Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More on Iraq

General Barry R McCaffrey returns from yet another trip in Iraq and assesses the situation there. Here are some of the salient points:

  • Violence Down Dramatically
  • Al Qaeda Tactically Defeated and Trying to Regenerate
  • Iraqi Security Forces Key Factor in Successful Internal Security
  • Central Government Does Not Work

And more ... read a summary with a link to the entire article at the Small Wars Journal.

And over at Tigerhawk's: a discussion on whether the "Surge" Strategy was already in plain sight from the beginning but only emerged after long Pentagon infighting.


Blogger Bill Carson said...

"We also need to make the case to Congress that significant US financial resources are needed to get the Iraqi economy going. ($3 billion per year for five years.) The nation-building process is the key to a successful US Military withdrawal---and will save enormous money and grief in the long run to avoid a failed Iraqi state."

If so, it should be exclusively distributed through US military commanders in the field funding local projects. Otherwise what's not stolen by national politicians with questionable US support will be misspent on ineffective high profile boondoggle projects

12/19/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

"Central Government Does Not Work"

This is in dramatic contrast to the Federal Government of the U.S. whose Congress still has not been able to come up with a budget for FY2008 - and that has no hope of creating a budget that makes sense. In case y'all have not heard, the funding for the Woodstock Museum is back in there and the Dems are going to severely restrict farm subsidies to only 10 times as much as what those notoriously spendthrift Republicans allowed...

12/19/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The key is what happens in the next two years. No matter what, most of our troops will leave Iraq. Many scenarios are possible.

Even without the petroleum, Iraq has a strategic location that straddles the Sunni-Shi'te divide and encompasses major Shi'ite holy places. Its air force bases are excellent, yet Iraq has neither an air force to match its facilities nor an air force to defend Iraqi air space from Iranian and Saudi air forces. Since 2003, Iraq has existed under an American air shield. Unless Iraq signs some form of alliance with the United States to give itself time to develop its own air force, Iraq will suffer under a lag time during which it would live under the mercy of Saudi and Iranian air power.

Although I would hardly favor any permanent American military presence in Iraq, it would not be in America's interest for Saudi Arabia and Iran to partition Iraq. Such a partition can be formal (such as Poland's partition by Austria, Prussia, and Russia) or informal (such as Britain and Russia's partition of Iran one century ago into economic spheres of influence, or the contemporaneous partition of China into outside spheres of economic influence). Iraq serves a geostrategic purpose, and given the present hostility of Saudi Arabia and Iran against the United States, a "strong Iraq" policy is advisable.

12/19/2007 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

I read General McCaffrey's linked "Bottom-Line, Operational Assessment" and am convinced that McCaffrey's evaluations are valid. In his assessment, General McCaffrey said:

"The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces---that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative."

There were indications before that Rumsfeld's administration of the DoD was not the best. Certainly President Bush's acceptance of Rumsfeld's resignation was an indication that there were genuine problems. However prior to reading General McCaffrey's assessment, I was inclined to dismiss most of the criticisms against Rumsfeld as merely the shrieking of moonbats. Now I seen that embedded within the cacophony of moonbat shrieking there were actually a few honest people voicing legitimate criticism.

How is one to separate the honest signal from so much noise?

It worries me that there are honest people out there making legitmate criticisms who can not be heard due to the moonbats.

12/19/2007 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Alexis, we are going to have bases in Iraq for the long haul. I'd imagine when all is said and done there will the equivalent of one American Army division and several Air Force squadrons based there on rotating basis. We would be foolish not to establish them. As you point out Iraq is the Queen on the Middle East chessboard.

My son has enlisted in the USAF and I fully expect that he will spend some time in Iraq given that his planning at the moment to make it a career.

12/19/2007 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Central government is usually a fool's policy on solving internal problems. It is nice for external problems, but not if everybody is revolting inside.

12/20/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

There's no way that the problems with bureacracy, even DoD bureacracy, can be changed in the few months that Petraeus has had to work counter-insurgency in Iraq.

McCaffrey is intermixing tactical flexibility and leadership on the ground changes with Secretary of Defense macromanagement policies. There is nothing the Secretary of Defense can do, same as Bush, when it comes to matters an entire ocean away, if the military commanders an ocean away don't want to fix the problems correctly.

