STRATFOR ANALYSIS AND A SCHOLARLY REBUTTALDr. Judith Klinghoffer
of Rutgers University has a very interesting examination and commentary
up at Deja Vu
on a STRATFOR
piece called "Military Lessons Learned in Iraq and Strategic Implications
" by George Friedman.
First, an excerpt by Friedman - which I believe is his most incisive point:"The Sunni guerrillas in Iraq have all of the classic advantages that apply to insurgency, save one: There are indigenous forces in Iraq that are prepared to move against them and that can be effective. The Shiite and Kurdish forces are relatively well-trained (in the Iraqi context) and are highly motivated. They are not occupiers of Iraq, but co-inhabitants. Unlike the Americans, they are not going anywhere. They have as much stake in the outcome of the war and the future of their country as the guerrillas. That changes the equation radically.
All wars end either in the annihilation of the enemy force or in a negotiated settlement. World War II was a case of annihilation. Most other wars are negotiated. For the United States, Vietnam was a defeat under cover of negotiation. That is usually the case where insurgencies are waged: By the time the occupation force moves to negotiations, it is too late. Iraq has this difference, and it is massive: Other parties are present who are capable and motivated -- parties other than the main adversaries."
Very true. This is partly why Vietnam analogies for Iraq are so misleading. If the Buddhists, Mekong criminal sects and Northern Catholics all had their own military forces independent of Hanoi and Saigon/U.S. then the situation there would have been more relevant today. But... they didn't.
Dr. Klinghoffer responded to Friedman, in part:"The valid comparisons is between the two world wars and the Cold War. The valid comparison is between Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq as both were mere battles in a larger world war. It is true that the US lost interest in Vietnam but it started to do so in 1966 after the coup in Indonesia. It lost even more interest after the Cultural Revolution increasingly alienated the Second and Third world Communist elites from the Chinese model. Finally, the deal with China moved the containment border thousands of miles Northward. Hence, objectively, the Vietnamese battlefront has lost its basic strategic value. Still, the price of withdrawal was very high even if it was paid mainly by Cambodians, Africans, Israelis and Iranians. For when all said and done the lesson was that insurgency works. It is still the lesson. The US failed it mission as a counter insurgency guarantor. (You may wish to look at my book, Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East). "
Here Klinghoffer leads into an argument regarding the importance of strategic context, something I think needs to be recalled today. Read her post in full
Vietnam became an obsessive focus of the Johnson administration and more of a focus for Richard Nixon than he would have liked - after all, he had pitched his 1968 candidacy in a private speech to GOP insider heavyweights at Bohemian Grove on the premise of his " Asia after Vietnam" geopolitical analysis. In practice, disengaging from the Vietnam War proved far more difficult than Nixon had anticipated as he feared reversals there would unfavorably impact his policies for detente with the Soviets and opening China.
As conservatives have lectured liberals, Iraq is part of the larger war on terror and not the war itself or a compartmentalized event disconnected from a larger strategic reality. We have other things to do of considerable importance besides pursuing elusive maximal goals in Iraq, for which the ship has sailed in any event. A result now that keeps the democratic central government in Baghdad alive, peels away nationalist insurgent Sunnis from the takfiri lunatics and frees up our military resources is a " win". While we should go for the best result we can in Iraq, confusing utopia with reality or Iraq with the war itself would be a serious strategic error.
When the global strategic balance shifts more in our favor because we are pressing the Islamists hard elsewhere, it will suck "oxygen" away from the insurgency in Iraq. The resources of the global jihadi network are focused on Iraq both in terms of money to indigenous groups and foreign volunteers - a level of support they cannot sustain in ten countries at once if we help all other nations battling Islamist insurgencies press a simultaneous offensive. By that I mean a full-spectrum push with intelligence, police, diplomacy, political message, financial crackdown and a military response where insurgencies are already active. An effort that so far has been desultory, spotty and piecemeal.
The United States needs to fight this war in a way that maximizes the advantages of being a sovereign state rather than in a way that minimizes them.