Friday, October 12, 2007

Sanchez on Iraq

The Drudge Report runs this description of retired General Sanchez's interview with the Stars and Stripes. But if you read the article, this is what Sanchez says:

There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight. From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power.

The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable. ...

Even now, the U.S. government has yet to launch a concerted effort to come up with a strategy to win in Iraq, Sanchez said. Such a strategy should involve political reconciliation among Iraqis, building up the Iraqi security forces and getting Iraq’s regional partners.

The gist of Sanchez's remarks is that there has been a strategic failure of execution at a national level in Iraq. One which "failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power ... The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure".

The State Department? The Congress? The Administration? The "entire inter-agency" structure? Yes, those are the culprits. Not even the press escapes criticism.

Abu Ghraib was a sore subject Friday for Sanchez, who lambasted the media for using phrases like "dictatorial and somewhat dense," "liar" and "torturer" to describe him.

"I also refused to talk to the European Stars and Stripes for the last two years of my command in Germany, for their extreme bias and single-minded focus on Abu Ghraib," he said.

It's not clear whether the "dictatorial ... dense ... liar [and] torturer" will suddenly make a credible critic, but Sanchez doesn't -- from the article at least -- express dissatisfaction with the goals of OIF, simply with the execution.

My own opinion, which I've expressed very frequently on this site, is that much of War on Terror has been fought in a strategic vacuum. The Administration hasn't clearly named an enemy. It has failed to concentrate all the sources of national power. And the Democrats seem to have no strategy at all, nor do they even feel obliged to consider one. Ross Douthat at the Atlantic, for example rejected Max Boot's challenge to provide a better strategy if they didn't like the current one. And much of the press seems equally perverse, unable to get past the sound bite, an easy mark for enemy information operations, just content as Douthat seems to be content to "just say no".

And if we grant Sanchez's premise -- that nobody in American society seems interested in beating the enemy, just scoring political points -- than can we grant his conclusion? That victory will be long, uncertain and excessively costly?

Maybe Charles Krauthammer's fatalistic characterization of his expectations from Washington is indicative of how victory might finally be achieved. By accident.

I could never vote for her [Hillary], but I (and others of my ideological ilk) could live with her -- precisely because she is so liberated from principle. Her liberalism, like her husband's -- flexible, disciplined, calculated, triangulated -- always leaves open the possibility that she would do the right thing for the blessedly wrong (i.e., self-interested, ambition-serving, politically expedient) reason. ...

On Iraq, for example, she talks like someone who knows she may soon be commander in chief and will need room to maneuver in order to achieve whatever success might be possible. Clinton has emphatically refused to give assurances that she would get us out of Iraq during her first term. Unlike, for example, Bill Richardson, who advocates a rout so radical that we'd leave equipment behind, she has committed herself to little more than a drawdown of forces as conditions allow.

Strategy, who cares about strategy? Political survival? Well now you're talking.


Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting. Indeed, as wretchard says, the General seems bitter about flaws in planning and execution, not the basic goals. And yet, if Paul Mirengoff's account of a recent talk by Fouad Adjami is to believed, at least some of the processes by which those goals are to be accomplish are going rather better than one might think: So perhaps no one had a proper plan, but things are kind of working out anyway?

Gen. Sanchez sounds very much like a man of whom much was expected under very difficult circumstances, and who took a lot of bitch-slapping when things didn't go the way they were supposed to. He's probably got a lot of steam to blow off.

10/12/2007 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"I was duty bound to keep my mouth shut while in the service, even while overseeing what I saw as disasterous policy.
In retirement, I am duty bound to broadcast, in the most inflamatory terms as possible, my 20-20 media-enhancing CYA.
nuf said, General.

As far as strategery is concerned, as long as we are unable to name our enemy, all else follows.
GWB's vocabulary becomes more politically correct and devoid of meaning and focus with every passing day.

The stirring rhetoric, goals, and ideals written by Frum and mouthed by him have been long since forgotten.

10/12/2007 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Well it is a sure thing that
not of the United States, anyway.

The Same God?
By Cal Thomas

Whatever else his critics say of him, no one can fault President Bush for failing to go the extra mile in his efforts to show that neither he, nor the United States, is opposed to the Islamic faith, or to Muslim nations.

Last week, the president and Mrs. Bush hosted their seventh Iftaar Dinner, the celebration that breaks the Muslim fast during Ramadan. Immediately after 9/11, the president visited a Washington, D.C., mosque and proclaimed Islam a "religion of peace." He has frequently said that terrorists are not real Muslims, anymore than people who proclaim to be Christian and engage in violence are genuine Christians.

10/12/2007 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

In fact nearly everyone had a very workable plan, already active and in place prior to Viceroy Bremmer's arrival.

