Friday, January 05, 2007

There are surges, and then there are surges 
Victor Davis Hanson:

If the United States sends more troops into Iraq, especially Baghdad, then we must expand the parameters of operations — otherwise, thousands of fresh American soldiers will only end up ensuring the four things we seek to avoid in Iraq: more conventional targets for IEDs when more soldiers venture out of our compounds; more support troops behind fortified berms that enlarge the American infidel profile; more assurances to the Iraqis that foreign troops will secure their country for them; and more American prestige put into peril.

I never liked the idea of a surge. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We've allowed the moojies to psyche us out and take us into his race.

Only when it's clear that he will never outlast the US commitment to democracy in Iraq and the defeat of terrorism there will the terrorists give up the fight in Iraq.

A few tactical successes during a surge will not change that equation.

The correct course, in my view, was to settle in and 'go long.'

Of course, that is only reliable in a political vacuum. I will be very ashamed if, under the control of the Democratic party, having sold out the people of South Viet Nam already (and having sold out the Kurds and Shia rebellions under Bush I in 2001), our friends who are engulfed in desperate, life-and-death struggles against an evil and inhuman enemy were to ever be forced to conclude that they cannot count on the steadfastness and political courage of the United States of America.

That possibility is the most dangerous threat to national security we have.

Hanson's 6th point is particularly important:

6) Emphasize offense. Our new forces are not going to “patrol” or “stabilize” things by their “presence” or “reassurance,” but rather are being sent to Iraq for one purpose: to hunt down and kill or capture terrorists to ensure public confidence that the Americans and the new Iraqi government are going to win. And fence-sitters should make the necessary adjustments.

I agree. But as I have long argued - these kinds of operations must be driven by intelligence. And we have sufficient shock troops on hand to act on any solid tips we receive. The problem is not the lack of troops available so much as the lack of solid, reliable, actionable and timely intelligence.

No big surprise. You NEVER have enough good intelligence.

But the time-honored way to commanders to produce intelligence is to patrol. Go out and talk to people. Make connections.

Americans will not be as effective at this stage of operations as Iraqi troops, who speak the language and by and large have the sympathy of the populace. As North and others have written, we don't need more US troops, we need more well-trained Iraqi troops.

We're getting there, and the process takes time. It is slow and painful, and there are no shortcuts. But it is Iraqi troops who can win this thing, not Americans. I don't see the long-term payoff in committing to a surge we cannot sustain.

Splash, out


Splash, out


My idea of a surge is different than what we'll likely see. I'd like to surge every Ranger battalion in the regiment. Use them strictly to conduct raids against the militias (both Sunni and Shia). When the rangers go in, they do so without regard to how much stuff they break. If we don't find bad guys, the stuff gets fixed. If we do, they demo the place on the way out.Their raids would have to be conducted based on very solid intel and be deconflicted with (as opposed to coordinated with) the local conventional forces. They should go in hard, fast, and in large numbers.

Anyone they bring in gets fast-tracked through the Iraqi judicial system and gets max sentence. Anyone they catch twice (due to the failings of the Iraqi judicial system) goes to Abu G the second time.

Use them as shock troops to send a message: The Rangers aren't here to build a nation, they are here to destroy those who would destroy a nation. The 'regular' troops will do projects, make friends, meet with local leaders, and (most importantly) mentor the IAF, but the Rangers are there to ruin your day if you choose to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

They can also partner with the more elite Iraqi police commando units.

Sadr's gangs would be high on the target list, but I wouldn't limit their efforts to Baghdad.
Well, that's not that many guys.

And US straight leg infantry right now is very proficient at garden-variety, neighborhood house raids.

If the intel were there, I have to believe the units would already be doing them.

If the intel is not there, I don't see what the Rangers will accomplish, over and above the regulars. You were right in that these raids would have to be intel driven. But that's also the biggest hurdle, and at the heart of why I've been skeptical from day 1 of the Not Enough Troops meme.

Where the Rangers come in handy is where you have a battalion-level, air-assault raid that has to be exquisitely rehearsed off site - and wrapped up UBER-tightly with supporting aviation.

But those are rare.
The point of using Rangers in such operations as opposed to the guys already doing them is psychological vs military practicality. You put some bad-ass enforcers out there to smack down the bad actors. They don't have to be nice one day and kick down a door the next. They don't have to build relationships. That way, when a door must get kicked, it's not the guy trying to build the relationships in the neighborhood doing it.

This is kind of like the way the cosa nostra operates (at least in movies and novels). The average bag-man is one of your neighbors. A nice guy who gets a little heavy handed on occasion. But when someone really gets on the boss's nerves, he calls in the professional hit man to "send the message" or to go up against the rival mob leadership.
Note for posterity: The date "2001" there should have been "1991," referring to the decision to abandon the Kurds to Saddam's atrocities.
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