October 24th, 2007

Why did it take so long to install General Petraeus?

Here’s another article about the success of the the so-called “surge.” In it, Jeff Emanual writes that the results—which so far have exceeded expectations—are attributable not only to the increase in numbers that the word “surge” signifies, but to a basic change of strategy that involves engaging the Iraqi people in a consistent way rather than withdrawing into secure bases and relying primarily on unstable Iraqi forces to do the job:

A sustained presence within the cities and rural areas that each unit is tasked with securing, involving spending the maximum amount of time possible out amongst the people who live and work there, is a major element of counterinsurgency strategy. It not only allows the unit responsible for an area to be present and able to respond at a moment’s notice to any event or emergency, but also allows the members of that unit to become more familiar with the district (and the people, including who should and should not be there) that they are responsible for policing.

Such a policy also allows the civilians in the area to become familiar with and begin to begin to trust their military protectors. Building this bond of trust between military personnel and civilians in each area should lead at some point to cooperation, both in the form of providing information (the first step) and (later) in the form of the organization of an armed resistance working with the Coalition and against the insurgents and terrorists in the region. This is a very long, tortuous process, and it literally depends on the clichéd ‘winning of the hearts and minds’ of the people. This is done not only by providing security and quality of life improvements in an area, but also by convincing the citizenry that such a sustained presence (and the security that it is capable of providing) will be a long-term reality.

This is the essence of the General Petraeus approach. Whether or not it ultimately succeeds long term in the extremely difficult task of rebuilding Iraqi society into a functioning democracy, there is no question it has made the necessary initial inroads towards that goal.

My question is: why did it take so long to put something like this into place?

General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency manual wasn’t available until December of 2006, so perhaps it wasn’t clear until then that he was the right man for the job. Then again, that doesn’t make much sense; surely, those in the know (or those who ought to have been in the know) should have been aware that he was the closest thing to an expert on counterinsurgency that the military had.

After all, Petraeus achieved enough early success using his methods in Mosul, the area of Iraq under his command, to have been featured Newsweek’s cover in July of 2004 with a headline reading, “Can This Man Save Iraq?” Afterwards, he was given the assignment of writing the counterinsurgency guide, the first revision of that document in twenty years.

That time gap is puzzling, as well. After all, it seems clear that counterinsurgencies (including assymetrical warfare and terrorist tactics) would feature prominently in the battles we were going to be facing, especially since the end of the Cold War. Twenty years seems a long time between manuals on this vitally important subject.

My guess is that the end of Rumsfeld cleared the way for Petraeus. Petraeus’ suggestions seemed to run counter to the prevailing Rumsfeldian wisdom of keeping US numbers down in Iraq while maintaining a relatively low profile removed from much interaction with the Iraqi population. There were also rumors to the effect that Rumsfeld and others at the Pentagon were unhappy with Petraeus’ high profile.

Whatever the reason, it is extremely unfortunate that it took so long to install Petraeus, both for the obvious reason that more innocent people may have died than necessary, and for the secondary reason that the length and extent of the time of chaos and murder in Iraq fatigued the easily-exhausted patience of the American people, and probably contributed to public resistance against noticing and appreciating that things are starting to look up there.

I lay the blame at the feet of President Bush. He’s a man with two traits—stubbornness and loyalty—that are double-edged swords. I think these two were operating in his allegiance to Rumsfeld, which lasted far longer than it should have.

Fortunately, this has been corrected. It’s too bad it happened only, if not at the eleventh hour, then certainly at the ninth or tenth.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20. Perhaps it was necessary that the approach of Rumsfeld be tried, and be seen as deeply flawed, in order for the military and the administration to embrace the new approach. Perhaps it was necessary for the people of Iraq to have suffered deeply at the hands of the various “insurgent” groups and al Qaeda in order to perceive that trusting the US military was going to be in their best interests after all.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. We can speculate nearly forever—and, seeing how much we still discuss Vietnam, sometimes I think the argument about Iraq will go on nearly as long, especially if things don’t ultimately go well there.