It is a myth, created by Bremmer's lies, that there was no plan for post invasion Iraq.
A complete, workable plan was in place, but on Bremmer's arrival, the heart of the plan was eliminated by Bremmer disbanding the Iraqi Army.
While Bremmer claims everyone agreed with his decision, the video below shows that almost NO Body did, from Powell and Armitage, to the Col. who was tasked with keeping the army together and on the payroll, General Garner, and many others.
The Col also puts the lie to Bremmer's claim that there was no practical way to keep the Army together, the Col already had
ONE HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN on the payroll when Bremmers order converted many of them into unemployed insurgents in waiting.

Widows and Orphans were also denied the benefits they had been receiving, further alienating many with this cruel and pointless act.

A very convincing video!

A rebuttal to claims made by L. Paul Bremer III that top American officials approved the decision to disband the Iraqi army.

Col. Paul Hughes, tasked with tracking down the Army in Iraq:
The fact that 137 THOUSAND of the Iraqi Army
tells me they DIDN'T Disappear.

Col. Hughes was astounded when he was told, saying:
"None of us knew this was coming.
There's not a WAY, anyone can say this did not affect the insurgency

When rioting errupted, an Iraqi Officer told Col Paul he could gaurantee a force of 10 Thousand Military Police within a week, but the Col was rendered powerless by the decision.

Rendered Half a Million military men unemployed and infuriated. (Equal to 5 MILLION Armed Soldiers put out on the street, unemployed, in the US)

Richard Armitage says he and Powell were not made aware of the CHANGE IN PLANS, until after the fact, dittos for Gen Garner and Generals in charge of OIF.

10/12/2007 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...


10/12/2007 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Another point stressed by Col. Paul Hughes is that the Iraqi Army was highly integrated, with many Shia Officers as well as soldiers, not riven by the religious death squads we are now trying to ferret out.

Bremmer, of course, portrayed it as a Sunni Baathist Nightmare.

10/12/2007 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

In Praise Of Clarity: The New Romney Ad

- Hewitt

"It's this century's nightmare, Jihadism – violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Their goal is to unite the world under a single Jihadist caliphate.

To do that, they must collapse freedom-loving nations like us

10/12/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

General Sanchez is providing an example of the problem he describes.

He was, and is, just one of the cats that must be herded to win this conflict quickly. His inflamitory statements - even though they are factual - are being spun. He just made the situation he descibes much, much worse.

His points are well taken, they are well known, but can they be acted upon in a split democracy?

I don’t know how an administration (any administration) could ‘guide’ the media in the childish environment propagated by the silly 60’s. The media – and the left as a whole – have internalized the belief that America is too strong and too big to lose any meaningful conflict. Thus, we can lose a battle here and there. We will always be there, we will always exist. And, losing a battle at the right time might even be good for us – kindof a moral victory. What they will not say is that they are making an internal statistical valuation that we can lose a couple hundred thousand and not be knocked off the comfortable Satrap Throne…

In this way, the left is a child.

A large and belligerent teenager who wasn’t disciplined well.

A child who will learn adulthood the hard way. I think Clinton and the rest are ‘learning’ a bit right now. Soon, if they win, they will be responsible for events on their watch. And, they have a brood of brats who cannot read and cannot be trusted and cannot make and respect decisions and will turn at the drop of a hat.

The question then becomes with the childish right – as evidenced by the ‘research’ of a 12 year old in the SCHIP program – be man enough to act any better.

So we will not win quickly.
We will not win cleanly.
But, we will win.

Would you rather be an Islamist right now or a Westerner?

I am very glad we are very strong. I am very glad we are very big. I am very glad that losing a city will not destroy us. It may come to that. Pray it not be mine…

10/12/2007 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

DR cited: He has frequently said that terrorists are not real Muslims, anymore than people who proclaim to be Christian and engage in violence are genuine Christians.


Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Press and Journal and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." The next day he sits down to read his Press and Journal again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing."

10/12/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


I think it's important to point out that the video does not portray this as a wild thing Bremmer just did on his own. It came from the Pentagon, specifically the offices of Feith and Wolfowitz, and I think it shows complete consonance with how the Neo-Conservatives viewd things.

I'm increasingly convinced that our problems are not the media, not the state department, and not even the congress so much as the various civilians who occupied important places of power in the administration.

10/12/2007 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

James Kielland,

I think the problem was far larger than that. In the lead up to OIF there were those who would have done nothing except continue inspections, etc. When Sanchez says the State Department is especially to blame he is not excupating Feith and Wolfowitz. What he's saying is there are a lot of people in the tub with them. And it's not just the past. Past errors can be fixed if you get on the right path.

Let's move to today. What's the recipe for victory today? Is it Obama's? Is it Edward's? Is it Pelosi's? The only thing that has been saving the President isn't his strategic genius but the probability that he represents the least possible evil.

And that's a terrible state of affairs to be in. I've often argue that if the Democrats could come up with a winning strategy they'd own the White House for the next 8 years. And why is this impossible? Harry Truman and FDR seemed capable of winning. And for a long time both parties seemed capable of pursuing what in retrospect was a winning Cold War strategy.

