July 27th, 2007

Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know?

There are various mantras about the Iraq war that have become popular these days. One of them is that there is no military solution, only a political one. Another is that the surge isn’t working, sometimes modified lately to read: the surge isn’t working enough, or the surge is only working temporarily, or the surge is working militarily but not politically. And so on and so forth.

There’s no question that many proponents of these mantras are invested in the surge not working; after all, they’ve staked their political lives on that fact. Others are just following what they read in their favorite media outlet of choice. Still others no doubt have made considered judgments after weighing whatever evidence is out there; I don’t know what percentage of the whole this latter group represents, but I’m afraid it’s rather miniscule.

We in this country have a civilian, not a military, government. There’s a division of labor between the two, with the Defense Secretary and Commander in Chief ordinarily being civilians (unless, of course, the President is an ex-General such as Eisenhower; a rare exception to this rule). Most voters, of course, don’t have a military background either, since women seldom do and most men young enough to have only known the volunteer armed forces (which would be most men today) have not served.

Obviously, I’m not a proponent of the idea that only those who’ve served in the military can have an opinion on war (a variant of the “chickenhawk” argument). Nor do I think that only police can have an opinion on crime, or only doctors on health care, or any one of a zillion variations on that theme. To be responsible voters we all must come to conclusions on these and a host of other issues.

Some of those topics are complex, however, and expert opinion by those with experience in the field should have a certain weight. This is certainly true of military matters. Of course, as with all topics, it’s not difficult to find an expert on either side of an issue, and to cite the expert who agrees with the opinion you’ve already formed. That’s why so many people toe the party line; it takes quite a bit of time and effort to evaluate the often complicated technical information involved—and, of course, “a mind is a difficult thing to change.”

But we do need to take cognizance of what experts say on a topic, and the experts on war are the military. And in the main, what they say can be summarized as, “The surge is working somewhat; give it a chance. A premature withdrawl would be far worse, both for us, the military, and the Iraqis.”

Yes, they have their own agenda and their own biases. But they’re the best we have. I’ve read a great many articles and blogs written by those in the military, or with a military background (hi, Austin!), and overall I’ve been extremely impressed by their knowledge, insight, intelligence, attention to detail, and efforts to be evenhanded and fair.

I can’t say the same for most members of Congress who are pressing for withdrawal, or most discussion of the war in the press by non-military journalists, which tends to be the opposite: simplistic and nakedly partisan, often inaccurate about simple facts, and with a tendency to ignore consequences.

Some might say that those in the military know only about killing people, not the all-important winning of hearts and minds in a place such as Iraq.

The evidence points to the contrary. General Petraeus is an expert on exactly the type of war we are fighting in Iraq. It’s often said that “he wrote the book.” But what is this book of his, exactly? Take a look at the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written to provide guidance for this new type of war we increasingly face.

No, I haven’t read Petraeus’s book myself, but I’ve heard it praised highly and I can only assume he’s attempting to follow its recommendations in Iraq—after all, they are his own recommendations. But to get an idea of the sort of things that Petraeus and the army think about nowadays, here’s a list of the book’s chapters.:

Aspects of Insurgency; Aspects of Counterinsurgency; Integrating Civilian And Military Activities; Key Counterinsurgency Participants and Their Likely Roles; Civilian and Military Integration Mechanisms; Tactical-Level Interagency Considerations; Intelligence Characteristics in Counterinsurgency; Predeployment Planning and Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operations; counterintelligence and Counterreconnaissance; Intelligence Cells and Working Groups; Protecting Sources; Host-Nation Integration; Designing Counterinsurgency Campaigns And Operations; The Nature of Counterinsurgency Operations; Logical Lines of Operations; Targeting; Learning and Adapting; Developing Host-Nation Security Forces; Police; Leadership and Ethics; Warfighting Versus Policing; Proportionality and Discrimination; Detention and Interrogation; Sustainment; Logistic Support to Logical Lines of Operations; Employing Linguists; Establishing Rapport; Authority to Assist a Foreign Government; Authorization to Use Military Force; Rules of Engagement; Internal Armed Conflict; Airpower In Counterinsurgency; Air and Space Information Operations; High-Technology Assets; Low-Technology Assets.

I think you’ll agree that the depth and breadth of thought there compares rather favorably with that of Congress, or the average journalist (or even the above-average journalist). I think you’ll also agree this doesn’t seem to be a purely military solution, but one that emphasizes integration with the politics and the people of the country involved.

Civilians can, do, and must try to evaluate the military situation in Iraq and form an opinion, and of course military experience is not necessary to do that. But it would be hard to do it responsibly by discounting what the military experts say. And, in general, it would be easier to do it if one has some sort of military knowledge already, a context in which to place the present facts.

