August 11, 2005

Another Ineffective Counter-Insurgency Operation

NYT:

The American military also announced the conclusion of a weeklong offensive in the Euphrates River corridor in Anbar Province, where insurgents had been attacking American-led coalition forces. The start of the mission early last week came amid a series of sharp attacks in the region against American forces, including two ambushes that killed 20 marines. The offensive was only the latest in a series of such attempts by the American command to choke off insurgent strongholds and supply routes along a corridor that runs from the Syrian border to Baghdad.

But like other similar missions, the latest operation appeared to have underwhelming results. According to the final scorecard posted by the military today, soldiers discovered nine vehicle car bombs, six of which were found in a garage used for rigging such weapons, and 28 improvised bombs planted on the side of roads or near buildings. The sweep also netted 36 suspected insurgents, who have been detained for questioning, the military said.

In a statement, Col. Stephen W. Davis, commanding officer of the Marine's Regimental Combat Team-2, said the operation "disrupted the insurgents' ability to operate freely" in western Anbar.

"Disrupted"? Yeah, for a few days maybe, if that. Look, the Marines are performing nobly and valiantly. They are doing the best they can, with too few men, in the stifling heat and sandstorms of an ugly August in Iraq. But no offensive that has taken place in Iraq in or around Anbar of late, whether Dagger, Lightning, Matador, New Market, Spear, Thunder and now Quick Strike--none of them are fundamentally shifting the dynamic of the counter-insurgency effort. The best we can hope for, as the Colonel's comments manifest, are disruptions in insurgent activity. But to win this thing we need to be decimating the enemy--not disrupting him--with overwhelming force. And we simply don't have that amount of force in theater. So we are doing the best we can with the resources at hand (do we really need all those troops in Germany, by the way?), scraping by really, and hoping against hope that the political process will improve and help us turn some corner in the not too distant future. But hope isn't a strategy, and to all those (and there are more and more) ready to give up (or fakely declare victory in that we weren't strictly 'defeated' on the battlefield) and say to hell if Iraq degenerates into civil war, we gave it our best shot--let me be clear. An Iraq mired in large-scale sectarian conflict, let alone full-blown civil war, would be a cluster-f*&k of epic proportions. Why? Because it would mean a failed or failing state smack in the center of the Middle East. We would have created an embittered Sunni para-state, a terror haven really, roiling and destabilizing the region (such an unstable state of affairs would help foster radicalization of Shi'a behavior also, of course, in ways not helpful to the U.S. national interest). Iran, Turkey, Syria and even Saudi Arabia and Jordan would have direct interests implicated too, of course. Need I sketch this out more? (Hint: Borders wouldn't be treated with any sanctity by the neighbors, friends). The point is, leaving Iraq to fend for itself without a viable, stable polity in place would be a disaster--for the thousands and thousands (coalition and Iraqi alike) who will have died in vain, for the region, for our national prestige, for the war on terror generally.

Are we heading down this path? I'm unsure. The President says he will stay the course. I still trust he will. But unless we start making material gains in the battlefield the slow deaths of 14 here, 5 here, another 2 the next day--for what are these men dying? To slowly lose or stalemate away so as to prepare for some bullshit facesave-style retreat in late '06 or '07 (look 'ma, they have a constitution but, er, can't really enforce it!)--or because we have a real plan for victory (read: quashing the counter-insurgency, leaving a viable, peaceful, democratic polity behind). I'm increasingly concerned we don't really have such a plan (put differently, are we getting further and further away from a 'success strategy' to merely an 'exit strategy'?). When the Mayor of Baghdad is just sacked, just like that, by Shi'a militia--what kind of signal does this send to Iraqis of all political stripes? That the law of the jungle, of sheer strength, is the only law. Mayhem breeds mayhem. Stuff happens and, you know, freedom is messy. Militias spawn. Score-settling and differing political visions are settled at the barrel of a gun, not around a negotiating table. It's very, very ugly.