But evidence is building that our goals in Iraq have a good chance of being accomplished, if the next administration and the next Congress don’t pull the plug on the effort. In this regard, it’s instructive to know that General Petraeus is familiar with the history of Vietnam; his 1987 Princeton doctoral thesis was entitled, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era.” Vietnam continues to cast a long shadow; Petraeus is one who seems determined to learn from our mistakes there.

31 Responses to “Why did it take so long to install General Petraeus?”

  1. Oldflyer Says:

    Neo Dear, General P is getting tremendous credit; and deservedly so. But, do you really believe that the success in Anbar all occurred in the few week or months after he was on the job?

    I think there were things happening that were not reported. Gen P has accelerated the action and crystallized the strategy, but don’t write off all of the hard work that was done before he got there.

    One associated point. I understand that the “Brass” thought that the situation was manageable until the Golden Mosque. That created a firestorm that took time to recognize and confront. Until that point they clearly thought they could keep the lid on until the Iraqi Army and police were ready to stand up.

    Modern wars are so wierd. I know some people criticize Bradley, Ike, et al for the Battle of the Bulge; but most folks understand that it was a desperate and suicidal last gasp by Hitler that was well disguised and so mad in scope that it was not forseen. Thoughtful historians have focused more on the amazing accomplishments between 6/6/44 and 4/45 rather than dwelling on one very costly situation (which ended with a devestating blow to the enemy anyway). Stuff happens during war.

  2. stumbley Says:

    It took the Army something like 20 years to approve the M-16, which was a viable weapon shortly after WWII. Many at the Pentagon were heavily invested—for whatever reason—in keeping the existing rifle. We tend to forget that the Armed Services, like all government agencies, are pretty well-entrenched bureaucracies with lots and lots of inertia.

  3. Trimegistus Says:

    I don’t know if getting rid of Rumsfeld was the key or not. I do know this, though: none of the people calling for his resignation (or his arrest!) were doing so because they were concerned about winning the war in Iraq. All the anti-Rummy sentiment was focused on getting him out as a prelude to abandoning the Iraqis to the tender mercies of Al-Qaeda and Iran.

    Which is, ultimately, the worst part of the Left’s total hostility to American military power: the traitors co-opt even legitimate criticism of how things are being done, perverting it into defeatist propaganda. Those of us who support (and supported) fighting the war to victory wound up rather reflexively defending Bush and Rumsfeld even if the criticism later proved to be correct, simply because it’s almost impossible to tell legitimate “here’s how it could be done better” critiques from “here’s how they’ve FAILED!” attacks.

  4. Anthony (Los Angeles) Says:

    One thing to bear in mind is that the military has known of this strategy for decades: Max Boot in “The savage wars of peace” explores US efforts in “little wars” (counterinsurgencies) over roughly 100 years, and sucessful efforts have almost always emphasized tactics similar to what Petraeus is following now. In Vietnam, which the general is familiar with, Gen. Abrams instituted a similar “protect the population and go after enemy cadres” strategy that was very effective, though, by that time, it was politically too late. The Marines also had something in Nam called (IIRC) the “CAP” program, which worked well. Military brass, however, has been long resistant to counterinsurgency, thus successful strategies don’t seem to become SOP, and we have to learn the lesson again and again.

    Maybe this time it will stick.

  5. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Trimegistus, foaming at the mouth as usual wrote:

    “none of the people calling for his resignation (or his arrest!) were doing so because they were concerned about winning the war in Iraq…the traitors co-opt even legitimate criticism of how things are being done, perverting it into defeatist propaganda.”

    The “traitors” he’s talking about include:

    Gen Wesley Clark, Army
    Gen Charles H Swannack Jr, Army
    Gen John Riggs, Army
    Gen John Batiste, Army
    Gen Anthony Zinni, Marines
    Gen Gregory Newbold, Marines
    Gen Paul Eaton, Army

    Has the world ever seen a bigger bunch or BDS-afflicted moonbats?

