Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oil Spot Strategy 
Foreign Affairs has some useful suggestions for changing the focus of the U.S. effort in Iraq.
Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly

The problem: Anbar and Baghdad both would lie outside the oil spot. In order to maximize the oil spot strategy, you have to cede Baghdad and Ramadi and Fallujah.

Well, we ceded Fallujah, and it became a huge car bomb factory which was directed against Baghdad, which is the seat of power whether you pursue the oil spot strategy or not.

I think he's correct that the decisive element is the strengthening of the Iraqi forces. And I think he's absolutely correct that our most successful leaders should be promoted and retained in Iraq, rather than replaced every year. This war is a war of personal contacts and hard-won trust between tribal sheikhs and American officers.

But the strategy would simultaneously reduce the attrition of insurgents while increasing attrition of U.S. personnel in the short run, at least, while ceding wide swaths of the Iraqi countryside to the insurgent. It also gives away the U.S. advantages in firepower and mobility.

Still, I think there's a lot in this writer's thinking to recommend him. I would like to see a good professional discussion among military thinkers, armchair and otherwise, in the comments to this post, because I know you readers well enough to know that most of you are smarter than me.

Click on "Link" below to leave a comment, and please check back often.

The article makes some good points but also has some problems. As you said we can't cede Baghdad to the bad guys and even Anbar province is necessary. By abandoning the Sunni areas and concentrating on Shia and Kurd areas, the heart of his ink blot strategy, we end up with two undesirable outcomes: 1) we force a civil war since we deny all benfits to the Sunni 2) We leave the bad guys with an unimpeded supply route to Syria. If one of the three zones of conflict is the hearts and minds of Iraqi citizens it is difficult to understand how we will win that by abandoning the the political center of gravity in the country, Baghdad.

Politically it is not clear to me that this strategy would play well in the US. There is already a steady drumbeat in the press about the casualty count along with a refusal, by the press, to mention the strategic context of current operations. This would only worsen if we admitted we weren't going to try in the Sunni Triangle till the rest of the country was up and running in a year or two or three.

He suggests dire consequences if troop morale falters and I agree it would be dire if that happened but there isn't any evidence of that as yet, and re-enlistment rates suggest the opposite.

Where I think we are in trouble is not in Iraq but in persuading the American people that this fight is winnable. Exactly how you do that against a hostile press and irresponsible political opposition is the real question which his article doesn't address.
If you guys had bothered to read the entire article, you might have noticed the following passage:

Given limited military and financial resources, the targets for oil-spot offensives would have to be carefully chosen. Two attractive targets would be Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. Both are key political and economic centers that border relatively secure areas. As Iraq's capital, Baghdad has great symbolic value. And both areas are within the operational area of U.S. forces, the most capable in the coalition.

Krepinevich also addresses your contention that the oil-spot strategy would reduce insurgent attrition rates. The whole point is to get the Iraqis on our side so that we start getting better intelligence, which is the sine qua non of defeating the insurgents. Of course, winning Iraqi hearts and minds will depend on how well we can protect them, which remains to be seen. But right now, Krepinevich's plan is the best solution I've yet heard to the Hobson's choice between "staying the course" or cutting and running.
A pure "oil spot" strategy relies on certain unattainable requirements, like an opponent that gives you time and space to build the safety-zones. Personally, I think that the real fight is in Afghanistan, because it is not an Arab culture. If we can continue to convincingly win there, we can do a lot to cut the legs out of the control of Wahabi cultural imperialism to the non-Arab islamic world.

In order to win in Afghanistan, however, we need to fight as sparsely as possible, because of the logistics hurdles involved. The best way we can reduce the scope of battles in Afghanistan is to draw off violent strangers to a target that is a higher priority for them. By fixating our enemies on a battlefield where we can readily engage them with well-supplied heavy forces, we are controlling the conditions of the fight substantially to our advantage. Our in spots in Afghanistan fare much better because of our terrorist killing in Iraq.

Speaking of controlling Iraq without mentioning Afghanistan, where empires go to bleed, is folly. The conflicts are inextricably linked. We are fighting where we can supply. The strategy of Afghanistan is the conflict in Iraq.
Well, he SAYS he wants to keep Baghdad in one of the so-called "oil spots." As if that means anything to say, because Baghdad is a little bit bigger than an oil spot. Looks to me like we'd need to duke it out for Baghdad in the same way we've been doing, regardless.

And you cannot keep Baghdad secure if you've abandoned Ramadi and Fallujah to the wolves.

The more I look at this, the more it looks to me like this author has actually described the way we're doing things now, except we give up on entire provinces.

Well, what sort of message does that send to people who would otherwise be giving us intel? No one is going to stick their neck out to be an informant for pro-Iraqi forces if the writing on the wall says the Americans don't think his city is worth fighting for.

We will get LESS intelligence about these areas, not more, in that instance, precisely where we need it most.

The term "oil-spot offensive" is curious in itself, because the oil spots are largely defensive. As soon as your operational focus goes to securing limited, priviledged areas, rather than finding the enemy and fixing him and killing him where he is, you cede the initiative to the enemy.

No, from what I've read, Krepinevich's plan strikes me as a bit overrated. The people singing its praises loudest seem to be people who haven't been in Iraq.

This 'strategy' is absurd.

Imagine the police department of a major US city, for example, ignoring all criminals and protecting the banks and various infrastructure. Would that reduce crime and chaos? No it would CREATE crime and chaos.
Hi -

Long time reader/lurker.

What's really, really appalling is the absolute level of ignorance and incompetence. Coupled with the illusion that these folks think they actually know *anything* about what they are thinking of.

I think it's a good example of someone obviously educated well beyond his abilities.

It's practically asking for US forces to take on a completely passive nature, allowing the "insurgents" to retake and achieve control of the battlefield. You'd end up with US forces reacting to "insurgent" activity, rather than having US forces hunt them down.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. The US military are the world's best educated fighting force, with more BAs, MAs, MSs and PHDs than academia can imagine. This is teaching your grandmother, so to speak, to suck eggs.


Best regards,

the good thing about your blog is, its natural. Appreciate your views and added my comment on it. keep it moving and have a great blog. cheers !!!! no fax payday loans
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!

Prev | List | Random | Next
Powered by RingSurf!