Free Men Bear Arms

Herschel Smith · 15 Dec 2014 · 3 Comments

Mike Vanderboegh: You know the Founders were as suspicious of unrestrained democracy as they were of absolute monarchy. Both can be tyrannical. Both can be deadly. Both are threats to life and liberty and property. This is why they crafted a constitutional republic. The Founders knew that the mob could be manipulated by cynical elites to rob other citizens of their liberty, their property and their lives – cynical elites, wealthy men, powerful men, with unceasing appetites for more and more…… [read more]

Mosques, Snipers and Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

Michael Totten is in Baghdad, and while his (most recent) entire report is both interesting and highly worth reading, I want to focus in on the following words:

“They have a little bunker up there,? he continued. “You can’t see it from here, but it has sand bags and sniper netting around it.?

“What are you going to do?? I said.

“Nothing,? he said. “It’s a mosque.?

“They’re violating curfew,? I said, “and stalking us in the dark from a militarized mosque. And you aren’t going to do anything??

“Our rules of engagement say we can’t interfere in any way with a mosque unless they are shooting at us,? he said.

We left our stalker with his “co-workers? and walked away.

As interesting as this little experience is, it really is more of the same (we have reported on ROE problems for more than a year).  But the appended discussion in the comments section is equally interesting and worth thinking about.  Says someone named “Gifted” who refuses to use his real name:

I agree with the “no attacks on mosques policy.”

We have to win the civilian population over. Nothing would wreck this more than assaulting their mosques. Besides, soldiers can still shoot back if they are under attack.

This is a myth.  Quite simply, I do not believe it.  First of all, the distinction between having a sniper nest at a Mosque and actually using it to fire upon U.S. troops (so that they can then presume to return fire) is artificial and absurd.  There is no other function or purpose to a sniper nest than to be a domicile for sniper activities.  Allowing the domicile to remain is allowing the sniper to plan his kill.

Second, we have fired on Mosques more than year ago, and indeed, with tank rounds in Ramadi.  Anbar is pacified, and Baghdad is not, and this proves the point in question.  If taking out the insurgent activity in the Ramadi Mosque only served to recruit more insurgents, then pacification of Anbar could not have happened.  Also see our article Continuing Operations in Fallujah and the YouTube video linked up showing extensive and robust combat action against a minaret.  Again, Anbar is pacified, and Baghdad is not.

Finally, the writer presumes that it takes U.S. activity inside of a Mosque to recruit insurgents.  But consider what the message is when a cleric allows the sniper nest to remain atop the Mosque to begin with, i.e., “you can support killing and destabilization of our nation and still be warmly received at this Mosque.”  In other words, the message is already being given.  It needs no additional substantiation from U.S. troops.  If the snipers are not warmly received, but rather are feared for their threats, then U.S. forces should take action anyway in order to protect the clerics and citizens.

Lastly, even if “Gifted” was right about U.S. troops and combat action inside of a Mosque, this still doesn’t prevent the use of militia, police or Iraqi security forces from removing the sniper domicile.  To leave it in place is contrary to clear thinking and good sense, and is dangerous for U.S. troops (and Iraqi citizens).

Marines, Uniforms and Morale Killers

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

In a jaw-dropping move, the Marines have cracked down on none other than wearing uniform (from the Strategy Page).

The U.S. Marine Corps has decided that it is not good for the image of the Marine Corps for marines to wear their combat (“utility”) uniform off base. New regulations nullify many exceptions to this rule that had been established by the commanders of many marine bases. The new rule allows marines to wear their cammies (camouflage) uniform while driving form (sic) their off-base home to and from work.

In the next revelation, we sit in wonder at the DoD actually paying people to spend time crafting the caveats, stipulations and qualifications. Hold onto your cover.

But they may not get out of their vehicle while wearing cammies unless it is an emergency (an accident, or some matter of life-and-death importance.) Marines may not get out of their car to gas up their vehicle while wearing cammies. If they run out of gas, they may then exit their car to deal with that. Marines are advised to pay attention to the fuel status of their private vehicles, and to carry a set of civilian clothes, or a marine service uniform, in their vehicle, in case they have to get out. The only exception is for marines driving military vehicles for long distances. Marines may exit their vehicles to use the toilet, but this must be done as quickly as possible.

On the bright side, tax advisors believe this new rule will allow marines to deduct the cost of their work uniforms from their taxes. In the past, the IRS had ruled that the cost of utilities, fatigues and BDUs were not deductible as they could be worn off base. The IRS reasoned that, if you could go into a store or restaurant, your uniform was not limited to the workplace, and was therefore not deductible. The high tech camies worn today are not cheap, and a marine can go through several hundred dollars worth a year.

Again, this is absolutely jaw-dropping. Here we have the Marine Corps weighing in on how quickly a Marine can use the bathroom during travel, and stipulating that if it isn’t fast enough, he will have to strip down inside the automobile to change into his service alphas (but only if he is traveling long distances and assuming he has either placed a pair in his car or has purchased an additional pair for his automobile).

The pittance that is saved on taxes each year will be outweighed by the additional purchase of clothing, placing additional civilian clothing at work, and the aggravation of considering these rules and trying to adhere to them. At a time when the Marine Corps is trying to increase its size and retain experienced personnel, it is things like this that will cause them to bolt for the civilian world.

Finally, the Marine Corps has just handed the Army a recruiting victory on a platter. Now when the little boy in the airport, at the gas station or simply out at the mall or in the city asks mom, “who is that?” she can answer, “Son, that is a brave Soldier.” The U.S. Marine Corps now forces all of its warriors to go through the public square incognito.

Sometimes one can only shake his head and move on to other things. There is no explanation.

The Long Range Iraq Plan and its Critics

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

The broad outlines of the long range plan being formalized by senior military leadership was divulged several days ago.  The plan includes an extension of force deployment in Iraq to provide security, along with pressure on the government and various political and religious factions to resolve differences.

