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July 06, 2005

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... and the web can spread the truth as well, making it harder for us to employ harsh measures as in the Philippines. The propaganda and truth problems ought to have been better considered beforehand.

Still, interesting points.

I've read about the CAP program before, and often thought something like it might be successfully applied in Iraq. There would have to be adjustments made to account for the different environments (urban sprawl vs. jungles and villages). Also, the Iraqis of today are much more educated and worldly than the average Vietnamese farmer of the 1960s. They might not be willing to accept the presence of infidel soldiers living cheek-by-jowl with them, 24-7. But it's worth trying, IMO. Our current tactics seem to be producing a lot of corpses and car bombs, and not much else.

What Max Boot knows or understands about military operations and counterinsurgency war can fit on the head of the pin. As is clear from his citation of the Philippines, Malaysia, and El Salvador in one sentence.

Typepad disappeared my first attempt at this post, now it's double-posted it. Goddamit! What a frustrating morning. Sorry about the disappeared comments in the deleted post.

Re-reading my previous comment, I think I should clarify it a bit. In rural South Vietnam in the 1960s, the vast majority of the people got their information about Americans from three sources - propaganda from the Saigon government, propaganda from the local VC, and the evidence of their own eyes. This last was obviously the most important, and what most of them saw was the pointless destruction of Westmoreland's search-and-destroy operations. What the CAP program did was give them a chance to relate to American soldiers as individuals and neighbors.

In Iraq today, there are a plethora of newspapers, tv stations, and internet websites, containing all kinds of stories about American misbehavior in Iraq. Some true, some not. If all the Iraqis ever see of Americans is armored patrols rumbling through their neighborhoods and bombed-out houses, then we have no effective way of countering the already-bad impression they have of us. Implementing a modern version of the CAP program may be the best way to show the Iraqis that we're not faceless marauders. It's important to note that we're starting from behind, though.

ThirdGorchBro: If all the Iraqis ever see of Americans is armored patrols rumbling through their neighborhoods and bombed-out houses, then we have no effective way of countering the already-bad impression they have of us.

Very true. One of the things I've consistently heard from soldiers returning from Iraq (of course, these were all damn liberal type soldiers, the sort Karl Rove says are traitors) was that they very much wanted to do something for the Iraqis they saw. Some of them did think up stuff to do - one soldier was getting friends to buy goods from a market trader, effectively setting up a kind of mini-eBay, and several were asking people to send school supplies they could take to a local Iraqi school. But as far as I can tell, there was absolutely no top-down support for this kind of grassroots goodwill campaign. No official encouragement, no support, no assistance. Obviously, this is the kind of thing they shouldn't be compelled to do, but it wouldn't take much to make it easy for them to do it.

It's important to note that we're starting from behind, though.

Yeah. One of things I've consistently said should happen, and isn't going to under Bush, is that there should be a transparent and thorough investigation of the military with regard to the Iraqi prisoners - not only with regard to torture, but also hostage-taking, lengthy imprisonment without cause, and juveniles being imprisoned. You're never going to convince an Iraqi that the US occupation means her well, if she saw her son taken away from her by American soldiers, and his body was given back weeks later after he had been beaten to death, and no word - nothing at all - that the soldiers who did it have even been put on trial, let alone punished for their crimes. This is the best reason for regretting Kerry: I think he would have done it, and I would bet my house that Bush never will.

Getting Americans out of armored patrols and onto the streets will undoubtedly result in more casualties in the short run, something the president and the nation should be prepared for.

Getting Americans out of armored patrols and onto the streets will undoubtedly result in more casualties in the short run, something the president and the nation should be prepared for.

Yep.

Jes, I agree with almost everything you said, except for the part about Kerry instituting a thorough investigation of prisoner abuses. I don't think he would have, either.

We've got to stop agreeing on stuff. I'm losing the remains of my conservative street cred here. Um, let's see, how 'bout this: Hillary Clinton is a tool of the devil! Discuss.

According to Juan Cole, Iraqi Minister of Defense Dalaimi is in Teheran discussing a possible Iranian role in training Iraqi troops. I can just picture Bush's face (chortle, chortle). Also under discussion, and I think I got this from Juan Cole, is a pipeline to bring Iraqi oil to Iran.
Yes, the ideas about increasing Iraqi control over their own security are sound and necessary for an idependent Iraq. I wonder what the Bush Administration will do if the independent Iraq doesn't behave as the Bush Administration wishes.

Actually, the most interesting little tidbit from the speech was the phrase 'terrorists and insurgents' (note: others spotted this; don't credit me). Is this the initial prep for a negotiated settlement with Iraqi Sunni's?

