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August 28, 2005

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AcademicElephant

There were a couple of odd disconnects in the Brooks piece--1) he says "The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president." So....doesn't that mean they've read it and are seriously considering Krepinevich's argument? 2) Brooks lists two Rumsfeld tenets, a "light, lean force" and "play[ing] to our strengths" of "technological superiority, mobility and firepower" as if they're completely deluded positions. But isn't it a good idea to organize the military for peak efficiency? What would happen if we didn't reform? And it seems only logical to exploit our strengths. You're right, Iraq is not Vietnam, and the "oil spot" approach would need to be adapted to this theater--is it possible that's what's going on?

Clearly Brooks is a friend and supporter of "Andy" Krepinevich and feels he's being slighted despite Brooks' own admission that the article is a "phenomenon." The editorial might have been more effective if it were framed as "here's another strategy being considered as the situation develops on the ground" rather than as "those idiots at the Pentagon can't seen their noses in front of their faces."

Here's a thought for your rebuttal list--"We have been trying this, and it is working." Just a thought.

kim

Winning hearts and minds is easier when we are on the side of the nationalists.
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Syl

Has Krepinevich been to Iraq? Seems to me he doesn't know what's actually going on there. Iraq has 18 provinces, most of which could be considered 'safe zones' already.

Fallujah is (finally) clean.

Sadr City in Baghdad is clean and now a 'safe zone' patrolled mostly by Iraqis.

Are armchair militarists the same as chickenhawks?

richard mcenroe

Of course, the strategy in Malaysia took 20 years to work. Find me the contemporary pundit who had the patience for even three.

And of course one difference between Iraq and Malaysia was that Malaysia did not have a steady influx of suicidal "fighters" streaming into their country.

Plus, if I Krepevich's point, his strategy would involve giving up cities and territory we already control to build these isolated safe "enclaves". Now this is a notion that inherently appeals to progressives on the East and West Coasts, who spend their lives scurrying between secured buildings and secured condos or gated real-estate developments anyway, but comes up a bit short in real life...

... as do many military theorists, however stellar their credentials. That's what military professional journals are for, to hammer on ideas until they take shape. But it's a strange quality in the "intellectuals" of a culture that prizes civilian control of the military to laud a notion just because it comes from a man with brass leaves on his shoulders...

Jamie

Man, if we could count on the NEXT President to be a stay-the-course hawk, we could attempt an oil-spot strategy. I've seen this question as the salient one all along: how, with the volunteer military we have and the time available under a maximum-one-and-a-half-term Presidency committed to the task, do we make enough difference in Iraq to build enough momentum to carry Iraq (and us with it) through a potentially anti-war Presidency?

The only answer I see is the one we get, which isn't perfect: try our best to get the Iraqis themselves heavily invested in reinventing their government. Make it their problem, as much as possible. The so-called "insurgents" have already been put into the position of having to reveal themselves as enemies of a populist Iraq and as targeters of innocents in their lust for power; beyond continuing to defeat them expensively (to them more than ourselves) in every engagement, and undertaking offensive actions like Quick Strike to keep chipping away at their mobility and ability to resupply themselves, I don't see much else we can do about them. It's largely up to the strength of will of Iraq now. I hope they're up to it. I hope they know that they may not be able to count on us past 2008 (while simultaneously hoping and praying that they will be able to count on us past 2008 - please, DNC, put up a hawk, or at least someone with the potential to be one in dangerous circumstances, if you can find one - and please, RNC, don't wimp out in 2007).

All subject to the will of the American people, of course. If I find my views in the minority, I'll necessarily bow to the majority's will, and bite my fingernails.

TexasToast

It doesn’t help that the draft constitution seems to be a Kurdish/Shia deal with the Sunnis apparently ">http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9108624/site/newsweek/"> united in opposition - particularly since the insurgency is primarily Sunni.

“Victory” and “Iraq” in the same sentence is becoming oxymoronic.

Syl

TT

Victory is a process, not an event. Hold your fire.

I was over at Iraq the Model and Sistani is angry and distancing himself from the process. He's come down against Federalism because, he says, the Sunni are their brothers.

He is a wise man but there's always a danger in listening to a single man, no matter how wise, because what will happen when he's gone? Not all clerics would be so wise.

This rift between the clerics and the religious parties may be a step towards more secularism.

