I don't have a good answer to this. Bush had 3 and a half years to fight the war with GOP majorities in Congress, and they pretty much let the Administration do what it wanted in Iraq.

In an earlier post I mentioned that the big battle in the Democrat party was going to be between the new breed of pro-gun socially conservative congressmen like Heath Shuler, and old-time lefties like Charlie Rangel. How that battle is resolved may determine the fate of Iraq.

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November 6, 2006

The Troops in Iraq Don't Want to Withdraw

For all the talk from many Democrats about the supposed need to withdraw (er, "redeploy") the troops from Iraq, most of the troops actually there do not seem to agree. Don't take it from me, but from a good liberal paper like the Washington Post (via Captain's Quarters)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SYKES, Iraq, Nov. 5 -- For the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, the war is alternately violent and hopeful, sometimes very hot and sometimes very cold. It is dusty and muddy, calm and chaotic, deafeningly loud and eerily quiet.

The one thing the war is not, however, is finished, dozens of soldiers across the country said in interviews. And leaving Iraq now would have devastating consequences, they said.

With a potentially historic U.S. midterm election on Tuesday and the war in Iraq a major issue at the polls, many soldiers said the United States should not abandon its effort here. Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.

"Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it would become a free-for-all," said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, who commands the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment just south of Baghdad. "It would be a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war."

The soldiers declined to discuss the political jousting back home, but they expressed support for the Bush administration's approach to the war, which they described as sticking with a tumultuous situation to give Iraq a chance to stand on its own.

You'll want to read the entire article, but the quotes above capture its essential thesis.

Note that the troops don't comment on strategy or tactics. Nor do they, or the Post writer, indicate whether they think we're winning or losing. As I've said before, I think that at best we're in a stalemate, possibly losing. Indeed, I've said for some time now that I'm open to ideas on what to do - as long as it's not cut-and-run.

But what one finds striking about the troops that White interviewed was their realism. As the Captain said, "None of them have any illusions that Iraq will suddenly and miraculously find peace." Rather, they know that in order to win this thing we've got to be committed for the long haul. I remember reading in interview with General Casey a few months ago where he said that it takes an average of 9 years to defeat an insurgency.

Nor do the troops underestimate the enemy they're fighting. From the Post article


First Sgt. David Schumacher, 37, of Watertown, N.Y., is on his eighth deployment to a foreign battlefield since a tour in Somalia, and his third tour in Iraq.

"The insurgents are more strategic this time, they're smarter," he said. "We're trying to anticipate their next move, and they're trying to anticipate ours. There's still a lot to do

I've met dozens of troops inside and outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. See here and here. They, too, respect the enemy. But none that I've met are discouraged, either. They're an amazing bunch, and ever time I go there I feel honored to be in their presence.

Most amazingly, it's the men and women actually on the battlefield that worry about us back home. They worry about our committment.

Sgt. Jonathan Kirkendall, 23, of Falls City, Neb., said he fears that many Americans think that building the country to viability will be "quick and easy," when he believes it could take many years. Kirkendall, of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad, is on his third deployment to Iraq and celebrated his 21st and 23rd birthdays here.

"If they say leave in six months, we'll leave in six months. If they say six years, it's six years," said Kirkendall, who is awaiting the birth of his first daughter, due next week.

"I'm just an average soldier, and I'll do what they tell me to do. I'm proud to be a part of it, either way it goes, but I'd like to see it through."

This makes me remember a story from an evening outside of Walter Reed of a few weeks ago. As usual, I and a bunch of other Freepers were standing outside holding our pro-troops signs and waving to the cars. It was maybe 8pm or so on a Friday.

Two troops came out of the hospital entrance and walked up to the corner where I was standing. "Thank you for doing this", they said. "Can you direct us to the subway station?"

Now, although they had long pants on it was obvious that each missing all or part of one leg and had a prosthetic on. The subway was several blocks off, so I said "hop in my car and I'll take you."

They told me that they were Marines, one wounded in Fallujah, and I forget where the other got hit. Both lost their legs through IEDs.

But it was the rest of the conversation that struck me, even though it seems like everytime I talk with one of them it goes the same way.

They went on and on about how much the appreciated what we were doing, about how much they appreciated our Friday night pro-troops rallies, and how it helped their morale (word of this has reached Iraq). I have to say that it was almost embarrassing to hear it from them, and so I started saying in effect "guys, thank you but all I'm doing is standing on the streetcorner holding a sign and coming in afterwards, you're fighting battles and both of you have lost a leg. We do this for you!" Finally after a few minutes of this sort of back-and-forth we all agreed that we appreciated, supported, and needed each other.

As I said, what an amazing bunch.

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November 3, 2006

A Military Dictator for Iraq?

Given the current situation in Iraq, some people say that we need to put some sort of strongman in power to restore order. Others balk, saying that Iraqis are too used to their newfound freedom and would never acquiese to another dictatorship.

Ralph Peters is one who says that a military government may be the best answer to the problems beseting Iraq. Actually, he says that despite the votes that have taken place we have already have a de facto police state.

We went to Iraq to overthrow a police state. Through a combination of stubbornness, naivete and noble intentions, we've replaced it with another police state - more violent, more corrupt and less accountable.

As an Army officer remarked to me, Saddam's starting to look good.

Our greatest setback in Iraq may be that country's undoing: It has proven impossible to develop an honest, nonpartisan police establishment anywhere in the country's Arab provinces. The police aren't feared by criminals, but by law-abiding citizens.

The secret police are back, in the form of death squads. And the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looks perfectly happy with the situation.

... In the coming months, we may find that the only hope of restoring order is a military government. It sounds repellent, but a U.S.-backed coup may be the only alternative to endless anarchy.

You'll want to read the whole thing, but Peters' argument is that Arabs can't handle democracy, at least not yet. The Iraqi Police are out of countrol and pose as much danger as the insurgents. Maliki, he says, is simply "a puppet of Muqtada al-Sadr". The Iraqi Army may be the country's last hope.

Not that this is all our fault, Peters stresses. Although we have made mistakes, the simple fact is that we have given the Iraqis a chance to build a new country and they are blowing it.

Jim Dunnigan's StrategyPage has another view of the matter. Yes, they say, there are many problems in Iraq. It is a disturbingly lawless place, with seemingly no respect for the law and order that we in the West take for granted. Corruption is not just rampant but is a way of life. The reason for these problems is not that Arabs in Iraq or elsewhere enjoy that way of life, but rather because "they have not reached a point where enough people in a country have decided that democracy and "civil society" is superior to the old ways."

In the West, it's been over a century since most people accepted the rule of law and democracy. Political scientists, historians and economists agree that this combination has also played a major role in creating the booming economies and all that wealth. But in the Middle East, anyone who wants those goodies, moves to the West. Trying to change minds in the Middle East is too dangerous. The old ways have too many fans, usually heavily armed fans with short tempers.

But there are an increasing number of Middle Easterners who want to try democracy and rule of law. Many of them live in Iraq. They resent Western suggestions that only dictatorship works in the Middle East, or that it's futile to try and establish democracy in the region. Until September, 2001, that was an attitude much respected (if not much talked about publicly) in the West. The dictators were supported, because these thugs kept things under control. But then came the increasing attacks on Westerners by Islamic terrorists. Many Westerners now demanded something more than "police efforts" be directed at the Middle Eastern situation. That led to the invasion of Iraq, which brought down one of the worst dictators in the region, and presented Iraqis with the option to try democracy. Many have accepted the offer, but a large minority, mainly composed of the deposed Sunni Arabs, have not.

StrategyPage is essentially arguing that appearances can be deceiving because a although determined minority can create an awful lot of death and destruction, this does not mean that they represent what the majority want. In other words, we shouldn't give up yet.

Iraqis are well aware of their own history, and one important part of it is that when the British and French took over from the Turks after World War I, they set up sort-of democracies in the region. Unfortunately, these nascent democracies all failed.

The Iraqis are well aware of their track record when it comes to democracy, more so than all the critics, pundits and talking heads in the West. Most Iraqis say they want democracy, and many have died supporting their beliefs. But there are still many Iraqis who prefer a dictator, a "strong man," and the corrupt old ways. This is another battle going on that rarely makes the headlines. But this is the battle that matters most. Ending the violence in Iraq is less of a problem than is establishing rule of law and working democracy.

Who is correct? Peters or the editors of StrategyPage?

I tend to agree with the view that if we can hang in there for some additional years we can eventually make Iraq work. I once read in an interview where General Casey say that it took an average of 9 years to defeat an insurgency. I just don't know if we have that much patience.

In an upcoming piece, I'm going to discuss at more length the concept of whether a society or nation can combine both democratic development and high levels of violence. Stay tuned.

Posted by Tom at 7:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2006

Useful Context

Not all news coming out of Iraq is bad.

Stop what you're doing and go watch this video over at Glenn Beck.

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October 23, 2006

Crunch Time in Iraq

It's do or die time in Iraq, folks. I think our clock is running down fast.

Robert Kaplan, writing in The Atlantic, says that we can't just withdraw, because:

Iraq may be closer to an explosion of genocide than we know.

Ouch. Read the whole thing (hat tip NRO)

StrategyPage, usually a source of optimism, makes no bones about just how serious the situation is. It's "Crunch Time", they say:

The U.S. is giving the Iraqi government an ultimatum. Either the government disciplines military and police commanders who fail to perform, and cracks down on corruption, or American troops and money will be withdrawn sooner, rather than later. This would result in the large scale slaughter of the Sunni Arab population, and possible intervention by neighboring Sunni majority nations (particularly Saudi Arabia.) This could bring in Iranian participation as well, which is why Saudi Arabia participation would probably be unofficial, and mostly humanitarian (to take in many of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who would flee such chaos.)
This has always been the downside of the United States leaving Iraq prematurely; the destruction of the Sunni Arab community. The U.S. has always been eager to avoid this, especially since similar situations occurred in the 1990s (against the Bosnians in the Balkans, and the Tutsi in Rwanda), and left more than enough blame to go around. But the ineptness of the Iraqi government, and growing calls from war opponents to "get out" has provided the U.S. government with an opportunity to tell everyone to put up, or shut up. While many in the Iraqi government would like to see the Sunni Arabs driven out, no one is looking forward to what would actually happen. Many Sunni Arabs would fight back savagely. There would be thousands of dead Kurds and Shia Arabs. But to many Kurds and, especially Shia Arabs, the Sunni Arabs have been acting pretty savagely for the last three years. In such a scenario, Iran would provide lots of weapons and "volunteers." This would leave the radical Shia militias stronger, and might lead to a civil war to decide if the next government is a religious dictatorship, or a democracy. The Kurds, who have been largely sitting out the fighting over the last three years, would assist the Shia Arabs, if only to insure that the Sunni Arabs were defeated.

The plan is to give the Iraqi government a list of deadlines, and it's questionable if they will be able to meet them. The traditions of corruption, cronyism and tribal politics are difficult to overcome quickly. The Iraqis plead that democracy takes time, but it's election year in the United States, and democracy also means winning elections.

Posted by Tom at 9:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Baghdad Security Plan II

Following are a series of posts today by Rich Lowry that appeared on National Review Online's The Corner. Yesterday I put up his Friday post on the situaion in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD SECURITY [Rich Lowry]

Catching up from yesterday, here's a detailed story about the Baghdad security plan from yesterday's Times. It is indeed the "holding" phase that has been the problem:

The strategy is to use American and Iraqi forces to clear neighborhoods of violent militias, insurgent groups and arms caches, then hold them with security forces so that essential services can be restored and reconstruction can eventually begin. Two months into the operation, it is the “hold” phase that has run into trouble, partly because it depends on the Iraqi security forces to win the trust of the population and establish the rule of law.

Also, this goes to why it's a problem relying on Iraqi forces at this stage. Colonel Ali, a good leader of a National Police unit, was asked how to distinguish among the legitimate police wearing police uniforms and the killers:

Colonel Ali offered advice that said a great deal about the long road ahead before Iraq’s forces can assume the main burden of protecting the country. If an Iraqi policeman comes to your door, he advised, you should not open it unless he is accompanied by an American soldier.

Also, the Post yesterday has this bit on more troops:

U.S. commanders are wrestling with the question of whether to raise troop levels. Last week, Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said that more troops would have an immediate impact on reducing attacks in localities where they operate but that it was uncertain whether they would contribute to bringing violence down in the long term.

Posted at 2:27 PM

MORE BAGHDAD SECURITY [Rich Lowry]

From today's Times. This isn't good:

That is not just a question of numbers. Some American military officers say they believe the Iraqi Army may be more effective than the Iraq police, and more trusted by local citizens. Yet several Iraqi battalions have deserted rather than follow orders to go to Baghdad, according to American military officials. In the case of these units, summoning them to the Iraqi capital was tantamount to demobilizing them.

Here's more on the "holding" failing in "clear-and-hold":

The original concept behind the plan was that American forces were to hold cleared areas for 60 to 90 days, during which the process of economic reconstruction would begin. Then American forces would turn the sectors over to Iraqi police and army units, freeing up American troops to tackle security challenges elsewhere in the city. Without sufficient Iraqi forces, however, this process has been hampered and it has been more difficult to prevent militias and insurgents from sneaking back into cleared areas.

“What takes the combat power is the holding piece,” said General Thurman. “We can do the clearing. But once you clear if you don’t leave somebody in there and build civil capacity in there then it is the old mud-hole approach. You know the water runs out of the mud hole when you drive through the mud hole and then it runs back in it.”

Finally, some options for more troops:

There are a number of ideas being discussed in private to fix the plan. Americans still hope to receive additional Iraqi Army forces next month. They also hope to persuade the Iraqi government to purge police stations infiltrated by militias. Iraqi deployment areas may also be realigned.

American forces have already shifted some forces to new high-violence sectors and may make further adjustments. Shrinking the military zone controlled by the American Baghdad-based division, which now extends south to the cities of Najaf and Karbala, has also been discussed as a way to increase the density of American troops in the capital.

Erecting more barricades to section off parts of the city has been proposed by some officers. So has legitimizing some neighborhood watch organizations. That idea cuts against the policy to abolish militias but has been advocated by some military officials as a useful expedient.

Keeping the Army’s Fourth Division in place in Baghdad instead of rotating it home when it is to be replaced by the First Cavalry Division would substantially increase the number of American troops in the city. But there have been no indications that such an idea is under serious consideration.

Posted at 2:31 PM

RE: BAGHDAD SECURITY PLAN [Rich Lowry]
E-mail from Iraq:

Mr. Lowry,

Every Iraqi I have talked with has defined security in terms of the presence of American troops, either alone or with Iraqi soldiers.

Posted at 3:55 PM

Note: The operation described in this and previous posts were part of Operation Together Forward.

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October 22, 2006

Baghdad Security Plan

The following is a post by Rich Lowry that appeared onNational Review Online this past Friday afternoon:

BAGHDAD SECURITY PLAN [Rich Lowry]
Unfortunately, it was not unexpected that the new security plan would fail. This is what NR wrote back in August when the plan was first announced:

…the U.S. and Maliki have a new plan to secure Baghdad. At this rate, “plan to secure Baghdad” will join “stay the course” as a phrase that can’t be uttered about Iraq without causing derision. The latest plan calls for 3,500 U.S. troops to redeploy from elsewhere in the country — including violent Anbar province — into Baghdad. It seems unlikely either that these troops can be spared from the areas they are leaving or that 3,500 Americans is enough to make a decisive difference in the capital city of nearly 6 million. Once again, the administration seems content with doing just enough perhaps — if it’s lucky — to hold things together, rather than dramatically changing facts on the ground.

It's a little hard to tell from today's news accounts whether the clearing (which our troops do) or the holding (which we rely on the Iraqis to do after we move on) is primarily failing. It seems to be the holding, which was also predictable. This is what I wrote with Bill Kristol a while ago:

If American troops hand neighborhoods over to Iraqis, they are likely to soon deteriorate again — in the same dynamic we have repeatedly seen of trouble spots being brought under control by American troops only to slide back again when the Americans leave.

This seems to be exactly the dynamic Gen. Caldwell describes here in The Washington Post:

"We're finding insurgent elements, the extremists, are pushing back hard. They're trying to get back into those areas" where Iraqi and U.S. forces have targeted them, he said. "We're constantly going back in and doing clearing operations."

The Times describes the same phenomenon here:

General Caldwell said American troops were being forced to return to neighborhoods, like Dora in southwestern Baghdad, that they had sealed off and cleared as part of the security campaign because “extremists” fighting back had sent sectarian violence soaring there. The security plan sent heavy deployments of American troops into troubled neighborhoods, reversing the previous policy, which was to allow Iraqi troops to police the capital...

...Across Baghdad, as in other troubled areas of Iraq that American forces have tried to “clear and hold,” military officials have struggled to deal with insurgents simply melting away, only to return stronger after the offensives wound down. Commanders say the challenge will be not only to clear and hold, but also to “build,” meaning that the cleared areas, with Iraqi policing after the troops withdraw, will benefit from infrastructure investment as part of a plan to cut the militants’ support.


It also appears to be the case that Iraqi troops aren't holding up their end:

American commanders who have discussed the Baghdad operation with reporters in recent days have spoken of having limited options as they seek for ways to make the campaign more effective. One is to increase the number of Iraqi troops deployed to the sweeps. Of six Iraqi battalions that were promised when the operation began, these commanders said, only two have been deployed. The commanders also noted that assessments of the operation might improve after November, when a phase of the plan involving economic reconstruction in the “cleared” areas would begin.

I understand the risks of sending more troops. There is the domestic political problem here at home, noted here in The Times:

Or, he could take the advice of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is expected to run to replace him in two years, who argues in favor of pouring more troops into Iraq, an option one senior administration official said recently might make sense but could “cause the bottom to fall out” of public support.

There are other problems too that Eliot Cohen points out in the Journal today (behind a wall):

Conversely, the U.S. could react by reasserting its strength in Iraq — sending an additional 30,000 or 40,000 troops to secure Baghdad and its environs, and making a far more strenuous effort than it has thus far to take control of the civilian ministries that are now merely fronts for political parties and their militias. But could American public opinion sustain this? More importantly, where would the soldiers come from? And has the strain on Iraqis' sense of national identity become so great that those institutions could be built?

Now, it may be that we are beyond the point of more U.S. troops making a difference (and I don't want to pretend there are any easy answers, nor that I have them, since I have been plenty wrong about Iraq before). But if we were going to try to secure Baghdad, we really should have tried to do it in an over-whelming way. Politically, the failure of the current plan will make it that much more difficult to try anything else. By pursuing a half-a-loaf plan we have only succeeded in limiting our options and in undermining support for the war.

Posted by Tom at 8:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Last Chance Fading?

We've been hearing for some time that in order for Iraq to succeed the Iraqis are going to have to step up to the plate and take control themselves. One key element of this is the new Iraqi Army, which we hope will be able to defeat the insurgents and replace the militias. As anyone who has even a cursoy knowledge of warfare in the Middle East knows, Arabs have made lousy soldiers. Thus, the need for intense training.

Then today we get this from the Wall Street Journal(hat tip NRO)


President Bush has touted such advisory teams as key to the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Iraq and bringing American troops home. So Col. Demas and his troops expected some of the best instruction the Army had to offer. What they got was a "phenomenal waste of time," the colonel wrote from Iraq last fall, in a report to his superiors...

...Internal Army reviews and interviews with dozens of advisers show that, thus far, the Army hasn't treated the advisory program as a priority. The job has often fallen to the military's less seasoned second team: reservists, guardsmen and retirees called back to active duty. A 48-page Army study, finished in May and marked "For Official Use Only," concluded that 10- to 12-man advisory teams are too small and "do not have the experience to advise in the various areas they are assigned."

Huh?

The post at NRO also pointed to a column by Max Boot in the LA Times which essentially said the same thing

OF THE MANY failures that have bedeviled the American military effort in Iraq, few are as inexplicable and costly as the failure to commit more resources to the Iraqi security forces. The only way U.S. troops will be able to go home without having failed in their mission is if Iraqis are capable of establishing order on their own. Yet U.S. efforts to train and equip the Iraqis got off to a laughable start in 2003 and have only slightly improved since. ...

It's not only a matter of money. We have more than 140,000 troops in Iraq, but fewer than 4,000 of them act as advisors. There are barely enough to go around for higher-level Iraqi headquarters; there are no "embeds" available to consistently operate at the company and platoon level, where most of the action occurs. The Iraqi police forces are even more neglected.

What's more, some of the best and brightest American officers are being steered away from Iraqi units. Everyone in the U.S. armed forces knows that the way to the top is to command American units, not to advise foreign units — even if the latter task is more difficult and more important.

One Army officer who has served in Iraq and would be well qualified for an advisory role told me recently that he was asked to become an ROTC instructor at home but not an advisor in Iraq. Those he sees being sent to help Iraqis tend to have "marginal career prospects." "No one is diverted from a school or command," he told me. "No one is sent after a successful command."

I don't know if these articles are accurate or not but if they are then our last hope for Iraq may be fading. When Bill Roggio writes stuff like this it is time to be worried

As the sectarian violence in Iraq, which is largely centered in and around Baghdad, threatens to bring down the Iraqi government and push the country into civil war, the Interior Ministry is desperately trying to purge the police forces of sectarian death squads and criminal elements. On October 4th, an entire police brigade stationed in Baghdad was "pulled off the line" and sent off to be vetted and retrained. Over 3,200 police have been dismissed - " 1228 had been sacked for breaking the law while nearly 2000 more were dismissed for dereliction of duty."

Operation Together Forward, the security plan to restore order in Baghdad, is in danger of being overtaken by the self perpetuating sectarian violence. The operating has made improvements in the neighborhoods it has addressed, but large segments of Baghdad remain open to al-Qaeda suicide bombers and death squads. The methodical pace of the operation is ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground – as death squad attacks increase, the citizens of Baghdad are forced to turn away from their government and towards the armed gangs for protection.

But as you know I've been worried for some time now.

Posted by Tom at 7:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2006

Declare Victory and Leave?

Sometime during the Vietnam war Senator George Aiken (R-VT) said that "The best policy is to declare victory and go home." We are getting closer to that point in Iraq. Consider:

* The situation in Baghdad and the Anwar Province doesn't seem to be getting much better. We're holding the country together, but barely. While we don't have a civil war, we do have ethnic cleansing on a wide scale. And while the latest Lancet study to come out of Johns Hopkins may be flawed and politically motivated, no one should dispute that Iraq is in trouble.
* Nevertheless, the Iraqi Army is growing and is a real force. While there are all sorts of problems, before long the Iraqi Army should be able to deal with the situation on it's own. In theory, anyway.
*We've spend a lot of money and time trying to rebuild the country. Yes there has been money wasted, but much also has done much good.
*We've spend much time and effort trying to establish a new government.
*The Democrats stand poised to take one or both houses of Congress. While they are maddenly unclear as to their policies, it is likely that they will try and force a pullout.
* Whoever is elected president in 2008, and from whichever party, it seems likely to me that they will have to run on some sort of plan for ending the war in Iraq. I think it doubtful that a "increase the troop levels and go for broke" message will resonate well. Rather, all or most candidates will offer some plan that in the end calls for a draw-down of US forces.

My bottom line is this: Either the Iraqis are going to pick up the ball and run with it or they're not. We're approaching the point where we've done all that we can do. Politically, we can keep large numbers of troops in Iraq for two more years, but that's probably about it. We still have some time left, I'm not saying that the situation is critical and that we should withdraw now. But it's something we have to think about.

We can't expect the American people to support the war forever. It was one thing to keep troops deployed in Europe after WWII because they weren't actually fighting. Convention wisdom says that elections are about getting the broad middle on your side, and in this case the CW is right. The left will always be against military operations unless they are strictly humanitarian with no national security goals and where noone gets hurt, and the right will always be for them. I don't have any polls in front of me, but you don't have to be a genius to see that the middle is lost or on the way there.

Last night, outside Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, several of us were speaking with a young soldier (actually he might have been a Marine, I didn't ask). Someone asked him about the situation over there, and he said that we've done just about all we can do for him. One soldiers' perspective, but at this point hardly surprising.

Background: Every Friday night we hold a pro-troops rally outside the hospital and then go inside to meet troops and bring them things. More here.

Dr Sanity, one of my favorite bloggers and a staunch conservative, makes the same point in a post here. She cites a post over at Sigmung, Carl, and Alfred, which says in part

By their actions- or lack thereof- Iraqis will in the end, clearly define themselves and the kind of nation they want for themselves. If they will not act in their own best interests, we cannot force democracy where it is clearly not valued.

If democracy is of little value to the Iraqis, we need to leave. That will result in tragedy and great suffering, of course, but the blood of Americans and coalition forces cannot continue to be used to purchase democracy for Iraq.

The people of Eastern Europe did not need to be convinced of the merits of free societies over tyrannies. We must be prepared to face the reality that much of the Arab world will remain backward for a very long time, incapable of understanding how free governments are always better than oppressive ones. While there is nothing we can do about that, we can hope that the next generation, or the one after that, will see more clearly.

The tragedy is that yet another generation of Arabs will be lost to dysfunction and neglect. The greater tragedy is that most of them don’t even know it. That said, we must always remind them that America and the free world will be there for them when they call.

Some will say that Islam and democracy are fundamentally incompatible. I suspect that an observer might have said that about Christianity 1000 years ago. It's probably more the case that the process is just going to take a long time, and Western politics thinks in months or years, not decades and centuries.

Indeed, I suspect that someone transported back to just about anywhere in the United States not even 100 years ago would despair that Jim Crow would ever be conquered. However our expedition in Iraq works out, I think that at some point Islam will reform and that part of the world will see some sort of liberty and freedom.

No Hurried Withdrawal

Be all this as it may, it seems to me that we're closer to the end of our deployment in Iraq than we are at it's beginning. Second, either the Iraqis will make something of their country or they'll let it degenerate into more and more ethnic violence.

The Democrats were surely wrong when they demanded a date certain by which we would bring our troops out of Iraq. All this would do is telegraph a message to all of the terrorists and militias that if they just laid low until that date certain, they could light up the sky once we were gone. Rather, our policy should probably be to make it clear to the Iraqis that we won't be there forever and that they need to get their act together.

Whether any of us like this situation or not is not particulary relevant. It seems to me that it is being or will soon be forced on us by political conditions here at home.

Put Them On Notice

I certainly hope that the Bush Administration has privately notified senior members of the Iraqi government that they can't expect us to stay there for much longer. As I said earlier, we can probably keep large numbers of troops in Iraq for another 2 years, but if the situation doesn't improve the politics will demand a withdrawal. It would be a mistake to establish or publish a timetable, but we have to get the concept through to them that we won't be around forever.

Update

Via Powerline, RightWingNutHouse is talking about an article in the New York Sun in which James Baker, Secretary of State under Bush 41 and now a sometime adviser to Bush 43, is allegedly planning to recommend pretty much what Senator Aiken did 35 years ago. From the Sun

A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

As Rick Moran of RightWingNutHosue notes, it looks like "the Baker Commission, as it is coming to be called, was set up for the sole and exclusive purpose of giving both Republican and Democratic politicians cover for our retreat from Iraq." This commission, like so many others, has noone with real military experience on it. Here's the list. With the sole exception of William Perry, President Clinton's Secretary of Defense, not a one of them is qualified to advise on military matters (neither am I, but I'm a hack blogger, not sitting on a highbrow commission).

Perhaps so. It must also be stressed that like so many others the Sun story is based on unnamed "sources", which makes its accuracy hard to judge.

The "Baker Commission" will not release its report until after the November elections.

Moran also accurately notes that if this is accurate, then Baker's plan "is a recipe for defeat and retreat. No amount of spin will change the fact that once we leave Iraq, the entire world will see that our enemies in Iran and Syria as well as al-Qaeda were successful in inflicting enough pain on the American people to cause our precipitous withdrawal."

Exactly. The President, however, may have other ideas. From the Sun

The president also said he was not averse to changing tactics. But he repeated that the strategic goal in Iraq is to build "a country which can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself." He added, "The strategic goal is to help this young democracy succeed in a world in which extremists are trying to intimidate rational people in order to topple moderate governments and to extend the caliphate."

But the president's strategic goal is at odds with the opinion of Mr. Baker's expert working groups, which dismiss the notion of victory in Iraq. The "Stability First" paper says, "The United States should aim for stability particularly in Baghdad and political accommodation in Iraq rather than victory."

If the Sun story is accurate, let's hope that the President has the strength not to take his advice. He's going to need it, because the Democrats, probably crowing from a November victory, are going to demand a withdrawal. As Powerline correctly observed the other day, "Not since the middle of the Civil War has either major political party been as intellectually and morally bankrupt as today's Democrats." For all of our troubles in Iraq, we can't let them, or James Baker, seize control of events.

Posted by Tom at 12:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

Losing the War II

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I don't remember exactly how it came up in conversation. I guess it was just that we had been talking to a couple of soldiers just back from the war that prompted it. Either way, we were outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, and were walking down to where the Code Pink people were. The soldiers had gone down there to confront engage in dialogue with them (details here).

Either way, I made some comment about how the situation in Baghad was pretty grim. My compatriot turned to me and said something like "oh but we've been making progress recently!"

Before I could say anything, the moment ended. We got to where we were going, someone else spoke, and the conversation went elsewhere.

If I had been able, I would have said something along the lines of "Oh come on. Here we are 3 1/2 years into the war and you're telling me cheerfully that "we're making progress in the capital city"? "

In Losing the War I said that we were losing the overall war against Islamic fascism (I encourage you to read it simply because several commenters made some very astute points). In this post I'm going to say that we're losing the war in Iraq.

Before my pro-war readers freak out, be assured that one, I think we can still pull it out, and that two I still think it was a good idea to invade.

Before any anti-war readers chortle with glee, ask yourself why it makes you happy to read that I think we're losing.

The editors and writers of National Review have supported the war from the beginning, and do so today. But like me, they have come to be more and more alarmed with the state of affairs in Baghdad. As such, they gathered 10 military experts, geopolitical thinkers, Middle East scholars, and conservative writers for a symposium and asked them two questions: "Are we winning; and, if not, how can we?"

You can read their responses yourself in the September 11, 2006 edition of the magazine. If you pay for a digitial subscription (free with a subscription) you can view it on-line. And shame on you if you don't subscribe.

The participants are David Frum, Newt Gingrich, Mark Helprin, Lawrence Kaplan, Robert Kaplan, Michael Ledeen, Ralph Peters, Michael Rubin, Mark Steyn, and Bernard E. Trainor.

None of them think we're winning, with the possible exception of Mark Steyn, who offered a tepid "Iraq will be mostly all right". Most of them think it's salvagable, though barely so. All offer wise words of advice.

First, however, the editors of NR set the stage

Over the last two years, the U.S. has done nearly everything it thought might undermine the insurgency in Iraq and stabilize the country. We held elections that demonstrated the desire of most Iraqis for a better future. We brought Sunnis into the legitimate political process and fostered the creation of a unity government. We killed the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Zarqawi. We built an Iraqi army that, for all its flaws, will stand and fight. We pushed aside the ineffectual prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari to make room for his replacement, Nouri al-Maliki. We did all of this, yet the violence is as bad as it has ever been.

Attacks on American troops are up. Attacks on Iraqi forces are up. Attacks on Iraqi civilians are up. Iraqi civil society gives the impression of teetering on the edge of collapse. People are afraid to go to mosques, for fear of the horrors that regularly transpire at them. Bank officials depend on stealthy deliveries of cash in private cars, for fear of the brazen robberies that regularly befall armored vehicles. People hesitate to open their doors to the police, for fear that they might actually be militiamen prowling the streets with power tools to torture their victims. Mourners can’t even collect corpses at the Baghdad mosque free of fear that they will be killed while doing so. The middle class is fleeing the country, and both Shia and Sunni are beginning to leave mixed neighborhoods to escape sectarian violence.

If that doesn't get your attention nothing will. But on with the symposium. Following are some excerpts

Michael Rubin

Militias exist to impose through force what they cannot win through the ballot box. Iran exerts its influence through militias, and the U.S. fails to counter them. Left alone, they metastasize.

Bernard E. Trainor

The hoped-for unity government is fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines, with each group advancing its own agenda. Even in a bureaucratic sense it is not working. Corruption at all levels is endemic. Violence is at an all-time high and getting worse, with Iraqis being killed at the rate of 3,000 a month in the internecine war. The sectarian vigilantes and mafias are running wild. Iran clandestinely supports the Shiite militias. Expectations of success in the much-advertised program to restore security to Baghdad are questionable, given past failures. We have not mastered the insurgent way of war, and do not have enough troops in Iraq to “clear, hold, and build” in insurgent-dominated areas. Daily strikes against coalition forces have doubled since January. The Iraqi army remains pitiful, and the police are not only ineffective but untrustworthy. Efforts to put the country’s economy in working order are crippled by insurgent attacks, looting, and corruption.

David Frum

Will 4,000 U.S. troops redeployed from elsewhere in Iraq suffice to do the job? I don’t know anyone who thinks that they will. Not for the first time, we are left to wonder: Does the Bush administration truly believe Iraq is as important as it says it is?

Robert Kaplan

A good case can be made for ramping up troop numbers dramatically. A good case can also be made for drastically reducing them, leaving behind a force of Marines and special-operations soldiers embedded in the Iraqi security services: a classic im¬perial model. Much weaker is the case for what we are doing presently: for example, robbing Mosul of troops in order to move a few thousand to Greater Baghdad. Mosul, though it has made significant progress since 2004, is by no means secure.

Michael Ledeen

What to do? First, recognize that the Iraqi enterprise rested on a failure of strategic vision: It was never possible to secure Iraq so long as Iran and Syria were left free to wage terror war against us. Our military, and some Iraqi units, are terrific, but you can’t win a regional war by playing defense in one place. It is, as I have said ad infinitum, a sucker’s game. Ergo, work for regime change in Iran and Syria, the only way to win the war.

I could go on but you get the point. As I said above, buy the magazing or get a digital subscription and read the whole thing. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a round table discussion in Foreign Affairs, in which several participants posed ideas on what to do to win in Iraq. I didn't necessarily agree with their ideas, but it was as useful exercise in that what we're doing now isn't working.

Most of the participants in the NR symposium urged the administration to commit more resources, especially troops. Their basic argument is that for some weird reason the administration is trying to win the war on the cheap, and that if we tried harder we would be successfrul. Unfortunately, it may be too late. Michael Rubin in particular said that we're losing primarily because neither the American people nor our politicians (GOP as well as Democrat) are not committed to winning, and took the administration to task for not making the case for war more strongly.

Regarding increased troops, a frustrated reader at NRO made the observation that

If it is true that adding this relatively small number of troops to Baghdad is significantly improving the situation there, can you please tell why in (you know where) it has taken us so long to do this?

To be sure, the issue of additional troops is more complicated than many seem to imagine, as I pointed out in a post last year. Nevertheless, it's still a good question.

The reader, btw, was referring to reports like this one

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said US and Iraqi troops have reduced the levels of violence in Baghdad but whether that lasts depends on a difficult reconciliation process....

The meeting came amid reports from military commanders in Iraq that violent incidents in Baghdad have come down by 40 percent in the past three weeks as US and Iraqi troops have cordoned off and cleared some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods....

Thousands of US troops were brought into the capital earlier this month amid fears that spiralling sectarian violence could descend into all-out civil war, pitting Shiites against Sunnis.

Losing to Who?

Perhaps the most frustrating, and strangest, aspect of all this is who we're losing to. It's not a defined enemy, one with a headquarters or capital city. We're losing to chaos, to the Iraqis themselves, to Iranian and Syrian subsersives, to sectarian and tribal violence. Al-Qaeda is not going to take over if we pull out. A Milosevic-type fascist who wants to "cleanse" the country of Sunnis might.

Not Linear

Anti-war types will say that we were losing from the start. Some pro-war types always say that "things are improving". Both are wrong. Neither seem to realize that there is an ebb and flow to wars, that it usually goes back and forth between who is winning and who is losing. Now is not the place for a full summary, but suffice it to say that we were winning in early 2003, losing by the end of that year and in 2004 ("What Went Wrong", October 2004), we started to win again in 2005 ("We're Winning", April 2005), but in the past 6-8 months things have taken a decided downwards turn.

No Excuses

As the editors say, " In the end, there is no excuse for losing a war". The GOP has controlled both houses of congress since before the war began. The media may be an annoyance, but Reagan got around it, and he didn't even have the House. The Democrats may be a bunch of political opportunists, for the war when it was popular and against it when not, but they're essentially out of power.

Drunken Sailors

Our problems seem therefore to be twofold; one, we will not commit the resources, and two, the administration will not make the case.

It's not as if we don't have the money. I don't have the figures in front of me, but we all know that the Republicans in congress have been spending money like there's no tomorrow. President Bush encourages their irresponsible behavior, refusing to veto any spending bills whatsoever.

What makes it all so bad is the reason for all the spending; the GOP is trying to buy votes. At least when liberals spend money they do it out of principle. When it comes to most Republicans, they do it just to keep their seats.

So rather than build another carrier task force (we're down, I think to 12, a post-WWII low), reconstitute an Army or Marine Corps division or three, build more F-15s, or ramp up our intelligence assets, they spend the money on pork-barrel projects.

Michael Rubin pointed out that

The U.S. is losing in Iraq because American politicians and the general public have not decided they want or need to win. Many congressmen look at Iraq through the lens of the 2006 election: They care neither how their words embolden the enemy nor how their grandstanding impacts Iraq.

Again, yes the Democrats are not being helpful. But they're not in power. Anywhere.

The fact is that the administration went on vacation shortly after our success in smashing the Ba'athist regime and never quite came back. Reforming Social Security was a laudable goal, but not at the expense of taking attention away from the war.

If Bill Clinton was in office he'd be out making the case for war every day. He'd be visiting a military base or hospital, shaking hands and making sure the photo ops went as planned. He'd make sure that every week there was some piece of legislation designed to help win the war for him to sign, and would arrange for a full-blown press event to ensure maximum publicity. By comparison, this administration is woefully incompetent.

If We Lose

If we lose so many bad things will happen, and so many more could, that I hardly want to think about it. Mark Steyn lays out one of them with his usual blend of seriousness and humor

(The United States) has acquired the habit either of losing wars or of ending them inconclusively. A similar result in the Middle East would lead not just the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians but also the Norwegians, Singaporeans, and Australians to conclude that the nation's hyperpower status was some freak accident — like Jerry Lewis stumbling into a boardroom meeting and being mistaken for the new chairman. They would make their dispositions according, there being no reason why anyone should take Washington seriously ever again. If the Democrats think that's good for the world, I'd like to know why.

Is anyone in the administration listening?

Posted by Tom at 8:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

The Word from the Generals

Via Powerline, interviews with the Generals running the war in Iraq.

In one Hugh Hewitt interviews General John Abizaid,,commander of CENTCOM. The second is a DOD press conference with Lt. Gen. Sir Robert Fry, deputy commander of the Multinational Forces-Iraq and the senior British representative in Iraq.

Both interviews are especially interesting in light of some good news about Baghdad. Both ABC News and The Washington Times are reporting significant drops in sectarian violence in the capital as a result of Operation Together Forward, the ongoing joint US-Iraqi effort to stabilize the situation.

Following are excerpts from each interview. First is Hewett's interview with General Abizaid,

HH: Can you begin, General, by giving us an overview of the situation in Iraq as of mid-August, 2006?

JA: The situation in Iraq right now, as you've seen, of course, there's an awful lot of sectarian violence, particularly in the Baghdad area. We've found it necessary to move additional troops down into the Baghdad area by extending some forces that we were going to redeploy to help shore up some of the work that the Iraqi Security Forces are doing. We're putting additional Iraqi Security Forces in the field there as well. It's very clear to all of us that have been serving in this region that Baghdad's the key to Iraq, and that we've got to get the levels of sectarian violence down in order for Iraq to stabilize. We're confident it can be done. We've seen some changes already that are somewhat positive. It's still too early to say, but the combination of Iraqi Security Forces and our forces, along with some measures being taken by the new government, we're confident can, over time, move Baghdad in the right direction.

HH: General Abizaid, are you confident as well that victory is possible in Iraq? And what will that look like?

JA: Yeah, no, I'm very confident that victory's possible, not only in Iraq, but in the broader Middle East, if you consider victory being a Middle East where extremism is not tolerated, and doesn't have a chance of going mainstream in the region. I certainly think that in Iraq, there'll be violence after the time that American forces depart. I think that the sectarian issues are deep, but they don't need to be fatal. I believe that over time, as you build institutional capacity and the Iraqi government, and especially in the Iraqi armed forces, that Iraqis will be able to do more and more of the day to day security work. And as that happens, we'll be able to bring our forces down.

Next is Lieutenant General Robert Fry at the DOD briefing. I found this one to be a bit more interesting. General Fry talked about many issues facing Iraq, and the questions were varied. But since the question of whether or not the situation in Iraq constitutes a "civil war" or not is oft-discussed, I thought I'd just excerpt that part of the interview.

GEN. FRY:...The second point I made was about the scale of the enterprise that we're involved in here in Iraq, and I think that still is at the very top of the list of what we're doing here. We're involved in trying to transfer -- transform a whole society, to take it from autocracy to liberal democracy, to take it from something which is entirely state controlled in economic terms to bring it to the disciplines of the market. And perhaps as importantly as anything now, we've got a free and sovereign and competent government to deal with. So I think that all those dimensions make life here complicated. ...

Now, something I didn't mention last time but will mention this time is the rather contentious issue of civil war. With the valedictory message of the erstwhile British ambassador being leaked as he was leaving Baghdad, it seems to cause an awful lot of comments, both in London and also in Washington as well. And I'd just like to offer my views on where we are on that issue.

In my judgment, we are not in a situation of civil war, and I think that we collectively have a lot of experience in what civil war looks like. I know what a civil war looks like from experience in the Balkans and parts of Africa. I also know what sectarian violence looks like from all the time that I've spent in Northern Ireland, and it seems to me it's the second of these two conditions rather than the first that we confront here in Iraq at the present time. But if you want to pick me up on my assertion, I'd be delighted for you to do so.
...

Q:Sir, this is Pam Hess with UPI... What difference does it make from a military perspective whether or not you call it civil war or sectarian violence? Does that change what you do? And is that difference -- does it even matter? Back here, when we look at the number of deaths and the level of violence, what difference does a label make?

GEN. FRY: Well, I think it makes a great deal of difference in this particular case. If you have a civil war, then typically and characteristically, you have the collapse of the central institutions of government. In an absence of government, there's the possibility of chaos. You also tend to lose the instruments of security, and if the army takes part on one side or the other, then, of course, that can have equally significant implications. So I don't think we're talking about labels or military semantics here. I think we're talking about qualitative differences.