This is because neither Bush nor Rumsfeld were going to overrule their military commanders and micromanage. McCaffrey definitely saw problems fixed, but he has no evidence to say it was fixed because of a change in a single man, called Rumsfeld.

Healing the Moral Fissures in the Armed Forces - The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces---that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.

Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma---who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)

It really is a personal axe to grind, due to the fact that McCaffrey knows as well as anyone else that Rumsfeld wanted to resign after Abu Ghraib, and then once again, but the President overruled him. Because Rumsfeld is a patriot, Rumsfeld withdrew his resignation from the President.

McCaffrey is engaging in cognitive dissonance to believe and say that Rumsfeld did not hold himself personally accountable, while recognizing that Rumsfeld left office and thus "things changed". Yes, things changed, but Admiral Fallon and Petraeus was NOT promoted and assigned under Gates, if you recall.

I suppose if most of the military high command from Vietnam were blaming the problems on Iraq on Rumsfeld, then obviously they were not focusing on solving the problem as Petraeus has shown how to do.

Rumsfeld may indeed have been an impediment, but only due to the blindness of people like McCaffrey. Such things always occur in team dynamics. The team may have made a wrong decision, and a single member may have been "right", but if that member can't work with the team, then the team ditches the member. Pure self-survival reflex.

Every war needs a scapegoat for defeats. This has been true even when Athens won a war but their general overstepped his time limit.

It doesn't mean that this is about a sudden instantaneous transformation just cause Rumsfeld finally resigned, due to the fact that Bush somehow got convinced change was needed due to the electoral defeats in 2006.

12/20/2007 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Due to the fact that when I tried to recall if in fact Admiral Fallon and Petraeus was assigned their commands under Rumsfeld or Gates, I couldn't remember the exact date of their being assigned, I went back to check on this information for accuracy.

Even if Gates did, for some reason or the other due to a shift in Presidential strategy, assign new commanders, the question then becomes why. If Abizaid and others had to go, why if Rumsfeld was the problem and when Rumsfeld had to go then Fallon and such folks could then "speak" more openly than they could under Rumsfeld?

There's more than one ways to look at it.

Rumsfeld and the President may have already decided that if the Republicans lost the election because the American people was no longer convinced by the President's strategy, the President would accept Rumsfeld's resignation, get somebody else as head of DoD, and also clean out the army commanders that Rumsfeld had to work with and thus were basing their strategic overview on.

This would make the question of who decided to replace Abizaid and who decided to reassign Admiral Fallon, moot. Since obviously there was a change and people, not just Rumsfeld, had to go. Contrary to McCaffrey's descriptions that Rumsfeld went and that by itself changed things for the better due to an improvement in

There were a couple of links I had found on this subject matter.

12/20/2007 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

an improvement in


I looked in the google archives for the dates. The election results came in around November 10. On January 5, Michael T. Klare of thenation claimed that Gates announced the command change for Abizaid.

Part of the explanation for this move, of course, is a desire by the White House to sweep away bitter ground-force commanders like Abizaid and Casey who had opposed an increase in US troops in Iraq and argued for shifting greater responsibility for the fighting to Iraq forces, thereby permitting a gradual American withdrawal. "The Baghdad situation requires more Iraqi troops," not more Americans, Abizaid said in a recent interview with the New York Times. For this alone, Abizaid had to go.

There was some talk of Abizaid already having a 2 year tour extended. There seemed to be an expectation that he would leave soon after the mid term elections. Casey was due for reassign in summer or spring though, so his was stepped up, which is consistent with the analysis that Bush wanted to clear the deck, starting with the top military and civilian leaders beholden or responsible for the failed strategy in Iraq.

Another argument against McCaffrey's claim is that Petraeus served as trainer of Iraqis and also helped write and publish the Army's new COIN manual. He also made it available to everyone.

How could Petraeus have taken such effective action, such as turning the entire Iraqi training scenario around so that it could even be feasible to think that Iraqis could take over for Americans, if Rumsfeld was as McCaffrey described him as?

Other people may have noticed this or not, but Rumsfeld when he answered questions about military investigations in Abu Ghraib and other such incidents always spoke that he would never comment on it because that would be interfering with an internal investigation. This seems to imply that Rumsfeld, like Bush, prefers a hands off style of management and leadership. Let the subordinates pick and choose what to do and then give them what they need to do it.

