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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Surge" Iraq? Bomb Iran?

Mudville Gazette, an excellent military site, has a good take on late the troop "surge." He says, with greater authority than I have in such matters, that the "surge" represents more a change in tactics than troop numbers:

Prime Minister Maliki has instructed his security forces that there will no longer be any political interference in military operations. Iraqi commanders have also been assured no neighborhood and no target is off limits.

That's a change for the good. Our troops have been operating under too-restrictive rules of engagement and rules for the use of force for most of the last several years. This declaration, coming from the Iraqi senior leadership, represents progress.

General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.

Another change for the good, straight out of the Army and Marines' excellent (if airpower-ignorant) new manual on counterinsurgency, FM 3-24. .pdf available here. (Thanks, Rant Street.) We are finally doing something other than trying to chase insurgents out of their sanctuaries and then returning to our cantonments. That, and convoying between cantonments, is what most of our troops have spent the last two years doing. Al qaeda, Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and other "interested parties" have chosen Iraq as their place to make a stand and have staked much of their future on hurting us there. This is their fundamental strategic error (just as ours was to assume things would automatically go well once we toppled Saddam). So far, we've let our enemies win by not taking and holding their sanctuaries. Now..."straight out of the book"...we will deny those sanctuaries, stabilize them enough to hand them over to Iraqi security entirely, and then be able to use US forces to seal the borders with Syria and Iran. This represents what has changed much better than the MSM's stories of a "surge" in troops designed to "quell the insurrection" with "brute force."

How goes it? Powerlinehas a good take:

The sense is that the Sunni insurgents (or at least elements thereof) are choosing to stay and fight, while the Shia militias are mostly biding their time. This was proabably to be expected. The Sunni killers are the more desperate of our two adversaries. Moreover, to the extent that the Shia militias melt away, the role of the Sunni insurgents becomes increasingly problematic even within the Sunni community because they no longer can claim to be providing protecting against said militias. If the insurgents leave, it's unclear that they can return. If they stay but don't fight, they probably will be hunted down with increasing efficiency as their support erodes. Thus, their best option is probably to stay, blow things up, and hope that the Democrats can find a way promptly to abort our effort.

The Domocrats aborting our efforts? Say not so! A token example: John "Marine" Murtha is looking to hamstring our troops in Iraq, in order to ensure we can't win. This accords well with the aims of the left. If this isn't (or doesn't beome) Vietnam, how can the left congratulate itself for its romantic heroism, standing astride The Man's evil plot, yelling, "stop"? Allowing our troops fewer, not more, restrictions might actually create conditions that permit victory -- and US-Iraqi victory is the last thing the Democrats and the left want.

Back to Mudville: our friends there did make one intriguing comment that warrants touching on--

I suspect the media - in spite of vigorous denials by the administration - is trying to portray the US as on the brink of war with Iran. This allows Democrats - and Hillary Clinton in particular - to vociferously oppose this non-existent war. (To be fair, this also gets some conservatives very excited over the prospect of "taking out" Iran - their hopes will be dashed.) [emphasis added]

Astute, in the main...but I must address the issue of conservatives' "hopes being dashed." This comment may result from a perfectly understandable ground-pounder's misunderstanding of how we would go to war with Iran, should that become necessary. As I've pointed out elsewhere, we are able to take effective military action against both Iran's ruling regime (to isolate, not "decapitate") and its atomic infrastructure. However, the other way to read that comment is, I think, the correct way: their (our) hopes will be dashed because there is no reason to attack Iran right now. In fact, military effectiveness right now might be politically counterproductive -- and thus counterproductive in terms of producing the desired end state -- because Ahmandinechimp is not particularly popular in his own country right now. He came out of the political woodwork promising housing and riches for his country's poor population. Mismanagement and socialism-lite in the country have led to extremely high inflation and unemployment. This report does a good job of showing the situation Iran's leaders are facing -- and things have only gotten worse since it was published. It's so bad, you'd think Jimmy Carter was in charge of the country. Iran's large middle class is very discontented and may yet make things untenable for Iran's "elected" government and the Mullahs that really rule. Ahmandinejad is already routinely heckled at public appearances where he is actually in front of the public, rather than before a field of Revolutionary Guards goosestepping past ballistic missiles, or in front of a crowd of adoring savages at the UN. Much of Iran's atomic bluster is designed to rally the country around what the regime wants the public to believe is a foreign threat. This is also why Iran is playing its hand so openly in Iraq. It's always the way with failing dictatorships: rally the country around the flag to take their minds off of crappy conditions at home.

No...right now we should let events take their course in Iran. We can always bomb later if the regime does not bog down in its own "quagmire." Still, despite Mudville's opinion on the matter, we can do what we need to with bombing, should the time come.

links to a good summary of the situation in Iraq and Iran from Steve Natschke:

I recently de-mobilized after spending a total of three years at CENTCOM HQ beginning in Feb 2003. I didn't work on the OIF plan but I do know something about it. Phase IV was the least planned (by CENTCOM) part of OIF since nobody knew what would happen after the end of major combat activities and the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was supposed to do the planning and carry out many of the activities. In the end, there was little humanitarian assistance to be carried out and little reconstruction due to combat. Declaration of Phase IV has many legal implications in regard to the Geneva Conventions, the Law of Land Warfare, etc... I also believe that it is the demarcation of when the Department of State takes the lead. In any case, the slides, if they show anything, show that the enemy has a vote in how things turn out.

As I see it, things are turning out better than we expected from a GWOT point of view. Al Qaeda's decision to make a stand in Iraq has provided us with an opportunity to deal them a significant blow. They have invested many resources - there aren't that many suicide bombers out there - and much of their reputation counts on defeating us in Iraq. All we have to do is stay and we win. Iran is over-playing its hand and will see just as much trouble on their side of the border as they instigate in Iraq. All we have to do is stay and we win.

On the down side, of course, is our inability to play in the information war. I think this is part of the reason that the terrorists and the Democrats are natural allies - they are willing to say the most outrageous things and no one holds them to account. The truth may be on our side but it is not enough - it needs to be marketed. Unfortunately that is easier said than done and we, as a government, are not set up to do it. In fact, we are not set up to win wars efficiently. The very structure of our government prevents us from prosecuting wars efficiently and I doubt a change would be politically feasible. Aside from DoD, no one prepares for their part of the war fight and they don't train for or fund any activities that contribute to war time success. For now we will have to settle for less efficient war fighting

he's right about losing the "strategic communication" campaign (the doctrinally correct name for what he's talking about), but his central paragraph is the most important: things are better because our enemies have decided to make a stand in Iraq, Iran is overplaying its hand (because it has to for domestic consumption), and "all we have to do is stay and we win."

True. Unfortunately, we live in 2007, not 1957. There is no broad, bipartisan consensus about how to deal with the enemies of the West. And that is our greatest strategic weakness, one our enemies within islam and on the left are counting on.



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