Friday, November 17, 2006

DNI's Fabius Maximus has a wry piece up, "Situation Report on the Expedition to Iraq ". The dry title belies a somewhat swiftian comparison of the Bush administration policy in Iraq with the classic seven stages of grief. Unfortunately, unlike Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal,
Fabius has posited criticisms that are not merely satirical.

"As many 4GW experts forecast, the western nations’ (largely US and UK) Expedition to Iraq was doomed before it began. As such the Kubler-Ross “Death and Dying” process offers the best metaphor for our conduct of the war. 1/

Shock & Denial: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news: trying to avoid the inevitable.

Anger: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.

Bargaining: Seeking in vain for a way out.

Depression: Final realization of the inevitable.

Testing and Acceptance: Seeking realistic solutions; finally finding a way forward.

America’s elites remained for a long period in Denial, and then moved into Anger. 2/ They directed their anger at anybody other then themselves: Bush/Hitler, Leftist traitors, “Neville Chamberlain’s” in the Democratic Party, Al Qaeda, various elements of the Iraq people, and Iran. There have been, of course, few mea culpa’s from our leaders, Democrat or Republica

While we can differ on details, I am more or less in agreement with Fabius that America's elite, both Left and Right, have failed the people and the soldiers in Iraq with their uncertainty, fecklessness, paralysis and addiction to self-absorbed partisanship. America needs a new elite, the old one has lost heart, nerve and to a certain extent -their head. They lack the will to prosecute the war on terror and the skill to execute it well. I'm not sure we'll see great improvement in statesmanship either until the Boomers start yielding their place to GenX'ers.

Fabius has not yet posted his recommendations but I have two observations on the second part of his article where he criticizes the remaining options left to salvage the situation in Iraq ( Fabius presumes it not to be worth salvaging and counsels that defeat be accepted).

Fabius is correct that withdrawing to the desert helps nothing except to delay the inevitable. He's right. It's a form of avoiding choosing sides in a multi-ethnic and sectarian civil war, which will neither prevent the civil war nor do us much good. One potential solution is to forswear supposed neutrality, which no Iraqi believes of us anyway, and put our weight behind the likely winners so they win faster and with less ultimate bloodshed ( this is relative and bloodshed will happen regardless. The question now is: How much ?).

Another choice is to opt for what Fabius derides, an alliance with a Kurdish client state that comes to an agreement with Ankara, so that at least there is a zone of stability and civil peace in one section of old Iraq. As far as " stable platforms" are concerned, Kurdistan need not be West Germany circa 1985, just be non-anarchic and open to connectivity to the West.

Is this a perfect solution ? No, not in my view. Are Barzani and Talabani the reincarnations of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ? No. But they aren't Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot either and seem to grasp Kurdistan's delicate geopolitical position and need of American support. Reasonable, if self-interested, partners who command disciplined fighting forces. Can anything similar be found among Shiites or Sunnis ?

What the Kurds represent is only a realistic opportunity to hedge against total disaster and the U.S. should take it with their eyes wide open. Kurdistan also fits the size of the forces we have committed while Iraq as a whole does not. Having thrown away every strategic opportunity that emerged in Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam's overthrow, policy makers need to adjust their sights now toward accomplishing minimalist goals.


Discuss Fabius' article at The Small Wars Council
I discussed the Kurdish option recently Kurdistan: Rebalancing the Middle East which similarly recommends salvaging the one part of Iraq that has turned out exactly how we wanted it to.
I'm concerned that the Kurds may not live up to their advance press. Specifically, does the government there have the ability (or the will) to control the PKK? If not, the situation there may just be the situation in the rest of Iraq writ small.

I think this is a legitimate concern. Nudging Turkey in the direction of its own Islamists does not appear to be a particularly good idea to me and, if U. S. forces provide cover for Kurdish nationalist forces conducting operations in Turkey and Iran (much as the Pakistani government is providing cover for the Taliban and Al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan), we'll be doing just that.
I discuss the "retreat to Kurdistan" option in part 2, to be published after Thanksgiving.

Thanks, chirol, for the link to your interesting article -- the best statement of this option that I've seen. I revised my text after reading it.

In brief, having Israel and Kurdistan as our ME allies seems to be a bit anti-realpolitic. This almost forces all the local major powers into opposition to the US.