I briefly caught Don Rumsfeld on CNN today, as is his wont, spouting from a lectern warning this or that party to behave better--as if he were refeering a Princeton wrestling match. He was talking about the Iranians and how arms/ordnance were getting in from the Iranian side into Iraq. Don can strut and preen and wail and bitch all he wants to the cameras--but what did he think the Iranians were going to do when their avowed enemy is at their doorstep? Smile and say pretty please and ask them to kindly cross the border and serve up same in Teheran? No, they will deviously pursue their national interest--as we all must do at the end of the day. The Iranian goal? Keep Iraq from degenerating into total catastrophe (a net negative for them given refugee flows and such major destablization events), the better to get a relatively friendly Shi'a government with some coherent power to wield in place in Baghdad, but also keep slowly bleeding the Americans so as to ensure they aren't ready for another excursion in the neighborhood. Mr. Secretary: nations act according to their self-interest. Stop bitching about Syria and Iran. You have yourself to blame in the main. With 350,000 troops, say, the borders would have been much more secure. Ditto if the Baath Army hadn't been disbanded wholesale (the top leadership cadres needed, of course, to be expunged). You wanted to run this show, brusquely push State aside, and be the Big Cahuna--not only on the war, but for post-war planning too. Well, you were and still are a big player. You still (baffingly) have the President's confidence (or is Bush dependent on Rummy's war management, unable to step into his shoes and name a successor?). But you are presiding over a possible disaster right now. Step aside and let new blood in the building. Your departure would be a short term propaganda victory for the insurgents, but a mid-term plus for the war effort likely. For you sir, are a failed War Secretary. Let me repeat: you have proven a failure. Step aside without delay!

Posted by Gregory at August 11, 2005 12:30 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Not "In the name of God, go!", then?

Posted by: sammler at August 11, 2005 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ditto if the Baath Army hadn't been disbanded.

Oh, I'm certain that they wouldn't have been a loyalty problem, either. I agree with a decent amount of your post, but come on.

Posted by: John Thacker at August 11, 2005 02:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Secretary: nations act according to their self-interest. Stop bitching about Syria and Iran. You have yourself to blame in the main.

Certainly he knows those nations, like all, act according to their self-interest, and their self-interest is indeed just as you have described it. Just as equally the comment was intended to be a sort of threat to Syria and Iran. One would prefer more concrete actions, of course, but I assume that the US and Iraqi blockade of Syrian trucks at the Iraqi-Syrian border is also intended as a threat of sort. As far as concrete actions go, there is also a necessity of informing the public about Syria and Iran's obvious self-interest and actions within Iraq, in case we do need or decide to take stronger measures.

Posted by: John Thacker at August 11, 2005 02:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why is this surprising? For God's sake, this was evident over a year ago. Hell, it was evident before the war started by the goddamn execution of "faux-diplomacy" leading up to the war.

Let's make this clear: I think war supporters had made their decisions about whether the Iraq war was justified without consideration of the actual case for war being made by our administration. Folks like you, especially, Greg, who are knowledgeable about foreign policy and could envision a clear path to a stable and democratic Iraq were pretty much on board at the mere suggestion of a war in Iraq.

Those (like me) who are knowledgeable but skeptical about the clear, rosy path to a democratic Iraq were worried. I would've supported the war had I any evidence that the administration was being realistic about the need for it, the real cost of it, and the need for diplomacy. Even today we can't get the damn war costs in the actual budget...

Instead, the entire effort to go to war was preoccupied by domestic political considerations. The resolutions were timed to coincide with the 2002 midterm elections. The "sales pitch" was focused at American audiences with little planning or consideration for the foreign acceptance of our intelligence and war planning.

And then, even on these pages, we get "honest" assessments about how well the Bush admin changes paths and corrects for mistakes. These f'ing mistakes you're pointing out have been occurring since the goddamn war began.

Posted by: just me at August 11, 2005 02:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BD, or should I say GD, you are entitled to your opinions and I know they don't always twin mine, but now it seems to me (to be sure I speak under correction) you are coming off the rails.


"Push State aside?" Yes, the sudden replacement of Gen. Garner with Paul Bremer certainly seems to reflect that thinking. Yes, it was Garner who wanted to disband the Iraqi Army, and Bremer who prevented it, I remember now.