It seems like reorienting US forces towards more intensive counterinsurgency-type operations, with more direct contact and cooperation with the Iraqi army, police, and civilian population, would require significant redeployments greatly increasing troop numbers in some areas (e.g., Baghdad) and reducing them in others. (Assuming this is to be done at current force levels, without additional troops.)

How likely is it that the "de-securitized" areas from which troops will be withdrawn can be prevented from becoming jihadist safe havens? That is, even if counterinsurgency tactics could effectively pacify strategic portions of the country like Baghdad and Shiite areas, wouldn't we be effectively turning over the rest of the country to the enemy?

Probably the reason that Bush's new initiatives were not bigger news is that they aren't actually new (here, for example). As you point out, it has been understood for decades that such interactions are fundamental to the kind of transition we're attempting; so much so, really, that it would be embarrassing if they were new.

3rdGBro: except for the part about Kerry instituting a thorough investigation of prisoner abuses. I don't think he would have, either.

Meh. Well, we'll never know: but Kerry has a track record of doing stuff like that, and Kerry's administration would have been starting from a clean slate.

Um, let's see, how 'bout this: Hillary Clinton is a tool of the devil! Discuss.

She's a politician! All politicians are tools of the devil. What's to discuss? ;-)


travis:
"How likely is it that the "de-securitized" areas from which troops will be withdrawn can be prevented from becoming jihadist safe havens? That is, even if counterinsurgency tactics could effectively pacify strategic portions of the country like Baghdad and Shiite areas, wouldn't we be effectively turning over the rest of the country to the enemy?"

Travis, this was mentioned somewhere as a strategy - occupy and clear from Baghdad out, leaving the Sunni guerrilla areas to be 'maintained' by in-and-out raids + bombing strikes.

Of course, it would then s*ck to be in those areas, unless you really, really trust US intelligence.

Is this the initial prep for a negotiated settlement with Iraqi Sunni's?

Getting the Sunnis to participate in the political process without alienating the Shi'as and Kurds is the holy grail of this war. I certainly hope we can pull it off.

"Um, let's see, how 'bout this: Hillary Clinton is a tool of the devil! Discuss.

She's a politician! All politicians are tools of the devil. What's to discuss? ;-)"

But if Hillary could be any tool of the devil she wanted, what kind of tool would she be? I vote for power sander.

this was mentioned somewhere as a strategy

My point is, the "Iraqi CAP" proposal highlighted in this post seems to require this partial abandonment as an integral feature of the proposal.

Is this what the president was proposing in his speech? I don't think he thinks so, but that seems to be what Iraqi CAP entails.

this was mentioned somewhere as a strategy - occupy and clear from Baghdad out

It sounds to me like this is actually the new proposal, which was ostensibly overlooked in Bush's speech.

At least, abandoning hotspots and reorienting to more troop-intensive activity in fewer areas is the implication of calling for an "Iraqi CAP" strategy without more troops.

yikes - schizophrenia

I think the more relevant point is that these alleged "new" ideas have been underway to some degree all along, without success. The speech is passing off rewarmed leftovers as new policy. Maybe Bush's point was that they will "really" try hard to do it right now.

We are two years into this thing with a steady track record of screw ups and the same clowns in charge. You can hope that proven screw-ups will now get it right, but my two cents says that is a foolish proposition.

travis, a comment on 'abandoning' parts of Iraq: I remember reading, in late '03/early '04, that US forces in Iraq had reduced daily patrols from an average of 2,400 to 1,400, to reduce casualties. If this was correct (and the stats would be easy to fake), then substantial abandonment has already taken place, over a year ago.

"success"

Although sporadic fighting in the Philippines (insurrection, war, terrorism, whatever) continued for more than 10 years after in 1902, the U.S. did defeat the insurgency.

The cost was high. The death toll of Filipinos in combat was 34,000 out of a non-Muslim population of about 6.7 million. Around 4,000 U.S. troops died.

If we include losses from famine and disease, the usual accompaniment to war, the total might be as high as 200,000 to 300,000. Scaling up to Iraq (pop. 25 million) that would be around 800,000.

No, I don't like this example.

As to Iraqi and U.S. troops working together, the joint operations (Sword, Spear, Matador) have a 10:1 ratio of U.S. to Iraqi troops. Here is Christopher Allbritton's report (his first podcast).

The "insurgency" is only the tip of the iceburg inn terms of Iraqi problems. It aggravates the others and attempts to combine them into a perfect storm, but...

crime still kills more people, infrastructure has not improved much, corruption (which we have been involved in) stymies that as food rations are reduced as the "friends" of special interests increasingly take power in a nation divided by tribes where the one which currently dominates works more closely with Iran.

