5 years, 8 months ago
John Robb has a post entitled Potemkin Pacification, in which he writes:
Indications of calm and tranquility in the “pacified cities” of Iraq is at the expense of viability. Essentially, to pacify urban areas we have destroyed the basic levels of connectivity that make them work. For example, Fallujah residents are disconnected…
- from the country. A wall around the city with biometric entry points.
- from each other. The city is divided into 10 walled districts with few entry/exit points. Each is guarded by a combination of neighborhood militias, police and US soldiers.
- from basic mobility. The city has been under a vehicle ban since May 2007.
The natural result is zero economic activity. Its industrial area is closed since it is a security risk. The city suffers from 80 percent unemployment with the bulk of the remainder of those employed are either working in militias or with the police. There are chronic shortages of basic necessities like food and fuel. Reconstruction is nearly at a stand-still (in part due to a complete lack of support from the central government).
By invoking the word Potemkin, Robb is suggesting that whether intentionally or accidentally, the pacification of Fallujah is fake.
Rehearsing what I said about this post from Robb at a discussion thread at the Small Wars Council:
I like to keep up with John Robb. Without studying analyses that run counter to your own one can become rather closed-minded. But what were the conditions like in Fallujah prior to this? I had interviewed Lt. Col. William Mullen concerning the conditions in Fallujah in this article: Operation Alljah and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment.
And so I knew full well what we have had to do to pacify Fallujah. The tribal influence is much weaker in Fallujah, so more traditional counterinsurgency TTPs have been required, such as gated communities.
But is Robb seriously claiming that this has hindered true progress or otherwise caused conditions in Fallujah that are worse than they were prior to these actions? Is he seriously claiming that our efforts have caused unemployment or the lack of communication with the balance of Iraq?
He misses the point. The unemployment was already there, because it was the last major city in Anbar to undergo pacification. I claim exactly the opposite of Robb. Now … and only now … can Fallujah BEGIN its communication with the rest of Iraq.
More on Biometrics here from Noah Shachtman: Iraq diary: Anbar’s Boys in Blue.
Of course, the lifting of the vehicle ban will bring uninvited danger compared to the past few months, and there will certainly be bumps in the road. Kinetic events can always happen — after all, it is still a counterinsurgency. But Robb’s post makes it sound as if the typical Fallujan could object, “We had it all. Fallujah was the tourism and vacation hot spot of Iraq, we were all employed and wealthy, had power and water 100% of the time, and then came the daffy Americans with their counterinsurgency tactics. Sure wish for the good ole’ days.”
I have come to expect better and more challenging commentary and analysis from John Robb. This is simply poor, and the pacification of Fallujah is real. The question is, “Can it be maintained at the current level or some level greater than prior to these tactics being implemented?”
My bet is on the Marines and Fallujans.