  6. Shawn Dudley Says:

    After Vietnam, the Army ran like screaming children from any type of Counter-Insurgency doctrine, prefering to emmerse themselves into conventional war theory. If you were a respectable Army officer in the late 70s, you were studying Clausweitz or Dupry, or Liddel Hart (or God forbid, Guderian), not anything like guerilla warfare.

    Ultimately, the Army became Master of the Domain of conventional warfare (see: Iraq, 1991, for the evidence), but except for the small and insular Special Forces, most Army officers had little exposure to Counter-Insurgency warfare, either in theory or practice. As a result, when the new war came, and insurgency is the name of the game, most Army officers had to learn on the job. Some, like Gen. Sanchez, decided it wasn’t their problem and blamed everyone else. Others, like Gen. Petraus, saw the opportunity and took it. Fortunately for us, we have more Petrasues in the ranks than Sanchezs.

    “Anthony” who commented earlier, is entirely correct: actually we already knew how to win insurgent wars, with the “Clear and Secure” strategy that Gen. Abrams (who was originally a tank officer, BTW), but we just didn’t make any effort to learn the lessons, and a whole generation had to re-learn, with a significant cost.

  7. amr Says:

    The same thing happened in Vietnam. It took forever to change policies and by then the public would not believe that there was a change ongoing nor would the media report it. Maybe this time the correction was in time. The causality reports from Vietnam are vividly remembered and I believe that the military stuck to the large FOBs with minimal patrolling to prevent large causality reports. The military hoped that the Iraqi government and military through our training effort could congeal in time to save the day. But the IEDs got in the way of that effort and the causalities increased since it is neigh on to impossible to supply large bases only by air. Not helping the military in this instance was that a vast number of Americans don’t seem to understand the concept of sacrifice anymore or what constitutes an unacceptable number of causalities in war time. I should note that my son is serving in Iraq and I served during but outside of Vietnam.

    My reading of history is that presidents have had problems with replacing military leadership throughout our history during wartime. Those who were president but had little military experience didn’t want to second guess the professionals unless they had a professional soldier close to them for advice; as did FDR and Truman. Maybe not a good analogy, but do patients usually second guess their doctors and fire them.

    Presidents also have to attend to the morale of the military. Dumping a senior military officer is not something one wishes to do unnecessarily unless their actions were contributing more to bad morale than their dismissal. And getting the military to move in any different direction regardless of who is the new commander is very difficult. Note that the first Americans in Afghanistan were military officers loaned to the CIA since the CIA could get them in country ASAP; no orders to cut via the huge military bureaucracy.

    I am amazed that General Petraeus has managed to do what he has done in such a short time. But reading what Michael Yon and Wesley Morgan, the Princeton journalist who was embedded in Iraq, and other embeds have to say about him, one gets the sense that General Petraeus was the right man for the job as military commander and more. I concur since I watched him up close, 3 rows away in the congressional staff area, during the hearings on March 10th. I was impressed with his handling of that situation and how our young enlisted friend, who was deploying to the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad, was treated by his staff.

  8. Ymarsakar Says:

    It’s funny that Unk lists generals that are outranked by Petraeus. Is sabotaging the war effort simply an emulation of McClellan, quite harmless?

    The fact that the disloyal opposition had nothing to do with Petraeus or the surge, nor did they recommend any correct solutions to problems, demonstrates a progressively increasing dissociation with the good of the country in favor of the good of the individual.

    Batiste’s spirit is broken. What can you expect from such a man? Certainly not what you can expect from Petraeus.

    You forgot the latest general. One must be consistent, after all. Even Leftists in the alternative reality matrix must have consistency of one sort or another.

    I lay the blame at the feet of President Bush. He’s a man with two traits—stubbornness and loyalty—that are double-edged swords. I think these two were operating in his allegiance to Rumsfeld, which lasted far longer than it should have.