What's the strategy today? Do we say GWB can't name the enemy? Can Hillary? Can Edwards? Can Obama? Can the New York Times? I wish. I really wish.

10/12/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...


I think we think we are so big and so strong nothing will harm us. It is childish. We were shocked into adulthood on 9/11 – but, that was so long ago.

Here is the skinny. Like the Romans before us, our ‘leadership’ plays factions against one another with the understanding that no simple Carthaginians or Nazis (or whatever) can really do us harm. We value leadership which gives us bread and circuses and medical insurance. Is that leadership? Are Sanchez's statements - and the expected soundbites - just more examples. Was he so obtuse - in the manner he rails against - that he could not see how his statements would affect the present?

We still slumber.

Our enemies will again misread.

What is the end result – are we to sow the ME with salt?

10/12/2007 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

According to Bill Roggio, Taliban parade captured Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan. Now is this still due to mistakes made in 2002? Yoo-hoo. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz are you no longer there?

Are we getting any smarter? Here's Michael Scheuer's take on Obama's August 2007 strategy to send 6,000 men to Afghanistan/Pakistan to find Osama Bin Laden.

Senator Obama must have left a couple zeroes off his plan for reinforcements. Two brigades -- which is about 6,000 men -- will not make a lick of difference in Afghanistan, which is a country the size of Texas, with the highest mountains on earth, a hostile population, and a growing Islamist insurgency. If Obama starts talking about 100 brigades -- about 300,000 men -- then the public might be able to assume he means business. Otherwise, he is just blowing smoke. Obama and all the other candidates in the other parties constantly say that "we have tried the military option and it does not work." This of course is a bald lie; U.S. military power has been used most daintily in Afghanistan and Iraq. If the military power we have delivered in both places so far is the best we can do, then American taxpayers have been monumentally swindled in the amount of taxes they have paid for their military during the past 25 years. And another billion dollars for aid for Afghan reconstruction would just be another billion wasted. It appears that Obama and his fellow candidates in both parties have not learned that programs for economic recovery, internal stability, and nation-building cannot be started with any hope of effectiveness and durability until the enemy has been definitively annihilated. If Obama is right and the military option has failed, then more aid is just throwing money away because -- as all can see -- the enemy is growing in size and ferocity and shows no signs of being on the edge of annihilation.

Does this mean Obama alone is dumb? Or only that he has a lot of company? Does it really suggest a sad unseriousness in the approach to the War on Terror?

10/12/2007 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

I'd tend to put more faith in the Petraeus approach than in Scheuer's. But whatever approach is chosen, there should be some closure on strategic vision. Some consensus roadmap.

10/12/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


You asked: "Let's move to today. What's the recipe for victory today?"

I don't even think any of the relevant groups can describe an image of victory, much less a recipe to get there. Perhaps I would define victory a bit more highly than others, but I think that in order to "win" in Iraq we need to arrive at a situation where American security and influence are greater than they were when we started and would justify the hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost.

I've been told by some, even those convinced that we could "win" that my standard of victory was simply too high. And yet its incredibly meager compared to the post-war state promised to by the administration and its supporters who label themselves as Neo-Conservatives. Their post-invasion visions were far, far more optimistic.

You're right that we hear nothing about a new strategy from the democrats or the mainstream media. But they aren't the only places with a conspicuous lack of vision. Looking over the conservative press gives me little reason for optimism, either.

When I dismiss the relative importance of State or Congress in my focus on the neo-conservatives, you are quite right to take me to task and remind people that "the problem" is much bigger than that. Many people threw some wrenches into the gears.

But many of these groups weren't advocating the war in the first place. This war was a war conceived, sold by, profited from, and carried out according to the plans of a network of activists with a similar vision. The problems start there, with them, and everything we can expect to do in the future will consist of repairing what went wrong in the operation with which they had a greater influence on than any other group.

And then the problem is further addressed by doing what we can to make sure that those individuals involved in this have as little influence as possible over American public opinion, American foreign policy, and even American military procurement.

The people involved in getting things going have an ideology that is every bit as wacky environmentalism or communism. They are people who are convinced that they know how the world should be, how people should live, and that they have the moral right use force to bring their visions about and the intellectual savvy to create fantasy, utopian visions through the application of force.

Let us not forget Richard Perle, who promised us that after the invasion that the Iraqis would soon build a grand statue of President Bush in Baghdad. And thereafter democracy would spread around the muslim world, bringing us an end or terrorism and even an end of history. Not only was this wrong, it's quite clearly fantasy ideology.

Of course, Mr. Perle and his associates and fellow travelers have benefitted quite nicely from this war. So in a sense, they have "won." Quite amazing that those who had it most wrong gained the most and lost the least.