Fred Kaplan weighed in on the plan at Slate in an article entitled Interesting But Doomed: Why Petraeus’ Ingtriguing New Iraq Strategy Will Probably Fail.  The plan has numerous critics, but Kaplan’s most recent article warrants close study, including (we think) at the same time both misperception and compelling argument.  In order to mine his complex thoughts on the matter, his article will be cited at length, followed up by commentary and analysis.  Kaplan writes:

If the U.S. military had, say, 100,000 more troops to send and another 10 years to keep them there; if the Iraqi security forces (especially the Iraqi police) were as skilled and, more important, as loyal to the Iraqi nation (as opposed to their ethnic sects) as many had hoped they would be by now; if the Iraqi government were a governing entity, as opposed to a ramshackle assemblage that can barely form a quorum—then maybe, maybe, this plan might have a chance.

But under the circumstances, it seems unlikely. One officer who’s familiar with Iraq planning put it this way to me: “No one who understands the situation is optimistic. I think the division among those who have thought deeply about the situation is mainly between those who are still fighting and trying to influence the outcome and those who have concluded that the principal objective must now become disengagement.”

Kaplan outlines in broad form the known problems with the Iraqi government and culture, and then summarizes his opening remarks by citing bleak insider views about the situation.  Then he gets specific.

First, to define “localized security” as including “Baghdad and other areas” is to finesse the major challenge. Securing Baghdad and securing “other areas” have long been considered two separate goals. The former involves pacifying the capital, to give the national politicians enough “breathing room” to make their deals. The latter involves keeping the rest of the country—or at least the major cities—sufficiently secure that democratic politics can function from the ground up as well as from the top down. Ever since late last year, when President Bush ordered the “surge” and hired Gen. Petraeus to create a counterinsurgency strategy, the plan has involved securing the capital and the provinces simultaneously.

The problem—a familiar one—is that we don’t have enough troops to do this all at once. No one who has seriously analyzed the problem ever believed that a “surge” of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. combat troops would be sufficient. It was assumed from the outset that at least two or three times that many would have to come from the Iraqi army (whose soldiers, furthermore, would have to take the lead in many operations) and the Iraqi police (who would need to maintain order once the troops seized new territory).

Yet Iraqi forces have not materialized in anything like the necessary numbers. Many army units are infiltrated with sectarian militiamen. Many, if not most, police units are thoroughly corrupted.

The second, “intermediate” phase of the plan is more intriguing, but ultimately unpersuasive. For a few months now, U.S. field commanders have formed alliances with Sunni tribesmen, especially in Anbar province, for the common goal of crushing jihadists. The new plan, as the Times puts it, is “to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis.”

But in these alliances, we’re dealing with tribesmen who are cooperating with us for a common goal. It is not at all clear on what basis these various local Sunni factions can be stitched together into some seamless security quilt—or why, because they’ve agreed to help us kill jihadists, they might suddenly agree to stop killing Shiites, compromise their larger ambitions, redirect their passions into peaceful politics, and settle into a minority party’s status within a unified government.

Kaplan has within a few words hit on three salient themes: (1) force size, (2) ‘whack-a-mole’ counterinsurgency, and (3) the inability to utilize Iraqi security forces and police to assist in the COIN campaign due to corruption and sectarian divisions.  Kaplan then targets the strategy of alliance with the Anbar tribal leaders and explains why he believes that this ultimately will fail (or at least, most probably will fail).

Alliances of convenience rarely outlive their immediate aims. Josef Stalin formed an alliance with the United States and Britain for the purpose of defeating Nazi Germany. But once the war was over, he had no interest in integrating the Soviet Union into the Western economic system.

The idea of extending the alliances may have come, in part, from Stephen Biddle, a military historian and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who, according to the Times, was a member of the “Joint Strategic Assessment Team” that helped conceive the new U.S. strategy.

In a July 12 interview at the Council, conducted by Bernard Gwertzman, Biddle said that the only way to secure all of Iraq is “to negotiate a series of cease-fire deals with Iraq’s current combatants in which, even though they retain the ability to fight, they decide it’s in their own self-interest to … decline to fight.”

He referred to Anbar as “a model” for this concept, and added, “There are now similar negotiations ongoing in a variety of other places around Iraq.” In Anbar, he said, the alliance “dropped into our lap”; the Sunni sheiks came to us and asked for help. “If it’s going to happen elsewhere, we’re going to have to take a more proactive role. … We have to start using the military not as a device to secure everything uniformly but as a device for creating incentives and disincentives—sticks and carrots—to push along the process of local cease-fires with particular factions.” For instance, he said, we would have to tell each faction: “We will defend you if you cooperate; if you don’t cooperate, we will attack you” …

Some set of “sticks and carrots” could conceivably extend the alliances of convenience into a sustained cease-fire of normal democratic politics. But if so, the deal would have to be hammered out by a recognized government in Baghdad. Neither Gen. Petraeus nor Ambassador Crocker (nor, for that matter, President Bush) has the political authority to make such a deal—much less the military firepower to enforce it.

Analysis &  Commentary

Stephen Biddle notwithstanding, reconciliation with the indigenous insurgency in Anbar has been ongoing for quite a while.  It is absurd to claim that the peace between the Anbar tribes and U.S. forces merely ”dropped into our lap.”  As we observed in Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq:

… terrorization of the population (and competing groups) managed to achieve its goal of keeping the population in submission, at least until the Marines prevailed over the course of several years at hunting down and killing many of the rogue elements.  It has been observed that  ?Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.?

When the population observed that the Marines had no intention of retreat and never lost a military engagement, and also when the tribal leaders saw that the rogue elements were subsuming their role as chieftans and leaders of their people, the storied alliance developed.  This alliance may have been strategic and convenient at first, but is now pivotal and absolutely essential to the success of pacification of Anbar.

