Archive for the 'Islamic Facism' Category



Iranian Hegemony in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

General Petraeus warned us.  In testimony before Congress in September of 2007, he said “You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq.”  He also said that “It is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Quds force, seeks to turn the Iraqi special groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Fast forward to the recent trip by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq.  Alireza Jafarzadeh gives us some sense of what this was like for Iraq

Behind the orchestrated pomp and pageantry during the visit to Baghdad last weekend by the Iranian ayatollahs’ president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was hard to miss the revulsion of Iraqis of all stripes. Adjectives like “historic” could not disguise the frustrating reality for Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs: outside of Iraqi political spheres dominated by Tehran surrogates, they are seen as enemies of a secure, non-sectarian and democratic Iraq.

The greeting parties, in the Baghdad airport and later in various government buildings, were who’s who of Tehran’s proxies in Iraq’s government. They “listened to Ahmadinejad,” according to McClatchy News Service, “without need of translation into Arabic, clearly comfortable hearing his Farsi.” Not surprising; for more than two decades, they were employed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Qods Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence. Learning Farsi was a job requirement.

Outside of the very limited segment of Baghdad where Ahmadinejad visited, there was outrage. A young Baghdad resident told the New York Times, “I think Ahmadinejad is the most criminal and bloody person in the world. This visit degrades Iraq’s dignity.” Up north in Kirkuk, where Arab tribes and political parties rallied against Ahmadinejad’s visit, a tribal leader told the Times, “How can we tolerate this? Today we live under the regime of the clerics. The Iranian revolution has been exported to Iraq.” An Iraqi businessman added, “His visit is intended to reassure his followers here,” but is “provoking and enraging” the rest of Iraq … “Your mortars preceded your visit,” one placard read. Another read, “We condemn visit of terrorist and butcher Ahmadinejad to Iraq,” according to the Associated Press.

But those mortars fell strangely silent during the visit.  Azzaman is reporting what most main stream media is not, when they observe that:

Sunday was perhaps Iraqi capital’s quietest day since the country plunged into violence shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

No car bomb explosions, shelling or kidnapping were reported and analysts attributed the calm to the landmark visit by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Daily bombings, explosions and kidnapping have become part of life in Baghdad.

But the calm that descended on the restive capital on Sunday and Monday night was unprecedented, analysts said.

Many attributed the quiet to government’s decision to cordon off large parts of Baghdad and ban traffic in many districts and over several bridges.

But an Iraqi intelligence source said groups fighting U.S. troops and those responsible for the ongoing violence had put a temporary halt to their activities.

This shows, he said, how influential Iran has become in Iraq and the role it plays in assisting and arming these groups.

It didn’t take long for the bombs to begin again in Iraq after Ahmadinejad’s visit.  “Two bombs went off within minutes of each other in a crowded shopping district in the capital Thursday, killing at least 53 people and wounding 130—a reminder that deadly attacks are a daily threat even though violence is down.”

It isn’t difficult to catalogue actions to begin to hold the radical Ayatollahs and their henchmen accountable.  Here at The Captain’s Journal we have advocated the formulation and funding of an insurgency within Iran to assist in toppling the regime.  Some bolder recommendations from various corners (Newt Gingrich) have involved targeting oil.  For the more faint of heart there is simply political pressure and funding of opposition within Iran.

But even this last option is too much for the State Department.  As we pointed out three months ago, “In an overlooked and almost silent murder, the State Department recently worked directly against both the objectives of the executive branch of the government and the security interests of the United States by killing a program that would have aided democracy in Iran.”

The former director of President Bush’s flagship democracy program for the Middle East is saying that the State Department has “effectively killed” a program to disburse millions of dollars to Iran’s liberal opposition.In an interview yesterday, Scott Carpenter said a recent decision to move the $75 million annual aid program for Iranian democrats to the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs would effectively neuter an initiative the president had intended to spur democracy inside the Islamic Republic.”In my view, this pretty much kills the Iran democracy program,” Mr. Carpenter said of the decision by the State Department to subsume the program. “There is not the expertise, there is not the energy for it. The Iran office is worried about the bilateral policy. I think they are not committed to this anymore.”Mr. Carpenter, who headed the Middle East Partnership Initiative and was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs until he left the Bush administration this summer, predicted the $20 million devoted to supporting the activities inside the Islamic Republic would be relegated to what he called “safe initiatives” such as student exchange programs, and not the more daring projects he and his deputy, David Denehy, funded, such as training for Web site operators to evade Internet censorship, political polling, and training on increasing recruitment for civil society groups.

Within a month or two of General Petraeus reminding us that we cannot win in Iraq if we engage Iraq alone, the State Department killed the sole remaining democracy project for Iran.  This intransigence within professional government employees and recalcitrance of even the administration to deal with Iran would be merely a strategic blunder if so many sons of America had not shed blood on Iraqi soil.  Because of blood, this stubborness has become sin – a failure in righteousness and morality and decency.  The blood of American warriors awaits vindication.