    Bush’s primary problem, as always, is that he doesn’t kill and destroy enough enemies: his enemies, our enemies, etc.

    Unk is a good example. Bush would allow such a person to carry on forever, and just say at the end of it all, “well, that is just democracy for you”. No, that’s not democracy, for republics and democracies change during warfare. They change or they are destroyed, or at least grievously hurt. It is no excuse for inaction, it is no excuse for tolerating the intolerable, and it is no excuse for tolerating disloyal opposition. Just as it is the responsibility of the loyal opposition to find the real flaws and the real solutions to the party in power, the party in power also must promote a loyal opposition and kill off the disloyal oppposition. That is very similar to COIN.

    The fact that the US high command thought that they just could sit around while the Iraqi police and army got it strack, meant that huge loads of disloyal mofos like Sadr, Iranian agents, and Sunni Batthists were getitng together and cooking stuff up. Somebody thought they could win a war on the defensive, simply by waiting around and reacting to attacks, much as Bush does in the propaganda sphere.

    America was going good, up until America stopped attacking and blowing people up wholesale. That is not a coincidence. When you stop attacking, you lose momentum. Usually armies stop attacking because they sort of ran out of fuel, manpower, and other stuff. Here, Bush stopped because… I suppose because he thought America needed to hand off sovereignty to Iraq before doing anything else. Huge amounts of time were spent on simply a short term goal, which was securing an election, securing a parliament, and then just hoping that this would the solve problems.

    The old truism about the best help you can get is doing it youself, still applies.

    Rumsfield tendered his resignation after Abu Ghraib. President Bush was not provided any real alternative, thus he felt the current strategy was better than any else he could imagine. Most Generals will not tell the President to his face what the President needs to do. There is still respect in the military towards the office of the Presidency. Bush will listen, but it is just that everybody around tells him crap. Including the Democrats that he listens to as a part of the out reach thing he started in Texas. Texas democrats are obviously not like Reid and Kennedy Democrats.

    The media were always telling Bush what he was diong and what he should do, meaning Bush should do whatever the Left tells him. But that is not an alternative Bush could use, that was not what he hoped to get from a loyal opposition that never existed in the first place. Bush got disappointed, we got disappointed even more.

    Bush had his problems, and the Democrats saw this weakness and simply exploited it instead of trying to heal it. Such is the Iago of our times.

  9. Dave Moelling Says:

    The oft-referenced experience of Lincoln again shows the difficulties in getting the right man to the right spot. Chief among these is that the leader (in this case President Bush) needs to respect the command hierachy. If you don’t you end up with a mob of squabbling generals like some third world country. Lincoln was especially adept at this around the time of Gettysburg.

    Also important is that the Commanders must see a way to success, or at least not abject failure for a new scheme to work. The military is a command structure, but to be effective it also has an element of consensus. This avoids excessive free lancing which is sure disaster.

    Bottom line is that for a situation where the appropriate tactics are not easy to discern, it always takes more time for the military to adjust its plans. I think it would have been difficult to make this change more than 6 months to a year earlier than it was done.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Also there was some talk that Rumsfield was already dissatisfied with how things were going. It wasn’t like Rumsfield was too personally attached to his policy, Rumsfield wanted to leave and tell the media and other cooks to F off. So there was a probability that Rumsfield wanted a backup plan, Petraeus’ plan.

    Bush recently started inviting mil bloggers to chat with. Once the COIN manual came out, a lot more people became aware of a better alternative. It wasn’t like the Generals were able to adequately explain the solutions, even though they might be able to explain the problems. That was the problem, everybody could see the problems but there was no coherent policy to dealing with it, other than the status quo. The Left had some kind of bigger hammer deal, but all those troops would have been kept in bunkers and bases, safe from harm. Same thing Johnson did. Sent more troops, but gave more orders that casualties should be limited, meaning soldiers were sent to a war so that they could not fight.