10/12/2007 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Indeed, Feith, Wolfowitz, and presumably GWB (although thus far he says cannot recall) are the only people mentioned in that fateful decision making process, forcefully agreed to and carried out by Bremmer.
Bremmer could clear up a lot of confusion, and make amends for his past misstatements, but clearly has no intention to do so.
I just think it's an important message, since the widely held belief is there was no plan, and if there had been, no other way to carry it out, given the situation on the ground, which was clearly not the case.
The insurgency clearly was given a boost, and an open field, by the change in plans.
Those who do not learn from history...

GWB did tell Woodward that Wolfowitz was the source of his inspiration.
Garner wanted to take advantage of State Dept Expertise, such as Tom Warrick, who had studied the situation for years.
...all swept aside for a "good idea."

10/12/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...


You're right about the fact that there was a plan, or at least we had a wide variety of things pointing to the existence of some kind of plan (Garner and his team in Kuwait before things began, etc.)

With regards to the people who appear to have made that plan go out the window, I frequently fear that they were moved by a fantasy ideology that blinded them to just how complex their vision really was.

There is another possibility, however. Perhaps the fantasy vision was nothing more than a smokescreen. Perhaps things have gone according to plan. Iraq is where they wanted it and American troops are now stuck there to deal with it.

I try not to entertain this thought, it's a little too difficult for me to stomach. But as I've watched films such as Ferguson's, which calmly detailed mistake after mistake, I have occassionally wondered why no one seems to question the idea that maybe they weren't mistakes at all, at least in the eyes of those pushing for them. Maybe they did know what they were doing.

10/12/2007 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

What victory looks like is a world in which industrialized economies are no longer fueled by oil at all. Desalinized water is so cheap that it can be shipped to inland deserts for the same costs as water on the US eastern seaboard. So all the world's deserts are being steadily turned green--including those in north africa and the middle east.

Finally all the world's diaspora of moslems is being returned to their countries of origin--where the opportunities are suddenly orders of magnitude higher than in the industrialized countries of the world.

In 7-10 years the water side of this equation will be in place. In 5 years the energy side of this equation will be in place.

Absolutely everything happening right now is just a holding action. Or "containment" as George Kennan put it.

10/12/2007 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I am not plagued by thoughts that the new plan foresaw and approved of all the problems that evolved from it!
This is much easier for me to accept:
"I frequently fear that they were moved by a fantasy ideology that blinded them to just how complex their vision really was."
Indeed, the Garner plan took into account that there would be a need for security forces beyond what the US Army could provide, and also that the members of the Iraqi Army, (culled of monsters as best as possible) while not perfect, was composed of many patriotic Iraqis, Shia and Sunni alike, able to function together as a unit.
In the Iran Iraq war, many Shia soldiers fought just as bravely against the Shia Persians, feeling that Iraqi Arabs were fighting for their country, not Shia on Shia.

After that initial fateful decision, my complaint is with the shallow learning curve of the administration, compounded by W's desire not to anger folks like CAIR and the like.

Inviting people that supported terror in the ME to the Whitehouse was a less than ideal gesture!

10/12/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...

Charles wrote:

"What victory looks like is a world in which industrialized economies are no longer fueled by oil at all. Desalinized water is so cheap that it can be shipped to inland deserts for the same costs as water on the US eastern seaboard. So all the world's deserts are being steadily turned green--including those in north africa and the middle east."

I like that part of your vision. And I believe we could have come much closer to that had we spent the half a trillion dollars we've spent on Iraq on those technologies.

It's interesting that just today it was widely publicized that the Pentagon has decided to move ahead on its own to develop space based solar power which can beam the power to receivers based on the Earth. The Pentagon has an enormous need for this: the ability to receive large amounts of power anywhere on Earth would save them a tremendous logistics and security footprint compared to the fuel they are currently using to run generators on bases around the world.

Seeing this, the Pentagon has been eagerly investigating space based power generation. Today it was announced that they'd apply $10 billion over 10 years to build a 10 megawatt system.


10/12/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I would love a link that purports to show economical desalinized water, Charles!
That would truly be revolutionary, if it existed today.

10/12/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sorry, I misread that as if it was available today!
Time will tell!

10/12/2007 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

One interesting theory is that Bush ran on tax cuts and made promises to thousands of wealthy donors that on his honor, he would never raise taxes. He took the pledge of the cancerous Club for Growth of massive debt, supply side economics, lower taxes on the rich.
When 9/11 happened, many urged that the US begin substantial increases in Muslim language funding, restore billions for strategic communications cut with the end of the Cold War, double State Dept Staff, and add at least 150,000 combat troops to the military. The problem was that all that would go on regular budget, not supplemental, and jeopardize Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

He had Rummy telling him the whole military could be shrunk to a function of "high tech precision weapons" and a few thousand "high tech special ops supersoldiers" on the ground. And after 2001 in Afghanistan Rumsfeld looked like a genius. But by late 2003 the whole strategy of Club for Growth goals 1st, war on the cheap, no strategy looked tattered. And as a growing volume of people said Iraq was going bad, more people were urgently needed in the Army and Marines, nothing happened except exortations to show steely resolve and appreciate more tax cuts are coming unless people elect "those Demmahcrats".

