February 10, 2007
The vast majority of reporters and columnists who write about Iraq and pretend to know what they're talking about are completely incompetent to do so. Not only is their journalism degree inadequate for the task (it's a glorified general ed degree) but their undisguised bias robs their output of any credibility. Yet, from my desk chair, I'm forced to rely on these people almost exclusively for my information. So, as a result, my opinions are just about as worthless.
That's why I'm taking a wait and see approach. I do consider myself an expert on another thing, though: I'm an expert on the domestic battlefield. This is why I have said over and over again that we must achieve success in Iraq quickly, because if Americans don't see progress soon, our next president will pull the plug on the whole noble enterprise.
So I was very encouraged when the President yanked the most recent generals in charge, good men though they might be, and replaced them with guys who understand the need for a change in strategy. Today is General Petraeus's first day on the job. His resume is impressive.* He's had success before.** I wish him and his new strategy well.
Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen is an advisor to Gen. Petraeus and an expert on counter-insurgency strategy. He's also a Duntroon grad and a veteran of East Timor. In this post at Small Wars Journal, Kilcullen outlines the two schools of thought regarding counter-insurgency.***
An illustrative anecdote:
In Timor in 1999 I worked closely with village elders in the border districts. I sat down with several of them one afternoon to discuss their perception of how the campaign was progressing, and they complained that the Australians weren't securing them in the fields and villages, that they felt unsafe because of the militia (the local term for cross-border guerrillas) and that we needed to do more to protect them. In actual fact, we were out in large numbers, securing the border against infiltration, patrolling by night, conducting 14 to 21-day patrols in the jungle to deny the militias a chance to build sanctuaries, and working in close in the villages to maintain popular support. There had not been a single successful attack by the insurgents on the population for more than two months. So, "objectively", they were secure. But -- and this is the critical point -- because our troops were sneaking around in the jungle and at night, staying out of the villagers' way and focusing on defeating enemy attempts to target the population, they did not see us about, and hence did not feel subjectively secure. This was exacerbated by the fact that they had just experienced a major psychological trauma (occupation, insurgency, mass destruction and international intervention) and as a society they needed time and support for a degree of "mental reconstruction". Based on their feedback (and that of lots of other meetings and observations) we changed our operational approach, became a bit more visible to the population and focused on giving them the feeling, as well as the reality, of safety. Once we did that, it was fine.Adaptation is the key, and I'm glad to see that we're trying something new. I hope it works.
In other words, we had to shift from a more enemy-centric approach to a more population-centric approach to adjust to the developing situation. My personal lesson from this experience was that the correct approach is situation-dependent, and the situation changes over time. Therefore the key is to develop mechanisms that allow you to read the environment, to be agile and to adapt . . .
You can see how the above example illustrates the need for more troops and contact with the population. It's more than just switching to a zone defense from man-to-man. At least in the short run, our new strategy will provide the enemy with more opportunities to kill Americans. We're not going to like that here at home, and I have no illusions that the media will understand what's happening or that a different strategy is at work. The commanders in theater, and the President must realize that the home front will not cut them any slack and they have to get it right this time.
* But so was McClellan's.
** But so did Hooker.
Posted by: shelly at February 10, 2007 12:04 PM (SLFj+)
Posted by: corwin at February 10, 2007 01:04 PM (fWdXB)
Posted by: Ontario Emperor at February 10, 2007 02:32 PM (P8ktI)
Posted by: Jake at February 10, 2007 03:21 PM (V6rxT)
Posted by: Drake Steel at February 10, 2007 04:25 PM (m6MSU)
Posted by: blu at February 10, 2007 04:41 PM (duPNB)
Posted by: Sarah at February 11, 2007 07:14 AM (BP8jf)
Posted by: shelly at February 11, 2007 08:32 AM (SLFj+)
Posted by: shelly at February 11, 2007 06:01 PM (SLFj+)
Posted by: Dr BLT at February 16, 2007 12:44 PM (jgGlP)
Posted by: Mark at February 19, 2007 02:50 PM (krump)
62 queries taking 0.1101 seconds, 172 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.