There is a very intense sectarian conflict going on, but it is geographically defined. It is not resulting in the mass movement of population, which is characteristically what civil wars do. And it's still being conducted in an environment which has the central institutions of the state functioning. Now, that's the situation that I recognize at the present time. I do not see that as civil war, and neither do I draw glib differences between civil war and sectarian conflict. I think the differences are very substantial and still in existence in Iraq today.

Both generals are cautiously optimistic, as is Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the main source for the Washington Times story cited above. Overall, the violence in the capital has dropped 20-33%, depending on whose numbers are cited. Obviously, we've had reason to be optimistic before, only to see setbacks. The next several months will tell.

For Additional Information: Bill Roggio of the Counterterrorism Blog has an excellent summary of the situation in Baghdad. Kirk H. Sowell of ThreatsWatch says that we're now in Phase II of Operation Together Forward. Both of them are also cautiously optimistic, but warn of dire consequences if we do not succeed.

Posted by Tom at 9:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Reasons for Hope Amid Despair

Some of my recent posts have been pretty pessimistic, and while sometimes that's needed, it's also never a good thing to wallow in despair. No situation is so bad that it cannot be salvaged, and so despite out current troubles there is hope.

First up, is the media. Victor Davis Hanson in "Hope Amid Despair" points out, for example, that if there was ever any doubt that much of the media was helping the terrorists (unwittingly or otherwise), they are now completely discredited.

The globalized media is absolutely discredited after the coverage of Lebanon. Reuters has destroyed its reputation, gained from 150 years of world reporting, by releasing doctored pictures and tolerating staged photo-ops. Almost all the Western media outlets failed to distinguish Lebanese civilian from military casualties — as if the Hezbollah terrorists they never filmed and never interviewed never died.
Indeed, thanks to the unprofessional reporters abroad, and their disingenuous chiefs back home, the world never saw the killers who sent the rockets nor many of their civilian victims on the ground in Israel. Nor did the reporters apprise their audience of the different landscapes in which they worked: candor in Israel might win loud disagreement; truth in Lebanon meant death. It would be as if Reuters, AP, or the New York Times embedded its reporters within the Waffen SS, beaming daily reports back home about the great morale and noble suffering of the Wehrmacht as it advanced into the snowy Ardennes.

Next, up are Iran and Syria

Iran and Syria unleashed Hezbollah because they were both facing global scrutiny, one over nuclear acquisition and the other over the assassination of Lebanese reformer Rafik Hariri. Those problems won’t go away for either of them — nor, if we persist, will the democratic fervor in Afghanistan and Iraq on their borders.

Let't also not forget that Israel did significant damage to Hezbollah. The latter may have claimed victory, but it's not as if they are still the fighting force they were a month ago.


We still don’t know the extent of the damage that Hezbollah suffered, but it perhaps took casualties ten times the Israelis’ — losses — not to be dismissed even in the asymmetrical laws of postmodern warfare. Hezbollah’s leaders were hiding in embassies and bunkers; Israel’s were not. For all the newfound magnetism of Nasrallah, he brought ruin to his flock, and fright to the Arab establishment around Israel.

Further, the war may have simply taught Israel how to do it right next time. When the ceasefire proves to be a fraud, for surely it will, won't it reveal the impotence of the UN and those who always drone on about "international solutions"?

A surprised Israel now has a good glimpse of the terrorists’ new way of war, and probably next time will attack the supplier, not the launcher, of the rocketry. And when the Reuters stringers go away, the “civilians” of southern Lebanon, off-camera, might not be so eager to see more real fireworks lighting up their skies — or far-off, pristine Syria and Iran in safety praising the courage of the ruined amid the rubble. Note how Hezbollah already is desperately racing around the craters to assure its homeless constituency that it has enough Iranian cash to buy back lost sympathies.

Even the ceasefire can come back to bite the Islamists and their supporters. Hezbollah won’t be disarmed as promised, much less stay out of Katyusha range of the border. And that defiance will only reveal the impotence of the Lebanese and the U.N., reminding both that they have talked themselves into a corner and now are responsible to keep caged their own pet 7th-century vipers. This can only work to Israel’s favor when the next rockets go off, since no one then will be proposing an “international” solution — although it will be interesting to see whether Jacques Chirac talks of the “nuclear” option once his soldiers begin to be picked off by Hezbollah

Lastly, the London airplane bomb plot proved the fallacy of dealing with domestic Muslim extremists through "multiculturalism" once and for all. To this I would also add the terrorist plot in Canada revealed a few months ago. Both countries worshiped at the altars of "tolerance", "diversity" and "multiculturism", and all it got them was hatred and bombs.

In a larger sense, the foiled London terrorist plot won’t endear either Islamists or their appeasers to millions in the world who face travel delays, cancelled flights, and body searches — on top of paying billions more to the Arab oil producers who in response whine even more in their victimhood.

In the light of recent developments in the Middle East, this might not seem like much. Those who are blind to the threat of Muslim extremism because of their hatred of George W Bush or Tony Blair will not change. We see this in their chortling over their "victory" in court over the Terrorist Survelience Program. But perhaps the average citizen has learned a bit this past month, and, as Hanson says, " that is a sort of progress after all."

Posted by Tom at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 9, 2006

Can We Keep Iraq?

You don't have to be an anti-war moonbat to be taken aback when this came out last week

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war," Gen. John Abizaid testified at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Fueling this possibility, he said, was the combination of "sectarian violence, al Qaeda terrorists, insurgents and Shia militants."

"Failure to apply coordinated regional and international pressure ... will further extremism" and could lead to a widening and more perilous conflict, he said.

The US military says that attacks are up by 40% in the Baghdad area,

Not only that, but attacks are up all across Iraq

"Right now, much like all of Iraq, the attack levels are up," (Maj. Gen. Richard )Zilmer told The Associated Press. "While numbers of attacks are up, the effectiveness, the complexity (of the attacks) has not risen."

Last May I wrote that we had entered Phase IV of the war, one in which we would concentrate on consolidating the government and taking down the militias. I think I was correct about that. The problem is that it is apparent that we should have gone after the militias from the beginning. We underestimated their ability to make trouble, and the support they would receive from Iraqi politicians. As Andy McCarthy relates, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is upset that we are going after Shiite militias.

David Frum, writing on his blog over at National Review, said what many of us are thinking; that moving a few hundred troops into Baghdad is not going to stabilize the situation. We need thousands brought into the country, and the fact is that we don't have the political will to do that. What then, he asks?

Uncontrolled militias (some of them working tacitly with the pro-Iranian Islamists at the Ministry of the Interior) will wage intensifying war against each other.

The Sunnis will use random terror: car bombings, suicide bombings, kidnappings and massacres.

The Shiite militias - supported by their friends in the Ministry of the Interior and in the police forces - will respond with increasingly coordinated terror, such as that which killed dozens of Sunnis in the al-Jihad neighborhood on July 9. It is hard to imagine that a few hundred American advisers can put a stop to such atrocities.

As the tide of urban warfare turns in the Shiites' favor, those Sunnis who can flee the city will do so .

Gradually, Baghdad will come to look like Basra, Iraq's Shiite-dominated second city, now effectively ruled by Iranian-backed Shiites with the tacit acquiescence of the British military authorities.

Baghdad - and therefore central Iraq - will in such a case slide after Basra and the south into the unofficial new Iranian empire.

The danger, as Kirk Sowell says to me in a comment on this very problem at ThreatsWatch, is that "the worst case scenario, as I see, is not Iraq as a proxy state, but Iraq as a failed state, since this is possible but the former is not." He goes on to say that Sadr's "only holds sway among a minority of the Shia, both general population and religious leaders." He's probaly right. StrategyPage has said much the same (though I can't find the link just now. Kirk says that he's going to write more about this in future, and I advise everyone to make ThreatsWatch part of your regular reading.

The Bottom Line

al-Qaeda appears to be retreating from Iraq, which is certainly good because it significantly lessens the chance that if we lose the country it turns into the seat of the global caliphate that Osama bin Laden dreams of.

We also have to take care from becomming too gloomy over the current situation, because we know that some editors spike "good news" stories in favor of bad news, and so many military officers returning from Iraq say that the situation is better than it's reported by the msm. Further, as Powerline blog points out, it's not as if Iraq was a peaceful place before OIF.

Nevertheless, the current problems are tribal and ethnic based. The Washington Post, accurately, I think, calls it a "family feud". The power has shifted from the Sunnis to the Shi'a, and the current battles are over the new power structure.

Richard Fernandez sums it up well over at Belmont Club

A realistic assessment should include what has already been gained and what is left to gain. Some people think the Belmont Club is guilty of unwonted optimism simply because it is willing to accept what Zarqawi has practically admitted: that the Sunni insurgency is militarily beaten -- and that the struggle for the political outcome is now underway. And some readers may believe that I've gone all "gloomy" because I think the political outcome still hangs in the balance. But that is nothing more than stating a fact. Yet the essential difference is this: it's in context. Those who have done some rock climbing know that while it is important to grope for the next handhold along the line of climb it is equally important to remember the footholds you have already won. Forget where you are standing and you are lost. Unfortunately, much of the regular media coverage is almost designed to conceal where where we are standing and where we have to go. There is no context, as Bill Roggio once put it on a television interview. For most casual listeners of the news the US is trapped in a featureless and starchy soup, with no beginning or end. The War on Terror becomes portrayed as a shapeless shroud from which it is imperative to escape at all costs.

And that's sad because as Baron von Richthofen said, "Those who are afraid to take the next step will have wasted their entire previous journey."

We've beaten the Sunni insurgency. Whether we'll have a satisfactory political outcome is still in question.

Posted by Tom at 8:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 15, 2006

Ideas for Winning in Iraq

Commenter jason, in my "Bring Back the Neocons post at Conserva-Puppies, pointed me to a roundtable discussion in Foreign Affairs which is worthy of attention and consideration. As he points out, it avoids the name calling and provides solid analysis coupled with reasoned ideas about what to do in Iraq. The discussion is over an article written by Stephen Biddle called "Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon" which appeared in the March/April 2006 of Foreign Affairs.

No one in either article calls for either a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, or a "follow the Bush Administration and stay the course". All participants want us to win, and avoid partisan backbiting as well as revisionist history(Bush lied!).

All this is important because the situation in Iraq is looking pretty dire right about now. Although "the violence" is not the whole story, it is what everyone looks at, like it or not. And all the rebuilding of infrastructure and Iraqi military capability is only the backstage to successful operations in the field; none of it is of value unless it leads to results. Right now we are in the middle of the Battle of Baghdad, perhaps the most crucial battle in a long time in that country. This Belmont Club post points to an analysis by Iraq the Model, in which Mohammed concludes that the good guys aren't winning. Myself, I'm not so sure, but I will tell you that I'm a lot less optimistic about chances for success in Iraq than I have been in a long time. But more on that later.

Both Foreign Affairs articles are far too long and complicated in their analysis and recommendations to fully summarize here, so you'll want to read them both on your own. Biddle, in his article, agrees that Iraq is not Vietnam

But if the debate in Washington is Vietnam redux, the war in Iraq is not. The current struggle is not a Maoist "people's war" of national liberation; it is a communal civil war with very different dynamics. Although it is being fought at low intensity for now, it could easily escalate if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices.
Meanwhile, commentators such as Andrew Krepinevich argue essentially that Washington is not refighting Vietnam properly ("How to Win in Iraq," September/October 2005). Krepinevich sees the current U.S. strategy as a repeat of the failed search-and-destroy missions of early Vietnam and wants Washington to adopt instead the approach of territorial defense used in late Vietnam. ...

Iraq, Biddle says, is not like Vietnam in which you had a "Maoist people's war" which was "a struggle for good governance between a class-based insurgency claiming to represent the interests of the oppressed public and a ruling regime portrayed by the insurgents as defending entrenched privilege" Iraq, rather, is a "Communal civil war" in which people are divided by ethnic and sectarian allegiances.


Whereas the Vietnam War was a Maoist people's war, Iraq is a communal civil war. This can be seen in the pattern of violence in Iraq, which is strongly correlated with communal affiliation. The four provinces that make up the country's Sunni heartland account for fully 85 percent of all insurgent attacks; Iraq's other 14 provinces, where almost 60 percent of the Iraqi population lives, account for only 15 percent of the violence. The overwhelming majority of the insurgents in Iraq are indigenous Sunnis, and the small minority who are non-Iraqi members of al Qaeda or its affiliates are able to operate only because Iraqi Sunnis provide them with safe houses, intelligence, and supplies. Much of the violence is aimed at the Iraqi police and military, which recruit disproportionately from among Shiites and Kurds. And most suicide car bombings are directed at Shiite neighborhoods, especially in ethnically mixed areas such as Baghdad, Diyala, or northern Babil, where Sunni bombers have relatively easy access to non-Sunni targets.

Biddle's presciption is to slow down the growth of the Iraqi Army and bring more pressure on the various parties to form a viable government. The way we should achieve this is to use our military to "threaten to manipulate the military balance of power among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds to coerce them to negotiate."

The Roundtable Reaction

All of the participants agree with Biddle that Iraq is not Vietnam. Strange as this may sound, that alone to me justifies reading what else they have to say, because I am so sick and tired of the same old "another Vietnam" refrain that we've been hearing from the left that some honest analysis is refreshing.

They disagree with Biddle and each other, however, about exactly what should be done. Their various responses are so long and complicated that I cannot do justice to them here, so you'll want to read the article yourself.

But just to provide idea, as to their thinking, one of the participants, Chaim Kaufmann suggests that we stop insisting on either a power-sharing arrangement in the Iraqi government, or a " genuinely Iraqi security force" , because neither are possible given the level of ethnic hatred in Iraq. Rather, we should allow Iraq to break up into " communal cantons", which in some respects seems to already be occuring. The US military, he says, should be used to facilitate this process and protect the various peoples as they move about, and then once they have settled into their new homes. He defends this policy against those who would claim that it amounts to ethnic cleansing

Some might say that this policy will legitimate ethnic cleansing. But they would have to face squarely the costs of not protecting refugees; to the extent that the policy did succeed, Iraqis would experience less suffering than if it failed or was never attempted. Others will object that the current U.S. administration is unlikely to adopt these measures. Perhaps, but saving at least some lives would require getting only a few brigade commanders in a few places to think seriously about refugee protection.

Another of the participants, Leslie H. Gelb, agrees, while the other two, including Biddle in his response, do not. As I said earlier, read the whole thing.

Everyone's a Genius

Not to be mean to Biddle or the participants of the roundtable, but it's easy to sound smart when you're not in power. The reason for this is simple; your ideas are rarely tested against the hard rock of reality. "The enemy get's a vote" is more than a cliche, it is true, as is "no plan survives contact with the enemy." As Clausewitz said, "the enemy is an animate object that reacts."

Unfortunately, we can't replay history using different variables, so if things do not work out in Iraq then all of the naysayers will be able to say that "if only they'd taken my recommendation" we would have been successful, and of course there's really no hard counter to their arguments, no matter how contradictory they may be to each other.

So Where Are We?

Is the situation in Iraq as dire as the participants make it out to be? Maybe. Reading the two articles does not give one hope for optimism. Further, I already mentioned how Mohammed of the Iraq the Model blog is not optimistic as for government chances of success in the Battle for Baghdad. I'm given to lend some credence to his analysis, if only because Belmont Club takes him seriously. Cable TV is mostly useless, and newspaper reporting spotty. I've read too many times that editors spike good news stories even when their reporters file them.

Second, I, and others such as StrategyPage(and here) were a bit overoptimistic in writing off al-Qaeda in Iraq after the death of Zarqawi. They have retained more of an ability to create terror than I would have thought. Despite their ability to remain viable, however, the real threat, I think, is from ethnic violence, especially that coming from the Shia militias.

As I wrote in this post, this is the analysis General Casey gave in a press briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld on June 22 in which he says that (as summarized by Belmont Club) that "Al-Qaeda in Iraq is hurt and perhaps dying; the Sunnis are looking to throw in the towel", and that "Criminal gangs and ethnic militias are the rising threat, (although) Casey does not appear all that worried."

As for the sectarian violence, the bloodshed is getting worse (see also here), with the past twelve months seeing about twice as many dead as the year before. It needs to be pointed out that the violence is localized, as General Casey pointed out in the same news conference cited above, "The insurgency hasn't expanded. Fourteen of the 18 provinces still have about nine attacks a day or less. And if you look at where the sectarian violence is occurring, it's occurring within about a 30-mile -- 90 percent of it is occurring in about a 30- mile radius around Baghdad." Further, as John Hinderaker of Powerline points out, the violence needs to be put into the context of Saddam's Iraq. It's not as if the place was a balloon-flying paradise.

That said, it must also be noted that he who controls Baghdad controls Iraq. It is the key to the country in a way that no city in the United States is.

At the same time, it appears I was right in that we have now started to focus on taking down the Shia militias, especaially the Madhi Army, which is controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr. This is a good thing because no country can survive if every power souce is allowed it's own army.

Further, for all our mistakes, we need to remember that the enemy isn't fighting a perfect war either. It sounds obvious, but so many people seem to forget that victory in war doesn't go to the side that doesn't make mistakes, but to the side that makes fewer of them. As Kat points out in this post of hers, al-Qaeda is making plenty of mistakes themselves.

That said, I still agree with the editors of StrategyPage that the situation in Iraq isn't characterized by civil was as it is ethnic cleansing and "civil disorder", much of which was caused by the misrule of Saddam Hussein. Iraq would be in a civil war if the government and army split along sectarian lines, and the Sunnis set up an alternative government or declare self-rule. ,

Lastly, the US military continues to meet or exceed it's recruitment and retention goals. If we were doing so badly, wouldn't the soldiers would be the first to know, and to leave the service in droves?

Strategically Right, Tactical Misque?

Even knowing what we know now, and even if things do not work out, I still think it was right to invade Iraq.

How so? Consider; if the North had not won the Civil War, it would still have been right for them to fight it. Unlike World War II in the Pacific, where we were attacked, fighting the South was volunary. Lincoln could have evacuated Fort Sumter and let the South go.

Even if our tactics after the invasion were flawed, as undoubtably some of them were, it was important to maintain the strategic offensive in the War on Terror, instead of simply playing defense as John Kerry would have had us do.

There were good reasons for us to go into Iraq, as I've said before (and here). The invaluable Victor Davis Hanson points out that with the jihadists preoccupied in Iraq, we have not suffered another 9-11 style attack, but that "in our complacence, we think our recent safety was almost a natural occurrence rather than the result of national sacrifice and ordeal that must continue." Futher, for all the problems in Iraq, "its democratic government just keeps chugging along, its enemies so far unable to derail it."

Let us hope that it continues to chug along. Perhaps Biddle and the roundtable have some worthwhile ideas to keep it going.

Posted by Tom at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2006

Iraq War Progress Report

The bottom line is that it's a mixed bag, as always.

However, it's more complicated than the impression you have if all you do is tune into the top-of-the-hour news broadcasts.

Let's start with a briefing given by by General George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, that took place at the Pentagon on June 22. Here's the money quotes from General Casey:

Al Qaeda is hurt in the aftermath of Zarqawi's death, both because of his -- it's a loss of leadership, and two, because of the numerous operations that have been conducted in -- as a result of information found in the course of raids that led to the killing of Zarqawi. They're hurt, but they're not finished. And they won't be finished for some time. But as you saw in the documents that the secretary quoted to you, they are -- they're feeling the pain right now. ...

The second big security challenge that adds to the complexity of the environment are these illegal armed groups. And I say illegal armed groups rather than militias because militias take people in too many different directions. These illegal armed groups are operating outside the rule of law. They are not the nine groups of militia that are mentioned in the CPA law that fought Saddam. These are criminals. And they need to be dealt with through a combination of political influence and security forces, and they will be.
...

And the fourth element that I'd suggest to you that adds complexity to the security environment is Iran. And we are quite confident that the Iranians, through their covert special operations forces, are providing weapons, IED technology and training to Shi'a extremist groups in Iraq, the training being conducted in Iran and in some cases probably in Lebanon through their surrogates. They are conducting -- using surrogates to conduct terrorist operations in Iraq, both against us and against the Iraqi people. It's decidedly unhelpful.
...

People say the insurgency's growing because attacks are up. Now, what I'd tell you it's more complex. It's more complex than the insurgency is growing. The insurgency hasn't expanded. Fourteen of the 18 provinces still have about nine attacks a day or less. And if you look at where the sectarian violence is occurring, it's occurring within about a 30-mile -- 90 percent of it is occurring in about a 30- mile radius around Baghdad; some down in Basra, some in Diyala Province, the majority right there in the center of the country. So, much more complex environment, not necessarily a worse security environment.

(emphasis added)

Richard Fernandez summarizes:

* The internally organized insurgency (al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency) is decline. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is hurt and perhaps dying; the Sunnis are looking to throw in the towel.

* Criminal gangs and ethnic militias are the rising threat. But Casey does not appear all that worried. "And if you look at where the sectarian violence is occurring, it's occurring within about a 30-mile -- 90 percent of it is occurring in about a 30- mile radius around Baghdad"

* Something happened "since the December elections and in the aftermath of the Samarra bombing" that made the security situation "more complex". And that something appears to be the increasing role of Iran using the Lebanese Hezbollah and Qods to direct and support "a wide variety of groups across southern Iraq".
...

If I were to guess, and I emphasize guess, it means that the US is now in the process of shifting its strategic focus from al-Qaeda and Sunni threats to Iran.

I now look back at last month's "Now Entering Phase IV of the War in Iraq", and I think I got some of it right, and some of it wrong. I was right when I said that the Sunni/al-Qaeda insurgency was finished, or at least on it's last legs. I got it partially right when I said that our next move would be against the militias. And I entirely missed the new focus on Iran.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to this comment by Secretary Rumsfeld at a March 7, 2006 briefing at the Pentagon

I will say this about Iran. They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq. And we know it, and it is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment.

Q Why is that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I've said all I have to say.

Interesting.

Turning to the always valuable StrategyPage, we see this from Patterns in Iraq, posted on June 22.

The bloodshed in Iraq is getting worse, and involving U.S. troops less and less. In the last year, over 10,000 Iraqi civilians died from terrorist and internecine violence. That's about twice as many deaths as the year before. ...

The government is trying to rein in the death squads formed within the police (for the most part) and army (much more rare). But this is hard. The government has not been able to shut down the Sunni Arab terrorists and criminal gangs either.
...

The government is willing to go after al Qaeda leaders (most of whom are Iraqis these days, at least in Iraq), but the Sunni Arab terror groups are basically tribal issues. If you want to shut these guys down, you have to cut a deal with the tribal overlords. That's taking time, and in the meantime the killing gets worse. The Sunni Arabs try to return the favor when their own are murdered. But that's becoming harder to do as the Kurds and Shia Arabs get better at doing what was, for so long, a Sunni Arab monopoly.

And from Memories are Long, Factions are Many and Tempers are Short, posted the next day

Iraq isn't slipping into Civil War, it's never emerged from the civil disorder that arose when Saddam's police state was taken apart three years ago. Five decades of Sunni Arab dictatorship, and three decades of Saddam's increasingly murderous police state, had changed Iraqi society. The change was similar to what was discovered when the communist governments of Eastern Europe were overthrown in 1989-91. People were glad to be free, but still cursed with many bad habits acquired during decades of despotic rule. One of the worst habits was an unfamiliarity with how law and order works, and why it's so important. ...

So what is the Iraqi government to do with this mess? Actually, the situation is typical of the region, where memories are long, factions are many and tempers are short. You make deals with as many factions as you can, and kill or imprison those who refuse to negotiate.
...

There are already some 250,000 Iraqi security personnel armed and at work. Another 60,000 or so will be in action by the end of the year.

Normally I find the best information available from pure Internet sources, but occasionally something from the msm strikes my interest. This article from the Washington Post is a case in point. Titled "Analysis: Iraq Insurgency Fights On", Steven Hurst of the Associated Press writes that


Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Rand Corp., said the good news side of the balance sheet, when seen as a whole, is a "significant step forward, at least in the immediate sense."

"But the facts on the ground have not really changed one iota. It was just one brick in the wall. It (the al-Zarqawi killing) was decisive, but the rest of the machine (al-Qaida in Iraq) remains intact," he said in telephone interview.

In recent months, the Bush administration increasingly has acknowledged that it will be years before Iraq is a truly stable and democratic nation. But that goal, at present, appears to be receding even as progress is made against the Sunni-dominated insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqis.

Criminal gangs and sectarian militias are rapidly filling a security vacuum created by the lack of a trustworthy police force. The Interior Ministry, a Shiite-run agency that controls police forces, is rife with militiamen bent on revenge killings, shakedowns and kidnapping for ransom.

"Sectarian and ethnic violence has come to rival the insurgency in terms of casualties and the threat it poses to political, social and economic progress in Iraq," security analyst Anthony H. Cordesman writes in an advance copy of a book he is writing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The article goes on to paint a pretty bleak picture. Predictable, I suppose, but somewhat out of sync with my other sources. Who is right? I think that the Post article is overly pessimistic, but one can accuse StrategyPage of being overoptimistic. The Post article is a bit simplistic, but Hurst does raise some very good points. I suppose it is trite to say that "only time will tell", but

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

The Consequences of Failure

So the Democrats, led by Rep John Murtha, are constantly clamoring for us to pull out of Iraq immediately. What strikes me about their rhetoric is that it is utterly devoid of speculation as to what might happen in Iraq and around the world if we did so.

Cliff May pointed out the other day on NRO's The Corner blog what would most likely occur

Much as I hope to see a free and democratic Iraq, I don’t think democratization is the key distinction – or the key issue.

We lost in Vietnam because we didn’t have the will and the skills to prevail. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people and millions of Cambodian victims of the Khmer Rouge paid the stiffest price.

Americans went home and got on with their lives. But notice was taken of America’s failure.

That led to the seizure of our embassy in Tehran in 1979. When we responded fecklessly to that act of war, the Ayatollahs let loose Hezbollah to slaughter U.S. Marines, diplomats and intelligence agents in Beirut. We retreated again.

And we were tested again – in Mogadishu in 1993. We did not pass that test either.

So Osama bin Laden was inspired to train thousands of terrorists in Afghanistan. We knew what he was doing. We did nothing serious in response. Before long, they came after us – in Kenya and Tanzania, off the coast of Yemen and then in New York and Washington.

Eliminating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s commander in Iraq, was a great victory. But it’s important to continue to pursue the enemy – not stop fighting prematurely as we did in both 1991 and 2003.

If we fail to prevail against al-Qaeda and the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, why would we not falter also in Afghanistan? And why wouldn’t the same strategy and tactics lead to victory for the Islamo-fascists in Jordan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere?

We either develop the will – and the military and intelligence skills — to defeat the enemy we now face on the battlefield in Iraq, or we retreat not just from Iraq but from anyplace our enemies don’t want us.

We either overcome our enemies or we resign ourselves to cowering behind concrete barriers for the remainder of this century.

(emphasis added)

He's right, of course.

Anti-war types will deride this, claiming that May's thinking represents the "failed domino theory" of the 1950s and 60s. But they would be incorrect.

But plenty of dominos did fall, and others were only propped up at the last minute. The communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, taking the West by surprise. The northern part of Korea went communist in 1948, and in China the communists won their civil war in 1949.

Greece and Turkey escaped communist control by virtue of the Truman Doctrine, in which the United States pledged aid and security guarantees to the two countries.

Fidel Castro and his band of communist revolutionaries took control of Havana, and thus Cuba, on New Years Day in 1959. His associate Che Guevaro attempted to spread their revolution throughout Central and South America, but fortunately were stopped.

It may well be that our presence in Vietnam for so long prevented other countries in the region, such as Thailand and Burma, from falling to communist expansion.

The Sandinistas (read communists) won their war against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua 1979. While they are fortunately no longer in power, they do still retain much influence in and may come back into power. In El Salvador, US aid during the 1980s finally beat off communist insurgents.

I could go on but you get the point. The communists spread their revolution to wherever they could when they could. The Islamofascists would do the same. If we allow them to win in Iraq they will redouble their efforts in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries. So if you think we've got trouble now, wait until we're fighting them across half the globe. .

Posted by Tom at 9:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 17, 2006

Flag Officers Conference on Iraq at Ft Carson CO

C R Mountjoy, author of the The Neo Con Blogger, has a fascinating post about a Rear Admiral (unnamed) who attended a flag officer conference at Fort Carson, Colorado. Mountjoy received his report via email from a retired US Army Colonel.

The conference took place last Saturday, June 10. . The conference was hosted by Major General Bob Mixon, Commanding General of Seventh Infantry Division, and " featured a panel of officers who had either very recently returned from commands in the combat zone or were about to deploy there in the next two months. Three of the recent returnees (and panelists) were Colonel H.R. McMaster, Colonel Rick S., and Captain Walter Szpak.." Some 54 generals and admirals were in the audience.

Col McMaster is famous for retaking Tal Afar back from the insurgents last September. At a press conference after the operation, when a reporter accused him of painting too rosy a picture, he responded that "Nothing's rosy in Iraq, okay?" but that "the enemy's on the run." That the operation was a success was attested to by the Mayor of Tal Afar who wrote an amazing letter that he addressed "to the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life."

"Colonel S" was with the Special Forces, this his anonimity. He is described as having "headed up all of the 31 special forces A-teams that are integrated with the populace and the Iraqi Army and national police."

Captain Szpak was the head of all the Army explosive ordnance teams in Iraq. His team studied the IEDs the enemy planted, and devised ways to disarm them before they went off. They also trained combat teams in recognizing and avoiding IEDs.

Although the obective of the conference was to discuss the modular brigade concept, it turned into a discussion on Iraq. The panelists held a Q & A with the audience members, and according to the Rear Admiral who sent the email, a summary of the discussion is as follows

· All returnees agreed that “we are clearly winning the fight against the insurgents but we are losing the public relations battle both in the war zone and in the States”. (I’ll go into more detail on each topic below.)

· All agreed that it will be necessary for us to have forces in Iraq for at least ten more years, though by no means in the numbers that are there now.

· They opined that 80% to 90% of the Iraqi people want to have us there and do not want us to leave before “the job is done”.

· The morale and combat capability of the troops is the highest that the senior officers have ever seen in the 20-30 years that each has served.

· The Iraqi armed forces and police are probably better trained right now than they were under Saddam, but our standards are much higher and they lack officer leadership.

· They don’t need more troops in the combat zone but they need considerably more Arab linguists and civil affairs experts.

· The IEDs and EFPs continue to be the principal problem that they face and they are becoming more sophisticated as time passes.

You'll want to go to the Neo Con Blogger and read the whole thing, but here is an important excerpt on the issue of Public Affairs:

We are losing the public affairs battle for a variety of reasons. First, in Iraq, the terrorists provide Al Jazeera with footage of their more spectacular attacks and they are on TV to the whole Arab world within minutes of the event. By contrast it takes four to six days for a story generated by Army Public Affairs to gain clearance by Combined Forces Command, two or three more days to get Pentagon clearance, and after all that, the public media may or may not run the story.

Second, the U.S. mainstream media (MSM) who send reporters to the combat zone do not like to have their people embedded with our troops. They claim that the reporters get “less objective” when they live with the soldiers and marines – they come to see the world through the eyes of the troops. As a consequence, a majority of the reporters stay in hotels in the “Green Zone” and send out native stringers to call in stories to them by cell phone which they later write up and file. No effort is made to verify any of these stories or the credibility of the stringers. The recent serious injuries to Bob Woodruff of ABC and Kimberly Dozier of CBS makes the likelihood of the use of local stringers even higher.

Third, the stories that are filed by reporters in the field very seldom reach the American public as written. An anecdote from Col. McMaster illustrates this dramatically. TIME magazine recently sent a reporter to spend six weeks with the 3rd ACR as they were in the battle of Tal Afar. When the battle was over, the reporter filed his story and also included close to 100 pictures that the accompanying photographer took. TIME published a cover story on the battle a week later, allegedly using the story sent in by their reporter. When the issue came out, the guts had been edited out of their reporter’s story and none of the pictures he submitted were used. Instead they showed a weeping child on the cover, taken from stock photos. When the reporter questioned why his story was eviscerated, his editors in New York responded that the story and pi ctures were “too heroic”. McMaster had read both and told me that the editors had completely changed the thrust and context of the material their reporter had submitted.

Two conclusions from this. First, while it is tempting to blame the whole thing on the liberal msm, we can't do that. Part of the problem is on our side. Second, if true it is disgraceful that stories are being changed because they are "too heroic".

The question now is one of time. The point that Col Nagl made in his 2005 book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, we screwed up in our first two years in Iraq but we've got it right now. Whether the troops will be allowed to complete their mission before political circumstances force a pullout remains to be seen.

Posted by Tom at 12:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 15, 2006

"A Treasure Trove of Documents"

Liberals told us that the death of al-Zarqawi didn't mean anything, that Iraq was still a failure, that we need to get the troops out ASAP regardless of consequences, it's all our fault, blah blah blah.

While the long term results obviously aren't known, what is becoming clear is that his death has proved a bonanza for Coalition forces seeking to destroy the terrorist insurgents.

We recovered a "treasure trove" of documents from the house where Zarqawi was killed. Some of these were described as a "computer asset" in which the al-Qaeda leadership discusses the status of their war with the US. This "computer asset" could be anything from a laptop to a thumb drive to a simple disk. Obviously the Coalition leadership does not want to give away too much.

The text of the document is reprinted in it's entirety at the bottom of this post. The short version is that they see themselves as losing the war.

No doubt some on the left will call it a forgery. But while we are, of course, engaged in propaganda operations against the insurgents, it is one thing to plant, buy, or simply encourage the use of positive stories in the Iraqi press, and quite another to put out a totally forged document. While it is true that such a forgery would be useful, the consequnces of being caught would be devastating. Contrary to what the left will tell you, our nation and military are not run by incompetents.

And it's hardly the first time we've intercepted communications between the terrorists and chosen to make them public, either. Last October CENTCOM published a letter from OBL's top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which we had captured earlier that year, in which the former expressed grave concerns about how Zarqawi was running his operaitons in Iraq.

452 Raids and Counting

From the Fox News story linked to above

Coalition forces have carried out 452 raids across Iraq using information gained from the attack that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday. ...

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said the raids led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.

He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements."

It's called Operation Together Forward, and from what I can see it looks like it's getting off to a good start. More to the point, we're quicky exploiting intelligence, which is the name of the game when it comes to defeating an insurgency.

StrategyPage calls it "The Zarqawi Effect" and makes the point that

When al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in Iraq on June 7th, some were surprised at the rapidity with which American raids began against Zarqawi associates, safe houses, etc. (reportedly 36 within a day or so and over 450 within a week). Over a hundred terrorists were killed during those raids, and over 700 arrested. Much additional material (documents, computers, cell phones) has been captured. There were so many new targets, that about a third of the raids were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. This suggests that there's something more going on than a careful perusal of the documents and laptops captured with him. It takes time to sift the docs and bytes, and time to coordinate that many raids. Even by American standards, that's very quick response to recently captured information, unless they already knew enough so that they could have the ops ready to go as soon as Zarqawi was popped.

The editors of StrategyPage take two things from this; one, that there is or was a traitor in the al-Qaeda leadership circle who is or was feeding us information, and two that "bumping off Zarqawi has probably seriously destabilized al Qaeda in Iraq." Don't be fooled by the recent uptick in terrorist bombings, they say, because these are just revenge attacks by enraged followers. In the months to come we'll see how much success all this brings us - and the Iraqi people.

Further, there could be a power struggle going on inside al-Qaeda in Iraq. It's all speculation as of now, but noone is really sure who, if anyone, has taken the leadership reigns of the organization. But even the fact that there is press speculation is beneficial to the Coalition, because it sows doubt in the minds of al-Qaeda followers and sympathizers.

Before we get to the captured al-Qaeda document, let's remember one thing

Wars are not won by the side that makes no mistakes. They are won by the side that makes the fewest mistakes.

Ok, I know this sounds blindingly obvious. But if it does, that's because you don't work for a media outlet like CNN, the New York Times, the BBC, or Reuters. You're also not a Democrat politician (except for Joe Lieberman, see here), nor are you a liberal Republican one.

So why is it that so many focus on our mistakes and ignore those of the enemy? Sure, I suppose it's a natural tendancy to do this. But it's also a press that is obsessed with Vietnam, seeing everything through the lens of that war. Don't think that it's just conservatives in the US who think this way, because Iraq's new Defense Minister, Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassin, says that he hates CNN too.

But we need to realize that the enemy has problems too, and as I think this document shows, theirs are a whole lot worse than ours:

Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie:

___

The situation and conditions of the resistance in Iraq have reached a point that requires a review of the events and of the work being done inside Iraq. Such a study is needed in order to show the best means to accomplish the required goals, especially that the forces of the National Guard have succeeded in forming an enormous shield protecting the American forces and have reduced substantially the losses that were solely suffered by the American forces. This is in addition to the role, played by the Shi'a (the leadership and masses) by supporting the occupation, working to defeat the resistance and by informing on its elements.

As an overall picture, time has been an element in affecting negatively the forces of the occupying countries, due to the losses they sustain economically in human lives, which are increasing with time. However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance for the following reasons:

1. By allowing the American forces to form the forces of the National Guard, to reinforce them and enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance.

2. By undertaking massive arrest operations, invading regions that have an impact on the resistance, and hence causing the resistance to lose many of its elements.

3. By undertaking a media campaign against the resistance resulting in weakening its influence inside the country and presenting its work as harmful to the population rather than being beneficial to the population.

4. By tightening the resistance's financial outlets, restricting its moral options and by confiscating its ammunition and weapons.

5. By creating a big division among the ranks of the resistance and jeopardizing its attack operations, it has weakened its influence and internal support of its elements, thus resulting in a decline of the resistance's assaults.

6. By allowing an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation or at least allowing to become neutral in their stand toward us in contrast to their previous stand or refusal of the occupation.

7. By taking advantage of the resistance's mistakes and magnifying them in order to misinform.

Based on the above points, it became necessary that these matters should be treated one by one:

1. To improve the image of the resistance in society, increase the number of supporters who are refusing occupation and show the clash of interest between society and the occupation and its collaborators. To use the media for spreading an effective and creative image of the resistance.

2. To assist some of the people of the resistance to infiltrate the ranks of the National Guard in order to spy on them for the purpose of weakening the ranks of the National Guard when necessary, and to be able to use their modern weapons.

3. To reorganize for recruiting new elements for the resistance.

4. To establish centers and factories to produce and manufacture and improve on weapons and to produce new ones.

5. To unify the ranks of the resistance, to prevent controversies and prejudice and to adhere to piety and follow the leadership.

6. To create division and strife between American and other countries and among the elements disagreeing with it.

7. To avoid mistakes that will blemish the image of the resistance and show it as the enemy of the nation.

In general and despite the current bleak situation, we think that the best suggestions in order to get out of this crisis is to entangle the American forces into another war against another country or with another of our enemy force, that is to try and inflame the situation between American and Iraq or between America and the Shi'a in general.

Specifically the Sistani Shi'a, since most of the support that the Americans are getting is from the Sistani Shi'a, then, there is a possibility to instill differences between them and to weaken the support line between them; in addition to the losses we can inflict on both parties. Consequently, to embroil America in another war against another enemy is the answer that we find to be the most appropriate, and to have a war through a delegate has the following benefits:

1. To occupy the Americans by another front will allow the resistance freedom of movement and alleviate the pressure imposed on it.

2. To dissolve the cohesion between the Americans and the Shi'a will weaken and close this front.

3. To have a loss of trust between the Americans and the Shi'a will cause the Americans to lose many of their spies.

4. To involve both parties, the Americans and the Shi'a, in a war that will result in both parties being losers.

5. Thus, the Americans will be forced to ask the Sunni for help.

6. To take advantage of some of the Shia elements that will allow the resistance to move among them.

7. To weaken the media's side which is presenting a tarnished image of the resistance, mainly conveyed by the Shi'a.

8. To enlarge the geographical area of the resistance movement.

9. To provide popular support and cooperation by the people.

The resistance fighters have learned from the result and the great benefits they reaped, when a struggle ensued between the Americans and the Army of Al-Mahdi. However, we have to notice that this trouble or this delegated war that must be ignited can be accomplished through:

1. A war between the Shi'a and the Americans.

2. A war between the Shi'a and the secular population (such as Ayad 'Alawi and al-Jalabi.)

3. A war between the Shi'a and the Kurds.

4. A war between Ahmad al-Halabi and his people and Ayad 'Alawi and his people.

5. A war between the group of al-Hakim and the group of al-Sadr.

6. A war between the Shi'a of Iraq and the Sunni of the Arab countries in the gulf.

7. A war between the Americans and Iraq. We have noticed that the best of these wars to be ignited is the one between the Americans and Iran, because it will have many benefits in favor of the Sunni and the resistance, such as:

1. Freeing the Sunni people in Iraq, who are (30 percent) of the population and under the Shi'a Rule.

2. Drowning the Americans in another war that will engage many of their forces.

3. The possibility of acquiring new weapons from the Iranian side, either after the fall of Iran or during the battles.

4. To entice Iran towards helping the resistance because of its need for its help.

5. Weakening the Shi'a supply line.

The question remains, how to draw the Americans into fighting a war against Iran? It is not known whether American is serious in its animosity towards Iraq, because of the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Hence, it is necessary first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America and the west in general, of the real danger coming from Iran, and this would be done by the following:

1. By disseminating threatening messages against American interests and the American people and attribute them to a Shi'a Iranian side.

2. By executing operations of kidnapping hostages and implicating the Shi'a Iranian side.

3. By advertising that Iran has chemical and nuclear weapons and is threatening the west with these weapons.

4. By executing exploding operations in the west and accusing Iran by planting Iranian Shi'a fingerprints and evidence.

5. By declaring the existence of a relationship between Iran and terrorist groups (as termed by the Americans).

6. By disseminating bogus messages about confessions showing that Iran is in possession of weapons of mass destruction or that there are attempts by the Iranian intelligence to undertake terrorist operations in America and the west and against western interests.

Let us hope for success and for God's help.

Dream on, guys.

