Sunday, August 28, 2005

Time After Time

A number of readers have linked to Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.'s How To Win In Iraq in Foreign Affairs, in which he puts forward a number of metrics which he claims are not being used by current strategists. 

Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress. Senior political and military leaders have thus repeatedly made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations. ... To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. ... Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present.

David Brooks takes up the Krepinevich theme in the New York Times and suggests that policymakers at least consider the possibility that he may have some points to offer. 

Krepinevich calls the approach the oil-spot strategy. The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

Krepinevich cites Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Templer's successful counterinsurgency campaign in the Malayan Emergency of how to conduct an "oil spot" strategy. There are many valuable lessons to be found in the Malayan Emergency, but also a few things differences with Iraq which deserve highlighting. Some of the most important are the following:

First, the British strategy took a long time to get things right: the Emergency ran a dozen years from 1948 to 1960. This despite the fact that the British enjoyed certain implicit advantages that Americans lack, which enabled them to shorten the duration. The British as the former colonial power of Malaya had literally tens of thousands of Britons who knew the language and culture of the country and had a pre-existing intelligence network. In contrast, Iraq was dominated by a Baathist regime for decades. It is they who have the pre-existing intelligence network.

Second, the enemy in Malaya were a relatively small, visible ethnic Chinese minority without a cross-border sanctuary in a supportive state. The tension between the ethnic Chinese and the Muslim Malays were such that it contributed to the formation of the Republic of Singapore  in 1963. In Iraq, the Sunni triangle, without the borders can be conceived as an extension of Syria abutting upon Shi'ite and Kurdish areas. The insurgency is occurring primarily within the Shi'ite area, where they are the majority.

Third, the international context of the Malayan emergency was the Cold War. There was widespread support, especially in the early 1950s for a confrontation with Communism, especially following the Berlin crisis and the invasion of South Korea. Europe, facing a Soviet enemy at its doorstep rose more readily to the challenge than today. Today it is psychologically confident in its security, never mind that this security is not of its own making and maintenance.

One campaign which more nearly paralleled the Malayan insurgency was the Huk insurgency in the Philippines. Although the enemy was ethnically indistinguishable from the population (which should have made them harder to fight), the US had the same familiarity with local culture than the British had, notwithstanding the fact that it had been in American possession for much less than than Malaya had been under the Brits. The US and Philippine governments beat the Huks handily, a task the Japanese Imperial Army had never been able to achieve during the Pacific War. The Japanese were operating in about the same time frame and US is in Iraq and with the same handicaps as to culture.

But the central problem, of course, is that America has lost the battle for time in the Global War on Terror. It has implicitly conceded, both to its domestic and international constituencies, the unacceptability of prolonging the process for more a few more years. In short, it has taken Krepinevich's scenario, if ever it were valid, off the table. To be fair, part of the blame must lie with the Bush administration itself, which implied that the process of defeating the enemy was shorter than it was. But if George Bush did not manage public expectations, his opponents certainly did. By repeatedly raising the specter of Vietnam, they implicitly engendered the counterassertion that all post-Vietnam American overseas commitments had to be casualty-free and of short duration. For example in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, delays of a few days are described by newspapers as major setbacks. I wonder what Templer would have thought of that.


Blogger kosumi said...

Uhm -- haven't we been creating 'safe-havens' in Iraq for 15yrs now? To me it seems that we've created the safe-havens so well that everyone has forgotten about them.

Can you imagine what our condition in Iraq would be if violence weren't limited in geographic scope? And if there weren't huge majorities of people who were freer to pursue their futures than they were a few years ago?

8/28/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger kosumi said...

Uhm -- haven't we been creating 'safe-havens' in Iraq for 15yrs now? To me it seems that we've created the safe-havens so well that everyone has forgotten about them.

Can you imagine what our condition in Iraq would be if violence weren't limited in geographic scope? And if there weren't huge majorities of people who were freer to pursue their futures than they were a few years ago?

8/28/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

We helped create a 'safe haven' in the Kurdish region. It was years in the making. Enforcement of the No-Fly Zone kept Saddam from using his rotary aircraft in the Kurdish Zone.
The Shiites in the South had no such luck. We agitated for Revolution and when it occurred, left them holding the bag. Rest assured THEY remember.

The challenge ahead is an almost preordained draw down in troop strength deployments to Iraq, starting in the Spring of '06. What tactical strategy can be developed that allows for the Political Practicalities of demanded by the American public?

