Sunday, May 14, 2006

Taking the lead... 
Bill Roggio reports on the exponential growth in capabilities of the Iraqi Army, and notes that we're approaching the tipping point I've identified a few times here: the ability of the Iraqi Army to exercise command and staff functions up to the brigade level.

Cool Spring was conducted south of the city. "Troops from 3rd Brigade, 2nd IA Division planned and led the operation which included Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team... The Iraqi brigade demonstrated their military planning skills by formulating the mission, issuing appropriate orders to its subordinate units, and overwatching the conduct of the operation."

Not surprisingly, Roggio also indicts the media for failing to understand the metrics before them last year:

Nearly one year ago, the media questioned the "readiness" of the Iraqi Army and declared "few Iraqi battalions are operational." This stemmed from Multinational-Forces Iraq's attempts to establish metrics for the readiness of the Iraq military, and the media's lack of understanding of the meaning of these metrics.

The media focused on "Level 1" battalions, units which could operate with complete independence from Coalition forces, and ignored the significance of Level 2 & 3 Iraqi Army units. Level 2 & 3 battalions lack the organic logistical capabilities (Level 2) or required Coalition forces to operate alongside in combat (Level 3). Level 2 units gather their own intelligence, conduct their own planning and are deemed "in the lead" during combat operations. Both Level 2 & 3 units are in the fight against the insurgency.

I have thought from the beginning that the motivation for the Iraq war was rooted in a sense of incompleteness felt by conservatives from the time of the first Gulf War. I was not surprised by the failure of the Bush Administration to plan for the post-war period, nor have I been surprised by repeated stories of successes thrown away in Iraq. It's been a boondoggle from the getgo, and I still feel that the result is much more likely to be an authoritarian regime similar to Egypt or Iran than anything the US would recognize as democracy. Still, for some years (maybe forever), it won't compare to the brutality of the Saddam government.

In the last few weeks, I've become much more optimistic about the defeat of the insurgency. Momentum is not on their side, and to the extent that they have measurable goals, they have not met them. The insurgency remains fractured, and has not coalesced into a single, coordinated enemy force. The Iraqi civil government is oh-so-very-slowly getting on its feet, and the Iraqi military reestablished and growing. The economy is growing. The biggest problem for the near future is the police force, about which there really isn’t anything much good to say.

The US media, and to some extent the public, have focused too much on the level of violence and the number of casualties. One of the lessons that the US should have learned from Vietnam is that success cannot be measured by the count of body bags. It is easy for the insurgency to kill people, but really, that is all they can do. The time is coming when all Iraqis will withdraw their support, and the insurgency will die.
I wonder how much of getting good news reported is the administrations fault? Bush does not trust the media, so it's likely that he does not have a good relationship with them. Therefore the Army doesn't know how to pass on good news.

Now is also not a great time to try to get good news stories out. We could try to say there was good news 4 months ago, but the terrorists are killing more civilians than all but one month.

It should also be noted that "news" isn't either or. Just because there is killing doesn't mean there isn't good news and vice versa. To pretend that Bad News wipes away all the good news is stupid.
The tipping point will be when we drop below 100,000 troops and the sky doesn't fall, ie Iraq doesn't significantly worsen. At that point, the US media will shift gears and stuff all that pessimistic reporting down the memory hole or the US public will notice the disconnect and abandon the media to the point where outlets are going under entirely.
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