Posted by Tom at 9:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

Now Entering Phase IV of the War in Iraq

As I see it, there have been 4 phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom

1) The Initial Invasion

2) Taken by Surprise

3) Finding a New Strategy

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias


1) The Initial Invasion

The March 2003 invasion showed our military at it's finest. It was brilliantly planned and executed. We used just the right amount of troops. We violated all of the old rules of warfare; soften them up with airpower first, the attacker needs to outnumber the defender, don't leave enemy strongpoints in your rear where they can attack your supply lines, and concentrate on destroying each one of the enemies armies in the field.

Yet it all worked perfectly. The relatively small number of troous meant that they could be resupplied easier, didn't get in each other's way in the restricted staging areas in Kuwait, and didn't upset the neighbors. The blitzkrieg-like thrust caught the Iraqis completely off guard. Air strikes led to the disintigration of many Iraqi units despite the short time frame. Supply lines held despite attacks by irregular forces.

Further, none of the things that so many of the naysayers insisted would happen did. There was no "battle of Baghdad" in which the vaunted Republican Guard held off US forces for months. There was no mass humanitarian crisis or flow of refugees. The looting, bad as it was, didn't really have much effect on events outside of pressrooms. And best of all, we weren't hit with chemical or biological weapons.

2) Taken by Surprise

The insurgency was a nasty surprise that was predicted by virtually no one. As the Iraqi Perspectives Project report makes clear, there was no planning by anyone in the Saddam Hussein regime to start an insurgency if they lost the conventional battle.

We were now in the most dangerous part of the war, when we came close to losing control of events. This phase lasted between 18 months and 2 years.

Many of the criticisms leveled at the Bush Administration over our failures are, to be charitable, misguided. I've dealt with many of these fallacies and won't rehash them here.

Much did go wrong, however, and much was our fault. In "What Went Wrong"(digital subscription required), National Review editor Rich Lowry describes them in excruciating detail. Non-subscribers can go to Barbara Lerner's recent article for an assessment of the failures.

Jay Garner, the first person we placed in charge, quickly proved to be not up to the task. His replacement, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, only had control of the civil authority. Since the military had a separate command structure, this violated the fundamental princple of unity of command.

The CPA set up an Iraqi government called the Iraqi Governing Council, which lasted from July 13, 2003 to June 1, 2004. It proved ineffective and was viewed as illegitimate by most Iraqis. On June 28, 2004, Paul Bremer transfered limited sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government. It lasted until the Iraqi Transitional Government took it's place on May 3, 2005. It's main function was to draft a constitution for Iraq, under which new elections would take place.

On the military side, at first we failed to recognise that an insurgency was starting, and when we finally did we failed to form a coherent counter-insurgency strategy to stamp it out. It was at this point that the "more troops!" cry had validity.

The brutal March 2004 lynching of 4 private military contractors in Fallujah led only to an abortive US attempt to recapture the city. We probably should have killed firebrand cleric Moqtada al Sadr in April 2004, but hesitated.

In June of 2004 George Casey replaced Ricardo Sanchez as commanding general in Iraq, the latter sacked over the Abu Ghraib scandal.

3) Finding a New Strategy

It's hard to say exactly when the turn around occured, but my estimate is sometime in late 2004 or early 2005. In April 2005 Rich Lowry felt ready to declare that "We're Winning"(digital subscription required to read entire piece). Lowry summarized the situation as he now found it

If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.

In November 2004 we recaptured Fallujah once and for all. Moqtada al Sadr at least doesn't challenge us so directly anymore. The initial failures in establishing and training a new Iraqi Army and police force have been rectified, and we are now at the point where many units can perform capably.

Over the past several months, US casualties have gone down, as have IED attacks, and the Iraqi Army has gotten stronger, these despite no decrease in operational tempo.

al-Qaeda in Iraq's leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's strategy proved to be a losing one.

The Sunnis finally saw that their support of the insurgents was counter-productive, and turned on them. al-Qaeda in Iraq has basically admitted that they're defeated.

As all of this occured, the nature of the violence changed. Much of the recent mayhem is sectarian revenge killing, which was mistaken for a civil war by some. The good news is that the Shias are putting and end to the insurgency. The bad news is that it could devolve into ethnic cleansing unless we deal with the perpetrators (see below).

If you don't want to believe me, three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq tell the tale.
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents
And let's not forget David Ignatious Fighting Smarter in Iraq from last Friday's Washington Post.

Richard Fernandez, author of The Belmont Club(and arguably the best WOT blogger there is) doesn't share this opinion that we "got it all wrong at first but are now finally doing it right"

The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency.

He points to the impressive buildup of Iraqi forces as evidence(read his post for details or see the CENTCOM posture statement).

He concludes that

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all.

On the political side, the Iraqi Transitional Government finally drafted a new constitution, which Iraqis approved in a October 2005 referendum. The new consitution led to December 2005 elections in which a new parliament was elected. Iraqs are now in the process of forming their first democratic government, one that appears to have the support of most of the people, Shia, Sunni, and Kurd alike.

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias

The current phase of the war will be characterized by our attempt to achieve two goals, one political, and the other military.

On the political side it is imperative that Iraq have a stable government that is accepted by the majority of Iraqis. The recent selection of Jawad al-Maliki as Prime Minister was a good sign that we are moving toward this goal. The next step is to select cabinet ministers, which, just as with the selection of Prime Minister, will involve much negotiation, much of it acrimonious and heated. Then the constitutional issues that were left unresolved last year will have to be settled. All this will take several months, and, like everything else in Iraq, will be very difficult, but is attainable.

Military operations will continue against the insurgency, but as the new Iraqi Army and police gain strength resources will be freed up for an additional task, that of dismantling the Shia militias. To avoid inflaming public opinion in Iraq, we want the Iraqi government and army to take the lead in this new operation, which is why it is so important to get a functioning, stable, government in place as soon as possible.

There are two main Shia militias, or private armies. The Mahdi Army is under the control of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The other is the Badr Brigade, or Bader Corps, a creation of SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), whose head is Hadi Al-Amiri.

One difficulty is that these militias have made themselves popular because they have gone after the Sunni terrorists that have plagued Iraq. The longer term strategy to counter this is to provide an alternative though a stronger Iraqi police(IP) force and army.

In addition
, large scale operations will become more infrequent, and there will be even more concentration on reconstruction and civil affairs, and a stronger effort made to strengthen the Iraqi police.

6) Winning

This war is obviously not going to end World War II style, where combat operations suddenly come to and end one day. There will never be a single VI day to match VE or VJ day. Defeating an insurgency is, in the words of Lt. Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", like "Eating Soup with a Knife"; you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time.

The question now is one of time. The Bush Administration and Republican congress, looking at their low poll numbers, may conclude that we need to achieve a timetable for getting troops out of Iraq. The danger is that this may occur before a stable Iraqi government is achieved, and the new Iraqi Army and IP forces are strong enough to stand on their own. As Clausewitz would have told us, military affairs and politics and inextricably intertwined.

Posted by Tom at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2006

"The Most Brilliantly Led Military We Have Ever Fielded"

Retired General Barry McCaffrey was in Iraq from April 13 to April 20 He described what he found to two West Point collegues in a 7 page memo which you can find here.

During his visit he met with and was briefed by many of our top generals, including General George Casey, commander of the multi-national force in Iraq. He also met with British, Australian, and Italian generals, as well as several divisional commanders and th3eir staffs. In short, he seems to have gotten around quite a bit of Iraq and made the most of this time there.

Here are some excerpts from the report. It makes for fascinating reading.

From a section titled "The Bottom Line"

1st - The moral, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction – I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, and understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor. …

These are the toughest solders we have ever fielded.

2nd – The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent o most are adequate. However, they are very badly equipped with only a few light vehicles, small arms, moss with body army and one or two uniforms.

The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. The Partnership Program with U.S. unites will be the key to success with the Embedded Training Teams augmented and nurtured by a U.S. Maneuver Commander. This is simply a brilliant success story. We need at least two-to-fife more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi Army ready to stand on it’s own. The interpersonal relationships between Iraqi Army unites and their U.S. trainers are very positive and genuine.

3rd – The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement….

The crux of the war hangs on our ability to create urban and rural local police with the ability to survive on the streets of this incredibly dangerous and lethal environment.

The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and the Shia militia. They are distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. The inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face.

4th – The creating of an Iraqi government of national unity is a central requirement. We must help create a legitimate government for which the Iraqi security forces will fight and die….

The incompetence and corruption of the interim Iraqi Administration has been significant. There is a total lack of trust among the families, the tribes, and the sectarian factions created by the 35 years of despotism and isolation of the criminal Saddam regime. This is a traumatized society with a malignant political culture.

However, in my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the upcoming years.

5th – The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government. … They cannot successfully stop the Iraqi police and army recruitment. Their brutal attacks on the civil population are creating support for the emerging government.

6th – The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate. …The U.S. influence on the Iraqi national and regional government has been extremely weak.

The U.S. departments actually fight over who will pay the $11.00 per diem on food. This bureaucratic nonsense is taking place in the context of a war costing the American people $7 billion a month – and a battalion of soldiers and Marines killed or wounded a month.

8th – Thanks to strong CENTCOM leadership and supervision on every level, our detainee policy has dramatically corrected the problems of the first year of the War on Terrorism. Detainee practices and policy in detention centers in both Iraq and Afghanistan that I have visited are firm, professional, humane, and well supervised.

9th – In my judgment, CENTCOM must constrain the force level in Iraq or we risk damaging our ground combat capability which we will need in the ongoing deterrence of threat from North Korea, Iran, Syria, China against Taiwan, Venezuela, Cuba, and other potential flashpoints.

10th – CENTCOM and the U.S. Mission are running out of the most significant leverage we have in Iraq – economic reconstruction dollars.

12th – There is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces towards the U.S. media. …They (the media) will be objective in reporting facts if we facilitate their information gathering mission. … the enormous good will already generated by the superb performance of U.S. combat forces will ebb away if we do not continue to actively engage media at every level.

Summary

The U.S will remain in serious crisis in Iraq during the coming 24 months. …

The situation is perilous, uncertain, and extreme – but far from hopeless. The U.S. Armed Forces are a rock. This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded. …

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. … This is a ten year task. … We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years.

It was very encouraging for me to see the progress achieved in the past year. Thanks to the leadership and personal sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the CENTCOM team and the CIA – the American people are far safer today than we were in the 18 months following the initial intervention

Incredible.

His report is not entirely positive, but why would we expect it to be? The picture he paints is a logical one; we are succeeding slowly but surely, and yes there are things we could be doing better. Most wars are like this. We tend to forget much about our prior wars; the internal bickering, incompetence, and technical ineptitude. If our press reported World War II like they do the War in Iraq we'd have never carried it through to final victory.

"This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded."

We owe them so much.

Posted by Tom at 9:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 13, 2006

Captain Furat - Iraqi Hero - Fighting a New Battle

In all the news from Iraq that gets ignored, maybe the most tragic is that of the Iraqis themselves. You'd almost never know it from most of what you see on TV or read in the newspapers, but tens of thousands of Iraqis are fighting hard against the terrorist insurgents that threaten their country.

After a few false starts, the new Iraqi Army is a force to be reconed with. While no doubt some units are still not up to speed or are not aggressive enough, many are doing their part and then some.

But armies consist of individuals, and as such there are many new heroes in this new Iraqi army, risking life and limb every day, whether they are on the job or at home visiting loved ones.

One of these new heroes is Captain Furat.

You'll remember from my previous reports here, here and here.

We would never have known about him had it not been for the brave reporting of Maya Alleruzzo of the Washington Times.

Last year, she went out with him on several very dangerous missions, one to act as a decoy in order to divert the terrorists attention from convoy that was transporting election materials. The decoy succeeded; Captain Furat's unit was attacked. He and his unit fought back bravely, fighting off the terrorists.

However, when visiting his family, he wasn't so lucky. The terrorists ambushed him, and although he fought back, one of their bullets severed his spine and paralyzed him below the waist. He was brought to the United States, and is now being treated pro bono at Atlanta's Shepherd Center.

Fighting A New Battle

The rehabilitation is tough going for Furat. Maya Alleruzzo spent some time with him and reported last week on his progress

Iraqi Army Capt. Furat surveys the therapy gym as he stands erect for the first time in nearly four months, every inch as tall as he was before insurgents' bullets left his legs lifeless on Christmas Day.

All around him, paralyzed patients are toiling, striving for their own personal victories.

"Where are you traveling to right now in your mind?" asks Basle Roberts, a therapy technician at the Shepherd Center.

"I wish that I could stand without this equipment," Capt. Furat says, resting on a frame used in physical therapy. The rigid metal device is a relief from sitting or lying down, restful positions that aren't always relaxing anymore.

Every 30 minutes, he must shift positions to prevent potentially fatal pressure sores from developing on his paralyzed lower body, one of the many daily battles the former platoon leader is learning to deal with solo.

"It is just me on this mission," says Capt. Furat, 28, whose family is 7,000 miles away and still at risk from insurgents for his decision to fight in the nascent Iraqi army

Read the whole thing.

Maya Alleruzzo took some stunning pictures of her time as an inbed with Captain Furat's unit in Iraq last year. After one of the trucks in their convoy was hit by an IED, Captain Furat led a battle against a group of terrorist insurgents who attempted to ambush them.

Here are some of Maya's photographs from that battle, via Michael Yon

(captions also via Yon's post)

Furat 1.jpg

First Things First: Captain Furat tends to the wounded civilians, providing comfort and security as he commands his men.


Furat 2.jpg

Shielding the photographer with his body: Captain Furat returns fire after the enemy followed on the IED with a barrage of small arms fire.


Furat 3.jpg

Captain Furat taking control.


Furat 4.jpg

Returning fire: the enemy broke contact.


God bless you, Captain Furat, and godspeed in your recovery.

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April 9, 2006

Iraq Liberation Day 2006

Today marks three years since we liberated Iraq from the Ba'thists. This was a huge victory for the forces of good, and just as huge a defeat for the forces of tyranny. What remains to be seen is whether we can hold on to our success.

As I write these words, it is not at all clear as to whether we can keep Iraq from sliding into some sort of quasi-dictatorship. We've had two successful elections, and a constitution has been set in place. But violence wracks much of Baghdad and the surrounding environs, and political instability seems the order of the day. These two factors threaten to undo what we have achieved.

And we have achieved a lot, despite what the naysayers would have you believe. That we have not consolidated our success is worrysome, but not a cause for too much dispair. Rather, it is more reason than to take stock of our situation, and, if necessary, to adjust our methods.

But first, let's look at what we have achieved so far. First and foremost, we ended an evil regime. Who can forget where they were when they say this on TV:

Saddam Statue 1.jpg

As Andrew Sullivan wrote at the time

This is an amazing victory, a victory over a monster who gassed civilians, jailed children, sent millions into fruitless wars, harbored poisonous weapons to threaten free peoples, tortured thousands, and made alliances with every two-bit opportunist on the planet. It's a victory over those who marched in the millions to stop this liberation, over the endless media cynics, over the hate-America crowd, and the armchair generals. It's a victory for the two countries in the world that have always made freedom possible and who have now brought it to another corner of the world made dark by terror. It's a victory for the extraordinary servicemen and women who performed this task with such skill, cool, courage and restraint. It's a victory for optimism over pessimism, the righting of past wrongs, the assertion of universal truths against postmodern excuses, and of political leadership over appeasement. Celebrate it. Don't let the whiners take this away from you or from the people of Iraq.

Too bad his own support turned out so fickle. But he was right then, and as such his words are worth repeating.

In a symposium on National Review online a few weeks ago, various experts were asked "What do you consider the most important points to keep in mind when considering Iraq three years after the Coalition invasion?"

Here are some of their replies

Peter Brooks

) In spite of the violence, Iraqis are constructing one of the few democracies in the Middle East.

2) Withdrawing prematurely would leave a vacuum for al Qaeda, Iran, or Syria to fill, destabilizing the entire region.

3) Civil war will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if we buy into the idea, and give up.

4) We're fighting pure evil in Iraq. How many Iraqi women and children have al Qaeda/the insurgents slaughtered?

5) The quickest way to end a war is to lose it; losing would dishonor all those who served — or are serving — in Iraq.

6) Premature withdrawal will be seen as a historic victory for terrorism, encouraging even more bloodshed across the globe.

7) Our allies/friends around the world — as well as our enemies — are watching the strength/durability of our commitment in Iraq.

Jonathan Foreman

The failure of the Administration to get pictures of the work Coalition forces do — from building sewage systems to training Iraqi forces — onto American national and local TV is a strategic defeat, on a par with the occupation government's failure to maintain order after Saddam's overthrow. The fact that millions of Americans wrongly believe that the 100,000 plus GIs in Iraq have achieved nothing there and are under constant attack by a hostile population could force the U.S. government into a premature withdrawal.

It's hard to know what's really going on in Iraq — partly because of the localized nature of the war, partly because the threat of kidnap restricts the movement of white reporters, but mostly because the press corps reports only attacks and death tolls. However, my own visits have cured me of doubts about whether Iraqi freedom is worth the sacrifices of our troops. And when you talk to the some of the thousands of Iraqis who are risking their lives for a new Iraq (just ask them what they think of the "troops out" movement), it's clear that this is as noble a cause as any in our history

M. Zuhdi Jasser
After three years, our losses and frustrations serve as proof of how sorely we were needed in Iraq. Iraq has become an epicenter of Islamist terror. But al Qaeda's fear of a free Iraq is the greatest sign that our mission is on target. Militant Islamists are now on the run in Iraq.

Mackubin Thomas Owens
As we look at the situation in Iraq three years after the U.S. invasion, it might be useful to consider what things might look like if we hadn't invaded.

First and foremost, Saddam would still be in power, and we should not underestimate his ability to have caused a great deal of mischief. Human-rights violations would continue. He would be lionized by other despots for his ability to thumb his nose at the international system. By now, the real "coalition of the bribed," the members of the U.N. Security Council that Saddam was paying off, would in all likelihood have permitted the sanctions regime that boxed Saddam in to wither away.

Free of sanctions, Saddam would no doubt now be in the process of reconstituting his chemical and nuclear-weapons programs.

Having seen us blink in the case of Iraq, countries such as Pakistan would be less likely to help us in our attempt to destroy al Qaeda. There's no guarantee that things would be better in Afghanistan either.

Bill Roggio
Since the fall of Saddam's regime, there have been both triumphs and setbacks for those attempting to establish a free society in Iraq. The setbacks have been tactical and not strategic in nature. For instance, after the Coalition recognized the mistakes in structuring the Iraqi army, the force was quickly restructured to fight the insurgency. There are now almost 50 Iraqi battalions in the lead fighting the insurgency, with another 80 battalions in supporting roles. The Iraqi security forces have yet to meet their full potential.

The political process, while painfully slow, has produced results. The Iraqi people braved the threats and acts of violence three separate times during 2005, and voted in numbers that should shame the citizens of established Western democracies.

Michael Rubin
Success is evident: Iraqis can choose from dozens of television and radio channels, and scores of newspapers. Elections, political debate, and compromise are the norm. When chaos reigns, refugees flee. Why then have more than a million Iraqis returned to their country since liberation?

And indeed our troops are doing much good in Iraq, as Bill Crawford details here and here.

Families United has a very detailed document you can download from their website which outlines how "Life in Iraq has changed immensely since the fall of Saddam Hussein's vicious regime, and the Iraqi people are enjoying freedoms they've never known before." Go to their website and scroll down to Iraq: Then and Now

Gone unnoticed by the anti-war crowd is that American casualties have been steadily falling.

Further, anyone who things that the sanctions regime was working perfectly and was not that costly, doesn't know what they are talking about. This AEI paper (hat tip David Frum) proves otherwise.

Anyone who thinks that Saddam didn't have extensive links to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, simply isn't in touch with the facts. I've got about a million links in my bookmark folder about them, but you can start with this excellent summary posted on StrategyPage.

Read the whole thing.

For we have achieved a lot by going into Iraq. We are fighting the enemy on their soil, on their turf. As I argued in The Strategic Offensive Part I

For what we have done is nothing short of revolutionary. We have gone to the heart of the enemy camp and destroyed his headquarters. We have seized his leaders and forced the others to flee for their lives. We have grabbed them by the throat and are slowly but surely strangling them.

No more are we probing the enemy listening posts and attacking selected, weakly defended targets. No more are we simply skirting around the periphery.

No I am not saying everything is peaches and cream in Iraq, or that there are not problems. There are.

Andrew McCarthy is pessimistic that we have the political will to "step it up and achieve an unambiguous military victory in Iraq to prevent terrorists from winning a share of power in an outcome that would be a humiliating defeat of the U.S."

He points to an editorial by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Wall Street Journal (April 03, subscription required), in which he agrees with Gerecht that "combat operations have to be ramped up". Gerecht:

We are now in the unenviable position of having to confront radicalized, murderous Shiite militias, who have gained broader Shiite support because of the Sunni-led violence and the lameness of U.S. counterinsurgency operations. The Bush administration would be wise not to postpone any longer what it should have already undertaken -- securing Baghdad. This will be an enormously difficult task: Both Sunnis and Shiites will have to be confronted, but Sunni insurgents and brigands must be dealt with first to ensure America doesn't lose the Shiite majority and the government doesn't completely fall apart. Pacifying Baghdad will be politically convulsive and provide horrific film footage and skyrocketing body counts. But Iraq cannot heal itself so long as Baghdad remains a deadly place. And the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside. To punt this undertaking down the road when the political dynamics might be better, and when the number of American soldiers in Iraq will surely be less, perhaps a lot less, is to invite disaster.

Amir Taheri, no raving leftist, believes that there is evidence that other parts of Iraq are quiet because the insurgents/terrorists have gone underground, believing that once George Bush's term is over, the Americans will leave. The argument in Washington these days is about when and how to draw down the troops, not about how to smash the insurgency once and for all. For this we have to blame Bush's low poll numbers, for which the president has no one to blame but himself.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is usually touted as a moderate voice of reason. Yet Andrew McCarthy revealed that he says one thing in English and quite another in Arabic. His view on homosexuality is to the point: "Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible." Nice.

The Bottom Line

Were we right to invade Iraq?

Absolutely, and for many reasons. I'll only list a few:

1) We, and most of the rest of the world, had good and valid reasons to believe he had stockpiles of WMD. Hindsight is 20/20. This WMD in the hands of Saddam Hussein was too much of a threat to be ignored.

2) The sanctions were falling apart. The situation was bound to fail sooner or later. Once free of the sanctions, Saddam would have restarted every one of his WMD programs immediately.

3) Saddam was 66 years old when captured. He may have lived another twenty years. His sons were under 40 years of age. This regime may well have remained in power for another 40 years. It is simply not believeable that we could have kept him contained for this amount of time.

4) Far from "rushing to war", Saddam had 12 years to come clean. He could have but didn't. Even if you start at Security Council Resolution 1441, which was passed on November 8, 2002, Opertion Iraqi Freedom didn't begin until March 20 2003. That's almost 5 months, more than enough time for a last chance.

5) Saddam had so many links to terrorist groups it would take me all night to set up links to all of the articles I've got bookmarked.

Lastly, we have achieved a great deal in Iraq since the invasion, as we saw above with the National Review symposium.

We have a republic, if we can keep it.

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April 8, 2006

"The View from Six Inches"

It's not too hard to find both good and bad news about the situation in Iraq. Who is right?

Bill Roggio considered this the other day in a post on the recent bombing of Shiite Mosques. He quotes a U.S. Army infantryman, Capt. Dan Sukman, who likens it to "The War at Six Inches"

How can so many people have a different view of this war? Some say it is successful, some say we are failing, some say everything in between. The war to the infantryman on the line in south Baghdad is completely different than the war to an infantryman in Mosul, which is much different than the war to a soldier standing guard at division headquarters. And none of them see what a brigade staff officer in Tikrit sees, nor does that brigade staff officer see the same war as a company commander in Tal Afar.

Roggio concludes from this that

The media magnifying glass remains on Baghdad, and the wider story of Iraq remains practically untold. The media’s war at six inches is largely reported from the confines of the International Zone and the Palestine Hotel as al-Qaeda and the insurgency puts on a show for their benefit.

My own take is that Iraq is a mixed bag. It's easy to read nothing but bad or good stories. I think to some extent the answer to the question "who is winning" depends on your definition of victory. Al Qaeda, I think, is finished. The Sunnis have concluded that their alliance with them was a disaster, and are turning against them. No, the real danger now is sectarian violence such as what we saw in Yugoslavia.

We have entered Phase II of the war in Iraq. Can we stabilize the political situaion and defang the militias? Time will tell.

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March 28, 2006

WMD and the Foreign Minister

We're all to believe that Bush Lied! us into Iraq, but as more and more details emerge we learn just how stupid that claim is.

Last Thursday we learned from a Washington Post story that Saddam's last foreign minister, one Naji Sabri, was a spy for French Intelligence, who in turn passed his information to us. Sabri was paid some $100,000 for his services, and according to the story, was motivated entirely by money.

He supplied us information about Iraq's "chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs more than six months before the war began in March 2003" according to the Post story.

Publicly Sabri was insisting that Iraq had no prohibited weapons of mass destruction. Privately, the sources said, he provided information that the Iraqi dictator had ambitions for a nuclear program but that it was not active, and that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was underway.

When it came to chemical weapons, Sabri told his handler that some existed but they were not under military control, a former intelligence official familiar with the situation said. Another former official added: "He said he had been told Hussein had them dispersed among some of the loyal tribes."

Wow

The White House was far more interested in trying to get Sabri to defect than in the information he was providing on Iraq's weapons programs, in part because the intelligence community did not trust him, another former intelligence official said.

What of it?

If I was an intelligence officer in the CIA, and had received information from other sources that Saddam did in fact have at least some stockpiles of WMD, this would seem to secure the case for me. Reread that second paragraph quoted above (the 6th in the story): What is says is that Sabri believed that at least some chemical weapons existed but that they had been hidden by loyal tribes.

No it is not the "smoking gun". No Sabri didn't confirm that Saddam had "huge stockpiles" or even the amounts that we believed he did have. But what he did say was that he thought that Saddam had at least some chemical weapons, and wanted nuclear or biological weapons.

Only a completely irresponsible person would dismiss this and say "oh that doesn't mean anything". No, a reasonable person, adding this to all of the other evidence, would conclude that Saddam was hiding stockpiles of chemical and maybe biological weapons.

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March 26, 2006

Reprisal, not Civil War

StrategyPage has it about right

Deaths from revenge killings now exceed those from terrorist or anti-government activity. Al Qaeda is beaten, and running for cover. The Sunni Arab groups that financed thousands of attacks against the government and coalition groups, are now battling each other, al Qaeda, and Shia death squads. It's not civil war, for there are no battles or grand strategies at play. It's not ethnic cleansing, yet, although many Sunni Arabs are, and have, fled the country. What's happening here is payback. Outsiders tend to forget that, for over three decades, a brutal Sunni Arab dictatorship killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shia Arabs. The surviving victims, and the families of those who did not survive, want revenge. They want payback. And even those Kurds Shia Arabs who don't personally want revenge, are inclined to tolerate some payback. Since the Sunni Arabs comprise only about 20 percent of the population, and no longer control the police or military, they are in a vulnerable position.
After Saddam's government was ousted three years ago, the Sunni Arabs still had lots of cash, weapons, and terrorist skills. Running a police state is basically all about terrorizing people into accepting your rule. For the last three years, the Sunni Arabs thought they could terrorize their way back into power. Didn't work. Now the Kurds and Shia Arabs are not only too strong to defeat, but are coming into Sunni Arab neighborhoods and killing. Sometimes the victims are men who actually took part in Saddam era atrocities. But often the victims are just some Sunni Arabs who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Monday Update

So who cares whether we call it a civil war or not? Some will say it doesn't matter what you call it, what's happening is what's happening.

I think differently. Words have meaning beyond saying them. They determine how we look at things, and influence public opinion. There are two meanings to every word; the connotative and the denotative. The first is the "dictionary meaning", the second the thoughts, images, and feelings that the term or word conjures up.

So when some people say Iraq is in a "civil war", most people who hear that don't run to the dictionary, or a book on military terms. They relate the term civil war to other civil wars they know about; the American Civil war, the Spanish Civil war, etc. And what they think of is two armies fighting each other in a somewhat conventional fashion.

This is why I agree with StrategyPage that Iraq is not in a civil war, and why we need to be careful in how we descrive things.

Other Opinions

I don't have time to sample a whole lot of what's out there, but here are the opinions of a few people that I respect, and a few somewhat disagree with me.

Charles Krauthammer wrote in Friday's Washington Post that Iraq was indeed in a state of civil war

This whole debate about civil war is surreal. What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?

By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it. As I noted here in November 2004: "People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side" -- the Sunni insurgency -- "is fighting it."
...

But let's put this in perspective. First, this kind of private revenge attack has been going on at a low level since the beginning of the insurgency. Second, it does have the effect of concentrating Sunni minds on the price of their continuing support for the random, large-scale and heretofore unanswered slaughter of Shiites that they either actively or passively support.

And, third, if the private militias are the problem, it is a focused and relatively narrow problem. Creating discipline and central control over the security services is a more manageable issue than all-out Hobbesian conflict.

Much as I respect Krauthammer, I think that the second two paragraphs I quoted contradict the first two. But what's interesting is that he doesn't really disagree with the StrategyPage analysis, he just doesn't see a problem with calling it a civil war.

Michael Yon also doesn't have a problem in calling it a civil war

Throughout 2005, I said in writing, on the radio and television that Iraq is in a state of Civil War. It had been in that state for decades. I’d point to all the kindling heaped around the country and point to the smoke on the horizon, but most people politely dismissed the warnings. Now the fire is bigger. Listen. Listen! Iraq is in a state of Civil War. Much bigger than it was a year ago, and next year it will be bigger still, if we do not recognize that there is a FIRE!

There is no reason why Iraq and its proud people cannot make it. There is nothing written in any holy scripture – so far as I know – that says Iraq cannot make it. Iraq can, but will it? Not if we don’t stop quibbling over definitions and just come to grips that the fire is growing. This is not a fire we can afford to leave to natural forces. Not in that tinderbox we call the Middle East.

Bill Roggio thinks that Iraq is not in a civil war yet, but that it remains a very real possibility

We argue the definition of civil war is far too broad, as armed conflict within a state is not the sole indicator of civil war. Key indicators of a civil war would include the breakdown of the political process and an unwillingness of the opposing parties to negotiate, the factionalization of the military and security institutions, and open warfare between the various parties. It is for these reasons we provided the indicators of a civil war in Iraq after the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

So far, we have seen little indications of these signs coming to pass.
...

The threat of a civil war in Iraq is quite real, particularly if the political process breaks down. Iraq may be a step or two from a civil war, but it is not there yet

Richard Hernandez ("Wretchard") takes a middle ground at The Belmont Club

So what's the truth? The principle in determining truth should be to apply the factual indicator test. A civil war is a visible event whose indicators includes the insubordination of armed units, mass refugee flows, the rise of rival governments, etc. The test is whether those events are being observed. What famous individuals say about a situation is a shortcut for encapsulating a factual assessment; it describes reality as public figures see it but is not the reality itself. That remains a mystery until developments unfold. ...


Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.


Me - Monday Evening

As I said earlier, it matters what term we apply to the current situation in Iraq. Public support is percarious as it is, it the situation goes south it will deteriorate further. This week we had the administration hinting that troops would be brought home this year. One hopes that when they are brought home it is not because of a political decision, but that the generals on the scene truely believe it is safe to do so.

Most Americans, I think, still support our presence in Iraq because they believe that things are getting better, slowly but surely. If they believe that there is a civil war, therefore, even this support would quickly erode.

None of this is to say that we should hide or shade the truth. Not at all. My point, rather, is that we ought to be very careful as to the words and terms we use because it does matter.

And as such the situation in Iraq does not constitute what most people think of as a civil war. There are no rival governments sending armies in the field to do battle. Rival militias, like the Badr and Sadr brigades, are private armies, not those of warring governments. As StrategyPage observes, mose of the killings are reprisals by armed factions.

I won't go through what needs to be done in Iraq, because we all know that the two biggest challenges are that a government needs to be formed asap and we need to continue building and supporting the new Iraqi army. The faster and better we can achieve those goals, the better chance we have of bringing peace to that troubled country.

Posted by Tom at 10:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

Eating Soup with a Knife and the Question of Time

Without question the hottest book on Iraq right now is Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by Lt. Col. John Nagl. I have not read it, and given my other obligations it will be some time before I have an opportunity to. However, since the author is making the talk-show rounds, and I thought a few comments were in order.

Nagl's book is based on his Ph.d dissertation. I'm not sure if he's still in the military or is retired, but from what I can gather from various sources he was operations officer during the 2004 battle for Fallujah. The story is that his book has not only become very influential among Army and Marine Corps officers, but was given to Rumsfeld himself during a visit to Iraq, although I can't find any definite confirmation of this.

But just in case you haven't heard about it, here's the book description on Amazon

Armies are invariably accused of preparing to fight the last war. Nagl examines how armies learn during the course of conflicts for which they are initially unprepared in organization, training, and mindset. He compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948-1960 with that developed in the Vietnam Conflict from 1950-1975, through use of archival sources and interviews with participants in both conflicts. In examining these two events, he argues that organizational culture is the key variable in determining the success or failure of attempts to adapt to changing circumstances.

Defeating an insurgency described by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", as being like "Eating Soup with a Knife". In other words, you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time.

There was also an article the other day in the Wall Street Journal about the book (subscription only), that was excerpted by Rich Lowry on NRO's The Corner

Col. Nagl's book is one of a half dozen Vietnam histories -- most of them highly critical of the U.S. military in Vietnam -- that are changing the military's views on how to fight guerrilla wars. Two other books that have also become must-reading among senior Army officers are retired Col. Lewis Sorley's "A Better War," which chronicles the last years of the Vietnam War, and Col. H.R. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty," which focuses on the early years.

The embrace of these Vietnam histories reflects an emerging consensus in the Army that in order to move forward in Iraq, it must better understand the mistakes of Vietnam.

In the past, it was commonly held in military circles that the Army failed in Vietnam because civilian leaders forced it to fight a limited war instead of the all-out assault it longed to wage. That belief helped shape the doctrine espoused in the 1980s by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. They argued that the military should fight only wars in which it could apply quick, overwhelming force to destroy the enemy.

The newer analyses of Vietnam are now supplanting that theory -- and changing the way the Army fights. The argument that the military must exercise restraint is a central point of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine, which runs about 120 pages and is still in draft form, is a handbook on how to wage guerrilla wars.

The Lesson

The point that Col Nagl makes is simple; we screwed up in our first two years in Iraq but we've got it right now. He's pretty critical of Army leaders and Secretary Rumsfeld. Fair enough. From time immortal wars have always been this way. Unless they are short, they never go quite the way either side thinks they will.

But despite what some people seem to think, yes counterinsurgencies can be won. With US help, the government of El Salvador defeated their communist rebels in the 1980s. Peru defeated the Shining Path in the 1990s. The Greeks defeated their communist rebels in the late 1940s, thanks to some timely aid authorized by President Truman. The classic case, of course, was the British defeat of communist insurgents in Malaysia in the 1940s and 50s. As Rich Lowry recounts

The Brits at first considered the insurgency primarily a military problem, and tried to take the guerrillas on in conventional military formations. These tactics not only failed to engage the guerrillas, who easily evaded the large jungle sweeps, but their heavy-handedness alienated the local population.

The British were losing. One observer thought the guerrillas were "probably equal to that of government in the matter of supplies and superior in the matter of intelligence." Guerrilla attacks had been fewer than 100 a month in mid-1949, but spiked to more than 400 a month by mid-1950. This is when, had the Brits operated in our media and political environment, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd would have witheringly declared all lost, and calls from across the political spectrum would have gone up to quit.

With a patience born of fighting many "small wars" in dusty parts of the world, the British simply set about fixing what they had done wrong. Most fundamentally, they realized that counterinsurgency depends on winning a political battle for "hearts and minds" (a famous phrase that originated in the Malaysia fight). Military operations were conducted on a smaller scale. The Chinese population was secured from guerrilla influence. A Malaysian army was built, with Chinese involvement. Elections were organized and independence promised. Slowly, the air went out of the insurgency, which was officially declared over in 1960, 12 years after it began.

We made the same mistake in Iraq, and have made the same journey to our current counter-insurgency campaign.

Three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq tell the tale.
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents
And let's not forget David Ignatious Fighting Smarter in Iraq from last Friday's Washington Post.

So contrary to what the critics would have you believe yes we are getting it right. We didn't at first, as I recounted in back in October of 2004 in What Went Wrong?

Wretchard, author of The Belmont Club(and arguably the best WOT blogger there is) doesn't share what is apparently becoming the "mainstream" opinion that we "got it all wrong at first but are now finally doing it right"

The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency.

He points to the impressive buildup of Iraqi forces as evidence(read his post for details or see the CENTCOM posture statement).

Wretchard concludes that

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all.

So much for the "More troops!" line that we've been hearing for the past three years. As the Brits found out in Malaysia, you win these wars not by sending in "More troops!" but by going back to counter-insurgency basics.

But the differences between Fall 2004 and Spring of 2006 are like the differences between the beginning of 1864 and the end of 1864. Once it looked like stalemate, then victory seemed possible if not assured.

The Question of Time

This morning I was listening to the Tony Snow show today, with guest host Brian Kilmeade (from Fox and Friends) standing in for Tony. Kilmeade interviewed Bill Hemmer, who is on assignement in Iraq for Fox News.

Hemmer was not all sun and roses, saying for example that things are more dangerous today, at least for journalists, than they were a year or so ago in Baghdad.

But his main point, and one that he stressed, was that he had spoken with many members of the US military, and they are convinced they can do it, that they can succeed, but they just need more time. "Give us more time" is what he heard again and again.

Will they be allowed to finish their job before political events in the US force a pullout, or a reduction in force before the job is done? We're already hearing about troops reductions scheduled for later this year, no doubt timed to coincide with the elections. Hopefully it won't be too soon.


Wednesday Morning Update

President Bush does the right thing

President Bush said yesterday that future administrations will have to grapple with how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, indicating that he doesn't see an end to U.S. commitments until at least 2009.

"That'll be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq," Mr. Bush said at his second press conference of the year, during which he also said Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war and defended his continued commitment of U.S. troops.

...
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Mr. Bush was signaling an open-ended commitment that "was never contemplated or approved by the American people."

When the American people signed up for World War II they never contemplated or approved keeping troops in Europe for another 60+ years, either. They thought that, like after The Great War, they'd all be brought home immediately after hostilities ended. Although I can't find it on the web at the moment, I do recall reading congressional testimony of the late 1940s whereby generals are grilled by congressmen who are not happy with what they are being told, that many US troops would have to stay in Europe for the indefinate future.

Was this a failure of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations? Of course not. Analogies are never exact, of course, which is why they call them analogies. The administration, and most of us war supporters, thought that the invasion aftermath would be easier (as Rich Lowry asked in "What Went Wrong" cited above, "We knew it would be difficult, but did it have to be so hard?"). Fair enough.

But as I've written in about a million posts, unless the war is very short, they always seem to go this way. Victory does not go to the side who doesn't make mistakes. Victory goes to the side that does not learn from them. And while we're not out of the woods yet by a long shot, we're learning a lot faster than the insurgents.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2006

Victory Abroad, but Defeat at Home?

That Iraq has turned the corner and, if trends continue, is on the way to becoming a stable country should not be disputed most serious people anymore. The questions have changed from "can we turn things around" to "have we lost here at home?" And by "home" I mean not just the United States but the West in general. Further, I'm not just talking about Iraq, but survival as a civilization.

Does that sound apocalyptic? Perhaps it is. In twenty or thirty years we may be looking back on these times with the satisfaction of knowing that however hard the fight we won it at home and abroad. But thirty years ago it wasn't clear how the Cold War would turn out, contrary to what some would have you believe. When Carter was in office communism certainly was on a roll. It took the determined efforts of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Lech Walensa, Pope John Paul II, and many others to defeat the Soviets. Of course, the leftists in our midst said the same things about them then as they say about George W Bush and the dreaded "neocons" today. But that's not what I want to talk about.

Iraq

The situation in Iraq is not the primary subject of this post, so rather than quote at length from others or my past writing I'm just going to provide a few quick links:

What You're Not Reading About Iraq by Bill Crawford

More Sunni - al-Qaeda Divisions: The Real Civil War
by Bill Roggio

Three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq:
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents

Standoff in Iraq by Victor Davis Hanson, who just returned from Iraq

John, Meet Jack: We do have reliable information about how things are going in Iraq, by Richard Nadler, in which a group of Iraqi war vets make the point that yes, things are going much better than most of the US media would have you believe.

Then going back a bit further here are a few of my posts, most recent last

We're Winning
See I Told You So
War Update
Iraq War Update
Winds of War: Progressing in Iraq
How We're going to Win
We're Winning II

A Marine Reports - We're Winning

I could go on but I think you get the point. Just click on "Iraq" at right under "Categories" for all of my posts.

The problems we face, then are rather different than the one that idiots like John Murtha and his pals at Code Pink would have you believe.

The Naysayers

I wrote about these people last year and how they don't know any history other than Vietnam in my post called The Naysayers.

Once again, Victor Davis Hanson has them pegged in a recent article of his

But the latest criticism is more troubling, since it often comes from the “my perfect war, your lousy peace” school that, for some reason, never critiques the three-week removal of Saddam Hussein. Instead, it defends its evolving opposition to the war by advancing particular pet theories of reconstruction that were never followed. Rarely do we hear that most postbellum efforts are long, messy, and necessary, much less that the essence of war is lapse and tragedy, with victory going only to those who in the end err the least and endure. Anyone back in the United States can post facto write up a list of what ought to have been done in Iraq amid the heat and fire; but they at least need to factor in the conditions at the time that led the supposedly less bright on the ground not to anticipate their own inspired wisdom from afar.

Especially troubling are those who even before 9/11 demanded that President Clinton or Bush remove Saddam Hussein, but now consider such a move an abject blunder of the first order. Their advocacy helped us get in when there were dubious reasons to go, and their vehement criticism may well get us out when there are now better reasons to stay until Iraq is secure.


Iran

The problem with Iran is not so much Iran, as the trouble that dealing with them will cause throughout the Middle East. Or at least, might cause.

There is a very good chance that we will be forced to hit Iran with air strikes before the year is out. I stated my reasons for believing this in Toward the Brink last week.

The point to note here is that any strikes will certainly inflame the "Arab street", or rather, the street will be inflamed after some of the people are stirred up by radical troublemaker mullahs. There will certainly be riots in parts of Iraq. Although I doubt that the situation will be out of control, people will die and the news media will inform us that all is lost for the millionth time.

