Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You learn and forget it all again

David Ignatius argues, after a visit to Teheran, that Iranian militants are mostly over 40, and that if the current generation is given no cause to hate America, hostility will ebb away. That seems reasonable. Now what capabilities would America need to affect Iran without actually invading it? A clue might be found in this article from SFGate: 911: FIVE YEARS LATER Military transformed -- better gear, new goals. It states the obvious, but often ignored fact, that the current US military is no longer the force it was in 2003. It is better.


Probably the most significant change is in the mission of the military. For decades, the primary focus of all branches of the military was preparing for a major land war in Europe or Asia. Now, it's all about little wars. The key phrase is "counterinsurgency on." But nothing changes quickly in an institution that is older than the nation. It remains to be seen whether changes attributed to the new age will become permanent or will slip into the dustbin of memory. "We were used to the old doctrine of warfare," said Marine 1st Sgt. Jean-Paul Courville, who has served three tours in Iraq. "The old way was, you seize an objective, usually a terrain feature like a hill or building, and then you defend it. Your opponent was another unit in roughly the same model and type as yours." ...

Now, it's not enough to see an enemy and kill him. You'll have to deal with his family and the community. Troops have to know better when to shoot or not. Officers must learn how to forge relationships with mayors and police chiefs and religious leaders. "You don't have a forward edge of the battle lines," Courville said. "It's all mixed. You have interaction with Iraqi civilians, you're training Iraqi forces, you're setting up observation posts and traffic-control points. There are so many facets that we never thought we'd be doing."

Commentary

The SFGate article does not directly address Ignatius' question, which is how to tackle Iran without creating a whole new generation of anti-Americanism. But it does bound the answer: whatever the solution may prove to be, it won't be the monolingual, big battle fighting force of the 1990s. The good old days. It will require local knowledge. When to shoot and not to shoot. How to forge relationships with mayors, police chiefs and religious leaders. Training indigenous people. People who argue that Iraq was a wasted effort might ask themselves: where in the diplomatic corps and in the development set is this capability?

22 Comments:

Blogger Woman Catholic said...

wretchard wrote:

whatever the solution may prove to be, it won't be the monolingual, big battle fighting force of the 1990s. The good old days. It will require local knowledge. When to shoot and not to shoot.

Gosh, that means there could be 190 Iranian warriors in a tight circle holding a funeral for a fallen mate, and we won't be able to hit them either.

No, the answer is you don't invade Iran, you start building up an insurgency to the ruling mullahs. How's that for a swap? IT'S OUR TURN TO BE THE INSURGENT "MILITANTS" !

9/13/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Sonspot said...

I knew this Iranian dude in college. He was very westernized (i.e. loved American women). We went to clubs and drank alot. He never talked about Islam at all. He did tell me that someday he was going back to Iran and marry this girl that his parents had arranged when he was a kid. He didn't like it, but wasn't going to fight it or anything.

I'm sorry, but I'm casting a jaundiced eye on the hope of a generational change in Iran signifying anything.

9/13/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

I thought 2164th's Elephant Blog was going to be a working alternative to a Belmont lockout, but the transported, transplanted belmont drunks have taken up their favorite topic again; sheep, goats, bestiality.

******

Just a few days after I posted and proposed a new paradigm (we need to waste oil, not conserve it), the Saudi Prez/CEO of Aramco says the world has 140 years worth of oil reserves at current levels of consumption, and that we need to get as much as possible out of the ground, demonstrating that at least someone in Big Oil has been lurking around the Belmont Club; where else could he have gotten an idea so ahead of its time?

http://news.bostonherald.com/international/view.bg?articleid=157340

"Abdallah S. Jum’ah, president and CEO of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known better as Aramco, said the world has the potential of 4.5 trillion barrels in reserves - enough to power the globe at current levels of consumption for another 140 years.

Jum’ah challenged oil ministers and petroleum executives at an OPEC conference in Vienna to step up exploration “and leave the minimum amount of oil in the ground.”

9/13/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

db2m wrote:

Jum’ah challenged oil ministers and petroleum executives at an OPEC conference in Vienna to step up exploration “and leave the minimum amount of oil in the ground.”

I think what he means is that the current prices (even with the recent seasonal dip) is leading the technological nations to develop alternatives to oil, which could result in huge reserves never being tapped. He is saying it is better to pump it all out at any price for a long time than to pump a little bit at high prices for a short time.

9/13/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Quig said...

Interesting that Ignatius makes that remark after having used Sageman's work characterising terrorists as idealistic young people. He (Ignatius) references some of Sageman's statistics but omits any age-related or religious information.
Ignatius submits: ”A nation that is wearing seat belts is probably not a mortal enemy of the United States.”
I submit that it might have been said that Italy, a nation that made its trains run on time in 1938 was probably not, at the time, considered by some to be a potential enemy of Great Britain.
I am not comfortable with Sageman’s cult comparison. Although I am completely unqualified to disagree with a gentleman of his august qualifications.
Ignatius concludes “unless we make big mistakes, we should not find ourselves condemned to a permanent war, much less a clash of civilizations.” I would rephrase that to read - IF we make big mistakes, we WILL find ourselves condemned to a permanent war, IF NOT a clash of civilizations
What I am feeling from Ignatius is a minimizing, damping down, softly, softly, don’t do anything to startle the horses, approach. Don’t think it’s going to work.
I have no answer to the dilemma. I have a gnawing suspicion that commercial “globalisation” has done western civilisation no favours in this respect. This mantra, to which “no sane western capitalist can possibly object” (note irony) continues the exploitation that may underpin some of the hostility of the orient to the occident.
Since, in opposition to Ignatius, I do not think the jihadi problem is going to disappear, given its religious foundation, I fear a permanent war. This conflict will continue against the west until, reduced by globalisation, the west is succeeded by the east in the form of India ad/or China as the perceived exploiters of Islam.

9/13/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Terry Crane said...

Actually, if you start killing their rulers, despots and Revolutionary Guards, that wouldn't make new generation angry.

9/14/2006 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Counting on Iranian public opinion is the easy, pass the buck answer. But relying on a plan in Iraq that necessitated local support was the worst and most naive move we made. A good prince doesn't make himself dependent on others.

9/14/2006 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

I, too, have followed Mr. Ignatius' dispatches from his recent trip to Iran. In a post entitled "Pain in the Gas" I wrote:

Keeping with the theme of the article's title, "Tehran's Two Worlds: Veering Between Conciliation and Confrontation", Ignatius identitifies competing bases of power, conflicting interests, and ideological fault lines which the foes of Iran should be keen to exploit.

A particularly noteworthy difference of opinion that Ignatius identifies concerns the state and fate of the Iranian economy, particularly as it pertains to the price of oil:

9/14/2006 04:00:00 AM  
Blogger Db2m said...

teresita said,

"I think what he means is that the current prices (even with the recent seasonal dip) is leading the technological nations to develop alternatives to oil, which could result in huge reserves never being tapped. He is saying it is better to pump it all out at any price for a long time than to pump a little bit at high prices for a short time."

*********

That's a distinction without a whole heckuva lot of difference. I wouldn't lose sight of what he's saying about 140 years' supply of reserves, either.

An oil shortage/conservation/environmental draconianism ethic merely dribbles oil out of the ground and ocean floor. In fact, the Gulf of Mexico was becoming known as the "Dead Sea", since so little exploration for new reserves has taken place in recent years.

Encouragement of heavy use of oil, coupled with relaxed restriction, brings higher oil price and incentive to drill deep and deeper.

Think of it, one recent find in the Gulf of Mexico could double US oil reserves. So what if an attitude of confident profligacy raises demand by 5%, while advanced technology can bring in billion-barrel oil strikes?

The barrels are out there. Just because the tar pits were mopped up by stoneage dudes, didn't mean the world was running out of oil. There was still plenty of oil 70 feet deep at Titusville...

...and the Rest is History?

Well, Yes and No. Continuing mega-strikes on the ocean floor will add new and bigger chapters to history.

9/14/2006 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

quig said:

This conflict will continue against the west until, reduced by globalisation, the west is succeeded by the east in the form of India ad/or China as the perceived exploiters of Islam.

Or maybe the conflict will be the mortar that binds the west together into a monolithic superstate faster than jawboning ever was going to. That will make all of North America and Europe a "hard target" like the United States alone is now. This assumes that Europe gets shocked out of slouching toward Dhimmiville by a terror event much more mega than 7/7, something on the order of 9/11.

9/14/2006 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

where in the diplomatic corps and in the development set is this capability?

Well of course it's not there, W, as your rhetorical question implies.

But have no fear. When it is shown to be working, every diplomat with a career (ie all) will be claiming the capability as their own.

teresita
IT'S OUR TURN TO BE THE INSURGENT "MILITANTS" !

Now there's a thought!

ADE

9/14/2006 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

Please Teresita, COOL THE AMOUNT OF POSTS

DONT HOG THE BLOG.

MAke a comment and BACK OFF.

Go to the elephant bar or your own blog to "chat"

or at least wait intil 70 posts have been made.

9/14/2006 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/14/2006 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

so you now have posted 4 posts out of 13...

I have posted 2.

Show some class...

DONT HOG THE BLOG

or we might not have a belmont comments to posts on.

9/14/2006 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

The current ROE's that seem to be in use by out "better" armed forces seem quite ridiculous to me. I am no military expert but I think they are silly. Our idiot media do not understand war at all, it is a condition where many bad things happen, and if you intend to win, total support with no conditions must always go to the people who are doing the fighting. If the enemy does not like that so much the better, they are the enemy.

9/14/2006 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

I see another potentially disatrous effect of configuring the Armed Forces of the USA in thier presnt mode. Who has said that we will never need to fight a war against another nation or nations where mass armies are un-necessary? What do you do then? It would probably not be very quickly done to revert to the former mode. No, it is necessary to maintain at least a plan for total mobilization of the nation and have it ready to be operational in minutes not days, weeks, months or years.

9/14/2006 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Speaking of learning and forgetting: One of the more interesting observations I have heard of late is that the USAF needs a new "counter insurgency" aircraft. The idea is that makes little sense to use supersonic fighters to go drop a 250 lb bomb in a low counter-air threat environment.

This observation was made in Vietnam and was one inspiration for the OV-10A and A-10. The OV-10 was used as a FAC and by the late 80's was phased out in favor of jets - including the A-10. They are still using OV-10's for drug interdiction in South America. And by the late 80's the A-10 looked to be incapable of meeting the threat in Europe - too slow - it was thought to be capable of delivering its bombs in opposition to a Soviet invasion of Germany - but as the old Get Smart joke goes "Once." After which it would be too damaged to go into combat again without major repairs, and there would be no time to do that with the Warsaw Pact doing its drag race through the Fulda Gap. The F-16 would replace it.

Then came Desert Storm - Stormin' Norma called for every A-10 the Air Force could deliver, and it did the job just fine. But the Air Force still was focused on the F-16 solution and, characteristically, it took them quite a while to get unfocused.

But the optimum COIN aircraft for Vietnam was found to be a biplane -a modified Grumman Ag Cat with its big, tough radial engine, equipped with weapons. It was cheap and available but they did not buy it -too embarassing to be buying biplanes.

So here we are again. And now even the A-10 looks too sophisticated for a COIN aircraft. Maybe the biplane will win this time.

9/14/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Roderick said...

Shouldn't we be helping the Kurdish insurgency in Iran? Anything we can do to keep the Iranian regime off-balance should help at this time (after all, that is what they are trying to do to us in Iraq).

Helping Iranian Kurds is a tricky proposition. Turkey would not be thrilled, and the Iranian Kurds would likely expect a co-joining of Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan as a final result/reward. An enlarged Kurdistan will result in the dismemberment of not only Iran, but probably also Iraq. The only other solution would be two semi-autonomous Kurdish regions, with a pledge to abandon attemps to liberate Turkish Kurdistan. Fat chance? Doable? American hubris on my part? Worth a try for short-term strategic gain?

9/14/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/14/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Dave H: I believe that recently it was noneother than the Chief of Naval Operations said more or less exactly what you did. One day we will almost certainly need the ability to fight a go-fast hit-hard kind of war. And if we spend all our money now on figuring out how to defeat $1.98 IEDs we will be less capable.

On the other hand, I am very curious to see how our current terrorist-focused network-centric battle analysis will play out in a conventional setting. But we probably will need another Col Boyd to figure out how to do that.

9/14/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

"No, the answer is you don't invade Iran, you start building up an insurgency to the ruling mullahs."

Like we did in WWII with Ho Chi Minh? Or Panama with Manuel Noriega? Whatever happened to those Afghan "Freedom Fighters" who were so helpful defeating the Soviets? What about those helpful Shiite Militias that tried to take out Saddam in the early 90's..whose side are they on now?

No, the answer is that if you can't afford to use a professional military to take down a regime, than you can't afford to take down the regime militarily.

9/14/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

We did well in both Salvador and Nicaragua without the "professional military", most of us were civilians, at the time.

Granted the scale of the challenge was smaller, but we only had 54 professional, active duty, soldiers in Salvador, none in Nicaragua.

9/14/2006 06:07:00 PM  

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