Monday, July 16, 2007

Iraq and Summer Vacation

I swore I'd stay away from the war news for a week during my "vacation." I couldn't do it. It's a dead skunk sort of thing: horrible to look at, but so hard to look away from.

First on my list of fond summer holiday recollections is Wolf Blitzer's July 8th interview of Lieutenant General Richard Lynch, who commands the security operation in the region south of Baghdad. As Bush administration generals go, Lynch sounds like your standard issue bull feather merchant.

Yeah, old Lynchie is in favor of sticking with the current strategy. In fact, according to him, any attempt to change the strategy could seriously undermine the whole effort. See, if the surge forces go away before the Iraqi forces are ready, then the enemy will regain ground, and reestablish sanctuary, and build more of those IEDs. And the Iraqi forces aren't ready to take over yet. Won't be for quite a while.

Of course in Lynch's battle space, his magnificent platoons and the really good Iraqi Army and Iraqi police battalion he has working with him are taking the fight to the enemy. But things take time. They don't happen overnight. And things would be going a lot better if it weren't for those pesky Iranians helping out the enemy, helping kill Lynch's magnificent soldiers. Lynch doesn't know for sure what Iranians are behind helping the enemy, but he has "no doubt" the Iranians are causing trouble in his battle space.

Wolf showed Lynch a video of retired Major General John Batiste saying, "Our Army and Marine Corps today are at a breaking point, little to show for it. It's serious." Wolf then asked Lynch if the U.S. military is at a breaking point.

"By no means," Lynch said.

When Wolf asked if political pressure from Washington might force a change in strategy, Lynch said that the surge strategy is "on target, but it's going to take time."

Iran Ate My Homework

I also caught Joe Lieberman on C-Span, reciting the litany of flimsy accusations of Iran's "interference" in Iraq. Lieberman's primary reference was to statements made by Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner, who is the new head military public affairs officer in Baghdad. Bergner himself has no actual knowledge of the source intelligence surrounding the Iran allegations. His job is to craft whatever message the administration/Pentagon want transmitted; in this case that Iran is the cause of all problems in Iraq.

That Lieberman would read Bergner's propaganda into the Senate record and call it "evidence" is… Well, we're talking about Lieberman here, so it's no surprise at all.

On Report

The reports came out. One said al Qaeda is not stronger than it has been since before 9/11/01. The other said Iraq's government has done a lousy job of meeting its "benchmarks."

Mr. Bush denies that al Qaeda is stronger than ever before. But it's strong enough to pose the primary threat in Iraq, even though the al Qaeda the first report was really talking about is the one that's reemerged in the safe haven border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bush's spin doctors tried to make "security" one of the issues in which Iraq's government has succeeded, pointing to al Anbar province as a "victory" over al-Qaeda. They don't bother to mention that the "victory" was achieved by local tribal chiefs, and that U.S. forces had little to do with it and Iraqi forces had no connection to it at all. They also fail to note that the "victory" consisted of chasing al-Qaeda out of Anbar province and up to Diyala province, where U.S. forces have launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper (yes, they really call it that.) Arrowhead Ripper consists of 10,000 U.S. troops deploying to kill or capture maybe 500 al-Qaeda militants in Diyala's capital city of Baqouba. Some "victory."

Senior Senate Republicans (John Warner and Richard Lugar) have proposed non-binding legislation that calls for Bush to change the Iraq strategy. That'll go over like a lead zeppelin. Heck, Bush won't even have to veto it to ignore it. Of the proposed bill, Mr. Bush said, "I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding our troops." He thinks Congress ought to keep on signing those blank checks, and let him and his generals continue to squander them.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki put his foot in it over the weekend when he said that U.S. forces could leave Iraq "any time they want" because Iraqi forces were ready to take charge. He later said his remarks were misunderstood.

On Sunday, the last day of my vacation, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jim Webb (D-VA) appeared on Meet the Press. Graham thinks we can destroy al-Qaeda in Iraq. I think we can too. Best estimates are that there are fewer than 1,000 al-Qaeda fighters in that country. I'm not entirely clear why, with a hundred to one or better numeric advantage, we haven't been able to eliminate them by now. But unlike Graham, I know that destroying al-Qaeda in Iraq will not solve the security situation there.

