My attitude to the war in Iraq is increasingly, "Either find a way to win, or get out." What seems to be happening in "real life," is that decision making is divorced from "real life." Reality is out there somewhere, but the decisions and political positions are being based on virtual reality. On the one side, there are people insisting that everything is fine in Iraq and the US is winning. Those people are obviously wrong, as the daily bombings, if nothing else, attest.
On the other side, we have the "get out of Iraq" crowd who were against the war and would've been against the war even if Saddam really had had WMD, and even if the war was going just great. Few people seem to be admitting that something is wrong and at the same time analyzing the problem to determine whether or not it can be fixed, what it would take to fix it, what would be the criteria for the US and its allies declaring "victory" and whether or not they are attainable.
In the Guardian, Stephen Jenkins argues that it is intrinsically impossible to make order in Iraq, as proven by its past history, and that therefore it should be left to govern itself. While Iraqi government has not been wonderful however, they didn't always have suicide bombers exploding in their markets, and there is no reason to assume that that situation will continue forever. His dismal picture of the war is essentially correct it seems, and cannot be denied:
Infrastructure is not being restored. Baghdad's water, electricity and sewers are in worse shape than a decade ago. Huge sums - such as the alleged $1bn for military supplies - are being stolen and stashed in Jordanian banks. The new constitution is a dead letter except the clauses that are blatantly sharia. These are already being enforced de facto in Shia areas.
British soldiers are in a war over whose course, conduct and outcome their leaders have no control. Their government's exit strategy is no longer realistic, indeed is dishonest. Talk of reducing troop levels
from 8,000 to 3,000 next year has been abandoned. Everyone seems on the wrong planet. Meanwhile daily groping for good news and the sickening litany of the bad is reminiscent of Vietnam. Nobody reads Barbara Tuchman on folly.
Signalling withdrawal would, it is said, give a green light to the gangs and private militias, to revenge attacks, ethnic cleansing and even partition. That threat is no longer meaningful since these are all
happening anyway. The militias have reportedly infiltrated at least half the police and internal security forces in each area. Barely a tenth of the army is considered loyal to the central authority. That a Basra police station should be vulnerable to al-Sadr irregulars is appalling.
The 150,000 foreign troops on Iraqi soil are overwhelmingly committed to self-protection. They do not do law and order any more. Power is finding its new locus, in the mafias, sheikhdoms, militias and warlords that flourish amid anarchy. Where there is no security, the gunman is always king.
Jenkins tells us there is nothing wrong with giving up, for the British or the Americans:
America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already.
"Just Say No!"
He could mention that the Brits also pulled out of India and Palestine, and there was hardly any trouble in either of those places since then either, was there? For that matter, Great Britain abandoned Czechoslovakia in 1938, and Czechoslovakia survived. A lot of Czechs did not survive though.
How do we decide if the enemy is like Ho Chi Minh or or like Hitler? If the allies withdraw, will Iraq become a quiet backwater like North Vietnam, or will Zarqawi and al-Qaeda take over and make things interesting? The answer seems fairly obvious. The US and Britain can't leave until there is an Iraqi army really capable of handling the situation. That doesn't seem to be happening any time soon. Below is one surmise as to why that is so.
Below, Warren Marik points out that the Iraq army just isn't getting trained. Nothing is happening. He reasons that this must be the fault of the US and Britain because:
The Bush administration has had approximately 180 weeks in Afghanistan and 120 weeks in Iraq to recruit and train professional military and paramilitary forces drawn from populations that have had
extensive experience in war. In spite of Baathi incompetence, mostly Shia infantrymen and tankers held their own against (also Shia) Iranian forces that had, at times, a three-to-one advantage. Afghan mujahidin stalemated the Soviet 40th Field Army.
Well, that would seem to eliminate the notion that Iraqis are just dumb or cowardly, but nobody ever thought those were the explanations. The Viet Cong beat the French, and the North Vietnamese Army beat the US. The Vietnamese proved to be excellent soldiers. Nonetheless, the USA could not make an army out of the ARVN - Army of the Republic of Vietnam, and nobody can convince me that was the fault of the Americans. If the Iraqis wanted to fight for their government, they would find a way.
From: Laurie Mylroie email@example.com
To: Laurie Mylroie
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 9:49 PM
Subject: Warren Marik, The Sepoy Mutiny Syndromw
Warren Marik is a retired CIA officer who is currently in Afghanistan
observing the recent elections. He sent these observations to the list.
The Sepoy Mutiny Syndrome
An excellent film from India recently opened in the United States-Mangal
Pandey-about the beginning of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, when the Army of
Bengal revolted against the command and rule of the British East India
Company. The East India Company had recruited, trained, and paid native troops
of the Army of Bengal to conduct operations against other Indian rulers and
states and to maintain order. The revolt of the sepoys resulted in the killing
of thousands of British soldiers, civilians, and Indians who remained loyal-by
the native soldiers upon whom they had depended.