Arab politics is certainly interesting and lively. I felt I was in a time machine dialed to a 1000 years ago.

kim

I hope it is a political pout to bring his Shia brothers into copacescence with their Sunni confreres. Sistani has long believed in a unified Iraq. They are all Islamic, after all, and I suspect he believes the ethnic, cultural, racial, linguistic, and religious differences may just give the new nation strength in diversity.
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Marshall

I haven't read Krepinevich's book but I did read and respond to David Brook's enthusiastic endorsement of it in his OP-Ed piece in today's New York Times.

I wrote to David:

Dear Mr. Brooks,

RE: Pouring Oil on Troubled Sands

I enjoy reading your work and watching you on PBS. But this time I think you're wildly off-base.

You've presented a proposed strategy and then claimed it's different than what we're now employing -- despite statements to the contrary by "US officials" (you wrote: If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. ). Then you discount their assertions by observing that (in your opinion) if they had, the road between Baghdad and its airport would be 100% secure.

To use your own analogy, it would take one helluva lot of oil to cover the population of Baghdad -- more men and materials than we have or could assemble without what amounts to a national mobilization. It's an absurd comparison. As Donald Rumsfeld has famously observed, "You go to war with the army you have -- not the army you'd like to have."

That leads to my second criticism of your essay. You wrote, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

1. That's a cheap shot at Donald Rumsfeld. I hope you haven't joined the chorus of his critics -- you're smarter than that. Rumsfeld, at the President's orders, took the army that we have to Iraq to defeat Saddam. We do not have millions of men in uniform. The army we have is the army that was deliberately downsized over the previous decade. Yes, Rumsfeld wants to reorganize our military and he has his own theories (to which I subscribe) as to how to accomplish this, theories which were in fact formulated by the military think tanks -- and not spun of whole cloth by Mr. Rumsfeld. The military plans for the conquest of Iraq were in fact formulated during the Clinton Administration. Rummy just had them dusted off and updated. The theories at which you cast aspersions played no part in this war.

2. If we had more troops in Iraq we'd be experiencing more casualties than we are now. Most of the successful attacks by the terrorists are against supply convoys. We have a tooth-to-tail ratio (combat troops vs. support personnel) of something like 1-12. Having placed more men in Iraq would have occasioned even more hand-wringing over American troop losses than we're seeing now. And the only chance we have of losing the peace in Iraq (the war was won years ago) is if the American public can be persuaded that Iraq's cause is hopeless. Thus, more troops as targets leading to more American casualties would only exacerbate that threat.

3. The U.S. officials you cite (don't you hate it when reporters and columnists use anonymous sources -- one of the best things about John Tierney is his footnoting of his essays with working URL's) speak the truth. We are doing exactly as you suggest. The disconnect between what you are willing to see and what you've been told is that the additional troop strength is being supplied by the Iraqis. They are taking over the fight (they must, if they are to survive against tyranny). The mistake you make is that you assume this strategy must be pursued by America. It cannot be and will not be. This is Iraq's fight.

You need to be strong, David. Don't go wobbly on us.

Syl

Marshall, excellent!

And that is how Sadr City was tamed. Joint efforts with Iraqi forces block by block, street by street, with Iraqi's remaining to patrol and keep the peace.

kim

Yeah, and Sistani telling Sadr to chill.
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AcademicElephant

Marshall--you put it much better than I. Hope you get published.

kim

Sistani and Chalabi.
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richard mcenroe

Foreign Affairs? I'd have been more impressed if he published it in one of the service journals, where it would be subjected to genuine peer review. This smells a little like a doctor announcing his new miracle cure in Reader's Digest rather than the AMA Journal.

BurketHead

David Brooks wrote:

"Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods.”

There are concrete signs of progress in Iraq, and there have been for some time. Unfortunately, the “folks back home watching on TV” can see all of Cindy Sheehan they care to watch, but only folks who get their news from other sources can see the signs of concrete progress in Iraq.

kim

I think Sistani recognizes that though Saddam was from a Sunni tribe, Baathism was foreign, as is Wahabbi and Islamofascism. Iraq is Metapotamia and Sistani is Master of the Mosque and Chalabi is Master of the Bazaar.
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TexasToast

Marshall

Interesting post. Lets discuss it.