As a member of the Boomer generation, and one who had personal experience of the Vietnam draft years (including a boyfriend who served there in combat), I’m grateful the draft is over. I think the military’s capabilities have improved tremendously since those years, and I have no interest in going back. But the one advantage I can see that the old draft system had was that it gave most men (not women, but that’s another story) some sort of military training and knowledge.

Right now, only about 55% of eligible voters are estimated to have actually cast ballots in the 2004 Presidential election. The total number of votes cast was about 122 million, so by my calculations there are about 221 million potential voters in the US today.

How many are veterans? There are about 24.5 million veterans in the US today, and since I assume they are all of voting age that would represent about 12% of the total. Forty percent of them are age 65 and over, and so one can deduce that the majority of the vets are on the older side, and that percentages of voters who’ve served in the armed forces will decrease as time goes on.

What of Congress? According to this Boston Globe article, less than 30% of members of Congress are veterans (and here are some more details about the Congress that served from 2003 to 2005; you’ll see that most of those veterans were Vietnam-era or older). The Globe article also states that this percentage is way down from previous times—for example, in 1974 nearly 80% of Congress had served in uniform. That’s quite a difference—although it certainly didn’t lead to support of the Vietnam War in that case (some of that lack of support was the result of the perception that the military commanders had lied about the war in the late Sixities: see this).

Some of this decline in the number of veterans in Congress probably represents the greater prevalence of women there these days, and of course much is the result of the demise of the draft. But whatever the cause, the result is that far fewer members of Congress at present have military experience and knowledge of any sort, compared to the past.

Again, I must be careful to state that this does not mean they can’t have valid opinions. But it does make it easier for them to ignore the complicated facts as they are reported, and merely go with their own biases and preconceptions, which is something Congress—and most people—do quite well, anyway.

Waiting for September and Petraeus’s report, and then actually giving it a fair hearing, may be beyond the powers of Congress. And, of course, military expertise is no guarantee of lack of bias. But I, for one, would like to see members of Congress who demonstrate a higher level of analysis of and knowledge of the actual military facts being reported so far, and who are willing to withhold judgment (and hold their tongues), at least until that September day of reckoning.

I can dream, can’t I?

[ADDENDUM: Here's a piece by an ex-military man on what's happening with the surge to date.]

33 Responses to “Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know?”

  1. University Update - Iraq - Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know? Says:

    [...] House Contact the Webmaster Link to Article iraq Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know? » Posted at neo-neocon [...]

  2. Danny Lemieux Says:

    The most positive indicator of progress in Iraq will be the rising crescendo of braying Democrat/Leftists spouting their Tourette-like outburst in vile frustration. Ooops! Sounds like that is already underway.

    The Democrat/Left has become the party of cowardice, kowtowing cowardice, vested in self-hatred and defeat. They tried to defeat us in Vietnam and succeeded (3-million dead). They tried during the Cold War and failed. Now, they try again to defeat us in the war against Islamofascism but the tide (finally) seems to be turning against them.

    Most Americans are motivated to win. What exactly drives the self-hatred of the Democrat/Left, I can’t be too sure, but it sure isn’t pretty.

  3. gcotharn Says:

    Senators do not have a geopolitical/sociological/historical/technologic(re: modern weaponry) understanding to accurately assess the “benefit” in a cost/benefit analysis of OIF.

    You are typically and laudably generous to assume that Senators – if they truly understand what is in the best interests of the war strategy – will vote to support what is in the best interests of the war strategy.

    I am not so generous. I believe some number of Senators are so cynical as to believe their votes and their legislation make no actual difference to the fortunes of the nation. They rationalize that the nation is so strong it will roll on, regardless of what they do, or how they vote.

    Fortunately, some Senators are not quite so cynical. They will, I suspect, vote for what they believe is in the best interests of our nation.

    Yet, these less cynical Senators – both Dems and Repubs – generally do not comprehend the enormity and the seriousness of the danger which the Islamists represent. Therefore, even these less cynical Senators do not comprehend the depth to which a stable and free Iraq is in the best interests of the U.S.

    Your point, with which I agree, is that less cynical Senators often do not have a military understanding/philosophy which makes realistic allowances for some unavoidable turbulence during any military undertaking.

    I add this point: that less cynical Senators are making a cost/benefit analysis of Operaration Iraqi Freedom. These less cynical Senators do not have a geopolitical/sociological/historical/technologic(re: modern weaponry) understanding to accurately assess the “benefit” in a cost/benefit analysis of OIF.

  4. Darrell Says:

    For future reference, you don’t tow a line, you toe a line.

  5. TallDave Says:

    Sensible and well-written. Very unpolemic.

    Sadly, you are correct that very few people are basing their views on the Iraq conflict on careful consideration.