The coup is not merely that the tribal chiefs and their people are cooperating with U.S. forces.  It is larger than that.  The coup is that the insurgency, properly defined as indigenous fighters rather than terrorists and foreign fighters - those who were previously pointing a gun towards U.S. troops – are now pointing them at the terrorists.  Not only have many of them made peace with the U.S., but in a development just as important, the U.S. forces have made peace with them.  This has been accomplished with the new difficulty introduced by globalization (foreign fighters), and the new difficulty introduced by religious fanaticism (suicide bombers), and the new difficulty introduced by technology (stand off weapons such as roadside bombs).  This is a counterinsurgency tour de force, and as time judges this victory it will take its rightful place in the great military campaigns of world history.

This alliance was necessary for several reasons, including the corruption and sectarian division that Kaplan mentions.  We have pointed out before (The Use of Miltias and Iraqi Army Unreadiness) by citing the scholarly work entitled Why Arabs Lose Wars, that the weakness of Middle Eastern armies runs even deeper than Kaplan charges.  The alliance with the Anbar tribes didn’t just “drop into our lap,” and the plan was necessary for more reasons that sectarian divisions and corruption, although these counted as major contributors.

But Kaplan’s assessment concerning the risk is important.  For insurgents who only saw U.S. Marines from far away and without the aid of really understanding what they were doing and why they were doing it, they will become a dangerous enemy if after watching (or even participating in) satellite patrols and other TTPs they now revert to being enemies of the U.S. again.  This must not happen.

But there is indeed a clear and present danger that the Sunni / Shi’ite divide is getting worse instead of better.  Electrical power is still sporadic in Anbar, and the promised reconstruction has not been forthcoming from the Shi’ite controlled government.  Hence, in protest, the Sunni bloc recently walked out of the government.  There has been a low-grade civil war for years now, and Michael Yon recently weighed in on the pressure it brings to bear on the situation.

… the civil war continues to exert pressure here. As AQI is run off or bashed down, one of the larger concerns is that the Shia JAM militias will fill the power vacuum. Even as LTC Johnson and others were arranging food drop-offs in late June, the politics of whether to drop supplies to Sunni or Shia first became acute and gave rise to arguments. Soldiers don’t want to be seen as killing al Qaeda only to pump up JAM, which exists to “protect? Shia, usually by attacking Sunnis before they can attack first.

Kaplan’s point about force size is a theme that has been reiterated here, and while U.S. forces are now patrolling with former Sunni insurgents in Anbar and training the police, they are battling Shi’ite insurgents elsewhere.

Kaplan fails to mention two of the more thorny problems for Operation Iraqi Freedom and any possible success of long range security.  First, it will be impossible to reconcile the Sunni and Shi’ite factions with militants like Moqtada al Sadr being left unmolested.  Second, while the U.S. forces have battled indigenous insurgents in Anbar, the battle for Iraq is more than the classical counterinsurgency as we have previously discussed.  There is very much a global aspect to the struggle.  Iranian involvement to destabilize Iraq is well known.  But it is becoming clear that Iraq is becoming a locale for proxy wars of all kinds (such as Iran v. U.S., al Qaeda v. U.S., Sunni v. Shi’a and vice versa).

The role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq is only now being protested.

Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

Iraq has become a battlespace for a war between the Shi’a and Sunni, between Iran and the balance of the Middle East (except Syria and Lebanon).  There are a whole host of complex problems with OIF, from force size, to proxy wars, to porous borders.  Only time will tell if the U.S. engages this battle as one of many to come in the long war, or loses its first encounter with militant Islam and global rogue terrorist elements.  In the mean time, the long range plan for Iraq suffers from insufficient force size, lack of support at home, and a lack of willingness of senior military leadership to admit the global nature of the conflict to the American public.

A Few Good Men — or Not

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

It seems as if half of the blog-0-sphere has spilled ink on the issue of young Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp and his ugly charges: mass graves in Baghdad (in my city we call these ‘cemeteries’), mental abuse of IED victims, and other such things (see here, here, here, here and here).  I have resisted as long as I can, and feel that I should have shared my thoughts long ago.  So now, TCJ weighs in on the young Private.

I think we should have an investigation.  The PAOs and lawyers could lead it.  Perhaps we should transfer Beauchamp.  Yes I suppose that’s right.  I suppose that’s the thing to do.  Wait.  Wait.  I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s transfer the whole squad off the base.  Let’s — on second thought, the whole division … let’s transfer ‘em off the base.  Go on out there and get those boys down off the fence, they’re packing their bags.

Get me the President on the phone; tell him we’re surrendering our position in Baghdad.  Wait a minute.  We won’t call the President just yet.  Perhaps we ought to consider this a second.  Maybe we have a responsibility to this country to see that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals.  Yes.  I’m certain I once read that somewhere.  And now I’m thinking that our idea of investigations and hand wringing and surrender, while expeditious, and certainly painless, might not be in a manner of speaking, the American way.

Young Private Beauchamp has had a lot of extra time on his hands.  He has had time to send e-mail, make telephone calls, and perhaps even eat ice cream.  After all, they have a dining hall, a place to actually sit and eat chow.  After considering surrender, I have changed my mind and I advocate training young Beauchamp.  Yes, that’s it!  There are Marines in Combat Outposts in Fallujah who have no chance to eat ice cream in dining halls.  They take showers by using baby wipes, and they have to burn their human waste in pits of stinking fire.  They have no electrical power, and no amenities.  They certainly don’t write e-mails home to use as articles for or against anything.  They are busy 20 hours out of the day, and sometimes 24 hours out of the day.

Young Beauchamp needs to be trained.  He badly needs to stay busy.  Young Beauchamp needs to be on patrol, picking up a rifle and standing a post, and contributing to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Let’s send him out to the Combat Outposts where he will learn to work.  His unit badly needs discipline and motivation.  The United States of America has an obligation to instill these things and train young Private Beauchamp.  I am certain that I read that somewhere.

A Few Good Men — or Not

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

It seems as if half of the blog-0-sphere has spilled ink on the issue of young Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp and his ugly charges: mass graves in Baghdad (in my city we call these ‘cemeteries’), mental abuse of IED victims, and other such things (see here, here, here, here and here).  I have resisted as long as I can, and feel that I should have shared my thoughts long ago.  So now, TCJ weighs in on the young Private.