It is a typical third world conuntry with problems difficult to solve and many of it's major groups have interests different than our own.

Our chance for fundamental reform has been blown, we need to dance with the direction of these forces and yes it is a moral quagmire because our abandonment could lead to hell, but even without Saddamites and Jihadists the place would be a mess with a population increasingly disillusioned.

The fact that most commentators don't see beyond the insurgency and the deeper problems is similar to the shallow approach diring the invasion. Then our administration assumed that if military details were taken care of the rest would follow.

so, after we're done teaching Them a lesson Over There so we don't have to fight Them Over Here, we need to buddy up with Them and teach Them how great We are and that We don't mean Them any harm...

that can't be right.

it's so hard to keep these conservative rationales straight - always shifting, flip-flopping, wriggling around to catch the best light.

Two links of interest. The first is from Chris Bray, a historian who was in IRR and has been called up talking about training and preparing to go over there. I won't excerpt it,because the whole thing needs to be read.

There is also this William Lind piece. Somehow, I don't think this is what the Small Wars manual had in mind, and it is pretty silly to think that a plan that worked in the Phillipines at the turn of the century is going to work 100 years later in Iraq.

There were several keys to success, but ultimately victory was dependent on "patience, dedication and a willingness to remain". Same goes here.

contrast with

The Times reported that the resistance leaders we are talking with have one main demand: that we set a date for leaving Iraq. One of the Iraqi negotiators was quoted as saying, "We told them it did not matter whether we are talking about one year or a five-year plan but that we insisted on having a timetable nonetheless." That is a demand the U.S. should be willing to meet. Not only would a set date for American withdrawal undermine much of the resistance, it would turn our opponents back on themselves by allowing the Baathists to focus on fighting the Islamists, assuming we are smart enough to let them do so. It would also help the American public see some end to a conflict with which it is understandable growing weary.

Fourth Generation theory says that to have any hope of victory, an outside force needs to de-escalate on every level. If other American units in Iraq could learn from cops like Lt. Waters how to de-escalate on the local, tactical level, and we could combine that with de-escalation on the strategic level through a deal with Baathist insurgents, we might still be able to avoid outright defeat. Given the consequences of earlier errors such as disbanding the Iraqi army, that is as close to victory as we can now realistically hope to come.

One of the Iraqi negotiators was quoted as saying, "We told them it did not matter whether we are talking about one year or a five-year plan but that we insisted on having a timetable nonetheless."

Iraqis have fairly consistently said just that since the occupation began, and (as consistently) the Bush administration has refused to give any timetable - and their supporters have accused those who have proposed a timetable of adopting the enemy’s negotiating points.

it is pretty silly to think that a plan that worked in the Phillipines at the turn of the century is going to work 100 years later in Iraq.

Actually, that would be 35 or so years ago, which happened to be the last time we were involved in a sizable guerilla war. There's quite a bit of overlap between the clear and hold strategy and what Lt. Waters is doing, although I disagree with Lind that we should put withdrawal timetables on the table.

More or less OT: London was just hit by a coordinated terrorist attack. To all our British friends, words cannot express; stay safe, or at least as safe as you can.

Excellent links LJ.

There's quite a bit of overlap between the clear and hold strategy and what Lt. Waters is doing

errr, no

Second, we are embedding coalition "transition teams" inside Iraqi units. These teams are made up of coalition officers and noncommissioned officers who live, work and fight together with their Iraqi comrades. Under U.S. command, they are providing battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations. Between battles, they are assisting the Iraqis with important skills such as urban combat and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques.

Is this what cops do? From the Lind piece:

He is dealing with the people of Baghdad the same way he deals with the people back home, politely and with a genuine desire to help. His unit has not killed anyone because Lt. Waters knows cops succeed by de-escalating, not by escalating violence. Cops try very hard not to kill people. In fact, cops don't want to fight at all.

As for your claims that you are talking about Vietnam, well, dealing in alternative histories may be fun, but why don't you just crank up the improbability dial and suggest that if we had been able to use time travel, we could have slipped a contraceptive into Ho Chi Minh's coffee and avoided the whole thing.

If you want to suggest that you are talking about the Small Wars manual, well, don't make statements like
The similarities are eye-opening:

But, don't you see! Treating terrorism as a "crime" that needs "police action" to solve it is tantamount to treason, and means you don't truly understand the threat (9/11! 9/11! 9/11!)

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