Friday, October 26, 2007

Countercolumn Flashback 
I wrote this back in 2005, but had forgotten about it until today.

I was having a conversation with my Dad about Al Anbar and the recent positive news coming from most of Iraq. Or lack of news, anyway. And I said that my assessment was that the recent progress wasn't due so much from the additional troops in the surge as it was with the way they were being employed.

Under the old management, American troops didn't live in the communities they operated in. They quartered in large FOBs across town, and "commuted to work." Too much was done mounted, and you had units that had "Death Before Dismount" posted on signs around the FOB and on their vehicles.

This was a bad habit. Yes, the 3rd ACR was a terrific unit, and still is. But it would have been even better had it organized and trained itself to operate dismounted as much as possible as soon as the mass maneuvering phase of the war was over.

Counterinsurgencies have always been won by dismounts, engaging directly with the decisive point of any insurgent fight: The population itself.

You cannot engage a population from inside a humvee. You are safer, in the long run, foregoing the limited protection the vehicles give you, and focusing on the enemy where he lives and breathes -- among the local population.

Under Petraeus, however, we've pushed the battalions out into the communities, with scores of smaller company and platoon-sized elements integrating intimately with their communities. Talking to people. Getting to know the community. Buying soda and ice and food in their stores. Making connections.

Petraeus understood the value of making those connections. Sanchez, for some reason, seemed like he did not. Or if he did, he was unwilling to take the short-term tactical risk that a smaller outpost could be overrun and annihilated. I thought Abizaid was promising, but ultimately, he didn't make the leap to the counterinsurgency way of thinking, either.

Petraeus made the change; Admiral Fallon backed him up, and so did Gates. Well done.

The new tactic of fusing into the community sucked the oxygen the insurgent needed from the urban landscape, and forced him to redeploy where he had fewer friends. As a result, he is getting rolled up as a population increasingly alienated by his wanton cruelty rats out his operatives, denies him safe haven.

That's why I'm sort of proud of this entry, from June of 2005:

Look: You will NEVER be able to defeat everything the enemy throws at you. There's been an armor/projectile contest going on ever since Zog the Caveman tried to club someone through a buffalo hide. The defense always loses in the end.

There will NEVER be an armored humvee kit that can defeat a triple-stacked mine, because a properly emplaced triple-stack will simply remove the vehicle and the driver from the county.

Ditto with a good shaped charge from a 155. Look, the 155 has a lethal radius of hundreds of meters. Slapping some extra sheet metal on the side of a humvee is not going to defeat a 155 blast from the side of the road 10 feet away.

But it CAN defeat a frag grenade, a 60mm mortar shell, and all manner of home-made improvised explosive devices. It can defeat small-arms fire, and thereby make a combined-arms attack much less inviting to the enemy.

You will never have a perfectly surviveable system. And you cannot turn Humvees into tanks. You will bankrupt the country.

No one ever gave a tip to me when I was buttoned up. I never had an interaction with an Iraqi in an armored Humvee with the doors closed and the windows up. (We didn't have grenade screens in those days. Heck, most of my Humvees had CANVAS doors, if they had doors at all.!)

Part of the solution is going to lie not in making our vehicles invincible. You CAN'T make it invincible to a triple stacked anti-tank mine.

So don't even try.

Rather, the real solution to defeating this measure is not going to lie with the vehicles at all, but outside them.


Get into the communities. Leverage Iraqi contacts.

Yes, we're doing that already, as much as we can. But these knuckledragging trogs in Congress are focusing on the wrong things. And the ignorant press is dragging us along with them, and damaging the war effort, by pulling us into a defensive mentality.

The insurgency will not be defeated by putting an extra armor on our vehicles. The insurgency will be defeated by dismounts. Dismounts out there engaging with the Iraqi people and collecting real-time intelligence.

And THAT is the effort the Media should focus on. THAT is the effort that Congress should focus on.

Where is all the heat forcing colonels to jump through their asses to develop HUMINT? There isn't much. All anyone wants to hear about is armor this, and armor that.

Fuck the armor. Get out and clobber the enemy, and let HIS sorry ass wish he had more armor.

Get back on offense. Close with and destroy the enemy.

I think I was grasping the issue, even then. And so did Petraeus. (I didn't want to say 'I told you so' until I found it in my own writing from over 2 years ago.)