Their people will likely be even more hostile to the US, potentially destabilizing for the "friendly" local Gov'ts.
"Their people will likely be even more hostile to the US"

They are anyway. Sending a message that we at least stick by our friends may have some value. The Kurds have trusted us and they seem to be doing well. Maintaining their redoubt, and forcing some kind of deal with Turkey is the only way to salvage something.

Backing the Shia so that the destuction of the Iraqi Sunni is over with as fast as possible should also be considered. That make make the Shia more interested in preserving a US rather than Iranian connection.

I share Mark' desire for a post-
Boomer leadership. I keep looking at my watch. Faster, please.
"...I am more or less in agreement with Fabius that America's elite, both Left and Right, have failed the people and the soldiers in Iraq with their uncertainty, fecklessness, paralysis and addiction to self-absorbed partisanship. America needs a new elite, the old one has lost heart, nerve and to a certain extent -their head. They lack the will to prosecute the war on terror and the skill to execute it well..."

I agree. It is also important to remember that our "elites" (there has to be a better word for these yahoos) includes the generals who completely failed to develop doctrine, and train and equip our troops to do counterinsurgency and post-war ops.

"We put an Army on the battlefield that I had been a part of for 37 years. It doesn't have any doctrine, nor was it educated and trained, to deal with an insurgency. ... After the Vietnam War, we purged ourselves of everything that had to do with irregular warfare or insurgency, because it had to do with how we lost that war. In hindsight, that was a bad decision. ... We have responsibility."

— Gen. Jack Keene, former Army vice chief of staff

People can blame Bush and Rumsfeld all they want but the reality is that even if Bush had had a better post-war plan, the US military would not have been trained and organized to carry it out. For decades, through Democratic and Republican presidents, the military elites determined that they were only going to prepare to wage conventional war and they resisted any effort to change that entrenched mindset. The strugggles we have had in Iraq are a direct consequence of the negligence of the generals. The fact that our political class of both parties are a herd of clowns doesn't absolve the generals of their responsibility.

Nevertheless, it is also important to remember that we have not been defeated in Iraq. The war is not over. We have no reason to concede. We do have some good generals who "get it" and are adapting. Counterinsurgency takes a long time and it has only been three years. And about a year and a half of that was spent adapting the military from its decades long bias towards conventional war to COIN ops. Everybody seems to be judging this war based upon some pristine, everything-works-perfectly model of war, but that's not the war reality works.

If we give up and bail out of Iraq, throw up our hands and say "what's the use?", then you can forget about "shrinking the gap". Iraq is the litmus test and if we don't have what it takes to make it work there, then we won't have the political support to do it anywhere else. And in that case we shouldn't be wasting our time discussing Barnett's Globalization Great Society project, but should be developing a grand strategy that is limited "toward accomplishing minimalist goals." So if you think "shrinking the gap" is the grand strategy we should be pursuing then we have no choice but to figure out how to win in Iraq with the limitations we have.
"The war is not over. We have no reason to concede."

The public has given up on the war, does not believe or trust the government about the war, and wants Americans to stop dying to provide Iraq with "democracy" or whatever it is we are supposedly doing there.

The enemy, due largely to the ineptitude of our own leadership, has succeeded in destroying the will to fight of the American public. That is the definition of victory.

It is all damage control and salvage from here on out.
"The enemy, due largely to the ineptitude of our own leadership, has succeeded in destroying the will to fight of the American public. That is the definition of victory."

It is not the definition of victory; it is the means to victory. We will have to wait and see what the Democrats do after they take control of Congress. If they do what many have predicted and succeed in cutting off funding or something else to force a withdrawal, then that will be the definition of victory for our enemies. But that hasn't happened yet. If it does happen then I will agree with you. We are teetering, but have not yet tottered.

And if it does happen then it will only accelerate the decline of Anglospheric civilizational confidence mentioned in a recent post by Mark linking to a post by Lex about the Veliz talk at the Anglosphere Institute. And that decline in confidence strikes right at the DNA of our civilization. At that point our main concern should be building a civilizational Noah's Ark to preserve this unique culture of liberty. I'm no pollyanna. In fact I've never been more fearful for the future of America than I am right now. But at this time nothing is inevitable.
American politicians answer to the electorate, and the electorate seems to think enough of OUR people have been killed and maimed for life in Iraq for the purported purpose of bringing them freedom, which they seem to have no interest in, preferring to murder each other and kill our troops.