Mookie’s Mischief

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

It has been speculated that Moqtada al Sadr would not renew his cease fire with U.S. troops (and opposing Shi’a elements).  It is well known that I have strongly advocated the assassination of Mookie, and I have cried buckets of tears over my schemes for his demise.  Because of this interest (obsession?), an individual (unnamed shooter from an undisclosed location – a buddy of mine) sends me this shot … um, picture, with Mookie in his sights as I write.  As he sent it we were both repeating deep and meaningful chants and congratulating each other on this lifetime achievement.

mookie_targeted1.jpg

Unfortunately for my well laid plans, Mookie appears to be smarter than to start up the fight again with U.S. troops, so I must wait still longer.

Obama’s Folly: Plan for Disaster

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

Barack Hussein Obama flexed American muscle a couple of days ago concerning Pakistan.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would possibly send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists, an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.

The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Only a single word is necessary at this point: disaster.  The incomparable Ralph Peters puts some flesh on the skeleton called disaster.

Here’s why he’s nuts:

* Pakistan is a nuclear power on the brink of internal collapse. Do we really want to drive it over the edge and see loose nukes in the hands of a radicalized military faction – or terrorists?

* The mountain ranges where the terrorists are holed up are vast. The terrain is some of the toughest in the world. An invasion would suck in hundreds of thousands of troops. And a long occupation would be required.

* Even those tribesmen who don’t support the Taliban or al Qaeda are proud and xenophobic to extremes – they’d rally against us. And all of the senator’s bloggers couldn’t stop them.

* The Pakistani military would fight us. Right now, they’re cooperating, at least to some degree – but they’d fight any invader.

* President Pervez Musharraf’s government would fall – probably overthrown by Islamic nationalists in the military and security services. Welcome to your Islamofascist nuclear power, senator.

* We’d also have to occupy a big corridor through Baluchistan, Pakistan’s vast southwest, since we’d lose our current overflight rights and hush-hush transit privileges on the ground.

An army at war needs a lot of fuel, ammunition, food, water, Band-Aids, replacements, etc. (not the sort of things armchair strategists bother about). Afghanistan is landlocked and surrounded by unfriendly states. Pakistan has been helping us keep our troops supplied. And you couldn’t sustain Operation Obama by air. The senator hasn’t even looked at a map.

* Along with giving away the game in Iraq, an invasion of Pakistan would create a terrorist-recruiting double whammy: The Middle East would mobilize against us – and what could we expect after we invaded a friendly Islamic state?

* Our troops are tired and their gear’s worn out. (Obama wouldn’t know, and he doesn’t care.) They’re fighting on in Iraq because they see progress and they have a sense of duty. But does the senator, who clearly doesn’t know any soldiers and Marines, expect them to surrender Iraq – then plunge into Pakistan without a collapse in morale?

* Even setting aside the nuke issue, what would President Obama do when Pakistan, an Islamic nation of 170 million, broke into bits? Would we also occupy Karachi, Lahore and other megacities, after they turned into urban jungles where the terrorist became the king of beasts?

Go after al Qaeda? You bet. Anywhere, anytime. But we’ve got to do it in a way that makes military sense. A general staff recruited from MoveOn.org isn’t going to enhance our security.

The world would be a safer place if we could reverse time to ensure that Abdul Qadeer Khan didn’t exist, but this isn’t possible.  With a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear India, a radical Islamist part of the population in Pakistan, and a moderately secular and pro-West Musharraf in a tenuous perch as President, this region of the world is a flash point.  It must be handled with soft velvet gloves on an iron fist.  It presents perhaps the most complicated knot of problems any American President will ever face.

While I am no fan of Dick Armitage, the world was safer when, upon nuclear sabre rattling and threats of war over Kashmir several years ago between Pakistan and India (among other disagreements), he took assignment from the President and let both countries know just exactly how the chest butting was going to end.  And then it ended without so much as a whimper or whisper.

Agreements to cooperate and send special forces and Marines (along with Pakistani forces) on targeted raids of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, directed and precise air power, robust kinetic and nonkinetic operations in Afghanistan, intelligence gathering, financial pressure, largesse, and intense and close friendship between administrations – these are the things of victory in this region.  Land invasion is not.  Neither is chest butting.

In further news, we learn that Obama has no plan for the exercise of nuclear power, or he does, or perhaps he doesn’t.  U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons “in any circumstance” to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, drawing criticism from Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democratic rivals.  “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” Obama said, with a pause, “involving civilians.” Then he quickly added, “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”

So he would send U.S. troops into a land where they are likely to take one hundred thousand casualties and inflict a million, and he has no plan if Pakistan invokes the nukes?

One word: disaster.

Obama’s Folly: Plan for Disaster

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

Barack Hussein Obama flexed American muscle a couple of days ago concerning Pakistan.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would possibly send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists, an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.