Also, here back during the very first week of this blog's existence, I wrote,

The war on terrorism, I believe, does not stop with the war on Al Qaeda or even with a war on state sponsors of terrorism such as Saddam Hussein. The war on terrorism, properly viewed, is a war on an ideology--the ideology of radical Islamism.

I'm trying to sort through in my mind how past ideological wars have been won. Communism was defeated, ultimately, on its own turf, when its own people rejected it throughout Eastern Europe.

Naziism, and its racist core belief system, was only defeated and discredited when the joint efforts of Americans and Slavs annihilated its armies of "supermen," and yanked the flag down over Berlin.

Japanese Imperialism, same idea.

I'm searching my mind for similar parallels in history--where ideologies have clashed in mortal struggles--struggles that transcended politics, rulers, borders, ethnicities, and for ways those struggles throughout history have been won or lost.

The monotheists vs. the pagans in the Old Testament?

A study of the growth of Christianity in a Pagan Europe in the early centuries of the C.E.?

Other ideas? What are the best historical parallels? Use the link in the upper right hand corner of the site to email me!!!

My short answer: We don't have the combat power to defeat radical Islamism in the same way we defeated Nazi Germany. Radical Islamism thrives on being the underdog. But I think it can be defeated in the same way that Communism was defeated: wallop it with Satellite TV, Fax machines, and the internet age, push it until it eats its own young, and force it to deny reality until it is thoroughly discredited with its own people on its own turf.

Overall, I am gratified that the very earliest posts still seem to have stood the test of time, and I think I grasped the essence of the war, how it would end, and what broad policies would eventually bring success.

Splash, out


Splash, out


"C.E.", Jason?
Just what is so "Common" about it?

The hypocrites and Atheists using "CE" and "BCE" instead of A.D. - Anno Domini and B.C. - Before Christ are the same ones that want to see America defeated.
Don't let the terrorist win!
Jason, "Sanchez, for some reason, seemed like he did not. Or if he did, he was unwilling to take the short-term tactical risk that a smaller outpost could be overrun and annihilated."

It is possible that the reason for this was that the political leadership didn't want to be engaging with the Iraqi population too much and instead merely wanted to see what forces arose naturally in Iraq, and watch them "debate" the issues for a while, which was far more preferably to having them unite against a foreign invader. It's not the US's job to tell the Iraqis how great democracy is. It's up to the majority of Iraqis to make that case themselves, and call on the US for help if required. If the US had in any way tried ramming something down the Iraqis throats, it would have potentially been disastrous. As it is, the US looks like it's going to accomplish its goals without ever having engaged in a war against the Iraqi people. Which is a huge relief. Hopefully Iran will be next, and this time the US will be in and out in about 4 weeks, effectively jump-starting a military coup. Nothing more, nothing less. Just making sure that the military coup leader plans to introduce democracy of course.
Paul in Iowa City said, "The ... Atheists using "CE" are the same ones that want to see America defeated."

Rubbish. Some atheists are actually in the US military fighting for freedom, and other atheists, as I was at the time of both the Afghan and Iraq wars, were totally rooting for a US/free world victory and doing everything they could to get people to both support and protect the US. Atheists were on both sides of the Iraq war. So were Muslims. The true enemy is actually religious bigots like you.

"Don't let the terrorist win!"

Don't let the religious bigots commit terrorism.

How about looking closer to home? One of my most fascinating classes in college was "American Civilization Since the Civil War" (Prof Thad Russell, Barnard). A major part of the class taught about how the antebellum South was defeated and deconstructed, and the long post-war transformation, eg, Reconstruction (which I find a rich comparison to our Iraq mission), rise of the Jim Crow South, and 'insurgent' groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In the Long War, we can find startling lessons within the heart of our own history.
I have been complaining for decades that we can’t control crime in our cities until we get the cops out of the cars and back on the streets to mix with and become part of the community. I thought the same about Iraq after the initial phase was completed and the insurgency started. But I believe that I understand why we did what we did. The causalities from Vietnam were being used against our military and our leadership back then, so I believe the military was trying to limit those while hoping that by the training of the Iraqis, they would pick up the slack. The IED situation changed all of that since convoys were needed to supply those massive FOBs. As you know, better than me, that change in the military is difficult especially by the same commander and civilian leadership is usually leery to change military leadership in the middle of a war. But it looks like we now have the correct policies and leadership. We must be doing much better since so much less is now written in the media about Iraq
I wish Gen. Petraeus all the best. I hope he and other leaders who use his methods will continue to be in charge through the next presidential term.
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