I am not in the least worried about our long-term survival. As it turns out, Iraq was a mistake. The military is not capable of doing part 2 of a war. It has shunned that capability. It's not there. There is no SysAdmin force. Going in there in the first place was a mistake. I supported the war, I advocated it, I argued vigorously against those who very early on said we were failing in Iraq.

I. Was. Wrong.

Don't double up on a losing bet. Cut back, salvage what you can, declare victory, and get our people the Hell out of there.
"The war is not over. ... We do have some good generals who "get it" and are adapting."

Perhaps. Who can say for sure at this time?

On the other hand, both the Vietnam War & Iraq War were/have been marked by articles about "new tactics" and smart Colonels & Generals who "get it." That's part of the rhythm of 4GWs, necessary for large losses -- like the occasional win at roulette which keeps betters at the table.

"Counterinsurgency takes a long time and it has only been three years."

So does losing, which is most often the form which counterinsurgency takes for developed nations' militaries.

Have you seen the list, developed by Chet Richards (DNI) and others, showing wins & losses at 4GWs? Not happy odds.
If we accept that the US cannot win at counterinsurgency then we should also throw in the towel in Afghanistan: if we can't win in Iraq how can we win in Afghanistan? And we should also withdraw all our SF and other troops from the Philippines, Columbia, Africa and everywhere else. After all if we acknowledge that we can't win at COIN then how can we pretend to teach others how to do it? Unless, of course, you believe that those who can't do COIN, teach COIN. And those who can't teach COIN, study COIN at think tanks.

Since we can't win at COIN then certainly we should adopt the policy of never engaging in any kind of war that might involve COIN or for that matter any potential small wars circumstance. We should strictly limit ourselves to conventional war, which we know we can do, or training to fight a conventional war. And thus we have returned full circle to the very mindset which has handicapped us in fighting counterinsurgency. If the American people can't accept the casualties from Iraq then we certainly would not be able to accept the casualties from a very intense, long term conventional war, which would be much more violent than any kind of counterinsurgency. So we should give up any pretense of even having the political will to fight a conventional war that would last more than 3 weeks. Knowing this we should restrict ourselves to air campaigns that would not involve ground troops at all and to be sure we didn't lose any pilots they should be forbidden from operating below 15K feet. And voila! We have found ourselves back in the 1990s. And we know how that turned out.

Because of this our enemies will inevitably decide that we are a paper tiger and their sure-fire recipe for success is to wage insurgencies against us because they know that we don't have what it takes win that kind of war. And we are in the same situation with the same problem.

"On the other hand, both the Vietnam War & Iraq War were/have been marked by articles about "new tactics" and smart Colonels & Generals who "get it."

I'm a bit weary of the Vietnam cliches: "well that's what they said during Vietnam." And that is offered as an "argument killer". It is a tactic that baby boomers have of deligitimizing any argument that we should figure out how to win. The War for Independence, the Civil War and World War Two were all wars that involved great setbacks and defeats. And yet the people who were fighting those wars didn't give up. They suffered defeats and adapted and fought on. But I guess today if we suffer a setback or things don't work out perfectly today we just give up. If Valley Forge happened today people would be saying "Hey I supported Independence in '76 but after Valley Forge: I. Was. Wrong. We can't win and we shouldn't sacrifice any more soldiers for so-called "independence."

This kind of mentality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why is it that our ancestors were willing to endure great hardships and we can't even endure minor hardships? Well, lets take a look at why that might be:

"Just like our previous plans: failure guaranteed in advance – brought to you by the best and the brightest of the American governing class."

"The next milestone on this road to Hell is the report of the Iraq Study Group."

"The Democrats recommend we adopt (retain?) an infantile attitude, that of little children focusing on abuse by their big, bad guardians. Blaming Bush might be justified, and is certainly entertaining, but does not help decide what to do next. Whatever mistakes, deceptions, or outright fraud happened back in 2002, we should get over it"

Yeah, there's no prefabricated bias here. There is obviously a cynical bitterness operating here that calls into question the validity of this text. There is no argument here, it is nothing more than a pure polemical statement. Give me an argument and I'll respond with and argument; give me a polemic and I'll respond with a polemic. When do we finally get to liberate ourselves from this kind of boomeritis BS?
Phil -

You make some interesting adn thoughtful points.