Finally people got sick of it in 2006. Threw everyone out many excellent Republicans in the Northeast, West, Midwest. All because they couldn't throw out the people they really wanted to ditch - Team Bush.

Besides Bremer, and the two pro-Israel Neocons Wolfowitz and Feith, the other major player was Paul Slocombe. In the decision to "fire" all military, and in eradicating all Sunnis from interior police, ministries, teaching jobs, civil service in the name of "de-Ba'athification".

Add that Feith, who should be stood up against a wall and shot if we were a truly just and honorable nation, was in charge of the post war planning.

The only debate would be who else deserved to be marched to the wall with him. Add: Rummy? Cheney? Condi Suckup Rice? Tommy Franks? The Sulzberger Family that owns the NY Times? Bush? Gen Rick (we're winning more and more every day! Can I have my 4th Star, please???) Sanchez...

10/12/2007 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Obviously the growing realization of how fouled up the neocons were, how incompetent the Bush Team was, bears heavily on the wisdom of letting those folks open a 3rd War in Iran.

Plus they refused to add people to the military for four years and refused to spend on equipment burned out, damaged from heavy use from "sky patrols" over major US cities plus 2 Wars (all measures of combat equipment - we have less now than on 9/11, plus less transport and tanker planes), to the supremely wasteful tactic of moving an entire aircraft battle group in for 6 months off Pakistan so 4-6 carrier planes can provide close air support in lieu of artillery..

My read is we cannot trust present leadership to deal with any conflict with Iran.

Wait for Hillary and competent Clintonistas - or maybe Republican with competence who has yet to show leadership and understanding that 9/11 was 6+ years ago and the conflict is more than saying you love Israel and want to kick Muslim ass.....

10/12/2007 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

General Macarthur went quietly into the night to the old barracks tune of "old soldiers don't die, they just fade away." Not anymore. Now they show up on CNN and Fox as expert witnesses pouring gasoline on the media firestorm of defeat,failure, doom and gloom.
It's hard to read through the smog of cynicism and sarcasm, but surely Cedarford didn't really mean leave it to Hillary and the "competent Clintonistas" to deal with Iran.

10/12/2007 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Wait for Hillary and competent Clintonistas - or maybe Republican with competence who has yet to show leadership and understanding that 9/11 was 6+ years ago and the conflict is more than saying you love Israel and want to kick Muslim ass.....

What's the prima facie evidence for Hillary's competence. Let's see, Sandy Berger is now on her National Security Team. None of this is to say that GWB and his team are competent, but none of the above is any evidence, so far as I can see, that Hillary is.

10/12/2007 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Now if Hillary wins it will mean that for at least 24 and possibly 28 straight years there will either have been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. That's one generation of men.

10/12/2007 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

What to do with Iran? Simple, we ask the Competent James Earl Carter, a man with more experience with Iran than any other. He'll know what to do.
"If only I had one more helicopter"


10/13/2007 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

De-Baath-ification, damned if you do, damned if you don't, and damned difficult to say how it goes if you don't vs. the view from behinds saying how SNAFU it is or was.

What was it Sec. Rumsfeld said about it? Something to the effect of all great plans going out the window when the first boot steps on the ground.

I believe it was the Iraqi Army's reaction to a ham heavy handed yet doable De-baath-ification edict that lead to the majority of our difficulties. What would have been the issue had the Baath Party been dealt with otherwise? Same issues different players, maybe with Iranian divisions crossing a line, which we were not ready to cross ourselves... Or worse.

If the actions then could have reflected our actions now then maybe this mess would have been shorter lived. But we were unprepared for this unconventional fighting, and heavy with conventional thinking and conventional tools.

The fighting reflects still the need for a better form of governance in the ME and SA, the efforts support the people arriving at that same conclusion and gives them the support needed to get on with it. Iraqi's have now rejected the Baathists the Wahabists the Salafists and their complementary Iranian Revolutionary notions of how to run a world. What the Iranians arrive at will say volumes to the rest of the world... Even to those wonderful folks in the NW territories of Pakistan. It won't be easy and it won't be clean. It is however cleaner and far easier than the alternative solutions of all out no holds barred total war, and it is less messy than various degrees of surrender tactic. Tactics still promoted by too many, and embraced by the Caliphate.

Hell, if you must blame someone, I suppose we could just blame it on the Irish. They're handy and historically prepared for such an assumption of guilt. Then maybe we can get on with the issues at hand.

10/13/2007 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

There was an excellent book written about a hundred years ago, Small Wars by Colonel C.E. Callwell and had our political elite been even faintly aware of the contents then we would not be in the mess we are today in Iraq. And in this book are possible strategies for winning in both Iraq and the larger GWoT.