The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Only a single word is necessary at this point: disaster.  The incomparable Ralph Peters puts some flesh on the skeleton called disaster.

Here’s why he’s nuts:

* Pakistan is a nuclear power on the brink of internal collapse. Do we really want to drive it over the edge and see loose nukes in the hands of a radicalized military faction – or terrorists?

* The mountain ranges where the terrorists are holed up are vast. The terrain is some of the toughest in the world. An invasion would suck in hundreds of thousands of troops. And a long occupation would be required.

* Even those tribesmen who don’t support the Taliban or al Qaeda are proud and xenophobic to extremes – they’d rally against us. And all of the senator’s bloggers couldn’t stop them.

* The Pakistani military would fight us. Right now, they’re cooperating, at least to some degree – but they’d fight any invader.

* President Pervez Musharraf’s government would fall – probably overthrown by Islamic nationalists in the military and security services. Welcome to your Islamofascist nuclear power, senator.

* We’d also have to occupy a big corridor through Baluchistan, Pakistan’s vast southwest, since we’d lose our current overflight rights and hush-hush transit privileges on the ground.

An army at war needs a lot of fuel, ammunition, food, water, Band-Aids, replacements, etc. (not the sort of things armchair strategists bother about). Afghanistan is landlocked and surrounded by unfriendly states. Pakistan has been helping us keep our troops supplied. And you couldn’t sustain Operation Obama by air. The senator hasn’t even looked at a map.

* Along with giving away the game in Iraq, an invasion of Pakistan would create a terrorist-recruiting double whammy: The Middle East would mobilize against us – and what could we expect after we invaded a friendly Islamic state?

* Our troops are tired and their gear’s worn out. (Obama wouldn’t know, and he doesn’t care.) They’re fighting on in Iraq because they see progress and they have a sense of duty. But does the senator, who clearly doesn’t know any soldiers and Marines, expect them to surrender Iraq – then plunge into Pakistan without a collapse in morale?

* Even setting aside the nuke issue, what would President Obama do when Pakistan, an Islamic nation of 170 million, broke into bits? Would we also occupy Karachi, Lahore and other megacities, after they turned into urban jungles where the terrorist became the king of beasts?

Go after al Qaeda? You bet. Anywhere, anytime. But we’ve got to do it in a way that makes military sense. A general staff recruited from MoveOn.org isn’t going to enhance our security.

The world would be a safer place if we could reverse time to ensure that Abdul Qadeer Khan didn’t exist, but this isn’t possible.  With a nuclear Pakistan, a nuclear India, a radical Islamist part of the population in Pakistan, and a moderately secular and pro-West Musharraf in a tenuous perch as President, this region of the world is a flash point.  It must be handled with soft velvet gloves on an iron fist.  It presents perhaps the most complicated knot of problems any American President will ever face.

While I am no fan of Dick Armitage, the world was safer when, upon nuclear sabre rattling and threats of war over Kashmir several years ago between Pakistan and India (among other disagreements), he took assignment from the President and let both countries know just exactly how the chest butting was going to end.  And then it ended without so much as a whimper or whisper.

Agreements to cooperate and send special forces and Marines (along with Pakistani forces) on targeted raids of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, directed and precise air power, robust kinetic and nonkinetic operations in Afghanistan, intelligence gathering, financial pressure, largesse, and intense and close friendship between administrations – these are the things of victory in this region.  Land invasion is not.  Neither is chest butting.

In further news, we learn that Obama has no plan for the exercise of nuclear power, or he does, or perhaps he doesn’t.  U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons “in any circumstance” to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, drawing criticism from Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democratic rivals.  “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” Obama said, with a pause, “involving civilians.” Then he quickly added, “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”

So he would send U.S. troops into a land where they are likely to take one hundred thousand casualties and inflict a million, and he has no plan if Pakistan invokes the nukes?

One word: disaster.

The Long Range Iraq Plan and its Critics

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month 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.

Strategic Hardness of Heart

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month 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).

Warring the Narrative

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

Bing West has another good commentary at the Small Wars Journal Blog entitled Winning the Narrative.  There are two categories of Iraq observers, says West.  The first is the anti-terror camp.  This camp believes that the indigenous Sunnis rejected al Qaeda’s religious extremism when it became obvious that they could not wrest power from the Shi’a, and didn’t want proponents of radical religious ideas as their rulers.  West observes:

It’s conventional wisdom now to say that Anbar improved because the Sunni tribes aligned against al Qaeda. True enough, but an incomplete explanation. With inadequate manpower, the Marines and Army National Guard and active duty soldiers persisted year after year with gritty, relentless patrolling that convinced the tribes the American military was, as one tribal leader said to me, “the strongest tribe”. Hence the tribes could turn against al Qaeda, knowing they had the strongest tribe standing behind them.

