Monday, August 29, 2005

Explain to him again, as you would a child...

The Krepinevich article is creating a buzz. First off, read it. Second off, I agree with virtually all of it, which will come as no surprise whatsoever to regular readers.

I'm not sure, at the time of writing, what I've got to contribute to the general blather, so I figured I'd reproduce an email reply I sent on the topic (without permission, but given that it's me ranting I imagine it will be ok) yesterday. It's rather intemperate, I admit (and yes, I know the presence of words highlighted by typing them in capital letters means I'm completely, completely, irretrievably mental).

Great stuff, agree with almost all of it.

But again, THIS IS COIN 101!!!! It frustrates me so much that two years in
people like Krepinevich can come up with this and people can react like it's
something novel. David Brooks has a column on it and it makes me want to grind
my teeth to dust. Two bloody years into this bloody insurgency...

The truth is that I could have written most of this two years ago (if I was able
to string it together in as coherent a manner as Krepinevich has). I offer
this up not as testimony to my own brilliance (though I did get some
satisfaction when reading Krepinevich's points on the centres of gravity and
the contact initiation metric [which I'm sure you'll be aware I've been banging
the drum for for months]) but to the fact that this really SHOULD, if we had
the right institutional mindset, be stunningly banal stuff. In fact, never mind
two years ago - it's almost criminal that people weren't seriously considering
it BEFORE we went in. I'm sure [*****] would agree. Hell, I'm sure Krepinevich
would agree. Everything in there is stuff we've been over before - population
protection, intelligence-led operations, better co-ordination, White Zones,
CAP-style local presence and small-unit military adviser embedding, Keeni-Meeni
style operations in the Red Zone, an end to (or substantial drawdown of)
"Whack-a-Mole" conventional search and destroy ops.

Basically, what Krepinevich is saying, I'd have been trying - I say trying,
because I know it's far, far easier said than done - to do from day 1. The
problem is that I think the state of opinion both within the administrations,
British and American, and the public at large is now such that the chances of
the powers that be calling a Mulligan and saying we need a substantial
re-jigging for a ten year project are close to zero, even if they do come to
think Krepinevich is broadly right.

28 Comments:

Anonymous David Tomlin said...

Most of the comments I've read have overlooked Krepinevich's observation that the proposed strategy would almost certainly lead to higher US casualties in the short run. That would be politically unattractive even if the US public wasn't already losing patience, and would also aggravate the recruiting problem. I've heard right-wing talk radio hosts excoriating any tactics that would reduce 'enemy' casualties at the expense of higher US casualties.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm frequently reminded these days of an anecdote regarding the Polish diplomat Mieczyslaw Maneli, who chaired the Vietnam International Control Commission during the early 60s. At a reception, he was asked by a senior Northern politician if the Americans really believed they were winning.

He replied that as far as he could tell they did. "But even if they lie for propaganda," his interlocutor replied," "surely the CIA tells them the facts in its secret reports?"

I wouldn't be at all surprised if they started going on about "forced-draught urbanisation and modernisation" i.e. bombing everyone in the countryside to buggery in the hope they will like living in town, or similar Vietnam-era delusions.

As I said in a completely different discussion, armies that complain that the enemy will not fight are usually in the process of losing.

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Blogger TM Lutas said...

As far as I can tell, the strategy seems to be to hold the bare minimum we must to not lose and keep them on the run with mobile units breaking up insurgency concentrations for as long as there were insufficient troops to hold more territory. As effective troop strength increased, the area that was subject to smash and let them come back later has started to shrink and more and more territory has been held. How much territory is being held now v. a year ago? The trends are good in that respect.

Most of that new territory is being held by Iraqis. This is as it should be if we are ever to win. Recently, more and more of the actual assaults are being done by Iraqis. This is even better. It shows that the mass of green Iraqi troops of a year or two ago is no longer having crushing rates of desertion. It also shows that they can not only stand but also fight.

As functional Iraqi troops come on line, we can win faster and maintain our troop strength or win slower and draw down our forces so that the slope of available troops is reduced. We'll likely do the latter in order to revive support for the war among US voters.

We'll hold off doing so for as long as possible because holding the american voters (not the people) is going to be expensive in terms of both Iraqi and US lives as a longer conflict will increase overall casualties. It would be political suicide to admit this but that's what's going to go on if abandoning Iraq becomes a campaign issue. The more optimism and enthusiasm war proponents can generate, the less the administration will have to pull out to avoid a precipitous withdrawl coming from an anti-war president coming into office in 2009.

I would not be surprised if the 2008 Democrat nominee privately commits to maintaining the operation we don't pull out much at all in order to improve the rate of progress and save lives all around. In other words, I don't think this administration would be adjusting troop strength for partisan gain but rather for national gain, fewer bodies, assured victory as the next President finishes the job no matter what party holds the White House.

Right now, this note is likely to not be received well. I would suggest that you tuck it away and look at where the fighting is in Iraq. If we are truly taking territory with mixed US/Iraqi forces and holding it with Iraqis, this will come out in the locations of despatches and the unnatural quiet of previous hot-spots. This trend should show up well before the fall 2008 campaign.

Keep an eye open for the possibility that media disinformation is worse than you imagine. I believe it is. This is a thesis that will be tested by reality and, if true, will have serious consequences both geopolitically and in the media itself.

Or perhaps I'm a fool. Look and judge, but do it on a time line that's realistic, a few years, not a few days.

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