Less troops, better performance.

8/28/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...


The US Marines adopted the Malaysia strategy of the British in Vietnam, creating "Combined Action Platoons" that operated independently with the Vietnamese locals in fighting the Viet Cong. It was very successful, but was ultimately not adopted for use over the entirety of the country. One of the high-level innovators of this technique was LtGen Vic "the Brute" Krulak, who tried to convince Lyndon Johnson of its efficacy. you can read about his experience in his book "First to Fight."

On the junior officer level, F.J. "Bing" West was one of the platoon commanders, living among the Vietnamese for a year. His text about this experience is "The Village." West has been in the news more frequently for co-writing "The March Up" about the invasion of Iraq, and a new work about Fallujah which has yet to be released.

Before the 1st Marine Division redeployed to Iraq in spring of 2004, I attended a briefing at the MEF headquarters by a retired colonel who had worked in the CAP program. A member of the audience asked him, "Our leadership is saying that our infantry battalions, in their upcoming deployment to the Sunni triangle, will have to be 'CAP battalions.' is this the correct way to conceive of such a program?" In a nutshell, the colonel, while being respectful of the leadership who had made such characterizations (i.e. General Mattis), said no. He said that the key to the CAP program had been fewer Marines, not too many. An entire infantry battalion inserting itself into one of the Sunni villages would not get the job done.

I think the US is likely executing something similar to Krepinevich's proposal, but rather than using a US-pure force, they are hanging their hats on lots of Iraqi participation. Whether we'll be successful remains to be seen.

8/28/2005 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...

Here's more on the CAP program:

8/28/2005 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

The point made in the FA article noting that we currently have "no good way to gauge progress" is one that is also noted here in the Weekly Standard.

Two years ago Rumsfeld identified this as a problematic issue, so it's not like it has snuck up on the Bush administration.

Many of Iraq's provinces are doing well. About five are not. Is that progress? What if the majority become slightly less stable but one or two of the five improve significantly?

One measure would seem to be how effective the Iraqi Army is in putting down the insurgency and how much the US Army trusts them to do on their own.

Solid data is hard to come by on these subjects.

8/28/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

I'm pretty sure the "Oil Spot Strategy" or some derivation is being used. The vast majority of the forces were focused on the largest cities, while running "disrupting" activity on the outliers. The last General Myers press briefing noted 1/3rd of Baghdad now in Iraqi control.
(TF Baghdad turned over 13 FOB's so far this year).

TF Freedom was pretty much focused on Mosul in February and now has troops as far south as the Al Anbar province.

TF Danger moved a full brigade out of FOB Dagger in Tikrit.

II MEU was focused on Fallujah and is now has moved West of Ramadi with "disruption" activities all the way to the Syrian border.

The idea that a "perfect" safe haven can be created in a city of 7 million when the enemy is quite happy to die in the effort is a bit of a stretch.

8/28/2005 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Wretchard, didn't you mean Sunni areas in this graf? The insurgency is occurring primarily within the Shi'ite area, where they are the majority.

Great post, as usual. My liberal friends have already been forwarding me the Brooks article. This proves we are losing.

Of course, they want us out quick, the idea that they care about any strategy, winning, losing or other, is as silly as their sudden reverence for the CIA in the Plame grift.

Great posts, Chester. Thanks.

8/28/2005 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

I agree that the coalition in Iraq is attempting to use a similar strategy as in the FA article, but using indigenous security forces. The positive impact of a successful modernisation of even a part of the arab world, will be measured in centuries if not millenia. This is a very long term benefit. You cannot judge its worth using a day to day blow by blow account.

8/28/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

The Economist has an excellent article in this month's addition (August '05) about the paradigmatic similarities between anarchism and jihadism. From it we get this little gem: In 1876 Errico Malatesta wrote, "The insurrectionary deed, destined to affirm socialist principles by acts, is the most efficacious means of propaganda." In other words, the best propaganda is propaganda by deed. (Malatesta can be forgiven his failed prognostication because his central insight is correct. Nothing beats communication through deed.)

I bring this point up because I think it strengthens the argument for the "oil-spot strategy," in which the key to delivering an ultimate Coalition victory in Iraq depends on deed, and result.