"Stop bitching about Syria and Iran?" OK...so diplomacy is to cease? Ah, that's why you want State involved, because the time for talking is past.

Perhaps the results indicate why Powell has been replaced. Remind me how State has proven itself. In the UN? In Iraq?

Yeah, I'm a big believer in Rummy and you're not. Yeah, I can see the point in having more troops in-country, even if there were circumstances you do not seem to credit (isn't the relative lack of coalition support a State failure, to bring one to mind, and how about the 4th ID?) that led to it.

If Rumsfeld is irreplaceable in running the war, either there are no minds left to replce him, or he is believed to be doing the best job possible under the given constraints. I understand Condi is doing more of the diplomatic lifting these days, so you should be satisfied. No, I don't think a short-term propaganda victory for the insurgents is a suitable tradeoff for satisfying your bloodlust.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 04:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Strictly speaking, we have always had enough combat power to decimate the insurgency in Iraq. The problem is that we cannot use that power to kill insurgents without killing a very large number of civilians as well.

Going back to April 2004 in Fallujah, a marine effort to "root out" insurgents following the killing of the Blackwater contractors was, in the Arab context, an inappropriate response. Immediately targeting the crowd celebrating over the murdered men's bodies with artillery and air power would have worked much better -- it was the kind of thing Saddam Hussein would have done, and Saddam had maintained order in Iraq with such methods for a very long time.

Obviously the deliberate slaughter of hundreds of people to make a political point is not the American way of war. Equally obvious is that maintaining order for long enough to graft a highly demanding form of government like representative democracy onto an inferior tribal culture was going to require more troops and more time than we had to give it if ruthlessness was foresworn at the outset. I share Greg's evaluation of the periodic operations in Anbar Province, and some of his concern that the Iraqi government may fall flat on its face right out of the box, leaving us in an untenable position. But at some point we need to take the risk of that happening, and that point can't come only after years more of an expensive commitment to one mid-sized Arab country of secondary importance to our global position.

Posted by: JEB at August 11, 2005 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appropriately pressing tone to this post. And the line "I briefly caught Don Rumsfeld on CNN today, as is his wont, spouting from a lectern warning this or that party to behave better--as if he were refeering a Princeton wrestling match" is a great one....I continue to hear from friends of mine serving overseas, including in combat in Iraq, that the disconnect between policy in DC and reality on the ground in Iraq has never been greater. We're at the point where no reasonably informed person can rationally deny that we're in the process of relearning lessons we vowed never to forget about war 30 years ago.

Posted by: The Cunning Realist at August 11, 2005 04:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cunning --

Iraq differs from Vietnam principally in that there is no Cold War. Therefore no danger of China entering ala Korea, with a million combat troops facing the US. No risk of nuclear escalation with Russia. Therefore no REASON to give safe havens to Iran or Syria. Quite the reverse. We can do what we need to with either and no one will give a damn. No one cares.

Heck China had another suicide bomb on one of their buses, could be a "disgruntled peasant" or it could be another of their long line of Muslim terrorists who commit atrocities all over their country, funded yes by Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda (Zarqawi, ever hear of him?) is our principal opponent in Iraq, I suppose we could follow the Clinton strategy of "run away" as in Somalia. What did that get us? Oh yeah, bin Laden convinced we were a paper tiger and he could attack us with impunity.

Stakes are even worse. Fail in Iraq and Iran and Pakistan will come to believe that there is no real penalty for a 9/11 style attack, no danger in doing something that say, results in the nuking of San Diego or Dallas.

