30 August 2007

The need for an editor...

Without sucking up to Jim Z too much, it's a darn good thing The Wargamer has a full-time, quality editor. Otherwise you end up with this:
"Even Saddam came along, the Sunni Arabs had dominated the area, that is now Iraq, for centuries. "
(From Intelligence: The Information Edge in Iraq)

25 August 2007

Comparing apples to applesauce

The State | 08/25/2007 | Democrats hedging their Iraq bets
Of course, they quickly add, as did Levin, that a political settlement has not yet been achieved and isn’t the Iraqi government just awful for taking an August vacation? This is said while Congress is on vacation.

Of course, the US Congress isn't trying to broker an equitable power-sharing peace between intractable warring ethnic groups whose limited security is only being provided by another country whose patience for their military casualties is beyond thin. The US Congress has time for vacation. Iraq's does not.

The full op-ed (for reference)

Saturday, Aug 25, 2007
Posted on Sat, Aug. 25, 2007
Democrats hedging their Iraq bets
Tribune Media Services
George Orwell, call your office. You can add to your list of opposites (“war is peace,” “ignorance is strength” and “freedom is slavery”) a new one. It is the emerging plan of congressional Democrats, joined by at least one Democratic presidential candidate: “Losing is winning.”
After years of embracing defeat and openly saying of Iraq “the war is lost” and “this surge is not accomplishing anything” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others), is that a light at the end of the Democrats’ dark tunnel?
Apparently hoping to head off a potentially positive report next month from the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, some leading Democrats are acknowledging that the surge of American troops is succeeding.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who recently returned from Iraq with Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican, says, “The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq... appear to have produced some credible and positive results.” Levin is by no means a neo-con, noting in a conference call with reporters that the purpose of the surge was to help produce a political settlement, which has not yet been achieved. Still, even acknowledging progress on the ground is a far cry from a spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said recently that Democratic leaders are “not willing to concede there are positive things to point to” in Iraq. That was less than a month ago, but some are willing to make such a concession now for the same reason they weren’t before: politics.
Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., voted against authorization for President Bush to invade Iraq. But he told the Olympian newspaper he is convinced the military needs more time in the region and that a hasty pullout would produce chaos that could only help Iran and damage U.S. security. Baird, too, recently returned from a visit to the region, including Iraq.
Even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who can’t afford to be on the wrong side of victory no matter how far away it might seem, acknowledges the troop surge is producing results. So does Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. Of course, they quickly add, as did Levin, that a political settlement has not yet been achieved and isn’t the Iraqi government just awful for taking an August vacation? This is said while Congress is on vacation. In politics and with vacations, this is known as trying to have it both ways so that no matter how things turn out, Democrats can claim they were on the right side all along.
Yes, says Sen. Clinton, the surge is “working,” but according to her it is coming “too late” and so it’s time to bring the troops home. If one suffers from terminal cancer and a last-ditch effort is made with experimental drugs to save the patient’s life, would a responsible physician give up and declare the situation hopeless, even as the drugs show progress fighting the disease?
All of Iraq’s political leaders are not on vacation. The Bush administration says Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other members of the elected government are negotiating a political settlement that would be acceptable to all sides. In his weekly radio address last Saturday, President Bush predicted political progress at the local level that will help end the national stalemate. I know he once said, “mission accomplished” when it wasn’t. But the window for measuring accomplishment this time is a lot narrower.
Democrats at last appear to have a war strategy. It is to snatch victory from the jaws of victory, even after claiming lack of progress and forecasting defeat for at least the last three years. Before the Internet, talk radio, cable TV and the bloggers, they might have been able to get away with it, but Democrats have painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape.
If Bush administration policies produce a political settlement and a sustained decline in violence, Democrats won’t be able to claim they favored victory all along. If violence increases and there is no political settlement, Democrats will be left to win the war and the peace on their own, should they win the White House and maintain their congressional majority.
Embracing victory, however reluctantly, is a risky gamble for their party, but what other choice do they have?
Write to Mr. Thomas c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207.

21 August 2007

A very important voice from Iraq - the soldiers

The War as We Saw It - New York Times
The War as We Saw It


VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

13 August 2007

And you know this... how?

Leadership: The Taliban Ducks and Decentralizes
There are now four official Taliban spokesmen, all using the same name. That's mainly to confuse the counter-terror forces chasing them. The mass media don't care who briefs them, as long as it's headline worthy stuff.

So whaddaya think? Did StrategyPage actually ask anyone in the media if they care who briefs them? Did they investigate the briefings by attending them and seeing who's briefing, and who the audience is? Do you think SP ever talked to anyone in the media to see what their perspective is?

Of course not. You know better.

03 August 2007


Suspect burned in Glasgow airport attack dies - Yahoo! News
An Indian man who took part in a suspected bomb plot in Britain has died in hospital after suffering horrific burns in a botched attack on a Scottish airport nearly five weeks ago, police said on Friday.

02 August 2007

Good article on wargaming

Good for the links as well as the article itself.

Scratchpad - A Farewell to Hexes