In the past year and a half a large part of the war debate has centered around jihadi-created propaganda, with the Left swallowing them and the Right diminishing them. With Krepinevich's article, the reason for MSM's "obsession" with the insurgency--at the expense of attention to reconstruction--is made intellectually clear. The propaganda-by-attack delivered by the Jihadis has been more effective because the terrorists know better than we do where the centers of gravity are in this conflict, and they have grown efficient in attacking them.

But propaganda-by-deed is, as a proposition, neutral. We implicitly acknowledge this when we talk about fighting for "hearts and minds," but it needs to be more fully digested if we hope to defeat the Iraqi insurgency. If the centers of gravity in the Iraq war are the Iraqi people, the American people, and the American military, propaganda by deed should be our modus operandi and frame-work as we go forward. In such a conflict, persuasion is the only weapon. We must create facts on the ground that speak for themselves.

The problem, therefore, is twofold: first, barbarous acts are by nature more saturated with propaganda value than political acts, so setting up a Government is at best of secondary order on the continuum of communicative efficacy, at least when compared to terrorism (which is why terrorism is such a successful tactic). Secondly, the propaganda of terrorism is doubled in value when it is disseminated to outside observers who, because of media limitations, receive a truncated accounting of facts on the ground.

Security is, by definition, the negation of terrorist propaganda because it is the negation of terrorist acts, so we must pursue it as our primary objective. If we settle for setting up a Government as our propaganda response to the insurgency, we will always be behind the curve and the insurgency will remain. However, if we shore up our political track with an oil-spot security track, we should be able to marginalize and ultimately defeat an otherwise unexceptional insurgency.

That is how you win the Iraqi people. Winning the American people, and augmenting the American military, is both more simple and more complex. As Krepinevich points out, our three centers of gravity in this conflict often have competing and conflicting interests, so we must proceed assiduously.

Because Americans are receiving representations of events instead of events themselves, the obvious implication is that terrorist propaganda-by-deed is vulnerable in the same way it is strong. Because its effect is dependent on context and spin, context and spin can defeat it.

So once again the call goes out to our President to fill the role of Communicator in Chief, and the American people, at least those who want to see Iraq succeed, wait hopefully for signs of life from the Administration.

Terrorist attacks were designed for delivery by the New York Times, which is why the Times's willing coverage is so frustrating. But I don't see the editorial board finding enlightenment any time soon, so we must look above the old media institutions to find context and purpose.

Only the President can communicate the nature, necessity, and nobility of our efforts in Iraq. Here's hoping he figures it out in time.

8/28/2005 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Andrew F. Krepinevich oil spot idea is good but, I suspect it already being implemented. Also, I note Krepinevich does a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. When you take all of his ideas as a whole then read page 7 (risks associated with his ideas) one gets the feeling he is defeating his own work - or trying to straddle both sides of the street.

Chester's post indicates that CAP idea was discussed well in advance. And, I agree that we are using more Iraqis for oil infrastructure defense (be that good, bad, or in between).

Rumsfeld had also indicated that total troop profile is important (i.e., not to large to become a lumbering target - but, not too small). Which seems logical given our technical superiority.

Keith notes, Rumsfeld did ask for better metrics to gauge the progress of our mission. I seem to recall Rumsfeld specifically asking that during Afghanistan. It's a tough question. Terrorism crosses boarders and maybe be linked to state sponsors. Terrorist change sides. Terrorists are smart. They learn to game the legal system and constantly try to exploit our weaknesses (that includes the left wing MSM). Even in the very surveillance conscious UK terrorists were able to strike.

I think the reason why Iraqi is so difficult to control is its vast oil wealth. There are just too many opportunistic factions (including religious factions) wanting a cut of the pie - or the whole pie itself. Sure, things could be better. Given the wealth attraction, it's a wonder that things have gone so well up to this point.

I am begining to wonder if the American public is focused too much on the micro ups-and downs of the war (sure we are angry when a fine officer such as Kurilla is injured because of some stupid Iraqi judge's decision to release a terrorists). I know that there were huge ups and downs during WWI, WWII, Korea, and other wars. I wonder is were are reacting in the same fashion as our peers.

8/28/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If the Kurilla affair did not represent a trend toward ever more micro and macro screwing of the military, it would be forgivable.
It does, IMO.

8/28/2005 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

After 9-11 we were able to look down our collective noses at the legalistic knots of the Clinton WOT.
How can we honestly do that now?