    I would argue that for the political class, whether the surge is working is at best secondary to what really drives politics: poll numbers.

    There is some wisdom in crowds, but also quite a bit of foolishness. Questions of winning or losing or doing well or doing badly are all relative, and the media provide little context, historical or otherwise. There’s no question we’ve made considerable progress on some fronts, and no question that progress has been lacking on others.

    Iraq has become a Rohrschach.

  6. Mike_K Says:

    amazon.com”For future reference, you don’t tow a line, you toe a line.”

    Actually, that is true except in the instance where your sailboat is running before a storm and towing a line to keep from broaching. But, of course, that is a special case.

    The great question about Iraq is whether Arabs can rule themselves without tyrants. So far, the record is not good. If you have read any of a number of books about the Arab mind, you know the problems of a “shame-honor” society. Fouad Ajami calls the West a “guilt society” and that seems much more compatible with self-governance and democracy. Bush and his advisers decided that Saddam has so pulverized civil society in Iraq that it might work. Unfortunately, the Army, the “Big War Army” that just failed to promote Colonel McMaster, author and right hand assistant to Gen Petraeus, was not interested in COIN tactics and wasted three years before Petraeus finally got his chance. Now the Democrats are so invested in defeat that they may succeed in pulling the plug on a successful policy.

  7. Tedd McHenry Says:

    You’re right that the average person (and journalist) has very little knowledge of military matters. That problem is compounded by the average person also not knowing how ignorant they are. A lot of people have very clear ideas about how the military works and what it does but they have no inkling that their ideas are completely wrong.

  8. jblog Says:

    Something that seems to be lost on those who oppose the war and cry “defeat”regardless of the facts: in order to be right, they have to root for the enemy and hope for the worst.

    I have a hard time understanding how they figure that gives them the moral high ground.

    Or perhaps they simply don’t care.

    I mean don’t know that we will win, or even that we can. But at least I hope we will.

  9. Russ Says:

    Mike K,

    Be careful with some of what you say. I personally know COL HR McMasters(I served with him at Ft. Irwin when I was a platoon leader and he was MAJ McMasters), and he is only just now coming into the zone for consideration for promotion to Brigadier General. Most folks are not selected on the first try, if ever, so don’t take his lack of promotion to this point as a snub.

    He’s a fast burner and likely will make BG, but just hasn’t yet. Please know the game before trying to sound like an expert on the rules.

  10. Tom W. Says:

    I predict Petraeus will give the Republicans and the few responsible Democrats enough progress for them to continue supporting the current strategy in Iraq.

    It would help if ALL bloggers who want victory saturated the ‘Net with stories such as the following:

    The Baathists are looking forward to US helicopters fleeing the embassy in Baghdad just like they did in Vietnam.
    The former Baathists of Saddam’s regime met briefly in Damascus, Syria yesterday before the Assad Regime called off the event. They were able though to discuss their plans for Iraq once democrats force US troops to withdraw from the region.
    TIME magazine reported:

    Once the majority of American troops have left, the alliance plans to throw out the constitution, dissolve the parliament, cancel all resolutions issued from the Bremer era on, and disband the existing security forces and U.S.-trained Iraqi army divisions.
    The U.S. embassy in Baghdad, they said, would have to close — “as in Saigon. With helicopters on the roof” said Samarai — until Washington recognized a new, resistance-led Iraqi governing council, and offered compensation to all individuals and organizations affected by the war. Under the new leadership, all Iraqi citizens who worked for or cooperated with the current, coalition-backed government would be arrested.

    http://tinyurl.com/3bwy9e

    Does the average American really want to see every Iraqi who helped us arrested, tortured, and executed?

    Too bad the current crop of Republicans never seems to use this sort of ammunition effectively. Still, I’m optimistic. I think we’ll win, but as Wellington said about his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, it’ll be a “damn close-run thing.”

  11. Grimmy Says:

    smallwars.quantico.usmc.milI don’t know how to do that fancy pants link thing, so sorry for that. These might be of interest to some of your readers:

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/index.php

    The site was built and is hosted by folk expert in what today is called COIN, or CI but used to be called “Small Wars”.

    http://www.smallwars.quantico.usmc.mil/sw_manual.asp

    That’s a link to the 1940′s version of the USMC manual on small wars. This CI or COIN or small wars is nothing new, no recent invention and the US military in general, and the USMC in particular have been training in the concept since forever. There are even a few well known units (Green Berets) that were created specifically for this sort of operation during the Cold War.

    Counter Insurgency is neither rocket surgery nor brain science. It’s not all that complicated a program to understand and it’s been what the US and Coalition forces have been doing since the cessation of conventional “maneuver war” operations at the fall of Baghdad. Those saying that we’ve only just now started a CI or COIN operation are talking out the side of their necks.