The Problem with Europe

Unless you've absolutely got your head in the sand (which would be the case if you depend on CNN and the New York Times for your news) you know by now that western Europe is infected with radical Islam, perhaps to the point of no return.

I wrote about this disease in What is Going on in Europe? and What is Going on in Europe II a few weeks ago. Again, I won't rehash everything, but will requote one part of Douglas Murray article which appreared in in The Sunday Times of London this past February 26

Murray had gone to Holland to speak at a conference about Islam in Europe. To give his readers an idea as to the current situation in Europe, he said that the threat to speakers was so high that they were asked by hotel staff if they wanted to register under false names. The police provided a personal security detail for everyone. Murray himself had a guard posted outside his hotelroom door.

The event itself was orderly and debate was conducted in scholarly fashion. But Murray talks about the situation in Holland and the rest of Europe

But the story of Holland — which I have been charting for some years — should be noted by her allies. Where Holland has gone, Britain and the rest of Europe are following. The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons from its website after the British police informed the editor they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack. This happened only days before the police provided 500 officers to protect a “peaceful” Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.

It seems the British police — who regularly provide protection for mosques (as they did after the 7/7 bombs) — were unable to send even one policeman to protect an organ of free speech. At the notorious London protests, Islamists were allowed to incite murder and bloodshed on the streets, but a passer-by objecting to these displays was threatened with detention for making trouble.

Holland — with its disproportionately high Muslim population — is the canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of liberalism — not the “liberalism” that is actually libertarianism, but the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.

All across Europe, debate on Islam is being stopped. Italy’s greatest living writer, Oriana Fallaci, soon comes up for trial in her home country, and in Britain the government seems intent on pushing through laws that would make truths about Islam and the conduct of its followers impossible to voice.

...
Since the assassinations of Fortuyn and, in 2004, the film maker Theo van Gogh, numerous public figures in Holland have received death threats and routine intimidation. The heroic Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her equally outspoken colleague Geert Wilders live under constant police protection, often forced to sleep on army bases. Even university professors are under protection.

Europe is shuffling into darkness.

Indeed it may be. All you have to do is read almost any of the entries on European blogs like USS Neverdock(UK) or Downeastblog(Belgium) to get an idea as to how bad the situation is over there with regard to the inroads that radical Muslims are making. While there is some resistance, all too often the response of the elites is to pander.

But I guess that's what happens when you've lost your own religion. I've traveled quite a bit in Europe, both as vacations and a mission trip. Most of the churches and cathedrals I went in were empty - except for the tourists. And I'm talking about Sundays.

America - At the Tipping Point?

In the United States we might be at our own tipping point; a reaction against Islam. And I don't mean radical Islam, either, folks, I mean Islam.

Commenter "Wanda" on Belmont Club's post Blowback said

Going back to Geraghty's comments and Wretchard's followup, I think that if this shift in Western opinion is happening (and I think it is) much more than just the ports deal is dead. President Bush is in imminent danger of finding himself left behind by the American people, and he doesn't seem to realize it. He could soon be in the same position as the leaders and spokesmen of the EU - a font of noble-sounding platitudes and maxims that nobody pays attention to anymore.

Meanwhile, he will have lost his ability to sway his own people's hearts and minds, because he invested everything in the cause of winning the enemy's hearts and minds. All the emphasis has been on persuading Muslims to change; how was it possible that nobody thought that WE might change too? That never entered into the calculations; it always seemed to be a given that the West would be eternally patient, open, and willing to woo the reluctant Muslim world. But while President Bush has been anxiously hovering over his delicate Islamic plant, watching for any promising little green shoot that might repay all his efforts, behind him his own garden has changed into a dangerous, bristling jungle. When he finally turns around, he won't know where he is anymore.

(hat tip Jim Geraghty on NRO)

Ouch. Although I think she overstates her case, she is definately on to something. Winds of Change thought it important enough to quote also, which is where TKS first saw it (note, be sure to read the WoC post).

The American people, or some of them anyway, have concluded that Islam as it is currently practiced is a dangerous religion. Many have concluded that "those people" aren't going to change.

Perhaps it is best said by Robert Tracinski in his postThe Lessons of the Cartoon Jihad

The West has long been aware that, while we hold freedom of speech as a centerpiece of our liberty, the Muslim world does not recognize this freedom. Before now, however, our worlds have rarely collided. The Muslims have not usually dared to extend their dictatorial systems to control our own behavior within our own cities. The Salman Rushdie affair—the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death edict against the "blasphemous" novelist—was an ominous warning, but Americans did not take it seriously.

Now, seventeen years later, the Muslim fanatics are making it clear: you don't have to come to our country, you don't have to be a Muslim. Even in your own countries and under your own laws, you will not be safe from our intimidation.

For the whole Western world, this is an opportunity to learn an important truth about the goal of the Islamists. Their goal is not to achieve any specific political demand or settlement. Their goal is submission: our submission to their will, to their laws, to their dictatorship—our submission, not just to one demand, but to any demand the Muslim mobs care to make.

Europe particularly needs to learn this lesson. The Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that this is our fight. If only Israel weren't so intransigent, if only the US weren't so belligerent, they told themselves—if only those cowboys didn't insist on stirring up trouble, we could all live in peace with the Muslims. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can seek a separate peace, that having the Danish flag on your backpack—as one bewildered young Dane described it—would guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world and be regarded as safe, as innocuous.

Now the Europeans know better. With cries of "Death to Israel" and "Death to American" now being joined by cries of "Death to Denmark", every honest European can now see that they are in this fight, too—and they are closer to the front lines than we are. Threats against American cartoonists, when anyone bothers to make them, are toothless; there is no mob of violent young Muslims in the United States to carry them out. European writers and filmmakers, by contrast, are already being murdered in the streets. The first people to find themselves living under the sword of a would-be Muslim caliphate are Europeans, not Americans.

The lesson here is not just that the Islamist ideology of dictatorship is a threat to Europe. It is also that the dictatorships themselves are a threat. The advocates of cynical European "realpolitik" deluded themselves into thinking that, if they just made the right kind of deals with Saddam Hussein, or with the Iranian regime, or with the Syrian regime, then the dictatorships over there would have no impact on us over here.

(again I am indebted to Jim Geraghty)

I will agree that some of the Europeans may know better, but hardly all or even a majority of them. Too many have been indoctrinated too thoroughly in "multiculturalism" and "tolerance" that they are unable to kill the viper even as it is about to bite them. Douglas Murray is probalby closer to the truth when he wrote that Europe was shuffling into darkness.

Can We Turn It Around?

Assuming that the situation here is as bad as the above essay concludes, can the Bush Administration reconvince a significant majority of the American people that we can indeed reform the Middle East?

Liberals we can write off. To them the entire War on Terror is a distraction from their main goal of putting us all under the rule of the EPA. They don't have different ideas on how to fight it, they just want it all to go away.

As for conservatives, well, there has obviously been much disappointment with President Bush and some of our congressional leaders. Out-of-control Federal spending and failure to reduce the size of government, failure to address illegal immigration, a zillion regulations that only seem to grow and grow, Harriet Myers, and more. I was not part of the anti-Dubai Ports World group, but could understand their position given the administration's failure to communicate the facts prior to letting information about it get out.

Only a fool, of course, would presume to know how a president will be treated by history based on opinion polls. Thomas Jefferson left office a despised man. The Civil War had grown so unpoplular that Abraham Lincoln for a time feared that he would lose the election of 1864. Harry Truman decided not to run for re-election in 1952 due to low approval ratings. Yet all three of these men are considered among our greatest presidents. On the other hand, Warren Harding was a very popular president, yet who today can even remember when he served?

I'll just let Jim Geraghty sum up my thoughts

I think most Americans wanted to see a lot more from their government over this(cartoon jihad). The opposition to the cartoons was signified by the photo of the London protester with the banner, “Behead those who insult Islam.” The Bush administration’s response was to say that violence wasn’t the answer; many folks would have preferred, “Like hell you will. Somebody insults your faith, you insult ‘em right back. The moment you threaten violence, we will knock your teeth down your throat.”

I hope President Bush “gets” this; I hope Karl Rove or someone is looking at this polling data and can figure out how to either mitigate or healthily express this impatient, angry, and sometimes ugly mood in America.

It’s not enough to say that the Democrats are worse.

Update

It as a post on Jim Geraghty's blog TKS on National Review called "Does President Bush See the Tipping Point" that prompted this post.

He's got a few additional thoughts on this issue today

Could the new president, voice of the West, say to the world’s one billion Muslims… choose?

What would happen if a leader of the West said, “No more maybes. No more, ‘yes, but.’ Get off the sidelines. Either bin Laden and his ilk have the right idea, or they don’t.

Seriously, if you agree with them, stop giving them half-credit and join them.
Please do so openly, so we know to kill you. And understand clearly – we will kill you. We will not submit to their vision of the world; and they cannot coexist with us. They will never stop trying to kill us; thus, the only day of peace will be when all of them are dead, or they have been persuaded that their vision is a futile one, a corruption of your faith’s beliefs.

If you oppose them, join us in opposing them with every resource, tool and ounce of determination we’ve got. You have your ways of war – let us introduce you to the nearly forgotten American tradition of letters of marque and reprisal. Let’s institute the first global terrorist hunt. American, Pakistani, Turk, Saudi, Muslim, Christian, Jew – it doesn’t matter your nationality or faith. You’re authorized to hunt down al-Qaeda wherever they scurry. Join us, and al-Qaeda will have no where left to hide, no one left to trust. The world as one has decided it’s a better place with them not in it.

This is it. Today’s the day you decide what side you’re on. No more debating, no more waiting to see who the stronger horse it. Trust me, it’s us. Decide what Allah really wants, and then act accordingly.”

How would the Muslim world react?

Thankfully, many would say that bin Laden never spoke for them, and they’re ready and eager to do whatever it takes to eradicate Islamist terror cells.

I suppose some Muslims would object to being forced to decide – a pretty revealing attitude, I think. But I can’t help but think that some Muslims, after years of seeing a faltering, doubtful, self-hating and equivocal West taking on the relentless faith of Islamist fanatics, would come off the fence.

Some of them would come off the fence and sign up on the other side. That’s fine. Then we would at least know those folks are our enemies.

And also

Right now, if you're a Muslim, and you denounce Islamism, there is a severe price to be paid - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, etc. Often you have to live in hiding and dodge death threats.

If you embrace and/or endorse Islamism, there is little price to be paid. The West won't attack you for what you say. You don't have to worry about some crazy Westerner suddenly pulling a Pym Fortyn or a Van Gogh on you. Heck, in London, you can preach jihad for years before the authorities even think about deporting you.

Thus, our message gets stifled; their message gets amplified.

But what if we changed that equation? What if the bad guys had to live in fear? What if they had to be careful about who they told, who was in the crowd they addressed, who was listening? I bet it would go a long way to slow down their efforts.

Or maybe the answer is a half-step down from my nasty gut reaction - don't kill the guy carrying a "behead those who insult my beliefs" sign, but don't let him do that without consequences: prosecute him for making threats.

Works for me. No doubt that groups like CAIR would announce that we were persecuting Muslims or some such tripe, but as Geraghty says, at least we'd know what side they were on.

Posted by Tom at 9:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2006

Our New Way of War - And It's Working

The Washington Post strikes again.

Post staff writer Thomas E Ricks seems to have figured out that we are on the way to winning the war. Last week they published two articles on how our troops had turned things around through the use of an effective counterinsurgency campaign.

Continuing this theme is an article he published on Sunday called "In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents" (hat tip NRO)

Interviews with U.S. soldiers -- from top generals to front-line grunts in Tall Afar, Mosul, Ramadi, Balad and throughout Baghdad -- as well as briefings at the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, reveal a markedly different war from that seen in 2003 and 2004, or even last year.

Current U.S. military commanders say they have come to understand that they are fighting within a political context, which means the results must first be judged politically. The pace and shape of the war also have changed, with U.S. forces trying to exercise tactical patience and shift responsibilities to Iraqi forces, even as they worry that the American public's patience may be dwindling.

I remember during the early part of the insurgency, when some in the US took the attitude of "just go in and take 'em out!" No doubt some still think this way. Fortunately our troops have gotten the message that there is a better way.

Don't worry, there is still much fighting. And woe be it to the insurgents who try and challenge an American unit head on. But brute force all the time without regard to local sensibilities does more harm than good.

Not all the troops are happy about this. Ricks found a few who expressed frustration. "It's like trying to track down a bunch of ghosts", said one.

The Three Phases of the War

The war here has gone through three distinct phases, each with its own feel and style of operation.

The first period, from May 2003 to July 2004, was characterized by drift and wishful thinking, military insiders say, with top U.S. officials at first refusing to recognize they were facing an insurgency and then committing a series of policy and tactical blunders that appear to have enflamed opposition to the U.S. occupation.

The second phase began in the summer of 2004, when Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. replaced Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and developed -- for the first time -- a U.S. campaign plan. That plan, which looked forward from August 2004 to December 2005, gave U.S. operations a new coherence, directing a series of actions intended to clear the way for Iraqi voters to establish a new government.

Now, after parliamentary elections held in December, the U.S. effort has entered a third stage. The current emphasis is on reducing the U.S. role in the war, putting Iraq army and police forces in the forefront as much as possible -- but not so fast that it breaks them, as it did in April 2004, when a battalion ordered to Fallujah mutinied. Eventually, Casey said, the hope is that U.S. forces will be able to focus on foreign fighters, while Iraqi security forces take on the native insurgency. But that hasn't happened yet. The hardest fighting, especially in rural areas, still is being done by U.S. troops.

The key is whether we can produce enough Iraqi forces fast enough, and get the political process stabilized, before the clock runs out in the US. If a Democrat is elected in 2008 all bets are off. But even if the GOP loses one or more houses of congress this year, the Democrats may start to either cut funding for the war or pressure Bush to start a pull out "or else".

Ricks has more, and it's worth quoting at length

Several aspects make this third phase different from the war of a year or two ago:

· The U.S. effort now is characterized by a more careful, purposeful style that extends even to how Humvees are driven in the streets. For years, "the standard was to haul ass," noted Lt. Col. Gian P. Gentile, commander of the 8th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, which is based near a bomb-infested highway south of Baghdad. Now his convoy drivers are ordered to move at 15 mph. "I'm a firm believer in slow, deliberate movement," he said. "You can observe better, if there's IEDs [improvised explosive devices] on the road." It also is less disruptive to Iraqis and sends a message of calm control, he noted.

· U.S. commanders spend their time differently. Where they once devoted much of their efforts to Iraqi politics and infrastructure, they now focus more on training and supporting the Iraqi police and army. "I spent the last month talking to ISF [Iraqi security force] commanders," noted Gentile, who holds a doctorate in American history from Stanford. "Two years ago I would have spent all my time talking to sheiks."

· Real progress is being made in training Iraqi forces, especially its army, according to every U.S. officer asked about the issue. One of the surprises, they say, has been that an Iraqi soldier, even one who is overweight and undertrained, is more effective standing on an Iraqi street corner than the most disciplined U.S. Army Ranger. "They get intelligence we would never get," noted Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East. "They sense the environment in a way that we never could."

Let's hope the liberals in Washington read these articles by Ricks, and take them to heed.

Spread the word.

Posted by Tom at 8:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2006

Why the Insurgents Bombed the Dome of the Golden Mosque

The correct answer, as you've read a million places, is to create a civil war in Iraq. I'm not disputing this.

But the question is, why do they want to create a civil war? The answer to that is that they're desperate and realize they're losing. I'm going to tell you why.

Victor Davis Hanson just got back from Iraq and sums up the military situation

The insurgency in Iraq has no military capability either to drive the United States military from Iraq or to stop the American training of Iraqi police and security forces — or, for that matter, to derail the formation of a new government. The United States air base at Balad is one of the busiest airports in the world. Camp Victory near Baghdad is impenetrable to serious attack. And even forward smaller bases at Kirkuk, Mosul, and Ramadi are entirely secure.

...
Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing. They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent. Insufficient body armor and unarmored humvees are yesterday’s hysteria. Our generals — Casey, Chiarelli, Dempsey — are astute and understand the fine line between using too much force and not employing enough, and that the war cannot be won by force alone. American colonels are the best this county has produced, and they are proving it in Iraq under the most trying of conditions. Iraqi soldiers are treated with respect and given as much autonomy as their training allows.

Realizing this, he says, they are focusing on three alternative strategies

1) Use IEDs, suicide bombings, and the like to create the appearance that the country is out of control

2) Attack Shiites until they are mad enough to start a civil war

3) Just create enought chaos so that the average Iraqis just wants the Americans to leave

We are at a sort of standoff, he says; they cannot even dent us militarily and we cannot stop their IEDs and suicide attacks. As everyone knows, victory will only be ours if the Iraqis can consolidate their government and get enough viable security forces in the field.

A few additional points are in order

The IEDs are of Limited Usefulness

From StrategyPage

While only 5,607 IEDs were placed in 2004, there were 10,953 encountered in 2005. But American troops responded to the threat. In 2004, about a quarter of IEDs actually went off and hurt someone. In 2005, that rate declined to ten percent, and is still falling. This has been very frustrating for the terrorists and nerve wracking for the American troops on the receiving end. While billions of dollars has been put into developing new devices to counter IEDs, the best defensive tool is still alert troops, who have been briefed on the latest intel about what kind of IEDs are being planted.

There are essentially two reasons why the insurgents use IEDs and suicide bombers; our troops are so good and theirs are so bad. StrategyPage again

IEDs were used in Vietnam, but caused (with mines and booby traps in general) only 13 percent of the casualties, compared to over 60 percent in Iraq. The reason for this is one that few journalists want to discuss openly. But historians can tell you; Arabs are lousy fighters. Hasn't always been this way, but for the last century or so, it has. This has more to do with poor leadership, and a culture that simply does not encourage those traits that are needed to produce a superior soldier. In a word, the North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerillas were better, and more deadly, fighters. Contributing factors include better training and equipment for American and Coalition troops. But most of the reason for the historically low casualty rates in Iraq have to do with Iraqis who don't know how to fight effectively.

Anybody who's read the first thing about the Vietnam war knows this to be true. This is also what makes creating a new Iraqi Army so difficult, and yet another reason why we were exactly right not to keep the old one.

Our Troops Have Gotten Very Good

The Washington Post had two articles this past week that could well have been written by CENTCOM. Both essentially tell the same story; that in 2003-2004 many of our tactics and strategies were flawed, but all that has changed.

The first story, titled "The Lessons of Counterinsurgency", tells of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The unit did poorly during it's first tour in 2003-2004, but has performed magnificently this time around.

In the last nine months, the regiment has focused on breaking the insurgents' hold on Tall Afar, a town of 290,000. Their operations here "will serve as a case study in classic counterinsurgency, the way it is supposed to be done," said Terry Daly, a retired intelligence officer specializing in the subject.

U.S. military experts conducting an internal review of the three dozen major U.S. brigades, battalions and similar units operating in Iraq in 2005 privately concluded that of all those units, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment performed the best at counterinsurgency, according to a source familiar with the review's findings.

The second story, "U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set" is about "COIN", the new counterinsurgency school the army has set up in Taji, Iraq.

The purpose of the school north of Baghdad is to try to bring about a different outcome than the U.S. military achieved in 2003-04, when Army commanders committed mistakes typical of a conventional military facing an insurgency. "When the insurgency started, we came in very conventional," said Col. Chris Short, the District native and recent Manassas resident who is the new school's commandant.

Back then, U.S. forces rounded up tens of thousands of Iraqis, mixing innocent people in detention with hard-core Islamic extremists. Commanders permitted troops to shoot at anything mildly threatening. And they failed to give their troops the basic conceptual and cultural tools needed to operate in the complex environment of Iraq, from how to deal with a sheik to understanding why killing insurgents usually is the least desirable outcome in dealing with them. (It is more effective, they are now taught, to persuade them either to desert or to join the political process.)

Last year, an internal study by Army experts of U.S. commanders here found that some understood the principles of counterinsurgency and applied them well, while others faltered. "If the commander had it, the unit had it, but if the commander got it halfway, then the unit got it halfway," Casey said in a recent interview. The new school is designed to ensure that all the commanders get it.

...
"I didn't want to come," concurred Lt. Col. David Furness, commander of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, now operating between Baghdad and Fallujah. "But I'm glad I came."

Live and Learn

The Way of the World

If you're a leftie Bush-hater reading this I know exactly what you're going to say: "Ah ha! Told you Bushitler didn't know what he was doing! If only Al Gore had been elected WE'D HAVE GOTTEN IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!"

Yeah sure.

Tell me then what you would say about a president who led us into war with a military this unprepared:

- 80% of our torpedoes were defective to the point of being duds
- Every single one of our single and twin-engined fighter and bomber aircraft were inferior to those of our enemy. Every single one
- Our navy was allowed to spend precious dollars building and keeping the wrong type of capital ships
- Not only were all of our tanks inferior to those of the enemy at the start of the war, they were inferior at the end too
- The stated purpose of the war was to end dictatorship in _______, yet at the end as many people lived under tyranny as at the beginning.
Most people in ________ simply traded one dictator for another
- Two years after the war, many major US papers were calling the occupation "botched"
- Americans expected all of their troops to quickly return home after the war, and were upset when they learned that many would have to stay there for an indefinate period of time

The president responsible for all this wasn't elected right before the war started. He'd been in office for almost 9 years.

And guess what? We won this war.

Details and background on the above are in a post of mine that can be found here.

Don't Let them Crow

The point, if I need to spell it out, is that this is how wars always work. No matter how prepared you are, things don't work out the way you thought they would. If the administration is guilty of anything, it is believing that combat would end with the defeat of the regular Iraqi Army. It was no doubt a mistake to declare victory on the aircraft carrier in 2003, oh well.

But FDR is seen as one of our greatest wartime presidents for a reason; he was one. Yes there were terrible mistakes, both before and during the war. But victory does not go to the side that gets everything right, but to the side that makes the fewest mistakes.

Some now say that Iraq stands on the brink of civil war. Perhaps so, though I doubt it. Few of the criteria that Bill Roggio laid out seem to be occuring.

Bottom line; if we can get through this current crisis we're on the road to victory.

Posted by Tom at 9:11 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 4, 2006

Iraqi War Heroes - Captain Furat Update

Captain Furat, wounded Iraqi war hero in his country's fight against the terrorists, will be treated pro bono at Atlanta's Shepherd Center. Maya Alleruzzo, who was along side him as he fought the terrorist insurgents in Iraq, reports the good news in today's Washington Times.

"Captain Furat", a nom de guerre to protect his real identity, was paralized from the waist down by a bullet in an attack by terrorists as he visited his family this past Christmas Day. The Shepherd Center specializes in treating people with spinal cord injuries.

I reported about Captain Furat a few weeks ago here and here. go back and reread those posts if you didn't do so the first time.

Captain Furat is one of a new generation of Iraqis, trained and supported by our military, that is taking the fight to the enemy, and doing so boldly and without hesitation. Furat, a decorated soldier, won the admiration and respect of Americans and Iraqis alike. My prayers are with him as he continues his fight.

Maya Alleruzzo has been kind enough to send me the front page of today's Washington Times as a pdf file. It's in color an everything, just like the actual paper. You can download it Download file">here.

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January 25, 2006

Captain Furat, Iraqi Hero

A few weeks ago I related the Washington Times story about Captain Furat, the Iraqi hero who led his men in many battles with the terrorists.

Furat is a Captain in the new Iraqi Army, and has become one of those larger-than-life figures in post-invasion Iraq. Maya Alleruzzo is a reporter for the Washington Times, who went to Iraq, and was with Furat many times when his unit was attacked:

Capt. Furat was typically first out of his truck, returning fire, shouting orders, attending to the wounded. His men, their resolve stiffened by his example, stood their ground in combat time and time again. More often then not, they would drive off the attackers before U.S. forces arrived to support them.

This unit wanted to fight. Its soldiers believed in themselves. After each firefight, their confidence grew, not only in battle, but in the larger sense that maybe they were part of something bigger than their own survival. They strove to perform as a professional army. Asked once about the Shi'ite-Sunni tensions that threaten to tear Iraq apart, Capt. Furat blushed and turned away before replying, "I'm an Iraqi."

Tragically, Furat was attacked by terrorists while visiting his family on Christmas Day. His injuries are severe.

Alleruzzo traveled again to Iraq recently and updates us on his condition:

The powerful legs that carried him through battle lay stretched before him, motionless underneath a blanket. The broad shoulders and bulging forearms that once easily carried an 80-pound machine gun lay limp at his sides. Somewhere in Iraq, those who tried to kill him wait to finish the job.

Capt. Furat, 28, struggles to sort out a life that was shattered Christmas Day in an ambush by gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers while he was visiting his family.

One of the bullets struck his spinal cord, and he is paralyzed from the waist down. Permanently.

Despite being hit by twelve bullets by the terrorists, he fought back, killing at least one. He saw enough to give information to our trooups so that they were able to arrest two of his attackers.

Furat is recovering at the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq. Because he is still a target of terrorists, he will be there for the foreseeable future.

(Be sure and follow the link above to the Time's story for the photo)

A Hero of the New Iraq

A decorated officer with the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division -- also known as the Tiger Battalion -- based at Camp Falloc, 54 miles northeast of Baghdad, Capt. Furat loves Iraq and fought its enemies with a passion that won praise from American and Iraqi troops.

U.S. soldiers of Task Force 1-30 who worked with Capt. Furat often called him "Rambo"; he could wield an 80-pound machine gun and belts of ammunition as if carrying an Uzi.

"To me he is a superhero," said 1st Lt. John Newton of Hague, Va., from the 1st Battalion of the 30th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division, who wept at Capt. Furat's bedside hours after the attack.

"He was fearless under fire," said Lt. Col. Roger Cloutier, commander of Task Force 1-30, from Fort Benning, Ga.

With Men Such as This

With men such as this, who could think of just pulling up and leaving Iraq?

Yes I know that the condition of the new Iraqi army and police forces is uneven. Yes I know that not all fight as bravely as Captain Furat. And yes I know that some join simply for economic reasons, and yes some to become spies for the insurgency. And yes I know about the corruption, inter-sectarian fighting, all that.

I know these things. I also know that when I read time and time again of long lines at the recruitment centers, that most Iraqis join because they want to rid their country of terrorists.

Captain Furat was such a man.

To abandon Iraq now would be to abandon him and thousands like him to a terrible fate. Only fools think that Iraq would suddenly become peaceful if the US left. In reality we would have another bloodbath like what occured in South Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, where anyone who "collaborated" with the United States was tortured and/or killed.

Sure, some, like Captain Furat, would be taken with us. No doubt that now that he is nationally known we would get him out. But that's not a solution. Furat loves his country and wants to see it made right.

"My dream is just to stand up with my legs," he said. "When I can stand up with my legs, just tell me and I'll go anywhere -- Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran -- just tell me."

As Capt. Furat works through the physical and emotional trauma of his tragedy, those on the hospital staff see an opportunity for the disabled soldier.

"He could be a beacon of hope for all the handicapped people in Iraq," said Col. Powell.

"He could be a champion, a great one. There are going to be thousands of disabled people here, maybe more. There's nothing keeping him from doing anything. We just want him to reach his full potential."

I have no doubt that he will.

Posted by Tom at 8:01 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 20, 2006

Mismanagement We Must Take Note Of

Not the type of story one wants to read in the morning paper:

Finding out what happened to Iraq's $37 billion in oil-financed reconstruction funds -- its stacks of plastic-wrapped hundred-dollar bills popping up all over the country like play money -- has taken investigators down many paths, including one to the Defense Ministry office of Ziyad al Qattan. ...

So far, the United States has spent $226 billion to wage war in Iraq, and the reconstruction costs have proven to be another expensive challenge.

Along with the $37 billion fund, another $24 billion from U.S. taxpayers has been ordered for Iraqi reconstruction. Together with $4 billion pledged by other countries, more than $60 billion is pegged for reconstruction costs alone. The problem is U.S. and Iraqi officials aren't sure just how much money has been stolen or misspent.
...

A confidential report by Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit provides a peek at accounting problems, which date back to May 2003, when the Bush administration created the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and made L. Paul Bremer Iraq's first post-Saddam leader. Mr. Bremer's office received a huge infusion of funds at that time and began spending it on rebuilding efforts at a furious pace -- in cash.

The Iraqi audit dug into Mr. al Qattan's defense ministry office to find evidence of front companies, out-of-country banks and cash payments to arms dealers before anything was delivered. Sometimes, nothing was.

Today, Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity is trying to determine how much of the CPA-distributed cash was stolen or misspent, and how much went for legitimate projects. Mr. al Qattan could probably answer some of those questions, but he's now thought to be hiding in Warsaw.

I think you get the point.

I'm not going to try and find out how much of all this is true, and what is overstated. No doubt the lefie bloggers are reacting with glee, licking their chops at the prospect of "another BushCo scandal."

So be it.

What I am reminded of is the Truman Committee of World War II.

Some people seem to be under the impression that everything went just peachy during the Second World War, that since "we were all in it together" there was minimal corruption and mismanagement.

Au Contraire

Think about it, the government ramped up from spending a tiny amount on our military to spending billions. Do you really think that we could keep the unscrupulous out of the process?

I don't have time this morning do do a lot of research, but consider this description of how Truman saw the situation:

It became clear to Truman that while much of the country was sacrificing and patriotically doing all that it could for the war effort, special interests-- whether it be labor or big business-- was taking advantage of the country’s vulnerability and need. Compounding the problem was the inefficiency of government and the employment for $1 a year of yes men from big business that were nothing more than corporate pawns.

After reciting several tales of corruption and mismanagement, the account concludes that

It is hard to fathom that such things could have happened in the United States during WWII. Movies and pundits have us marvel at the WWII generation’s sacrifices. We conjure up images of soldiers dying for our country on foreign shores and belt-tightening deprivations on the homefront. Meanwhile aluminum prices were being manipulated! What affect did manipulating aluminum prices have on the war? Did it prevent proper and rapid armament? Did it prolong the war? President Truman noted that the squeeze on aluminum initially led to the manufacture of comparably inferior airplanes and armaments. These are only a few of the painful questions we must ask ourselves about the effect special interests had on WWII. It is sad and sick, but do it we must; it is part of the Truman Committee’s legacy left to us--it serves to show the sharp contrast of sacrifice versus greed and exploitation.

No I am not excusing mismanagement of funds meant to help Iraq. What I am saying is let's not have some people pretending that this is unique in American history, or some particular fault of Republicans or the Bush Administration.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 4, 2006

Iraq War Roundup

Much has been going on in Iraq recently. Too bad one has to go to the Internet to get the best analysis.

New Media vs The Old

Blogger Bill Roggio, formerly of The Third Rail and now of ThreatsWatch, went to Iraq to report on the war as an imbed with the US Marines. So far, so good. His reports from the front were, as usual, excellent. But then the Washington Post dedicided to do a hit piece on him. My report on the affair can be read here.

In Roggio's latest piece at ThreatsWatch, he says that with the wrapup of the Anbar campaign, we will see a change in the nature of our fight against the insurgency. Large-scale operations will give way to more reconstruction and civil works projects, coupled with small-scale police-type operations. Iraqi forces are playing a greater and greater role in the fight.

Cultural Issues Hinder Progress
Over at StrategyPage, the editors discuss some of the cultural problems that make progress slow. Iraqis accept a level of cronyism, tribalism, and outright corruption that shocks the Americans who work with them. But now, as the editors point out, we know this game all too well, and tell the Iraqi Army and IP that either they do the job or we will. Given that while these Iraqis appreciate what we do for them, they understandably want us out, this creates a strong motivation to perform. Attitudes like this towards corruption work both ways, however, as the insurgency has been decimated to the point where the editors conclude that "the tipping point may have already passed" in favor of American - and Iraqi - victory.

The Insurgency's Best Hope
The Mudville Gazette has an excellent, if long, review of the the War in Iraq throughout 2005. In the end, Greyhawk concludes that while the insurgency can still kill large numbers of people, "their political effectiveness is virtually nil", as was proven by three successful elections. Their only chance of success lies with allies in the west who "who won't abandon their cause." Be sure to check out the very interesting graphs in the post.

The Good Half
Speaking of graphs Gateway Pundit posts some in his 2005 Iraq War piece. His take is that the media got half the story right last year - the wrong half. What they missed was the good news. His graphs show 1) that Iraqi civilian and insurgent casualties have gone down each year from 2003 to 2005, 2) that daily fatalities trend downwards since 2003, and 3) that now matter what stats you belive about the current situation, Saddam killed far more Iraqis than are dying today. Our liberal pundit know-it-alls seem determined to miss this last one.

It's All About the Shia, Stupid!
StrategyPage
(a daily must-read) reminds us that "It's All About the Shia, Stupid!" in a Dec 22 post. The Arab world, and Islam worldwide, is overwhelmingly Sunni. Iran has been the only Shia-dominated and run country, historically. Sunnis and Shia have fought throughout the centuries, much as Roman Catholics and Protestants did. Saddam may have been a hated tyrant, but he was "our' tyrant, the Sunnis thought, against the hated Shia. "The Shia angle" is key, the editors say, because it is this fear that keeps the insurgency and al Qaeda alive. However, they conclude that fears of an Iran-domiated Iraq are unfounded, because Iraqi Shia are Arabs first and Shia second. Also, the United States is simply not going to let it happen.

Wanted: Law and Order
James Dunnigan, editor-in-chief of StrategyPage, discusses trends in the war in another article and condludes that "Looking at the Iraq operation as a process, and brushing aside the sensationalism and rhetoric, the trends are pretty clear." He sees a trend towards defeating the insurgency, as most Iraqis are determined to defeat it, but also one among Iraqis towards "irrational and self-destructive behavior". Basic law and order, Dunnigan says is "the main thing missing from about a third of Iraq." This is so because unlike in the west, where the government takes care of law and order, it is a local matter in places like Iraq. It is more of a "family affair", he says, something that tribal and clan leaders were responsible for. Divided loyalties are a big problem in the new Iraqi Army and Police. In the end, though, most Iraqi simply want an end to the violence. As such, Dunnigan hints (but maddeninly won't say directly) that the new government will likely crack down in harsh fashion.

Metrics to Judge By
Last November Victor Davis Hanson provided some metrics by which we can judge whether we're winning the War on Terror in general and in Iraq in particular:

Are the Iraqi security forces growing or shrinking? Are elections postponed or on schedule? Are Europe, Jordan, Lebanon, and others more or less sympathetic to a war against Islamic terrorism in Iraq? Are bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi more or less popular or secure after we removed Saddam? Is al Qaeda in a strengthened or weakened position? Is the Arab world more or less receptive to democracy in the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, and the West Bank? And is the United States more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack as we go into our fifth year since September 11?

Elections are on schedule, the countries are sympathetic to our cause if not our methods, al Qaeda is losing popularity and has been weakened, there has at least been moves toward democracy in the Middle East, and while we are always vulnerable that there has been no terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11 has to count as a success.

All That Has Gone Right
In another recent article, Hanson reminds us of how much has gone right in Iraq by relating how much the naysayers told us would go wrong:

Before we went in, analysts and opponents forecasted burning oil wells, millions of refugees streaming into Jordan and the Gulf kingdoms, with thousands of Americans killed just taking Baghdad alone. Middle Eastern potentates warned us of chemical rockets that would shower our troops in Kuwait. On the eve of the war, had anyone predicted that Saddam would be toppled in three weeks, and two-and-a-half-years later, 11 million Iraqis would turn out to vote in their third election — at a cost of some 2100 war dead — he would have been dismissed as unhinged

Indeed. Remember the "Battle of Baghdad" that was sure to take place? The one where the "elite" Republican Guard would turn the city into another Stalingrad (or Leningrad, depending on the talking head), that would keep American troops at bay for months? But the critics seem never to be held accountable for their bad predictions.

Conclusions

So the situation in Iraq is difficult, and much could still go wrong. However, it is important to note that the insurgency, while dangerous, is not in and of itself the main threat. They cannot take over the country, and people who think otherwise do not know what they are talking about. The dangers are more in the political realm, here in the United States and in Iraq. The wildcard is a nuclear Iran. So 2006 brings new hopes and new challenges.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 2, 2006

"Why We're There: We went into Iraq, and persist there now, for sound reasons"

There's a very nice reminder of why we went into Iraq, and why we're there, in the December 31 print edition of National Review(digital subscription required, but if you're not a subscriber, shame on you).

We on the right are guilty of letting the left frame the debate about Iraq. President Bush is in reaction mode, only recently going on the political offensive against his Democrat antagonists.

Look at how we argue; liberals howl about how Bush said there would be WMD and we found none. Conservatives retort that a president cannot ignore his intelligence chiefs. The left presists in its loony "Bush lied!" mantra, conservatives roll their eyes and make jokes about how the Democrats are now the part of Michael Moore. The left thinks the war unwinnable, the right counters with facts and logic.

To some extent this is understandable, after all, the examination of pre-war intelligence is necessary and right. But once again, we've allowed the left to set the agenda, and we do not hold the left accountable for their miscalls.

The latter will have to wait for another post. For now, let's turn to to the National Review article cited above.

Authors David B Rivkin Jr and Lee A Casey review the history of UN Security Council resolutions against Iraq from the Gulf War to 2003, and how the UN found Iraq in "material breach" of all of them. But, they conclude, at the end of the day

None of these justifications(for OIF) depended on the actual existence in Iraq of WMD stockpiles, and the use of military force was not, therefore, “illegal.”

In this connection, it should be emphasized that at no time was it the responsibility of the U.N. inspection teams, or the United States and its allies, to establish that Saddam Hussein retained a WMD capability. The onus of proving that he had fully disarmed was always on Saddam. This was the price of an armistice, and of keeping his odious regime in power following Iraq’s defeat in the first Gulf War. From a legal point of view, his failure to meet this burden fully justified military action.

If the police get a search warrant for your house on a reasonable suspicion that you have illegal narcotics, and you refuse them entry, they have the right to gain entry by armed force. If, upon inspection, it turns out you do not have any narcotics, it does not at all invalidate the initial search. Not a perfect analogy, but it works.

More to the point, as Rivkin and Lee stress, the terms of the 1991 cease-fire were that a) Saddam declare his WMD, and that b) it was his responsiblity to destroy them, and c) that it was his responsibility to provid proof that he had done so.

Saddam never complied with b or c. Yet this has been forgotten in today's debate.

No, WMD was not the Only Reason

We have also allowed the left to make the argument that WMD was the only reason we went into Iraq. Rivkin and Lee remind us of the other reasons that were made:

1) Saddam had proven himself to be an aggressive and unpredictable actor in a highly important and vulnerable area of the world

2) He had had WMD capabilities (including a mature nuclear-weapons program) in the past

3) He had already deployed and used WMD against both Iranians and Iraq’s own citizens

4) He had sheltered known terrorists and aided active terrorist organizations

5) He had never fully cooperated with the U.N. inspection teams. In other words, Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man behaving as if he had something to hide.

Continuing on this, they make the point that John McCain made at the 2004 Republican National Convention; the sanctions and no-fly zones had not created a "stable status quo", as so many assumed. Quite the contrary, it was all falling apart.

...the U.N. sanctions regime was crumbling. Indeed, by the end of Bill Clinton’s second term, Britain and the United States were the only permanent members of the Security Council who supported continuing (let alone tightening) the sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s government. Partly for commercial reasons, partly driven by reflexive anti-Americanism, partly because of Saddam’s Oil-for-Food bribes, and partly in simple diplomatic exhaustion, France, Russia, and China were eager to grant the regime in Baghdad a clean bill of health. And in any case, even if an all-out U.S.-led diplomatic effort could have resuscitated the sanctions policy for a time, it was fundamentally unsustainable for the long haul. Even the most targeted sanctions would have hurt individual Iraqis more than Saddam, whose allies had made adroit use of Iraqi suffering, some real and some exaggerated, to advance their agenda.

They also point out that for all their squawking about the need to keep the no-fly zones in place, neither France of Germany ever offered to help pay for them. The US and Britain bore their cost, which was about $1.5 billion per year.

Further, although this is not pointed out in the article, the sanctions were breeding resentment and anti-American sentiment throughout the Arab world. A bit of review is necessary here. The purpose behind the sanctions, and the "Oil for Food" program, was to provide Iraq with enough food, medicine, and general goods to keep it's people healthy and reasonably well off, but to also prevent Saddam from rearming. To make a long story short, Saddam stole money from the program, and connived with corrupt UN officials, both of which kept the Iraqi people hungry and without all the medicine a society needs. As always happens, it is the weaker members of society who suffer; the very young and the very old. By the late 90s it the criticism that the sanctions were "killing Iraqi babies" had some truth to it, even if it was Saddam who was indirectly doing the killing.

All of this lead to increasing sympathy for Iraq, and by extension Saddam, throughout the Arab world. Classical military/political philosphers like Machiavelli could have told us this would happen; that people will forget what caused the initial offense and fixate on long-term suffering. The threat that Saddam posed in 1991 was subverted to the immediate pictures on TV of suffering Iraqis.

Saddam Unleashed

Once the weakening of the sanction started, the legality of the no-fly zones would be questioned, say Rivkin and Lee. And I think they are right. It would not have been long before the entire thing fell apart to the point of being pointless. And once Saddam was free, does anyone doubt that he would reconstitute his programs, especally pursuing a get-out-of-jail-free nuclear weapon?

Rivkin and Lee belive that Saddam may in fact have been bluffing all along(or much of the way), much in the manner of Nikita Khrushchev in the late 1950s. The Soviet leader claimed that his factories were churing out ICBMs "like sausages out of a grinder." With no satellites in those days, and limied U2 reconnisance, we had no way of knowing the truth. When it came out later that they had few if any nuclear missiles of intercontinental range, we at last saw through the bluff.

It is unwise in the extreme to make a fast grab under one's jacket when confronted by a police officer. If you are shot, you have no one to blame but yourself. Likewise, if you threaten the United States (or any other country) with weapons you do not have, and we attack you, you have no one to blame but yourself.

But many on the left have forgotten all this. They are fixated on the failure to find WMD, our support of Saddam in his war with Iran (justified, read this), and treating the entire war on terror as if it should be a police action.

What about September 11?

