Thursday, July 12, 2007

Understanding The Purpose And Potential Outcome Of The Current Surge In Iraq

As Congress begins round two of a heavyweight fight to bring home the troops from Iraq, there are many things to consider along the way. Things are not as black and white as the partisans of both sides would have us all to believe. So for you, the PYY reader, it is my hope to explain some things that sorely need to be considered in this mess. Despite what the ideologues tell us, the gray areas are not getting enough of the sound bites (mainly because the gray areas are far too complex for short 10 second Michael Moore-like snippets).

The hardcore Bushies are bent on telling us all about the consequences of pulling the troops out and give the surge a chance. This usually comes in response to something someone on the opposite end of the spectrum has said. And it's true, the potential consequences are certainly very real. Many Iraqis know this. Why else would they be begging us to stay?

But the question on everyone's mind is: Is the surge working? Better yet: Will it ever?

Before we can answer these questions, we have to understand what the surge is supposed to accomplish and some of the methods to be used to get us to that point. For an enlightening look at some aspects of this objective, I recommend reading this piece, Understanding Current Operations In Iraq by David Kilcullen, who is a Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser in Iraq. (HT: Mustang of Social Sense. He e-mailed this to me and I am sure that if you were to ask him, he will tell you he's no expert at Military Operations. But that's just his nature. Truth be known, he knows a hell of a lot more than most people that claim to have some understanding, to include me. Warfare has changed greatly since the time I served.)

So if the article is to be given some credence and in all fairness to the proponents of the surge, the surge is not necessarily a wide-sweeping operation that is designed to make insurgent strongholds a a pile of rubble. The time for that has passed. This is one of the graver errors made by Rumsfeld, when he was in charge. If it had been me, the Sunni Triangle would now be a tourist attraction (rivaling the Grand Canyon in depth, contour, and beauty).

But what about the measurement of success? It looks like it isn't working, at least on the surface. Much of this may be because the necessity of keeping the specific details from the media, outweighs the public's right or need to know (at least at this point in time). As history plainly demonstrates, one of the reasons FDR was successful in WWII was because he knew enough about the public, to understand the need to keep certain things away from them. He was smart enough to know that people would would weary of the fight, if they were exposed to the harsh realities that war brings if brought to them in real time and on a daily ad nauseum basis.

It is true that he had help. There were no 24 Hour News Channels, no internet, and no reporters embedded in their hotel rooms, bringing in skewed views from the locals of how the war was playing out. Today, we have that. And in my estimation, it has severely hindered the ability for the decision-makers in this conflict to execute the plans and strategies set forth, to win.

If you have read the article by Mr. Kilcullen and are still with me so far, there's more to be considered. If you have found some comfort in this article, don't. It might not work and the writer even says so:

It will be a long, hard summer, with much pain and loss to come, and things could still go either way. But the population-centric approach is the beginning of a process that aims to put the overall campaign onto a sustainable long-term footing. The politics of the matter then can be decisive, provided the Iraqis use the time we have bought for them to reach the essential accommodation. The Embassy and MNF-I continue to work on these issues at the highest levels but fundamentally, this is something that only Iraqis can resolve: our role is to provide an environment in which it becomes possible.

All this may change. These are long-term operations: the enemy will adapt and we'll have to adjust what we're doing over time......

The question that I have in my mind with all of this is: Do the Iraqis want this to work? Because until we can know the answer to this question, the rest will all come down to partisan speculation. It may very well be that they do not care. It might be that after years of oppressive rule by a megalomaniac dictator, they just do not know how to act in a relatively free society. This is a question that those in support of us being there, will someday soon have to give some serious consideration to.

When I was in Army Basic Training many years ago, we were under total control by the drill instructors for the first few weeks. As time went on, they gave those of us that earned it, short passes to experience some rest, relaxation, and a much needed break from the pressure that had been exerted on us in those same first few weeks. Does anyone care to wager a bet as to how many trainees used their first pass to get "falling down" drunk? Rather than use the time to relax and enjoy a cold beer or two with some good food for a change (and maybe play some pool), these people tried their best to down them at a rate of 3-4 an hour, mostly on empty stomachs.

Why do I bring this into the mix? Because the same thing applies to the Iraqis. The trainees didn't do well with the opportunity the DIs had afforded them. They could not conduct themselves in an honorable manner and it showed almost instantly, when they began chugging the beers. Likewise, the Iraqis are not doing well with the opportunity we have given them, in the short amount of time they have been able to experience it.

So based on what Mr. Kilcullen claims is the nature of this surge, it may very well be that it will not work, after all is said and done. That's a viable argument to make, but one that sorely needs to be made when the time comes for evaluation. What we do not need is more posturing and rhetoric coming out of the naysayers in Washington, because there is an election next year (at least not until it is apparent that this will not work). Which is in effect, pushing forward the evaluation process. Think of how you'd feel, if your annual evaluation was moved up two months or a teacher were to post your grades for the semester, well before the semester was over.

I hear the today's Left commend FDR as one of the greater leaders in the history of this nation. And in my view, he was. But honestly I cannot imagine that if he were the one in charge today, he'd want this turned into the Mickey Mouse Club Show that today's Left has been content to make it, thus far.


Greg said...

As I've said before, the main problem is the lie we were told. No, not WMD. I'm talking about the lie that this would be quick. And easy. And cheap.

It's going to take a long time to see success. Like, a decade.

Or rather, it would have. Now, we are on the edge of surrendering to Iran's proxies and al Qaeda. They can't beat us, but we want to give up anyway.

We want to give up b/c we naively think it will get better when we leave Iraq. We want the negative news to just stop. We want to pretend we're only at war b/c we want to be, and that once we choose not to be, it'll be over. And it's all as big a lie as the one we were told before we went in.

Things will get much worse when we leave. And even though we will be gone, we - America - will be blamed for every drop of blood spilled in the inevitable genocide. World attitudes toward us will not improve. We will gain nothing.

And like after the first Gulf War, when we failed to "finish the job," as Al Gore complained in the 1992 campaign, we will be doomed to return to this God-foresaken country in the next decade.

If the surge shows even modest success by September, it would be a good idea to stick with it and keep trying. I know we won't, but....

Haven't read the Kilcullen article, but will now. Here's a link to a blog by one of our guys fighting for us in Iraq. This entry is very powerful.

Greg said...

LAS, that was a fantastic article by Kilcullen. Thanks for sharing it. It's nice to read really well-informed commentary from an expert on the ground. More, please!

LASunsett said...


Good article from Michael Yon, as are all of his reports. Rarely do we hear anything from the Left refuting what Yon says, because the MSM is mostly too cowardly to be around when the shells are flying. Therefore, they rarely even mention his name in their spiteful and hateful attacks. It's almost as if he doesn't exist, to them anyway.

//It's nice to read really well-informed commentary from an expert on the ground. More, please!//

Mustang? The man wants more, I say, we give it to him. ;)