Small wars, basically a euphemism for colonial wars since it is written from the point of view of the great power, broadly fall into three categories or typologies. The first type is a war of conquest or annexation. The second a war of suppression of insurrections and lawlessness or for the settlement of conquered or annexed territories (and often follows a conquest), and the third is a war to wipe out an insult or to overthrow a dangerous enemy. The invasion of Iraq can be analyzed in several ways but the best reading would be that of two separate wars, an initial three week war of conquest and then the current four-plus year war of suppression of insurrection. There was a very similar struggle over 150 years ago that shows the merging of wars of conquest with wars of suppression of insurgencies:

The French conquest is a remarkable illustration of this. To crush the armies of the Dey and to wrest the pirate strongholds which had been so long a scourge of neighbouring seas from his grasp proved easy of accomplishment; but it took years and years of desultory warfare to establish French rule firmly in the vast regions which had been won.

The main characteristic of the first type of war is that typically the great power is facing some sort of organized army and government that stands and fights. Therefore these types of wars are always easy victories for the great power. On the other hand wars of insurrection typically involve guerrilla or baditti who refuse to stand and fight. These wars are “protracted, thankless and invertebrate” and are very unpopular back home. Up until WW1-2 the great power always won in the end if they followed a strategy of divide and conquer. The semi-civilized people fighting the great powers never had the ability to stay cohesive for long under the relentless barrage of pressure exerted on them. But two men, T. E. Lawrence and Mao Tse-tung changed everything and the three great ideologies of Nationalism, Marxism and Islam provided the insurgents with unifying concepts that led to the rationalization and focussing of discontent, and to a long string of victories by insurgents over great powers. The US is struggling to end this insurgent winning streak (arguably broken once by the British in Malaya) in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

One can see this both of these patterns (the types of war and the use of ideology in resistance) in the Israeli experience in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis got in easy enough and have struggled to impose their will, to totally put down the insurgency. But in fact they have been pretty successful, there are plenty of colonies living on conquered land in relative calm all things considered, and this is down to the fact that of the three main unifying ideologies, the Palestinians chose Nationalism. But given their history (or lack there of) Palestinian nationalism is rather weak as has been there efforts to resist the Israelis. Only recently with Hamas choosing Islam as a unifying concept has real resistance been appearing.

So the most coherent strategy for victory in Iraq would have been to limit the war to one of conquest or regime change (Type 1 or 3) and to at all costs have avoided getting involved in a war to suppress insurgents. Once in a Type 2 war the only possible strategy to follow is divide and conquer (which General Petraeus is showing some skill at). The problem with it is that it leads to an Iraq divided into three and is hardly likely to remain stable for very long. On the bright side some Israeli strategists have been hoping for just such a result, a splintered Iraq too small and disorganized to challenge Israel, for more than 20 years. IN any case the only real hope for “victory” in Iraq lies in redefining it as a Type 1 or 3 war.


It is not possible to devise a strategy for the wider “War on Terror” without a more precise definition of the enemy. Since “Terror” is a rather elusive foe, I see two possible choices leading which lead to polar opposite strategies for victory, one of which may prove to be very offensive to visitors of this blog.

The first is to declare the enemy to be Islam writ large. It follows then that this ideology must be declared a human contagion and only a genocidal war of total annihilation, based on the model of eradication of small pox, would suffice. Although there is certainly an asymptotic problem, since killing the first 50% -70% would be relatively easy, there would be an ever increasing difficulty as one tends towards 100% extinction. But there is no other way to be sure that the cancer of Islam is erased forever from human consciousness. And obviously any such campaign would involve considerable collateral damage as Muslims and non-Muslims often live in close proximity.

The other possibility is to declare the ideology of extreme militant Islam as the enemy and learn to live with the rest of the Islamic body politic, much as we did in the Cold War where Marxism was the enemy but its cousin Social Democracy was actually harnessed as an ally. But the logic of how to fight this enemy may be even more disturbing than the first. For the most striking characteristic of the extreme ideologies of Marxism and militant Islam is that they only perform well during the pressures of war while in peacetime they are totally useless as guides to organizing a successful society. Look back to communism, its shining moments was as a unifying concept while under the duress of larger forces, Mao against the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalists, Stalin confronting the Nazi onslaught, the Viet Minh and then the Viet Cong against first France and then the US. But absent military conflict Marxism creates dysfunctional societies such as that in North Korea and Cuba. The way Marxism was defeated was not on the battlefield but in the grocery store. It could not deliver the standard of living and now there are very few remaining examples of purely communist states.