    There’s a new manual and there’s a new boss and some new capability has been pushed into theater, but it’s all working off of the foundation already laid by preceding efforts. The time spent in Iraq prior to the Surge was not just wasted time.

    One issue that most will not understand, even among my fellow veterans, is that the military can not fully, completely and totally adapt itself to this current fight. It must maintain capability and doctrine that also looks outward for at least the next 20 years at potential enemy and other forms or permutations of warfare that can arise.

    It is also worth considering the reality that in any endeavor of any complexity, especially one with so many moving parts as fighting an adaptive enemy while making all effort to minimize damage to the surrounding populace and infrastructure, some things must be done in a serial fashion and some in parallel. Not everything can be done, nor should be attempted, all at once.

    Another issue to consider, when studying war, current or past, is logistics, logistics, logistics. You can not bring in any more “boots on the ground” than you can feed, water, supply and maintain. And, for every boot in a combat job slot, there’s an additional need of between 4 to 7 boots in supply and support job slots.

  12. Pierre Legrand Says:

    saneworks.usGreat article…here is a twist that you may have not considered. I do not see the surge winning the war but I do not believe that pulling out is the answer.

    Believing that Democracy is the answer to the middle east was a hopelessly naive point of view. I am hoping that no one in the Bush administration actually believes that Democracy was the answer, but I would bet I they do.

    Furthermore I see Petraeus chief of Counter Insurgency having some fairly incredible views considering history.

    Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, senior counterinsurgency adviser to our forces in Iraq, wondered in an e-mail whether I “may not like Muslims, and that’s your choice.” It was a long e-mail ? one of several ? but even these few words convey the viewpoint, increasingly prevalent, that discounts the doctrinal centrality of Islam to jihad violence convulsing the world, from Iraq to London. In the mental no-jihad zone (and, in Lt. Col. Kilcullen’s case, despite what he calls his “significant personal body count of terrorists and insurgents killed or captured”), only personal animus can explain alarm over the Islamic institution of jihad (let alone dhimmitude). “Alternatively,” he wrote, “you may think Islam contains illiberal and dangerous tendencies.”

    From a very long article taking issue with those who attacked Diana West for publishing an article against Lt Col Kilcullen’s apparent views on Islam.

    None of that addresses the military aspects of the surge. It simply questions the premises of those who are currently engaged in trying to pacify Iraq.

    Some military folks who are questioning the surge from a Hawks point of view are wondering why we are not addressing Iran. Without cutting off the flow of arms, funds and training from Iran and Syria the war will last forever. One of the few aspects of this war that actually resemble Vietnam. Why we think we can win this war without cutting off logistics is puzzling a few military minds. Like this one:
    Counterinsurgency and US War Strategy

    Our role in Iraq was to stop Saddam from his collaboration with Al Qaeda and others in his war with the US. We did that…now we are fighting to eliminate Al Qaeda. We can form alliances with forces in Iraq. But we need not worry about Democracy…that won’t work there and its not something we can give at the point of a gun.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  13. Pierre Legrand Says:

    Arrggh…sorry for the incomprehensible comment. Trying to do 14 things at once at work is unwise.

    I believe that Islam is not compatible with the essential elements of Democracy. I do not believe that anyone in Iraq asked us to “give” them democracy. And trying to force Democracy onto a culture that does not believe in equality is bound to fail…either by outright rejection of Democracy by Islam in Iraq or by evil forces in Iraq taking advantage of the vote to gain power.

    Our military should not be used to build nations. Nations cannot be given…they must be created by those who deserve it. Btw guess who said that our military should not be used to build nations?

    George Bush in his debate with Gore.

  14. Grimmy Says:

    Pierre Legrande

    I’ll hazard a guess into a few reason for not going into Iran any quicker than we have been moving in that direction.

    1. A newly resurgent Russia. Russia is heavily invested in Iran and has been doing whatever is in it’s power to flex what muscle it has in order to keep those investments going. We have to be willing to deal with a lot, I mean a lot of bad play from Russia in central asia.

    2. Afghanistan. The second that Iran gets it in its head that we’re really coming to get them, Afghanistan will be flooded with Iranian hostiles and the Taliban will receive a new lease on life.

    3. Europe. France, Germany, etc have been carrying Iran’s water in the UN and in the public arena for some time now. Sometimes it’s just because of a gene deep hatred of the US and the desire to poke their thumb in our eye. Sometimes it’s due to Europe’s dependency on Iranian contracts and resources.

    There’s also the anti-American left in America that is just itching for an excuse to stop pretending to play nice. Iran could well be the straw that breaks that rot infested rat’s back as well.

