All the News That's Fit to Print
Former Spook follows an air campaign aimed at spoiling an enemy attacked scheduled to coincide with "a pivotal report due in mid-September to the U.S. Congress on political and military progress in Iraq". The AP reports:
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who leads the 3rd Infantry Division, also said he and other commanders feared insurgents would try to stage a massive attack ahead of a pivotal report due in mid-September to the U.S. Congress on political and military progress in Iraq...
"There's three pots of bad guys in my battle space. One's the Sunni extremists, one's the Shia extremists and the other is marked and increasing Iranian influence," he said. "They're all anti-Iraq, they're all against the government of Iraq, they're all against the Iraqi people."
The U.S. military has consistently accused Iran of fueling the violence in Iraq by arming Shiite militias and providing sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, which have killed hundreds of American troops.
Lynch and other military officials also have said that Shiite-dominated Iran is providing support to some Sunni insurgents fighting American forces in Iraq, while cautioning that it was unclear whether the Iranians were supplying the weapons directly or whether the Sunnis were buying them on the black market.
Former Spook adds:
While you won't find it in the AP dispatch, there are several inferences that can be drawn from General Lynch's comments. First, because the U.S. doesn't use air power indiscriminately, announcement of the air campaign suggests that we're getting good intelligence on terrorist activity in the region. It's a safe bet that surveillance drones have been following insurgents as they move into outlying areas, so when the Apaches of the 3rd Aviation Brigade head out, they know where to look for targets, and what to watch for.
Secondly, the air campaign won't be an "Army only" show. Fixed wing assets from Balad will also be involved, giving commanders more flexibility--and persistence--in hammering the terrorists from the air. And, the effort will go on around the clock, thanks to the impressive night/all-weather capabilities of the AH-64s and various Air Force assets.
And finally, if the effort announced by General Lynch sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Earlier this year, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan unleashed air power on the Taliban, with impressive results. Attack helos and other platforms caught a number of terrorist formations as they marshaled or moved toward intended targets, killing large numbers of the enemy. The "air campaign" in Afghanistan is one reason that the Taliban's anticipated "spring offensive" never really materialized, and the terrorists shifted to other tactics, including suicide bombings and kidnappings.
Kinetic operations are now routinely shadowed by their political and information war counterparts. Death and mayhem are now props to achieve a political and media effect. Although men may shoot and kill each other in Iraq, in reality the effects both of the planned insurgent attack and the current spoiling operations are aimed squarely at Washington DC. One of the long-term legacies of the Vietnam War was to guarantee that all future campaigns resembled the Tet in that the center of gravity would be the American capital and the Western press. Radical politics, far from ending the Vietnam War, brought it home and made sure it would never leave.
And so today insurgents are planning to kill as many American soldiers and Iraqi civilians as possible -- not for any military value in the classic sense of destroying combat power -- but simply to grab headlines in connection with the media cycle surrounding the mid-September report to the U.S. Congress on political and military progress in Iraq. And now the US military is launching a spoiling attack to keep those headlines from splashing across the global news screens. Patton would not have understood a war in which people lived and died to put a few lines of black ink on a page.
Maybe we should replace the old antiwar slogan "what if somebody gave a war and nobody came?" with "what if somebody scheduled a made-for-media massacre and nobody covered it?" I can dream, can't I?
Little Green Footballs has video of the Daily Kos military panel cutting off the audio of a military questioner who challenges their point of view. The incident happens at the 41st minute onward. The questioner was wearing a uniform, and that sparked some dark words from the podium. I'm no lawyer, and will not get into what constitutes wearing a uniform to a political activity. But it seems to me that the Iraq War does resemble Vietnam except with the cast of characters scrambled. I think it is fair to say that the current culture wars are at least in part about overturning the "consensus" of the 1960s; about reversing the "lessons of Vietnam" or "rolling back reproductive rights", etc, etc as they are about anything. Today's resemblance to the Vietnam Era consists in that it is also a period of revolutionary change. The assumptions of the sixties are being challenged, and their challengers are not necessarily better, as the ideas of the Me Generation were not inevitably superior to those of the Greatest Generation. We are perhaps, in a Temporal Cold War, to use the Star Trek phrase. Jay Gatsby once exclaimed, "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!". We are always in a battle between tides.
At a recent dinner someone remarked to me that the British parliamentary system adapted more smoothly to paradigm changes because there was only one branch of government that mattered: Parliament, while the American system was inflexible, requiring confrontation, impeachment and a balance of powers. I remember answering that American government was inflexible by design, in order to prevent it from deciding anything fundamental unless American society had itself resolved the question through a process -- and here I weighed my words carefully -- "of revolution". Every now and again American society undergoes these traumatic revolutions. The Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, maybe today, to settle issues that won't stay compromised.
Watching the Kos video at Little Green Footballs reminded me how sharp the divisions were. No, that long ago conflict in Southeast Asia was never "Vietnamized". On the contrary it was Americanized. It became a domestic conflict and its themes resonate even today.