West echoes my sentiments in Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, where I said that:

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 second is the sectarian camp, which believes that intransigent hostility between Shi’ites and Sunnis has caused a civil war, or more correctly, will blow up into a fully realized civil war upon the departure of U.S. troops, whenever that is.  Terrorism is still a major problem, but underneath this lies a current of sectarian animosity the depth and strength of which is not completely known (The Strategy Page has an article up on the possibility of an all-out civil war if the U.S. leaves.  Civil war has not happened yet, though it could).

The narrative, says West, has been inconsistent thus far, leading to the failure to support a single narrative.  To this, we respond the following.

The problem to which Mr. West alludes is greater than he credits in his insightful analysis.  Only hours after authoring Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, in which I claimed that the majority of the insurgency in Anbar had been indigenous Sunnis (while also discussing the nuances of the superimposition of terrorism by al Qaeda in Mesopotamia), and in which I claimed that the counterinsurgency victory by the Marines in Anbar would go down as the greatest in military history, an intelligence specialist wrote me to concur with the piece, saying that “if anyone thinks that al Qaeda controls more than 10% of the insurgency they’re crazy.”

Yet we have our Commander in Chief saying that the people we’re fighting in Iraq are the same people who were responsible for 9/11 (an assertion that correctly gets no traction with the American public), and the Multinational Force PAO office issuing thousands of press releases, many of which refer to degrading the ability of al Qaeda to conduct operations, and some of which should have been discussing the Iraqi insurgency or AAS.  Al Qaeda has become a surrogate for all of the enemy, and clear narrative has been sacrificed on the altar of convenience.  It is too difficult to explain what we are doing to the American people, or so it must be believed.

Think Aaron Copland and his brilliant “Americana” style compositions.  The majestic, broad, moving, sweeping, engaging and unforgettable movements of instruments together to create the emotional experience of literally hearing his thoughts.  We need this in our narrative, and it has been absent for so long that it may be irrecoverable.  But there is more.  We need the narrative to be smart, intelligent and sophisticated.  We need a national narrative to explain the “long war” to the American public.  I would even settle for pragmatic at this point, straight from Ralph Peters.  In the event of a precipitous departure, the following would occur:

  1. After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead …
  2. Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq’s southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers.
  3. Our troops will have died in vain.
  4. A slaughter of the innocents.

I recently attended a funeral for an elderly person, and the elderly there counted many World War II veterans.  Each one wanted to know my son’s location, billet, MOS, and unit.  As they talked, each one said to me that although my son may be coming home soon, God willing that is, the war will not be over for a long, long time.  And they were not referring to the war in Iraq.  They knew.  In their eyes you could tell.  They knew that we are in the “long war.”

Our national narrative has failed to match the magnitude and stakes in the long war.  But rest assurred, the enemy’s narrative has no such weakness.  Not all of the future enemies of America in the long war will fight for religious reasons, and perhaps not even the majority.  I have gone on record saying that the insurgency in Anbar was primarily indigenous Sunni, and that the strategy to settle with them was brilliant and will go down as the template for future COIN campaigns.  But for some of the enemy, the narrative is clear, and it is powerful.

“With al Qaeda, we are in a global fight between two worlds,” he said. “Al Qaeda is not a territorial organization. It’s not Hamas, it’s not Hizballah and it’s not the Taliban.”

Instead, it should be compared to the Marxist revolutionary movements of the 1960s and 1970s that attracted young Westerners to fight in places like the jungles of South America. Al Qaeda, Roy said, is in fact part of a global revolutionary tradition.

“Today the narrative of the revolt is religious. Forty years ago it was Marxist. Today it is religious and particularly Muslim. But we are still in a global revolt against the system, without having a clear vision of an alternative system,” he said.

Roy contended that al Qaeda members are anti-American only because America incarnates the “world order” — and this “world order is perceived as unjust.”

Khadija Mohsen-Finan, a specialist on the Middle East from the French Institute of Foreign Relations in Paris (IFRI), identified al Qaeda terrorists as “people who don’t think they have their place in globalization.”

Bing has written a smart commentary that is “gilding the lilly.”  Before we can even hope to develop a narrative of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we need to develop a national narrative.  National leadership is needed, and so far it has not been forthcoming.

Repeating the Success of Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

Hopes are high that the success of the Anbar Province can be repeated in Diyala and other provinces.

Sunni merchants watched warily from behind neat stacks of fruit and vegetables as Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno walked with a platoon of bodyguards through the Qatana bazaar here one recent afternoon. At last, one leathery-faced trader glanced furtively up and down the narrow, refuse-strewn street to check who might be listening, then broke the silence.

“America good! Al Qaeda bad!” he said in halting English, flashing a thumb’s-up in the direction of the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq.

Until only a few months ago, the Central Street bazaar was enemy territory, watched over by U.S. machine-gunners in sandbagged bunkers on the roof of the governor’s building across the road. Ramadi was the most dangerous city in Iraq, and the area around the building the deadliest place in Ramadi.