The movie is of interest today because of the strong indications that the U.S.
military is working under a burden of fear that Iraq and Afghanistan could
present the U.S. military with similar mutinies. This fear of betrayal is
hindering the U.S. military from accomplishing one of its most important
missions: establishing professional military and paramilitary forces that can
successfully protect the nascent democracies of these two nations. This fear
is, in part, the cause for the lessening confidence that both U.S. taxpayers
and Iraqi and Afghan citizens have in the U.S. military's ability to
accomplish its mission.
The more disturbing example is the condition of the Iraqi National Army (INA).
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has put the Iraqi military through three
iterations during the two and a half years since the U.S. invasion: the Iraqi
Civil Defense Corps (ICDC), the Iraqi National Guard (ING), and now the INA.
The short histories of all three have been problematic.
The U.S. military and the DOD have been, at best, ambivalent about creating
quickly an Iraqi military force that could be considered to be effective
against adversaries. Recruiting centers have not been adequately protected,
and recruits not thoroughly vetted. Military living conditions have been below
minimum standards. Training courses were neither intensive nor extensive.
ICDC, ING, and-finally-INA units have always been undergunned. When privately
asked recently about artillery for the INA, a senior Iraqi government official
replied that the INA has no artillery and the Americans would be unlikely to
provide artillery. It is an accepted fact that the former Ayad Allawi
government, supposedly under the watch of U.S. advisers, stole millions of
dollars and provided the INA with useless military equipment.
The recent reappraisal of the effectiveness of Iraqi battalions, after two
years of training, is an embarrassment to the United States, not just to the
Bush administration. A retired British Army colonel recently said that Iraq is
a "right rollicking cock-up."
In Afghanistan, things are not much better. In spite of the extra year the
Bush administration has had to train a professional military in Afghanistan,
only one support unit of the Afghan National Army (ANA), a battalion of the
201st Corps in Kabul, is now beginning to receive artillery training. ANA
military installations remain vulnerable to suicide attacks. In late September
a suicide bomber, a relatively new threat in Afghanistan, was able to
penetrate perimeter security of a post very close to Kabul and kill ANA
soldiers within own their compound. The Afghan paramilitary has been
characterized by observers as "more or less a hollow force," and it is
estimated that a the paramilitary won't be fully trained or outfitted until
2009, eight years after the invasion.
A soldier in the U.S. infantry is generally considered to be ready for combat
after 20 weeks of training. The Bush administration has had approximately 180
weeks in Afghanistan and 120 weeks in Iraq to recruit and train professional
military and paramilitary forces drawn from populations that have had
extensive experience in war. In spite of Baathi incompetence, mostly Shia
infantrymen and tankers held their own against (also Shia) Iranian forces that
had, at times, a three-to-one advantage. Afghan mujahidin stalemated the
Soviet 40th Field Army.
Something more is going on here than just the lack of DOD resources and local
backwardness. Anyone who has been to Iraq or Afghanistan and who reads the
U.S. military's INA and ANA training newsletters can be forgiven for
suspecting that the constant reshuffling, renaming, and renumbering of INA and
ANA units and the incessant lauding of operations that result in, for example,
the "capture of five rocket grenades" smacks of a shell game that is the
result of something deeper-call it the Sepoy Mutiny Syndrome.
The syndrome is based on a real threat. The sepoys did, of course, revolt.
Also, more than 1,800 years before that mutiny, Arminius-trained by the
Romans-led a German revolt that destroyed three Roman legions. During World
War II, less than a century after the Sepoy Mutiny, Subhas Chandra Bose led
Indian Army prisoners of war-captured by the Japanese and reengineered as the
Indian National Army-against British India. There are risks to recruiting,
training, and organizing nationals other than one's own into a professional
fighting force while occupying their country. The Sepoy Mutiny Syndrome is
easy to catch.
Get over it. The Bush administration committed the U.S. military to these two
large and complicated interventions. There have been no publicized U.S.
government resignations in response. The U.S. military as a whole is
notoriously uncomfortable working with foreign militaries other than on the
defense attachť cocktail circuit. One part of the military, however, is
relatively comfortable dealing with foreign forces. Part of the mission of the
Special Operations Forces (SOF) is to work with foreign military groups. Some
support exists for combining the SOF with the CIA's paramilitary wing (which
is probably more comfortable dealing with foreigners than with Americans) for
the training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. taxpayers might well come
out winners with that combination.
The regular Army, also, is not without its historical successes. The KATUSA
(Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army) program was initially criticized during
the Korean War but is now generally believed to be a wellspring of the modern,
efficient Republic of Korea Army (ROKA). Many Americans who had contact with
ROKA troops in Vietnam certainly would not have considered them to be "slow on
the uptake," a term used to characterize Iraqi and Afghan trainees in the
The U.S. military seems to be improving, with embedded advisers and other
aggressive hands-on training methods. Great! Just as the courageous resistance
by the passengers of UA93 on September 11, 2001, put to rest the chimera of
the Stockholm Syndrome, the U.S. military must put to rest the Sepoy Mutiny