Saturday, January 20, 2007

Enough Gas to Get Where?

The Belgravia Dispatch has a long and worthwhile discussion on whether the Surge being undertaken has any long-term prospect of success. It argues the arithmetic plainly shows the Surge is nowhere large enough to achieve its stated goals. But however that may be, its real defect lies in advocating a reinforcement without an apparent strategy. "For the past many months, my position on the surge was that it would only make sense in the context of a coherent overarching plan, to include diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran (the latter likely to fail, the former more likely to bear fruit) and absent that, I continue to have exceedingly low expectations for this surge, especially as it's basically under-manned--we don't have enough troops to go about it per best counter-insurgency doctrine."

Fair enough. But it begs the question of what the "coherent overarching plan" should be. The two obvious strategic alternatives are "engagement with Syria and Iran" and the other would be to meaningfully defeat or force back both Syria and Iran in order to create an Iraq that is more or less conducive to American interests. Although the words have been abused, the terms "redeployment" and "withdrawal" are fundamentally different concepts. In the context of the two strategic alternatives, any movement of forces either serves the purposes of basically conceding the game to Syria and Iran or maneuvering to beat them. Belgravia is right when it argues that moving men in a strategic vacuum makes no sense. But what that strategy should be is really the starting point from which all else follows. The US can neither abandon nor be fatally weakened in the Middle East. Its strategic importance, not only with regards oil, but as the locus of future, and possibly nuclear war, really means that in a fundamental sense there is no exit. If America must stay in the region, it must stay the winner or at least, not the loser.

The problem with all of the marvelous schemes to withdraw to enclaves and engage in diplomacy is that they have nothing obvious to recommend them except their status as alternatives to perceived failure. They are sophisticated versions of the argument that "nobody can do worse than President Bush". But the objective of any chosen alternative should be to address the root causes of failure, lack of capability or strategic defects of the predecessor. History illustrates that Allied tactics in 1944 were superior to those in 1940 not simply because they were different but because they were better. Better capability, better doctrine, better logistics. If we don't have enough men to do it as "per best counter-insurgency doctrine" -- and we will never have enough men to do it under that calculus -- then perhaps we haven't got the right doctrine. If sheer persistence has anything to recommend it, it would be that experience provides a far better impetus for learning than simply withdrawing and hoping things will work out next time. And we must find the right doctrine because the problem of the networked insurgency will come up again and again and again. But the benefit of experience is lost when people are determined to throw it away. The Administration out of pigheadedness perhaps; and mayhap the Democrats out of the conviction that it is unnecessary. There is no withdrawal from the Middle East. Remain the loser or stay the winner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

BD: "...the President of the United States has promised troop levels in theatre far below what was recommended even by these supposed policy mavens, who themselves were stretching to get the number down to bow to the grim reality that we simply don't have sufficient troops to get the job done right..."

Wretchard, GWoT I ended back in November of 2006.

We're now in the interim period where the two parties here in the U.S. are basically using Iraq for jockeying for position in 2008. Everything happening now is Kabuki Theater or Alice in Wonderland, and therefore nothing is going to make any sense, especially militarily. That's why the numbers may not be adding up. Of course they're not going to add up. I'm not surprised that they don't.

Neither side wants to be stuck with the blame once Iraq finally deteriorates into a horrible sectarian bloodbath.

How long this interim period shall last is hard to say. However, on the day GWoT II starts, everything will jump to the next higher quantum level.

1/20/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Not sure. My (limited) experience is in the Andean back-country. However, this particular move makes a lot of sense if, for example, something were going to happen in, say, Iran, and the planners wish to be in a position to keep a lid on things.

Two carrier groups in the Gulf. Third one not far off. Hasn't happened in awhile.

1/20/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger MARK said...

It would seem that the coherent overarching plan would be to secure Baghdad. Both by going after shiite militias who previously operated under the protection of the government, and holding neighborhoods once cleared.

"Al-Sadr said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published today that the crackdown had already begun and that 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted him as saying he fears for his life and stays constantly on the move....Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents"

And as far as Iran and Syria-
"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

And although it's not part of the Presidents plan the the secret meetings between Israel and Syria could help, especially if as reported they call for-
"and an end to Syrian support
for Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Syrian moves to distance the country from Iran."

DAMASCUS, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Syria and Iraq vowed on Saturday to promote bilateral relations in all fields and on all levels on the last day of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's landmark visit to Damascus.


1/20/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger IceCold said...

That blogger is a pretentious lightweight, and when he's taken seriously by other more substantive people it surprises me. Numbers? He's gonna predict outcomes using academic formulas? Ridiculous. But his worst silliness is the idea that dealing with Syria will "bear fruit" worth having. And that he even includes Syria and Iran in the general topic of "overarching strategy" sort of confirms he's as clueless as the huge numbers of observers who fantasize that Iraqi pathologies can be cured in Tehran or Damascus. Willingness to use power to destroy and/or break the will of the enemy is far more important than numbers. There's ample reason for pessimism on that front - the military has consistently refused to face the need for military solutions to military problems, and a sovereign Iraqi govt. can always make things even harder to execute.

1/21/2007 12:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AP "The U.S. military said militia fighters attacked a provincial headquarters in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala, killing five American soldiers and wounding three Saturday night.

The statement said "an illegally armed militia group" attacked the building with grenades, small arms and "indirect fire," which usually means mortars or rockets. The statement said the three soldiers were wounded while repelling the attack."

Looks like Sadr's boys aren't prepared to stand down nor are they afraid of US troops.

"A meeting was taking place at the time of the attack to ensure the security of Shiite pilgrims participating in the Ashoura commemorations," said a statement from Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, deputy commander of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad."

Nor does Sadr care one twit about the safety of Shia.

So it's all or nothing for the surge. How will the Bush admin respond? What is the strategy now that Sadr has tossed down the gauntlet? The next few weeks will tell.

Wretchard is correct, the US cannot leave the ME but cannot stay as a loser.

I think I know the answer, but hope against hope that I am wrong.

1/21/2007 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

The surge puzzles me. It is possible that "calling off the death squads" is part of a wider political deal between the Sunni and Shiites, with the US acting as a guarantor of some sort.

We've surged in Iraq before--prior to their elections. They are having local and provincial elections in the spring and Bush could have used those as a reason for a short term surge but he didn't (and could easily draw down after the elections even if violence has not been curtailed).

Usually governments can secure their capital against most terror attacks and mass violence. It's my impression Saigon remained fairly secure until the end (even during Tet it was subject more to a headline grabbing raid on the US embassy). Maybe "The battle of Baghdad" is actually winnable.

Also putting 20,000 troops in will allow the removal of 20,000 later.

Or maybe the 150,000 troops tied down in Iraq now will be tied down in Syria or Iran come March.

1/21/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger MARK said...

"Looks like Sadr's boys aren't prepared to stand down nor are they afraid of US troops."

I haven't seen anything to indicate they were Shiites. And if I were to guess I would suspect them to be Sunnis. MARK

1/21/2007 08:42:00 PM  

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