Now, a pact between local tribal sheiks and U.S. commanders has sent thousands of young Iraqis from Anbar Province into the fight against extremists linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The deal has all but ended the fighting in Ramadi and recast the city as a symbol of hope that the tide of the war may yet be reversed to favor the Americans and their Iraqi allies …

… the question is whether the Anbar experience can be “exported” to other combat zones, as Bush suggested, by arming tribally based local security forces and recruiting thousands of young Sunnis, including former members of Baathist insurgent groups, into Iraq’s army and police force.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who leads the Shiite-dominated national government, has backed the tribal outreach in Anbar as a way to strengthen Sunni moderates against Sunni extremists there. But he has warned that replicating the pattern elsewhere could arm Sunni militias for a civil war with Shiites.

Anbar has been a war zone now for four years, and the Americans are as much a part of life as the blasting summer heat.

Ramadi, which lies on the edge of a desert that reaches west from the city to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, had a population of 400,000 in Saddam Hussein’s time. That was before the insurgents – a patchwork of Qaeda-linked militants, die-hard loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath Party and other resistance groups fighting to oust U.S. forces from Iraq – coalesced in a terrorist campaign that turned much of the city into a ghost town, and much of Anbar into a cauldron for U.S. troops.

Last year, a leaked U.S. Marine intelligence report conceded that the war in Anbar was effectively lost and that the province was on course to becoming the seat of the Islamic militants’ plans to establish a new caliphate in Iraq.

The key to turning that around was the shift in allegiance by tribal sheiks. But the sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by U.S. and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put Qaeda groups on the run, in Ramadi and elsewhere across western Anbar.

Not for the first time, the 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 …

“We couldn’t go more than 200 meters from this base when I arrived,” said Captain Ian Brooks, a Marine officer at one new neighborhood base. “Now, I can walk the streets without any problem.”

The change that made all the others possible, U.S. officers say, was the alliance with the sheiks. In Ramadi, 23 tribal leaders approached the Americans and offered to fight the extremists by forming “provincial security battalions,” neighborhood police auxiliaries, and by sending volunteers to the Iraqi Army and the police.

Across Anbar, the 3,500 police officers in October jumped to 21,500 by June. In Ramadi, where there were fewer than 100 police officers last year, there are now 3,500.

Many recruits, U.S. officers acknowledge, were previously insurgents. “There’s a lot of guys wearing blue shirts out there who were shooting at us last year,” Charlton said.

In Settling with the Enemy I discussed the necessity to put erstwhile Sunni insurgents to work ensuring security.  But it was more than enlisting the insurgents to work for us that has at least partially pacified the Anbar province.  There have been four years of hard work by the Marines to effect security.  The past regime ensured that the population, accustomed to acquiescing in the face of brutality, and who had seen much of it over the past several years, would come ever so slowly to the U.S. and Iraqi side.

The insurgents with whom no settlement could be reached were foreigners who came to Iraq to fight jihad, along with a radical religious element which had begun within Iraq in the last decade or two of the prior regime.

By the late 1980s it had become clear that secular pan-Arabism fused with socialist ideas was no longer a source of inspiration for some Ba’th Party activists. Many young Sunni Arabs adopted an alternative ideology, namely, fundamentalist Islam based essentially on the thought of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. A minority even moved toward the more extreme Salafi, and even Wahhabi, interpretation of Islam. The regime was reluctant to repress such trends violently, even when it came to Wahhabis, for the simple reason that these Iraqi Wahhabis were anti-Saudi: much like the ultraradical Islamist opposition in Saudi Arabia, they, too, saw the Saudi regime as deviating from its original Wahhabi convictions by succumbing to Western cultural influences and aligning itself with the Christian imperialist United States. This anti-Saudi trend served the Iraqi regime’s political purposes.

This element, along with the foreign jihadists, would never settle with the U.S. forces and had to be rooted out and killed or captured.  The insurgents who would settle with the U.S. were upstarts who were disenfranchised and out of work men who felt power drain away as Shi’ite supremecy took its toll on Anbar.  These things (i.e., killing the hard line insurgents and settling with those who would do so) was necessary in order to effect security, and the so-called Anbar awakening where tribes began cooperation with the U.S. should not be seen without context.  Its proper context is the blood of U.S. warriors who fought to provide security for a people whom they didn’t know.  The hope is that the seeds of this effort do not lie fallow, but rather, produce fruit ten-fold and expand to the balance of Iraq.

Religion and Insurgency: A Response to Dave Kilcullen

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

On April 15, 2007, Dave Kilcullen authored a commentary on Edward Luttwak’s commentary entitled Dead End: Counterinsurgency Warfare as Military Malpractice.  Kilcullen invokes this discussion in his most recent commentary entitled Religion and Insurgency at the Small Wars Journal; Kilcullen puts forward a series of interesting thoughts on the role (or lack thereof) of religion in the current insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Without studying these articles, my commentary will be read in a vacuum.  It is recommended that you spend the time necessary to understand Kilcullen’s arguments before tackling my response.  In the lengthy article that follows, Smith responds to Kilcullen; first to his views concerning the relationship of Islam and the insurgency in Iraq, second to his views concerning the Peters / Luttwak position, and finally the current state of affairs concerning rules of engagement and the Petraeus letter to the troops concerning the same.

