Ear to the Ground
Westhawk looks at Bing West's latest trip report from Iraq. Bottom line: Iraqis on the ground are increasingly doing well but Iraqis at the top are screwing up. One reason why diplomatic solutions sometimes fail is that higher levels of abstraction are achieved at the price of losing information in detail. This problem is solved in data-mining situations by allowing the user to "drill down" and rediscover the detail. But that presumes you have a drill. This loss of information is especially acute in countries where national systems do not have an adequate correspondence with actors on the ground. Whatever the shortcomings of the US involvement in Iraq might be, especially under the strategy where troops are fielded in community-based joint security stations or patrol bases, is that it has resulted in a "bit bang" or information explosion which mutually influences operations on the ground on both the Iraqi and American sides.
Mr. West’s post at SWJ suggests a possible strategy that might emerge after the September “blowup” in Washington: a decentralized, “bottom-up” approach wherein American advisors work exclusively with local security units (the one part of the security equation that seems to work), while ignoring the dysfunctional central government (which doesn’t work).
This is not to say that an American presence on the ground is required indefinitely, but maybe it is rational to argue that the last four years in Iraq have bought a lot of information and capability that would otherwise not have made it into the military system at all. Based on what I have heard, the State Department is far, far behind the Defense Department in the game of having an "ear to the ground", which is really ironic because while it is the job of career diplomats to be the best informed about conditions in foreign countries they are sometimes the most dis-informed because their natural operating environment is at the level of leadership, which in Iraq might be a nest of intrigue comparable of world-class proportions.