    And that stuff about democracy being impossible for any muslim culture because it’s such a new concept for them? Well, it was for us too and took a bunch of blood and messy years to get the foundations built ourselves.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Some might say that those in the military know only about killing people, not the all-important winning of hearts and minds in a place such as Iraq.

    I found something you might like, Neo.

    Winning hearts and minds is what an insurgency is supposed to do, we are doing counter-insurgency however

    It is a list of what belongs where. A good organization chart for the big picture.

    I think you’ll also agree this doesn’t seem to be a purely military solution, but one that emphasizes integration with the politics and the people of the country involved.

    Some people believe that de facto any military attempt will result in failure; and thus cannot be termed a solution at all.

    That’s why they say pull out and Iraq will get better, because they believe that it is the military presence that prevents political solutions.

    And, of course, military expertise is no guarantee of lack of bias.

    I agree with what Grim said, which is that the thing that matters is whether you are loyal to the United States Constitution or not.

    People fighting to defend an entity may disagree but they are still on the same team. The same can’t be said for the Main Sewer Media or Congress members.

    Sounds like that is already underway.

    Just the expected sleeper cell agents that joined the military after 9/11, Danny. They’ll be purged, eventually.

    Most Americans are motivated to win. What exactly drives the self-hatred of the Democrat/Left, I can’t be too sure, but it sure isn’t pretty.

    Evil becomes stronger not by making anything better, but by destroying those that resist evil. Not saying the Left and the Demo(n)crats are evil but certainly their SOPs are similar.

  16. Pierre Says:

    Russia has been and will remain a paper tiger outside of her borders. She will risk nothing to save Iran. Certainly not a war with the US. We are fighting for our existence a point that is sometimes forgotten even by patriots.

    1. A newly resurgent Russia. Russia is heavily invested in Iran and has been doing whatever is in it’s power to flex what muscle it has in order to keep those investments going. We have to be willing to deal with a lot, I mean a lot of bad play from Russia in central Asia.

    Russia will back down in the face of a determined US. We are the biggest bear on the block by a long long way.

    2. Afghanistan. The second that Iran gets it in its head that we’re really coming to get them, Afghanistan will be flooded with Iranian hostiles and the Taliban will receive a new lease on life.

    I am sorry but if we are supposed to worry about the Iranians then we should just simply give up. They are incompetent as an Army. Though as terrorists they do nicely…ask the Israelis. Vis a Vis your thought that THEN they will invade Afghanistan is belied by the fact that they have ALREADY invaded. They are ALREADY in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon. They have already long ago killed more Marines in one day than anyone else since the Japanese.

    3. Europe. France, Germany, etc have been carrying Iran’s water in the UN and in the public arena for some time now. Sometimes it’s just because of a gene deep hatred of the US and the desire to poke their thumb in our eye. Sometimes it’s due to Europe’s dependency on Iranian contracts and resources

    Now we are afraid of France???? Are we in the twilight zone? Let me quote the expert on these sorts of matters:

    Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.

    Nothing new under the sun in matters of state. We should stop wanting to be loved…its a bad trait for a manager and its a worse trait for a President and it may be fatal for a country.

    There’s also the anti-American left in America that is just itching for an excuse to stop pretending to play nice. Iran could well be the straw that breaks that rot infested rat’s back as well.

    You mean like they might raise up and revolt…??? Do you promise? I mean how hilarious is that? For instance is it more funny than us being scared of France? We are going to be scared of folks who make paper mache heads and wear pink and who think that exposing their saggy old breasts is making a point? Hell if they want to go to war with me they are welcome to have at it. Bringing a Paper Mache Head to a gun fight is generally a bad idea…but they can try.

    And that stuff about democracy being impossible for any muslim culture because it’s such a new concept for them? Well, it was for us too and took a bunch of blood and messy years to get the foundations built ourselves.

    No not because its a new concept. They really are not children who have missed all the developments in Europe and America. They have seen them and rejected them. Now we come along and say, YOU WILL HAVE DEMOCRACY. A system that depends, nay more than depends that DEMANDS, that all people are equal. It is a fundemental axiom in Islam that this is NOT true. Exactly how anyone plans on bridging that gap has not been stated. However it will be bridged, if it ever is, it will not be at the point of a bayonet of an American Soldier.

    Let me post a snippet from Amir Taheri explaining equality for us.

    Lest us return to the issue of equality.
    The idea is unacceptable to Islam.
    For the non-believer cannot be the equal of the believer.
    Even among the believers only those who subscribe to the three so-called Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam ( Ahl el-Kitab) are regarded as fully human.
    Here is the hierarchy of human worth in Islam:
    At the summit are free male Muslims
    Next come Muslim male slaves
    Then come free Muslim women
    Next come Muslim slave women.
    Then come free Jewish and /or Christian men
    Then come slave Jewish and/or Christian men
    Then come slave Jewish and/or Christian women.
    Each category has rights that must be respected.