If Vietnam was a proxy war we had to fight with limited engagement and lots of restrictive rules, and could afford to lose, Iraq is a fight that regardless of the wisdom of picking it, we cannot afford to lose once we are in it, and we have the freedom of choosing a lot of rules. Rumsfeld at least seems to understand THIS dynamic, which is more frankly than I can say from anyone on the other side of the aisle save perhaps Miller and Lieberman. Iraq is the exact opposite in many ways of Vietnam, the worst thing is fighting this war as the last one.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at August 11, 2005 08:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
As I have said previously I agree with you on getting rid of SecDef. The question is if POTUS gets rid of Rummy, who would be the successor? Who in their right mind would take the job? The Neocon bull pen appears to be tapped out. It certainly couldn't be someone who is seeking an even higher office in the future. Since the Vietnam-Iraq analogy is so popular, I will look back to Washington insider and presidential confidant Clark Clifford, who reluctantly accepted the post after MacNamara was ushered over to the World Bank. The only person who would fit the bill would have to be an elder statesman with no axe to grind while having demonstrated complete loyalty to the Bushes. That person is none other than former SecState SecTreas and WHCOS James A. Baker III. That being said, I repeat my previous question. Who in their right mind would take the job?

Posted by: Bret Eagan at August 11, 2005 03:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg

The goal at present in Anbar is not to move in and hold ground. We dont have enough troops (cue - debate about war plans) WHEN enough Iraqi forces are stood up, there will be enough troops to hold ground. The question is what to do meanwhile. The strategy seems to be to use the USMC to keep throwing the insurgency off guard, to disrupt them, and to attrit them, so the job will be easier when the iraqi forces come on line. The other purpose is to gradually introduce Iraqi forces to the toughest fighting, which is why there were Iraqi units along in the latest op.

Whether there is any short term benefit is hard to tell. The media highlight weeks when the number of bombing is up - a lull is only visible when its over. Brookings numbers help, but are limited.


Posted by: liberalhawk at August 11, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"An Iraq mired in large-scale sectarian conflict, let alone full-blown civil war, would be a cluster-f*&k of epic proportions. Why? Because it would mean a failed or failing state smack in the center of the Middle East. We would have created an embittered Sunni para-state, a terror haven really, roiling and destabilizing the region (such an unstable state of affairs would help foster radicalization of Shi'a behavior also, of course, in ways not helpful to the U.S. national interest)"

If this is the worst case scenario, it sounds a lot like Gaza right now. Sometimes we are not offerred a good choice vs a bad choice, usually it's chosing between the least bad options.

You know I'd agree with most of your suggestions had they been implemented a year ago, but in the present context the least bad option is ably outlined by liberalhawk above. Maybe we need some refocus on hot pursuit type raids into Syria (and Pakistan) to clear out nests of enablers, but other than that we have to wait for the Iraqis to work out sharing enough of the oil field largess (still in our allies hands) with enough of the Sunni's to settle things down.

Posted by: wayne at August 11, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Because it would mean a failed or failing state smack in the center of the Middle East. We would have created an embittered Sunni para-state, a terror haven really, roiling and destabilizing the region (such an unstable state of affairs would help foster radicalization of Shi'a behavior also, of course, in ways not helpful to the U.S. national interest). Iran, Turkey, Syria and even Saudi Arabia and Jordan would have direct interests implicated too, of course.
------------------------------------------------

hey greg, this sounds just like jacques chirac.

it looks like you are starting to understand.

Posted by: zuavo at August 12, 2005 09:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Love the armchair general stuff, Greg. You've obviously been around this military planning stuff a bunch. Just curious, if you devote 350k troops to theater, how much do you have in reserve? Oh, you don't need reserves, right? With your overwhelming force, everything would have been peachy. Just what are those troops in Germany trained to do and does in match what you need in Iraq? But they're all fungible, aren't they? Just give them a gun and point them in the right direction, general.

What about if N.Korea invaded S. Korea, or China invaded Taiwan, would you have enough troops to support US interests? Of course, you've factored that in, haven't you. What if there is a coup in Pakistan by fanatics and they invade Afganistan to reinstall the Taliban? Oh, well, I guess.

Just role the dice, throw them all in there, what the hell. What a myopic view. On paper it sounds great. Of course, history is littered with military men that have approached conflicts in this manner. Some were successful, others ....

I love your postings, Greg, but on this troop level stuff, in my view you're way off. Rumsfeld's put into theater the level of troops he can afford given the US' other interests. He went to war w/ the army he had.