The left would have us believe that President Bush said that Saddam was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept 11 2001. This is not the case. As Rivkin and Lee point out, what the administration did say was that Saddam had extensive ties to terrorism, which he did. Among other things, he provided sanctuary for Abu Abbas, the man who planned the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruize ship Achille Lauro and subsequent murder of Leon Klinghoffer, and Abu Nidal, who planned the 1985 attacks on El Al airline ticket counters in 1985 in Rome and Vienna. It has also been widely reported that Saddam paid $25,000 each to families of Palestinian suicide bombers. His support of terror has been amply documented by many people.

But what worried the administration, and anyone else who thought about it, was not whether Iraq was behind Sept 11 or not. What was important was that the attacks changed our entire perception of the threat from Iraq and other countries.

...September 11 fundamentally shifted our strategic calculus of what constitutes a tolerable threat level. The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and potentially the U.S. Capitol or White House dramatized the extent of American vulnerability and the degree to which America’s will had been underestimated by its enemies. Osama bin Laden considered the United States to be a “weak horse” doubtless in part because Saddam had survived a decade despite what he must have taken to be America’s best efforts at stopping him. In any case, once al-Qaeda showed that entities in the Middle East could successfully attack the American homeland, the danger of allowing Saddam to endure was substantially magnified. Regime change in Baghdad had been an avowed American policy since the Clinton administration, but its execution gained urgency after September 11, which dramatically altered our geopolitical paradigm and provided a powerful justification for acting immediately....

Saddam's regime was not going away anytime soon. His sons, Uday and Qusay, were in their late 30s in 2003, and one of them (probably Qusay) would undoubtably take power when Saddam died. The idea that we could contain Iraq for 40+ years is not believeable.

Consequences of Defeat

The consequences of defeat in Iraq are unacceptable. Even if the jihadists did not seize total power in Iraq, they would be emboldened, and would spread their terror to other Arab/Muslim countries first. The governments of these countries would react by cancelling democratic reforms and instituting harsh repressive measures. It should go without saying that US prestige would be severely damaged, and one wonders at times if this isn't just what the left wants. Perhaps it is a return to Carterism that drives the extremists who have taken over the Democrat party.

Today's paper brings news of more car bombs in Baghdad, sobering news, certainly. The terrorists in Iraq will continue their attacks for some time. Years perhaps, certainly months. Yet just as the war was as good as over for the Germanys with the successful landing at Normandy, if current trends continue the war is lost for the jihadists.

The administration was caught asleap during much of 2005, and allowed the critics to get the upper hand. They are fighting back now, and hopefully it is not too late. They ought to take a page out of this excellent article in National Review for their next broadside.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005

Election Analysis by MEMRI

MEMRI, or Middle East Media Research Institute, is one of the most valuable organizations around. Their main task is translating news stories that appear in the Arab press into English and other Western languages, and then disseminating them worldwide. The idea is that in order to change that part of the world you need to understand it first.

As such, I highly suggest you at least bookmark their site, if not get on their mailing list.

While the purpose of today's post is their recent analysis of the elections in Iraq, we'll start out with a few of their recent stories about articles that have appeared in the Arab press:

Hizbullah Al-Manar TV’s Children's Claymation Special: Jews Turn Into Apes and Pigs, are Annihilated and Cast Into the Sea

David Duke Visits Syria In Support of Bashar al-Assad

Columnist for Egyptian Government Daily: The Nazis Did Not Massacre the Jews

Newly-Released Video of Al-Qaeda's Deputy Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's Interview to Al-Sahab TV

Saudi Al-Qaeda Terrorists Recount Their Experiences in Afghanistan on Saudi TV and Arab Channels

So as you can see, MEMRI is a great source of information regarding the Arab world. Unfortunately, much of that news is quite depressing. On the up side, however, we have to start reforming the Middle East somewhere, and as fate would have it Iraq is the place. It will take much time, but I am absolutely convinced that if we stick it out, in the decades to come we can transform the entire region for the better.


Democracy in Iraq

As I mentioned, in addition to translating news stories, MEMRI provides it's own analysis. Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli, Senior Analyist at MEMRI, has a particularly insightful and concise view of the recent elections in Iraq in a piece titled "The Elections in Iraq — The Roots for Democracy"

It's worth hoping over to read the entire article, but here are a few of Dr Raphaeli's observations:

There were two parliamentary elections in Iraq in 2005- the first on January 30 and the second on December 15. There were, however, significant differences between the two:

1. Participation - The first election was boycotted by the Sunnis. Although self-imposed, the boycott reflected somewhat negatively on the legitimacy of the election and its outcome. In the second election, there was overwhelming Sunni participation with a view of playing a significant role in the country's political process. In the AnbarProvince, the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency, 88 percent of the eligible voters exercised their right to vote. Contrary to previous Sunni position, Dr. Adnan al-Duleimi, a key leader in the Sunni community, stated that his group will enter into alliance with anyone who is committed to the integrity of Iraq.

2. Security - In the first election, people voted under the cloud of the threat that "blood would flow in the streets." In the second election, the Sunni insurgents held their fire. Security was maintained through curfews, restrictions on the movement of non-authorized vehicles, closure of borders with neighboring states and an effective cordon sanitaire around the polling stations established by the Iraqi security forces, aided unobtrusively by the U.S. military.

3. Methodology - In the January election, Iraq was treated as a single constituency with the votes cast distributed among the different slates on a strictly proportional representation method. In the December elections, there was a more complex system with the 275 contested seats divided into two categories. The largest category of 230 seats were divided among the 18 governorates with Baghdad receiving the largest share of 59 seats and al-Muthana Province, in the south, with the smallest share of 5 seats.

The remaining 45 seats, known as the compensatory seats, will be divided according to a complicated mathematical formula. [4] The compensatory seats would help small parties or even individual candidates who may not receive enough votes to qualify for a seat in one governorate to be elected with the help of votes cast in for them in the other governorates or overseas.

4. Duration of Parliament - The parliament elected in January was a transitional one entrusted with the responsibility of promulgating a new constitution with its provisions for a general election. The December election has elected a parliament for a term of four years operating in a fully sovereign Iraq.

5. Scope of Voting - In the first election, the voters cast two ballots, one for the parliament and one of the Council of the Governorate where they live. In the Kurdish region there was a third ballot for the Kurdish parliament. In the December election there was one ballot for electing a new parliament.

The Key Concerns of the Iraqi Voters

Most commentators agree on a number of key concerns for the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi voters. These include:

(a) the restoration of security;

(b) the building of the foundations of a modern state with functioning services-electricity, water, health and petrol;

(c) the ending of corruption;

(d) the creation of employment opportunities; and

(e) the exiting of the multinational forces.

...

Political configuration after the Election

Even when the results are made public, it is a safe assumption that four or five key political groups in the new parliament will negotiate extensively over the future government's agenda and the distribution of its portfolios, particularly those commonly referred to as the sovereign ministries, among the winners. After the previous election in January, it took the two leading coalition partners three months to form the current government and that only after the U.S. president called on the party leaders to conclude their bargaining.

The Sunnis will enter the new parliament with renewed political vigor and with determination to seek far-reaching constitutional and political concessions. The willingness of the other partners to make the concessions will be inextricably tied to the capacity of the Sunnis to deliver on the issue of the cessation of the insurgency.

There is a common agreement, however, that unless the Sunnis join the political process the stability of the country and indeed the future of democracy will be in jeopardy. The United States will no doubt use its good offices to insure that concessions are made by everyone to bring the Sunnis in full force into the next Government of Iraq as part of an exit strategy of the multi-national forces.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

History Lesson

The Washington Times has a "History Lessons" section on their editorial page that has become a must-read. From today's edition:

From "Why the U.S. bombed," The Washington Times, Oct. 16, 1998, by National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger:

"Following the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States launched a missile strike against a factory in Khartoum, Sudan, as well as against terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Since then, some critics have suggested that we acted precipitously when we struck the Sudanese Al Shifa plant. But, given what we knew, to not have acted against that facility would have been the height of irresponsibility.

"First, we knew that the Osama bin Laden terrorist organization was bent on large-scale violence against Americans... And we had information that bin Laden has been seeking chemical weapons to use in his terrorist acts.

"Second, we had physical evidence indicating that Al Shifa was the state of chemical weapons activity... We found the presence of EMPTA, a chemical essential for making deadly VX nerve gas...

"Other products were made at Al Shifa. But we have seen such dual-use plants before -- in Iraq. And, indeed, we have information that Iraq has assisted in chemical weapons activity in Sudan.

"Third, we had information linking bin Laden to the Sudanese regime and the Al Shifa plant. Bin Laden lived in Sudan ... until he was expelled under international pressure. He left behind associates and facilities and has maintained a close relationship with the government...

"To those who assert we did not act appropriately, I would ask: With information that bin Laden had attacked Americans before and planned to do so again, that he was seeking chemical weapons to use in future attacks, that he was cooperating with the government of Sudan in those efforts, and that Sudan's Al Shifa plant was linked both to bin Laden and chemical weapons, didn't the United States government have a responsibility to the American people to counter this threat? I believe the unequivocal answer is yes."

I recall clearly when this happened, and in my opinion this incident does not get the attention it deserves.

Consider what happened:

- President Clinton received intelligence that a plant in Sudan was producing chemical weapons.

- The President acted on that intelligence by having our military destroy the plant.

- Later it was discovered that the intelligence was faulty and that the plant was not producing chemical weapons.

Anyone beside me see an analogy here?

My Position on President Clinton

I did not vote for Bill Clinton in either 1992 or 1996. I supported his impeachment and removal from office for lying under oath. I disageed with many of his policies.

But in this and other policies toward Iraq I supported him. At the time I thought that he did the right thing by having the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan destroyed. Yes, like many other conservatives I too wondered if maybe it wasn't meant to divert attention from scandals at home. I won't deny that. But I said at the time that in the end I thought he did the right thing.

And he did. In fairness to President Clinton, he is not trained in intelligence matters. He's a smart guy, I'm sure he asked tough questions, but what the intel people told him made sense. I'd have done the same thing.

At the time he was criticized once it was discovered that the intelligence was faulty, but it was nowhere near the level of attack that has been leveled at President Bush. To be sure, a ground invasion is a much more serious affair than letting loose a few cruize missiles. But by the same token, the intelligence saying that Iraq had quantities of WMD was a lot stronger than the intel on Sudan.

In the end it's pretty simple: Before April of 2003 everyone who mattered thought that Iraq had quantities of WMD, and had good reason for thinking so. Iraq was a threat, and the sanctions were falling apart. President Bush was presented with this information, and did what any prudent person would have done; taken military action to end the threat. He did, and the world is better off for it, WMD or no.

Posted by Tom at 9:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2005

The Shift from "Kinetic" to "Non-Kinetic" Operations

I'm convinced that far too many people just read and hear the daily news stories about Iraq and assume that "it's just more of the same." Another day, another IED, another American casualty. A few stories here and there about new Iraqi Army units, maybe something about a military operation by our forces, but it all becomes blurry to many folks

And in a war without traditional front lines, it's easy to be lazy and take that attitude. After all, there are no neat maps in the newspapers like there were during World War II, where they could show exactly how much progress we were making - or not.

In this war it's more difficult. You have to pay attention, read and discern. And it's taken me some time to find the best sources of information.

One of them is Bill Roggio, a blogger currently in Iraq imbedded with the US Marines. And in a few of his recent posts he talks about the switch our forces have made from "Kinetic to Non-Kinetic" operations. Here's how he describes it:

If you have a discussion with military officers in Western Anbar Province about the current and future status of military operations in the region, invariably the conversation will lead you to the reconstruction efforts of the Coalition. The phrases “switching from kinetic to non-kinetic operations” or “moving from kinetic operations to reconstruction” are often voiced.

Just the other day while at Al Asad Air base, I joined a group of senior staff officers of Regimental Combat Team – 2 in mid conversation at dinner, and the topic of the discussion was reconstruction efforts in a small strategic city in Anbar. Their concerns were the state of a water treatment plant, the status of schools and assisting in rebuilding them, electric power generation, and other mundane municipal issues. While these topics may seem less than glamorous to military officers, they astutely recognize their importance in countering the insurgency.

Major Tom Shoemake, the commander of the Civil Affairs Team in Hit, explains the mission, “Civil Military Operations is just another form of counterinsurgency warfare. Its predominantly a non-kinetic counterinsurgency tool. It takes place after the kinetic operations complete. After the fighting stops, you are not going through neighborhoods busting down doors, now you have to go in security and stabilization mode, you have to execute Civil Military Operations, you’ve got to get the power back on, drinking water is available, the essential services people need are there, the businesses are open. Its a whole different skill set.”

This is impressive. For some time now it has become clear that our forces are doing things that were unthinkable in previous ages. There is no more "firebreak" between civil affairs/engineering units and fighting units. Now they do everything.

In another post Roggio interviews Major General Richard A Huck, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division in Anbar Province. Again, the issue of the transition from kinetic to non-kinetic operations came up:

Major General Huck illustrates the level of difficulty in transitioning from hot operations to classic low level insurgency warfare; “The kinetic piece is checkers, the stabilization and reconstruction piece is chess… We are in what is called phase four [of the counterinsurgency operations], stabilization and security is the hardest part.” Colonel Stephen Davis has described the reconstruction phase as “playing chess on a fourteen level board.” Both state the Marines, soldiers, airmen and navy personnel in their command are well prepared to deal with this transition.

From what I have seen while embedding at the platoon level in Western Anbar and Ramadi, they are right. The leadership at the junior officer and Non-Commissioned Officer level are well in tune with the importance of fighting a low level insurgency in Iraq. The “Strategic Corporal” is alive, well and operating in Iraq, and executing a mission outside of the range of combat operations, and venturing into the realm of Civil-Military Operations.

So anyone who tries to tell you that we're not making progress, and that every day in Iraq is more of the same, just doesn't know what they're talking about. Our troopers are winning, and they know what they're doing.

Asked about an immediate pull out, Gen Huck responded

“Are you kidding me? We are getting closer to where we want to be, why would we want to withdraw now? These tigers just took five towns on the western Euphrates, why would we want to leave?”

Exactly. It would be foolish to pull out just when we're well on the path to achiving our goals. Yes it will be difficult, and there will be setbacks, but if we have patience we can see this thing though to victory.

Posted by Tom at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iraqis Taking Action

By now, anyone who follows what is going on in Iraq is up to speed on the incredible progress the Iraqi Army is making in fighting more and more of the war on their own.

But how about Iraqi citizens? We occasionally hear that our intel guys are getting more tips, and I'm sure they are.

But in this story, you'll see what some ordinary Iraqi citizens did who got tired of the terrorists in their midst

Citizens Turn Over 'Butcher of Ramadi' to Iraqi, U. S. Troops American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2005 ˆ The terrorist known as "the Butcher of Ramadi" was detained today, turned in by local citizens in the provincial capital of Iraq's Anbar province, U. S. military officials in Iraq reported. Amir Khalaf Fanus -- listed third on a "high-value individuals" list of terrorists wanted by the 28th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team -- was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping. Ramadi citizens brought him to an Iraqi and U. S. forces military base in Ramadi, where he was taken into custody. Fanus was well known for his crimes against the local populace. He is the highest-ranking al Qaeda in Iraq member to be turned in to Iraqi and U. S. officials by local citizens. His capture is another indication that the local citizens tire of the terrorists' presence within their community, Multinational Force Iraq officials said, adding that Iraqi and U. S. forces have witnessed increasing signs of citizens fighting the terrorists in Ramadi as the Dec. 15 national elections draw near. Officials said 1,200 more Iraqi soldiers recently have been posted in Ramadi. About 1,100 Iraqi special police commandos and a mechanized Iraqi army company completed their planned movement into the city. This plan has Iraqi security forces assuming more of the security responsibilities from the U. S. forces, officials said. As in other locations, as security improves, Iraqi police also will be introduced gradually. (From a Multinational Force Iraq news release)

Posted by Tom at 10:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Lieberman Gets it Right

If you haven't read Senator Joe Liebermans' editorial in the Wall Street Journal, do so now. He just got back from Iraq, and has a lot to say. Here's the critical part:


Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.

Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan--Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.

These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future--and why the American people should be, too.

Either one of two things will happen. Either this will encourage other reasonable Democrats to come out of hiding, and they can begin the process of taking back their party from the extremists who have seized control, or Lieberman will be ostracized in the manner of Zell Miller.

Posted by Tom at 10:18 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

A Marine Reports - We're Winning

In today's Washington Times there is a very long report from a Marine in Iraq. Here's the introduction:

Editor's note: There's nothing like word from the field to know what works, what doesn't and how the enemy's tactics are affecting our soldiers in battle. Below is one U.S. Marine's take on those questions, verified and relayed to us through his father, a retired Marine. We've withheld the Marine's name and his father's to spare them the inevitable political or institutional flap. Among the most interesting tidbits: Our Marine reports that servicemen are shocked at negative press coverage of the war, and they believe the United States is winning decisively -- but that the number of troops in the field should be bolstered. On equipment, our Marine thinks the older, battle-tested parts of the U.S. arsenal are the most useful equipment in the fight against insurgents. M-16s aren't much good, but "Ma Deuce" is, and the .45 pistol is highly coveted. Body armor has plusses and minuses

The report itself was written by the father, who is relating what his son told him while on leave recently.

I'm not going to comment much on the report, because it speaks for itself. As the Times notes, much of it concerns weaponry, both ours and theirs. He also discusses the "bad guy's" tactics, which is also interesting.

But it's the last few paragraphs that everyone should read:

The Iraqis(on our side) are a mixed bag. Some fight well, others aren't worth a s***.

Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawi's use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake.

Many Iraqis were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intelligence because the Iraqis are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The Kurds are solidly pro-American and fearless fighters.

According to [name redacted], morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see s*** like "Are we losing in Iraq?" on television and the print media.

For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line, though, and they all say this: There are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just cannot stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally -- with, of course, permanent U.S. bases there.

I can't say how many articles I've read about returning soldiers who comment "I thought we were winning until I came home and saw the news". I know my readers have also.

I'm going to address the issue of "more troops" in another post, because it's fairly complicated.

Posted by Tom at 9:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 8, 2005

More Progress in Iraq

Yesterday I reported on progress in Iraq, citing two articles posted on StrategyPage. Looks like Bill Roggio saw them also and agrees with me.

The political war against the Sunni-led insurgency proceeds in conjunction with military operations. Strategy Page details how successful military operations help feed the success on the political front. Intelligence on the Sunni leadership is gained via the death or capture of terrorists and insurgents, or suspected insurgents, which in turn is used to identify the players in the insurgency. A picture of the insurgency develops over time, and the Coalition acts by either enticing the leaders to join the political process, or kill them if required.

See, I told you so.

Roggio, one of the most prolific and comprehensive war bloggers, is traveling to Iraq shortly, and will "imbed" with the Marines of Regimental Combat Team – 2 in the Anbar Province. Roggio is perhaps best known for his day-to-day coverage of military operations in Iraq, always with an eye to the larger picture. Because this is a private project that requires much funding, if you can spare a few dollars, please go to his website and contribute.

There is much other good news to report about Iraq also.

Marc at USS Neverdock cites several articles that tell of vast improvements in security on the road from Baghdad to the city airport. You'll also want to check out the comments. Predictably, the trolls on his side can't stand the idea that we might be making progress.

National Review, also perhaps fed up with the coverage of the war by the MSM, has a new "good news" section on their website. Here are a few of the articles that have appreared there recently:


There Is Progress: Where the success is in Iraq
Professor Mackubin Owens points out a number of areas where we're making progress, from the new constitution to the Iraqi army.

Soccer Victories: This is what we’re about If you've ever wondered about whether sending something as simple as a soccer ball to our troops can make a difference, wonder no more. The generosity of Americans is helping us win. We all have a part to play in this war.

Winning, One Student at a Time: American and Iraqi patriots at work in Iraq A moving story about Iraqis and Americans are working to rebuild the country despite threats, some of which do result in patriots being killed.

“The Right Place at the Right Time” A Navy lieutenant on serving in Iraq Michael Fumento, imbedded with the Marines in Falujah last May, writes about progress in that city.

Posted by Tom at 7:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 7, 2005

Progress In Iraq

Several times now I've said that we're winning in Iraq.

We're Winning
See I Told You So
War Update
Iraq War Update
Winds of War: Progressing in Iraq
How We're going to Win
We're Winning II
Al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi

And there are probalby more that I just can't find but you get the point.

Everyone knows that the Sunnis are behind the insurgency. If not for their support it would have withered long ago. The invaluable StrategyPage believes that this support will not last much longer:

For the last two years, the big mystery in Iraq, at least among Iraqis and American intelligence officer, was how long will the Sunni Arabs continue to fund and support attacks on the Iraqi government. The Sunni Arabs could have cut a deal with the Kurds and Shia Arabs in 2003, but instead, most decided to stick with the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein, and try to regain control of the country via terrorism and force. There was plenty of money for this effort. Saddam and his Sunni Arab cronies had stolen billions, and a lot of it was gotten out of the country before the invasion, and after that, there were still millions hidden away in Sunni Arab communities. With that money, you could hire lots of Sunni Arabs, including former secret policemen, Republican Guard soldiers, and assorted bad guys, to go after the Americans, and any new Iraqi government officials, or Iraqis that supported the new government.

How will this this cycle of money be stopped? Simple, in a way; you don't go after the money, but the money handlers:

It’s not that the bad guys are running out of money, or people willing to die for a few hundred bucks. What the terrorists are running out of is Sunni Arab leaders willing to continue tolerating the violence. Each month, a few more neighborhoods shift sides, becoming an unwelcome place for terrorists, and more tolerant of Iraqi soldiers and police. American intelligence and the Iraqi government each have lists of the key Sunni Arab tribal, religious and business leaders they need to convert or, in a few cases, kill, in order to end the Sunni Arab violence. Each month, especially since the January elections (that elected the interim government), one percent, or a few percent, of the people on that list, move over to the government side. Another few percent become potential converts. By the end of the year, over half these Sunni Arab big shots will be out of the terrorism business.

More American Casualties

"But aren't we losing more Americans?" You will hear this from the naysayers. One obvious response is to point out the fallacy of linear modes of thinking when it comes to warfare. Wherever did we get the notion that casualties are supposed to decrease as the war progresses? Must we remind them that the two battles that cost the most American lives in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge and Okinawa, came only months before the end of the war (in their respective theaters)?

All this is true. But again we turn to StrategyPage for details on our current conflict:

The fighting in Iraq is changing, as the Sunni Arab homeland (central and western Iraq) are more aggressively patrolled by American and Iraqi forces. This has put more small U.S. bases in Sunni Arab neighborhoods, and made it more dangerous for the 75,000 civilian contractors working for the American military.

More agressive patrolling means more casualties. We could "hunker down", but then we'd lose. A terrible thing to contemplate, really, that one must be agressive and lose good people to win. But there it is.

Why don't we know all this? Well, some of it is due to incompetent reporting, but that's too easy an answer. StrategyPage again throws some light upon the matter:

First, the military prefers discussions of their strategy and tactics stay out of the news (where the enemy can see it.) The enemy in Iraq often makes mistakes, employing ineffective tactics and the like. Because the communications between the various anti-government groups in Iraq is improvised, it takes a while for everyone to find out that some great new roadside bomb design, or other combat tactic no longer works. The reason is usually that the American and Iraqi troops have come up with a new gadget or tactic. The American and Iraqi troops have excellent communications, and can distribute information much more rapidly and completely than the terrorist and anti-government groups can. The good guys want to work their advantage as long as possible.

Another reason for not reporting military news is that it is often complex news, and it is often positive (for the Americans and Iraqis) news. These are two no-nos in the news business. Keep it simple, keep it negative, and you will grab the most eyeballs. The news business is a business, and what's best for business is bad news, the more negative, simple and sensational the better. That's why spectacular disasters always make the news. On a slow news day, you can keep people interested by reporting automobile accidents. There are many of them, most people can relate to such incidents, and some of them, each day, are spectacular.

There's another factor; the Three Year Rule. In all of America's wars, popular support for the war effort sharply declined after three years. Even though the government said, from late September, 2001 on, that the war on terror would be a long one, this has not changed the impact of the Three Year War. If you can't get it over with within three years, you are going to face more and more voter opposition to the war effort. Go back and look at the history of all of America's long (over three years) wars and you will see this play out.

Almost all Americans today believe that the Revolution, Civil War(from the North's standpoint) and World War II were worth fighting. And we have this vision of everyone linking arms and marching off to fight some enemy that everyone agreed was evil.

Were that it was the case in reality.

As just about any history book will tell you, only 1/3 of the colonists wanted independence from Great Britain. A full third were loyalysts, and the last third didn't care. Glad we didn't take a poll then, huh?

Today everyone thinks that it was right to fight the Civil War (again, from the North's perspective) in order to end slavery. I do. What we forget is that the Lincoln didn't fight it to end slavery (at least not at first) but to keep the Union together. And many or most Union soldiers certainly weren't fighting to end slavery.

And the war certainly became unpopular quickly, once everyone saw that it wasn't going to be the quick victory they had anticipated. In fact it became so unpopular that neither army could fill it's ranks and had to resort to conscription. Anti-war sentiment in the North became so fierce that in the presidential election of 1864 the Democrats ran on an "end the war" platform. Lincoln was convinced he was going to lose the election until a few timely victories turned the tide of public opinion.

And World War II? Well, it was popular once we got involved. But before December 7 we wanted nothing to do with it. We had come to believe that our involvement in WWI was a mistake, and we blamed our entry on arms manufacturers (google for Nye Commission). Polls showed that 80-90% of Americans didn't want to aid Britain in her fight against Nazism. Fortunately FDR had the foresight to ignore the polls and help Britain through Lend-Lease and fighting what amounted to a secret war in the Atlantic against German U-Boats (check this out if you don't believe me). Even after Pearl Harbor, Americans wanted to go after Japan, not Germany. The people were dismayed and resistant to Roosevent's "Germany First" strategy. All this is just about unbelievable today, but there it is.

So we just have to hang in there and eventually we'll have this thing one. Fifty years from now they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Posted by Tom at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi

In We're Winning II: What the Other Side Thinks, I mentioned a letter that American intelligence had intercepted, sent by Usama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq. At the time, the actual letter had not been released, so I depending on a Washington Post account of how a "senior administration official" described the letter to the Post reporter.

Earlier today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the text of the letter. You can find it here in both English and Arabic.

Several things seem apparent from my read of the letter

1) Just as the Post reported, the goals of Al Quada are to first "Expel the Americans from Iraq," second, to "Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq". Third, "Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq." Last but not least, the "the clash with Israel" will occur.


2) They recognize that in order to achieve their goals they must win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people: "The strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy...is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq."


3) Ayman al-Zawahiri seems to think that the United States is on the verge of leaving Iraq. "Things may develop faster than we imagine", he says, and they goes on to draw a parallel to Vietnam.

The writer is either delusional, is so locked into an ideology he can't see reality, is watching too much CNN (joke alert there, liberal readers), or desperately trying to encourage al-Zarqawi, who he fears may becomming disillusioned.


4) In perhaps the most revealing part of the entire letter, al-Zawahiri fears that they are losing the battle:

I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma.

According to Wikopedia, Umma is defined as "the entire population of Muslims", and that "Umma is often cited by Muslim extremists as the path or the reason they engage in their struggle", where in the end "everyone converts or is converted to Islam."


5)The reason why they fear they are losing in the media becomes apparent in another part of the letter, where al-Zawahiri recognizes that many or most Muslims abhor their attacks on civilians:

>Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable - also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.

Although the language is couched in the best diplomat-speak, the true meaning is clear; we've got a public-relations problem among Muslims, who as supposed to be their supporters. Worse, they have no idea how to solve it. al-Zawahiri ends up blaming it on "the malicious, perfidious, and fallacious campaign by the deceptive and fabricated media." In other words, "forget the people, they don't 'get it'"


6) Al Qaeda sees the Shia as heretics, or as they put it, as "People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the Twelve'er school of Shiism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad { of heresy in a campaign against Islam...." However, they also recognize that their attacks on ordinary Shia civilians are creating problems. Al-Zawahiri warns al-Zarqawi that "Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia", and that this really becomes a problem when mosques are attacked. Zawahiri raises many questions in the letter, but does not come to any real conclusions on the matter. He ends by simply warning Zarquai not to let his "eyes lose sight of the target", and that he is too far from the scene of battle to have all the facts.

7) The letter concludes with most of the flowery rhetoric we've seen in past writings, but also with a warning:

Please take every caution in the meetings, especially when someone claims to carry an important letter or contributions. It was in this way that they arrested Khalid Sheikh. Likewise, please, if you want to meet one of your assistants, I hope that you don't meet him in a public place or in a place that is not known to you. I hope that you would meet him in a secure place, not the place of your residence.

In other words, "the Americans have very good intelligence."


Concluding Thoughts

Strange, then, this war. we who support our efforts blame our media for getting it wrong, and so does Al-Qaeda. We think that our media is putting a negative spin on the news, they think it's virtually an arm of the US government. Either way, apparently Al-Jazeera isn't doing a good enough job.

Further, we need to take care and not simply consult our own sources of media when trying to reach conclusions about this war. I should do more of this myself, the only other Al Qaeda document I wrote about was Osama bin Laden's 1996 Fatwa.


Other Analysis

John Hinderaker of Power Line takes down the NYT's editorial on the letter and provides his own analysis. Hinderaker concludes that

Zawahiri's letter is a valuable document. It lays out al Qaeda's strategy for victory in Iraq and the world. It demonstrates al Qaeda's growing unpopularity, its weakness and its vulnerability to American intelligence. And it protests feebly against al Qaeda's descent into unalloyed nihilism and sadism--the ultimate destination of all totalitarian creeds. The Times says that it doesn't know whether Zarqawi received Zawahiri's letter or not, but it doesn't matter. If Zarqawi got it--or if he read it in the newspaper--he tossed it into the wastebasket.

Austin Bay, as usual, has important insights: "Strategic Analysis and Discussion, and "Zarqawi's Losing Strategy"(which I linked to yesterday). Money quote:

Zarqawi's murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to Zarqawi. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing.

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.

If you're not reading Bill Roggio you simply don't know what's going on. His coverage of the ground campaigns in Iraq simply cannot be found elsewhere. Roggio is cautiously optimistic:

Today's news of a compromise over the constitution must come as chilling news for al Qaeda high command...This constitutional compromise can drive a stake through the heart of al Qaeda's "hearts and minds" approach in Iraq. Al Qaeda's short-term goals of establishing a base of operations in Iraq and striking out at the greater Middle East may have to be pushed back to a mid or long term goal.


Lastly, CENTCOM weighs in on their website, providing "official" commentary and analysis.

Update

Apparently some people have started to speculate that the letter is a fake. Andrew McCarthy, writing on NRO, doesn't think so, and offers five reasons why:

First, the letter is dated July 9, but we don’t when it was intercepted. For obvious intelligence reasons, there is always a delay between interception and public release — as there was when a letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden was intercepted in early 2004.

Second, al Qaeda has been collaborating with Shiites (such as Hezbollah) for over a decade, and — as Zawahiri stressed to Zarqawi — has reason to fear a backlash from Shiite Iran if it overdoes the sectarian violence because the mullahs are harboring scores of high-ranking al Qaeda members (probably including one of bin Laden’s sons).

Third, Zarqawi has always gone his own way and often had uneasy relations with al Qaeda’s hierarchy. They embraced him because he is ruthless and effective, not because they are crazy about him. Moreover, he has long had his own relationships with Iran and Hezbollah, and thus has his own ideas (which may differ much from Zawahiri’s) about how far he can go against the Shia without risking Iranian reprisals. (The Iranians may not like the anti-Shiite terrorism, but they will abide it to the extent its effect is to cause problems for the American occupation, which is militant Islam’s goal.) Plus, Zawahiri acknowledged in the letter that Zarqawi was on the ground in Iraq while he was not, and thus Zarqawi knows the situation best.

Fourth, while al Qaeda’s leadership is on the run (and thus not easy to send a check to), worldwide jihad fundraising is pouring into the site of the great battle, Iraq — where it is undoubtedly being pooled with piles of Oil-for-Food money. It should thus come as no surprise that Zarqawi’s circumstances allow him to dispense funds while Zawahiri’s are desperate.

Finally, the ostensibly strange “send greetings to Zarqawi” is easily explained. The substance of the 6,000-word letter leaves no doubt that Zarqawi was the intended recipient. But the letter ends by telling the unnamed addressee to say "Hello" to Zarqawi in Fallujah. This plainly is misdirection. Zawahiri probably does not know where Zarqawi is, and was plainly trying to confuse anyone who might intercept the letter. Plus, to lock onto Lawrence’s theory for a moment, if someone was trying to forge a letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi in order to help the Bush administration (Lawrence’s transparent bottom line) why would that someone sow doubt about whether the letter was really intended for Zarqawi in the first place? That would defeat the purpose of the purported fraud.

Posted by Tom at 8:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

We're Winning II: What the Other Side Thinks

If all you do is read the headlines of the daily paper and catch the TV news all you get is "bomb of the day" coverage. You may get real analysis if you delve a bit deeper, but it still leaves something out:

What is the other side thinking?

We recently had reason to find out in letter from Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, to Abu Musab Zarqawi, Al Qaeda leader in Iraq. The letter was captured in Iraq, but administration officials would not give details.

The story was first published in the Washington Post, although I first read about it on the invaluable blog Belmont Club

While the text of the letter itself was not released, we learn enough to gain some valuable insights into how Al Qaeda thinks the war in Iraq is going, and what their goals and objectives are.

From the Washington Post comes a description of the letter, and a clear and concise list of Al Qaeda's objectives:

First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant -- a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel.

U.S. officials say they were struck by the letter's emphasis on the centrality of Iraq to al Qaeda's long-term mission. One of the two excerpts provided by officials quotes Zawahiri, a former doctor from Egypt, telling his Jordanian-born ally, "I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam's history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."

But bin Laden's deputy also purportedly makes clear that the war would not end with an American withdrawal and that anything other than religious rule in Iraq would be dangerous.

"And it is that the Mujaheddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us," the letter reportedly says.

In one indication of tensions between the al Qaeda leadership and its Iraqi division, U.S. officials said, Zawahiri writes about the need to maintain popular support. He is critical of Shiite Muslims and says a clash between the Sunni-dominated movement and the Shiite sect is inevitable, officials said, but he rebukes the leader of Iraq's insurgency for its brutal tactics -- noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading, officials said.

Wretchard, author of Belmont Club, concludes from this that

Implicit within Zawarhiri's message is an admission that the insurgency is headed for defeat unless it changes it's policies and thereby its fortunes. Al Qaeda must have viewed with mounting alarm the increasing numbers of Iraqi troops that the US can field against them. The campaigns against the Euphrates and Tigris lines and the seize and hold operations now in progress must be hurting them. Therefore, despite their theological antipathy for the Shi'ites it must have occurred to them that their car bombs, beheadings, outrages and gratuitous murders -- all dutifully reported by a media thinking it might chill American resolve -- were working against them; this brutality was driving the Shia and the Kurds into American arms. And now Zawahiri admits this policy may be leading to their defeat.

Austin Bay concurs that "Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing." Further, Bay reminds us,

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.

Much to their dismay, we are not leaving Iraq as they hoped we would. We may or may not have as many troops as we need, we may or may not have always pursued the correct strategy, but as far as Al Qaeda is concerned, we are still there.

And just in case anyone doubted it, yes they really do want to establish an old-time caliphate throughout the Middle East, and destroy the state of Israel.

Another Message of Desperation?

This morning MEMRI posted a message by The Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), which they describe as "an Islamist organization that posts online messages, usually associated with Al-Qaeda." The GIMF message was originally posted August 29, 2005, "on various Islamist forums" and is described as "a document dealing with the warfare policy of Al-Qaeda in Iraq."

The document describes how victory will be achieved:

The American forces will be forced to withdraw when the fatalities among their soldiers increase. They are, [in fact], numerous [even today], but the American media insists on distorting [the numbers].

It should be noted that Colin Powell's book, which deals with the mistakes made by the U.S. in the Vietnam War, explicitly states that one of the mistakes was distorting the number of American fatalities, [a measure] that was taken, he says, in order to preserve the morale of the American forces and to avoid an [undesirable] reaction among the American people.

What they are saying is that the American government and media are lying about the number of American casualties. I've never seen any credible evidence of this. If our government was lying, the media would have picked up on it by now. That the terrorists do not distinguish between our government and media is characteristic of totalitarian ideologies.

This message tells me that Al Qaeda is unhappy with the their military campaign. They know they are not killing as many Americans as they need to, and their followers probably know it too. Their may be dissention in their ranks, and in order to quell it they must claim that they are doing better than the American press is reporting, which they no doubt read.

As Jim Dunnigan pointed out last July, "Most Iraqis have become increasingly hostile to al Qaeda's suicide bombing campaign". While in the beginning they could draw Iraqi recruits, now they depend on "foreigners" for their troops. Further, they are seeing a decline in what is called "institutional memory"; as our forces kill or capture their "sergeants" and more experienced members, those who fill their ranks do not have the benefit of their experience.

Colonel Robert Brown is the commander of the Stryker-equipped 1st Brigade, of the 25th Infantry Division. They conducted offensive operations last August and September in Northwestern Iraq, near Mosul. At a DOD press conference last month, he spoke about the decline in insurgent capabilities. Initially, however, the insurgency fought well:

"There's a significant difference from when we got here last October. Last October, we faced a foreign fighter that was very well-trained. I remember watching attacks out -- we had an attack that involved about 60 foreign fighters in a pretty complex ambush. By complex I mean three or four forms of engagement. They'll hit you with an IED, small arms, mortars -- a very complex attack. We saw that regularly in November and December. We also defeated -- in one of those fights, we killed 40 terrorists, and we did not lose anybody, and we defeated them every time they tried to do that against us. We really worked hard and aggressively at getting out."

The insurgents were tough and well trained, and although we were successful in our missions, it had to be admitted that the ememy performed well. This, however, changed:

"And as we got to February and March, we saw a completely different foreign fighter. We've captured Libyans. We've captured Saudi, Yemenis, Algerians. And many of these -- one Libyan that we captured about a month and a half ago -- he was clearly brainwashed. And he was told that, you know, what was going on here and brainwashed to come and be a -- what he thought was -- he was going to be a foreign fighter against this crusade against the Muslim religion. He got here. He saw that was not correct. They told he was going to be a suicide martyr. He said he didn't want to do that. When we happened to capture him, several other foreign fighters and the cell leader that was orchestrating them, he was very happy to talk to us about what he had seen and what they had done.

And very interesting that younger foreign fighter that we're seeing now -- very poorly trained. We would call them more like RPGs for hire. And we believe it's the -- we know that the leadership is severely disrupted. Again, from -- about 25 percent of the attacks were very complex prior to elections, as I described. Now we're down to five percent are complex. And we're at the lowest number of attacks by far over the last three months. And that is -- clearly the foreign network is disrupted. The leadership is severely disrupted. We captured Abu Talha, the number-two al Qaeda leader in the north of Iraq. And right after that we got Abu Bara, Madhi Musa (sp), Abu Zab (sp), the next six leaders that would step up and take over. Nobody's taken over now. It's not a very popular position because if they step up, they get captured or killed. And so they're really disrupted, totally different."

Something else started to happen that we've seen time and time again, the population of the liberated area started to turn in the terrorists.

"The people have -- are fed up with the terrorist acts. I mean, I -- you know, I was -- witnessed one suicide VBIED that killed innocent women and children, and I've never seen evil like that. And the people -- Iraqi people saw that, and they know -- it's very clear to them that their government wants a brighter future for them, the Iraqi security forces want a brighter future, and the terrorists offer nothing but fear and intimidation and a very poor future"

Col Brown goes on and on, so be sure and read the whole thing.

The Other Side

So without an attempt to find out what the other side thinks, what they are saying, and what we are finding out about them you will never find out what is happening in Iraq.

To be sure, as Col. H. R. McMaster, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said to a reporter from Reuters in another press conference last month after being accused of painting too rosy a picture, "Nothing's rosy in Iraq, okay?" However, the enemy was "on the run".

And, as I said in We're Winning back in April, we're not out of the woods yet. But progress has been steady.

Oh, and another thing: Chester says we're winning too. That's another site you should be reading.

Posted by Tom at 7:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Hitch's Top Ten

When he's on, he's on.

Christopher Hitchens' top 10 benefits from the invasion of Iraq:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction--a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.

(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.

(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)

(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.

(7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy.

(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number.

(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

Amen

Here's more ammo from Hitch in the same article, which will come in handy when you're confronted by a leftie who tries to tell you that Iraq was no threat:

"You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire." I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam's senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam's agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.

Here here.

The sanctions were falling apart by 2003. There was no stable status quo. The left told us then that the sanctions were killing Iraqi babies, but to lift them would have resulted in a Saddam free to pursue his murderous desires. And indeed since Saddam was diverting much money to build palaces and keep up his military, Iraqis were suffering. This was building resentment against the sanctions throughout the Arab/Muslim world. All this, however, is conveniently forgotten by those who tell us that the invasion was a mistake.

What serious person can doubt that Saddam would have build chemical and nuclear weapons if he could have? That he didn't have the stockpiles we thought he did was only due to intense pressure by the US and a few other nations; not the "international community", many of whom, like France and Russia, would have only been too happy to have ended the sanctions so they could get back to business as usual.

Posted by Tom at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

Thousands Protest Terrorism in Baghadad

This is so unbelievable I'm just going to reproduce the entire post. The following appeared on Power Line today:

Haider Ajina sends us this translation of an article in yesterday's Kululiraq, an Iraqi newspaper:

Iraqis stood for three minutes of silence yesterday in commemoration of the lives lost in the two attacks in Baghdad Aljadedah and Almusaiyab, which claimed 105 martyrs, 32 of whom were children, and 128 wounded of whom 31 were children.

Traffic of thousand of cars stopped in the Allawi & Tahrier area (central Baghdad) as children (from “Baghdad Aljadedah” area) entered “Tahrier” square (with some of the wounded children) carrying Iraqi flags and displaying victory signs in defiance of the terrorists. These children also stood silent for three minutes to commemorate their relatives and friends who died in the homicide bombing attack last week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahiem Aljaafary said in a speech regarding this incident: “We will not sway from our path and we will not kneel to those who commit these crimes.” He added, ”We are confident that all nations of this world stand beside us, because to day terrorism does not only affect us Iraqis but the whole world. We Iraqis have the honor of being in the front line in the fight against terrorism."

Haider comments:


Tens of thousands of Iraqis stood silent for three minutes in over 130 Fahrenheit heat to commemorate victims of terror and in a sign of unified defiance of terrorism and I have not seen a single report on this. I waited all day Wednesday and all day today and nothing. The news reported the small anti America demonstration by Alsadar and some Baathists in April but some how missed the whole Iraqi nation standing still in defiance of terrorism.