    That is a very wide gulf to cross to get the philsophy that is embodied above to accept.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Remember that Islam is considered not only a religion but a way of governing…the Koran is the word of god. I won’t be the first one to suggest an amendment to the word of god if ever I am stuck inside of Iran or Saudi Arabia.

  17. Mike_K Says:

    “He’s a fast burner and likely will make BG, but just hasn’t yet. Please know the game before trying to sound like an expert on the rules.”

    Thank you. I know the rules and he was passed over. My brother-in-law was passed over for his star after being damned with faint praise by his wing commander after Gulf War I. I know how it is done. My brother-in-law is now a multimillionaire but would rather be a Marine general.

  18. Grimmy Says:

    Pierre

    I do fully agree with you on the “fight for our very lives” aspect of this and those issues I listed were only guesses.

    But, I would also like to ask you to think some of that through just a little bit more.
    Russia is in a place and possition to cause us untold grief with our newer allies in central asia. We do not have the bases, nor the unlimited logistics reach to fully invest that area militarily. We are dependent upon some small sized bases in former USSR territories to allow for our supply and maintenance of the Afghanistan operation. We do also have basing in Afghanistan proper, and Pakistan, but Pakistan is always wobbly and not all areas of Afghanistan are easily reachable from the Afghan bases.

    Afghanistan: Iran can flood Afghanistan with cash and weaponry as well as the same sort of covert operators that we’re facing in Iraq. Many of our allies working in Afghanistan are there for show only and will bail in a heart beat as soon as the situation looks any more dangerous than it already does. You can count on that. As nearly useless as those forces are in the fighting, they do have some value in the reconstruction and policing. We’d have to take up that additional load, as well as renew full strength combat duties with a newly reinvigorated Taliban/AQ. Where do you suppose we find the troops for that? We’ll need troops to push into Iran. Where do they come from, by chance?

    You’re not one of these who believe that the US military is some bottomless well of men and machinery, are you? We’re hard pushed as it is. Where is all this new flex going to come from?

    Europe: Already we’ve had Switzerland refuse to honor a deal to provide 100 M113 armored personel carriers to the Iraqi Police force because Switzerland “can not be seen to be supporting the illegal war by America on the Iraqi citizens.” (paraphrase from memory)

    Austria has already once refused to allow a US military supply convoy to cross their border while on it’s way to ports in Italy. Again “can’t be seen to support…”.
    Austria has also sold 1000 .50 cal sniper rifles to Iran. Germany has had to go all the way to their superior court to get permission to fly a single fighter bomber for recon purposes in Afghanistan, and, iirc, the ruling was “as long as none of the info is shared with the Americans” or something of that sort.

    If the europeans really decide to, they can make all sorts of problems for us, in logistics. Logistics is what runs a war.

    Regarding our anti-American left. You only have to look at what the DNC is doing in their name to us now. Our military answers to the civilian leadership and much of that leadership belongs to the will of the enemy. What will our military do once the funding is stopped and the orders are issued to come home NOW!?
    Our military does not operate in a vacuum. Much impinges upon and has to be considered by our military and those who give them their orders from the POTUS side of things.

    Democracy. It’s messy at the moment, but it was for us too. Any attempt at redesigning a citizenry’s relationship to their government is always so. Just because something is difficult is no reason not to at least try. Many many Iraqis have taken to the notion of their democracy with a vengeance. It’s not an instant thing but it is there and it is growing.
    Assuming that all Iraqi are devout muslim is about as off as assuming that all Americans are devout Christian.
    I do agree that islam is incompatible with democracy, and, personally, I do believe it will be a hard fight, but in the end, I also believe islam will lose that fight, at least in Iraq and at least for our lifetimes.

    Also, do not assume that our version of democracy is the only possible version of democracy. That is not so. Theirs does not have to be based on the same concepts or structures or principals as ours. There is much flex in adapting a governing structure to the needs of a particular culture.

    For what it’s worth, just in case anyone really wonders, I am much more in favor of the old school type wars of destruction and obliteration. My personal view of a proper fight in this current GWoT would have been to land on the west coast of Turkey and kill our way eastward until we ran out of enemy. But, I’m not in charge of anything and that’s probably a good thing.

    Oh, Turkey, that reminds me, ever wonder why they really played the backstabber on breaking their word to allow the 4th ID to transit their lands on rout to northern Iraq during the run towards Baghdad? Could it possibly have been because France told them they’d get a better chance at entry into the EU if they did that? I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s the only line that makes any real sense. If it was unease over the Kurds then it would never have been agreed to in the first place.