The three central theses of Kilcullen’s commentary follow:

First, there is solid field evidence that modern counterinsurgency methods, properly updated for the new environment, actually are effective against current insurgencies. Second, insurgents in both Afghanistan and Iraq are not actually particularly religious — certainly, they are no more religious than the societies they are attacking. Indeed, there is an empirical problem with the whole notion of a “religious? insurgency, since almost all historical insurgencies have included a strong religious dimension, so that it is not clear that discrete “religious insurgencies? actually exist as observable phenomena. And third, doctrinal publications are not templates, but generic expositions of principle; not cookbooks, but frameworks. Practitioners must populate these frameworks with current, locally accurate, deeply understood insights into the societies where they operate. There is simply no substitute for what we might call “conflict ethnography?: a deep, situation-specific understanding of the human, social and cultural dimensions of a conflict, understood not by analogy with some other conflict, but in its own terms.

As I have pointed out, the real insurgency, while routintely blamed on AQI by both the U.S. and competing forces inside Iraq, is a mixture of rogue elements, from criminal gangs to Ba’athists to Fedayeen Saddam.  In Kirkuk, for example, it is observed that “Most, if not all, the terrorists are the old Baath Party members,? Mam Rostam said. “They changed their names and became an Islamist party. But they are the same guys. They have unified with some Sunnis around the Southwest of Kirkuk because they are living in this area. They are making these attacks to make this democratic experiment after Saddam fail.?  In attributing so many incidents to al Qaeda or AQI-linked insurgents, the Multi-National Force press releases have added to the perception that the insurgency is excusively religious.  Kilcullen makes a powerful case with substantial arguments that there is a strong non-religious, or even irreligious part of the insurgency.  He summarizes by saying that “Islam is invoked by all sides as a rallying cry, not solely by the insurgents. And in fact the conflict is entirely political.” (italics mine)

But Kilcullen says too much and proves too little, and his own commentary contains the defeater for his position.  He says, “I have seen former Iraqi insurgents break down in bitter tears when they realized that guerrilla leaders they believed were true Muslims were actually tattooed habitual criminals with links to organized crime, murder-for-profit gangs and the old Ba’athist oligarchy.”  If religious devotion was not at least some part of the insurgency, this statement makes no sense and has no context.  The apparent fallacy here is one of affirming the consequent.  Kilcullen’s argument is:

  1. If there are irreligious aspects to the insurgency, then the insurgency is irreligious.
  2. Evidence shows that there are irreligious aspects to the current insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Therefore, the insurgencies are irreligous.

Arguments of this form are invalid.  On a deeper level, in the intellectual wasteland of post-modern America, it has become easy to treat religion as a subset or category of anthropology or sociology.  In the wake of Rudolph Bultmann and his ilk, orthodoxy has been jettisoned and belief systems are empty.  Paul Tillich, upon inauguration as the Chair of Theology at the University of Chicago’s divinity school, in a remarkable testimony to the fact that post-modernism had nothing left to say to society or mankind in general, famously denied that theology existed.  But in a war in which we are trying to understand “hearts and minds,” the final arbiter is not largesse.  The difference between Vietnam and the jihadists, it has been said, is that the Viet Cong didn’t follow us home.  This is true, and no mere appeal to criminality, goon-ism or thugery can fully explain why men would train their whole lives in order to fly aircraft into buildings, any more than it can explain why suicide bombers still cross from Syria into Iraq.  No appeal to political power can explain the vision of the radical Mullahs in Iran who continue to supply weapons and personnel into the insurgency in Iraq.  The fact that not all of the data points to religion as the impetus and first cause doesn’t change the fact that some of it does.

To see an essentially religious element in all of man’s endeavors, in fact, is not inconsistent with the best thinkers alive today.  Alvin Plantinga, in his Advice to Christian Philosophers, says:

So the Christian philosopher has his own topics and projects to think about; and when he thinks about the topics of current concern in the broader philosophical world, he will think about them in his own way, which may be a different way. He may have to reject certain currently fashionable assumptions about the philosophic enterprise-he may have to reject widely accepted assumptions as to what are the proper starting points and procedures for philosophical endeavor. And-and this is crucially important-the Christian philosopher has a perfect right to the point of view and prephilosophical assumptions he brings to philosophic work; the fact that these are not widely shared outside the Christian or theistic community is interesting but fundamentally irrelevant … the Christian philosopher has a right (I should say a duty) to work at his own projects-projects set by the beliefs of the Christian community of which he is a part. The Christian philosophical community must work out the answers to its questions; and both the questions and the appropriate ways of working out their answers may presuppose beliefs rejected at most of the leading centers of philosophy. But the Christian is proceeding quite properly in starting from these beliefs, even if they are so rejected. He is under no obligation to confine his research projects to those pursued at those centers, or to pursue his own projects on the basis of the assumptions that prevail there.