Posted by: Charles at August 12, 2005 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I gather everyone is understandably concerned about whether we're "making progress" in Iraq; and if so, are we making it *fast enough* to support our exit by date X. Faced with mounting losses and expenditures, most of you feel the clock is ticking on a troop withdrawal triggered by domestic political concerns--either the GOP finally deciding the cost is too great, or Dems regaining the presidency and pulling out.

Virtually all of us understand that you can't get a total-surrender scenario when there's no enemy central government to defeat. Accordingly, the enemy/terrorists/insurgents will almost certainly continue to be able to detonate a few car bombs a week indefinitely.

So to this point, unless we do something radically different, we're looking at a fairly unpleasant outcome.

In flying there's a maxim that if the plane is going down and you've done everything the book says to do and nothing's helped, do something different even if it's wrong.

In Iraq, I think American strategists are refusing to 'think outside the box' for options--and it will be obvious why. Because I think the best approach for the U.S. now is to announce our intention to pull out some time next year even though we acknowledge that the 'good forces' in Iraq may not be able to prevent a civil war.

Yes, yes, Europeans and the U.S. Left will jubilantly point out that they warned that this would happen, and suddenly become intensely (and unexpectedly) concerned about the possibility of Iraqis killing each other on a Saddam-like scale. But then those two groups hate conservatives and Bush in any case. And of course the animosity of the Left is trivial compared to the overriding objective here, which is to force the 'good people' in Iraq to step up to the plate and fight for their own freedom.

I certainly do not want to see a civil war in Iraq--but if the current insurgents, including Iranian-backed Shi'ites, are determined to fight indefinitely for control of the place, how else are they to be dissuaded?

One of the military lessons we learned in Nam was that as long as the Americans will do your fighting for you, virtually all locals will be happy to let them do just that. It's not a viable long-term strategy for us.

Once we took out Saddam's army--including the highly loyal Republican Guard and presidential guard units--the playing field was levelled. At that point, we should have publically started the clock counting down to withdrawal. And of course it's not too late to do that even now.

Even if there is a civil war in Iraq and the "bad guys" (however you want to define that term) win, that's not a total disaster, because the world will get to see just what life under wacko Sharia law is like. Plus, the next time the U.S. says "You need to get your shit together because we're leaving next year," people are more likely to believe it.

Posted by: sf at August 13, 2005 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I gather everyone is understandably concerned about whether we're "making progress" in Iraq; and if so, are we making it *fast enough* to support our exit by date X. Faced with mounting losses and expenditures, most of you feel the clock is ticking on a troop withdrawal triggered by domestic political concerns--either the GOP finally deciding the cost is too great, or Dems regaining the presidency and pulling out.

Virtually all of us understand that you can't get a total-surrender scenario when there's no enemy central government to defeat. Accordingly, the enemy/terrorists/insurgents will almost certainly continue to be able to detonate a few car bombs a week indefinitely.

So to this point, unless we do something radically different, we're looking at a fairly unpleasant outcome.

In flying there's a maxim that if the plane is going down and you've done everything the book says to do and nothing's helped, do something different even if it's wrong.

In Iraq, I think American strategists are refusing to 'think outside the box' for options--and it will be obvious why. Because I think the best approach for the U.S. now is to announce our intention to pull out some time next year even though we acknowledge that the 'good forces' in Iraq may not be able to prevent a civil war.

Yes, yes, Europeans and the U.S. Left will jubilantly point out that they warned that this would happen, and suddenly become intensely (and unexpectedly) concerned about the possibility of Iraqis killing each other on a Saddam-like scale. But then those two groups hate conservatives and Bush in any case. And of course the animosity of the Left is trivial compared to the overriding objective here, which is to force the 'good people' in Iraq to step up to the plate and fight for their own freedom.

I certainly do not want to see a civil war in Iraq--but if the current insurgents, including Iranian-backed Shi'ites, are determined to fight indefinitely for control of the place, how else are they to be dissuaded?

One of the military lessons we learned in Nam was that as long as the Americans will do your fighting for you, virtually all locals will be happy to let them do just that. It's not a viable long-term strategy for us.