I think we should have an investigation.  The PAOs and lawyers could lead it.  Perhaps we should transfer Beauchamp.  Yes I suppose that’s right.  I suppose that’s the thing to do.  Wait.  Wait.  I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s transfer the whole squad off the base.  Let’s — on second thought, the whole division … let’s transfer ‘em off the base.  Go on out there and get those boys down off the fence, they’re packing their bags.

Get me the President on the phone; tell him we’re surrendering our position in Baghdad.  Wait a minute.  We won’t call the President just yet.  Perhaps we ought to consider this a second.  Maybe we have a responsibility to this country to see that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals.  Yes.  I’m certain I once read that somewhere.  And now I’m thinking that our idea of investigations and hand wringing and surrender, while expeditious, and certainly painless, might not be in a manner of speaking, the American way.

Young Private Beauchamp has had a lot of extra time on his hands.  He has had time to send e-mail, make telephone calls, and perhaps even eat ice cream.  After all, they have a dining hall, a place to actually sit and eat chow.  After considering surrender, I have changed my mind and I advocate training young Beauchamp.  Yes, that’s it!  There are Marines in Combat Outposts in Fallujah who have no chance to eat ice cream in dining halls.  They take showers by using baby wipes, and they have to burn their human waste in pits of stinking fire.  They have no electrical power, and no amenities.  They certainly don’t write e-mails home to use as articles for or against anything.  They are busy 20 hours out of the day, and sometimes 24 hours out of the day.

Young Beauchamp needs to be trained.  He badly needs to stay busy.  Young Beauchamp needs to be on patrol, picking up a rifle and standing a post, and contributing to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Let’s send him out to the Combat Outposts where he will learn to work.  His unit badly needs discipline and motivation.  The United States of America has an obligation to instill these things and train young Private Beauchamp.  I am certain that I read that somewhere.

A-10s Aid in Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

In Can the Air Force Contribute to Counterinsurgency, I reiterated some of the exchange that Major General Dunlap and I had concerning air power and counterinsurgency over a commentary at the Small Wars Journal Blog.  I concurred with Dunlap’s opinions, and have encouraged the consideration of the increased use of air power in small wars in order to effect the kinetic part of counterinsurgency more rapidly and efficiently.  Of course, on cue, the objection came that the increased involvement of air power would lead to greater collateral damage.

In Air Power in Small Wars, I extended this discussion to include accounts that despite the tardy debates back home in the states, the Air Force was already finding a way to contribute to the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq.  I also linked video showing anecdotal evidence of the hazards associated with the use of stand-off weapons such as artillery, pointing out that the objection to the use of the Air Force was equivalent to an objection to any stand-off weapon, whether Air Force or Marine and Army artillery.

Even this discussion is a bit tardy.  In A-10s Support Marines in Anbar, I discussed the fact that as of January 2007, the A-10 (438th Air Expeditionary Group) was going back into action to provide close air support for Marines in the Anbar Province.  This relationship with the A-10s to assist with counterinsurgency might be about to become more formal (h/t SWJ).  The USAF is considering a new A-10 COIN Squadron.

Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley has told Jane’s he is considering the creation of a new counterinsurgency (COIN) squadron of A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

Gen Moseley said he is mulling the possibility of putting a squadron of A-10A close-support aircraft inside AFSOC to serve the Special Operations Command, which has the lead engagement role in the US-declared global war on terrorism.

“There’s a variety of … counterinsurgency aircraft and other things out there that we’ve been looking at that would facilitate AFSOC’s partnership with the Special Operations Command,? Gen Moseley told Jane’s on 12 July.

“I’ve even asked: is it reasonable to put a squadron or so of A-10s into Special Operations Command??

The A-10 is widely used to provide close air support to coalition and friendly forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it can be used against all ground targets including armoured platforms.

Gen Moseley’s interest in a new A-10 COIN squadron follows recent reports of a new AFSOC proposal for an “irregular warfare? wing. Possible aircraft being floated to fill a strike role in the wing have ranged from a modified air-to-ground Beechcraft AT-6B to an Embraer Tucano or Super Tucano.

However, Gen Moseley cautioned that he is not yet fully committed to the idea of a COIN air unit but is considering it because he believes the USAF needs to be able to meet the “full spectrum? of threats — from COIN to state-on-state conflict.

“I don’t know if I’m wedded to [the COIN unit] so much as I would like to know the pluses and minuses,? said Gen Moseley.

The A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft — known informally as the Warthog — may offer some key advantages if Gen Moseley decides to establish the COIN squadron. The A-10 was specifically designed to be highly survivable in close air support missions. It is highly maneuvrable at low air speeds and altitudes, boasts a long loiter time and also a titanium cockpit and redundant flight controls.

If established, the A-10 COIN squadron would be the first dedicated strike aircraft unit for COIN since the Douglas A-1 Skyraider: a propeller-driven ground-support aircraft used in the Vietnam War. The aircraft made a name for itself carrying large bomb loads, absorbing heavy fire and demonstrating prolonged endurance — traits similar to those possessed by the A-10.

“We fought all the way through Southeast Asia with A-1s living in the special operations world,? noted Gen Moseley.

Some A-10s have been modified with precision engagement technology, and these are the aircraft that should be considered for the COIN operations.  The A-10 is a magnificent aircraft with its Gatling gun, Titanium “bathtub” surrounding the pilot, redundant controls, etc.  Its retirement would be a bad thing: it can loiter and lumber over over the battlespace, it can take rounds and still limp home, it can deliver a huge amount of ordnance down range, and it has a proven track record of infantry support and pilot safety.

But even the A-10 will have its limitations.  Redeployment of this beautiful aircraft will require the involvement of engineering.  The age of the materials will cause the need to examine for metal fatigue, stress corrosion cracking, and component malfunctions among other considerations.  Despite these hindrances, the A-10 should perform well into the coming decades with the right refurbishments and care.  The final steps will be to convince both the USAF and the professional counterinsurgency community that use of the A-10s can be employed to our advantage in the battlespace without big increases in collateral damage.