I have pointed out before that the Armed Forces currently has a deep problem with Chaplains and even the mere idea of universal, invariant truth.  But this obscene dance with political correctness doesn’t change the fact that the deepest, most compelling cause of action in mankind remains religion, and justly so.  Until our military doctrine properly grapples with this fact and incorporates the deliverances of this category of thought, our counterinsurgency will remain barren as it regards what the data proves to be a non-trivial actor in the struggle.

Without laboring over a detailed response to Kilcullen’s views on Luttwak, I think that it is very important not to oversell the idea that Luttwak misreads history.  It is tempting to take Luttwak on tet a tet through the details of each historical lesson, and such an approach is, in my humble opinion, wrongheaded and doomed to failure.  One such example would be the Romans and their TTPs.  Luke 17 gives us a brief glimpse into the nature of Roman control over the Middle East, a glimpse that can be fleshed out by reading the writings of the first century Jewish historian Josephus.  I had initially intended to pile up quotes and facts from my history books, but this is not necessary, and it is likely that no one (save the incorrigible history buff) would read it.  In lieu of this, let me simple assert that the Roman legions were extremely brutal in their suppression of insurgents.  In fact, to say that they were extremely brutal doesn’t do justice to their behavior, but throwing superlatives around would take us far afield.  There was an insurgency in the time of Christ, and it should be remembered that the idea of a crucifixion was not new, and existed before and during the life of Christ for insurgents, lawbreakers and other rogue elements (to be used later against people because of religious persuasion).  The Roman brutality was remarkably successful in the supression of the insurgency.  The Romans exercised brutality especially during the third Punic war.  This prepared them for the times that lay ahead, and set the course for the nature of their brutality.  They had found something that worked, and they would continue to use it.

Further, while I have pointed out in the past that acts of brutality has worked against the aims of insurgents (the very ones who perpetrate them), it would be incorrect to assert that severe punishment for offenders doesn’t do the job of supression of the insurgency.  Take for example the recent New York Times article 3 Suspects Talk After Iraqi Soldiers Do Dirty Work.  This article catalogues an extremely effective Iraqi unit in their “questioning” of insurgents, this questioning undoubtedly saving Iraqi and U.S. lives.  Says one Iraqi commanding officer, “If the Americans used this way, the way we use, nobody would shoot the Americans at all,? Captain Hassan said. “But they are easy with them, and they have made it easy for the terrorists.?  Other examples can be cited, where the so-called Salvation Front in Anbar, ally of the U.S., has used TTPs that do not comport with U.S. rules of engagement.

In my opinion, the far better way to argue against Luttwak’s position is that it is morally wrong (when inflicted upon an innocent population), not that it doesn’t work (or that it doesn’t comport with the historical facts, a dubious claim anyway).  Again, rather than argue from the perspective of a utilitarian (subject to the next example that might contradict your own thesis), it is best to argue from a deontological perspective.  A well constructed argument never needs to be revisited, as long as your world view and value system remains unchanged.  Additionally, utilitarian arguments that brutality works or doesn’t work are inductive anyway, subject to the exigencies of the situation on the ground, and hence are always necessarily soft.  Hard arguments are deductive, and befitting of this weighty subject matter.  It should also be pointed out that even if such a thing (brutality against innocents) were ever codified into law, given the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which American was founded, the armed forces would (correctly) normally refuse to implement such a policy.  However, regarding known insurgents, I have always advocated tougher measures than we currently employ, and while any other policy gives its adherent the opportunity to preen over his moral superiority, this person has to consider the moral detriment to his soul when lack of a tougher policy costs a mother her son or a wife her husband.

But by using the term moral (or right or wrong, a term which Kilcullen uses), we are entering another domain.  For those who believe that death essentially means that the body cools to ambient temperature, there is little that they can do to define “moral” or “ethical.”  But we have used the term, and applied it to behavior of men in uniform at the behest of the U.S. government.  These are necessarily religious terms, and they have no moorings or meaning unless a religious framework is posited.