8/28/2005 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Thanks for reminding me about UK.
Even when they shot the wrong guy the outcry was not too great.
If they had shot a Subway Bomber trying to get away there would have been applause.

Yet our troops are supposed to read Miranda at Insurgieterrorists before frowning at them.

8/28/2005 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

And why can our unmanned UAV's bomb fleeing terrorists, but troops cannot?

8/28/2005 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I guess KNOWN murderers and child mutilators should never be pursued with deadly force in the USA?

8/28/2005 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

The New Bin Laden?:

Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, was rumored to be gravely injured or dead just a few months ago. Since then, his organization is believed to have been behind barbaric attacks in Iraq and has even claimed responsibility for a failed rocket assault on a U.S. ship in the Red Sea. It's hard to separate the man from the mythology, but recent European intelligence reports reviewed by TIME suggest that al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda franchise is expanding far beyond Iraq and that he now rivals Osama bin Laden in influence among Middle Eastern and European jihadists.

8/28/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Who put Buddy's picture up there?

8/28/2005 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

The cool one put it up. Looks like he's lost a little weight.

8/28/2005 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Sunnis Reject Iraq's New Constitution:

For Khansaa Dawoud, 62, a Shiite, the main concern was the government's inability to provide basic services such as water and electricity. She said the document will divide Iraq.

"Thank God few Iraqis have electricity to watch the nonsense," she said.

8/28/2005 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

OT, live satellite of Katrina:

8/28/2005 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger david bennett said...

> For example in the drafting of the >Iraqi constitution, delays of a few days are described by newspapers as >major setbacks. I wonder what Templer >would have thought of that.

Delays of a few days were treated by the *administration* as major setbacks. It was our ambassador who interfered and then stormed out after the first one week delay.

As for the willingness of the American people to endure costs, studies indicate that they are willing if they can sense accomplishment. It is the sense of muddlement and also the "this is going to be so easy" and then "it's pretty much accomplished" that people such as youself pushed. For example you claimed the insurgents were defeated over 2 years ago and claimed them incapable of guerrilla warfare.

Obviously promises that don't come true disillusion.

The idea that we somehow win if you are able to mantain good public relationships among a fraction of the population that is willing to believe that it's all the fault of the media or the press and that in fact things are wonderful by the standards they declared 2 1/2 years ago is to confuse an important event of history with domestic politics.

It don't work that way. A coherant and workable plan needs to be proposed and applied. This will most likely rebuild a guarded support among the American people. Blaming the liberals is not a coherant plan.

8/28/2005 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

My fight against terror

We will continue to welcome as well those, of all backgrounds, who visit our country from abroad in peace and who understand that the respect and tolerance toward others in which we believe is the surest guarantee of freedom and progress for people of all religious faiths.

But coming to Britain is not a right, and even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values of freedom and tolerance that sustain our shared way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people have no place here. On this principle, people of all faiths in Britain are agreed. And it is my job to act on it.

8/28/2005 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger MarkR said...

"To be fair, part of the blame must lie with the Bush administration itself, which implied that the process of defeating the enemy was shorter than it was."

I think you'll find that Bush made clear in his speeches to the nation that this would be a long war.

"Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch -- yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch." Bush Jan 29, 2002 State of the Union.

"Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen." Bush Address to joint session of Congress.

8/28/2005 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger MarkR said...

"To be fair, part of the blame must lie with the Bush administration itself, which implied that the process of defeating the enemy was shorter than it was."

I think you'll find that Bush made clear in his speeches to the nation that this would be a long war.

"Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch -- yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch." Bush Jan 29, 2002 State of the Union.

"Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen." Bush Address to joint session of Congress.

8/28/2005 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

TV President, Activist Join Peace Mom Demonstration:

Actor Martin Sheen and the Rev. Al Sharpton have joined hundreds of war protesters camping near President George W. Bush's ranch.

Sharpton attended an interfaith service. He said he felt compelled to meet Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who started the rally Aug. 6. She's said she'll remain until she can question the president about the more than 1,800 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, including her son.

8/28/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Wretchard, your typing and and double wording and other minor mistrakes may be a sign that you might subconsciously disagree with the major thrust... Sir.

8/28/2005 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...


I think you are getting some comment spam. I'm sure you've noticed. FYI: somehow the spammers have gotten a leg up recently. I've gotten about 6000 trackback and comment spams over the past month. Good luck.

8/28/2005 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Our UAV's can bomb fleeing terrorists?

Seems to me I recall hearing a story where the JAG lawyers blocked a shot at Mullah Omar.

We are really hearing a lot of stories about lawyers getting in the way of things. It is all beginning to make me believe in conspiracies.

8/28/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

The problem with the oil-spot theory is that you are not bringing it to the cells - and when they have more time to organize they will be more effective. Then they will send the bombs into the cities you claim are already in the oil spot.

I just can't see it being effective beyond what's being done now...

As for "The Village" and CAP, we could be doing more like this by inserting mixed units right into the local areas...but I think we'd need more forces. Also, I'm not sure how to apply it to a city as opposed to a village.

8/28/2005 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What is a conspiracy against the United States to you is a fight for justice to an ACLU Lawyer.

8/28/2005 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Needed in Iraq -- Results, not cut-and-run:

We shouldn't ignore the polls or blame them on war fatigue. Americans are saying loud and clear that, while they don't favor an immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq -- that position was embraced by only about a third of respondents -- they are fed up with the lack of a clear policy objective, let alone any sense that the objective is being met. They don't want to cut and run, but they do want results.

If that sounds like where you're coming from, then join the club.

8/28/2005 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...


I hear you. The Kurilla affair highlights a major problem with Iraqi judges returning captured terrorists to the battle field. In the previous thread I suggested we get tough with these judges (or panels of judges) using all levers. We may even have to play dirty. The "Catch and Release" system has morphed into a major liability to our troops. The Iraqi adjudication of terrorists does not work. I say fix it and move forward.

The UK had its own 9/11 but the public reaction seemed more retrained and realistic. Even when the police shot the wrong man the public did not throw a hissy fit (I am sure if that happened in the USA the MSM would on in an uproar with charges of Hitlerism and with the ACLU filing lawsuits and demanding congressional investigations).

Further, we have a real war involving real enemies in a real oil rich nation. Thus, we must expect our enemies will try every trick in the book to defeat us (and these enemies could be state sponsored with vast economic resources). If we can't secure the main road to the Baghdad Airport because of proxy fighters from Syria or Iran - then make sure the equivalent road in Syria or Iran can't be secured either (what's good for the goose is good for the gander).

This war is every bit as dangerous as WWII and maybe we need Gen. Patton style of figure to energize our efforts. But, this war is much different than WWII so the Gen. Patton "style" must be adjusted to the current situation. I would not mind seeing an accident at one of Syria's terror training facilities (or instability in our enemy's own backyard).

My main point in my previous post was to retain a sense of balance in this war. I wonder are we reacting in the same fashion as our peers in WWII? Or, are we over reacting? I am sure Wretchard or some other historical expert could find equivalent situation in WWI, WWII, and Korea - yet the public was probably not as hypersensitive to the those situations.

I really think shotgun criticism of the Administration is unwarranted. War is filled with unknown variables which lead to mistakes. Yes, there are setbacks such as the new Iraqi Constitution. But remember TAL will be a default remedy - which could be better than a poorly constructed Constitution (a blessing in disguise). If you are going to critique the Administration or the Military then present a solution. On the positive side, if you step back survey the Iraq war there are more accomplishments than mistakes.

8/28/2005 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

BTW, I recommed "The Village" by bing West, too. He also has a cool militray thriller called The Pepperdogs which was interesting as well.

8/28/2005 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

red a,
One hope is when Iraqi forces take over more of the job, the insurgies bag of tricks will be diminished as they are no longer able to take advantage of all the KNOWN (and some unknown as yet to us) constraints put on our troops.
Harder to make someone look foolish when doesn't have an arm and a leg tied behind his back.
...and if the Iraqis call in Airstrikes when we would have held back, who are we to judge, right?
If we had 40 Michael Yons over there we sure would have a better read of the situation.
...some of my biggest concerns are things Vincent brought to our attention, but he was silenced by the very forces causing concern.

8/28/2005 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

My only shotgun style criticism has been at legal/PC constraints, not overall prosecution.
As to history, Rush has been good at coming up w/examples from MSM in the past (Time, Life, NY Times) of alarmism being the NORM in the past as now.
...that doesn't mean the left has not become more insane in the meantime, same for the ignorant anti-Americans in the press.

8/28/2005 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...


This is assuming that a gloves-off approach by the Iraqis would not lead to excessive force and alienation of Sunnis (and thus play into the hands of the insurgents.)

It's a tricky balance.

I'd still push hard for an oil trust...nothing like getting a check in the mail every month to inspire loyalty to the government. I bet the guys who plant IEDs for money would be a lot less likely to do so, at least around "payday."

and of course, I would deny checks to areas where it was not safe to deliver them...a perfect carrot and stick.

if you check out , he has a chart of attacks on oil infrastructure which shows it is far down.

8/28/2005 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

...and like you, I have NO idea why we have not had a more agressive tit for tat response to Syria and Iran.
Seems like air power would put a nice exclamation point at the end of a request to quit giving aid and comfort!

8/28/2005 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Red A,
Agree on the oil checks, but I guess they'd have to pry the money away from the politicians first!
I'll check out the pundit.

8/28/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It occured to me today how much I would enjoy a Review of
"The Great Raid" by you.
Perhaps others would too.

8/28/2005 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

I just read somewhere that 150 or so insurgents come from Syria every week or month...I can't recall the exact time period.

I'm not sure if that's enough to really start bombing Syria, since I could see that many people getting through even if Syria was serious about stopping them. I think our country also knows about desert borders and how it's tough to monitor them.

A mildy annoying Syria might be much better than a full-on aggro Syria shipping 1,000 shaped charged IED a week...or whatever.

8/28/2005 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Eight Months of Steep Decline of Attacks on Oil Infrastructure.

8/28/2005 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If you expand that graph you can actually read it!

8/28/2005 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Bush plays down objections:

US President George W. Bush has played down Sunni Arab objections to Iraq's draft constitution, which President Jalal Talabani said was ready for an October 15 referendum.

"The draft constitution is ready and will be presented to the Iraqi people, who are known for their intelligence, to give their verdict on October 15," Mr Talabani said at a ceremony to mark the end of the drafting process today.,5936,16421356%255E401,00.html

8/28/2005 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger gbaikie said...

"Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement."

Good idea, but I think we could start in LA, after this New York. Meanwhile maybe Brits could focus on London.
I heard this idea earlier:

To some extent this is already being done, but I think Iraqis and Iraqi police are going to be the only ones that could bring this about. Basically it suggesting a form of defensive tactic, and I think being on the offensive, going after ratlines and hitting the terrorists when try organize in the area is a better plan

8/29/2005 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

A Tale of Two Tribes .
The battle for control over the Syrian border region in the vicinity of Qaim continues. Jack Kelly points us to a press release from the Marine Corps on an airstrike on an al Qaeda safehouse in the contested town of Husaybah.

The fact that terrorists are operating in Husaybah is no surprise, and neither should the fact that the residents of Husaybah were critical in pointing out the location of the terrorist.

8/29/2005 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger Rick Ballard said...

Ledger - 11:15,

Interesting points. Even in raising issues you restate one jihadi/profascist point due to its constant reiteration here. The Airport Road is a symbol - it was targeted by the terrorists right from the beginning as an area that would draw attention and it has. Let us assume that entry to the road was through checkpoint only, in order to maintain the "Road of Deathe" meme, all that is required is a suicider to drive up to the checkpoint and turn himself into a splodeydope. The terrorists get their "unable to secure" headline at a low cost and the "all is lost" crowd has something to wail about.

We had a brighter press, perhaps, in WWII. A press that might actually have been on our side and were intelligent enough to recognize enemy propaganda and not pass it on without note.

The missing metrics in the current situation are those mentioned by Desert Rat previously - how many new Iraqi units are coming into use every month, how are they doing, and how much territory are they taking under their care and control. Turnovers of responsibility are occuring but we don't know the pace, nor do we know how "successful" the turnovers have been. Is that a "communiaction failure" on the part of central command or is it part of operational security? If an announcement is made that "neighorhood X" is under the responsibility of Iraqi forces does it not make "neighborhood X" a prime target for terrorists wishing to make the Iraqi forces look incompetent? While I really would like to know where and how the Iraqi forces are performing I can see some merit in not focusing too much attention on it. How many casualties are they taking - and how are the casualties being inflicted? For a while the terrorists were focusing their efforts against Iraqi forces signing up for duty. I haven't seen that as much lately. I also haven't seen many reports of Iraqi forces being hit by IEDs or VBIEDs - are the terrorists focusing on US forces for the propaganda or are those types of attacks against Iraqi forces simply not being reported?

Finally, wrt Iraqi judges - some are undoubtedly being suborned but that is to be expected. When Escobar was making his famous "plato o pombo" offer to the Columbian judges, how many of them refused? I hate the idea of "catch and release" and I would prefer that we saved time and effort by dramatically reducing the number of prisoners taken but I understand that playing the Deguello before every US mission might have a negative impact on the publics perception of their efforts. We have to continue taking prisoners. Do the Iraqi forces? If they don't, do we really want that fact publicized?

8/29/2005 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I would think that the folks on the ground know who patrols the streets. The "Secrecy" applies to our Public, not the Insurgents, they're there and in the know.

This article from WSJ concerns Mr. Chalabi. It is VERY informitive about Oil Infratructure Security. All agree it has improved, Chalabi is the reason, according to WSJ.

Well worth the time
Chilabi kickin ass

"... "Very personally courageous," "not afraid to make decisions," and a "hugely important figure in Iraq" are among the phrases I heard U.S. officers apply to him during two weeks I spent in the country earlier this month. Another sums up the stakes thus: "Chalabi is there to talk about protecting strategic infrastructure so they can sell oil so they can fund their own security-force development."

He's referring to the fact that Mr. Chalabi has assumed special responsibility for oil and infrastructure security--a role in which he is widely recognized to be making major improvements on the abysmal performance of L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority and Ayad Allawi's interim government. I watch him in action firsthand shortly after my arrival, chairing a meeting of the Energy Committee he helped create. He suggests that the electrical grid be mapped with GPS, since after a recent attack it took three days to locate the damage. The issue is quickly resolved, as a water ministry official informs the room that such data already exists and that the problem is merely information-sharing. Then Mr. Chalabi offers a gentle reprimand to the Iraqi Army's deputy chief of staff for continued reliance on a local infrastructure protection battalion that has repeatedly failed. What's more important, he asks, keeping some tribal sheikh happy or keeping the lights on in Baghdad? ..."

8/29/2005 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Rick Ballard said...

Desert Rat,

You're absolutely correct about the terrorists knowing who is operating in what area. The point is that they are fighting a propaganda battle - not a tactical battle for territorial control.

They know damn well that their only hope in the world is the MSM repeating silly memes in the hopes that "public opinion" might force a policy change. Idiots like Hagel and some of the Dem losers pump the memes and give the MSM even more fuel. Scott Johnson does a nice job in the Weekly Standard of identifying the current crop of press losers.

I simply do not see the benefit of playing the propaganda game on terrorist terms. The new constitution is going to the voters in October (I hope it is rejected) and should it pass there will be a new, fully authentic Iraqi government elected in January. At that point, as far as I'm concerned, we need to begin withdrawal down to the six brigade level - whether the Iraqis think that they are ready or not.

8/29/2005 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

The whole "safe haven" premise is flawed; the terrorists will obviously attack where the safe havens aren't. I am surprised no one has commented on that yet. You can't make the entire city of Baghdad a "safe haven"; they'll just pick the coffee shop a block away to blow up. Clearly the best strategy is to try and attack the terrorists where they live/train and keep them off balance.

8/29/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I agree with exhelodrvr and others who recognize the weakness of the "oil-spot strategy"- it works both ways. Everything that is not a "safe haven" for friends and allies is a "safe haven" for the enemy. This seems to be a throwback to times when the enemy could be expected to assault or defend lines of battle, with the lines simply surrounding the cities and growing ever-outwards. But outside those regions the enemy has free reign to recruit, organize, build, and prosecute terror upon the unprotected locals, who will then have no choice but to condone or support the actions of the enemy under threat of death or worse. The overall effect is to strengthen the enemy and increase his efficacy in the unprotected areas. No, they must be hunted down; there is, after all, merit to the adage of "the best defense".

8/29/2005 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Marshall said...

I haven't read Krepinevich's book but I did read and respond to David Brook's enthusiastic endorsement of it in his OP-Ed piece in today's New York Times.

I wrote to David:

Dear Mr. Brooks,

RE: Pouring Oil on Troubled Sands

I enjoy reading your work and watching you on PBS. But this time I think you're wildly off-base.