Scenes from Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

From Iraq by an AFP stringer:

scene1.jpg

Another scene from an AFP stringer:

scene2.jpg

These pictures were taken during combat operations with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Golf Company, 3rd Platoon, fighting in Fallujah, and were available in the public domain via Yahoo.  Yet, I have a personal connection to these photographs.

Final Disposition of the Charges Against the Haditha Marines

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

The Investigating Officer’s Report on accused Marine Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt contains more than mere assessment of the charges against Sharratt.  The following conclusion is transcribed from the report.

Due to the disparate accounts, it is tempting to simply conclude that this case should be tried to either exonerate LCpl Sharratt or convict him of a crime.  However, to adopt the government’s position that because there are two differing accounts, a general court-martial is warranted is an abdication of the necessary process of determining whether reasonable grounds exist to warrant a court-martial.  It is not as simple as stating there are two accounts so a trial is necessary.  Analysis of these two versions must provide reasonable grounds that the Government version of events may be true.  In analyzing the evidence, I read several hundred pages of interviews, documents and statements, (IE 33-105).  Ultimately, there is only one statement by an eye witness to the events, LCpl Sharratt, and his version of events is strongly corroborated by independent forensic analysis of the death scene.  The government version is unsupported by independent evidence and while each statement has within it corroboration, several factors together reduces the credibility of such statements to incredible.  In addition, the statements of the Iraqis are unclear, contradictory in part, and simply state self-interested conclusion as to what occurred within house 4.  Finally, to believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq.  Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy.

Much effort during the Article 32 focused on whether the victims were insurgents.  Although determining if they were may have some bearing on the credibility of the Iraqi witnesses and may support that LCpl Sharratt did perceive a hostile situation within house 4, such determinations are not necessary to conclude that LCpl Sharratt is truthful in his account.  From as early as February 2006 LCpl Sharratt’s statements are supported by the forensic evidence.  It is likely that members of the Ahmed family were either insurgents on 19 November 2005, or that they were attempting to defend their house and family when Marines entered house 4 uninvited and unannounced.  On that fateful afternoon, Jasib heard someone enter house 4.  He investigated with his AK-47 in his hands.  LCpl Sharratt saw him and perceived him as a threat.  Using his training he responded instinctively, assaulting into the room emptying his pistol.  Whether this was a brave act of combat against the enemy or tragedy of misperception born out of conducting combat with an enemy that hides among innocents, LCpl Sharratt’s actions were in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force.

A reading of the document reveals that investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Ware obviously doesn’t believe the government’s version of events.  He points to many inconsistent reports, only two of which are outlined below:

  • LCpl. Sharratt’s SAW jammed upon engagement of the men in house 4.  Jamming is a known problem in the M16A2/M4/SAW, as I have discussed before (after shooting an M16 and dealing with this problem).  The use of a 9 mm pistol to “perform an execution” means that a group of Marines decided to use the least powerful weapon in their arsenal, Lt. Col. Ware says, concluding that this is not credible.  As an editorial comment, I would add that I know a highly skilled SAW gunner who tells me that he can undo the effects of a jam in his SAW within 5 seconds or less.  To believe that a gangland style execution occurred while a SAW gunner left his weapon jammed and used his pistol is so ridiculous that one wonders why the government lawyers would have actually put such an idea in print before a military tribunal.  This surely must be embarrassing for them.
  • The Iraqis reported that the “one with the pistol” was “in charge.”  But the problem is that the one with the pistol was Lance Corporal Sharratt, and with him were a Corporal and a Staff Sergeant.  How many readers who are either former or active duty military believe that a Corporal and Staff Sergeant would take orders from a Lance Corporal?  Again, this surely must be embarrassing for the prosecuting attorney.

The relatives of the deceased Iraqis didn’t want the bodies exhumed for forensic analysis, but would rather “forgive” the Marines.  In Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt (a press report concerning a similar British trial), I noted a contractor’s report about his experiences with Iraqis and honesty.

In Islamic and Arab traditions, blood money is the money paid by the killer or his family or clan to the family or the clan of the victim. It is unlawful for a believer to kill a believer except if it happens by accident. And he who kills a believer accidentally must free one Muslim slave and pay ‘Diyat’ to the heirs of the victim except if they forgive him. The tradition finds repeated endorsement in Islamic tradition; several instances are recorded in the Hadith, which are the acts of the Prophet Mohammad.

The Blood – Money tradition has found its way into legislation in several Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. Some of these countries also define, by lawful legislation, a hierarchy of (cash) rates for the lives of people….

Are lies being told to obtain blood money payments? Some insight comes in this response to the collapse of the British trial by Stephan Holland, a Baghdad-based US contractor.

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

Lt. Col. Ware has suspicion for the Iraqi testimony as evidenced by the report.  At the end of the investigating officer’s report, Lt. Col. Ware makes the recommendation to drop the charges, and that Lance Corporal Sharratt be given testimonial immunity and ordered to cooperate with any ongoing investigations.  This last part might be pro forma and routine.  If Lt. Col. Ware believes his account and disbelieves the government’s account, then he believes that LCpl Sharratt will not bring anything forward that would call his assessment into question.

Why?  Lt. Col. Ware goes further than merely saying that there is no case against LCpl Sharratt.  His insightful report destroys the government’s case in general, not just with respect to LCpl Sharratt.  It does not seem possible to me that after this rebuke of the government, the cases against the remaining Haditha Marines would proceed.  As defense attorney, the first thing I would do would be to trot out the report by Lt. Col. Ware and demand that his assessment be answered line by line.

This report should end the case against the Haditha Marines, but given that the prosecution was willing to embarrass themselves with the prosecution of Sharratt to begin with, anything can happen.

Strategic Hardness of Heart

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

This is just in from the New York Times.

While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security? is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.

That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.

The latest plan does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the “surge? in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.