This, also, as you may have seen, can lead to people accusing Bush of micromanaging and overruling his military commanders. That thing about Schumaker and more troops, and the accussation that Bush fired him cause Bush didn't want to hear any dissension amongst the ranks.

Nation link

The New York Times actually had a pretty thorough report for once

I'm not basing my views on such news reports, of course, given that the signs about Bush changing strategy was already there given his speeches between 2006-7.

Bush is very loyal to his people. He wanted Abizaid on because Bush thought Abizaid could get it done. It took a lot of things to occur to convince Bush otherwise.

We could get into lots of problems over who decided what and who decided which person would get command of Iraq and Central, but I don't think that really matters in light of the limited point McCaffrey was making.

If Rumsfeld helped to decide or recommend Petraeus or Fallon, then that invalidates McCaffrey's praise of Petraeus and Fallon while slighting Rumsfeld's abilities. If Rumsfeld had no part whatsoever to do with the President or Gate's decision to clear the rest of the deck, then McCaffrey's comments about Petraeus, Fallon, and the changes in Iraq also have no bearing on Rumsfeld's leadership abilities or lack thereof.

The only thing we know for sure is that Rumsfeld and Bush did what the military commanders on the ground wanted and publicly spoke about many times. As the Iraqis step up, we will step down. The solution to Iraq is for Iraqis to do, not us. Petraeus has the same goal, except he said that Iraqis won't step up unless we step up with them and demonstrate our courage and strength. Such a philosophy allowed Petraeus to improve the training of Iraqis from miserable to moderately successful. Giving him command of all combat forces in Iraq, has done a lot more than that. That we know with as much certainty as there can be.

12/20/2007 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Doc99 said...

Gen. McCaffery's analysis is a good read. In the interest of full disclosure, Gen. McCaffery predicted that the Battle For Baghdad would cost the US 5000 KIA.

12/20/2007 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Lucky Pierre said...

By the time Baghdad is stabililized it might be 5000 KIA. We're at about 4000 now.

12/20/2007 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Francine, you are referring to the entire WAR for the Liberation of Iraq, not just the battle for Baghdad.

It may not seem like a fair distinction, but if you review the history of most wars, each battle tends to be framed by the analysts in order to isolate and identify the thinking, problems, mistaken assumptions, strategic & tactical insights & errors.

Of course, it's possible to win ALL the battles of a prolonged war, and yet lose the overall conflict... VietNam is a perfect example of that.

And there are lots and lots of gold to be mined from those veins.

The scale of events can be helpful, too.

Look at the Battle of Stalingrad (WWII, Russia) or The Somme (France, WWI) in which millions of troops on both sides participated, and hundreds of thousands died.

It can put things in perspective, and make you appreciate just how good the American military are at their jobs to keep in mind that the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran produced tens of thousands of casualties for the belligerents.

heres a link to battle casualties from major battles of well-known popular 20th century wars, but it's a little dry, with all the statistics...

12/20/2007 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

As a post postmortem, McCaffrey's AAR seems to delve into political areas where it really need not have wandered. That will cost in the long run, and he had to have known that. I find the report is less credible due to that meander.

In 2002 the debate that shaped the war in Iraq came upon the heels of a successful SOF operation in Afghanistan, and tended to focus on how we could or if we could replicate that victory in Iraq. Conventional thinking said not, not enough Green Berets to make it work. What Petraeus has done is shown that the transformed US military can do much of the stuff once relegated to the Special Forces. I think this lesson that has gone unrealized for too long and really I don't know if the commanders or the troops were capable of it in 2003. I tend to think the troops have always been ready, I am not certain if the Iraqi people were at the time.

Where once our military was stuck in the Cold War, Petraeus is leading Rumsfeld's meaner, leaner fighting machine into the new Century. On that there is no debate. The rest, IMO, is conjecture including General McCaffery's remarks on the politics of the day.

12/20/2007 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

General McCaffrey notes the central government is a mess. What a shocka that is.

Old pols used to doing politics with brutality are now trying to do it some other way? I think they are pretending to do it some other way. McCaffrey notes Maliki's major weakness is he does not have his own militia, the fact the major players in Iraqi national politics need militias is a major weakness.

McCaffrey notes real political progress is occurring at the local and provincial levels (Michael Yon is great at documenting these growing pains). It takes time, it takes time. Eventually those local & provincial politicians who are learning to do politics without guns will make it to the national level.

12/21/2007 07:15:00 AM  

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