Your core observation is exactly right. My 19 previous articles, about 80 thousand words, were aalysis of the War and forecasts of the likely outcomes.

Like the big boys (e.g., Lind, van Creveld, etc), I expected the war to end badly for us.

So here we are. Now it's a pattern recognition exercise. This defeat. Can you see it?

I'm sorry you are unhappy about the analogies with Vietnam. Me, too. But they go to the key aspect, the errors in both wars result from structural problems in the US Government. If not fixed, we'll be here again.

This is the error in your openion chain of logic. You are absolutely right, we will likely fail again and againg if we do not fix the underlying factors.

The recommendation is diagnosis and cure, not despair -- nor ignore our failures and hope for better luck next time.

I suggest you read some of my earlier articles. You might find them of interest.
"So here we are. Now it's a pattern recognition exercise. This defeat. Can you see it?"

Not yet. In battles and wars it is common for combatants to alternate between losing and winning even within the course of a few hours. Forces regroup, come up with another plan and keep fighting. This also is pattern recognition. Recognizing that fortunes in a campaign will wax and wane, and that while one may appear to be losing, one has not yet lost. On this we may just have to agree to disagree.

"The recommendation is diagnosis and cure, not despair -- nor ignore our failures and hope for better luck next time."

I agree.

"I suggest you read some of my earlier articles. You might find them of interest."

I will do so.
"a civilizational Noah's Ark to preserve this unique culture of liberty"

Phil, any idea of what this could/should look like or how it would be done?
Hey Jayson, I do have some rough notions, but I've got family visiting and it may be a day or two before type them up.
Phil -- a list of my article on Iraq is at the end of this article (in the original post).

I would like to hear your comments. You can send them to fabmaximus@hotmail.com
Phil, take your time and enjoy the holiday.

In the meantime, you folks might be interested in this brief commentary on the bulletin board to John Reilly's "Long View" blog:

As I said, Jayson, my notions are rough and I have more questions than answers.

There have been a lot of doom and gloom predictions about the islamification of Europe, and demographic decline, etc. I have no idea whether any of that will happen, but what if it does? What if everything goes to hell? In such a situation people who believe that we have achieved something worth maintaining, improving and perpetuating will need to figure out how to preserve it. Civilizations produce a lot of cultural products, not all of which are worth preserving. Western civilization has not only given us our culture of liberty, but also socialism, fascism and communism. If we did find it necessary to create a "civilizational Noah's Ark" how would we do that? How do you preserve certain basic components of a civilization in such a way that it can later be regenerated?

In Fahrenheit 451 in response to the outlawing of books, people memorized entire books to preserve them. What books would we memorize that would allow us to regenerate the achievements of our civilization? The Dialogues of Plato would fit this requirement, because they are demonstrations of the Socratic method. Even if you had no knowledge of philosophy, if you had the Socratic method you could think philosophically and pass that on. Are there any books that would do the same for our Anglospheric culture of liberty?

Another approach could be based on the model of the Army's Special Forces, which has sergeants specializing in weapons, medical, engineering, communications and intelligence, the DNA of an army. If you just had those 5 sergeants you could build an army. What would be the equivalent specializations that would allow us to build a culture of liberty?

Perhaps it is at the level of attitudes: a respect for education, for entrepreneurship, individual initiative, for tinkering; fair play, live and let live, suspicion of power and authority, etc. Perhaps the best way to preserve these elements is to embody them in stories. Folk tale-like stories that offer exemplary figures representing the various attitudes. Stories are after all easy to remember.

So I don't know. Even if the doom and gloom scenarios never happen, civilization still requires maintenance. It isn't just perpetuated on its own. We have to be constantly creating feedback loops for those things that have proven useful and necessary, while weeding out those things that aren't. Thinking in terms of creating a "civilizational Noah's Ark" is a useful exercise.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

My Photo
Location: Chicago, United States

" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

Determined Designs Web Solutions Lijit Search
02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 / 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 / 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 / 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 / 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 / 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 /

follow zenpundit at http://twitter.com
This plugin requires Adobe Flash 9.
Get this widget!
Sphere Featured Blogs Powered by Blogger StatisfyZenpundit

Site Feed Who Links Here
Buzztracker daily image Blogroll Me!