You've presented a proposed strategy and then claimed it's different than what we're now employing -- despite statements to the contrary by "US officials" (you wrote: If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. ). Then you discount their assertions by observing that (in your opinion) if they had, the road between Baghdad and its airport would be 100% secure.

To use your own analogy, it would take one helluva lot of oil to cover the population of Baghdad -- more men and materials than we have or could assemble without what amounts to a national mobilization. It's an absurd comparison. As Donald Rumsfeld has famously observed, "You go to war with the army you have -- not the army you'd like to have."

That leads to my second criticism of your essay. You wrote, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

1. That's a cheap shot at Donald Rumsfeld. I hope you haven't joined the chorus of his critics -- you're smarter than that. Rumsfeld, at the President's orders, took the army that we have to Iraq to defeat Saddam. We do not have millions of men in uniform. The army we have is the army that was deliberately downsized over the previous decade. Yes, Rumsfeld wants to reorganize our military and he has his own theories (to which I subscribe) as to how to accomplish this, theories which were in fact formulated by the military think tanks -- and not spun of whole cloth by Mr. Rumsfeld. The military plans for the conquest of Iraq were in fact formulated during the Clinton Administration. Rummy just had them dusted off and updated. The theories at which you cast aspersions played no part in this war.

2. If we had more troops in Iraq we'd be experiencing more casualties than we are now. Most of the successful attacks by the terrorists are against supply convoys. We have a tooth-to-tail ratio (combat troops vs. support personnel) of something like 1-12. Having placed more men in Iraq would have occasioned even more hand-wringing over American troop losses than we're seeing now. And the only chance we have of losing the peace in Iraq (the war was won years ago) is if the American public can be persuaded that Iraq's cause is hopeless. Thus, more troops as targets leading to more American casualties would only exacerbate that threat.

3. The U.S. officials you cite (don't you hate it when reporters and columnists use anonymous sources -- one of the best things about John Tierney is his footnoting of his essays with working URL's) speak the truth. We are doing exactly as you suggest. The disconnect between what you are willing to see and what you've been told is that the additional troop strength is being supplied by the Iraqis. They are taking over the fight (they must, if they are to survive against tyranny). The mistake you make is that you assume this strategy must be pursued by America. It cannot be and will not be. This is Iraq's fight.

You need to be strong, David. Don't go wobbly on us.

8/29/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Safe havens without securing the borders smacks of the pacification programs in Viet Nam.All the villagers in certain areas were brought down from the highlands to the coastal planes ,placed in 'stategic hamlets'.Meanwhile areas like the A Shau and northern I Corps were increasingly ceded to the NVA.As American troops were withdrawn and commanders became casualty and risk averse the border regions became defacto parts of the communist nation.It proved a recipe for disaster as in 1975,the well prepared NVA offensive quickly became a juggernaut.
I don't think this war will succeed without crushing the opposition in western Iraq even if it means a little spillover into Syria.It may also mean dropping the hammer on Sadr.
If we hide in enclaves until we can strategically withdraw without clear military victory,then disaster will almost surely follow.
I read the names of three guys who were KIA by IED in a place on the ratlines.They were two special ops guys and a Ranger manning a position.Wouldn't these guys be better served and used chasing bad guys into Syria than being sitting ducks for an unpursued enemy?

8/29/2005 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger radagast said...

I think that's what we are doing. Tak a look at the map of Iraq. Plot the locations operations we were doing a year ago. Then plot the operations we were diong 6 mo ago. Finally plot the operations we are doing now. Seems to me the area we are running active offensive operations in have moved north north from the south, south from the north and west from the east. The oil spot that is the area of enemy operations seems to be shrinking or am I just imagining thins?

8/29/2005 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

One ironic thing about the Malayan states emergency was that immediately afterwards, in 1961, the British had to send troops to Kuwait, which was under imminent threat of invasion from Karim Kasim's Iraq.

8/29/2005 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

what you are seeing is our movements, as we flood thru an area, much like a wave, we can cleanse it of Combatants.
Without a Constabulary Force to take possesion of the Cleared AO the Insurgents just filter back into the local populations, of which they are a integral part.

We could move in an even greater uptempo way, after the Elections, even as a gradual withdrawal of US troops began, in the Spring of '06. The ISF will have the responsibility for maintaince.
There will have to be a transfer of US logistic capacity to the ISF as US capability decreases and centralizes, incountry.

8/30/2005 09:47:00 AM  

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