    Anyhoo, there will be war between us and Iran sooner or later. But there are more issues to be considered that just a straight up, can we or cant we. We can, but we’ve got to make sure our T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, bases covered and assets in place for a long protracted spillover that well may occur along with that war in Iran.

  19. Mark Says:

    Two points:

    Add China to your list of obstacles to action in Iran. Iran sells a great deal of oil to China and China depends on it. (China’s energy politics should worry us greatly)

    In COIN, the territory is the hearts and minds of the populace, which will follow so long as they can be kept safe. Teflon Don over on Acute Politics (see Neo’s bloglist) has a wonderful story to tell on that, illustrating how and why you win.

    A case can be made, and has been, that we needed to have the Iraq war stretched out a few years in order that the Iraqi people could see who was on their side and who wasn’t. But the enemy has done us a number of favors by their brutality. It’s possible that they will learn.

  20. Whitehall Says:

    For your own copy of “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” one needs not pay Amazon $25.

    It is available free for download from the Government Printing Office here:

    http://catalog.gpo.gov/F/MBB217D9NP9RHXKIFYBJHIL7PHXGU7GMQ6SE352PV5GYT6I2F6-01724?func=full-set-set&set_number=000695&set_entry=000001&format=999

  21. Al Fin Says:

    The community of dictatorships–such as Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela etc.–will tend to stick together against more liberal nations such as the US.

    It is sometimes confusing when the European Union throws in its lot with the dictatorships. Is their something about the underlying nature of the EU that they are not telling us?

  22. Pierre Says:

    Do not take the counsel of your fears.

    Russia is in a place and possition to cause us untold grief with our newer allies in central asia. We do not have the bases, nor the unlimited logistics reach to fully invest that area militarily. We are dependent upon some small sized bases in former USSR territories to allow for our supply and maintenance of the Afghanistan operation. We do also have basing in Afghanistan proper, and Pakistan, but Pakistan is always wobbly and not all areas of Afghanistan are easily reachable from the Afghan bases.

    Russia is a mess, her military equipment is a mess, her morale is a mess, her ability to produce is a mess. She acts boldly because we act infirmly. If we were to act boldly she would cluck a bit but she would not risk war with us. China is not interested in a war with us as well. But both will take advantage of our weakness by promoting those who are fighting us. Both are using these so called 4-G warriors to make trouble for us.

    We have seen this before and we have defeated it before. But it takes a man of Reagan’s stature and bravery to do it.

    Winning the war quiets lots of folks. While the appearance of defeat emboldens our enemy’s and quiets our friends. We appear to be getting defeated, no matter the bright appraisals of the latest wunderkind. Rational folks know we cannot win in Iraq, especially if winning means leaving behind some form of democracy if Iran and Syria are left behind our withdrawal to foment dissent. My gosh exactly why does anyone believe that we can leave with Iran still next door. Iran simply will not allow any sort of freedom next door.

    Assuming that all Iraqi are devout muslim is about as off as assuming that all Americans are devout Christian.

    You are kidding right?

    I do agree that islam is incompatible with democracy, and, personally, I do believe it will be a hard fight, but in the end, I also believe islam will lose that fight, at least in Iraq and at least for our lifetimes.

    Exactly how will it lose that fight? This administration is not fighting it. And Democracy is messy…yea for people who want it. But no one has answered me about regarding exactly who in Iraq asked for it.

    We are a terribly arrogant people to assume that Muslims are children who don’t know what is best of them. We are a terribly arrogant people to assume that they are too stupid to know what we have in regards to Democracy. No one has wondered if perhaps those inside of Islam have seen what we have to offer and decided they don’t want it.

    Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia will never allow a secular Iraq. Without our changing their attitudes.

  23. Great post you should read at DPGI v.3 Says:

    [...] Neo-Neocon: Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know? [...]

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Russia is a mess, her military equipment is a mess, her morale is a mess, her ability to produce is a mess.

    Wasn’t Germany in the same situation before?

    If we were to act boldly she would cluck a bit but she would not risk war with us.

    There’s always a point of no return where even boldness no longer works. And the US is running up to the deadline on that.

    China is not interested in a war with us as well.

    Nothing is stopping them from doing Proxy Warfare. The Cold War introduced that as the weapon of choice against superpowers.

    Winning the war quiets lots of folks.

    That is indeed true, if the war won is through American means rather than say, European Versailles means.

    We are a terribly arrogant people to assume that Muslims are children who don’t know what is best of them.

    The entire world and more than half of American are children that don’t know what is best for them. That is not the problem, the problem is determining who does know what is best for folks; who really fights on the Light for once you know that, then everything else becomes a matter of application rather than theory.

    No one has wondered if perhaps those inside of Islam have seen what we have to offer and decided they don’t want it.