Once we took out Saddam's army--including the highly loyal Republican Guard and presidential guard units--the playing field was levelled. At that point, we should have publically started the clock counting down to withdrawal. And of course it's not too late to do that even now.

Even if there is a civil war in Iraq and the "bad guys" (however you want to define that term) win, that's not a total disaster, because the world will get to see just what life under wacko Sharia law is like. Plus, the next time the U.S. says "You need to get your shit together because we're leaving next year," people are more likely to believe it.

Posted by: sf at August 13, 2005 12:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry about the DP--I got a "comment failed" the first time. --s

Posted by: sf at August 13, 2005 12:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we swamp the country with US military, how many more casualities will we have every day? And would it really speed up the process of establishing a stable democracy?

I think our main purpose there at this time is to buck up the Iraqi Army and security forces and push the political process along. Arabs love to confer, discuss and negotiate without coming to any firm conclusion and, because of their tribal heritage, they tend not to work together very well, as their failures against Israel demonstrate. Getting a tribal society to work democratically is something we've never had to do.

We're engaged in trying to change those tendencies and instill a new way of thinking. They already have some things in common with Jacksonian America. They have a lot of young men who love to fight. If we can convince them that jihad consists of defending their nation, democracy and the freedom of their fellow Iraqis, we'll have gone a long way toward our goal.

However, our own media think that fighting for your nation is passe', and the Arab media aren't any better, so we shouldn't expect this process to be quick.

Another thing our media are doing is to foster impatience.

I think that we're doing the best we could do and that intensifying the war would not rally Iraqis to our support.

What frustrates me is that our technologists haven't come up with reliable ways to render RPGs useless or to detect IEDs and car bombs at a greater distance, and our inability to secure the borders against foreign guerillas coming in. Surely we could do more to use Iraq's own people to serve as our eyes and ears to notice people planting mines and IEDs, locating weapons centers, and watching the borders.

Posted by: AST at August 13, 2005 12:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Agreed, sadly it is time for Rummy to go, if nothing else to give us the opportunity to change some of the failed policies because Rummy refuses to step up troop level no matter what.

Posted by: Roy Bettencourt at August 14, 2005 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me get this straight:
We have a major military operation where the fallen soldiers have been but a fraction of previous major wars, where our enemy is barely able to do anything but launch terrorist bomb attacks, mainly against civilians, where ALL of our political goals until now have been met, where the economy in the country is recovering, where 14 out of 18 provinces are enjoying increased peace and stability, where the enemy has no coherent political program and little popular support .... and the problems people have is not with our enemies, the feckless international bodies like the UN, our media, but with those prosecuting the war itself?

Never in history has a war been executed with such valor, professionalism, and even kindness, against an enemy that is so vile and without redeeming virtues, yet which has been so critcized and condemned.

We can't defeat enemies without bloodshed. We also live in a world where too many players in our civilization think victory is worth little or nothing, and so criticisms of the effort itself are (often rightfully) looked at as excercises in morale-sapping. Some would rather lose than do the 'wrong' things, others think the whole thing is wrong and dont mind the damage done by mistakes in leaving unfinished business, because they hate the current President and know perfectly well he will get blamed for any defeat. Some, like Sen Kennedy and Feinstein have called it "Bush's war", and politics trumps patriotism so the war is condemned and actions critiqued merely to harm the President - our troops, democracy in Iraq, coalition-building, etc. are mere collateral damage.

Let's grant the stipulation that we could be doing things better, that other things being equal, more troops is better than less troops, that dealing harshly with our enemies is better than kid gloves. (Viz, Michael Yon's comments that insurgents aren't really scared of going to prison, they get 3 squares a day just like convicted felons stateside. I think we need to have an 'eye for an eye' execution of prisoners any time they bomb a U.S. convoy or ambush Iraqi police or civilians, etc. Here's what the terrorist prisoners deserve: A firing squad execution after a summary military trial determining if these terrorists engaged in acts of murder. And any act of violence leading to death by such terrorists against the lawful authority of the Iraqi Government is nothing more than murder. Yet the greater 'scandal' is claims of abuse of prisoners, as if we should worry more about terrorist lives than our own.)