    Same with Steve’s plan. Back in 2005/6, folks were primarily worried about IEDs. What better way to make yourself look like you are doing something different in Iraq than sending more troops in, in defiance of Bush’s recommendations, and then restricting those troops to concrete bases?

    The individual at the squad, platoon, and company level knew what was up, they were the ones creating connections and political deals with the people in their AOE. What wasn’t apparent was the fact that US high command disagreed with them, that it wasn’t command policy to actually do SF training.

    It takes time for militaries from democracies and republics to learn the ropes. The generals keep fighting the last war, Neo, and the last war was Gufl War 1. Also, the reason for the 20 year old manual is because Vietnam was so psychologically damaging, that the Army just decided that they would never conduct COIN ever again. The Marines still kept their manuals up to date, kind of, but the Army just flaked out on it as if it didn’t exist.

    Once more people became aware of COIN doctrine, in whatever form it took, then the pressure on Bush and those close to Bush would have increased. Before counter-insurgency was a flaky and rather disjointed topic known only by Special Forces, who are notoriously tight tipped to begin with, and various special individuals busy with their own projects. The media pundits, the Leftist agitators, and the Democrat party leaders not only didn’t anything about it, they wouldn’t have done anything about it even if they knew.

    Once COIN got out of the bag, I think it became harder for people to keep the President ignorant of such things. If Tenet can talk about “it’s a slaum dunk” that there are WMDs in Iraq, then I can guarantee that there are bureacrats and people in Bush’s administration leaking and manipulating information. High level information.

    Since Bush’s administration and his executive branch was a freaking rain storm, public availability of the COIN manual was actually better security and better policy. Instead of critical information leaked that could only hurt Bush’s cause, critical information was made available that could actually Bush’s cause.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    Information from the government that can help Bush. A new innovation to go along with old tricks of the trade.

    The military gets more efficient the more it fights, Neo. In that sense, it is quite unlike a social welfare system. Democracies and republics tend to have a lower military efficiency because whenever a war ends, the democracy and republic begins to try to forget everything about war as quickly as possible. That tends to create predictable results. Before WWII, the US military was essentially a non-starter.

  12. Fat Man Says:

    At the end of 2005, there were successful national elections, and the bombing of Zarqawi, and things did not look that bad. It was the Samara mosque bombing, orchestrated by AQI, probably with Iranian help, that was used to set off the “civil war”. It would have been better, politically and militarily, for Bush to have replaced Rumsfield and his team in mid 2006, but waiting until November, can hardly be counted as a world historical error.

  13. James Becker Says:

    Hi Neo,

    I’ll throw a little ideology into this mix:

    Prior to the change in strategy, it was conventional wisdom among leftist theorists that the violence in Iraq was caused by us. We invaded their land which made them mad. Our violence on them caused their violence on us. General Casey used to brag that the violence in Iraq was caused by our invasion and that we were seen “like a foreign germ” which had to be expelled, and he had told President Bush this many times. The ongoing violence was seen as proof that they were right. Circular reasoning is very powerfull on the left.

    In that sense, the COIN doctrine completely repudiated leftist theory, and reinforces neoconservative theory. The doctrine essentially said: “We are the good guys. They are the bad guys. We need to spread out and make our presence felt in the general population. Then the people will see that we are good and we make them safe, and they will make a transition with us”. Conventional leftist wisdom 9 months ago would say that such talk is rediculous. They would have said that all the violence in Iraq was caused by our presence – since we are the evil ones.They wouldn’t say that now – but only 9 months ago it was CW. Things change in a hurry and no-one even notices.

    As far as your main question goes, it seems that a lot of the work prior to the surge was required to make the surge work. We gathered intelligence and built up a big help (if not sufficient to be independent) in the Iraq army. When the surge started, our forces had enough intelligence to suddenly go after all the bad guys at once (or in a few months). I guess the COIN strategy could have been tried earlier, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as miraculous without the 2 years that preceded it.