    Why would anyone want some foul tasting medicine such as democracy? Not even America’s Republic is a total upgrade on democracy, and people don’t even want that. What people want is security, prosperity, and vengeance against those that they hate. Perhaps in that order, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter what they decided, what matters is what they need.

    Al Anbar decided a long time ago to fight and kill Americans. They needed to rethink that decision and their allegiance to AQ, and they did. They did it because that was what was required of them.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    US Counter-insurgency is directly incompartible with socialism, Marxism, Global Warming, etc, Neo.

    Even if they understood COIN, they would never agree to support it because COIN is their destruction.

    If people are safe and prosperous, from where will the Revolution come, eh?

  26. Poetry Says:

    Everyone in favor of the Iraq war must be parachuted over Baghdad immediately! Nothing is more vital. And they can’t come home until Sunni loves Shia and vice versa.

  27. Jack Rich Says:

    The problem is not with GEN Petraeus, nor with the surge. In fact, the problem is not one subject to a military solution.

    Commenter Poetry has it just right: until Shiites and Sunnis stop killing each other in the name of whatever madness they do so, there’s little point in us getting between them, attempting to foster a compromise government.

    These folks are not going to play nice with each other. Haven’t for well over a millennium. Not going to start now.

    Out best bet? Back one side or the other, arm them to the teeth, and to hell with what we in the West think of as a fair and balanced solution.

  28. Mike_K Says:

    The Shia are going to be in charge. The issue is whether we can convince the Sunni that they will be able to survive and prosper in a majority Shia country. If not, there will be war, not in Iraq but from Turkey to Egypt. That is what we are trying to accomplish in spite of the opposition of the political left who have no idea of the stakes. They are heavily into wishful thinking. In economics, it can make your poor; in national security, it can make you dead.

  29. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Mike is correct, the majority Shia WILL be in charge. The issue is what level of human rights will the gov’t enforce to the minority.

    The Shia-Sunni split is exactly why Islam will learn to be compatible with human rights (the real goal, with democracy just a HUGE step towards it). Just as Catholics needed to accept living in peace with Protestants, and vice versa.

    The Left will mostly melt away in opposition — after Tel Aviv is nuked. It’s not clear anything less will make them willing to “be wrong” and accept the goal of American imposed democracy.

    To do such imposition might take 5-50 years more. Much shorter than “never” or “ever”, but much longer than the next US election.

  30. submandave Says:

    [U]ntil Shiites and Sunnis stop killing each other in the name of whatever madness they do so, there’s little point in us getting between them, attempting to foster a compromise government.

    You may as well say until Whites and Blacks stop killing each other there’s no point in trying to have an integrated society.

    I never thought about it in these terms, but perhaps one reason those on the political left look at Iraq and despair so much is that they are conditioned to think about people as components of an identity group rather than as individual actors. Yes, as identity groups Shiia and Sunni are locked in mortal combat over religious ideology. However, the reality on the ground is that millions of individual Shiia and Sunni live and work side-by-side in perfect harmony, intermarry and raise mixed families everyday. The goal is not to eliminate sectarian violence and strife since that goal, just liek that of eliminating racism and bigottry in the U.S., can only be approached assymptotically. Success should be measured not in absolutes, but in terms of prevalent memes and societal acceptability. At least in the latter we seem to be on the right track.

  31. Richard Aubrey Says:

    The simplest military activity is really quite complicated.
    Counting your paces to know how far you’ve come:
    At one base where I was training, the training sites had marked out 100 meter distances. During breaks, guys would walk back and forth, trying to nail down their own personal average. Ninety-eight steps? Ninety-seven? Difference going up a slight grade versus going down?
    What width does my thumb subtend when my arm is fully extended? A crude substitute for any vision device with a mil scale. That requires sticking your arm out with thumb up, one eye shut, and than pacing off the distances. This activity, if seen in a civilian setting, would cause the witnesses to back away.

    That’s the simplest of the simple stuff, because you not only have to figure it out, you have to remember it. The ordinary stuff gets far, far worse.

    Being qualified to have an opinion worthy of respect is a condition hard to acquire.

  32. Anon Says:

    I’m a new reader (nice blog!), so please forgive the intrusion if you’re familiar with it or already mentioned it, but Bill Roggio’s The Fourth Rail strikes me a great, relatively straight-talking exposition of what’s going on in the wars. He covers Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. etc. I didn’t see him on your blogroll so thought he might be new to you or some of your readers. http://billroggio.com/ .

  33. Great post you should read « DPGI - the aftermath Says:

    [...] July 28, 2007 · No Comments Neo-Neocon: Winning in Iraq: ah, but what does the military know? [...]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>



About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
Read More >>








Blogroll

Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge