Thursday, May 24, 2007

More on Anbar

A Marine officer preparing to return to Iraq sends this and it seems eminently reasonable to me. Read the last paragraph in especial.

As you can imagine, the events in Anbar are of great importance to me.  All recent reports indicate that violence is down dramatically, and not just in Ramadi as I first thought, and has been publicized.  We have turned the tribes to our side. Everyone from Time magazine,8599,1624697,00.html

to Michael Yon

is sending signals that we've turned a corner there.

If this is truly the case, and not just a confluence of factors that have led to a lull, then we may have found part of the answer to your query as to how to handle 3rd Gen gangs/irregular warfare/the problem with no name (as in your post: "Total Blurring of Crime and War"):  the answer is not to eradicate an insurgency, it is to create or find one's own group that offers a reasonable alternative.  This is really what has happened in Anbar:  the tribes were colluding with Al Qaeda and other criminal and terror groups, but now we have turned them and empowered them.  This is not nation-building;  it may even be the opposite.  Some time ago, Robert Kaplan wrote this in the LA Times: 

"Those who proclaim today that the only real solution to the Arab dilemma is political freedom are correct. The problem is that they are describing a process that could encompass several bloody decades. After all, it took centuries for stable democracy as we know it to evolve in Europe. In this Darwinian shaking-out process, the new forms of political legitimacy may more closely resemble militarized social welfare organizations such as Hezbollah and the Al Mahdi army than the ramshackle contrivances of the European model that we saw in the post-colonial era.",0,7424382.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary

Isn't this what we are seeing in Anbar?  A tribe that is allied with the US is much more similar to Hezbollah than it is to a nation-state. 

Here's the real takeaway though:  this never would have happened without some sort of American presence in Iraq.  It was not diplomats that turned the tribes, it was military officers. That is the secret that will be hard to swallow:  we are in an age wherein the opposite of the 'exit strategy' will have to be the lynchpin of strategy:  presence, not early exit, is what is required in these broad swaths of the world that where instability threatens US interests.  The key will be not to figure out whether to be there or not, which is the current debate.  The key will be to figure out how much to be there and in what form:  soldier, diplomat, spy, or some other category that has yet to be determined:  perhaps a combo of all three, or perhaps some privatized version of any one of them. 


Blogger Unknown said...

Good stuff. Joe Klein wrings his hands still that we have not solved the centuries-old problem of Sunni vs Shia. But in so doing he is admitting into the realm of possibility something un-thinkable 6 months ago by all those who truly knew: an Iraq without AQ. He reasons that AQ being defeated in Iraq actually weakens Bush's position. I don't buy it.

5/24/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I remember the precepts dinned into me as an organizer in some of the darker places of Martial Law Philippines which I have never forgotten. When I think about Iraq and what happened in Anbar, the memories all come back.

1. Create the base organizations first and then confederations later. Any organization built in the capital city without a grassroots foundation is nothing but an eroding sandpile;

2. Go and live among the people. The only people who can organize the "masses" from headquarters are Communist intellectuals and academics.

3. In organizing the people, start from their level. Work from their immediate problems to the more systemic. Begin with the concrete before you talk about the abstract. As a people's organization must develop the capability to solve the water supply problem for itself before it can presume to tackle drafting a constitution.

4. Real leaders are forged in action. Most of the leaders pointed out to you by academics ain't worth shit. Leaders discover they are leaders. Sometimes they don't know.

5. Nothing liberates the people's consciousness so much as the experience of facing down an invincible enemy and finding they aren't so invincible.

6. You know that you have done a good job as an organizer when one day nobody misses you.

None of this is new. Read it all in Saul Alinksy's Rules for Radicals, which is one of the few books hated as much by Communists as anti-Communists and therefore has much to recommend it.

5/24/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Richelieu said...

Wow, classic comment Wretchard. Thank you.

5/24/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

How much of this improvement is merely the enemy sitting out our political cycle?

5/24/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger neuroconservative said...

Excellent post & follow-up. But is this necessarily radical? Can't it also be examined from a conservative theory of "intermediate institutions" -- family, community, religion? No doubt, each of these institutions look a bit different in Anbar than in Burke's England, but they are still the foundation of a non-totalitarian social order.

5/24/2007 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger All Blog Spots said...

great blog, keep the good work going :)

5/25/2007 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

what kind of corner have we turned in Mahmoudiyah?
could Known Blogspace perhaps devote a sentence or two to the reason there was a successful snatch of US soldiers there?
Could it be that the Iraqi Rape Squad burned our goodwill capital there?
How do we repair that?

5/25/2007 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

This is classic counter-insurgency. Get the civilians on your side and they will fight the insurgents and make it impossible for them to stay around. Petraus' fingerprints are all over this.

Tribalism is the normal situation where there is no strong central authority, where there is no real rule of law and no good way to resolve disputes except on an ad hoc basis. It is a self-propagating system. If there are strong tribes then they aren't likely to allow a strong central govt to form because they will lose power.

Iraq has to evolve into a society where they will respect a central govt and reduce the power of the tribes in order for it to become part of the modern world. They also need to resolve the differences between the three major ethnic groups by negotiation and laws in order to move forward into the modern world.

5/25/2007 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

utopia, how do you repair Mahmudiyah?
the adversary is opportunistic and exploitive.....we will not get our soldiers back alive, and there will be more snatches styled on this one.
is Mahmudiyah fixable?

5/25/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...


Leaving aside for a moment all-important logistical considerations, would it make any sense for US forces to just leave Baghdad to what seems like an inevitable partition, and hunker down in al-Anbar province, and possibly in Kurdistan, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that Iraq (and by extension the entire Muslim/ Arab world) is not a total loss and is not completely hopeless?

Jamie Irons

5/25/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

how do you repair Mahmudiyah?

Dunno, but justice has to be seen to be done.

Tribal societies have many ways to resolve disputes that don't involve violence, although violence is always possible. Paying of blood money, various negotiated settlements, hudnas and so forth.

The blood fued or vendetta exists in order to make the price of violence high. If you hurt one of our tribe then we will hunt down your family and kill them to the third generation. In the absence of central authority that has the effect of making one think long and hard before harming or killing someone not in your tribe.

I think that AQ takes on other's insults deliberately as an excuse to fight us.

I don't know who the perpetrators of the Mahmudiyah kidnappings are so I'm not sure what can be done to appease them. Of course in our society two wrongs don't make a right. If someone kills your family you don't have the right to kill the perptrator or their family. In Iraq it's different. However, if the americans that perpetrated the rape and murder are sent to jail I think that would help to calm things down (assuming that it's not AQ behind the kidnappings).

5/25/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Victory is always "catastrophic" in CI.

We saw this during the Phillipines and during the Indian Wars.

Same here.

All that is left is AQI and Iran.

5/25/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

let me referesh ur memory.
a year ago the Iraqi Rape Squad raped and slaughtered a 14 year old child and butchered her family. The townspeople (after being ignored by the local US authorities) turned 2 the terrorists for help. Menchaca/Tucker was the result. The horrific video motivated the confession of one of the perps, who otherwise all would have gotten off scottfree.
my point is...the terrorists snatched american soldiers in Mamudiyah BECAUSE THEY COULD--they could rely on the support of the local population not give them away.
the perps ARE in jail in the US.
doesnt seem 2 be doing much good on the local attitude.

two things: we will NOT get our men back alive and this WILL happen again. because it was successful.
the adversary learns from success. Menchaca-Tucker were snatched, the three soldiers in this case were snatched. It will happen again unless we change something.
6000 searchers couldnt find them.
60000 couldnt either.

5/25/2007 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger TM Lutas said...

pierrelegrand - My understanding is that the surge has accomplished a reduction in sectarian violence while AQ has counter-surged and increased suicide bombings to the point that net violence hasn't much budged. That fact doesn't jibe much with the idea that Al Queda is just sitting out the surge. Iran also seems to be increasing its activites, inciting groups on all sides to greater activity.

Our enemies seem to believe that once order and peace is established, it will be so much harder for them to re-establish chaos that it is worth increasing operations tempo to an unsustainable rate in order to prevent it.

I have always maintained that the Coalition has imposed a ceiling. Past a certain operational tempo, past a certain size of operation, our forces are able to see the enemy and when they can see them, they are deadly. By upping activity, the enemy makes itself more visible and inevitably runs through its trained cadre faster. Past a certain point (as the Taliban found out this year) you end up incapable of replenishing your numbers. Hopefully we'll replicate that success in Iraq.

