What the Surge is really about (with a little Rudy thrown in for good measure)

Clifford May has an excellent article about the Surge. It begins with the doomsday scenarios the anti-War people in politics and the press spelled out before the Surge happened, and then points that the more honest amongst them are admitting that the Surge is working. What makes May’s article very good is that it explains why the Surge is working. It’s not just more bodies being thrown at a failed military tactic. Instead, under General Petraeus’ skilled leadership, it’s an entirely new approach, bolstered by more military personnel:

Because of scant media interest, most Americans don’t even realize that the so-called surge is a new and different strategy, implemented by General Petraeus because the approach of his predecessors — not least former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield — failed.

Rumsfeld wanted a “light footprint” in Iraq, not an intrusive military occupation. He thought more troops would mean more targets for our enemies. He pushed hard for Iraqis to provide their own security as quickly as possible.

Under the Rumsfeld strategy, most American forces spent most of their time in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Cut off from the local population, they received little intelligence. And since they were providing security for themselves but not for Iraqis, Iraqis turned to sectarian militias which grew larger, stronger, and more violent.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq deployed suicide-bombers to mass-murder civilians as a way to stoke sectarian violence. Al Qaeda calculated — not unreasonably — that Americans would withdraw rather than remain in the crossfire of a civil war.

General Petraeus, the Army’s top counterinsurgency expert, decided it was time for a different approach. He moved troops out of the FOBs and put them into Iraqi cities and villages where they have been providing security for Iraqis — who have shown their appreciation by providing intelligence that spy satellites can’t retrieve.

He is targeting al Qaeda, as well as the Shia militias trained, funded and equipped by Tehran — their cells, strongholds, and bomb factories. And with added troop strength, he has been able to hold the neighborhoods he has cleared.

It also is true that most traditional Iraqi leaders have been repelled by al Qaeda’s brutality and extremism. Americans, by contrast, have shown the local sheiks respect, while training and partnering with Iraqis — making it clear they would like nothing better than to see Iraqis take charge of their own security as soon as they are ready.

On top of all that, U.S. soldiers have been doubling as diplomats: helping to reconcile Sunni and Shia tribal groups, and even bringing insurgents — those not affiliated with al Qaeda or Tehran — into line with the Iraqi government.

Petraeus’ leadership genius, which the media refuses to acknowledge, is that he’s not insane. And by insane I mean the definition attributed to Einstein that views insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Petraeus is doing something new, and he’s getting new results — and good ones too.

It helps, of course, that General Petraeus is a counterinsurgency expert. As an aside, that’s why I’m pleased about Bibi Netanyahu’s resurgent political career. Whether people like him or hate him, he’s long been understood to be Israel’s top counter terrorist thinker.

Rudy Giuliani is also showing signs of that same clear eyed realism in dealing with terrorists, a realism untainted by the multiculturists’ bizarre and dangerous mix of romanticism, condescension and self-loathing when it comes to viewing Islamists. Here’s Caroline Glick, that astute observer of Islamist terrorism, talking about Giuliani’s latest foreign policy pronouncement:

The strongest voices calling for the US to apply the same policies toward the Palestinians that it applies to terror forces throughout the world are heard in President George W. Bush’s own Republican Party. Former New York mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani has been the strongest Republican voice calling for change.

In an article published this week in Foreign Affairs, Giuliani supported Bush’s view that the aim of the US war is to destroy both the global terrorist movement and its radical Islamic-fascist ideology. But Giuliani expressed deep misgivings regarding Bush’s actual policies, which he believes have been inconsistent and insufficiently strong.

Giuliani makes his call for consistency most clearly in his discussion of the Palestinians and Israel. In his words: “Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism.”

He added, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.”

By so couching his argument, Giuliani made clear that, from his perspective, there is no difference between the jihad against Israel and the jihad throughout the world. As a result, in his view, the US should align its policy toward the Palestinians with its policy against jihad everywhere in the world.

Glick’s praise for Giuliani, who is the Republican candidate who has been most recent and most explicit in his foreign policy stance should not be understood to cut out the other Republican candidates. As far as Glick is concerned, Romney and Thompson get it too:

While Giuliani has been the most candid in his critique of Bush’s policy toward the Palestinians, his views are not out of sync with the general tenor of the Republican presidential debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Fred Thompson have similarly made clear that they believe the US must be more forthright and consistent in fighting the war.