What we should not grant is this feeble logic that says "We havent won yet so it means we are losing" or that we've lost our way. or even worse that it is the fault of Don Rumsfeld because Zarqawi hasn't given up yet or that he has willing Jihadist accomplices.

But we need to ask not "could we do better" but "are we doing good enough?"

The 'lack of progress' claims based on the size of the insurgency miss the BIGGER changes:
1) Change in Sunni community's views on insurgent (viz. recent red-on-red fighting); . More acceptance by Sunnis of the political process, more Sunni clerics saying 'yes' to voting and more Sunni tribes fighting against the Zarqawi forces.
2) The fact is that violence levels is one metric only. The political situation is another. (and btw, the sacking of the Baghdad mayor while unfortunate, since he's a 'good guy', is an example of political situations playing themselves out; it was a legal ouster by the council that has a right to appoint the mayor.)
This is no different from say the Malaysia situation or other counter-insurgency operations and efforts. Rumsfeld points to El Salvador, a country seemingly on the brink of collapse but which built civil society on the backs of democratic processes and persistent efforts at 'hearts and minds".

3) The other metric is the capability of the Iraqi forces, which keeps getting better and better. If the insurgency is the same size and Genl Casey is right about the Iraqi army, by 2006 we can have the same force structure as today and have a much smaller footprint ... or maybe, and better yet. we keep around another 12 months and use the flexibility of 100,000 more Iraqi trained troops to hit the terrorists harder. Either way, if the enemy is not growing and OUR SIDE IS GROWING ... who will win?

4) It may be correct to say the wild areas of western Iraq are 'hostile', but the enemy a year ago was nestled in Fallujah, was taking on Tal Afar, Samarrah, and even put up a fight in Mosul. Coalition and Iraqi troops have taken back towns and neighborhoods like Haifa street. The kinds of operations we are now engaged in at these two-horse border towns are the kinds of operation previously done in larger cities, but now the Iraqi police and security forces are patrolling those areas and managing things.
A good example is Mosul. We managed to roll up the 1st tier terrorist network, so they sent in another group, and those are getting rolled up, with complaints (in a captured letter) from a terrorist of the poor leadership there and the ineffectiveness.

5) Last but not least, the casualty rate, while higher than we would want (ZERO is better!) is far less than in conventional wars ... At the current rate of losses, it would take 3 generations, ie, until 2065 to surpass the death toll from the Korean war. Korea was another forgotten war but one in which our sacrifice saved millions from despotism and set the stage for containment that ultimately won the cold war. The only thing that will force us out of Iraq is *not* any lack of national resources but simple defeatist lack of will.

We made mistakes in Iraq? Sure. YOU ALWAYS DO. We will fix them. And if I had a rewind button on my life, what things would I do! Disbanding Iraqi army - Mistake? probably yet we know disloyalty from within would be a big mistake too, but that was in May 2003. Old news. Now there are new Iraqi army units taking on terrorists/AIF and defeating them.

The data for declaring the war is off-track was this report:

"According to the final scorecard posted by the military today, soldiers discovered nine vehicle car bombs, six of which were found in a garage used for rigging such weapons, and 28 improvised bombs planted on the side of roads or near buildings.The sweep also netted 36 suspected insurgents, who have been detained for questioning, the military said. "

The NYT says it is underwhelming - yet a single car bomb will make the front page of their paper when it is used by terrorists. They report terrorist activities as front-page news and our successes in preventing them as back-page news.


The bottom-line facts are these:
Our enemy can do little more than inflict some level violence on us and on Iraqis.
If we are inured to the level of violence he can inflict, wheter a single mortar shell or another 9/11 level attack, WE WILL WIN. Period. End of story.

Terrorism is defeated the day we decide to never, ever, ever, act out of fear of our enemies again. It means more soldiers will die, but freedom will be more secure for generations to come. We will continue to make more mistakes, big and small,
but that doesn't make the effort less noble nor less necessary.

So GB/BD, quit wimpering and get back on the front lines!

Posted by: Patrick at August 15, 2005 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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