Militant Islam seems to be following a similar trend. It has two major successes under its belt, the vanquishing of the Soviet armies in Afghanistan by militants based in Pakistan and the defeat of Saddam Hussein during the Iran Iraq War. But both of these conflicts have proved to be fecund fields for the establishment of militant Islam. Would the Iranian revolution have lasted long if it had not been nourished by the only human situation for which it has a viable answer; namely war. And during the nineties and first year or two of the 21st century, as the memories of the conflict where the Ayatollahs stood basically alone against the Iraqi offensives, Iran slowly moved away from the most virulent strains of Islamic militancy as the revolution struggled to find coherent answers to everyday problems. Only the impotent threats thrown their way by the US since 9/11 has allowed the Mullahs to regroup and reassert their grip on power as the spectre of war looms on the horizon.

A similar story could be told about Pakistan and Afghanistan where the Islamists successful struggle against the Soviets has led to chronic infection of the most militant forms of Islam.

Therefore a simple strategy to defeat militant Islam is to avoid long protracted military struggles, where a non-compromising ideology is an advantage, and to instead make them fight the war of everyday life, where a rigid, dogmatic doctrine is a death wish. Military options should only be envisaged where objectives can be quickly obtained, for instance a massive strike on Saudi Arabia if they refused to close their Madrassas.

And paradoxically I would think that Hilary Clinton would not be the best President to execute this policy, as she would be unsure of herself on foreign policy and would tend to follow a more establishment approach. It would take a General de Gaulle-type figure and the only faint shadow of one that I can see on the American political horizon is perhaps Rudy Giuliani.

Hilary would be better at executing the annihilation strategy though.

10/13/2007 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Richard Heddleson said...

FDR a great strategist? Would you say that if he had been term limited out in 1940 as Bush will be? And would things have ended significantly differently had he not been in the White House?

10/13/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Disregarding what the stated aims of OIF are, consider the ff goals:

1. Toppling enemy regime
2. Removing the WMD threat
3. Destroying the reputation, combat capability of Wahabi-type Jihad
4. Containing Iran
5. Helping prevent further attacks on the US

The current Iraq campaign measured against these strategic goals, might have the
following result:

1. Succeeded
2. N/A
3. Partly succeeded
4. Failed
5. Unknown

If we apply the same to Afghanistan we get

1. Succeeded
2. N/A
3. Partly succeeded
4. N/A
5. Unknown but possible partly succeeded

Let's see what our current toolbox can accomplish. The action required to smash an enemy regime directly implies the necessity to create an alternative regime; or else you leave a vacuum. Localized military action was very effective at destroying regimes but not so useful at creating successor states.

Moreover localized military action is only partly effective in destroying the mystique of the Jihad and preventing the spread of WMDs. Those require other tools; a mix of intimidation, diplomacy, propaganda and covert action.

Once the West started tearing itself apart politically over Iraq, the power to intimidate, engage in covert action and propaganda became correspondingly reduced. We can rail as much as we like against the obtuseness of the Left, but the fact remains that once you get the Left really ticked off it can effectively sabotage intel, covert action and split the polity. So the price of any use of regime change action will be a reduction in freedom of action in those areas.

Surprisingly enough, the Islamic world also began to tear itself apart over Iraq, largely because it forced al-Qaeda to use terror tactics (the impolite word for asymmetrical warfare) on Muslims because it too had to create a successor regime; and the loss in al-Qaeda's prestige is an underappreciated achievement, I think, of the campaign. There are advantages in bringing the fight to enemy bases. I doubt that al-Qaeda's reputation would have suffered as much if the campaign had been restricted to defensive actions within the infidel homelands in the West. As a practical matter, people become less enthusiastic about war, even a Jihad when it takes place in their living room.

Let's return to Sanchez. Sanchez's laments the inability to generate "all the sources of national power" and singles out the State Department for its failure, though he blames practically everybody. Has anything changed? Is anything likely to change if Hillary, Rudy or Obama becomes President? What this signifies, if anything is that six years into the war the West hasn't made the changes, hasn't mobilized the resources to win and fight this campaign. If there were another regime we had to take down; if Saudi Arabia or Pakistan for example, disintegrated and acquired a new and radical Islamic head, what would we do, even with benefit of hindsight? What if we had to do it again? Would we be able to generate all the sources of national power? Or are we saying, no, we won't do anything like that ever again, which I think is perilously close to what some Left wing positions hold. Then you are not talking about bringing the boys home. You are talking about keeping them on ice indefinitely until you develop a doctrine for their employment, and then promptly forgetting the matter until the Next September 11.

This is the question that never seems to get answered. President Bush talks about "staying the course" and engaging in "public diplomacy", Hillary studiously avoids saying anything of substance, and Obama has a plan not to retaliate if the US is nuked and moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons. These are answers to nothing in particular. So far as I can tell there's not even an attempt to get to solve the basic shortcomings.

To my mind, one of least appreciated developments is that experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has potentially increased the size of our toolbox. There is now a much more robust capability to organize communities in Muslim countries than there was in 2003. It's been acquired by necessity. And this means that the potency of our toolbox is much expanded. Whether or not we use those new tools is a matter for policy; they should not be used haphazardly, but it's a valuable capability which I think we should nurture and which is in real danger of being thrown away by a self-absorbed political class, partly because we have no strategic framework in which to value it. Will that change soon? Or is that a forlorn hope?