When was the last time you heard an Arab leader say that his nation was honored to be in the front lines fighting terrorism?

Good question. The terrorists know that Iraq is the front line in the battle against terrorism; the Iraqis agree. Now if only we could convince the Democrats.

Unbelievable. I checked Fox, The Washington Post, Reuters, the BBC, and CNN, and I found nada, zip, nothing. There were, however, stories of violence in Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 9:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 6, 2005

How We're going to Win

Don't tell James Dunnigan of StrategyPage that killing terrorists isn't the road to victory. Dunnigan talks about the true-believers of the twentieth century, from the followers of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, to the Jihadists of today:

How do you deal with fanaticism like this? There’s plenty of historical evidence that the only cure is to keep killing the crazies until they stop coming after you. After a while, the fanatics lose their following, more from disillusionment than from death. This is not the first time there’s been a bout of Islamic fanaticism and mass murder. The Islamic community will have to figure out how to purge themselves of this nasty habit. In the meantime, it is Moslems who suffer most from it.

It’s fashionable in the West, especially Europe, to let the Islamic radicals off as victims of Western imperialism and colonialism. This was similar to the European attempts to appease Hitler in the 1930s and Stalin into the 1950s (and the Soviets right up until the communist collapse.) In the 1980s, Europeans were up in arms at Ronald Reagan’s efforts to bring down the Soviet Union. The latest victims are Islamic terrorists. Misunderstood, and not really at fault for their atrocities, these thugs are a real challenge for the appeasers. Islamic radicals want nothing less than total surrender, and a return to the 8th century. The victims here don’t see a pattern, only another opportunity to seek an easy, and dangerous, way out.

Amen

As I've said before, we can only lose this if we want to. We stuck it out during the Cold War despite a growing "peace" movement, and in the end we won. It's the same now; the naysayers will tell us that all is gloom and doom, but if we stick it out victory will be ours.

A few weeks ago, Wretchard wrote that we and the Iraqis are in a race against the insurgent terrorists. He cautiously predicted that we'll come out ahead:

What we are witnessing is a race between the force-generation capabilities of two sides. Materially speaking, the enemy is bound to lose. Al Qaeda is openly rushing every available fighter into Iraq. But millions of Iraqis Sunnis, Kurds and Shi'ites who have no intention of being resubjugated, fueled by the oil wealth of Iraq can be counted on to resist them, supported by the most deadly military force in the world. On the face of it the enemy cause would be lost. But in the matter of the will to win the outcome becomes more doubtful. Iraq has become the recruiting focus of a generation of Islamists and Leftists while the United States public has won itself enough temporary safety to forget the dangers of September 11. The enemy's hunger -- almost desperation for victory -- stands in symbolic contrast to the desire among many Americans to close Gitmo. The war in Iraq has bought American homeland security in the most unexpected of ways. The enemy has learned to refrain from awakening the US giant, the better to defeat him in his sleep.

Yup, it's about willpower. We're in a race, and unfortunately some in our country are not running with us. That may be ok, we won the Cold War without them, and we can win this one, too.

Beyond the Headlines

And in case you're sick of the "bomb of the day" coverage that we get from the msm, here's a bit of news about what's going on in Iraq that was sent to me by a reader:

Military officials in Baghdad, Iraq, today said U.S. and Iraqi forces will remain in the Iraqi city of Hit indefinitely to provide a security presence by manning outposts and conducting joint patrols and stabilization operations.

Hit has a population of about 120,000 and is about 100 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines and soldiers from Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, are there destroying weapons caches and clearing terrorists from the city as part of the final stages of Operation Saif (Sword), which began June 28.

Military commanders called resistance during the operation "light" and "sporadic." They added that there were no major battles or air strikes, no fatalities among Iraqi or American forces, and no disruption of basic utilities or medical treatment for Hit citizens.

Though U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers have operated from Camp Hit, a small base on the outskirts of the city, this is the first time combined forces will live and work continuously within the city, officials said. Hit joins the major cities of Ramadi, Habbaniyah and Fallujah in having a persistent presence of Iraqi security forces. Elsewhere, Task Force Baghdad soldiers detained four terror suspects south of Baghdad for questioning and seized 1 million Iraqi dinar and $6,000 in U.S. currency during a house raid July 4. The four suspects are believed to have planned or taken part in a number of kidnappings in the area.

Why is it that I don't hear this on the TV more often? Two weeks ago Ollie North had a whole series on American-Iraqi military cooperation on his "War Stories" show on Fox News. And they wonder why radio talks show hosts are traveling to Iraq to get the straight scoop.

Posted by Tom at 9:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 30, 2005

All the Right Enemies II

Well, well, so the liberals are all in a huff over President Bush' mention of 9/11 in his speech Tuesday night.

Fine. What's important is who is upset, and who is happy. The invaluable Victor Davis Hanson pointed this out some time ago in a must-read article.

And it appears that all the right people are upset. All those who I never agree with anyway didn't like it.

Such as David Gergen, the man who will serve in any administration as long as they stroke his ego.

Like the Washington Post, who is still off on the bogus he "missed an opportunity to fully level with Americans" line that I dealt with a post or so ago.

Like the New York Times, which makes the Post look positively reactionary by comparison. Their editorial is beyond pathetic.

Like the Democrat's response to the speech. That they don't get it has been obvious for a long time.

The editors of National Review, typically, do:

The September 11 attacks were so important and so horrific that they never should be mentioned again. That at least seems to be the position of the Left and establishment media. Images of the planes hitting the towers on that day have been all but banned from the public airwaves. And the president of the United States cannot mention 9/11 when explaining the stakes in a fight against jihadists supported by Osama bin Laden in Iraq without prompting howls of outrage. Bush was absolutely justified in invoking repeatedly Sept. 11 and the fight against terrorism in his speech from Fort Bragg Tuesday night. Let's count the ways:
There never would have been an Iraq war without 9/11, which drastically reduced the country's tolerance for a hostile Arab who had sought weapons of mass destruction before and was likely to do so again.

Saddam's regime had a web of connections to Islamic extremists and terrorists, as explained by Andy McCarthy elsewhere on NRO.

Foreign jihadists are now pouring into Iraq to fight on behalf of Abu Zarqawi, who has explicitly allied himself with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The case for a connection between the Iraq war and the sort of terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 is — sadly — stronger than ever.

Bin Laden himself has, as Bush noted Tuesday night, called the Iraq war a crucial front in the war on terror. He has said that the war will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

If we lose in Iraq, a Sunni rump state could emerge that would provide a haven for terrorists, the same way Afghanistan provided a haven for the 9/11 terrorists.

If we fail in Iraq, it will be a blow to America's prestige. One reason the terrorists struck on 9/11 is that they thought America was weak and making it bleed would prompt it to abandon its allies in the Middle East. The signal of weakness sent by a loss in Iraq wouldn't placate our enemies, but invite more attacks.

Supporters of a radical Islamic ideology struck American on 9/11. The war on terror is not a fight against a tactic (as the name falsely suggests), but against that ideology. The appeal of an ideology ebbs and flows with perceptions of its success. Communism advanced in the third world after its victory in Vietnam. The Islamists would get a similar boost if they were to prevail in Iraq.

Competing interpretations of Islam are at war in Iraq — that of Aytollah Sistani, who says Islam is compatible with democracy, and that of Zarqawi, who believes like bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers that Islam is a religion of violence. It is imperative that Sistani win out.

Islamic extremists justifiably fear a Middle East that turns away from radicalism and anti-Americanism. Victory in Iraq will be a step toward that goal.

In short, not only was it defensible for Bush to talk of 9/11 Tuesday night, it would be impossible for him to make the case for the Iraq war without reference to it. The war on terror began in earnest on that day, and Iraq is properly understood as a front in that larger, necessary war.

As mentioned by the NR editors, Andrew McCarthy outlined the links between Saddam and terrorism (for the umpteenth time, one might add):

It is not the war for democratization. It is not the war for stability. Democratization and stability are not unimportant. They are among a host of developments that could help defeat the enemy.

But they are not the primary goal of this war, which is to destroy the network of Islamic militants who declared war against the United States when they bombed the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, and finally jarred us into an appropriate response when they demolished that complex, struck the Pentagon, and killed 3000 of us on September 11, 2001.

That is why we are in Iraq.

On September 12, 2001, no one in America cared about whether there would be enough Sunni participation in a fledgling Iraqi democracy if Saddam were ever toppled. No one in lower Manhattan cared whether the electricity would work in Baghdad, or whether Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia could be coaxed into a political process. They cared about smashing terrorists and the states that supported them for the purpose of promoting American national security.

Saddam Hussein’s regime was a crucial part of that response because it was a safety net for al Qaeda. A place where terror attacks against the United States and the West were planned. A place where Saddam’s intelligence service aided and abetted al Qaeda terrorists planning operations. A place where terrorists could hide safely between attacks. A place where terrorists could lick their wounds. A place where committed terrorists could receive vital training in weapons construction and paramilitary tactics. In short, a platform of precisely the type without which an international terror network cannot succeed.
...
On that score, nobody should worry about anything the Times or David Gergen or Senator Reid has to say about all this until they have some straight answers on questions like these. What does the “nothing whatsoever” crowd have to say about:

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir — the Iraqi Intelligence operative who facilitated a 9/11 hijacker into Malaysia and was in attendance at the Kuala Lampur meeting with two of the hijackers, and other conspirators, at what is roundly acknowledged to be the initial 9/11 planning session in January 2000? Who was arrested after the 9/11 attacks in possession of contact information for several known terrorists? Who managed to make his way out of Jordanian custody over our objections after the 9/11 attacks because of special pleading by Saddam’s regime?

Saddam's intelligence agency's efforts to recruit jihadists to bomb Radio Free Europe in Prague in the late 1990's?

Mohammed Atta's unexplained visits to Prague in 2000, and his alleged visit there in April 2001 which — notwithstanding the 9/11 Commission's dismissal of it (based on interviewing exactly zero relevant witnesses) — the Czechs have not retracted?

The Clinton Justice Department's allegation in a 1998 indictment (two months before the embassy bombings) against bin Laden, to wit: In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

Seized Iraq Intelligence Service records indicating that Saddam's henchmen regarded bin Laden as an asset as early as 1992?

Saddam's hosting of al Qaeda No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri beginning in the early 1990’s, and reports of a large payment of money to Zawahiri in 1998?

Saddam’s ten years of harboring of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Abdul Rahman Yasin?

Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives being dispatched to meet with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998 (the year of bin Laden’s fatwa demanding the killing of all Americans, as well as the embassy bombings)?

Saddam’s official press lionizing bin Laden as “an Arab and Islamic hero” following the 1998 embassy bombing attacks?

The continued insistence of high-ranking Clinton administration officials to the 9/11 Commission that the 1998 retaliatory strikes (after the embassy bombings) against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory were justified because the factory was a chemical weapons hub tied to Iraq and bin Laden?

Top Clinton administration counterterrorism official Richard Clarke’s assertions, based on intelligence reports in 1999, that Saddam had offered bin Laden asylum after the embassy bombings, and Clarke’s memo to then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, advising him not to fly U-2 missions against bin Laden in Afghanistan because he might be tipped off by Pakistani Intelligence, and “[a]rmed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad”? (See 9/11 Commission Final Report, p. 134 & n.135.)

Terror master Abu Musab Zarqawi's choice to boogie to Baghdad of all places when he needed surgery after fighting American forces in Afghanistan in 2001?

Saddam's Intelligence Service running a training camp at Salman Pak, were terrorists were instructed in tactics for assassination, kidnapping and hijacking?

Former CIA Director George Tenet’s October 7, 2002 letter to Congress, which asserted: Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

There's more. Stephen Hayes’s book, The Connection, remains required reading. But these are just the questions; the answers — if someone will just investigate the questions rather than pretending there’s “nothing whatsoever” there — will provide more still.

So Gergen, Reid, the Times, and the rest are “offended” at the president's reminding us of 9/11? The rest of us should be offended, too. Offended at the “nothing whatsoever” crowd’s inexplicable lack of curiosity about these ties, and about the answers to these questions.

Just tell us one thing: Do you have any good answer to what Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was doing with the 9/11 hijackers in Kuala Lampur? Can you explain it?

If not, why aren't you moving heaven and earth to find out the answer?

Update

I was doing a google search for some other information and look at what I found. The article, by CNS, is about a year old, so is not exactly news. But as with the information above, it is useful to throw at people who still insist that there were few ties between Saddam and terrorism:

Iraqi intelligence documents, confiscated by U.S. forces and obtained by CNSNews.com, show numerous efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to work with some of the world's most notorious terror organizations, including al Qaeda, to target Americans. They demonstrate that Saddam's government possessed mustard gas and anthrax, both considered weapons of mass destruction, in the summer of 2000, during the period in which United Nations weapons inspectors were not present in Iraq. And the papers show that Iraq trained dozens of terrorists inside its borders.

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Other memos provide a list of terrorist groups with whom Iraq had relationships and considered available for terror operations against the United States.

Among the organizations mentioned are those affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, two of the world's most wanted terrorists.

As always, read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

The President's Speech

The short version is simple - the president hit a home run.

The longer take is to ask why he doesn't do this more often. When he wants to be on he's on. There are other times, like during the first two debates with John Kerry, that he looked positively aweful. Ok, he only looked aweful in the first debate. Bad enough.

The most telling aspect is how members of the military feel. After the speech Carl Cameron, of Fox News, talked about the audience. It was made up of members of the 82nd airborne, as well as some special ops forces at Fort Bragg, where the president spoke.

Cameron told of how they had been admonished beforehand by their officers not to clap or cheer during the speech, as it wasn't appropriate for this type of speech. It was obvious, however, he said, that they were full of approval and about ready to burst from holding back. At one point, some GOP staffers at the back of the room clapped after Bush made a point, and they took this as a signal to let loose.

The point is obvious; if we're in such an unwinnable quagmire in Iraq, don't you think that members of the military would be the first to know? The enlisted and junior officers, I mean, not the generals.

Let's go into what Bush actually said tonight.

You can find the entire text here.

At this point let me say that I'm not going to rehash the history of our involvement in Iraq, as I've done that so many times on this blog interested parties can do the research themselves.

The bottom line is that Bush didn't pull any punches tonight. He didn't sugarcoat the situation, but neither did he (nor should he) apologize for mistakes. He didn't give an inch, nor should he have

What the Liberals Wanted

The latest lie from the left is that "the president needs to come clean with the American people".

Let me translate this into English: "We want the president to apologize and say he's sorry for invading Iraq. We also want him to say that we're losing the war and that we should pull out our troops."

Our president's not stupid enough to give the libs what they want. Instead, tonight he basically threw it in their faces. Good for him.

And good for us. Because like all people, Americans don't want some wishy-washy "maybe we'll be able to do this maybe not, and gee I'm sorry won't you please forgive me" weakness. We had our fill of that with Jimmy Carter. Americans like strength and resolve, just like the Brits did some sixty-five years ago.

Building up the Iraqi Forces

Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions. Iraqi forces have fought bravely — helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf, Samarra, Fallujah, and Mosul. And in the past month, Iraqi forces have led a major anti-terrorist campaign in Baghdad called Operation Lightning — which has led to the capture of hundreds of suspected insurgents. Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended by their own countrymen — and we are helping Iraqis assume those duties.

No doubt that the naysayers will dispute the figure cited above. And they'll be partially correct.

But am I the only one to notice that the left has totally ignored the sacrifice of the Iraqis? This first hit me during the vice-presidential debate, when Cheney rightfully admonished Senator Edwards over this issue. And they still haven't learned.

Why We are There

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of Coalition operations in Iraq — who is also senior commander at this base — General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: “We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us.”

Yes yes, we all know that we didn't find any of the WMD that we expected that we would. But I've dealt with the idiotic Bush Lied! nonsense extensively in other posts.

The fact is that without the invasion of Iraq a huge cancer would still be festering in the Middle East, one that stymied pluralistic government and supported terrorism (again, I've covered this).

The Idiocy of a Deadline

Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis — who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops — who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy — who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed — and not a day longer.

Well of course. To anyone who wants to win the war this is obvious. Hmmm. That would mean that anyone who does not see this...wants us to lose. Or just doesn't care.

After two long years, the Iraqis more and more are standing with us, or at least against the terrorists (two different things, I know, but for purposes of winning the war the same thing). As one commenter on lgf said, "They want an exit strategy? That's it, when the Iraqis are ready to stand alone we leave."

or, in a slightly more colorful comment:

Dec 7 1942. White House press conference.

A CNN reporter askes: President Rosevelt, we have been fighting Germany and Japan for a year now. This is clearly a quagmire. What is you exit strategy for bringing the troops home?

FDR replies: Whats my exit strategy? Win you stupid f**k, by any means necessary!

I swear I laughed so hard I almost dropped the laptop when I read that one. BTW, you've got to follow lgf during these events.

FINALLY; the "I" Word

After two years of using the somewhat nonsensical "War on Terror", the president told it like it is:

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy, prosperity, and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.

Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: “This Third World War … is raging” in Iraq. “The whole world is watching this war.” He says it will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated. So, they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.

Wars are often begun for one reason, and then later justified or remembered by another. Lincoln did not fight the Civil War to free the slaves, and we didn't fight World War II to liberate concentration camps. Yet that is how we remember them now. It will be the legacy of this war that it was begun mostly over WMD, yet it's benefit was to begin a process of liberation throughout the region. How ironic that those in this country who always tell us that they are the most concerned with freedome cannot or will not see this.

Democracy, or at least a version of it, has come to Iraq. The Purple Revolution was a watershed event. The president mentioned Libya giving up it's WMD program, liberaliztions in Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian elections. Egypt and Lebanon have seen progress. Small steps, to be sure, but real ones. Our own country was hardly perfect in 1793, and isn't now.

Listen

After September 11, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult — and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult. And we are prevailing.

Well yes you did. And some people weren't listening when they should have. Here and overseas.

Sixty four years ago someone listened, heard, and understood us.

"I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve"

Those words were spoken by Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, to his aides following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Posted by Tom at 8:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2005

"Support for the Troops Never Stronger"

It is hard sometimes in the face of so much left-wing attacks on our military - ahem, Senator Durbin - to maintain a positive view. But we should and we must.

Stories like this one help do that. Capt. Steve Alvarez, U.S. Army, recently came home after a long deployment in Iraq. He writes about his experience there, and the support he received from people back home.

When I came home from Iraq a couple of months ago, I kept the promise I made while I was still there: I wouldn't watch the news, and I'd step away from the war, ignoring the events that had consumed my life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was time to catch up with my family and make them the focus of my life 24/7. ... What I saw in Iraq was the boundless bravery of a seemingly endless line of Iraqi recruits gathered to join the Iraqi army, the smiles and waves of Iraqis as we convoyed through the city of Sulaymaniyah, the first flight of the Iraqi air force, and the sound of Iraqi tank guns as they thundered for the first time in years in support of liberty, not tyranny.

I remember the jubilation of my Iraqi friends as they showed off their ink-stained fingers, a badge of honor on their fingertips, indicating they had voted in their country's first democratic election in decades. I remember the Iraqi female military police soldiers who became pioneers for women in that region by joining the Iraqi military, clearing not just personal hurdles, but cultural ones.

Mostly, I remember the thousands of Iraqi and coalition troops that each day hunted the enemy and kept me safe. I remember the drivers and gunners on convoy, the pilots and crew chiefs in the sky, the sentries and tankers at the gates, and all of the warriors who were out there trying to make Iraq a better and safer place.
...
While I was in Iraq, I received hundreds of Christmas cards from students at an elementary school and from members of a church in Florida. A sorority from Indiana sent dozens of letters and cards of support, and Americans from all over the country sent me e-mails from places like Chicago, Sacramento, and Texas just to name a few.

Read the whole thing.

This story was sent to me by a friend and reader of this blog. Thank you.

Posted by Tom at 9:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

Inconvenient Quotes

Actually they're quite convenient to me. But if you're a liberal who runs around crying Bush Lied! they're quite inconvenient.

Best of all, the quotes are impeccably sourced. They come courtesy of one of my favorite talk show hosts, Glenn Beck. Visit his page to see if he is on a station in your area.


"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003 | Source

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force -- if necessary -- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002 | Source

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
- President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998 | Source

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
- President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998 | Source

"We must stop Saddam from ever again jeopardizing the stability and security of his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction."
- Madeline Albright, Feb 1, 1998 | Source

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
- Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998 | Source

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Letter to President Clinton.
- (D) Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, others, Oct. 9, 1998 | Source

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998 | Source

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
- Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999 | Source

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and th! e means of delivering them."
- Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002 | Source

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 | Source

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
- Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 | Source

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002 | Source

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
- Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002 | Source

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002 | Source

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002 | Source

"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
- Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002 | Source


There are some liberals who will object to my using these quotes. Here's why they're full of it:

So in order to still believe that Bush Lied! you need to believe that Bush and co fooled the Democrats with fake intel. This would make the Democrats are incredibly stupid and easily fooled people. Oops.

Of course, the Robb-Silberman Commission cleared Bush of this charge, but since when has the left let facts stand in the way?

You also have to ignore the fact that even Hans Blix and Jacques Chirac thought that Saddam had WMD. They just didn't think we needed to invade Iraq.

So if you want to believe that the invasion was a mistake, fine. Reasonable people can disagree. But only left-wing whackos think that Bush Lied!

Posted by Tom at 9:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2005

Back to Bagdad

Austin Bay has gone back to Baghdad. A former soldier in Iraq turned writer, he offers a unique perspective:

"Metrics" is the military buzzword -- how do we measure progress or regress in Iraq? The piles of bricks around Iraqi homes is a positive. Downtown cranes sprout over city-block-sized construction projects. The negatives are all too familiar -- terror bombs and the slaughter of Iraqi citizens.

Last year -- on July 2, I recall -- I saw six Iraqi National Guardsmen manning a position beneath a freeway overpass. It was the first time I saw independently deployed Iraqi forces. Now, I see senior Iraqi officers in the Al Faw Palace hallways conducting operational liaison with U.S. and coalition forces. I hear reports of the Iraqi Army conducting independent street-clearing and neighborhood search operations. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst of U.S. 3rd Infantry Division told me about an Iraqi battalion's success on the perennially challenging Haifa Street.

In February, under the direction of an Iraqi colonel rapidly earning a reputation as Iraq's Rudy Giuliani, the battalion drove terrorists from this key Baghdad drag. Last year, Haifa Street was a combat zone where U.S. and Iraqi security forces came in Robo-Cop garb -- helmets, armor, Bradleys, armored Humvees. Gen. Horst told me he and his Iraqi counterpart now have tea in a sidewalk cafe along the once notorious boulevard. Of course, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi's suicide bombers haunt this fragile calm.

If you're getting your news from the TV you'd never know about this type of stuff. Perhaps by its nature, they just concentrate on the "bomb of the day"

Bay continues, and this part is not so positive. Not about Iraq, but about us:

This return visit to Iraq, however, spurs thoughts of America -- to be specific, thoughts about America's will to pursue victory. I don't mean the will of U.S. forces in the field. Wander around with a bunch of Marines for a half-hour, spend 15 minutes with National Guardsmen from Idaho, and you will have no doubts about American military capabilities or the troops' will to win.

But our weakness is back home, in front of the TV, on the cable squawk shows, on the editorial page of the New York Times, in the political gotcha games of Washington, D.C.

It seems America wants to get on with its Electra-Glide life, that Sept. 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the U.S. political class?

The Bush administration has yet to ask the American people -- correction, has yet to demand of the American people -- the sustained, shared sacrifice it takes to win this long, intricate war of bullets, ballots and bricks.

Bullets go bang, and even CBS understands bullets. Ballots make an impression -- in terms of this war's battlespace, the January Iraqi elections were World War II's D-Day and Battle of the Bulge combined. But the bricks -- the building of Iraq, Afghanistan and the other hard corners where this war is and will be fought -- that's a delicate and decades-long challenge.

Given the vicious enemy we face, five years, perhaps 15 years from now, occasional bullets and bombs will disrupt the political and economic building. This is the Bush administration's biggest strategic mistake: failure to tap the American willingness produced by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This was the criticism that Col Harry Summers made of LBJ in his seminal work "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War". Johnson, he said, tried to fight the war "in cold blood." He made a consious decision not to make a big case before the public and ask for their committment, the reason being that he was afraid that this would divert attention from his Great Society programs.

It's a bit overstated to compare Bush to Johnson, and Bay is not going that far. Bush did make a big effort to gain our committment before the invasion. Yes yes, he could have "done more". But as a theoretical one can always "do more." However, Bay is right in that the effort has slacked of late. Bush et al need to pick up the pace and develop a plan to make the case before the public.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

War Update

Here are some things that have come to my attention recently regarding the War on Teror that I thought I'd share with you.

Here's a story in USA today that is must-read. It's about how a group of Vietnam vets in Iraq see an "Entirely Different War":

"In Vietnam, I don't think the local population ever understood that we were just there to help them," says Chief Warrant Officer James Miles, 57, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who flew UH-1H Hueys in Vietnam from February 1969 to February 1970. And the Vietcong and North Vietnamese were a tougher, more tenacious enemy, he says. Instead of setting off bombs outside the base, they'd be inside.

"I knew we were going to lose Vietnam the day I walked off the plane," says Miles, who returned home this month after nearly a year in Iraq. Not this time. "There's no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do," he says.
...

Miles says the biggest difference he saw was that, over time, Iraqi civilians grew more positive toward U.S. forces. He says he saw more people smiling and waving near his base here than there were 10 months ago when he arrived.

1st Sgt. Patrick Olechny, 52, of Marydel, Del., an attack helicopter crew chief and door gunner in Vietnam from March 1971 to February 1972, says the most important difference to him is the attitude of the American public.

"Vietnam was an entirely different war than this one," he says. The basic job of flying helicopters is the same, but the overall mission now is clear when it wasn't then. "We thought in Vietnam we were doing the right thing, and in the end it didn't seem that way," he says.

Now, "the people in the United States respect what the soldiers are doing," says Olechny, who still fills in at the door gunner position when he can get away from his administrative duties.

This next article is about how the insurgents are turning on each other.

I've seen this before on Belmont Club and I believe The Fourth Rail, but didn't have a chance to post it here. This story is from the New York Times:

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

The nationalist insurgent groups, "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the Jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added

.

As we said above, folks, this isn't another Vietnam. The NVA, and VC before them, were far too disciplined to let disagreements come to blows.

Meanwhile, Karl Zinmeister of the American Enterprise Institute just got back from Iraq and says that "The War is Over, and We Won":


What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue—in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.

Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq. In 2004, our military fought fierce battles in Najaf, Fallujah, and Sadr City. Many thousands of terrorists were killed, with comparatively little collateral damage. As examples of the very hardest sorts of urban combat, these will go down in history as smashing U.S. victories.

And our successes at urban combat (which, scandalously, are mostly untold stories in the U.S.) made it crystal clear to both the terrorists and the millions of moderate Iraqis that the insurgents simply cannot win against today’s U.S. Army and Marines. That’s why everyday citizens have surged into politics instead.

Oh, and anyone who says "but but but casualties are up! huh, huh, what about that?" - just please read some history. Anything but your favorite, Vietnam.

And last but not least is the where abouts that favorite hide-and-go-seek participant, Osama bin Laden.

Porter Goss, Director of Central Intelligence (that's CIA), was interviewed by Time Magazine, and this very interesting exchange occured:

Q: WHEN WILL WE GET OSAMA BIN LADEN?
Goss: That is a question that goes far deeper than you know. In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice. We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

Q:IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE HE IS. WHERE?
Goss: I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?

In other words, he's in Iran. Which is just where Richard Miniter, author of "Shadow War", thought he was. As Clausewitz would have said, it's all part of the friction of war.

6/23 Update

Wretchard provides the analysis and context. He talks about guerilla forces, and the difference for them between prospects for victory and merely continuing to exist. In other words, just because they are able to continue their existance and even do damage, does not mean that they stand a realistic prospect for success:

Political influence, combat capability and territorial control are the real metrics of a successful guerilla campaign. The argument that mere existence or avoidance of defeat constitutes victory is hogwash: both the IRA and the Red Hand Commandos exist, but clearly the IRA is the more successful guerilla organization because it has a national united front, some combat capability and hard and diverse leadership core where the Red Hand Commandos do not. Even Al Qaeda, which some claim to be a creature of pure thought has sought to control territory in Afghanistan and spread its influence through Islamic "charities" while under the control of a central group of militants. It was, in other words, no different from any other classic guerilla organization.

While the Iraqi insurgents still retain the capability to kill significant numbers of people they are almost total losers by the traditional metric of guerilla warfare. First of all, by attacking civilians of every ethnic group and vowing to resubjugate the majority ethnic groups in the country they have at a stroke made creating a national united front against the United States a near impossibility. Second, there is a battle for supremacy among the insurgent leaders.

Which is why anyone who depends on the TV, newspapers, or magazines for analysis will never understand what is going on.

Posted by Tom at 9:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Are We There Yet?"

huh mom? Are we there yet? Where's the hotel? Tell Jimmy to keep his hands off me! He keeps putting his stuff on my half of the seat!

At this point dad turns to mom and says "do something", whereby she turns around and says "do not make us stop this car! I told you it would be several hours before we get there

!

Who hasn't experienced something like this? Either as a kid, parent, or both.

This is how Tony Snow characterized liberal criticism of the war in Iraq the other day, and I laughed all the way in the car driving to work because it is so true.

Liberals (ok, not all but many) sound like the little kids in the back seat. From day one the Bush administration told everyone that the war on terror would take a long time to win. But no one wants to hear that.

Wars are also unpredictable. Yes, I know, no great insight in that comment. But it's true, and needs to be resaid.

Briefly, here's why; it has to do with what I call "The Myth of the Glorious Crusade"

Let's just get this out of the way up front; many of us who advocated invading Iraq got it wrong. We expected a harder conventional fight and not an insurgency that would last so long. We were burned why what Clausewitz called "the friction of war"

Liberals and leftists have no reason to gloat, however, as they've gotten even more wrong. They told us that there would be thousands of American casualties (just as they did before the Gulf War), and there would surely be a massive "battle of Baghdad" that would drag on for months. They also predicted massive a massive humanitarian disaster and civil war, neither of which happened. They also told us that the entire Mideast would erupt - the "Arab street" routine - which did't happen either. And about a million other horrors, none of which occured.

Between us and the liberals, I'll take our mistakes. Any day.

Like most events, there is no exact parallel in history. The simple fact is that most wars do not turn out like "everyone" thought they would. Obviously the defeated side did not predict things right. But usually the victor didn't either.

The Myth of the Glorious Crusade

There is a tendancy, I think, to view all the wars in which we have been victorious as great crusades in which we all link arms and march off to defeat an enemy. This is borne, I believe, of World War II, in which we pretty much did just that. But most of our other wars were different.

In the Revolutionary War only one-third of the colonists were patriots. Another third were British loyalists, and the remainder didn't care. The patriots spend so much time bickering among themselves it's a wonder we won.

The Civil War went badly for the North for the first several years. The war became unpopular, and the Federal Army did not meet it's recruiting goals. The government resorted to a draft, which was resisted so fiercely that in 1863 it led to bloody riots in New York City. Lincoln thought he was going to lose the 1864 election to ex-union general George McClellan, and the public only came around to supporting Lincoln after several Union victories, including the capture of Atlanta.

In World War II we were certainly united, but our conduct of the war was as often as not inept. I've gone of this in in another post so please go there for details.


Today is June 22, 2005, and no we are not there yet, so stop your whining and stop hitting your brother.

Posted by Tom at 8:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

Back to Basics

With all this talk about Guantanamo Bay and Dick Durbin dominating the news, we need to get back to the basics of why we are fighting this war. I've heard several complaints from the left recently, and in this post I'm going to take them on.

"More Iraqis are in poverty now than before the war"
Sometimes you hear this phrased slightly differently, as in "there's less electricity/public services/safety/ etc"

"Michael Jackson/Scott Peterson/whomever dominates the news when we should be talking about Iraq"

Our soldiers are dying in Iraq for nothing" or "We should never have invaded Iraq, only Afghanistan"

"We're Losing"

"We told you that we'd never win in Iraq"

"Because of Iraq all the Arabs/Muslims hate us"

"By invading Iraq we squandered the World's Sympathy"

"We Created Saddam"

And everybody's favorite: "Bush Lied!"

These are some of the major ones, which will suffice for now. Sometimes you'll hear them phrased slightly differently, but they're essentially the same objection. Ok, now let's take them on one at a time.

Iraq will produce no Tet, we are on the strategic offensive, and we are winning
http://www.strategypage.com/the_war_in_iraq/enemy/2005412.asp

"More Iraqis are in poverty now than before the war"

Some are and some are not. Arthur Chrenkoff, as always, provides needed perspective with his "good news from Iraq" series, check out his latest, part 25, here, provides needed perspective. Anyone who thinks that what's happening in Iraq is all bad is simply not informed.

But I'm not going to quibble over this or that economic figure. Whether Iraqis are receiving more or less electricity now is important in a sense, but in another it's not.

Most southerners were worse off for years after the Civil War than before it. Japanese and Germans both suffered for years after the war. Indeed, the Germans recall the winters of 1946 and 1947 as among the worst ever, with starvation occuring in a "modern" European nation. In the words of one US Navy medical officer, "From 1945 to the middle of 1948, one saw the probable collapse, disintegration and destruction of a whole nation."

The Marshall Plan, which eventually rescued Germany, was not even announced for a year and a half after the war ended.

And let's not be under the illusion that everyone thought that the occupation of Germany was a success at the time. Newspaper headlines routinely told of a "failed occupation". Oh, and we were told that the Germans all hated us, too. Sound familiar?

Was the Civil War not worth it? World War II? How about our revolution? Although it did not wreck as much devastation as the Civil War, much of or most of the country was worse off after than before.

More to the point, there is the unstated, barely below the surface, insinuation that the Iraqi people would have been better off under Saddam. Those who make this argument need to come clean and answer the question; "do you think the Iraqi people whould have been better off if Saddam was still in power?"

These things take time. Yes it turned out harder than we on the right thought it would. What war hasn't?

"Michael Jackson/Scott Peterson/whomever dominates the news when we should be talking about Iraq"

Well gee, I'm sorry that the people don't share your idea of what is important. And what is your real objection, is it simply that we're not paying enough attention to Iraq, or that we're not paying the "right" kind of attention; ie, the papers are not screaming daily about how "we're losing"?

Sure, I get exasperated with the focus on crime dramas too. And all of the missing persons cases always seem to involve white females.

But I accept this for what it is. I may not always like it but I try and understand it, try and understand why not everyone shares my view of what is important.

Cutting the the heart of the matter, the fact is that people who attack "the people" in this manner are elitist and snobbish. No "the people" are not all "stupid", with you so smart. Me? I take the William F Buckley Jr attitude that I'd rather be governed by the first two hundred people in the phone book than by the faculties of Harvard and Yale combined.

"Our soldiers are dying in Iraq for nothing" or "Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror"

Oh heavens. No there was not a formal alliance between Iraq and Al-Qaeda that was signed in a big formal ceremony. But anyone who thinks that Saddam was not involved in terrorism doesn't know what they are talking about.

One, there were links between Saddam and terrorism, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and... I've got more that I don't have time to post.

The root cause of the problems in the Middle East is a lack of pluralistic forms of government. Natan Sharansky got it right in his book "The Case for Democracy".

We're not there out of the goodness of our hearts, or perhaps I should say, purely out of the goodness of our hearts. We're there because the United States is most secure when more nations are free and democratic.

"We're Losing"

No we're not. A year or so ago the situation was dicey, yes. We backed off from cleaning out Fallujah and let Mullah Sadr run wild for a bit. We seemed hesitant, and unsure of ourselves. The interim Iraqi governing council was not working out, and the people did not accept it as legitimate.

All that has changed. I'm not going to provide a full analysis here, as I've done that before, see here, here, and here for examples. Or just click "Iraq" at right (however, since I moved to the new blog I haven't classified all of my old posts yet).

The insurgency has not been defeated, and will be with us for awhile. Much fighting continues. It is important to remember, however, that they have not succeeded in their goals. There has been no "Tet Offensive", despite their ardent attempts to create one, and for reasons explained here will likely not occur. Far from creating a civil war, Sunnis, Shi'is, and Kurds are coming together. And their brilliant strategy of attacking the Iraqi people is turning them against the insurgents, however they may feel about us.

"We told you that we'd never win in Iraq"

Well, sort of. What were told was that this time the Iraqi army would fight us tooth and nail every step of the way. And there would certainly be a huge "battle of Baghdad" that would last weeks or months. The Iraqis would dig in, Leningrad-style, and could hold us off for months, forcing us to fight street-to-street for every inch of territory.

As for WMD, well, it was indeed used as a reason why we should not invade, but it was used because many of you thought he had it and would use it against us.

You've also told us some other things that it seems you'd like us to forget.

In 1990/91, in the run-up to the Gulf War, we were told that American forces would surely suffer thousands of casualties if we attacked. It was not uncommon to hear that "5,000 - 10,000 American dead". Oh yes, the "battle hardened" Iraqi army would surely fight us tooth and nail for every square inch.

After no more than, what, one week? in Afghanistan we heard that it was turning into another Vietnam. "It's a quagmire!" "The Northern Alliance can't do it!" "We need more troops!" on and on.

In short, your track record stinks.

"Because of Iraq all the Arabs/Muslims hate us"

Those who were going to hate us already hated us. As Victor Davis Hanson illustrates in the story of a captured Syrian smuggler of Jihadists, "...there was always radical Islamic anti-American hatred that preceded Iraq."

Many of them hate us because we are successful and they are not. They look back at the past glories of the Caliphate and see how far they have fallen. Everything around them was invented or developed in the west, even (or especially) the very weapons they use against us. Their governments are corrupt despotisms, their society disfunctional. Tiny Israel, with no oil, outperforms them, and it's armies defeat them every time. How can it be that the infidels have overtaken us? All of this breeds resentment. They know that they should have taken out Saddam, for they will admit that he was a butcher (and not a real Muslim), but it took the Americans to do it. It's sort of like the French, they're glad that we saved them, but bitter about it also. It wounds their pride.

"By invading Iraq we squandered the World's Sympathy"

The sympathy was appreciated. Yes I was happy, indeed touched, when we received condolences from so much of the world. The story of the German destroyer who pulled alonside the US Navy ship to pay tribute was especially poignant.

"Keeping the world's sympathy" is not a legitimate foreign policy goal. If we think we need to do something, "keeping their sympathy" is not a good reason to keep from doing it. As if winning the War on Terror was a high school student government election.

Yes it would have been nice if we had had a nice big coalition with which to invade Iraq. And maybe we could have done a better sales job. But we didn't and they didn't want to come along. Even John Kerry, when cornered, had to admit that he would not allow the rest of the world to veto US action.

"We Created Saddam"

This claim is vastly overstated, and such a statement is ignorant of history.

In "History Backwards" I wrote that our support of Iraq in the 1980s was due to our legitimate fear of the Iranian revolution spreading throughout the region. Our "leaning" towards Iraq was analogous to our support of Stalin during World War II. Because we helped Stalin fend off the Nazis, were were wrong to oppose him later?

"Bush Lied!"
(exclamation point required)

No he didn't, and you have no evidence that he did. Almost every intelligence agency on the planet thought that Saddam had WMD, and don't pretend otherwise. Bill Clinton thought he had them, as did most Democrats.

Almost a year ago I posted fifteen reasons why invading Iraq was the right thing to do, even knowing the aftermath. They were true then, and they're true now.

Posted by Tom at 7:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2005

Winds of War: Progressing in Iraq

Bill Roggio's Winds of War Iraq update is up, and as usual is a must-read. Actually it's been up for a few days, I'm just a bit late in getting to it.

Anyway, here are some of the points he makes:

The Insurgency has moved North as in response to Operation Thunder, which resulted in the arrests of over a thousand insurbents.

Car Bombings have Increased, but the new Targets are Iraqi Police. Bill says that although this will likely backfire on the insurgents as it will only increase the determination of the police.

Iraqi Police now patrol neighborhoods that they have no family or ethnic ties to. This is exactly the opposite of our initial strategy. The problem we found was that by Iraqi police patrolled their own neighborhoods they were more susceptiple to corruption and intimidation.

As a result, the insurgents have largely stopped trying to infiltrate the police.

Democracy is making slow but steady progress in Iraq. It is easy to get caught up in the daily headlines and miss the overall picture. Imagine if one tried to analyse World War II by looking at the daily casualty counts.

Posted by Tom at 9:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2005

Iraq War Update

Assuming that current trend lines continue, we are on the way towards winning the war in Iraq. This may be difficult to see if all one does is look at the daily headlines. They tell of bombings, assassinations, and the deaths of American soldiers and marines.

Perhaps the most difficult thing in analyzing this war is the lack of traditional front lines. Up through the Korean War all one had to do is get a map, a supply of pins, and follow the daily news. Vietnam was more difficult, and the public and news media is wary of non-traditional wars.

Nevertheless, it should be apparent that while fighting and terrorism will continue for some time, perhaps years, we are well on the way toward winning this war.

I first wrote about this last April, when I summarized and commented on Rich Lowry's piece in National Review, "We're Winning" (digital subscription required). In "See I Told You So" I reprinted a Jack Kelly editorial in which he outlined his reasons why the war was all but won.

Today I'll give you some additional reasons from my own observations.

Why We're Winning

I first posted these reasons as a comment on Kats blog a few weeks ago. I'd wanted to turn it into a post of my own and am now finally getting around to it. For this post they have been expanded and the verbiage cleaned up

Committment: With the reelection of George Bush, the people of the United States decided that we are not going to cut and run. What's more important, the people of Iraq know it. Before our election many of them were "hanging back", unwilling to commit themselves for fear or retribution if we pulled out. I can't blame them either. But now we have seen an upsurge in Iraqis willing to fight the insurgency either by providing intelligence or joining their armed forces or police themselves.

Lack of an Opposing Ideology: The insurgent terrorists have no ideology that attracts the people of Iraq. This is quite unlike the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong and North had a coherent well thought out ideology and effective propaganda machine. This is also an aspect of this war that many in the mainstream media seem determined to ignore.

The Insurgent Terrorists are Alienating the Iraqi People: The insurgent terrorists are mostly targeting the people of Iraq, which is hardly going to win them over. The terrorists are caught in a devils choice; if they target American forces they are massacred, if they target the people they lose their support.