Overall, as the Islamists continue to overreach themselves, getting by force what they could simply have had handed to them in time through demographic growth and Western cultural suicide, it seems as if leaders are emerging who understand the issues and who have reasonable tactics and strategies for addressing a problem long present and finally recognized.

(If you think this post is worthy of greater airplay on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Wire, please click here.) 


One Response

  1. Part of the reason why Rumsfield did what he did was in reaction to criticism that the American military was too thugish and occupation heavy. And where did this criticism come from? The Left and their Democrat tools.

    So, they blamed Rumsfeld’s failures on anyone except themselves, when Rumsfeld’s plans were at least partly due to Democrat input. Too much Democrat input. Such things as putting an “Iraqi face” on things because the US is the fearsome “occupation” and imperialist, modified strategy from top to bottom in Iraq. But that wasn’t the Left’s fault, you see. Nor is it the Left’s fault that they will cause Petraeus to fail after lobbying for a change in strategy; a change that Petraeus is implementing. They cause the problem and then blame you for having the problem by saying it was all yours. Iago says it was all your fault, you see. And maybe that is even true, or maybe it isn’t.

    Dishonest and disloyal opposition doesn’t just mean you derive no help from them. It also means that if you actually listen to them, you will hurt America even more, because they will not be there to help you should you fail due to listening to the Iagos nor will they be merciful due to your weakness, caused by listening to your enemies.

    Partly it is also because of inertial. The US military and the entire DC bureacracy had learned to expect the US military to always take a side line to local politics or DC politics. If you see some refugees coming across from Iraq, don’t worry about them because it isn’t the business of the US military to get involved. If you see Saudi Arabians mistreating Americans, that is the business of the State Department, not the DoD. So and so forth. This behavior is inculcated in the military by the bureacracy, civilian or otherwise, for every force occupying or stationed in another country. Don’t make waves. Leave the locals alone to local law. By this way did the US avoid political problems and what not, because usually the dictators left us alone because we left them alone.

    Baring some incidents in which South American banana republics kidnapped and abused American servicemen and their wives, of course.

    In war, however, there is no luxury in listening to the bureacracy or local politics or DC micromanagement. DC may have an idea of how “things should be done” but so long as doing so on the ground will get you killed, you will avoid listening to DC commands. The speed of communications actually made it worse. Because commanders in Iraq had no excuse not to ask for permission to do everything. They couldn’t do as Jackson, do a fait accompli and then present Congress with it, asking onyl for forgiveness. The speed of coms necessitates that you ask for permission first, and usually you will be asking permission from Washington DC. Eventually if not immediately. Thus the military becomes less flexible strategically even as it becomes more flexibly centered around sergeants and strategic corporals concerning tactics.

    There was nothing particularly wrong with having a light footprint in a country leery of strangers. However, if you don’t terrorize the terrorists by having public executions and what not, then the local population is not going to trust your little “light footprint” backed by an “Iraqi face”. Without the use of nuclear weapons and intense high level bombardment of enemy strongholds without regard for civilian casualties, “light footprint” was essentially “weakness of will”. You know weakness will bring in the jackals and scavengers. The criminal networks will begin to regenerate, sabotage will be done, and kidnappings will produce much moola. All causing a collapse in the local infrastructure, which breeds and incubates terrorists. Order must be imposed, and you cannot impose it if you refuse to shoot looters on sight, hang enemies of humanity in public, and stay off the streets so nobody sees your humvees, tanks, and soldiers. Why should the Iraqis obey the rule of law when neither you nor the Iraqis are around to rule anything? Loyalty is a two way street.

    However, if the strategic goals are changed to an occupation in which we fight alongside the locals in helping them maintain control, then we can have an Iraqi arm, mind, and soul rather than just a “face”. If you want a light footprint then you need the heavy hand full of poison and pain to back it up. Making an example out of a few people will make sure that you won’t need to have a reign of terror or even a heavy presence on the streets. However, if your goal is to create local Iraqi security, then this means you have to be out there with them. You can’t just keep your hands clean by leaving it to them, and then saying your job is getting done. It ain’t. The Arabs don’t have a lot of traditions of fighting to the death, while we have the Spartans and various American traditions such as Saipan and others. They need the US as a morale booster to make sure Iraqi IP and Army won’t break and run. And they can only acquire that by fighting together, acquiring confidence in each other’s abilities. If american units leave an area, where’s that confidence going to come from? From the terrorists of course.