5/25/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

it appears that silence is the solution embraced by Known Blogspace.
Good luck with that.
How are the rightside bloggers like Wretchard an Malkin any different from the MSM they so despise?

5/25/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


The criminal who raped a 14-year old Iraqi girl was sentenced to life in prison. Nothing more needs to be said on the subject, I think, except that it may be inappropriate to suggest that three unrelated soldiers, who are not guilty of anything except serving their country and protecting Iraqis from murderers, are now somehow fair game for abduction and murder.

5/25/2007 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You are talking strategy, Cat.
where is your strategy to repair the damage of Mahmudiyah?

The soldiers are "fair game" in the eyes of the locals.
Not in mine.
There wil be more snatches.

0ur actions have made the terrorists into embedded guerruyeros.
with a just cause.

that is exactly the problem...."serving their country and protecting Iraqis from murderers"
the Iraqi Rape Squad preyed on the Iraqis they were supposed to protect.
How do we reengineer that meme complex?
The reason this is there will be more kidnappings.

5/25/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

you have a modicum of success in Anbar...but abject failure in Mahmudiyah.
the local population has become sympathetic and grateful to the terrorists.
What does "Rules for Radicals" say about recovery and remedy?
Is the solution silence? Dont talk about it and it will go away?
It wont go away.
Snatch and torture video is a wildly successful strategy.
It wil be reproduced.

5/25/2007 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The real news in Mahmudiya is not about the "rape", though the newspapers give you the impression that nothing else has happened there. Mahmudiya is in fact part of the mixed Sunni-Shi'a area known as the "Triangle of Death". The big news there for a long time has been the extensive fighting between the Sunnis and Shi'ite insurgents. Shi'ite militias have been pushing the Sunnis out of the area south of Baghdad.

For a long time it was an "economy of force" deployment for US troops with the result that many Sunnis were pushed out, unable to resist the Shi'ite militias. Ironically, the US troops now being deployed there were meant to stabilize and reverse the ethnic cleansing that had been taking place.

Now you insinuate that the people in Mahmudiya are somehow "grateful" to the al-Qaeda for bringing justice to the local population by kidnapping and killing Americans. In reality those Americans were part of a deployment to screen them from militias. Still, perception being what it is, I suppose some people could be feeling that. But in all probability the single rape -- for which the rapist has been punished -- was the smallest of small potatoes in an area where retail murders by Shi'ite militias occur punctuated by the occasional wholesale murder by truck bomb of Shi'ite civilians in reprisal. The rape was big news internationally, but objectively it was a back page local news.

However, that single rape has generated more column inches in the press that I have been able to discover than the deaths of hundreds by internecine violence. Deaths which those three Americans were supposed to help prevent. That is in fact part of the current strategy. It's not my strategy, but near as I can tell, it is MNF's strategy. In addition to stabilizing the ethnic distribution on the ground, troops are attempting to interdict what are termed "accelerants of violence" -- car bombs and EFPs -- moving up from Iran, probably for use against those very Sunnis who seem to think feel so grateful that those who are intercepting the bombs meant for them have been killed.

It's natural for people to think that, but maybe it's not true. And don't count on the snatch and torture videos being wildly reproduced. MNF have announced they know who snatched the troops. Those men will be hunted down. Not in time, perhaps to save any captives still in their grasp. But they are dead men walking.

5/25/2007 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i do not insinuate.
the locals REQUESTED the intercession of the original local terrorists, who were not, btw, al-Qaeda.
yes...a single incident, but i argue that it has destroyed the anbar/phillipines model you are talking about.
how do u recover the trust of a population?
the local population SHELTERED the kidnappers. that is undeniable. 6000 searchers came up with nuttin.

You are the strategist, Cat.
Project a strategy that will repair the trust of the locals.

And it will happen again. It is a successful strategy in the evolution of the terror war. An opportunistic and exploitive strategey that will be replicated.
Immaterial if the current set of perps are caught. Successful strategies spread.

5/26/2007 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

and....the rape incident evokes the strongest, most basic hardwiring.
MNF's armed social work is N0THING compared to the potent memetics of invader rape.

5/26/2007 12:41:00 PM  

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