The Iraqi Elections: Just as important as our own elections were thos in Iraq. These elections were successful (or successful enough) and now the people of Iraq have a government they can look to as being genuinely their own. There is still much negotiation that needs to be completed before the final shape of their government is determined, with much bickering and arguing. This will be reported in the press in apocalyptic terms. We should remember that our own founding was marked by much bickering and arguing as well.

The Sunnis have Come Round: Sunni leaders, who urged a boycott of the elections, seem to have recognized their mistake and are looking to correct that by participating in the government. StrategyPage (June 9 post) relates how Sunni leaders "...are being told, by their followers, that all this violence is not worth it" and that they should end their should cooperate with the Americans and the new government

Foreigners make up most of the Insurgency: More and more the insugency is made up of "foreigners" as they are unable to recruit as many Iraqis as they need to fill their ranks. Iraqis in their armed forces and police will kill foreigners much more readily than they will their own.

The Iraqi Police and Army: One of the most inspiring things about the new Iraq is that despite constant bombing of recruitment centers, Iraqis are still joining their armed forces and police. These forces also suffer high casualty rates compared to our military. That so many are joining cannot simply be explained by economics, that they join simply to get a job.

Other Resources

Other than the aforementioned articles in National Review, here are some other posts and sites that I recommend that you read:

Kat has an excellent series on the war that she's posted recently on her blog, The Middle Ground.

If you're not reading StrategyPage, especially the Iraq Daily Coverage section, you're missing out.

Wretchard has moved his Belmont Club to a new "fallback site". Keep it handy.

The Fourth Rail is must-read.

And don't forget my latest project, Threats Watch, a joint venture with Marvin Hutchins of Little Red Blog and Bill Rice of By Dawn's Early Light. Although it's still in beta you'll find it a great resource for the latest articles and information on the threats around the world that our country faces. We'll announce an official start-date soon, so stay tuned.

Past Wars Were Difficult Too

Yes, I know, this sounds like one of those "tell me something I don't already know" titles. But it's true.

Actually, it's not so much that past wars were difficult, it's rather that we won them despite the fact that we screwed so much up. We made so many mistakes in the Revolutionary War, Civil War (north's perspective), and World War II that when you read about them you quickly begin to wonder how we won at all.

I summarized this in a piece last February called "Right Analysis" in which I quoted Victor Davis Hanson on mistakes we made duriing World War II

Most of our armored vehicles were deathtraps, improved only days before the surrender. American torpedoes in the Pacific were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued unabated. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths, plagued by terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over four months before the surrender — without careful planning for kamikazes, who were shortly to kill nearly 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general who could have ended the western war in 1944, was earlier relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near-fatal results for the drive from Normandy. Mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King for far too long resisted the life-saving convoy system and thus unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; Admiral Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared fleet to a storm.

But we mainly remember the P-51 Mustang that blew German fighters out of the sky and the victory at Midway against overwhelming odds. We know that our ships survived incredible damage because our sailors were the world's best at damage control. And this is not a bad thing.

The reality of history is that victory does not go to the side that fights the perfect war. Victory goes to the side that makes the fewest mistakes. And we are making a lot fewer of them than are our enemies.

Update

Micheal Fumento is back from Iraq and is quite upbeat. His assessment is that "the war is ours to lose".

I observed that troop morale in even the most hostile areas was better than I would have believed. Unless I identified myself, nobody knew I was a reporter. Troops didn’t hold back antiwar feelings on my account. Yet I heard none. I also carefully fastidiously read the ubiquitous graffiti in the portable toilets and only once found a negative scrawling – a Bush bash. But three other scrawlings ambushed that first one.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 2:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 8, 2005

Lefties Lose It

Today on the drive home from work I was listening to Sean Hannity. He kept playing a clip of himself on the Rosie O'Donnell show debating her and some other leftie women. It was absolutely hilarious. I hear that he showed it on his TV show also, but I'm not much of a TV watcher and was too busy to check.

Anyway, Rosie and/or the other leftie women were absolutely shouting at Sean over how terrible they thought it was that we had invaded Iraq. "Iraq was a sovereign country and we attacked in violation of the UN! Abu Ghriab! Abu Ghriab!" The women were absolutely screaming at the top of their lungs at him. It was all so confused that it was hard to make out how many women there were and who was doing the shouting.

Throughout the clip that he played, Sean kept his cool. He may have raised his voice a bit, but that was about it. He goaded them into losing their cool. And made complete fools of them (or her).

So what of this Sovereignty Business?

But what of it? Did Rosie (or whomever was screaming at Sean) have a point in arguing that our invasion was illegal?

Of course not.

We are a democratic, sovereign, nation, and may act on our own with or without United Nations approval. In all the wars we have fought since the UN was founded, we never said that UN approval was required, only tha it would be nice to have. Big difference.

Further, governments that are not based on some form of popular representation are in and of themselves illigitimate, as far as I am concerned. I will not have authoritarian or totalitarian nations telling us what we can or cannot do.

We, along with the UK and Australia, were going to assume all of the risks of invading Iraq. There is no reason why a country that is not willing to share in those risks should be able to tell us that we cannot invade.

What about Sovereignty?

Well, what about it? Haiti and the former Yugoslav republics were sovereign nations, right? Wasn't Somalia, too? Yet Bill Clinton attacked all three, and didn't have a UN resolution for any of it. Where was the left's outrage then?

For the record I think that President Clinton did the right thing in all three cases. There, now no one can say I haven't ever said anything nice about him.

For the cruise missile attack on the pharmaceutical plant in Somalia we thought we had good intelligence that it was producing chemical weapons. President Clinton ordered the strike, which in my opinion was the right thing to do. That the intel was bad was not his fault.

Clinton and the Europeans justified intervention in the former Yugoslav republics under the aegis of NATO. But NATO is a defensive treaty, its operative phrase being "an attack on one is an attack on all." Nowhere in its charter is there anything that might be used to justify what we did.

Likewise with Haiti. Haiti was a sovereign nation that had done us no harm. Clinton ordered the troops in on purely humanitarian grounds. This was also the right thing to do.

Ah, but is was quite something to see a bunch of leftist lose their cool at Sean. He is a national treasure. And it provided me with something to write about tonight.

Posted by Tom at 9:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

See, I Told You So

No, I'm not doing a book review of Rush Limbaugh's second book.

I'm simply repeating what I said last month: We're winning the war in Iraq.

Last year at this time it was not so obvious. We'd stumbled the first time in Fallujah, and failed to take down mullah Sadr decisively. We seemed to be having a hard time getting our hands around the insurgency.

We turned the tide some time ago, although it was not easy to see it at the time. We rooted out the terrorists in Fallujah, and neutralized Sadr. Two elections played a decisive role; the one for the presidency here in the U.S. and the ones in Iraq to form a new government. It may sound partisan to say so, but the fact is that had Kerry won we may have lost in Iraq.

But my purpose is not to rehash our election. The second event, of course, was the election in Iraq. The Sunnis quickly realized that they made a grave mistake by boycotting it. To their credit, the Shi'is and Kurds were magnamimous in victory, inviting Sunnis into the government.

Some, of course, will claim that the current increase in terrorist bombings "prove" that it is the insurgent terrorists who are winning. Theirs, however, is a simplistic view, borne of the idea that wars somehow follow a linear trend. enI dealt with that nonsense last month.

Rich Lowry spelled out the course of events very well in an article in National Review last month, which I excerpted here.

Today, Jack Kelly has a must-read editorial that says just about everything I've been thinking recently (No I did not say that to sound like a know-it-all!). I won't bore you any more with my thoughts, but am going to reprint his editorial in full so you won't even have to click to go read it (aren't I nice):


More than 400 people have been killed in Iraq in the last two weeks, including at least five U.S. Marines taking part in Operation Matador in western Iraq.

A reader wants to know if, in light of this upsurge in violence, I still believe, as I wrote in a column Feb. 27th, that "the war in Iraq is all but won."

My answer is emphatically yes.

The body count is up because two offensives are under way. The insurgents have launched a suicide bombing campaign in an effort to destabilize the new Iraqi government. The Marines are clearing out the rats' nests in western Iraq to which insurgents fled after they were expelled from their stronghold in Fallujah last November.

The suicide attacks gather ominous headlines, but are failing in their strategic purpose. They have not diminished the willingness of Iraqis to enlist in the army and the police. Between 1,500 and 3,000 more sign up each week. And the Shia and the Kurds have not been goaded into bloody confrontations with the Sunnis.

The insurgents have to be discouraged by the headline which appeared in the Arabic newspaper al Sharq al Awsat Monday: "Iraqi Arab Sunnis head toward army enlisting posts in spite of explosions."

Until recently, Sunni religious leaders discouraged support for the government. But now that a Sunni has been appointed minister of defense, they're encouraging Sunnis to enlist.

"The Sunni involvement in the new government ...is a nightmare scenario for (the insurgents) — it means the loss of their only constituency," said the Australian web logger Arthur Chrenkoff, from whose blog I found I al Sharq al Awsat story.

"When the terrorist bombings began to kill large numbers of civilians back in late 2003, many Iraqis believed the Americans were behind the attacks," noted Jim Dunnigan of StrategyPage. "Iraqis didn't believe al Qaida and the Baath Party terrorists could be so stupid. Now, Iraqis consider al Qaida and the Baath Party terrorists to be depraved and rather clueless butchers."

The insurgency is now dominated by al Qaida. The news media describes this as ominous, as they describe every development in Iraq as ominous. But the opposite is true.

Al Qaida is coming to the fore through subtraction. Many of the"former regime elements" who dominated the insurgency are giving up. "The Baathists are secular-oriented socialists with little truck for the strict religious fundamentalism of al Qaida," noted web logger Donald Sensing, a former Army artillery officer. "They have been working together only because they each hate America and democracy, but at bottom, they hate each other, too."

Because they are Iraqis, all but the most blood-drenched Baathists have the option of quitting. Al Qaida does not.

"If they fail in Iraq, Osama and his whole crew are finished," retired Air Force LtGen. Tom McInerny told the Washington Times in a story published Wednesday.

The Marines say the insurgents they're fighting in Operation Matador are almost all foreigners, and that they're well trained, well armed, and fighting like cornered rats.

That's because they are. One has to go to blogs like Chrenkoff's, Dunnigan's, and Sensing's (One Hand Clapping) to get the information and analysis journalists ought to be providing, but aren't. Bill Roggio (Fourth Rail), Chester (Adventures of Chester), Wretchard (Belmont Club) and Scott Koenig (Indepundit), have done a superb job of describing the goals and progress of Operation Matador, complete with maps.

The Marines have established blocking positions on the escape routes into Syria, and are systematically reducing the pockets of resistance. The terrorists are fighting fiercely, because they've nowhere to run. They're dying in big bunches. The Marines are not.

The mere fact that a major offensive is being mounted in the mostly empty western desert indicates the situation in the cities is well enough in hand to spare the troops.

We don't know for how much longer the fighting will go on, or how many casualties there will be. The bloodiest battle of the Pacific war was Okinawa, the last.

But the insurgency's grave was dug militarily in Fallujah last November, and politically when Iraq went to the polls in January. The appointment of a Sunni defense minister and the success of Operation Matador are nails in the coffin.

See, I told you so.

Posted by Tom at 9:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

We're Winning

Oh yes we are.

The Naysayers have had their day. While much could still go wrong, we turned the corner some time ago and are on the way to wrapping this up. The terrorists will create trouble for awhile, but the prospect of their taking control of the Iraqi government is now remote.

And I'm not just talking about the success of the elections and formation of a new government. I'm talking about defeating the insurgency, killing the terrorists and/or chasing them out of Iraq.

Rich Lowry sums it up

If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.

Last October Lowry wrote about "What Went Wrong". His current article in National Review (subscription required to view the full article) is "What Went Right". And despite what you may hear from the msm, much has gone right.

No doubt much went wrong at first. In retrospect, it almost seems obvious that this should have been the case. When one thinks back on most American wars, from the Revolution to the Civil War (from the North's perspective) to World War II, they all follow the same pattern; initial mishaps if not diasasters, incorrect assuptions, American rethinking, and finally we get our act together and utterly defeat our enemy.

The Strategy of Public Works

We had to change our strategy:

The U.S. strategy became to use every instrument of power at our disposal (military, political, economic, etc.) to drive a wedge between the Sunni fence-sitters and the irredeemable elements of the insurgency — the criminals, the various Islamists, and the FREs. Attempts would be made to engage the Sunnis, while the other forces would be captured or killed. The strategy involved four main lines of operation — security, governance, basic services, and the economy — all of which complemented each other and had the goal of creating a legitimate Iraqi government that could look after its own security
.

It was a blending of carrot and stick. There are two ways to try to keep someone from taking $200 to attack Americans: “You can raise the cost to someone of planting an IED [an Improvised Explosive Device] by making it more likely you will kill him, but also by providing alternatives that make him less likely to want to take the risk in the first place,” says an administration official. Or as an officer in Iraq puts it, “You can’t kill or capture everybody.”

That’s why infrastructure projects and other economic-development measures are so important. Our troops became the equivalent to FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, employing Iraqis in thousands of public works projects.

The most important thing we did was to move from "occupation" to "liberation". No matter how we saw it, many Iraqis saw us as an occupation force. Many around the world shared this view, no matter what the reality. The result was that we faced a propaganda nightmare of lies and misinformation. But whatever the truth, people act on their perceptions.

Thus we had to disband the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and hand real power over to an Iraqi government. Elections had to be held as soon as possible no matter the danger. The Pentagon, to it's credit, had wanted to do this all along. It had been held back mainly by State.

It was handing power to Allawi, then, that was the turning point. It allowed Iraqis to fight for something that was their own. The elections consolidated and confirmed this transfer.

Training New Iraqi Forces

In addition, we needed to put more effort into training Iraqi police and military forces.

The police needed more military-style preparation. “We had built it on a Western, police-force-in-a-democracy model,” says a top officer in Iraq. The training now emphasizes survival skills, force protection, IED-detection, and the use of AK-47s. More emphasis has been placed on the training of units. “Individual police are important, but they can’t stand up to insurgents,” says the officer, who invokes as a model the special carabinieri units that took down the mafia in Sicily.

The End of Sanctuaries

During the Vietnam War the enemy had many sanctuaries; Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam itself. We had allowed Fallujah to become such a sanctuary in Iraq. This had to change.

We learned that you can't fight a war on a "start and stop" basis. If you're going to go in, you have to finish the job. Start-and-stop simply gives the enemy confidence that you don't have the will to win.

This time, Iraqi forces did much better. We used them to take down sensitive targets, such as Mosques and hospitals.

Our forces performed brilliantly

The performance of the U.S. forces was spectacular. Marines got shot and kept on fighting. When the battle ended, there was a rash of reports of previously ignored wounds. “Headquarters asked, ‘Why are you reporting 35 wounded so late?’” says Natonski. “We were reporting them so late because these kids didn’t report it when they were wounded. The Corpsmen bandaged themselves up and stayed in the fight. The Marines at Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, and Vietnam set the bar pretty high, and they lived up to the standard.”

All of the indicators, Lowry says, are now moving in our direction:

If the infrastructure and economy leave much to be desired, they have improved over the immediate post-invasion conditions. Iraqi security forces are better. More intelligence is available, both from tips and because Iraqi forces — more attuned to local conditions — are in the fight. Sanctuaries for insurgents have been denied in Iraq’s cities and a little progress has even been made with regard to Syria. (“The resources aren’t flowing as freely from Syria anymore,” an administration official explains. “The people who lead the insurgency are not as comfortable. They are not sleeping in the same places at night.”) Finally, the political process is on track, even if stumbling blocks remain, and it’s not clear whether the balance of Sunni fence-sitters will participate in it

All of this is encouraging, especially if you have realistic expectations.



Want More?

The latest from StrategyPage (April 25 post)

The terrorists have been losing popular support, as well as angering Iraqis to the point where many Iraqis are no longer afraid to resist the gangs that control many villages and neighborhoods by fear. The terrorists are usually Sunni Arabs who either supported Saddam, or are violently opposed to the idea of the Shia majority running the country. Most Sunni Arabs don't really care who runs the place, as long as it is done with less violence and corruption than Saddam used.

The suspects arrested in the downing of the Bulgarian helicoper a few days ago were turned in by fellow Iraqis, a trend that has been increasing as of late. It may not be that people have allegiance to the new government so much as they are just fed up with violence that is increasingly directed against them.

Thus the terrorists are caught in a quandary; if they attack American or coalition forces they are slaughtered, if they attack Iraqis they lose the support of the population. Revolutionary leaders from Mao to Castro depended on popular support for their success. Some, like the Viet Cong, were able to at least terrorize a politically apathetic population into acquiesence.

Faced with this difficult choice, they are attacking the target of least resistance; unarmed civilians. Unfortunately for them, these attacks are not

...encouraging Iraqis to support the terrorists, or reduce popular support for the government. The Americans are no longer blamed for the bombings, although it's still popular to blame the attacks on Islamic "foreigners."

Good enough for me.

You may be under the impression that the war in Iraq is all a case of U.S. forces sitting around waiting for a bomb to go off (punctuated by the occasional Iraqi raid), rest assured that while

Attacks are still staged, but often they are situations where it amounts to the attackers being ambushed. Such is the case in western Iraq, where American troops set up small bases in areas known to be full of anti-government forces. Soon, the local terrorists will stage attacks, which inevitably fail, with heavy terrorist casualties. The terrorists never seem to catch on to how many disadvantages they have. The Americans have extensive intelligence resources (especially electronic eavesdropping), night vision equipment and disciplined troops manning camp defenses.

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The Near Capture of Zarqawi

It has been reported in several places that we almost caught Zarqawi in February.

ABC news has more details (Hat tip Bill Roggio)

On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.

Task Force 626 — the covert American military unit charged with finding Zarqawi — had troops in place to grab the fugitive, and mobile vehicle checkpoints had been established around the city's perimeter. Another U.S. official said predator drones were also in flight, tracking movements in and around the city.

A source who had been inside the Zarqawi network alerted the task force to the meeting. Officials deem the source "extremely credible."

Several points stand out.

First, the revelation that we have an agent or source "inside the Zarqawi" network is significant. Al-Qaeda is notoriously hard to penetrate. Second, sooner or later his luck will run out. His capture or death will be a tremendous psychological blow to the terrorists. Third, as a Fox News story says, we captured his laptop, which "contained valuable intelligence, including numerous photos — apparently some of which were recent pictures of Zarqawi."

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April 6, 2005

Who's Winning?

Are we winning the war in Iraq? StrategyPage seems to think so (from a Feb 5 post):

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and allies have been hunting down the leadership of al-Qaeda. Among the big fish (the "Board of Directors"), seven are dead and ten are in custody. Four members of the "inner circle" are also in custody. This is 53 percent of the senior leadership for al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is still at large, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri (the deputy commander of al-Qaeda) and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the planner of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania). However, five out of the eight training camp commanders are dead or in custody.

Other statistics of note: Eighteen al-Qaeda financiers are dead or in custody. Among those still at large, though, are two of bin Laden�'s sisters, two of his brothers-in-law, and a Swiss banker by the name of Ahmed Huber. Huber also has extensive connections with neo-Nazis in Europe. The real financial resource for al-Qaeda remains untouched: the dozen or so Saudis who are called the "Golden Chain." All are at large, and all can still provide enough resources for bin Laden to regroup and strike again.

Al-Qaeda's military committee has also been decimated. One is dead (killed by a CIA Predator firing Hellfire missiles), fourteen, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, have been captured. These include the commanders in Singapore, Java, Southern Europe, and Japan. Several are at large, including the operations chiefs in Kosovo, Tunisia, and Somalia.
...

Short version, al-Qaeda is on the run throughout most of the globe. Even Abu Musab Zarqawi, in charge of all al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, is on the run, as elements of his infrastructure are taken apart. Eight of Zarqawi's top aides are dead. Twenty others have been captured. Zarqawi was unable to disrupt the elections on January 30, a serious loss for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda is still potent, as the attacks in Madrid proved, but they are clearly reacting to the multi-pronged offensive in the United States.
Read the whole thing.

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March 25, 2005

The View from Fallujah

Sherry at Bittersweet Me has posted a letter from one of our Marines in Iraq. He is headed home, and this is his final letter. He recently spent several days in Fallujah, which was the scene of a large battle last April. The city suffered terrible damage during the battle, yet as the Marine observes,

"... for the battle damage on all sides, the city of Fallujah had more children and a more industrious citizenry than any other I encountered here in Iraq. Almost every house had been re-occupied following the invasion, gutters cleaned of garbage, white flags flying over newly patched garden walls, “Family Inside” written in large letters in both English and Arabic. Marines control access to the city; Marines mediate civic disputes; Marines provide food, water and are protecting those who are repairing city infrastructure; Marines patrol the streets, policing both the citizens of Fallujah and the Iraqi Army who sometimes abuse their authority."
Was it worth it?
As I stood dwarfed by piles of water bottles and phone cable I realized two distinctions. The first is this: as countless millions of dollars are spent, what American citizen can truly point to the cost that this war has had on his quality of living? What a magnificent nation we live in where we can wage so massive an effort without bankrupting our citizenry in the process. The second contrast is our motive: for all the insinuations of imperialism, corporate benefit and hawkish war-mongering, the most dramatic moments I witnessed here revolved around an election not an exploitation. What other nation would spend such sums to give a people so far away self-determination? I am not advocating war. Being so far from home for so long, smelling and seeing the dead and placing Marines in harm’s way are not truly enjoyable experiences. Yet I agree wholeheartedly with the much-criticized statement by General Mattis, it IS fun to wage war against a foe who seeks only his own self-gratification, who tortures, murders and abuses the weak.
Read the whole thing.

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March 21, 2005

Progress In Iraq

If the New York Times is reporting progress in Iraq, you know things are going well (hat tip Jonah at NRO The Corner):

Nearly two years after American troops captured Baghdad, Haifa Street is like an arrow at the city's heart. A little more than two miles long, it runs south through a canyon of mostly abandoned high-rises and majestic date palms almost to the Assassin's Gate, the imperial-style arch that is the main portal to the Green Zone compound, the principal seat of American power.
...

In the first 18 months of the fighting, the insurgents mostly outmaneuvered the Americans along Haifa Street, showing they could carry the war to the capital's core with something approaching impunity.

But American officers say there have been signs that the tide may be shifting. On Haifa Street, at least, insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, and with less intensity; mortar attacks into the Green Zone have diminished sharply; major raids have uncovered large weapons caches; and some rebel leaders have been arrested or killed.

American military engineers, frustrated elsewhere by insurgent attacks, are moving ahead along Haifa Street with a $20 million program to improve electricity, sewer and other utilities. So far, none of the work sites have been attacked, although a local Shiite leader who vocally supported the American projects was assassinated on his doorstep in January.

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country's own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Read the whole thing.


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March 18, 2005

"The Naysayers"

Once again, Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant article in the latest print edition of National Review (to view it on-line you'll need a subscription). He takes on the whiners, the complainers, the doom-and-gloom crowd, in short, those who say that the War on Terror is lost and that"it can't be done."

What I really like about Hanson is his sense of history. His perspective is not that of the past few years, but that of hundreds or thousands of years. For some, important history began and ended with the Vietnam War. This miopic view prevents one from understanding what is really going on in the world.

To those caught up in the headline of the day, it is easy to see every setback as evidence that we are going to lose and that we better pull back now. Successes seem minimal, and losses are magnified. It is the nature, and indeed the duty, of the press to tell us of what is going wrong. But by concentrating on this we lose our perspective. For if one goes back in history and looks at any war that we have fought from the Revolution on, they are far from glorious stories of victory where we all linked arms and marched off to defeat the enemy. In reality, they are stories of how we engaged in almost endless internal squabbling and bickering, and how our own military made mistake after mistake, often to the very end of the war. Somehow, however, we won.

More importantly, the naysayers of the time are usually forgotten. How many remember that Lincoln was considered certain to lose the election of 1864 due to how poorly the war was going, and only at the end staged a comeback? How many know of the terrible losses at the Chosin Reservoir? Democrats and other naysayers would do well to ponder this aspect of history.

On with Hanson. He reminds us of how the Old Left (their term) blamed the Cold War on the United States, and that their version was taken seriously at the time:

By the late 1940s things on the ground had changed somewhat, and the blame-America-first ideology adjusted accordingly. Now it was the turn of the old Left, which castigated "fascists" for ruining the hallowed American-Soviet wartime alliance by "isolating" and "surrounding" the Russians with hostile bases and allies. The same was supposedly true of Red China: We were told ad nauseam by idealists and "China hands" that Mao really wanted to cultivate American friendship but was spurned by our right-wing ideologues — as if there were nothing of the absolutism and innate thuggery in him that would soon account for 50 million or more of his own people murdered and starved.

Ditto the reactions to the animosity from such dictators as Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. The Left assured us that both were actually neo-Jeffersonians, whose olive branches were crushed by unimaginative Cold Warriors and who only then went on to plan their gulags. Few seemed to think it natural that a free and powerful America would be hated by fascists and Communists — much less that it should be praised rather than castigated for earning such hatred.

How quickly some forget. More on Hanson's Right Analysis here, in a post where he concentrates on World War II.

Not all, of course, is "ancient history":

We also forget now how the Left warned us of terrible casualties and millions of refugees before the Iraq war, and then went dormant until the insurgents emerged. Then the opposition resurfaced to assure us that Iraq was lost, only to grow quiet again after the Iraqi election and its regional aftershocks — a cycle that followed about the same 20-month timetable of military victory to voting in Afghanistan.
It reminds me of the Gulf War. Recall the predictions of "tens of thousands" of American casualties? We were told how the "hardened Iraqi army" would surely fight us tooth-and-nail over every square inch of land? Peace groups like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace solemnly assured us that we shouldn't invade because if we did surely Saddam would use his WMD against us. Even after weeks of bombing, Bob Woodward assured us that air attacks were not going as well as the Pentagon had claimed.

We saw the same thing during the 2003 invasion of Iraq: The "Battle of Baghdad" that was supposed to be Stalingrad II. We were all assured that this time there would be fierce resistance. On and on it went. But being a peace activist means never having to say you're sorry.

Finally, misguided pessimists claim that the United States is alone in the world. When George W. Bush orchestrated the fall of Saddam Hussein he was said to have alienated everyone, as if our friends in Eastern Europe, Britain, Australia, and India did not matter. Yet the same was said in 1941 when Latin America, Asia, and Africa were in thrall to the Axis. Neutrals wanted little to do with a disarmed United States that had unwisely found itself in a two-front war with the world�s most formidable military powers. Indeed, the June 1941 invasion of Russia was about as multilateral as could be, with Eastern Europeans, Spaniards, Italians, and Finns all joining the invading armies of the Third Reich.

By the 1950s we seemed to have defeated Germany and Japan only to have subsequently lost Eastern Europe, as former defeated fascists became friends once-allied neutrals and Communists turned hostile. Much of Asia and Latin America deified the mass-murdering Stalin and Mao, while deriding elected American presidents. The Richard Clarkes and Joe Wilsons of that age lectured about a paranoid Eisenhower administration, clumsy CIA work, and the general hopelessness of ever defeating global Communism, whose spores sprouted almost everywhere in the form of Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Castroism, and various "national liberation" movements.

"You made Saddam"

Then there's the "the United States created Saddam" line. I see this one with leftie bloggers all of the time. Besides overstating matters to a ridiculous degree, it is both forgetful of history and simple America-bashing. I dealt with the history of America and Saddam in an earlier post called "History Backwards" An excerpt from what I wrote:

In order to understand U.S. policy in the 1980's we need to understand what happened in the late 1970s.

I was in my early college years when the Iranian Hostage Crisis occurred, and this is when I first really started to pay attention to politics. It was not a pretty introduction.

The sense of helplessness that most Americans felt was maddening. Here we were, a superpower, and yet we were unable to get our people back. We had just been through Vietnam and Watergate, with those humiliations fresh on our minds, and now this. Worse yet, our president was telling us that we would have to get used to a lower standard of living here at home.

I remember that my father was working in Washington DC at the time, and he'd tell us stories of the protests in the city: Protests, mind you, by Iranian "students" in support of the hostage takers. The protestors were protected by the police, whose protection they needed full well. The office workers would go out during their lunch break to observe these protests. My dad would tell us of normally calm, unsuitable men who would go ballistic at what they saw.

My point is that the anger towards Iran was intense and deep. We would have supported just about anyone who was willing to oppose the Ayatollah Khomeini and his regime.

More importantly, in the late '70s and early '80s it really did seem like the Iranians would be able to export their revolution to the rest of the area. The idea of the gulf states and Saudi Arabia falling to radical Islam was frightening indeed.

Contrary to what the left would have you believe, no one was under any illusions as to who Saddam was. We knew full well that he was a thoroughly rotten dictator.

The Lesson

We were right to support Iraq when we did, just as we were right to side with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. The threat of the Iranian revolution spreading throughout the region was quite real, and the consequences of it doing so could be devastating to the region and to our economy.

The journalist Christopher Hitchens had a response to those who use the "we created Saddam" line. He said, and I go on memory because I can't find the link: "Assuming for argument's sake that you're right, and we are responsible for Saddam, then isn't it our responsibility to correct the situation and take him out?"

The response he said he gets is "can't we talk about global warming now?"

So let's call it what it is; most of those who use the "the United States created Saddam" line are only out to bash the United States. They hate this country and are engaged in anti-Americanism pure and simple. Don't put up with this line because it's a load of bunk.

The naysayers will always be with us. Some are honest, and some are not. Either way, we must not get caught up in the "headline of the day", but must keep our perspective.

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March 15, 2005

Iraq did have WMD capability

I'd heard about this story yesterday but couldn't find the link. Thanks to LGF, I've got it now (should have checked there first).

On with the story.

The New York Times reported (or admitted?) yesterday that Iraq did in fact have the equipment to produce parts for missiles, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons when the United States invaded in April of 2003.

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.
Advertisement

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.
...
Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons. After the invasion, occupation forces found no unconventional arms, and C.I.A. inspectors concluded that the effort had been largely abandoned after the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
...
The United Nations, worried that the material could be used in clandestine bomb production, has been hunting for it, largely unsuccessfully, across the Middle East. In one case, investigators searching through scrap yards in Jordan last June found specialized vats for highly corrosive chemicals that had been tagged and monitored as part of the international effort to keep watch on the Iraqi arms program. The vessels could be used for harmless industrial processes or for making chemical weapons.

There it is; Saddam may or may not have had actual weapons, but he did retain the capability to manufacture them.

The article reports that while US forces were "... aware of the importance of some of the installations, there was not enough military personnel to guard all of them during and after the invasion."

Now, I've gone over the issue of "not enough troops" before, but in case you missed it here it is again. It's easy to sit around and sway "we need (or needed) more troops!" but it's quite another to look at the situation as if you were a decision maker. Consider;

  1. The size of the US military diminished so much during the 90s that we could barely come up with the number we did without compromising security in other parts of the world. I forget the exact number (and if someone wants to correct me please do so) but we went from something like 19 army divisions in 1990 to 10 in 2000.
  2. As implied above, yes we could have come up with more troops but at the cost of compromising minimal security requirements in other parts of the world. If North Korea or someone else took advantage of the situation to attack, the same people who criticize the Bush administration for not having enough troops would turn around and criticize him for leaving other areas of the world unprotected.
  3. Logistics would have been even more strained with more troops. It's one thing to land troops somewhere, quite another to get their equipment there and keep them supplied. Unlike in the Gulf War, in 2002/3 we did not have access to either the same number of port facilities or staging areas.
  4. The more American troops in the Mideast, the more tensions are inflamed. Arabs like us to provide security, but they don't like a large American presence. More American troops simply give radicals a propaganda tool.
  5. So the decision to invade with the number of troops that we did was a calculated risk. But then so is everything else in life.

Back to WMD

The Times article does not prove that Saddam had WMD, as I've heard some conservative commentators come close to alleging. But it does help put the lie to those who claim that Saddam was in compliance with the UN and the mean 'ol US was just itching to invade to steal their oil.

But in reality, nothing in the NYT story should be new. In October of 2003 David Kay (of the Iraq Survey Group) reported to Congress that

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN. Let me just give you a few examples of these concealment efforts, some of which I will elaborate on later:

A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.

One of the problems that we faced in searching for anything in Saddam's arsenal was the shear size of their arsenal. Kay describes the scope of their arsenal, and the difficulty in finding chemical weapons, especially when they're not specifically marked as such.
In searching for retained stocks of chemical munitions, ISG has had to contend with the almost unbelievable scale of Iraq's conventional weapons armory, which dwarfs by orders of magnitude the physical size of any conceivable stock of chemical weapons.

For example, there are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed 50 square miles in size and hold an estimated 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these 130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined.

As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search effort is enormous.

While searching for retained weapons, ISG teams have developed multiple sources that indicate that Iraq explored the possibility of CW production in recent years, possibly as late as 2003.

It looks like Kay was more right than he knew.

As for the length of time it would take Iraq to resume actual production, Kay said that his sources estimated 6 months. From what we know now, it could have been considerably shorter.

To be fair, Kay did, in the end, report that his group found "no evidence" that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD immediately before the US invasion.

And who knows, it is still possible that Saddam did have at least some WMD, and that it was spirited out of the country to Syria or Iran. Had we invaded in 2002 or earlier in 2003 we might just have found it, or incepted the transfers. That we wasted so much time at the United Nations was due to then Secretary of State Powell's insistence on following legal niceties. We're paying the price for that delay today, both because it allowed Saddam to dismantle his WMD machinery, and because it allowed him to organize an insurgency in advance.

Update

Marc, at USS Neverdock, posts on a story in the UK Telegraph "where they reported 'Saddam Hussein's regime offered a $2 million (£1.4 million) bribe to the United Nations' chief weapons inspector to doctor his reports on the search for weapons of mass destruction.'"

He asks "If, as the left claims, there were no WMDs in Iraq, why would Saddam need to bribe the United Nations' chief weapons inspector?"

Indeed, why?

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March 6, 2005

What We Must Remember

One of my favorite sites is an Italian blog called "I Love America." Almost all of the posts are in Italian, so I can't read a word of it. But last November when they posted "Viva La Re-Election" along with a picture of George W Bush, the message was clear.

In a post the other day they reminded me of something that we must remember. That something is the extent of the horror that we have put an end to in Iraq.

It's called the Iraqi Truth Project, and it is dedicated to remembering the horror of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. Saddam is responsible for the deaths of at least 1.3 million people.

The Iraqi Truth Project has just released a film documenting the horrors of the Saddam regime and the failures of the United Nations. It's called "WMD: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein." Their website says that much of "the source footage in this documentary will be used as evidence of war crimes committed by Saddam's regime in the upcoming war trial of Ali Hasan al-Majid, "Chemical Ali' and in Saddam Hussein's war trials." As well it should be.

You can see the movie trailer here.

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the advisors to the makers of the film. Actually I'm not quite sure of his status, but he's listed on the website.

So please go to the Iraqi Truth Project website. Be forwarned, some of it is pretty graphic. But that's just what we need to remember.

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February 18, 2005

Right Analysis

Victor Davis Hanson has it all right in his analysis on the War on Terror in general and Iraq in particular. He provides the historical context and background that is so lacking in much that passes for informed writing. We know the symptoms;

Reading the pages of foreign-policy journals, between the long tracts on Bush’s “failures” and those on neoconservative “arrogance,” one encounters mostly predictions of defeat in Iraq, laced with calls for phased withdrawal and — throughout — resounding criticism of the “botched” U.S. occupation and innuendos of petroleum imperialism.

Platitudes follow: “We can’t just leave now,” followed by no real advice on how a fascist society can be jump-started into a modern liberal republic. After all, there is no government handbook titled, “Operation 1A: How to remove a Middle East fascist regime, reconstruct the countryside, and hold the first elections in the nation’s history — all within two years.” The idea of perfection is always the enemy of improvement, as if American-sponsored reform were no better than what preceded it under a Noriega, Milosevic, the Taliban — or Saddam.

He calls them "The Impatient Caucus," and asks "Have we forgotten that winning a war takes time?" Apparently some have.

(Note: to view the article in its entirety you must be a paid subscriber to National Review)

This used to exasperate Alexander Haig, too. I recall watching some TV show where he'd be a guest, and eventually he'd start almost shouting at his opponent "You don't know any history!"

Hanson writes about how the critics try to have it both ways. A few of his examples will suffice;

From the oscillating analyses of Iraq, the following impossible picture emerges from our intelligentsia: It was a fatal error to disband the Iraqi army. That reckless act led to lawlessness and a loss of confidence in the Americans’ ability to restore immediate order after Saddam’s fall. Yet it was also a fatal error to keep some Baathists in the newly constituted army. They were corrupt and wished reform to fail — witness the Fallujah Brigade that either betrayed us or aided the enemy. So we turned off the Sunnis by disbanding the army — and yet somehow turned off the Shiites by keeping some parts of it.

Elections should have been held earlier; no, they must be now delayed since they come too soon when the country is still unsecured. No, this is the proper time after all. If 100 percent participate, then it is a sham and reminiscent of Saddam’s forced turnout; if 55 percent vote, sectarian violence is inevitable, as if such similarly dismal participation rates in the United States prompt violence or reveal illegitimacy. The Sunnis will spoil the democratic experiment — as if 20 percent of the population who cannot or will not stop the violence have the right to impair the hard work of the other 80 percent who are eager for reform, ready to brave fire to vote, and in possession of most of the country’s petroleum, ports, and pipelines.

We were after cheap oil, but gas prices somehow climbed almost immediately after we went in. We snubbed the U.N., but the U.N. — hand-in-glove with others — helped to loot Iraq. Democracy won’t work with these people, but somehow we are seeing three successive elections in the wake of the Taliban, Arafat, and Saddam.

On and on it goes. It would be funny if it weren't so serious.

We have a tendency, I think, to view wars in which we have been successful as glorious crusades in which we all linked arms and marched off to defeat the enemy. Were that it was the truth. While this attitude is symptomatic of the Revolution and Civil Wars, never is it as pervasive as it is with the granddaddy of all wars, World War II.

We're all familiar with Pearl Harbor. Many of us know about the Bataan Death March and Wake Island. But didn't we turn things around at Midway? Yes, but our mistakes were not limited to the first six months of the war.

Most of our armored vehicles were deathtraps, improved only days before the surrender. American torpedoes in the Pacific were often duds. Unescorted daylight bombing proved a disaster, but continued unabated. Amphibious assaults like Anzio and Tarawa were bloodbaths, plagued by terrible planning and command. The recapture of Manila was clumsy and far too costly. Okinawa was the worst of all operations, and yet was begun just over four months before the surrender — without careful planning for kamikazes, who were shortly to kill nearly 5,000 American sailors. Patton, the one general who could have ended the western war in 1944, was earlier relieved and then subordinated to an auxiliary position with near-fatal results for the drive from Normandy. Mediocrities like Mark Clark flourished and were promoted. Admiral King for far too long resisted the life-saving convoy system and thus unnecessarily sacrificed merchant ships; Admiral Bull Halsey almost lost his unprepared fleet to a storm.
If anything, Hanson doesn't go far enough. Our tanks had gasoline engines, our enemy had diesels in theirs (gasoline explodes, diesel burns. Take your pick). Fully 80% percent of the torpedoes were duds, making our submarines and torpedo bombers useless the first year or so. B-17 raids were suicidal until the arrival of the P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang fighters, yet we pressed ahead anyway. We never did develop an effective defense against the kamikaze, one reason our planners so feared invading the Japanese homeland. In August of 1945 Japan still had some 5,000 aircraft, and thus 5,000 kamikazes. The "storm" that Halsey drove his fleet through was a full-blown typhoon (the Pacific equivalent of a hurricane). And the action in which he did this left our landing fleet at Leyte unprotected, which would have been totally destroyed by Japanese battleships had not a few U.S. destroyers driven them off (yes you read that right).

And try this on for size: During one of the practice landings for D-Day in Normandy, several German E-Boats (their version of a PT boat) got in among our troop ships and sunk several of them. Almost 750 Americans died. In a training accident.

But weren't things better once war ended?

The war’s aftermath seemed even worse — to be overseen by an untried president who was considered an abject lightweight. Not-quite-so-collateral damage had ruined entire European cities. Europe itself nearly starved in the winter of 1945-6. Millions took to the road in mass exoduses. After spending billions to destroy Nazi Germany we had to spend billions more to rebuild it — and repair the devastation it had wrought on its neighbors. Our so-called partisan friends in Yugoslavia and Greece turned out to be hard-core Communist killers. Soon enough we learned that the most of the guerrillas in the mountains of Europe whom we had idolized, in fact, fought as much for Communism as against fascism — but never for our notion of democracy.

But at least there was clear-cut strategic success after all such sacrifice and disappointment. Oh? The Second World War started to keep Eastern Europe free of Nazis and ended up ensuring that it was enslaved by Stalinists. Poland was free neither in 1940 nor in 1946.
Don't believe that the occupation of Germany was viewed as a disaster at the time? See here, here, and here. As Hanson says, the war ended with half of Europe under the thumb of a dictator at least as bad as Hitler. That Stalin, or Khrushchev didn't grab the rest of the continent has more to do with American nuclear power and their own post-war exhaustion than anything else.

How about the atomic bomb? Wasn't the Manhattan Project an example of American know-how? Definately. The bomb, however, was built to counter a perceived threat from Germany. And oops, it turned out that they didn't have an atomic bomb project, much less an actual weapon, after all. Here's my take on how a modern day liberal Senator would have reacted.

But of course, World War II was not a failure:

Yet our greatest generation thought by and large they had done pretty well. We, in contrast, would have given up in despair in 1942, New York Times columnists and NPR pundits pontificating “I told you so” as if we would have been better off sitting out the war all along.
And so it takes time. The side that makes the fewest mistakes is the one that wins. Lincoln thought he might lose the election of 1864 because of how poorly the war was going. George Washington and other American generals presided over a series of disasters before finally defeating the British.

If you want to know what we're doing right in Iraq I can think of no better resource than Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News from Iraq" series. As for Hanson, he explains how "our enemies are facing their own paradoxes"

The terrorists have a glaring problem: Seventy-five percent of Iraqis want elections. The Sunni clerics — who either cannot or will not stop their brethren from trying to derail the voting, through which their own cause will be defeated — wish to nullify the elections. But these Sunni appeals appear increasingly empty — almost like the Secessionists complaining that Northern voters in 1860 might imperil the Union. And no one is all that sure that there really is a purist Sunni block of millions of obstructionists, rather than just ordinary Iraqis who want to vote and are in fear of extremists who claim their allegiance. Saudi Arabia unleashed terrorists to stop democracy in Iraq — and now worries that their young Frankenstein monsters hate their creators just as much.
We're not out of the woods yet. But we are well on the road to success. Analyzing our mistakes and putting corrections into place is good. Dwelling on them to the point of all-is-gloom-and-doom is not.