    Petraeus was the one that turned around the Iraqi training program, and I liked that. Because his methods to train Iraqis made sense. You cement and bond Iraqis to our cause by fighting beside them, creating the band of brothers blood bond. You can’t rely on politics or whatever the media is talking about, Book, but you can rely upon the blood of brothers.

    However, I never heard the media ask the right questions of Rumsfeld nor did the Democrats address the correct criticisms towards Rumsfeld. Like all scavengers, however, when the prey stumbles and is rotting, then they will come after having circled and cried their beaks out.

    The standard method I saw was this. For the Left. They will call for more troops, then when you send more troops, they say more troops isn’t enough because those troops are full of Scott Thomases. If you lower troops, then they say you are weakening and unable to hold onto territory. If you send troops out into the streets, they will complain that you are endangering American lives that should be better spent in well protected FOBs and bases. If you keep troops inside FOBs, they will complain that the Americans are allowing violence and gangs to rule the streets while doing nothing but living like fat cats in Saddam’s palaces.

    There is no point in trying to satisfy the Left, for they will never be satisfied unless they feast upon the cold dead corpses of good men and women. There is a problem in Iraq and there is a problem in the US homeland, but they are not the same problems. Though if one fails to solve one, the other may fail as well. Petraeus knows that if he can produce a status quo favorable to us and sustain it in Iraq, he can create time; time, the one commodity that generals often need but also often lack.

    It helps, of course, that General Petraeus is a counterinsurgency expert.

    What is even more important is that he knows how to lead and train Iraqis, Arabs in this case. You can’t treat Arabs with contempt and expect them to follow you, but you also can’t treat them like you would regular Western troops and expect them to obey your orders. The ability to understand the human facet is fundamental to forming strategy. Grand strategy in this case.

    The previous trainers didn’t believe in the Iraqis and had never dealt with foreign troops, so what they produced was what they put in. Petraeus is thus able to transfer his program concerning Iraqi police and army to Iraqi civilians. Tribal leaders, Sheiks, and political representatives.

    Petraeus hasn’t actually changed his fundamental strategy or tactics. He is still doing the same thing with Iraqi police that he has found to be reliable. The only thing that has changed is the schizophrenic act of the Left.

    If the US wants to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the US must choose a side and then stick with it. When the other side gets hammered enough, we aid them in order to create trust and agreements. Eventually, like with the Sunnis in Al Anbar, we can get some local Palestinian allies to turn on the more hardcore idiots in the region, with our help. Israel doesn’t have the ability to obtain loyalty from palestinians, probably because they allow every Palestinian that has ever helped Israel, to be executed by Hamas and Hizbollah. Even with Israel’s superior language and intel capabilities in the region, they are still backwards because of their inability to maintain loyalty to others. Two way street, once again.

    The US has figured out a solution for a the same kind of problem that Israel has been trying to figure out for decades. And Israel has paid an even higher price for fecklessness than the US. Which just goes to show you that just because your nation has more experience with fighting terrorists, doesn’t mean that you are better at fighting terrorists. More time fighting terrorists just might mean you aren’t good enough to decisively defeat them.

    Under the Rumsfeld strategy, most American forces spent most of their time in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Cut off from the local population, they received little intelligence. And since they were providing security for themselves but not for Iraqis, Iraqis turned to sectarian militias which grew larger, stronger, and more violent.

    The history of early 2003 Iraq and 2004 Iraq is like reading history but not understanding the connection between the events. There are a lot of media reported segments that are without context, and this was done on purpose. Things such as Fallujah, Samara, and the criticisms of the Democrats concerning casualties (guess what, if we have more troops on the streets, we will get hit by more IEDs). Rumsfeld wanted to reduce casualties but casualties weren’t an indication of whether he was winning or losing the war or not. That’s why they wanted an Iraqi face, because they wanted to reduce American casualties and they wanted to reduce American casualties because Rumsfeld felt the media pressure back at home and in his own DoD (ex Generals talking smack).

    Touting American casualties was a huge propaganda campaign designed to demoralize Americans, in order to change American strategy. And it worked. Wouldn’t have worked on Bush, but Bush never liked micromanagement in the first place. He counted upon others. Others that were not immune to public pressure as he was.

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