  14. TS Alfabet Says:

    Couple quick points:

    First, it is exactly correct to say that the COIN approach would not have worked, at least not in Anbar Province, prior to June 2006. Up until that point, the Anbaris were still in league with AQI. It took until June 2006 when the Anbaris had finally had enough of AQI’s pychotic behavior to drop their delusions of driving out the American invaders and turn against AQI. Also, the Sunnis at large, until the second half of 2006 suffered under the delusion — fed by AQI– that they could return to ruling power in Iraq if they kept up the bloodshed. Once they were convinced that Shia rule was here to stay, they took the sensible approach and allied with the only force in Iraq capable of protecting them from the Shia and ensuring some share of the power: the U.S. Now this is not to say that there was no, other strategy that might have worked other than COIN up until the Sunnis came to their senses, but the Sunnis had to feel beaten before COIN could work properly.

    Second, Oldflyer says: “Modern wars are so wierd. I know some people criticize Bradley, Ike, et al for the Battle of the Bulge; but most folks understand that it was a desperate and suicidal last gasp by Hitler that was well disguised and so mad in scope that it was not forseen. Thoughtful historians have focused more on the amazing accomplishments between 6/6/44 and 4/45 rather than dwelling on one very costly situation (which ended with a devestating blow to the enemy anyway). ” Read Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Soul of Battle.” Patton saw the bulge coming and it was very much Ike and his uninspired leadership that led to the bloodbaths from the beaches of Normandy through the end of the war. Yes, “stuff happens” in war but we should not excuse poor leadership or give a pass to those who should know better. In this regard, WWII was a disaster compared to Iraq. In the short space of months we have witnessed a genuine turnaround in Iraq with a wholesale change of strategy that promises to bury AQI and the Iranian sponsored shia militias, if given time.

  15. Terrye Says:

    Sometimes it just takes a certain amount of time for all the conditions to be right for success.

    As for the list of Generals cited above, if they had put anywhere near the time and energy into doing something constructive that they have into settling scores and playing politics maybe their opinions would mean a little more.

  16. Dan Says:

    From what I’ve read, Patraeus was sent to run Fort… I forget… by Rumsfeld once his tenure at Mosul was complete. While at Fort X, Patraeus set about abapting the small wars manual to the current COIN, applying lessons learned. He also began training men in that strategy. The manual and the whole thing was readied throughout 2006.

    I understand the portrait of iron rumsfeld appeals to some, but I find it incredibly fortuitous that Petraeus should have in fact accomplished all this without direction from Rumsfeld.

    I could, of course, be mistaken.

    The person above who described the actual character of the cats we’re trying to herd also keeps the eye on the ball: almost the entirety of this critical discourse has been conducted almost without reference to the populace we’re trying to stand up in the modern world – except of course as ideologically useful automatons of one kind or another.

    The fact is, the Sunnis have been complete assholes, and we didn’t take out Sadr. The “leaders” are caricatures straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. We are building an entire political culture in addition to everything else.

    In my opinion, it is better to ignore entirely the MSM’s characterizations of any aspect of this war – its motivations, its conduct, its personalities. They are incompetent where they are not partisan. We wouldnt have required more troops if we simply had decided to kick ass earlier.

  17. Trimegistus Says:


    You’re doing exactly what I complained of! Those generals may have been critical of the conduct of the war, but you and the rest of the antiwar crowd try to co-opt any criticism as “proof” that we’re doomed to defeat.

    If you, Unknown, and the rest of the antiwar crew were less dishonest, there’d be more room for genuine, honest criticism.

    But that’s not what you want, is it? Because honest criticism would focus on victory, and what you want is defeat.

