Friday, June 29, 2007

The Scholar, the Warrior, the Savior?

He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy, Class of 1974. He was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College - class of 1983. He then earned a Master of Public Administration (1985) and a Ph.D. (1987) in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. His last teaching positions were serving as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the U.S. Military Academy, a fellowship at Georgetown University. Who is this pointy headed, Ivy League educated academic?

He is Major General David H. Petraeus, Commander, Multinational Force - Iraq.

His publications include:

  • The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam, 1987. (doctoral thesis)
  • The Legacy of Vietnam for the US Military" in Democracy, Strategy, and Vietnam: Implications for American Policymaking (with William J. Taylor), 1987.
  • Military Influence and the Post-Vietnam Use of Force, Armed Forces & Society, 1989.

  • Why We Need FISTs-Never Send a Man When You Can Send a Bullet, Field Artillery Journal, 1997.
  • Learning Counterinsurgency: Observations from Soldiering in Iraq, Military Review, 2006.

His scholarly qualifications are good, but his warrior qualifications are better. In 2003, Petraeus led the 101st Airborne on one of the biggest airborne assaults in military history. The operation was textbook perfection. With a rifle in one hand and a scroll in the other, Dr. General Petraeus was credited with finding a Zen-like balance between hardass and softheart. He steadfastly prosecuted searches and raids to root out Ba'athist supporters of the failed regime in 2003, but balanced those actions with face-to-face meetings in the houses of tribal Sheikhs in northern Iraq. This led to the intelligence that ultimately led to a wild shootout between members of the 101st and Saddam's two cornered sons, Uday and Qusay.

When Petraeus returned from Iraq in 2005, he served as the Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the US Army's Combined Arms Center. As Commander, he was given oversight of the Command and General Staff College and 17 other facilities and programs. These included development of the Army's "doctrinal manuals," which form the basis of how the Army sees itself and what it does. Critical within his time at Leavenworth was the oversight of two seminal changes aimed at improving Army performance in Iraq. The first was the complete overhaul of 1st Infantry Division's advisory team training. The second was co-authoring Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. The first change was significant in that it would refocus how the Army trained Iraqi military and police units. The second was significant in that it would refocus how the United States would conduct the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and any future counterinsurgeny operations the United States may be called upon to conduct.

Petraeus was nominated by President George Bush to replace MG William Casey as Commander MNF-Iraq. He was confirmed unanimously by the US Senate in January 2007, and assumed command of MNF-Iraq on February 10, 2007. Many in the Administration believe Petraeus to be "Bush's Ulysses S. Grant," referring to Abraham Lincoln's appointment of Grant as commander of the Army of the Potomac after several frustrating Union defeats in the United States' Civil War. Grant's military strategies are credited with the Union turning the tables in the war and finally defeating the Confederacy. However, comparing Petraeus to Grant is an insult to Petraeus' credentials. Grant graduated 21st out of a class of 39 from the US Military Academy, published nothing but his memoirs, and was generally regarded as a damned good warrior but a lousy student. That said, Grant's appointment did make the difference in the Civil War, and Lincoln, facing badly flagging public support for the war, stuck by his General and the war itself, even to the point where he was certain he would lose reelection in 1864. The political and military parallels between Grant and Petraeus are striking, as may well be the historical parallel. The question is, will Petraeus be given the time he needs to do the job he seems to have prepared his entire life for?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Civil War?

The term "civil war" has been used so many times in the mainstream media that people are beginning to think "civil war" every time they hear the word "Iraq." The truth is that, by any reasonably well accepted historical definition of civil war, no such conflict exists in Iraq. The truth is also that the prospects of the conflict descending into a civil war are minimal and diminishing by the day.

Let's get a few things out of the way, first. We let historians do history and we let the journalists do journalism. The media doesn't do a very good job of analyzing history, despite the fact that the history of conflict is largely written from the accounts of journalists. Their job is to report the news, not analyze or interpret it. They tell the story. Historians interpret it. Historians, naturally, make lousy journalists. Instead of focusing on reporting the story, a historian is more likely to get bogged down in the historical significance of it all, missing the opportunity to capture and explain what happened, to who, when, where and how. Isn't specialization great?

Historians generally agree that armed conflicts range from general unrest and rioting to all out revolutionary and civil war. The conflicts are regarded as revolutions when the overthrow of the established government is a possible, even if unlikely outcome of the conflict. If we compare the conflict in Iraq with other modern-era conflicts that historians recognize as civil war, it becomes clear that Iraq's conflict is not even close to being, or even becoming a civil war.

Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1991. The Lebanese Civil War was fought between Christian and Muslim militias, along with the involvement of Syria, Israel, The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Throughout much of the bloody conflict, each warring faction had control over significant portions of territory, with the Christians controlling the northwestern coastal regions, the Muslim/PLO factions controlling the southern coastal regions, and Syrian forces holding the eastern and northern regions. Territorial boundaries shifted regularly during the conflict through the 1970's and early 1980's, as did patterns of support from the various outside factions. The conflict was prolonged and bloody, with all sides suffering significant casualties during pitched battles. Each side had clearly defined systems of command and control of military forces. Each side had clearly identified political leaders, political infrastructure, and a measure of public support from part of the population. Most importantly, each side had the capacity (through internal or external means) to raise, train, equip and deploy military forces. The conflict ended in 1991, when the militias dissolved following several key engagements and political developments in 1990.

Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. The bloody Spanish Civil War devastated Spain and served as a testing ground for German military technology and tactics. The three-year conflict ended when the Nationalists overthrew the government and established a Nationalist Dictatorship under Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The atrocities of this conflict were among some of the worst in history (to be exceeded only by the Second World War). Widescale use of terror tactics, including bombings, assassinations, and the targeting and execution of religious and civil leaders. As in the Lebanese conflict, both sides controlled major geographic regions of the country and enjoyed the popular support of some segment of the Spanish population. The patterns of external support also show significant ideological characteristics, with leftists backing the "Republicanos" and right wing support of the Nationalists. Germany and Italy supported the Nationalists; The Soviet Union and, to an extent Mexico, supported the Republicanos. Both sides fielded significant armies that were well equipped, well trained and commanded effectively. Both sides had clear political leaders and clear lines of command and control over the military forces. There were tens of thousands of casualties caused by pitched battles of historical and strategic significance.

  • Do you see any similarities whatsoever between the current conflict in Iraq and two of the most studied civil wars in modern world history?
  • Who are the leaders of the insurgency?
  • What territories, or provinces, of Iraq are controlled by the insurgents?
  • What military capabilities do the insurgents have? Are they capable of fielding an army in battle?
  • What are the political objectives of the insurgents?
  • What level of popular support do the warring factions have?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The treachery of the American Left

These poor dolts are stuck between their own Scylla and Charybdis. On one hand, the American left finds it difficult as Americans to hope for failure in Iraq. No one who claims a shred of patriotism could ever sanely pray for U.S. defeat at the hands of a ragtag bunch of islamic extremists, whose stated goal is the annihilation of all things Western and all things American. Doing so is painful. It is so painful, they have already declared the counterinsurgency a failure:

"Now I believe myself that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). "Johnson did not want a war loss on his watch, so he surged in Vietnam. After the surge was over, we added 34,000 to the 24,000 who died in Vietnam."
Notwithstanding the sheer idiocy of comparing Iraq to Vietnam, such statements spare their owners the pain of having to hope for defeat.

Why do they hope for defeat?

Because hoping for a successful outcome in Iraq is a political anathema to them. To do so is to pray for the political success of the much hated George W. Bush and much more hated Dick Cheney, whom they allege is the mastermind. If America succeeds in Iraq, Bush leaves office as the President who brought democracy to both Iraq and Afganistan, giving the middle east two bastions of freedom for the first time in history of the region. It results in two peaceful, stable and productive allies of the United States. For Iraq, it would place a large chunk of the world's proven oil reserves in the hands of a friendly nation and represent a regional influence with which to check the radical islamists in Iran. Those would be historically significant developments for the United States and southwestern Asia. And, they would provide a formidable legacy for Mr. Bush.

But such developments would also cause serious damage to the Democrats' hope to regain the White House in 2008 and add to slender majorities in the US House and Senate. That is the overarching goal of the left's opposition to the war in Iraq. If they can damage Bush politically, they will damage the Republican Party candidates who hope to succeed him. Their best opportunity to damage Bush is to declare defeat in Iraq, bring the troops home in a hot retreat, and lay the blame for the ensuing chaos on Bush. Make no mistake about it--if we were to pull out of Iraq at any time over the next 2 to 5 years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will perish and radical islamists will swoop in like vultures and live on the carcasses.

Would the left would willingly sacrifice those lives and risk giving Al Qaeda a failed state to move into? Would they risk the safety of our allies and our citizens just to win an election? It looks like it, doesn't it?

Counterinsurgency 101

Welcome, class.

You are in Counterinsurgency 101. This is an introductory level course in the principles and implementation of a strategy to counteract insurgency. In this class, you will learn how to identify an insurgency, how to develop a plan to counteract that insurgency, how to defeat the insurgency, and how to leave the host nation in a position where it can keep its boots on the throats of the bad guys.