I once had such hopes for Lindsey Graham. Was it just three years ago, at an Armed Services Committee hearing, that he looked mad enough to jump across the table and throttle Donald Rumsfeld? Since then, Huckleberry has become one of the administration's trustiest echo chamberlains, adept at polly-crackering any talking point the Rovewellians want injected into the info-sphere.


It appears that both the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi Parliament will take August off. That guarantees there will be no progress on political solutions in Iraq and no change to U.S. strategy for a month. That will cover Bush until the ides of September, when U.S. commander in Iraq David Petraeus will tell Congress that he needs more troops and more time to "win" in Iraq, and make boo noise about the consequences of "losing."


  1. Read this.

    And this from my hometown paper.

    "Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?" The King, Huckleberry Finn

  2. Welcome back.

    Mmm, the surge?

    Car bomb kills 71 in divided Iraqi oil city

    A suicide bomber slaughtered at least 71 people and wounded scores more as he slammed his booby-trapped car into a Kurdish political office in Iraq's northern oil city of Kirkuk on Monday.
    ...At issue is a clause in the draft hydrocarbon law allowing for production-sharing agreements with foreign oil companies, which many Iraqis see as a throwback to an earlier era of colonial exploitation...

  3. I couldn't help it. I re-read Col. Summer's book "On Strategy", another title "Korea: The Untold Story", and my battered copy of FM 100-5. Iraq is neither Korea nor Vietnam, but the lessons that should have been learned from those conflicts have apparently all been junked in the "W" Era. Summarizing from the Epilogue:

    1) "it was a fundamental question of the soundness of our policy, of our whole approach to the war [that led to our defeat in Vietnam]" (Col. Summers quoting George Allen.

    Replace "Vietnam" with "Iraq" and the assessment still rings glaringly true today.

    2) we succeeded in logistics and failed in strategy

    Once again, we've moved mountains of material and personnel. And once again, outside of local successes, there is absolutely no evidence of theater-wide strategic success.

    3) "In the future we must take care to avoid jeopardizing American public support for the military with misstatements." (Col. Summers)

    Once again, American military and political leaders would rather misrepresent reality than belly up with the truth. Has anyone thought of the long-term consequences we will endure because of the inevitable (and crushing) dissollutionment that will follow a collapse in Iraq?

    4) "In the past we have tried to use [the battle-ax of our military forces] to accomplish tasks for which they were not designed--nation building" (Col . Summers)

    Yet we keep on trying to make the Army and Marines into nation builders instead of army destroyers. When will it ever penetrate our leaders' thick skulls?

    Col. Summers also identified these principals of war that were not effectively employed in Vietnam: Offensive, Initiative, Mass, Maneuver, Economy of Force, Unity of Command, Security, Surprise.

    Regrettably, nothing has changed. On offensive and initiative, we seem dedicated to allowing our opponents maximum freedom of action in all spheres while artificially constraining our own tactical operations. Rumsfeld and company blew off "mass" from the first with a shoe-string operation. Please correct me if I'm wrong (I want to be wrong!) but our actions on the ground appear to be more static garrisoning operations more than proactive, vigorous, and decisive actions.

    The attempt to expand the war to China by Gen. MacArthur cost him his command as a result of the (then) unpopular actions of President Truman. Now, the roles have been reversed and history obliterated. Do we really think that widening the war to include Iran is anything but any even deeper sink-hole?

    I suspect that the lessons of Vietnam and Korea (both positive and negative) are not just unlearned, they are ignored by minds who think that if they partition history "just so" that no lessons from the past will ever be relevant to them. But I think that in itself is another lesson from the past . . .

  4. Must agree, Mr. Cooper. As someone recently wrote elsewhere, they could picture Dick Cheney, watching Nixon take his final chopper ride out after resigning, snarling "Wuss!" after him. That was just about Vietnam and the Communists.

    At least in Vietnam, we didn't have plans for "enduring bases". Now in Iraq, it's all about the oil money*.

    *my simplified way of saying the "global energy future" which Cdr. Huber has written much about here.

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