  18. Tatterdemalian Says:

    There was also the fact that Hussein was not captured until two years after the effort began, and we may not know for decades just when the last of his regular troops were finally de-fanged. COIN is a powerful anti-guerilla strategy, but it leaves troops much more vulnerable to counterattack by a coordinated military division than standard Clauswitzian strategy. One group of a half-dozen fully manned, armed, and fueled APCs using combined arms tactics could wipe out the COIN forces in any town before the any backup could scramble, and a single flying Russian MiG could set the counterinsurgency right back to square one, or worse, drive the new Iraqi leaders right back into the arms of Uncle Saddam, fearing his wrath even if his last plane had gone down in flames. I’m pretty sure both Rumsfeld and Petraeus knew this, and wanted to make sure the COIN operation didn’t start until the enemy not only had nothing left but makeshift mortars and IEDs, but also couldn’t be supplied with significant quantities of heavy equipment without us knowing about it, and giving us a causus belli against the supplier.

  19. nyomythus Says:

    My buddy, who is a person with a natural optimistism and realist qualities, is on leave from Baghdad. He tells me that his patrols get attacked every day, that some days they are protecting the Sunni’s, Shia’s the next, combinations of murders vary, and gratitude is short lived, the next day one or the other is lobbing mortars at them, or with automatic rifle fire, or sniper fire, and the Iraqi police hate them and are always suspected of ratting them out to the killers yet calling them for help when their brethren turn on them; overall chaos, misery and disillusion. From his perspective, a grunt on the ground walking the patrols, the surge is not making things better, and that what has always been as much of an inevitable conflict as it has been an inevitable implosion, it just isn’t worth the blood — and nothing is ever worth the blood of free people, our soldiers as well as the innocent. I can’t help but take this to heart, but the situation doesn’t care what I take to heart, which is the insipid nature of that horrible term ‘sacrifice’. I wish all the troops’ safety, comfort, and a speedy return home and an orderly transfer of the security mission to a secular, constitutional Iraq government – an utter and humiliating defeat of the radical-Islamic forces that have ushered us into this civil war may not be as complete as is necessary; my words I know are only one opinion so don’t be disheartened. If Iraq does not make good use of this merciful gift of liberation, this window will close again for generations to come, and old mass graves will have new bones for company, and for generations to come millions, over multiple generations, will live and die and export religious despotism and depravity, if this is the lot of humanity, then it is equally the lot of free people to hold back this inversion of time.

  20. nyomythus Says:

    It sucks :(

    ***murderers [sic]

  21. Tom W. Says:

    Petraeus’s strategy depends not only on the extra U.S. troops but also the growing skill of the Iraqi military and police, and the cooperation of the Iraqi government and population. We had neither of the latter two until recently.

    The Petraeus strategy wouldn’t have worked if it had been tried before early 2007. Imbedded bloggers such as Michael Yon, Michael Totten, and Bill Roggio have interviewed former Sunni insurgents, and these guys all say the same thing: They would’ve fought us no matter what. Same with the radical Shi’ites. We were infidels, invaders, occupiers, and–don’t laugh–we wanted to steal their women.

    Yes, we grew up with women who earn advanced degrees, are entrepreneurs and professors, gun owners and rock climbers, and who dance on table tops in low-rise jeans when they get a couple of drinks in them, but deep down we really wanted illiterate, bag-covered, prematurely aged, subservient, terrified mouse-women without clitorises. Yummy.

    The point is the Iraqis only started believing us this year. The millions of fence sitters picked a side, and they did so only after they experienced unrelenting, ghastly, humiliating, self-imposed hell on earth for three straight years. If we’d had more troops before 2007, many more Iraqis would’ve fought us, and many more people would’ve died.

    Think of everything as part of a continuum. It’s not accurate to view any one decision or development out of its context.

    Most of what occurred was inevitable. The “light footprint” strategy worked as well as it could until the destruction of the mosque of the Golden Dome, and then we changed it.

  22. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “We were infidels, invaders, occupiers, and–don’t laugh–we wanted to steal their women.”