First, isn’t Brooks really saying that we are fighting the wrong kind of war? He is proposing a real counterinsurgency strategy – as opposed to a continuation of conventional warfare against a nonexistent Iraqi army. Wolfowitz, and by extension Rumsfeld, denies the reality that the war in Iraq is an insurgency at all. ">http://www.thebulletin.org/print.php?art_ofn=ja05vest"> Jason Vest quotes Wolfowitz “Wolfowitz explained that an ‘insurgency’ is only synonymous with an ‘uprising.’ As such, he continued, the fighting in Iraq does not constitute an insurgency, as it's a ‘continuation of the war by people who never quit,’ waged by the same enemy ‘that fought us up until the fall of Baghdad and continues to fight afterwards.’ It seems that Wolfowitz doesn’t believe we ever had the “catastrophic victory” that virtually everyone else saw two years ago. If our leadership doesn’t recognize this is an insurgency, no wonder parents are FedExing body armor to Iraq.

Second, its not the failure to “use the army we have”, it’s the failure to recognize the nature of the war we need to be fighting. As you point out, the hypermodern electronic war against a conventional army is long since won – the ugly insurgency that followed is not yet won – but it appears our leadership has failed to grasp that the “war we got” is not the war they planned to fight.

Third, as to troops on the ground – isn’t it axiomatic that it takes boots on the ground to hold territory? We can airstrike the leadership till the cows come home – but like the hydra, the heads just seem to grow back. More boots on the ground may have meant greater casualties in the short term – but we are well past the short term.

Fourth, you are correct that, in the end, it’s the Iraqis fight. Just like it was the South Vietnamese fight in the 70s. Unless the Iraqis perceive that there is something to fight for (and I’m not getting the war fuzzies that the Sunnis, at the least, are gaining that perception), it seems the better bet that history will repeat itself when our boys come home.

We can’t win if we fight the wrong war – like it seems we are doing. Something has to change – perhaps the leadership in the defense department?

Syl

TT

Your logic is flawed. There is a difference between an insurgency (backed by the populace) and a minor group of the population using guerilla tactics to fight. Just because Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz disagree with others on the definition of who is fighting does not mean we're fighting an old style war against them. That's totally absurd.

What is needed more than boots on the ground is intelligence telling us who is doing what and where they are. And it's the Iraqi people themselves who have to supply this intelligence. And they are. More and more. The amount of intelligence we receive from ordinary Iraqi's has increased steadily since the guerilla war began. Kurds first, then Shia, and now even Sunni!

(Note the sunni tribal leaders in the western province are totally fed up with Zarqawi and his goons. Our airstrike offensives against Zarqawi safe houses has increased dramatically even within the last few days...all due to intelligence given to us by sunni leaders!)

If we had had more boots on the ground from the beginning it would have felt, to the Iraqi's, like even more of an occupation and they would be totally reluctant to assist us. This is well known to people who study such things as tactics...which, it seems, you totally ignore.

Yes, the war we fought in March and April of 2003 is not the same war we're fighting now. And thus we're fighting it differently. The failure back then was yet another one of our CIA's intelligence failures. They did not see that Saddam had prepared for an 'insurgency'. We left too many ammo dumps unprotected and are paying for that now. We weren't prepared.

But once Rumsfeld, et al, saw what was happening we totally changed our tactics to fight the guerilla war.

And, here we go again, but war is not an event, it is a process! As conditions change, we adapt. The enemy adapts, we adapt some more.
And, to be quite frank, the Iraqi people adapt and change as well and their actions influence how we fight. (for example, consider all the factors revolving around Fallujah. The when of it had more to do with Sistani and Sadr than Rumsfeld.)

It is old style generals like Shinseki, a favorite of the left, who would have us fight the wrong war!


TexasToast

Syl

De Nile is a river in Egypt - not Iraq.

An insurgency needs a sea of popular support to swim in. The insurgent fighters aren’t the entire sea - but without popular support they would have no place to hide. They seem to be doing quite well at evading detection - thank you very much.

If we had had more boots on the ground from the beginning it would have felt, to the Iraqi's, like even more of an occupation and they would be totally reluctant to assist us. This is well known to people who study such things as tactics...which, it seems, you totally ignore.

Using this logic, no US soldiers would result in universal cooperation - no security, but plenty of cooperation! Lets bring them all home now! Are you really suggesting that the lack of troops was driven by counterinsurgency "tactics"? You are obviously not one of those people who study such things.

War is not an event

You keep repeating this - as if it means something. Of course facts on the ground change things, but I understand that it’s the job of those who study such things as "tactics" to anticipate as much as possible things like the likelihood of insurgency as a result of military occupation. That’s not intelligence - that's sound military planning. But no, we were going to be welcomed as "liberators". Right.

kim

Every purple finger was liberated, and for every person a finger represented there were another one and a half also freed.
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