War can and should be seen in terms of a ministry, and it is possible (and required) to apply a moral framework not only to when but how we wage it.  But it should be remembered that if it is a ministry, the first ones to whom ministry belongs is the fighting man — our own warriors.  To that end I have argued in my commentaries on rules of engagement (and most particularly in Rules of Engagement and Pre-Theoretical Commitments) for a robust set of ROE that first protects the American fighting man, while secondly attempting to minimize non-combatant casualties, and in that order.  For instance, David Danelo has documented instances where insurgents learn and use our ROE against us, by firing pre-deployed weapons, relocating, firing again, and so forth, all the while being under watch by U.S. troops who cannot return fire because of the ROE (i.e., dropping the weapon before running across the street).  Michael Fumento has posted in the comments section of my article The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement that minarets were always a thing of fear to him because snipers “hung out” there.  When he recommended that the U.S. or Iraqi troops station sentries in order to prohibit the entry of men with sniper rifles, the response came back a resounding ‘no’.  For this would not win hearts and minds.  In the same article NCOs have documented cases where strict adherence to the ROE has cost American lives.  I have also documented cases where gaurds could not act, even when cars allegedly “broke down” at the entrances to FOBs with known insurgents scouting the area for weaknesses while someone else “repaired” the car.  Again, these instances demonstrate that the insurgent is adaptable and willing and able to use our ROE against us, while our ROE are unable to be adapted.  Such is the picture that is painted when the JAGs are trusted more than the NCOs.

It is not hard, then, to imagine a deleterious affect on troop morale.  In response to this, General Petraeus issued the following statement upon taking over OIF:

I am concerned about the unintended consequences of our efforts over thepast two years to reduce injury and death to innocents within the framework of escalation of force (EOF) situations. The intentions of these efforts have been absolutely correct; however, it appears that the results, in some cases, have led to establishment of procedures that have, in effect, changed the rules of engagement for our troopers. Let me be clear: (1) No one may issue supplementary guidance that forecloses the judgment of an individual facing a split-second and independent decision whether to engage a threat. Persons committing hostile acts or exhibiting hostile intent may be engaged with all necessary force without progress through EOF measures — though, of course, progressing though EOF measures should be the case when the situation allows. (2) Leaders should strive to shape situations so that coalition forces are not pressed into making snap judgments under questionable circumstances. Warning equipment, barrier materials, and nonlethal weapons, as well as signs — well-lighted at night and understandable to Iraqis — must continue to be issued to our troops. This is easier written than done, I recognize, but we must strive to minimize the situations that result in split-second decisions when we can. (3) To remain true to our nations’ values and maintain our discipline, commanders will investigate engagements resulting in death, injury requiring hospitalization, or substantial property loss to a civilian. Other incidents will be reported according to unit standards and may be investigated at local commanders’ discretion. Despite our best efforts to minimize them — efforts that are very important-there will be EOF incidents. Learn from them, conduct the AARs that are the hallmark of a professional force, train on the lessons brought to light, and share these lessons. Your chain of command will stand with you.

These words likely ring hollow when juxtaposed with the more recent advice to turn in fellow warriors for violations of the rules.  This most recent communication was the wrong one, done at the wrong time, by the wrong person.  If something had to be communicated, it should have been done by Chaplains, and couched in terms of prevention, morality and “good wars” rather than legalities.  The goal should have been instruction and counsel, but with this letter will come a likely pall over troop morale, with warriors wondering when the next investigation will be started and by whom for what.

The more sophisticated thinkers are working towards prevention rather than prosecution.  Finally, upon disclosure of such violations, amelioration (for both the noncombatant and the warrior) is superior to retribution.  Such should be the aims of the man who thinks morally about war, what it does to the ones we war upon, and what it does to our warriors.

This article has been updated with Smith Responds (where Smith responds to his critics concerning this article).

Insurgency Planned Bombs for Girl’s School

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

In another reminder of the real nature of the enemy, a plot was uncovered where bombs had been pre-deployed inside a girl’s school.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — American soldiers discovered a girls school being built north of Baghdad had become an explosives-rigged “death trap,” the U.S. military said Thursday.

The plot at the Huda Girls’ school in Tarmiya was a “sophisticated and premeditated attempt to inflict massive casualties on our most innocent victims,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

The military suspects the plot was the work of al Qaeda, because of its nature and sophistication, Caldwell said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The plot was uncovered Saturday, when troopers in the Salaheddin province found detonating wire across the street from the school. They picked up the wire and followed its trail, which led to the school. Once inside, they found an explosive-filled propane tank buried beneath the floor. There were artillery shells built into the ceiling and floor, and another propane tank was found, the military said.

The wire was concealed with mortar and concrete, and the propane tanks had been covered with brick and hidden underneath the floor, according to a military statement. Soldiers were able to clear the building.

“It was truly just an incredibly ugly, dirty kind of vicious killing that would have gone on here,” Caldwell said.

Iraqi contractors were responsible for building the school, which was intended to bring in hundreds of girls.

“Given the care and work put into emplacing this IED, it is likely it had been planned for a long time” and it is thought that “the IED was not intended to be set off until the building was occupied,” the military said.

We may speculate that since the planning was so detailed and (likely) time consuming, the Iraqi contractor (or more specifically, at least some of the workers) knew beforehand that this plot existed.  The possibilities are that the insurgency infiltrated the contractor, or that threats forced the silence of the balance of the uninvolved workers.

This is not atypical of the insurgency.  They have targeted children in the past, and there has been in radical Islam an ongoing war against education and those who conduct it.  See my article Radical Islam’s War on Education.

Watch Interview (YouTube)


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