The goals in the document appear ambitious, given the immensity of the challenge of dealing with die-hard Sunni insurgents, renegade Shiite militias, Iraqi leaders who have made only fitful progress toward political reconciliation, as well as Iranian and Syrian neighbors who have not hesitated to interfere in Iraq’s affairs. And the White House’s interim assessment of progress, issued n July 12, is mixed.

But at a time when critics at home are defining patience in terms of weeks, the strategy may run into the expectations of many lawmakers for an early end to the American mission here.

The plan, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the Central Command. It is expected to be formally issued to officials here this week.

The plan envisions two phases. The “near-term? goal is to achieve “localized security? in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008. It envisions encouraging political accommodations at the local level, including with former insurgents, while pressing Iraq’s leaders to make headway on their program of national reconciliation.

The “intermediate? goal is to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis no later than June 2009.

“The coalition, in partnership with the government of Iraq, employs integrated political, security, economic and diplomatic means, to help the people of Iraq achieve sustainable security by the summer of 2009,? a summary of the campaign plan states.

Military officials here have been careful not to guarantee success, and recognized they may need to revise the plan if some assumptions were not met.

“The idea behind the surge was to bring stability and security to the Iraqi people, primarily in Baghdad because it is the political heart of the country, and by so doing give the Iraqis the time and space needed to come to grips with the tough issues they face and enable reconciliation to take place,? said Col. Peter Mansoor, the executive officer to General Petraeus.

“If eventually the Iraqi government and the various sects and groups do not come to some sort of agreement on how to share power, on how to divide resources and on how to reconcile and stop the violence, then the assumption on which the surge strategy was based is invalid, and we would have to re-look the strategy,? Colonel Mansoor added.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will provide an assessment in September on trends in Iraq and whether the strategy is viable or needs to be changed.

The previous plan, developed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who served as General Petraeus’s predecessor before being appointed as chief of staff of the Army, was aimed at prompting the Iraqis to take more responsibility for security by reducing American forces.

That approach faltered when the Iraqi security forces showed themselves unprepared to carry out their expanded duties, and sectarian killings soared.

In contrast, the new approach reflects the counterinsurgency precept that protection of the population is best way to isolate insurgents, encourage political accommodations and gain intelligence on numerous threats. A core assumption of the plan is that American troops cannot impose a military solution, but that the United States can use force to create the conditions in which political reconciliation is possible.

To develop the plan, General Petraeus assembled a Joint Strategic Assessment Team, which sought to define the conflict and outline the elements of a new strategy. It included officers like Col. H. R. McMaster, the field commander who carried out the successful “clear, hold and build? operation in Tal Afar and who wrote a critical account of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role during the Vietnam War; Col. J. R. Martin, who teaches at the Army War College and was a West Point classmate of General Petraeus; and David Kilcullen, an Australian counterinsurgency expert who has a degree in anthropology.

State Department officials, including Robert Ford, an Arab expert and the American ambassador to Algeria, were also involved. So were a British officer and experts outside government like Stephen D. Biddle, a military expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The team determined that Iraq was in a “communal struggle for power,? in the words of one senior officer who participated in the effort. Adding to the problem, the new Iraqi government was struggling to unite its disparate factions and to develop the capability to deliver basic services and provide security.

Extremists were fueling the violence, as were nations like Iran, which they concluded was arming and equipping Shiite militant groups, and Syria, which was allowing suicide bombers to cross into Iraq.

Like the Baker-Hamilton commission, which issued its report last year, the team believed that political, military and economic efforts were needed, including diplomatic discussions with Iran, officials said. There were different views about how aggressive to be in pressing for the removal of overtly sectarian officials, and several officials said that theme was toned down somewhat in the final plan.

The plan itself was written by the Joint Campaign Redesign Team, an allusion to the fact that the plan inherited from General Casey was being reworked. Much of the redesign has already been put into effect, including the decision to move troops out of large bases and to act as partners more fully with the Iraqi security forces.

The overarching goal, an American official said, is to advance political accommodation and avoid undercutting the authority of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. While the plan seeks to achieve stability, several officials said it anticipates that less will be accomplished in terms of national reconciliation by the end of 2009 than does the plan developed by General Casey.

The plan also emphasizes encouraging political accommodation at the local level. The command has established a team to oversee efforts to reach out to former insurgents and tribal leaders. It is dubbed the Force Strategic Engagement Cell, and is overseen by a British general. In the terminology of the plan, the aim is to identify potentially “reconcilable? groups and encourage them to move away from violence.

However, groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence officials say has foreign leadership, and cells backed by Iran are seen as implacable foes.

“You are not out there trying to defeat your enemies wholesale,? said one military official who is knowledgeable about the plan. “You are out there trying to draw them into a negotiated power-sharing agreement where they decide to quit fighting you. They don’t decide that their conflict is over. The reasons for conflict remain, but they quit trying to address it through violence. In the end, we hope that that alliance of convenience to fight with Al Qaeda becomes a connection to the central government as well.?

Note that there is admission by senior military leadership that Iran was a destabilizing effect on Iraq.  Note also that we are not trying to defeat the enemy “wholesale.”  Our intent is to encourage the enemy to stop them from trying to address their problems through conflict.

Here again the senior leadership is being more anthropologist / psychologist / spiritual advisor than warrior, but even if this approach works for indigenous Iraqis, it stands no hope of working for the Iranian regime or the destabilizing Iranian elements within Iraq (Badr Brigrade, Quds Force).

This refusal to face the truth – that we are in a regional (or global) war and the solution must be regional (or global) – reflects either acquiescence to political realities (when the senior military leadership doesn’t really believe in the solution they proffer, a dark and depressing possibility), or a real lack of understanding or refusal to see the extremist problem in terms of global conflict and conflict engagement and resolution (a dark and depressing possibility).

Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

Soon after the invasion of Iraq, some thought that the British presence in Basra might very well join the short but remarkable catalog of counterinsurgency victories in history.  The British did what they have always done, including implementation of “soft” rules of engagement.  More than a little ridicule has been wasted and ink has been spilled in the excoriation of U.S. rules of engagement, which even though seen by us as lacking the robustness to win OIF at times, are “harder” than the British ROE.  Juan Cole gives us a preening communication from a British reservist from July of 2005.  “One aspect that is rarely discussed is the vast difference between the British and American rules of engagement. You will quickly respond by saying ‘oh but things are so much safer in the South because it is predominantly Shia’. Yes but if we used the American rules of engagement then I am positive that there would be far far more attacks against us. It is ridiculous for British soldiers to be ordered not to overtake any of the huge American convoys on the Kuwait-Baghdad motorway because they risk being shot at by the Americans!”

This optimism continued until the forcible rescue of two British special forces operators who had been arrested by the Iraqi police in Basra.  But the proud British ROE may have been part of the problem.

At home, Britons were stunned by the graphic footage of their soldiers being assaulted in a city thought to be “safe,” especially in comparison to the blood-soaked urban areas of the Sunni Triangle which dominate news coverage emanating out of Iraq. The violent imagery was only the latest and most troubling indication of the British military’s failure in Basra and its environs, a disastrous turn of events which seemed unthinkable two years ago, when British troops were welcomed into Basra with relatively open arms.

The root of this failure stems from the very strategy that was once lauded as the antidote for insurgent violence. Known as the “soft approach,” the British strategy in southern Iraq centered on non-aggressive, nearly passive responses to violent flare-ups. Instead of raids and street battles, the British concentrated on building relationships with local leaders and fostering consensus among Iraqi politicos. In Basra, the British were quick to build and expand training programs for a city police force. As a symbol of their faith in stability-by-civility, the British military took to donning the soft beret while on patrol, avoiding the connotations of war supposedly raised by the American-style Kevlar helmets.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion, this “soft” approach seemed remarkably successful, especially when juxtaposed with the chaos that had engulfed other parts of Iraq. Basra seemed to adapt relatively well to the new order of things, with little in the way of street battles or casualties. Both the British and American media — ever-ready to point out the comparable failures of American arms — energetically hailed the peaceful and stable atmosphere in Basra as a significant indicator of the virtues of the British approach, upholding it as the tactical antithesis to the brutal and aggressive Yanks. The Dallas Morning News reported in 2003 that military experts from Britain were already boasting that U.S. forces in Iraq could “take a cue from the way their British counterparts have taken control of Basra.” Charles Heyman, editor of the highly-respected defense journal Jane’s, asserted: “The main lesson that the Americans can learn from Basra and apply to Baghdad is to use the ‘softly-softly’ approach.”

The reporting also featured erudite denunciations of the rigid rules of engagement that governed the United States military, while simultaneously championing British outreach. Ian Kemp, a noted British defense expert, suggested in November 2004 that the “major obstacle” in past U.S. occupations and peacekeeping efforts was their inability to connect with locals due to the doctrinal preeminence of force protection. In other words, had Americans possessed the courage to interface with the Iraqi, they might enjoy greater success.

It did not take long before the English press allowed the great straw man of a violent American society to seep into their explanations for the divergent approaches. The Sunday Times of London proclaimed “armies reflect their societies for better or for worse. In Britain, guns are frowned upon — and British troops faced with demonstrations in Northern Ireland must go through five or six stages, including a verbal warning as the situation gets progressively more nasty, before they are allowed to shoot. In America, guns are second nature.” Such flimsy and anecdotal reasoning — borne solely out of classical European elitist arrogance — tinged much of the reporting out of Basra.

AS A RESULT OF THE EFFUSIVE media celebration, even some in the British military began believing their own hype, with soldiers suggesting to reporters in May 2003 that the U.S. military should “look to them for a lesson or two.” As a British sergeant told the Christian Science Monitor: “We are trained for every inevitability and we do this better than the Americans.” According to other unnamed British military officials, America had “a poor record” at keeping the peace while Basra only reinforced the assertion that the British maintain “the best urban peacekeeping force in the world.”

Not too long after this incident and due to the degradation in security in Basra, the British consulate was evacuated in January of 2006.

The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff.

Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months.

The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured.

British troop levels have dropped precipitously through Operation Iraq Freedom, from around 45,000 in March and April of 2003, to less than 20,000 by May of 2003, and then to around 7000 by the end of 2006.  The British announced another pullback from Basra in February of 2007, conveying their intent to reduce forces to approximately 5,500 by the end of the summer.  The pullback was not announced in a vacuum.  The situation in Basra was calamitous as reported by NPR.

“The problem is, in most of these four provinces, the British essentially gave up,” says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Cordesman says U.K. forces lost control of two key provinces — Basra and Maisan — after elections in early 2005 and 2006 that brought a Shiite majority to power.

“Once they came under control, the Shiites firmly were in charge of virtually the entire area and there was little the British could do about it,” Cordesman says.

Richard Beeston, diplomatic editor of The Times of London recently returned from a visit to Basra, his first since 2003. He says in 2003, British soldiers were on foot patrol, drove through town in unarmored vehicles and fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off. He says the changes he saw four years later are enormous.

“Nowadays all troop movement in and out of the city are conducted at night by helicopter because it’s been deemed too dangerous to go on the road and its dangerous to fly choppers during the day,” he says.

Beeston says during his latest visit, he noticed a map of the city in one of the military briefing rooms. About half of the city was marked as no-go areas.

British headquarters are mortared and rocketed almost everynight.

This is indicative of many parts of southern Iraq, says Wayne White, a former State department middle east intelligence officer. White says the south is riddled with rival Shiite groups vying for power, and roving criminal gangs because there’s nothing to stop them.

“There’s virtually nothing down there in the way of governance that answers to Baghdad in an effective way,” White says. “There are mayors, there are police but in many cases these people have no loyalty to Baghdad, operate along with the militias, have sympathy with them.”

We must disagree with part of this assessment (” … little the British could do about it,” and ” … there’s nothing to stop them”).  The U.S. forces are responsible for Anbar, home of the Sunnis deposed from power in the invasion.  The British, while left with fewer troops with which to work, were responsible for control of the area in which the new power lived – the Shi’a, saved from the tyranny of the previous regime.  In a clearer statement concerning the British effort and its affects, Anthony Cordesman of The Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a study entitled The British Defeat in the South, speaks openly about the situation in Basra.

The British announcement of force cuts in Southern Iraq reflects a set of realities on the ground that has dominated southeastern Iraq for more than two years. Southeastern Iraq has long been under the de facto control of SCIRI and Sadr factions. The British effectively lost any opportunity to shape a secular and nationalist Basra in the summer of 2003, and the US defeat of the Sadr militia in March and April 2004 never extended to the southeast and Basra area.

The British won some tactical clashes in Maysan and Basra in May-November 2004, but Operation Telic’s tactical victories over the Sadrists did not stop Islamists from taking steadily more local political power and controlling security at the neighborhood level when British troops were not present.

Two problems have become apparent: force size, and rules of engagement.  The calls for complete withdrawal of British forces have gotten more voiciferous, declaring that “The British troops’ withdrawal rate “should be determined not by the security situation – which allows militias and insurgents to determine our withdrawal – but by the state of training of the Iraqi forces,” said the commission, which was formed in the manner of the U.S. Baker-Hamilton commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group (ISG), which submitted a similar report to U.S. President George W. Bush in December 2006, urging Washington to change course on Iraq.  The report further added that there were “no good options left” in Iraq, indicating that the British government has to “redefine its objectives.”

The redefinition of objectives will likely involve focus on force protection, as British fatalities per unit has increased above U.S. fatalities per unit.

For the first time since the war began, British soldiers are being killed in Iraq at a proportionally greater rate than U.S. soldiers, it was reported.

The Royal Statistical Society analyzed death rates for the two armies between Feb. 5 and June 24, reported The Sunday Telegraph. During that time, Britain lost 23 of its 5,500 soldiers, while the United States lost 463 of its 165,000 soldiers, the newspaper reported.

Increased violence in the southern city of Basra, where most of the British troops are serving, was responsible for the proportional increase in deaths, said Society spokeswoman Sheila Bird.

The findings have led to more calls for the British government to withdraw its troops from Iraq, the newspaper reported.

British military and political leaders have come to regard the war in Iraq as a “lost cause,” a senior British army commander told the British newspaper.

By May of 2007 the violence had reached a fevered pitch, with rival Shi’a gangs fighting for control of the oil-rich city.

Basra, the richest city in Iraq and gateway to the Gulf, could erupt into all-out war between rival Shia groups seeking control of its vast oil wealth as British forces prepare to draw down.

The power struggle between factions of the Shia majority that has dominated Iraqi politics since the first post-war general elections in 2005 threatens to affect oil exports accounting for virtually all of Iraq’s income.

In the latest development of a turf war that has all the ingredients of a gangster movie set in 1920s Chicago, rivals of the provincial governor fell one vote short of voting him out of office last month but have pledged to keep up the standoff.

Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, is more or less free of the car bombs and the violence between Shias and Sunni Arabs raging in central Iraq, but it has descended into a chaos of its own. Sporadic militia battles, endemic corruption and death threats now scar the once tranquil port.

“Everyone’s trying to grab resources and make a quick profit without considering a long-term programme or attempting to establish a power base for the future,? said Peter Harling, an analyst for the International Crisis Group who focuses on Iraq.

“The interesting thing about violence in Basra is that it’s not related to the two big factors of violence elsewhere: fighting the occupation and sectarian violence,? he said.

Residents fear that violence could be a sign of things to come, especially as British troops disengage from the south.

In an analysis of another root of the problem, the International Crisis Group gives us a more anthropological explantion of Basra.

By March–April 2007, renewed political tensions once more threatened to destabilise the city, and relentless attacks against British forces in effect had driven them off the streets into increasingly secluded compounds. Basra’s residents and militiamen view this not as an orderly withdrawal but rather as an ignominious defeat. Today, the city is controlled by militias, seemingly more powerful and unconstrained than before.

What progress has occurred cannot conceal the most glaring failing of all: the inability to establish a legitimate and functioning provincial apparatus capable of redistributing resources, imposing respect for the rule of law and ensuring a peaceful transition at the local level. Basra’s political arena remains in the hands of actors engaged in bloody competition for resources, undermining what is left of governorate institutions and coercively enforcing their rule. The local population has no choice but to seek protection from one of the dominant camps.

The British are not a strong tribe in Basra, and withdrawal doesn’t help matters.  In contrast, we have observed that the U.S. was the strongest tribe in Anbar, and the Marines have spearheaded a campaign that will indeed be written into the catalog of COIN victories in history.

The so-called “Anbar Awakening? is about more than just enlisting the assistance of the tribal Sheiks.  The magnitude and brilliance of this coup by U.S. forces should not be underestimated.  To assert that AQI was the only enemy in Anbar belittles the scope of the accomplishment and ignores the intricate military, political, religious and anthropological machinations that were involved to pull off this coup.  Regardless of the disposition of OIF, the pacification of Anbar by the United States Marines will go down as the greatest counterinsurgency campaign in history and will be studied in professional war college classrooms for generations to come … The coup is not merely that the tribal chiefs and their people are cooperating with U.S. forces.  It is larger than that.  The coup is that the insurgency, properly defined as indigenous fighters rather than terrorists and foreign fighters - those who were previously pointing a gun towards U.S. troops – are now pointing them at the terrorists.  Not only have many of them made peace with the U.S., but in a development just as important, the U.S. forces have made peace with them.  This has been accomplished with the new difficulty introduced by globalization (foreign fighters), and the new difficulty introduced by religious fanaticism (suicide bombers), and the new difficulty introduced by technology (stand off weapons such as roadside bombs).  This is a counterinsurgency tour de force, and as time judges this victory it will take its rightful place in the great military campaigns of world history.

The question now is whither Basra?  What will happen to this city of thugs, criminals and greedy opportunists?  What will happen to the citizens who need security and can only turn to thugs and criminals for protection?  And finally, what place will Basra take in the overall pacification of Iraq and will the U.S. forces have to step in to take control of Basra?


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