First and foremost, please understand this. When you are running the counterinsurgency (COIN), the insurgents are BAD GUYS. They are not "freedom fighters." They are not romanticized rebels. They are people whose sole intent is to destabilize a lawful government and either force concessions from that government or seize power.

If you do not agree that the insurgents in Iraq are BAD GUYS, then you are in the wrong class. You need to go see Ms. O'Donnell in Room 69, where she is teaching "Propaganda 205: Enabling Terrorists."

There are two books that you will need to read in order to pass this course. They are: Pacification in Algeria: 1956–1958, David Galula, and US Army Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, LTG David H. Petraeus. These two publications, collectively, now serve as the Pentagon's Bible on conducting COIN ops.

Ok, I'm not so arrogant that I believe I'm capable of lecturing anyone on how to conduct COIN. Truth be told, I would be a "B" student at best in courses taught by either Galula or Petraeus. General Petraeus, by the way, happens to be the theater commander for Multinational Force: Iraq. He is a scholar warrior, having earned a Ph.D from Princeton and having led a successful COIN operation in Northern Iraq. The Senior Civilian Advisor to MNF-Iraq is David Kilcullen. Read his blog post here.

There are five overarching requirements for successful COIN operations:

  • U.S. and Host Nation (HN) military commanders and the HN government together must devise the plan for attacking the insurgents’ strategy and focusing the collective effort to bolster or restore government legitimacy.
  • HN forces and other counterinsurgents must establish control of one or more areas from which to operate. HN forces must secure the people continuously within these areas.
  • Operations should be initiated from the HN government’s areas of strength against areas under insurgent control. The host nation must retain or regain control of the major population centers to stabilize the situation, secure the government’s support base, and maintain the government’slegitimacy.
  • Regaining control of insurgent areas requires the HN government to expand operations to secure and support the population. If the insurgents have established firm control of a region, their military apparatus there must be eliminated and their politico-administrative apparatus rooted out.
  • Information operations (IO) must be aggressively employed to accomplish the following:
  1. Favorably influence perceptions of HN legitimacy and capabilities.
  2. Obtain local, regional, and international support for COIN operations.
  3. Publicize insurgent violence.
  4. Discredit insurgent propaganda and provide a more compelling alternative to the insurgent ideology and narrative.
As you watch developments in Iraq over the next several months, watch how closely US operations follow this guidance.

We are not in the middle of a war in Iraq. The war is over. Our side won. Nor are we an occupying army in Iraq. Iraq is a sovereign state with a duly elected government. The government of Iraq is not opposing our presence in their country. Ergo, it is not an occupation. What we are engaged in is a classic counterinsurgency. The only question left to be resolved is whether the Scholar Warrior was brought on board too late.

First Post

Not that long ago, I didn't even know what the word "blog" meant. But I'm a quick study, so here I am, running headlong into this space called the "blogosphere." I sure hope I don't hit something.

In this space, you will see news, commentary links and analysis on matters that I think are important. On occasion, I'll share a review of a book that caught my interest long enough for me to finish it.

Right now, the most important issues facing Western Civilization are the ones wearing turbans and calling for global Jihad. It is the issue of our generation, and I wonder seriously if our society has grown too lazy and apathetic do deal with it.

I am not a tin foil hat wearer who sees a muslim conspiracy around every corner. I do not fear muslims. I fear radical islam. I say again: Muslims are not the problem. Islam's fundamentalist practioners are. I am convinced that they will not cease their calls for our heads until they are dead or the get the heads they want.

There are other important issues facing this country, and I will touch on them too as I develop my ideas and positions. A word of warning to the left: I am an irreconcilable conservative. I believe in strong national defense, lower taxes, smaller government, and promotion of strong family values. I see no government-controlled social welfare program that has a long term record of success that matches the same long term record of spending. The only parts of government that actually do a damned good job of what they are supposed to do arew the United States Coast Guard, the National Weather Service, and the National Park Service. I will take your nominations for others.

ABOUT ME: Well read, well educated upper middle class white male. Age 45 in August 2007. US Army, 1983-1987 (E-7, MOS 12B). "Alone, armed, unafraid." I paid for my own education, so I made the fucking thing count. It's amazing how you look at an investment when it's your money on the line, isn't it? Degrees in History, Economics and Engineering. Self taught guitar player (which means I suck). Six feet tall when I stretch, 180 lbs, brown hair, green eyes, a mischievous grin that melts. Mildly chauvinistic.

Now then. On with the show.