10/13/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

We speak of good policy and bad policy and the administration's fault viz Gen. Garner and Bremmer. We speak of Gen Sanchez and his poisoning of the waters and we say that the administration should have constructed a more stable consensus and yet we see congress exercising more foreign policy power than the state department in the passage of a resolution. With that amount of opposition in the congress and that intense desire to ruin the war effort how can one say that any one person has the ability to take the nation down a single path toward anything let alone victory. The 60's should have been stomped out of existence unmercifully.

10/13/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Valeri said...

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10/13/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

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10/13/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

"Competent Clintonistas".

Best laugh I've had this wee. That even beat Gore's gift from the Swedes.

This period of the Long War has been marked by ludicrous restraint on the part of the civilized world. What strategy we did embark on has suffered fatally from the absence of a clearly stated moral basis or strategic goal beyond "defending the homeland".

I have hated "homeland" as a buzzword since the first time I heard it. But I sucked it up because I thought it NEEDED to be used. No longer.

The spice on today's particular cake of conflict is the myopic, politically motivated, treachery from the left - both the big "L" and now more and more little "l" flavor. They really can't help themselves; their entire political theory rests on the postulate the "America = BAD, BAD, BAD" and to pretend they work toward victory is laughable.

Half of us are hopeless, a quarter are simply ignorant, and the rest are suicidal.

It's going to be an interesting decade.

Costy, too, but then the barbarians will step too far and we'll do what should have been done in 2001.

10/13/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

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10/13/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

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10/13/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...


I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass here but you give five criteria, basically localized criteria, but then you go on to say “The action required to smash an enemy regime directly implies the necessity to create an alternative regime; or else you leave a vacuum.” If this is true then shouldn’t our success in creating this alternative regime be at the top of your list of criteria in judging the success of both Iraq and Afghanistan? Aand shouldn’t it be weighted more strongly than the other criteria? If so they would both come out as failed miserably and failed miserably and that is the whole point of my comment; the only military action that is useful in this kind of conflict is sharp and decisive, a long drawn out war of attrition favours the absolutist jihadi ideology because their refusal to compromise becomes an asset.

It is true that Al Qaida has hit a plateau in Iraq but that is to be expected as the population adjusts from their zero presence four years ago to whatever level they are now. The remnants that survive will likely mutate into a more politically viral form. If they have any brains they will look to Hezbollah in Lebanon as a guide.

As for the increased toolbox, tools aren’t ends in and of themselves; tools are only as useful as they to help achieve strategic aims.

10/13/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

There's also the problem of the number of Al Qaida in Pakistan, and the difficulty in reaching out and touching them.

Much different than the opportunity we had in 2003 when the metastasis had just begun.

10/13/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger MG said...

The victory over irhabism / Islamist imperialism will occur when the exporters of it have to earn money for a living (vs. skimming it off oil sales).

The visible expansion of Islam in Europe occurs because wealthy Saudi princes fund the construction of mosques.

Without the cash, the local Muslims have to start integrating.

Western countries can help themselves by ceasing open-ended financial support to the Muslim communities in their midsts.

The political questions, of how to:

-- win when the country is so deeply divided

-- win when civil servants leak intelligence means and methods anonymously

-- win when "journalists" observe their "code of ethics" only in the breach

-- win when one major party benefits from losing

-- win when the executive branch is hobbled by an imperial judiciary

are straightforward to answer:

Victory is the result of populist action, in the face of Establishment resistance, in the face if leftist resistance, in the face of foreign-financed resistance.

The rule of law, and constitutional government, is fading in the US. Once the population recognizes that, we will see the benefits to the population of the 2d Amendment.

I write this with great fear and trembling. I don't like the current state of affairs, but I don't anticipate remedies to occur from within the system.

-- The judiciary is invested in expanding its power.

-- The Democrats are invested in abdicating legislative authority to the judiciary (they don't have to be responsible for consequences that way).

-- "Journalists" are invested in changing the world, rather than reporting it.

-- The executive branch is riven with unelected, untouchable bureaucrats that can gut any policy they don't like.

-- Various entities, within and without the US, pay close attention to these goings on, and fund the parties and processes which destroy "Unum".


10/14/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Jeez, enough everybody. I've not hear this much name and blame calling since my middle grandson got caught drinking beer with his buds.

Let us all sit down, pop a top and read this and relax a little.

The world still is turning, there are no problems that American's can't screw up royally and not still be able to fix.

Yes, its a screwed up situation in many ways in many places, but like I always tell my family...

It could be a hellva lot worse.

I think I'll have a second one.

Papa Ray
West Texas

10/14/2007 04:55:00 PM  

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