    Like most words, “steal” means something different to Muslims than to non-Muslims. If an infidel man speaks to a Muslim woman, he has not only kidnapped her, but raped her and left her for dead. Embellishment and exaggeration is such an ingrained tradition of Islam that they simply skip over all the intermediate steps and go straight to the logical end point of the gossip, and both the woman you have spoken to and all Muslim men in the vicinity will react accordingly, often in seconds.

  23. njcommuter Says:

    Embellishment and exaggeration they may be, but they are believed, not just told. (In this sense they are the opposite of propaganda.) We did have to create the conditions that allowed the beliefs to change and await the actions of our enemy that made the change happen.

    We created the conditions by behavior that was almost always honorable and often much better, by consistent effectiveness in battle under difficult conditions and constraints, and by a generosity of spirit that undermined the practiced suspicion.

    The enemy made the change in opinion and loyalty happen by behavior that was so bad it cannot be called unprincipled; it was and is founded on “principles” that are perverse and evil.

  24. Bugs Says:

    Why did it take Lincoln so long to install Gen. Grant? How do you explain George McClellan and Henry Halleck?

    Maybe, like Lincoln, we’ll have to go through several generals before we find the right one for the present war. And it will benefit us to remember that, whoever he is, he will probably not be the right one for the next war.

  25. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    Trimegistus wrote:

    You’re doing exactly what I complained of! Those generals may have been critical of the conduct of the war, but you and the rest of the antiwar crowd try to co-opt any criticism as “proof” that we’re doomed to defeat.

    Trimegistus, I wish I were you! What an active and wholly self-contained fantasy life you must lead!

    To counter your claim that “everyone” who criticized Rumsfeld was a traitor who wanted us to lose in Iraq, I provided a list of US Generals of distinguished service who were openly critical of Rumsfeld and demanded his resignation, some since 2003.

    My “co-opting” of that criticism as proof we’re doomed to defeat, and why one should have anything to do with the other in the first place, is entirely in your head.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    One group of a half-dozen fully manned, armed, and fueled APCs using combined arms tactics could wipe out the COIN forces in any town before the any backup could scramble

    Americans are better at insurgencies than the Baathists. Meaning if Americans were outnumbered up against heavy armor, Americans would do much better than Baathists would have done if they were outnumbered up against US Army armor.

    There were no regular forces after Saddam implemented the insurgency plan. He put all his eggs in one basket, and eventually ended up with the spider hole.

  27. Huan Says:

    as already suggested
    1. Petraeus was busy retraining the iraqi arm forces as well as laying the foundation for the surge.
    2. and that a significant portion of his success stem from the Sunni getting sick and disgusted with al qaeda. and this take some time.

  28. Bugs Says:

    I can also second, indirectly, what Dudley said above. Dad went to the Naval War College in 79, and from what I could tell they studied everything except counterinsurgency/small war stuff. The entire curriculum seemed to be designed to prepare officers for the day when the Soviets charged through the Fulda Gap. He went to a NATO exercise a few years later – same deal. Necessary at the time, obviously. But I wonder if the DoD was also shying away from anymore Vietnams.

    I’m not sure who, if anyone, was looking at small wars at the time. I guess we did ok in Grenada and Panama, so maybe somebody was. Where was Petraeus at this time?

  29. SDN Says:

    Bugs, the central problem is that the skills required of a successful peacetime commander and those required of a successful wartime commander don’t have a lot of overlap (IMHO). Case in point, Patton. While he was stationed in the Philippines(sp) one of his efficiency reports supposedly stated: “This officer will be invaluable in time of war but is a pestilential nuisance in time of peace.”

    And it takes a while, especially in a war where not many generals are being killed, to weed out the political peacetime commanders, like Clark and Zinni.

  30. SDN Says:

    Oh, and Bugs, I think you’ll find that most of the small wars work was being done by the Marines and other elite forces, not the “average” military personnel (who are much better than the rest of us).

  31. Bugs Says:

    Does anyone know of a good general study of the relationships between Army commanders and their countries’ leaders?

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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.


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