Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Greeks Bearing Strategies

A number of proposed models for a new Iraq strategy have emerged recently, most notably from retired Army General Wes Clark and military scholar Andrew F. Krepinevich.

Decades of hard experience taught me to be wary of the "military wisdom" espoused by generals and academics. Any two "experts" in the field seldom agree, and their "vision" is always clearest in hindsight.

Having served under him during the Kosovo War, I'm automatically leery of anything General Clark has to say about armed conflict. But, by golly, a lot of what he has to say in "Before It's Too Late in Iraq" is spot on.
Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right.

We need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq – a strategy the Administration has failed to develop and articulate.

We needed to engage Iraq's neighbors to insure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them, to isolate Iraq from outside supplies, leadership, and manpower, and to gain from them resources and support to alleviate the burdens on the US.

The US was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action.

Why, in June, 2005, over two year into the mission of training Iraqi forces, was the President announcing such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units, or training Iraqi Ministries to conduct anti-terrorist operations?

A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces.

With each passing month other intervening factors compound the difficulties and probably reduce the chances for the mission in Iraq to succeed.

President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam – failing to craft a realistic and effective policy, and in its place, simply demanding that the American people show resolve.

Unfortunately, Mister Clark's observations are less about the Iraq situation than they are about his next run for the presidency.

Yes, Mister Bush and the neo-conspirators have done everything wrong for all the wrong reasons. And yes, as Clark suggests, we must employ other-than-military tools of power like diplomacy to bring about a stable Middle East. But the kinds of things Clark talks about are basic tenets of sound foreign policy--stuff generally taught at the college freshman level.

Then again, a "sound" foreign policy would be vastly preferable to the kind we've gotten from the Bush administration.

However, comma...

Don't get reeled in by strategic soothsayers who try to give you the notion that there's a magic formula for creating a fairy tale ending in Iraq.

It's already too late for that.


Tomorrow: A Total Crock of Krepinevich.


  1. Bacevich has some interesting things to say about Clark's leadership in The New American Militarism. Definitely made me see another side of him.

    Please tell me the same (neoCon civilian leader types) people in charge of Operation Iraqi Freedom will not be in charge of Operation Save New Orleans. We definitely need a better scenario there.

  2. Sorry, I can't tell you that.

    They work for the same guys, after all.

    I have a thing or two to say about Clark in my novel (his name has been changed). Hopefully, it will see daylight and bookshelves sometime soon.


  3. Anonymous9:39 PM

    Jeff, even though I admire GEN Clark deeply, as a soldier, leader, and American, I agree with you that he is looking at this the wrong way around. We broke it, we bought it, we have to fix it, and sadly, the way we've been going about it is all wrong. While partnering US and native (used in its literal sense and not as an ethnic slur) may seem like a wise idea, the fact is that the Iraqi patriots (because that's what they are) just want us OUT of there. There has to be a level of trust established before we can undo what we've done.

    We had no business going in there to begin with. That's been pretty well established, right, class?

    Now we need to find the best way out. We're not going to beat them using standard military methods. We haven't the required forces, the funds, or time. We need three or four times the troops on the ground that we have now to **attempt** to pacify the country enough to begin to rebuild the economy we destroyed. The Marshall Plan worked afetr WWII because the German Army had been defeated, the populace's spirit and will to resist had finally collapsed and the populace was unarmed, and unable to maintain effective communications for coordination of resistance. These circumstances do not exist in Iraq.

    We haven't the funds because we've squandered it all on Halliburton, KBR, Bechtel, unrecorded cash distributions to anyone who held out his hand, and God! It must have been heady days for bankers in Beirut, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas!

    Having actually had some basic experience in trying to pacify an unwilling populace during the late unpleasantness in SE Asia I claim some slight degree of expertise. We can't accomplish our task without the cooperation of the populace.

    I looked up Dr. Krepinevich's cv. It's all theory - school studies, monographs and lectures, and I always remember the difference between theory and practice, so I don't think he's got it right.

    As a nation we need to "get right with the Lord" by which I mean we have to face the UN, admit we fucked up, ask for help and military assistance while we pour - pour - money into rebuilding the infrastructure. The military assistance is needed to keep 'em from blowing up the electrical plants as fast as we rebuild them. This will take years. Electricity is needed for any reasonable semblance of civilization in that country. That will enable us to power small businesses, industry, schools, hospitals - the list is endless.

    Until Iraqis can see us honestly try to rebuild the civilization we destroyed they are not going to let up. Anything less will just create more agony for us, and in the long run, we WILL suffer for it in the US home cities.

    How to pay for all this?

    Well, there are those billions and billions in tax cuts up for renewal.....

    Oh, and let's stop babbling on about the "death tax", m'kay? I mean, really.... less that than 1% of the nation's citizens are affected. They get the benefits of livng in the US. They need to pay their own way. If they don't like it, I hear Australia is always looking for immigrants.


  4. Lurch--

    Many thanks for the thoughtful post. Would you like me to bump it to the front page?


  5. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Jeff, feel free. If I post something on your blog it becomes YOURS. Post it, attack it, refute it, it's all good.


  6. Okay. I may trim a thing or two, but I'll put it on top in an hour or so.



  7. BTW, I don't much get into publishing rights here, but anything you write here belongs to you. I'll only move comments to the front page with the author's permission, and the author retains rights to do with it what he or she will.