The other side

Wrong Analysis is on my other blog site.

Posted by Tom at 4:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 2, 2005

Vindication?

None other than yours truly submitted his week's Homespun Bloggers symposium question , so if you don't like it you'll know who to blame.

Do you think that the elections in Iraq vindicated President Bush's decision to invade Iraq?

I asked this question because I've heard it said by various commentators that the success of the elections validated the President's decision to invade Iraq.

It is tempting to just answer "Hell Yes!" and leave it at that. My support for the invasion is well known to readers of this blog. And given that the insurgency has been harder than expected to put down, and with all of the violence that preceded it, that it went off so well is good news indeed.

Also, having had to put up with various groups of naysayers who are always predicting gloom and doom, as well as election defeat for George W Bush, it is tempting to throw it in their faces and say "See what happened?!?!" They've called the president a liar, and without a scintilla of evidence to back up their claims, that the temptation to use this as a partisan tool is almost overwhelming. Almost.

And further, it was a victory for the Iraqi people, and indeed for oppressed people everywhere. They have taken their first step towards establishing a democracy. The utter failure of the terrorists to stop the election is a huge victory for the "good guys." It is eminently possible that this will be the catalyst that will spread democracy throughout the Middle East. That we still have a hard road ahead is no reason not to feel joyous today. The naysayers warn us that Iraq could turn into an Iranian-style theocracy; I respond to them that it is at least equally possible that a new Iraq could force Iran to reform itself.

But tempting as it is, this does not really answer the question. Let's break things down.

Ex Post Facto?

"The recent elections justify President Bush's decision to invade Iraq"

In order to determine of this is correct, we need to ask some questions;

  1. Was turning Iraq into a democracy part of the President's original justification for war?
  2. If not, is it acceptable to justify a war ex post facto?
  3. If yes, then were the elections successful?
Wikopedia offers two main justifications used by the Bush Administration:
  1. Weapons of Mass Destruction
  2. Links to Terrorism
As for WMD, the primary justification for the war was that Saddam Hussein had not complied with Security Council resolutions requiring him to destroy his stockpiles of WMD. Stockpiles, mind you, that he admitted to having after the Gulf War. It was believed by most of the world's intelligence services that he not only maintained some sort of production capacity but had WMD stockpiles ready for use. That the intelligence has been shown to be incorrect does not invalidate the justification, since it has also been shown that the war planners were acting in good faith.

Regarding terrorism, while some of the intelligence was faulty (what we got from Chalabi), there were indeed "links", even if no "operational relationship". A better question is whether we acted in good faith. The evidence I have is that we did.

In addition, before the war Secretary Rumsfeld offered several more justifications:

  • end the Saddam Hussein government
  • help Iraq's transition to democratic self-rule
  • find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, weapons programs, and terrorists
  • collect intelligence on networks of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists
  • end sanctions and to deliver humanitarian support (According to Madeline Albright, half a million Iraqi children had died because of sanctions.)
  • secure Iraq's oil fields and resources

    In addition, there is the Clinton-era Iraq Liberation Act, which states as it's purpose (Sense of the Congress)
      It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

    A whole host of justifications are listed, from the attempt to assassinate ex-President George H W Bush to attempts to thwart United Nations inspectors.

    Answer to Question 1: Yes, spreading democracy was a stated justification for the war. Not the primary justification, but a justification.

    Answer to Question 2: (updated 02/05/05) One may not justify a war with reasons that are made after the war has begun. To do so is to violate the rules of a Just War. Since we did not change our objectives during the war, we did not violate the rule against ex post facto justifications.

    However, while not applicable in this case, the issue does deserve further exploration.

    Let's quickly examine three wars; the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the American Civil War.

    Our original justification for involvement in the Korean War was to save South Korea from northern aggression. We achieved this within eight months, after the successful landings at Inchon and push north from Pusan. In the face of the collapse of the North Korean army, we decided to expand our objectives to include reunification of the penninsula. By doing this we violated the rules of a Just War.

    Our stated objectives during the Gulf War was 1) to free Kuwait from Iraqi opposition , and 2) to eliminate most or all of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. At the end of the "100 hour ground war" we had achieved the former and were well on the way to achieving the latter (or so we believed). For us to have expanded our objectives to include invasion of Iraq and toppling of the regime would have put us in violation of the rules of a Just War. That it may seem today that this would have been the "common sense" thing to do does not change this conclusion at all. If we had wished to effect regime change we would have needed to state this as an objective from the start.

    The justifications for the Civil War are complicated and seemed to vary as the war progressed. I am no expert on this aspect of the war and have asked another blogger to add his thoughts as to whether Lincoln changed his justification for the war as it progressed.

    From what I understand, the North's original justification for fighting was simply to preserve the Union. As the war progressed, the elimination of slavery was stated as a "sort of" additional objective, but it never replaced the original one. Lincoln never pushed the anti-slavery aspect hard. The Emanciplation Proclamation, for example, only freed slaves in areas already occupied by Northern forces. The paradox is that although the cause of the war was the issue of slavery, neither side used it as their primary purpose for fighting. The South claimed "states rights."

    Answer to Question 3: The answer to this question depends on your criteria. My answer is that the elections were successful given the current environment in Iraq. Some have set their standards higher, saying, for example, that unless Sunni Arabs are voting in large numbers the new government will not be legitimate. This misses the point; these elections were not meant to be the end-all-to-be-all. They were meant to be a start. And as such, they succeeded. We would do well to recall that until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed fully 50% of the American population was legally barred from voting for president.

    More tests will come in the future, and we're not out of the woods yet. But as for now we may have turned the corner in this war.

    Yes, the elections were successful.

    Conclusion

    The elections do help to justify the invasion. They are not the justification, but then they were never meant to be. We would not have invaded if the goal was simply to spread democracy. WMD were and are a valid justification, even though no weapons were found. The reason is that we did have reasonable cause to believe that such weapons existed.

    Update

    Alert reader Zach, author of the Mad Poets Anonymous blog, caught a serious typo in my original post: instead of copying from Wikopedia the reasons Rumsfeld gave in support of the war, I copied the reasons his opponents gave. There is a big difference, of course. According to Wikopedia, opponents of the war said that it was fought primarily:

    • to maintain the wartime popularity that the President enjoyed due to his response to the September 11 attacks (in contrast to his father whose wartime popularity faded when the electorate began to focus on the economy)
    • to channel money to defense and construction interests
    • to ensure the US had military control over the region's oil as a lever to control other countries that depend on it
    • to assure that the revenue from Iraqi oil would go primarily to American interests
    • to lower the price of oil for American consumers

    Posted by Tom at 1:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 31, 2005

    Success, and a Rebuke

    The elections in Iraq have taken place and are a resounding success. The terrorists tried hard to stop them and failed. Democracy won this round. The Iraqis won.

    We should be happy with our achievement. It is a rebuke to the naysayers, to the gloom-and-doom crowd, to those who say that our efforts are always doomed, to those who say that all wars are another Vietnam.

    Not Because they are Easy....

    We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

    John F Kennedy
    Sept 12, 1962

    This is the spirit of America. This is the "can do" spirit that made America Great. These are the words that we used to live by. Most of our country still lives by them.

    The space race may have been the subject of President Kennedy's words, but it summarized the attitude of Americans back then. Yes going to the moon was largely a technical challenge, and is vastly different than that of spreading democracy. Yes we were chastened by Vietnam. But we have overcome more than technical challenges in our history.

    There are those, whoever, who believe that we cannot succeed. Whether it is the environment, civil rights, the economy, a proposed military venture, or the idea of spreading democracy, all is gloom and doom. Our planet is polluted to the point where only radical international treaties will save us. Jim Crow may return at any minute. Everyone lives in fear of becoming homeless. All wars will become another Vietnam. Attempts to encourage the spread of democracy will only make things worse. Only by listening to the wise Europeans and UN bureaucrats can we save ourselves.

    We will fail in Iraq only if we want to fail. Only if we loose our nerve will the terrorists succeed.

    The Iraqis

    Check out Friends of Democracy, a new website dedicated to providing "Ground-level election news from the people of Iraq."

    Mohammed of Iraq the Model rebuked the terrorists yesterday

    The tyrants nightmare is becoming reality, now they will have to deal with the scariest word in their dictionaries; THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE.
    The terrorists have challenged the bravery of the Iraqi people but they messed with the wrong people. The people have accepted the challenge; democracy and elections are not a luxury for Iraqis, it's an issue of life or death. And the terror brutal campaign has only made the people more determined to go on with the change.
    Alaa bows in respect to Iraqis who went to the polls despite threats. He also wishes condolences to the American people for the loss of many of our soldiers.

    Hammorabi is so excited it seems that nearly every sentence on his blog ends in an exclamation point. Can't say I blame him.

    The Family in Baghdad, however, looks at the glass as half-full. No, they see it has almost empty. Note that they do not allow comments on their blog.

    Media Coverage

    We had Fox News on in the background at work yesterday, and I didn't get a chance to see how their coverage differed from that of other networks. Kat does a nice job of summarizing the MSM coverage on her blog, so check that out.

    Sure, one can say that they're cheerleaders on Fox. And they are. But so what? And, more to the point, why exactly is that a bad thing? There is a time to be critical and a time to celebrate success. Their coverage does tell both sides, contrary to what their critics would have you believe. The difference is that they do not give the gloom-and-doom crowd more than is their due.

    The Missing

    Where is that great defender of human rights, Jimmy Carter? He who is famous for monitoring elections to ensure that they are fair? Check the Middle East section of the Carter Center's website and you'll find that they are doing nothing in Iraq. Iraq is conspicuously absent from their Democracy Program, also.

    For that matter, where are the "human shields" that were going to protect the Iraqi people from U.S. bombing during the early days of the Iraq War? One of their websites is inactive. On another the latest update was made on August 27, 2003. Despite a few taunts by bloggers, I have not seen any take up the challenge to protect the polling places. A few have admitted they were wrong, but most are simply angry that we have succeeded.

    The Politics

    Yesterday was a victory for President Bush and his supporters, plain and simple. We may as well revel in our success, for we will certainly face difficult days ahead.

    Some of the Democrats still don't get it. First up is John Kerry;

    "It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote,"

    "If we do a better job of training; if the training is accelerated and other countries come to the table in the effort to provide and help provide long term security, yes we can begin to reduce American troops. But those pre-conditions and changing the life of the Iraqis on a day-to-day basis has not happened,"
    Ted Kennedy offered an equally tempered view
    While the elections are a step forward, they are not a cure for the growing violence and resentment of the perception of an American occupation ... I continue to believe that the best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country is for the administration to withdraw some troops now and to begin to negotiate a phase-down of our long-term military presence.
    You can be sure that Hillary Clinton is laughing very hard at these comments. She has been smart enough to keep quiet lately and let these other Democrats sink themselves. Her plan it to emerge like the Phoenix from the ashes and rescue her party from their self-destruction.

    The Future

    No, we have not won yet. Yes, much more remains to be done. No, democracy is not yet secure in Iraq and we may still fail. Yes, there will be much more fighting before the insurgent terrorists are defeated. Yes, there will be setbacks. And yes, the final form of Iraqi democracy may not be totally in accord with our wishes.

    Happy now, naysayers?

    We know all of these things. We know that there are many challenges ahead of us. The difference between you and us is that we take heed of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's advice;

    Never take council of your fears.
    As I have explained before, the key word is not "fears" but "council." Only a fool would disregard the very real dangers we face in Iraq. Jackson meant that you must not allow fear of these dangers to paralyze your thinking. President Kennedy understood this. Most Americans understand it. And yesterday proved that most Iraqis do, too.

    Posted by Tom at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    December 15, 2004

    Humvee Armor and the Secretary

    As it turns out, the Homespun Blogger's weekly symposium question is about Secretary Rumsfeld and the Humvee armor question. I addressed the issue in this post:

    It's been pretty well established that the incident the other day when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld got some by tough questions from soldiers over Humvee armor was a setup. The reporter's behavior was completely out of line (and something of a braggart too). And Senators such as McCain and Biden, both of whom have been quite critical lately, are simply positioning themselves to run for president in '08. Further, we live in an age of style over substance, one in which the way a question is answered gets greater attention than the substance of the question at hand. But lapsing into despair over these things will not make them go away.

    Ultimately, the question about the armor is valid. And it is inexcusable for Rumsfeld to have appeared startled by the question. After all, the issue of armor on Humvees and other vehicles has occupied the Pentagon for some time.

    And unfortunately for Rumsfeld, it might get worse before it get's better. William Kristol, one of the most influential neoconservatives around, has declared in a Washington Post editorial that he no longer supports the Secretary. It seems to me that Kristol is entirely too hard on Rumsfeld, and seems unaware that the issue is actually fairly complicated.

    And, before we write off our Defense Secretary over armor on Humvees, let's site back and take a deep breath. For the plain fact is that far from being the "arrogant, buck-passing" Secretary that Bill Kristol seems to think he is, Rummy is actually quite iconoclastic. He's trying to shake things up at the Pentagon far more than I think is generally realized.

    Consequences

    If there is any blame, it is in not anticipating that there would be an insurgency. We need to remember that we thought that what we were worried about was fighting a conventional battle against the Iraqi army. As such, our Army and Marine Corps was configured to fight just such a war. Armor on Humvees was simply not important in a traditional invasion, where armored vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and Bradley M2/M3 fighting vehicle would lead the way.

    But then, almost no one anticipated the insurgency. Recall that those who opposed the war warned of many dire consequences, but few if any mentioned a long insurgency. Most were focused on a conventional fight with the Iraqi army, or chemical attacks on our troops. Others told us that a civil war would almost certainly erupt, or that massive famine would ensue. Still others were certain that the "Arab street" thoughout the Middle East would erupt and chaos would ensue throughout the region, perhaps even toppling governments. But then if you're anti-war you are always forgiven.

    That none of these things have happened seems not to matter to some of these critics. For the plain fact is that the requirements of an invading column and those of an anti-insurgent force are quite different. And it's not so simple to revamp overnight.

    Armor on a Humvee has disadvantages, as has been pointed out elsewhere. One of them is slower speed, which can be a tactical disadvantage. Another is increased fuel consumption. In an insurgency, when you are operating from bases close to the scene of the action, this is not a big deal. But go back to the original invasion of Iraq (or of another country). This additional weight on the vehicles could very well have slowed down the invasion columns to the point where the Iraqis were able to put up a better defense. And this would have resulted in a longer conventional phase to the conflict. Which would have resulted in criticism from the usual suspects.

    Some Marines in Fallujah have pointed out the pros and cons of armor to reporters who told them about the dustup with Rumsfeld

    Asked whether he would prefer a closed Humvee with bulletproof windows, Munns said "it's a yes-and-no answer."

    "An enclosed vehicle reduces your visibility and if you are not able to see an attack you might as well have no armor at all," he said. "It needs to be a fine balance between visibility and protection."

    Munns said he prefers mobility over the weight of extra body armor.

    The three Marines agree that the most exposed person is their gunner in the turret.

    "He has to think about the bigger stuff, he is up there, more exposed than any of us," Munns noted.

    History and More History

    Here is where things get difficult. For me as a writer, that is. . Certainly it looks like up-armored Humvees are necessary in fighting the insurgency. Certainly also many soldiers are angry that they don't have enough armor. And maybe the Pentagon should have anticipated the need and got them out to the field faster. But, and I don't at all mean to sound callus here folks, but in the scheme of history this is not a huge screw-up. It is important and deserves our attention. Woe be the day when we shrug off what our troops tell us that they need.

    And from most of what I read the Pentagon is and has been trying to get armor on the Humvees and trucks. Have their been mistakes, and should the job have been done faster and better? Perhaps so.

    However, we need to put all this in the perspective of history. And if we take a little trip back through time, here are some things that we discover

    • We entered World War II with 80% of our torpedoes being defective. That's right, folks, up to 80% of the torpedoes that we fired didn't work for one or more of three reasons: they dove too deep, they failed to explode on contact, or they detonated en route to the enemy ship, the magnetic detector being the culprit (ideally a torpedo goes under the enemy ship and detonates to achieve maximum damage, thus a magnetic detector is required to detect the steel of the ship).
    • Not only did we enter the war with inferior and outright lousy tanks, we never did achieve parity with the Germanys. The reasons why we stuck with the venerable Sherman are many (and some quite valid), but that does not excuse the fact that we entered the war with inferior tanks. (Note to techies; yes I know this issue, like all others concerning military hardware, is very complex. See posts here, for example)
    • The Shermans that we did finally build couldn't deal with the hedgerow country in Normandy in the days and weeks after the D-Day invasion. The tanks became stuck in the hedgerows that were all over the area and became bogged down. Finally a US sergeant came up with the idea of welding a fork-like scoop to the front of the tanks. When they came to a hedgerow they were able to plow the hedges up and keep moving. None of this was anticipated, as arguably it should have.
    • However one comes down on the debate about US tanks, no one can dispute that our aircraft were almost universally inferior, especially to those the Japanese had. Our F4F Wildcat couldn't match the famous Mitsubishi Zero, the F2A Buffalo was a joke, the and TBD Devastator obsolete . At least theSBD Dauntless was a good aircraft.
    • We went into Vietnam with F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft that didn't have guns. In our infinite wisdom we had thought that the days of gunbattles in the sky were over and everything would be decided by missiles. Wrong. Pilots quickly discovered that while missiles were preferred, there were many cases where only a gun would do. To rectify the situation we strapped a gun onto the center hard-point of the Phantoms (or some of them anyway), and only later reincorporated a gun into the aircraft.

    Rumsfeld the Rebel

    Take this story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal recently. The Army was quite convinced that it had discovered the way to winning future wars. Speed, overwhelming firepower, and ever-better C4I capabilities would surely devastate future enemies. What we found out was that yes, we could win this way - as long as the enemy cooperated. As Clausewitz reminded us

    In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts
    Rumsfeld understands all this perfectly and it working to change how the Army fights.

    "We're realizing strategic victory is about a lot more than annihilating the enemy," says one senior defense official in Mr. Rumsfeld's office. Victory also requires winning the support of locals and tracking down insurgents, who can easily elude advanced surveillance technology and precision strikes. In some cases, a slower, more methodical attack, one that allows U.S. troops to stabilize one area and hold it up as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country, could produce better results, according to emerging Army thinking.

    Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that the military, which is still organized "to fight big armies, navies and air forces on a conventional basis," must change in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists. "The department simply has to be much more facile and agile," he says in an interview. "We have got to focus more on the post-combat phase."

    and further

    A recent directive, prepared by Mr. Rumsfeld's office and still in draft form, now yields to that view. It mandates that in the future, units' readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces. It orders the military's four-star regional commanders to "develop and maintain" new plans for battle, hoping to prevent the sort of postwar chaos that engulfed Iraq.
    But does it Matter?

    Despite all of the good he has done in his position, Secretary Rumsfeld is under attack as never before. Regardless of what one thinks of Senators McCain and Hagel, when they call for his resignation we must pay attention. And when Bill Kristol adds his voice to the chorus, it's really time to sit up straight.

    Perhaps the Humvee armor story is overblown. But if that is so it is more a case of the straw that broke the camel's back. Our inability thus far to put a lid on insurgency in Iraq has frustrated supporters of the war. That they should call for changes at the top should not surprise us.

    Update

    The editors of National Review, as usual, put some perspective on the issue of armor

    Remember: When Rumsfeld showed up at the Pentagon for
    his second stint as secretary of Defense, the army was hell-bent on building the Crusader, a "mobile" artillery system that couldn't even fit into a C-130 transport plane. It wanted to build the Comanche helicopter, an aircraft conceived in 1983 with our Soviet adversary in mind. The army was caught in a bad Cold War flashback. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, "Even as the armored Humvee proved itself in small conflicts around the globe, the Army failed to buy more because it was focused on preparing for major wars with other large armies — rather than low-end guerrilla conflicts."

    It would be ironic if Rumsfeld lost his job over the issue of armor, when it was he who has been trying to revamp the military just so it could fight these "low-end guerrilla conflicts.

    At this point, of course, everyone agrees on the need for more armored Humvees, which weren't originally conceived as combat vehicles. But in considering today's conventional wisdom, it is always useful to remember yesterday's. Before the roadside bombs really took hold as the Iraqi insurgents' weapon of choice, commentators were praising the British in Iraq for their unthreatening approach that emphasized soft vehicles and foot patrols. The Pentagon was criticized for its attachment to armor, not for having too little of it.

    But hindsight is always 20/20 and if you're an anti-war commentator you are never held to account for what you said in the past.

    Meanwhile, Republicans McCain and Hagel call for Rumsfeld's head. Once again, the editors of National Review

    The get-Rumsfeld crowd — mostly Democrats, joined by the McCain-Hagel caucus and a few stray hawks — takes great umbrage at Rumsfeld's answer to a National Guardsman's question about an insufficient number of up-armored Humvees. Hagel intoned, “those men and women deserved a far better answer from their secretary of Defense than a flippant comment.” But Rumsfeld wasn't being flip. One wonders whether Hagel has even taken the time to read the full transcript of the secretary's remarks. The troops gave Rumsfeld a standing ovation at the end. Is it the position of the secretary’s critics that the troops were too stupid to realize they had just been belittled?

    Further, Rumsfeld was certainly right when he said that you go to war with the army/military that you have. Long gone are the days when one had time to hold off the enemy with whatever was at hand while you built up your forces. Today we are almost required to see into the future. Unfortunately, noone has yet invented the necessary crystal ball.

    Update II

    Courtesy of the Greg Pierce at the Washington Times

    The truth is trickling out on the true state of affairs concerning the armoring of U.S. vehicles in Iraq, the Media Research Center reports.

    " 'It now appears that the premise of the question that caused an uproar around Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was, so to speak, off base,' [Fox New Channel's] Brit Hume noted Tuesday night in reminding viewers how two weeks ago National Guardsman 'Thomas Wilson said to Rumsfeld, quote, "our vehicles are not armored, we do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north," into Iraq.'

    "But, Hume relayed, 'according to senior Army officers, about 800 of the 830 vehicles in Wilson's Army regiment, the 278th Calvary, had already been up-armored' at the time of his widely publicized question.

    Posted by Tom at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    December 6, 2004

    Upcoming Iraqi Elections

    Should we delay the elections in Iraq? There are pros and cons on each side. Although holding them on January 30 as scheduled is risky, it is my belief that they should not be delayed.

    Here are the primary reasons why some are in favor of delaying the elections:

    1. If not enough people are able to vote the election will be seen as illegitimate. If the election is not seen as legitimate, the new government will not be accepted, and the insurgency will gain a propaganda coup.
    2. If election day monitors are chased from the polling places, the vote result will be questioned.
    3. Seventeen Iraqi groups (mainly Sunni, but also some Kurds) have called for a delay in elections. If elections go ahead as scheduled, and do not work out, they will not accept the new government. While not a majority, the Sunnis do constitute a large group within Iraq.
    4. Bottom line; if the election is seen as illegitimate, we may end up in a worse situation than the one we are in today.
    5. Former U.N. special envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, who is described as the architect of the elections, says that elections cannot be held under current conditions.
    6. Fifty-five days is not enough time to secure the country enough to ensure a reasonably legitimate result.
    7. A delay would "...allow more time to persuade groups boycotting the election to take part and to bring calm to regions roiled by a tenacious insurgency."
    8. If the new government is not recognized as legitimate by Iraqis, it also may not be recognized by other countries around the world. This, too, would feed upon itself in a vicious cycle.
    On the other side, here are the reasons why elections should be held as scheduled:
    1. There is little reason to believe that the security situation will be dramatically improved in a few months time. A delay longer than a few months risks exacerbating internal tensions, resulting in a situaion worse than the one we face today.
    2. A delay would be a morale and propaganda victory for the insurgents. They would be ever more determined to press home their attacks. It would also serve as a recruitment tool, and those who are now "sitting on the fence" might be persuaded to join their ranks.
    3. By the same token, a delay would demoralize the Iraqi government and security forces. Recruitment could drop, and we may not be able to build them up to the point that they can effectively operate independantly to take back their country.
    4. The flip side of #3 and #4 is that if we can pull off reasonably legitimate elections, they will serve as an enormous morale booster to the Iraqi government, people, and security forces. It will also demoralize the insurgents, having all of the opposite effects listed in #3.
    5. A delay would be seen by many Iraqis as "proof" that the U.S. has no intention of ever holding elections, and that we intend on stealing their oil turning the country into a colony. This line will be parroted by anti-American groups everywhere.
    6. Many of the Iraqi groups who are advoting delay are not operating in good faith. Their real objective is to gain political advantage, and to renegotiate power-sharing arrangements. For example, the Association of Muslim Scholars says that free and fair elections cannot be held as long as U.S. troops are even in Iraq.
    7. The major Shi'ite groups, including the religious leadership headed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, say that elections should proceed as scheduled. They represent the majority of Iraqis.
    8. Most of the country is actually fairly calm. The news media concentrates on the areas of turmoil. Thus, voting will proceed as planned, in an orderly and lawful manner, in most of the country. Most Iraqis, therefore, will see the results as being legitimate.
    All in all, the primary reason for going ahead with elections as scheduled is that not to do so will be taken by the insurgents as a victory and by the Iraqi security forces as a defeat. And they will be right.

    Excessive carping about U.S. failures during the occupation will not change matters in the near future. Reasoned analysis may serve us well for the future, but we we are in the situation that we are in, for better or worse. It seems the best course of action is to hold the elections as scheduled.

    Arthur Chrenkoff has an article posted on Opinion Journal on Iraq and the elections. As has been the case in all of his "Good News from Iraq" series of articles, he demonstrates that all is not bad news coming out of that country:

    It would be dangerous and very unwise to ignore or downplay all the bad things happening in Iraq right now; but it would be equally dangerous if without hearing other voices and other stories from inside the country we were to give up and walk away, leaving Iraqis alone to try to secure their future. The bombs are deadly, but the perception that in Iraq today there is nothing else but the bombs could prove even deadlier in the long run--for the Iraqis, the Middle East, and the West.
    Indeed, he says, many Iraqis
    ...hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage. Westerners, too, both military and civilians, upon their return are often finding to their surprise and concern they had lived and worked in a different country to that their loved ones, friends and neighbors back home saw every night on the news.
    Now go and read the whole thing.

    (Hat tip to Jane for finding Arthur's article first)

    Posted by Tom at 10:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    October 18, 2004

    "What Went Wrong?"

    I must admit that I drew in my breath when I saw the cover of the latest National Review last week. There is a haunting picture of an Iraqi woman looking out of a window on the cover, and she has a fearful look on her face.

    "What Went Wrong?" was on the cover

    I hurredly looked at the table of contents and saw what I'd expected

    The story of the Iraq post-war is, in part, a tale of gross intelligence failures, debilitating intramural battles, miscommunications, unintended consequences, and counterproductive half-measures. Some of these missteps were the result of the inevitable uncertainties and surproises of warfare, others of incompetence, and many of something in between.
    I guess I'd expected this for some time. I've read Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News from Iraq" series, and it is a necessary counterweight to the steady drizzle of bad news that we get from so much of the national media. But the daily bombings take their toll on even the staunchest of invasion supporters.

    The article is recommended reading for all of you. Of course I'm sure you're already subscribers, so you're ahead of me. If not, run out to a bookstore or news stand and purchase a copy. And for heaven's sake subscribe. You can do so on-line here.

    If Bush-haters are expecting vindication from Lowry's article, however, they will be sorely disappointed. He dismisses their arguments up front

    By now, anyone who can't recite the standard critique of what has gone wrong in the Iraq war just hasn't been paying attention.

    It goes something like this: There was no post-war planning. What little planning took place was spearheaded by the State Department, and then maliciously ignored by the ideologues at the Pentagon, who didn't want to hear a discouraging word about managing a liberated Iraq. Consumed by Rumsfeld's fixation on light forces, the Pentagon skimped on troop levels and ignored the advice of its commanders. Anyone who said anything inconvenient about the war was systematically punished. In this narrative, "Pentagon civilian" becomes a dirty phrase.

    Almost every particular of this indictment is wrong.
    For example, Kerry and Edwards regularly claim that there was no planning for the aftermath of the war. This is so wrong as to border on an outright lie. As Lowry makes clear, the planning was quite extensive. They went through scenario after scenario, each of them a potential horror story. The "problem", is that almost none of them took place. There was no humanitarian crisis. There was no "Battle of Baghdad", or humanitarian crisis.

    Indeed, virtually none of the horrors that the left warned us about took place. And, most maddenly of all, they never seem to be held accountable for it by the media (even Fox News misses this one). Remember how we were told that there would be a gigantic "Battle of Baghdad" that would surely tie down our forces for weeks of not months? That we would have to take the capital street-by-street? That were would be a humantarian crisis of gargantuan proportions? Or that Saddam's chemical or biological weapons would lay waste to the countryside (this last from a "peace" group)?

    "What Went Wrong?" is the type of analysis that perhaps can only be written by someone with impeccable conservative credentials, and published in William F Buckley's trademark journal. Were it written by the likes of Seymore Hersh, we could dismiss it as the rantings of a Bush-hater who, as often as not, doesn't get his facts straight.

    Lowry remains a supporter of our operations in Iraq, as do his sources. But he makes clear that we need to face some hard realities, too.

    This type of article is long overdue. Let's face it: none of us who supported the invasion of Iraq thought that it would be this difficult. Who among us really expected the insurgency to go on for so long? Who expected that, almost a full year after the invasion, we would not be able to even enter several Iraqi cities with anything less than a batallion of troops, complete with air cover?

    One of the biggest criticisms of the administration is that we do not have enough troops in Iraq. Both left and right say this. But Lowry points out that invading with a larger force, or even adding more troops later, would have created additional problems, too. And it is not at all clear that the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks. More troops would have A) Slowed down the initial invasion (costing more lives, giving Saddam a chance to torch the oilfields, and perhaps destabilizing the entire region), and B) Added to our problems now by creating more resentment among those in Iraq who see us as "occupiers."

    One of his themes is that for every action you take, having done the opposite may have resulted a worse outcome. "Every strategic choice has it's benefits and drawbacks", Lowry points out. One wishes that war critics would at least acknowledge this point.

    I am not going to go through the entire article, as I want you to do that yourself.

    Would Kerry or the Democrats do any better? Given the nature of their critique, Lowry hardly thinks so:

    Bush's critics, meanwhile, have had the luxury of irresponsibility that comes with being out of office, and have taken full advantage of it. They have indulged paranoid fantasies about the administration's "neocons," failed to offer constructive criticism, waged demagogic attacks based on Halliburton and all manner of other nonsense, fudged their answer to the all-important question of whether they would have invaded, and pounced on every hint of realistic analysis out of the administration (e.g., Rumsfeld's recent obvious statement that the Iraqi elections might not be perfect). Nothing in their performance during the Iraq episode marks them as deserving of power.
    Will Iraq succeed? Yes, if Bush is returned to power we stand a chance. The indications are that he is very unhappy with the situation there and that changes are in the works.

    We can make Iraq succeed, and win this war.

    Posted by Tom at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    October 7, 2004

    Roosevelt Lied, People Died!

    October 7, 1946
    United States Senate

    "Fellow members of the Senate, I have the duty to report to you that Franklin Delano Roosevelt lied to us about his reasons for initiating the Manhattan Project. Yes, the project that developed the atomic bomb was all based on a lie.

    Millions of dollars were wasted on this hugely expensive program. Money that could have been spent here at home on health care, job programs, and education. Instead, it was spent on producing two tiny devices that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of good Japanese citizens.

    We were told by the president that Nazi Germany was developing this new type of weapon. He assured us that the evidence was infallible. All throughout the war, he assured us that this secret project of his was necessary because he and his advisors were "certain" that Hitler was developing an atomic device, a device that he would use against us unless we acted quickly.

    It now turns out that most of the "evidence" he used to justify this wasteful and harmful project was based on a few letters sent by a scientist to Roosevelt!

    Look at the headlines. We are now the laughingstock of the world. An article in the eminent New York Times tells the story:

    GERMANS DECLARED FAR BEHIND ON BOMB
    The New York Times, 1945
    New York Times; Dec 7, 1945; pg. 4
    Truman was part of the Roosevelt administration, so he cannot deny responsibility for the Manhattan Project. How can we regain the respect of the rest of the world when our own president has no credibility?

    Operation Alsos has reported to us that Nazi Germany in fact did not have a credible atomic weapon program. They were nowhere near completion of an atomic device. In fact, we know now that Hitler was never even serious about developing such a weapon. His program was underfunded. They had no reactor. No quantities of fissile material. Not even a blueprint for a bomb.


    And so we are now in a situation where Harry Truman demands more and more money to fix the problems that he helped to cause. Can anyone doubt that occupied Germany, for example, is nothing but chaos? The evidence is printed for us day after day in our newspapers! The German people hate us. We have botched the occupation. . There is much doubt as to whether Germany can develop into a democracy.

    This administration has also failed to adequately consult our allies. I trust that you have all seen the New York Times article telling of Russian success in their sector? About the revival of industry, agriculture, and education under their wise tutelage? But, sadly, our president is too arrogant to hold the summit meeting necessary for a frank exchange of ideas.

    Despite all this, they have not announced any plan for the reconstruction of Europe. Secretary of State Marshall has hinted at something that he is developing, but he has presented us with no plan.

    Fellow Senators, there is only one conclusion: Roosevelt lied, and people died!"


    Posted by Tom at 3:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 1, 2004

    No Regrets

    Was the invasion of Iraq worth it? There can be no denying the difficulties we face in Iraq; the continuing insurgency and failure to create successful Iraqi security forces are but a few. The war has cost us friends abroad and made international diplomacy more difficult. It may well cost Bush a second term.

    Yet for all that, I maintain that yes, the war was worth it. Not only that, but in the words of former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey "Twenty years from now, we'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who says it wasn't worth the effort."

    1) The entire "sanctions regime" with its "no fly zones" was simply untenable over the long term. The situation unstable and bound to fail sooner or later. There are several reasons for this:

    The first is that memories fade. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait becomes ancient history, while the suffering of the Iraqi people because of the sanctions dominated the Arab media. Saddam and his regime seemed to prosper under the sanctions while his people suffered. Because of this resentment towards the U.S. had been building throughout the '90s. There were many who felt that it would be better to significantly ease or even end the sanctions altogether.

    And indeed under the UN sanctions the Iraqi people were suffering. At the end of the 1991 Gulf War economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq, the idea being that Saddam would not be able to rebuild his military and WMD programs. So that the Iraqi people would not suffer, the UN set up a program called "Oil for Food". Iraq would be allowed to sell limited amounts of oil, with the proceeds going for necessities such as food and medicine. As it turned out, much of the money was diverted to either military uses or for building more palaces for Saddam. It is also suspected that Saddam bribed dozens of people, including across the world under what is becoming known as the Oil-for-Food scandal.

    By the late '90s a campaign to end the sanctions was in full swing, the claim being that they were killing thousands of Iraqi children every year. And these claims may well have been correct. Those who opposed the invasion need to explain how they could justify the continued suffering of Iraqis under the sanctions.

    The "no fly zones" in the north and south were designed to protect ethnic minorities (Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south). Saddam had massacred these people in the past and would have done so again but for our protection. This protection could be rescinded at any moment. All it would take is a new US president or Congress to say "this costs too much, we need to scale back." The lives of the Kurds and Shiites hung on the will of the "international community" to maintain these no-fly zones. Given that Saddam was 66 years old when captured, he may well have lived another twenty or more years. The idea that we could have kept this up for that amount of time is not supportable.

    We now suspect that many officials were making millions through the Oil-for-Food scandal. They knew that we would discover their corruption in the aftermath of a war.

    Lastly there is greed. Germany, France, and Russia did much business with the Saddam Hussein regime. They stood to make more money if the sanctions were eased or ended. A war would end their profits. During the '90s France and Russia proposed several times that we weaken the sanctions. As time went on the pressure to do so would have simply grown.

    2) Weapons of Mass Destruction. The report issued by David Kay left no doubt that Saddam was trying to reconstitute many of his programs. It is likely that in the early days of the invasion he moved his weapons to Syria, and that this went undetected because the U.S. 4th Infantry Division was was not able to move in from the north and cut off a northern escape route.

    And let us be clear: It wasn't just that the US and UK alleged that Iraq had WMD. Every intelligence service on the planet thought Iraq had the stuff. The difference is that most other countries thought that he didn't have enough to be a threat, and/or the threat could be contained by the "sanctions regime".

    Regardless of the status of his WMD programs before the invasion, does anyone doubt that Saddam would have acquired such weapons if he could have? The idea that inspections could have forever ensured that he would not have been able to acquire such weapons is untenable and a risk that responsible people cannot take.

    3) Far from "rushing to war", we let a situation simmer for twelve years before deciding to invade. A case can be made that we should have gone on to Baghdad in 1991 in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Saddam had the next twelve years to come into compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. Rather than comply, he spent this time subverting the will of the UN. Finally, in 2003, the Bush administration decided to bring matters to a head and resolve the situation one way or another. So let's not pretend that all of a sudden, out of the blue, George Bush up and decided that Iraq was a problem. Saddam had more than enough time to decide whether he was going to comply with the Security Council resolutions. Bush simply decided that in the aftermath of 9-11 the then-current situation was intolerable.

    Security Council resolution 1441 gave Saddam one last chance to comply with previous UN resolutions. Under this resolution inspectors did not need to prove that Saddam was rearming. Rather, he had to prove that he had destroyed the weapons that he'd admitted to having in 1991. Noone seriously disputed that Iraq was in violation. The only question was what to do about it.

    In early 2003 we had good reason to believe that Iraq did in fact have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

    4) Does anyone doubt that given half a chance Saddam would have built chemical, biological or nuclear weapons? If the sanctions had been lifted the first thing he would have done would have reconstituted his programs, with the priority being to bo obtain nuclear weapons. Once he had atomic or even hydrogen weapons an invasion would be out of the question.

    5) Iraq had a history of successfully deceiving inspectors. During the initial inspections in the aftermath of the Gulf War it was revealed that Iraq was much closer to having a nuclear bomb than anyone had suspected. Had he not made the mistake of invading Kuwait, he likely would have had a usable weapon in 1992 or 1993. Hans Blix himself was forced to admit that he had been deceived. Given this, would it really have been responsible for our government to have assumed anything but that Saddam had once again been able to stymie instep?

    6) Inspections could not possibly have succeeded. Those whose battle cry was "let the inspectors do their job" don't know what they're talking about. The job of inspectors is not to "ferret out" hidden programs. Those who think that inspections are like police searches do not understand the concept of inspections or what they are designed to do.

    Inspections are designed to verify. They can only be successful when both sides want to make them work. They would have been successful in Iraq if Saddam had agreed to cooperate.

    7) Saddam was 66 years old when captured. He may have lived another twenty years. His sons were under 40 years of age. This regime may well have remained in power for another 40 years. It is unbelievable that we could have kept him contained for this amount of time.

    8) In fact the Iraqi people were suffering under the sanctions, because Saddam was stealing the Oil for Food program money and using it to build more palaces. In a way the anti-sanctions protesters were right, Iraqi babies were dying due to the sanctions. But the solution was not to lift the sanctions but end the regime.

    9) Libya renounced it's WMD program and submitted to complete and verifiable inspections. Muammar Gaddafi saw what happened to Iraq when Saddam Hussein challenged the U.S. and did not want that fate to befall his own country. Libya is even more vulnerable to invasion, a fact that no doubt weighted on Gaddafi's mind. While the negotiations with his regime over WMD had started long before George W Bush came into office, it was the invasion of Iraq that prompted Gaddafi to act.

    10) Links to terrorism. Yes, Saddam did have links to terrorist groups. And yes, despite some of the very bad reporting, the 9/11 commission found that Iraq and Al Qaeda did maintain contacts. Although they may not have had a formal relationship, they may well have coordinated efforts to some extent. We have recently learned from Russia that Saddam was planning attacks on U.S. soil.

    For example, Saddam paid the families of suicide bombers in the West bank up to $25,000 as "compensation" for the loss of the family member. While terrorism He harbored Abu Nidal, a notorious Palestinian terrorist.

    Far from being a "diversion" to the War on Terror, the invasion or Iraq was an important battle in the War on Terror.

    12) Saddam tried to kill a former president of the United States, George G H Bush. In my book this alone qualifies him for elimination.

    12) A successful democracy in Iraq will prompt other countries in the region to liberalize. Once people see that dictatorship is not necessary, they will put pressure on their governments to reform. Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two countries most in need of liberalize.

    13) If there had been no invasion, the message would be that UN sanctions are empty words. Saddam had already violated over a dozen of them. The on-again off-again bombing campaigns were not working. Security Council resolution 1441 gave him a last chance. By almost all accounts he violated it, too. To have continued with the sanctions and inspections would have let dictators around the world know that such resolutions were not to be taken seriously.

    14) No we didn't invade to steal their oil. The best refutation of this that I've seen are the June 19 and 20 postings by Kat-Missouri. Yes oil is a factor. Saddam invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990 to steal their oil. Certainly oil played no little part in our decision to drive him out of that Kuwait. Had all this this occurred among poor African nations it would have been relegated to the back pages the papers. But what's so wrong with defending vital natural resources?

    15) We can walk and chew gum at the same time. There are those who maintain that we should have concentrated on "more important" threats like North Korea or Iran. But as a threoretical one can always claim that there are "more important" threats. Surely with our resources we can handle more than one international crisis at a time.

    It is also interesting that the same people who say "well why don't we invade North Korea/Iran?" are often the same ones who call Bush stupid. Apparently it never occurred to them that different threats are met with different strategies.

    Lastly, as Andrew Sullivan put it: "Shouldn't we be threatening North Korea with war rather than Iraq, they ask? Er, no. The reason we're about to go to war with Saddam is precisely to avoid the possibility of Saddam becoming Kim Jong Il. Once Saddam gets a nuke for sure, we're completely screwed."

    16) Finally, let's not forget that many things are going right in Iraq. Chrenkoff, Defend America and the CPA websites document the progress that has been made. And al Qaeda may well have turned the Iraqi people against them.

    Posted by Tom at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack