Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

The “Willing Suspension of Honor”

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

The Senate voted today on the General Betray Us add sponsored by MoveOn.

The Senate voted Thursday to condemn an advertisement by the liberal anti-war group MoveOn.org that accused the top military commander in Iraq of betrayal.

The 72-25 vote condemned the full-page ad that appeared in The New York Times last week as Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, testified on Capitol Hill. The ad was headlined: “General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House.”

The ad became a life raft for the Republican party as the war debate kicked into high gear. With several Republicans opposed to President Bush’s war strategy, GOP members were able to put aside their differences and rally around their disapproval of the ad.

Sen. Gordon Smith, one of the few Republican senators who supports legislation ordering troop withdrawals, told reporters Thursday he thought Petraeus’ testimony and the MoveOn.org ad were the two biggest factors in keeping Republicans from breaking ranks with the president: Petraeus’ testimony because it was persuasive and the MoveOn add because it went too far by attacking a popular uniformed officer.

“It was stupid on their part and disgraceful,” said Smith, R-Ore.

The resolution condemning the ad was sponsored by conservative Republican John Cornyn of Texas. Voting against it were Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, another contender for the Democratic nomination, did not vote, although he voted minutes earlier for an alternative resolution by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. That resolution condemned the MoveOn ad as an “unwarranted personal attack,” but also condemned political attack ads that questioned the patriotism of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., both Vietnam veterans.

So there you have it.  After accusing General Petraeus of being a liar (“the willing suspension of disbelief”), Senator Clinton voted against a resolution condemning the slanderous add by MoveOn.  Senator Obama was too cowardly to vote.  A slanderer and a coward, both enjoying remarkable success as candidates for President.  These are indeed proud days for the republic.

Anthropologists in Iraq – and Those in America Who Attack Them

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

In the News Blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education, in Petitioners Urge Anthropologists to Stop Working with Pentagon in Iraq War, we read that there is a dustup over what anthropologists do with their knowledge.

“Anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the ‘war on terror.’? That is one of the central declarations of a Pledge of Non-Participation in Counterinsurgency that was circulated today by a loosely defined group that refers to itself as the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

The network is asking scholars to sign the statement and to send their signatures to the anthropology department at George Mason University. (Two of the network’s organizers, Andrew V. Bickford and Hugh Gusterson, teach there.)

The petition arrives two months before an ad hoc committee of the American Anthropological Association is expected to propose ethical guidelines for anthropologists’ cooperation with military and intelligence agencies.

A few anthropologists, including Montgomery McFate, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, have recently argued that social scientists should make their “cultural knowledge? available to the military. (One anthropologist who is doing so is Marcus B. Griffin, a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University. Mr. Griffin is in Iraq supporting a military “Human Terrain System? project, and he is chronicling the experience on his blog.)

But many anthropologists are highly skeptical of Ms. McFate and Mr. Griffin’s approach. The petition argues that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is illegitimate and that any support is therefore unethical. More broadly, the petition asserts that anthropologists who work with military and intelligence agencies damage the “relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world.? —David Glenn

These “concerned anthropologists” understand classical conventional warfare, and the difference between it and counterinsurgency operations.  There is no mistaking the facts.  Because they consider the original invasion to be unwarranted, they will take no part of a successful counterinsurgency.  Rather, they will try to bully other anthropologists into the same position with a childish “petition” (as if other Doctors of Philosophy in anthropology are incapable of making their own minds up about what they consider to be ethical use of their knowledge).

In our many articles on the subject, we have cataloged the brutalities perpetrated by the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.  The Anbar Province is for all intents and purposes pacified, but seven months ago it was still a restive and savage place with al Qaeda on a campaign of torture in response to the Anbar “awakening.”

This campaign of torture and intimidation exemplifies brutality at its worst.  Iraqi police and Marines recently completed “Operation Three Swords? south of Fallujah, the purpose of which was to detain members of murder and intimidation cells within the rural area of Zaidon and the villages of Albu Hawa, Fuhaylat and Hasa.  During the operation, members of the Fallujah police Department and Coalition Forces discovered a torture house and rescued three individuals.  The house had blood-stained walls, and the torture devices included shackles, chains, syringes, rifles, knives, chord, clubs and a blow torch.  The condition of the torture victims was said to be dire.

Torture, whether at the hands of the Sunnis or Shia, is a commonly practiced means to intimidate and brutalize the enemy in Iraq, and in fact, throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia.  Palestinians are fleeing Iraq, and probably for good reason.  More than 600 Palestinians are believed to have died at the hands of Shia militias since the war began in 2003, including at least 300 from the Baladiat area of Baghdad. Many were tortured with electric drills before they died.

The “concerned anthropologists” know that the purpose of a counterinsurgency is to bring security, rebuild and reconstruct, and reestablish a legitimate government.  It is not merely that they opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom.  On the contrary, they oppose even professional participation in the establishment of security for the people of Iraq.  They would sooner turn them back over to al Qaeda to be tortured in their houses of horror than assist the military in human terrain mapping.  Their reasoning?

While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world, protects US soldiers on the battlefield, or promotes cross-cultural understanding, at base it contributes instead to a brutal war of occupation which has entailed massive casualties. By so doing, such work breaches relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world and, directly or indirectly, enables the occupation of one country by another.

A more preening and self-righteous posture is difficult to imagine, but it is false righteousness.  Any barely conscious Milblogger has been tracking the pacification of Anbar, and we have noted with delight the turnaround in Fallujah as a result of the recent efforts by U.S. Marines, to be sure, at first involving heavy kinetic operations, but eventually involving peaceful constabulary operations for the purpose of putting in place an “exit strategy” as it has been called by Colonel Richard Simcock of Regimental Combat Team 6.  There has been no joy in following the casualty count in Anbar.  Again, counterinsurgency is designed to perpetrate peace, not war.

Concerning this notion of occupation, it is wise to consider Jeff Emanuel’s perspective directly from Iraq.

During my time on the front lines in Iraq – which has been spent in some of the most kinetic areas that the country has to offer – I have had the opportunity to observe General Petraeus’s strategy from the ground level, and I have seen clear evidence of the strategy’s effects.

I have personally observed public clinics, in which coalition medics and doctors provided Iraqi tribesmen and villagers with a level of care that had been unheard of in this country– even before the fall of Saddam Hussein. I have toured reconstruction sites being worked on by Iraqi contractors, and have ridden along in gun-truck escorts whose job is to protect these men as they work to rebuild their own country, while terrorists try not only to kill them, but to destroy any and all improvements they have managed to provide for their countrymen in infrastructure and quality of life.

I have sat in on meetings – both above-board and clandestine – with sheiks and tribal leaders, who want the coalition to help them help themselves and their people to achieve better and more secure lives, despite the fact that being seen consorting with the Americans immediately puts a price on each of these leaders’ heads; likewise, I have heard the concern voiced – more times than I can even count – that the coalition, which currently remains the sole source of stability and security in this country, will give in to the cries from home to abandon the Iraqi people to death, and will finally do so.  

I have participated in combat operations which were driven solely by intelligence provided by Iraqi citizens who knew of terrorist plots and personnel in the area and called the Americans to let them know; likewise, I, along with the soldiers whom I have covered, have had my life saved several times by tips from the Iraqi citizenry about Improvised Explosive Devices and ambushes put into place to kill us.  

There may be something else in play with the “concerned anthropologists.”  Marcus B. Griffin, PhD., blogs at From an Anthropological Perspective from Iraq, and recently discussed his “first mortar attack.”  Perhaps the “concerned anthropologists” have grown to love their office environment too much to entertain the idea of the more dangerous life that Dr. Griffin has chosen for himself.

Whatever the reason for their preening, the concerned anthropologists will one day, at the end of a career, wonder what contribution they have made to those around them.  Dr. Griffin will not have that problem, having done more in his lifetime for world society than scores of his “concerned” colleagues put together.  He will be a man who has made a difference.  So-called higher education has sunk to a new low by attacking people like Dr. Griffin.

V-22 Osprey Deploys

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

We have known for about half a year that the Marine Corps intended to deploy the tilt-wing aircraft Osprey.  Without any fanfare in the main stream media (who has covered the V-22 accidents with vigor), the first Osprey are on their way to the Anbar Province.

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The first MV-22 Ospreys to make a combat deployment are on an amphibious assault ship heading for Iraq, according to a Marine Corps headquarters spokesman.

Ten Ospreys and roughly 200 leathernecks and sailors with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 flew out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., and landed aboard the Wasp on Monday, Maj. Eric Dent said.

He did not know where the Norfolk, Va.-based ship was when the Ospreys boarded. The ship was diverted from an international exercise in Panama on Sept. 5 to the Nicaraguan coast to assist with disaster-relief efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Felix.

VMM-263 is heading for Al Asad Air Base for a seven-month deployment; the Ospreys will provide tactical assault support for Marines and soldiers.

The Corps decided to deploy the tilt-rotors via ship, in part to allow the aircraft to do shipboard integration operations. Corps officials would not say where the Ospreys will leave the ship and move into Iraq.

“Due to operational security, we can’t discuss the specifics,? Dent said.

The squadron has been preparing for its combat deployment debut for the past several months, doing everything from taking grunts on their first Osprey flights to performing integration training with other aircraft.

Ospreys will become the Corps’ new troop transport aircraft, flying faster and farther between refuelings than the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters they’re replacing. There are three operational MV-22 squadrons — VMM-263, VMM-162 and VMM-266 —all based at New River.

The Corps has more than 50 MV-22s, with 14 more scheduled for delivery next year.

Detractors will say that a case had been and still could be made to jettison the entire program due to cost overruns, accidents, aircraft complexity and loss of life in training accidents.  This case is irrelevant, since the V-22 is on its way to the battle space and more have been ordered.  The bad news to the detractors is that it is actually being deployed.  The good news for both its supporters and detractors is that it is being deployed.  There will be no better test than deployment in Iraq supporting Marines in Anbar.  The proof is in the pudding.

v22.jpg

The Anbar Narrative: Part 1

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

Matthew Burden of Blackfive has a great post on a speech delivered by Marine Corps Major General John Kelly.  General Kelly can speak authoritatively concerning the Anbar counterinsurgency campaign, and this quote touches on a subject on which we will publish in the coming weeks and months.

The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one-military or civilian-thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within……Our success, so we were told, would be in containing violence, not defeating the Al Qaeda and other foreign born terrorists that were deeply entrenched in the Province. The reality is that today the incidents of attack in Al Anbar-mostly by Al Qaeda-are down by over 80% in the last six months-that translates to dozens and dozens everyday then, to perhaps three or four today. Since the spring local inhabitants and their sheik leadership, are now joined with us at the shoulder in fighting the extremists that plague their country. Three weeks ago I went to a gathering of sheiks from the Province outside of Ramadi that numbered over 300 of the most influential men in the west. Three years ago my entire days and nights were devoted to tracking many of these same men down, and capturing or killing them, which is exactly what they were trying to do to me. However, by relentless pursuit by a bunch of fearless 19 year olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, while at the same time holding out the carrot of economic development, they have seen the light and know AQ can’t win against such men. By staying in the fight, and remaining true to our word, and our honor, AQ today can’t spend more than a few hours in Fallujah, Ramadi, or the Al Anbar in general, without being IDed by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines.

Ignorant senators and semi-knowledgeable bloggers alike weigh in on the Anbar campaign, coming up with everything from we couldn’t provide security for the insurgents so that’s why the insurgents decided not to be insurgents any more (Chuck Schumer’s position, which is prima facie absurd due to its self-referential incoherence) to we were losing and would have lost except for the “flipping” of a single Sheikh.

While the so-called Anbar awakening was important, it was set up to succeed with months and years of combat action by the Marines in Anbar.  Without the backdrop of this history, the awakening is nonsense.  It cannot be properly understood if removed from its historical context.  Seeing the tapestry of the Anbar narrative is one that will require many stories.

The Anbar narrative is complex and involved, but General Kelly gives us a good starting point.  Read his entire speech.

Rightosphere Blogger’s Poll

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

John Hawkins of Right Wing News has a new blogger’s poll up: The Rightosphere Temperature Check for SeptemberThe Captain’s Journal participated in the poll.  Go check it out for some interesting results.

Rightosphere Blogger’s Poll

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

John Hawkins of Right Wing News has a new blogger’s poll up: The Rightosphere Temperature Check for SeptemberThe Captain’s Journal participated in the poll.  Go check it out for some interesting results.

All Counterinsurgency is Local

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

A tribe is a social group existing before or outside of the state, usually defined by kinship, clan, lineage, culture and dialect.  It is heavily patristic, usually with a tribal leader in addition to tribal elders.  Tribes have historically existed for protection, economic stability, cultural and religious instruction, and identification.  Ralph Peters observes that “We are witnessing the return of the tribes – a global phenomenon, but the antithesis of globalization as described by pop bestsellers.  The twin tribal identities, ethnic and religious brotherhood, are once again armed and dangerous”  (Wars of Blood and Faith, page 356).

Bing West recounts the circumstances surrounding the turning of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha to the U.S. forces.

In September 2006, AQI killed one too many, and a young, mid-ranking sheikh, Abdul Sattar, also called Abu Risha, set out to avenge his murdered relatives. Outgunned in one encounter, he was facing an unpleasant end, when an American Army unit suddenly entered the fray with guns blazing. A quick learner, Sattar proposed a partnership with his rescuers: he would provide tribesmen willing to fight if the Americans would provide firepower and government sanction. Sattar proved to be the Sunni leader we desperately needed in Anbar. Once his own tribal lands were cleared of AQI, nearby tribes joined his movement; the Americans parked a tank outside his house as a display of support and power. Over the next year, attacks in Anbar dropped from 400 to 100 per month.

So at Asad Air Base in early September, the provincial governor, Mamoon Rashid, gave young Sattar the place of honor next to President Bush. The meeting was intended to honor the Sunni sheikhs who had driven out al-Qaeda in Iraq. It was also a not-subtle nudge to Maliki to get on with Sunni reconciliation. Maliki was scheduled to visit the province two days later to deliver an eagerly awaited supplement to the provincial budget. Nursing an eye infection, he was none too pleased by the peremptory summons.

For most of the previous two years, Maliki’s host, Governor Mamoon, had been marooned in the sandbagged government center in downtown Ramadi, kept alive by Marine sharpshooters who fired through mouse holes in the hallway above his office and defecated in plastic bags because the sewer line had been blown up, leaving a stinking lake outside the front door. Mamoon had survived three assassination attempts and gone weeks at a time without a single Iraqi visitor to his “office.?

His closest confidants were the Marines who kept him alive. When you’re with President Bush, act like you’re king of the desert, Brigadier General John Allen, who managed the coalition’s relations with the tribes, had advised him. Embrace everyone as an honored guest. Smile constantly and say nice things.

But when a genial President Bush asked how things were going, Allen’s script collapsed. We get nothing, Mamoon exploded, glaring at Maliki. We’re on the front lines, and Baghdad ignores us. Seizing the opening, the Sunni sheikhs piled it on, berating Maliki for a hundred injustices and years of neglect. Only Sheikh Sattar rose above the litany of resentments to offer thanks for the sacrifices of the American soldiers. The Anbar tribes, he said, would finish al-Qaeda in Iraq, and then go to Afghanistan to help the Americans. His speech partially defused the quarrelsome mood.

Sheikh Sattar was a leader of men, a tribal chieftan, and even more, a leader of multiple tribes.  His legacy lives on, and it is not accidental that his brother has been elected to succeed him as leader of the coalition of tribes in Anbar.

This model worked in Ramadi where the tribes ruled daily life.  To the East in Fallujah, society was somewhat different.  Lt. Col. Bill Mullen stated that the tribal leaders weren’t used in the pacification of Fallujah because the tribal influence was not as strong.  As Bill Ardolino describes, the Marines turned to the mukhtars for leadership.  “Officially appointed during the Saddam Hussein era, mukhtars are akin to “city sheiks? or “block captains.? They arbitrate interests within and advocate for their neighborhoods to the city government. Mukhtars know the people of their areas and understand their needs.”

In U.S. Marines Turn to Belfast Constabulary Model: An Analysis, against a backdrop of the essential counterinsurgency victory the Marines have won in the Anbar Province, we discussed the inexplicable decision of Marines to embed with the police in Northern Ireland for pre-deployment constabulary training.  We offered suggestions for superior training to help warriors prepare for counterinsurgency, including cultural and language training.  The Army appears to be ahead of the Marines in formally responding to this need.

As the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division prepares for its upcoming deployment to Iraq, the focus is on more than weapons and traditional warfighting exercises. Cultivating “culture experts? is also part of the plan.

About 100 Baumholder soldiers are taking part in the Iraqi Headstart program, a weeklong crash course in history and language aimed at helping soldiers bridge the cultural divide when they deploy.

In the past, such programs have been directed more toward higher-level noncommissioned officers and officers, said Maj. Pat N. Kaune of the 2nd BCT headquarters.

Now the 2nd BCT is making sure junior enlisted members are being enrolled in the program, where they learn about the origins of sectarian strife, cultural taboos and the alien sounds of Arabic.

All counterinsurgency is trully local, and increased understanding of the culture, language, tribes, customs and traditions is the tool of choice when winning the hearts and minds of the population.

Planning for war with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

In testimony before congress, General Petraeus was clear in his warning over Iranian intent to have a Hezbollah-like force deployed within Iraq.  He also made the point very clearly that the war in Iraq could not be won solely in Iraq.  Since then it has been reported that Iranian arms have made their way into Afghanistan, with senior NATO leadership both confirming and then demurring on this shipment interdiction.

General Dan McNeill, head of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), confirmed a report in Sunday’s Washington Post which said the shipment had been discovered last week.

“The geographic origin of that convoy was clearly Iran but take note that I did not say it’s the Iranian government,” the US general told AFP in an interview.

“In that convoy there were explosive materials that could be made into more advanced improvised explosive devices,” he said, refusing to make any further comment on the shipment, as it was still being analysed.

“It is not the first convoy that we have intercepted that had geographical origins from Iran, but it is one that has my attention.”

Turning back to Iraq, it didn’t take Secretary of Defense Gates long to downplay the Iranian threat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that the United States can contain the Iranian threat to Iraq without going to war with the Islamic republic.

Iranian attempts to influence events in Iraq can be dealt with “inside the borders of Iraq” and there is no need for U.S. forces to take action inside Iran, Gates said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The administration believes that continuing to try to deal with the Iranian threat through diplomatic and economic means is by far the preferable approach,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has a major news story concerning hawks in the military and administration who are carefully crafting an escalatory campaign with Iran to justify full blown military action, drawing up a list of 2000 strategic and military bombing targets inside Iran.  Concerning those hardened bunkers containing the centrifuges being used to create high enriched Uranium, plans were made and enacted long ago to develop weapons that could penetrate and destroy those installations.

The U.S. has a 14-ton super bomb more destructive than the vacuum bomb just tested by Russia, a U.S. general said Wednesday.

The statement was made by retired Lt. General McInerney, chairman of the Iran Policy Committee, and former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

McInerney said the U.S. has “a new massive ordnance penetrator that’s 30,000 pounds, that really penetrates … Ahmadinejad has nothing in Iran that we can’t penetrate.”

He also said the new Russian bomb was not a “penetrator.”

On Tuesday, the Fox News television channel said: “A recent decision by German officials to withhold support for any new sanctions against Iran has pushed a broad spectrum of officials in Washington to develop potential scenarios for a military attack on the Islamic regime.”.

Commenting on the report, McInerney said: “Since Germany has backed out of helping economically, we do not have any other choice. … They’ve forced us into the military option.”

McInerney described some possible military campaign scenarios and said: “The one I favor the most, of course, is an air campaign,” he continued.

He said that bombing would be launched by 65-70 stealth bombers and 400 bombers of other types.

“Forty-eight hours duration, hitting 2500 aimed points to take out their [Iranian] nuclear facilities, their air defense facilities, their air force, their navy, their Shahab-3 retaliatory missiles, and finally their command and control. And then let the Iranian people take their country back,” the general said describing the campaign, adding it would be “easy.”

Exactly how bombing Iran will help the “Iranian people take their country back” is not made clear by McInerney.  At TCJ we are in favor of letting the fly-boys do what needs to be done if it comes to that.  However, regarding this claim of being “easy,” perhaps it would be good to rehearse the consequences of such an air war before we start it.

  1. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces would carry out attacks against U.S. interests, including embassies, throughout the world.
  2. The same forces would carry out attacks against U.S. troops within Iraq.
  3. Oil prices would skyrocket.
  4. Due to oil prices, the American and possibly world economy would likely go into a phase of hyperinflation, followed by recession.
  5. Some U.S. pilots will be shot out of the sky, captured, tortured and run in front of TV cameras to “recant their attrocities.”

Again, if this is all necessary, then air power is the solution.  But no one yet is talking about Michael Ledeen’s solution, which is to avoid both the negotiations (in which we have engaged for two decades to no avail) and war (which would certainly be costly), by fomenting revolution and regime change from within.  Such a moderate and sensible approach, yet not courted or advocated by either side at the moment.

But make no mistake about it.  The Iranian problem will not go away, and it must be faced sooner rather than later.  A recent speech before the U.S. congress has received far too little attention.

In a video message to a meeting at the U.S. Congress on September 11, 2007, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance said, “The undeniable reality is that the policy of appeasing the Iranian regime with the aim of bringing about gradual or behavior change or containing it has failed. For the mullahs the only way to deal with the tide of democracy in Iran and global developments is repression, nuclear weapons, domination of Iraq and spread of Islamic fundamentalism.? The full text of here message follows:

Allow me at the beginning to hail the Iranian people for rising up against an oppressive dictatorship. By resorting to hanging young people in public, the mullahs are trying to intimidate the Iranian nation. But the mass executions have failed to break the resistance of the people. The mullahs have reached the end of the line in Iran.

Today, Iraq has become the central front in the fight against Islamo-fascism and the terrorism resulting from it. This is the biggest problem before the United States and the international community. Whatever the results, it would chart the direction of the twenty-first century.

The Iranian regime is the main problem in Iraq; other factors are marginal. The mullahs will not allow a successful political process in Iraq to take shape, because a democratic Iraq would be a nightmare for them. 

For this reason, they have done everything to prevent the creation of a democratic Iraq. Since 27 years ago, Iraq, owing to its unique geopolitical status – having a majority Shiite population, being home to the shrines of six Shiite Imams, and having a 1,200km border with Iran as well as many different religions and ethnic groupings – has been the main target of the mullahs’ so-called “export of Islamic revolution.?

Unfortunately, the West’s disregard for this reality allowed the mullahs to spread influence in Iraq after the fall of the previous government in that country. If the Iranian regime did not intervene in Iraq, there would be no need for stationing a large force and the casualties would not be so heavy.

The Iranian problem must and will be addressed; it is only a matter of how and how soon.  The clock is ticking down, since this administration will be leaving office within sixteen months, and the subsequent one may not be willing to meet the challenge before Iran builds a nuclear weapon.

U.S. Marines Turn to Belfast Constabulary Model: An Analysis

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

Preamble & Introduction

The progress in pacification of Ramadi is well worn news now, and the next largest city in Anbar was a hard city to tame because of different culture (heavy reliance on the Mukhtars as opposed to Sheiks for leadership), but even Fallujah has in large measure been pacified.  The Iraqi security forces have withdrawn from Fallujah, and the security of Fallujah is primarily an Iraqi police operation in concert with the U.S. Marines.  The face of Anbar is changing to one of constabulary operations.

Even the lamentable assassination of Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha seems to have brought unintended consequences to al Qaeda, as the tribes have vowed to fight them until the “last child of Anbar.”

For the future, as part of their pre-deployment training, U.S. Marines are interested in how the Belfast police work with the military in Northern Ireland.

The US Marines are being sent to Belfast – to learn more about how police and the military can work effectively alongside each other in Iraq.

According to a senior PSNI officer who helped produce a major report on Iraqi security forces for the US Congress, the Marines hope to apply the lessons of Northern Ireland in Anbar province.

Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, who is in charge of Belfast, said a delegation of US Marines will visit Northern Ireland next month.

Mr McCausland was the only non-American who was a member of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, which inspected the Iraqi military and police this summer and reported to the US Congress just before General David Petraeus.

Mr McCausland said the US Marines, who have helped transform the security situation in Anbar province, are interested in how the RUC and PSNI worked with the British Army and want “to look at some of the aspects we’re involved in”.

Analysis & Commentary

This is indeed a strange experiment.  The British have lost Basra as we have previously discussed.  We argued that the loss was due in large part to the British soft cover, tepid rules of engagement, and especially the minimal force projection.  Since Anbar is probably the safest province in Iraq while Basra has taken Anbar’s place as the most dangerous province in Iraq, it might be argued that the U.S. could learn a “softer approach” much like the British forces in Northern Ireland in order to embed with the Iraqi Police effectively.

But this argument misses the point, and in the superlative degree.  The British – some of them – have managed to see the problem with their Basra experience.

At first we were pretty condescending to the Americans, insisting that our light touch, learned in Northern Ireland, was far more effective than their alleged heavy-handedness. We were wrong. Basra is not Londonderry. Our ever-lower profile was seen by local militias — and the public — as weakness. As a result the militia grewstronger and stronger, and now Basra is a town of warring gangs. We never committed enough — and we reduced our numbers much too soon. We now have only 5,000 men and women in Basra.

Iraq had been brutalized by the savagery of more than two decades under Saddam Hussein, had suffered eight years of the Iran-Iraq war, was divided by religious sect and tribal allegiance, and was sitting on top of one of the world’s largest oil reserves in Basra, ripe for criminal gangs, thugs, thieves and greedy sheiks to assert power and become wealthy.  Into this the British brought an approach that they had used before.

The message received by the British public was that this softly-softly approach would – thanks to experience in Northern Ireland and elsewhere – succeed in a peacekeeping mission where the Americans’ heavy-handed tactics would fail.

It was a view held almost universally in the British army. “British military guys can be totally insufferable about this,” says one retired US general who advises the Bush administration on Iraq … But the days of soft hats and handing sweets to children are now long gone.

The real problem was not soft cover, tepid rules of engagement, or minimal force projection.  This model worked in other locales for the British in their history.  The real problem was one of cultural ignorance and inexperience that led to these things.  Northern Ireland is not the Anbar Provincce any more than it is the Basra Province, and this conflation of tactics has led to Basra being the utter disaster area that it is today.  “Children are afraid to go to school,” said Ali Kareem, media officer for the Secretary of Education at Basra provincial council. “And there is a shortage of teachers because many female teachers have quit due to the violence.”

But there is a better way to train for counterinsurgency.  We have previously argued that cultural sensitivity and relevance is important in counterinsurgency.  We have earlier observed that:

… troops (most of the time) are given some basic instruction in Arabic as part of the training for deployment.  This training is based on the philosophy of phonetics (i.e., sounds, proper pronunciation).  With limited time, money and resources, this is the best approach and sure to yield the best possible results in the short term.  But proper planning for the long war needs to take the next step.  Immersion in Arabic (both spoken and written) needs to be part of the planning for not only officers, but enlisted men as well.  A better knowledge of Arabic would cause a remarkable step change in warfighting capabilities in Iraq (and throughout the Middle East) given the nature of COIN.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., recounts a recent experience from Anbar that informs our discussion on cultural awareness and its value.

Whenever Col. Bohm and other officers met with an Iraqi, it was always with an ever-so slight bow, a right hand over the heart followed by an extended right hand; a warm smile and a greeting, “Salam alikom, (peace unto you), my friend.?

The Americans meant it. The Iraqis knew it. And the Marines were taught to get into the practice of doing the same thing on foot patrols … but only if it was a sincere expression of “peace? toward another.

There are a host of other, more advisable options for pre-deployment training.  The Marines in Fallujah are currently embedded in the Iraqi Police precincts, and a couple weeks of training and observation with them would be better than observing the British in Northern Ireland.  Whether more classroom training in Arabic, a few weeks more of observation and turnover with their mentor units (wherever they are deployed), or simply time reading the Small Wars Manual, there are numerous choices for predeployment training that would likely be better than observations of caucasians minding other caucasians in Northern Ireland.  Northern Ireland is not Anbar any more than it is Basra, and even if anything is learned there that is beneficial to counterinsurgency in Anbar, it would only be spuriously so.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the British and their experience in Northern Ireland.  And that’s the point.

Prior:

  1. Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement
  2. The British Flight from Basra
  3. Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles
  4. Operation Alljah and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment
  5. Regimental Combat Team 6 Secures Eastern Anbar

Why shouldn’t we lie to NCOs?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

From time to time it pays to take a look at the keywords used to bring visits to a site (when those visits are neither direct nor referrals).  I use Google Analytics for this task, among other things.  The search word strings yesterday were typical of a Milblog site.

  1. “Spartan body armor.”  A Google search on the words “Spartan 2 tactical vest” yields TCJ just below Tactical Applications Group, the company that produces the Spartan body armor system, because of our body armor coverage.  “SAPI plates” is also a frequent search word string (you may not become famous by being a Milblogger, but at least you get tired, the hours are long and the words sound important).
  2. “Jaish al-Mahdi army.”  This makes sense, since a Google search puts TCJ third for our article The Rise of the JAM.
  3. “Are soldiers allowed to buy their own equipment?”  This is understandable as well, since page two of Google results lists Gear and Equipment Problems for the Marines.  Of course, this reader would have left disappointed and perhaps perplexed, since the answer is an unqualified maybe but probably not with qualifications, caveats, and stipulations enough to drive the sensible person mad, as if a lawyer wrote the rules … Hmmmm … a new theory hatches!
  4. Variations on “rules of engagement,” “rules of engagement in Iraq,” “rules of engagement causing casualties,” “rules of engagement a hindrance,” “cjcsi 3121.01b,” etc., for our rules of engagement coverage.  Of course, these hits also bring in the person who is attempting to find engagement cards for their loved ones.
  5. “Ansar al Sunna,” for our equivalent category.  I might remark on how forgiving search engines are, since the dual spellings (Sunna vs. Sunnah) are irrelevant.

And so the list goes.  It becomes an interesting little exercise.  But once in a while I stumble on a word string that grabs my attention so thoroughly that I cannot stop thinking about it until I unravel the mystery (I have not yet).

“Why shouldn’t we lie to NCOs?”  Now, take note of the fact that this isn’t formed thusly: “Why we shouldn’t lie to NCOs.”  No, it reads just “[w]hy shouldn’t we …”  This is particularly problematic, since we don’t know the rank of the individual searching on this word string.  Perhaps the chap had one too many pints of beer before searching on these words (did I give the country away?).  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps he is UA and needs an excuse for coming back late for formation.  Or perhaps rather than an enlisted man, he is an officer and wants to talk himself into lying to his subordinates.  Or perhaps he is an NCO searching for a reason for his subordinates not to be dishonest with him (Based on what I know of NCOs, this theory makes the least sense. An NCO would not search for a reason for his subordinates to respect him – he would simply demand it.).

Until this chap tells us why he wants to lie to an NCO, we cannot help him with his problem.  And just to set the record straight, at TCJ we do not support lying to NCOs.


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