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Plain talk about Iraq


Daily bombings underline the spectacular failure of the current offensive against Iraq, and indeed of US policy in Iraq. Over 60 people were killed on Sunday in bombing attacks in Baghdad. Today there were bombings in Ramadi, in Baghdad and elsewhere - 15 dead here, 11 dead there, mourners of previous attacks gunned down in new attacks. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish when the reports are discussing different incidents, and when they are discussing the same ones. In fact, sometimes it is hard to tell when incidents occurred. For many, many months, the news has been the same: on the one hand, promises of a new US offensive, promises of Iraqi readiness to fight terrorism, and on the other hand, ambushes, bombs and more bombs, booby trapped cars, suicide bombers, roadside devices, mortar attacks.

It is wrong to say that the US is heading for disaster in Iraq. Just about everyone outside the Bush administration understands that the US has already reached its destination. The current offensive is an illustration of one aspect of the problem. The US and Iraq announced a crackdown in Baghdad, so the militias shipped out or lay low. Guerrilla wars cannot be fought and won by announcing offensives in advance. The propaganda value of the announcement was deemed to be more important than the lives that could have been saved by surprise. After nearly four years of fighting in Iraq, the U.S. military has still not learned that they aren't fighting set-piece trench battles in World War I. The enemy won't stay put if you announce where and when you are going to attack.

Admitting that there is a disaster is not a matter of lack of "patriotism" or failure to "support our boys." The war cannot be won by makebelieve. U.S. soldiers do not lack courage, but the US military apparently lacks the knowhow and the means to win the war, and the US government seemingly lacks the leadership and will to provide either. I know that some will protest that it is not so. If it is not so, why are the bombs going off every day? Does anyone really believe that another 21,000 US soldiers or even another 50,000 will bring victory? Does anyone really believe that the Iraqi army will be "ready" in 6 months? In a year? In three years? In ten years?

Unfortunately, it is equally true that everyone except those in the Bush administration ignores the disastrous consequences of a US defeat in Iraq, not only for the US, but for European countries who depend on Persian Gulf oil, and for Arab allies of the US. The US administration is playing politics with Iraq. They are denying the obvious facts, because the obvious facts are politically catastrophic for the Bush administration. Everyone else is playing politics with Iraq, in the mistaken belief that a US defeat there will somehow give them an advantage. Everyone is working an angle instead of looking for a solution.

In the US, the Democrats do not offer a viable alternative to the present policy. Leaving is not an alternative, because leaving without restoring sanity in Iraq will precipitate a much larger mess, that will require an even larger US commitment to clean up, but that is all that is on offer. Supporters of Iran want to use US embarrassment in Iraq to gain leverage for Iran. Supporters of the Palestinians want to use the Iraq mess to get concessions for the Palestinians. Arab commentators do not hide their schadenfreude over the US predicament in Iraq. In Al-Jazeera, we read: “Writing on the wall is clear Mr. Bush: Quit Iraq”. And if "Mr. Bush" does quit Iraq, what will happen to the Gulf states? Daily Star, fantasizing about a US attack on Iran, headlines, Bush has already caused enough trouble in the region, giving us to understand that according to the editors of the Daily Star, all the problems in the Middle East, including, apparently, the Hezbollah which is paralyzing Lebanese political life, are due to George Bush and the United States. And if "Mr. Bush" does stand down in Iran and Iraq, what will happen to Lebanon? to Beirut? to the Daily Star itself?

The problem of Iraq is not insoluble. I promise you that in five years, and if not in five years then in fifty, order will be restored to Iraq, in one way or another. However, the problem cannot be solved by ignoring it or by standing on the sidelines and watching, like spectators at a fire or rubberneckers at a road accident. If the US leaves, then no doubt others will take over. The people of Iraq will live in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of a Mukhabarat (secret police) state, probably under the joint protection of Syria and Iran. Nor will this Middle Eastern paradise be confined to Iraq. With the collapse of US influence in Iraq, Syria, Iran and their new-found Iraqi allies will be at liberty to spread their enlightened rule for the benefit of the editors of Daily Star in Beirut, and Al-Jazeera in Doha. As for the US Democrats, they will be able to gloat that $10 a gallon gasoline is the fault of the Republicans.

Surely there is a better way, but nobody is really looking for it.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000571.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 01:55 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 9 comments

The underlying premise of the author’s piece is that the US military (and by extension the Bush administration) does not understand and cannot achieve its policy objectives in Iraq. I disagree.

The network of combatants in Iraq and their leadership whose intent is to prevent the US from achieving its objectives there is identifiable and their strategy and tactics can be neutralized. There may be no “winning” a 4th generation conflict – 4GW - (John Lind’s 4 generations of combat). But satisfactory results can be achieved. I believe the Bush administration understands these complexities and has implemented a combination of military, law-enforcement, political, diplomatic (engaging regional powers who have an interest in a successful Iraq), economic and social undertakings that, together, and this must be stressed in the context of 4GW conflicts, can produce a stable, functional Iraq.

As the enemies objectives are the opposite of these, I’d define success as (1) restoring security and order to Baghdad (the enemy wants a picture of chaos and disorder displayed to the world’s eager media). (2) Denying the capacity of the opposition leadership to use Baghdad as a stage upon which they can promote the vision of chaos, disorganization and incapacity of the Maliki government to maintain order (propaganda is key to obtaining the enemie's objectives). (3) Enabling, through a secure Baghdad, the Maliki government to carry out its constitutional duties and responsibilities (the enemy wants to subvert this and does it through corrupt officials, infiltration and violent acts against key government officials all to create disruption and disorder in government, the military and law enforcement entities). (4) This, in turn, enables the organs of the domestic economy to operate. (5) That in-turn creates jobs, an important political objective that easily translates into (6) a greater willingness of the Iraqi population to participate in governance and good order.

Succeeding in a 4GW conflict requires a military force like that of the US, to recognize that they face a loosely organized network of enemy combatants that often operate in a decentralized fashion, without any central command authority, appearing, purposefully, to operate in a disorganized fashion. Keep in mind, this is contrary to the culture of military organizations like the US Armed Forces. Since the early 90’s, US forces, particularly the United States Marine Corps, have trained and equipped their units to operate effectively in such conflicts. Gathering intelligence and quickly acting on it is key as is decentralized small unit action that allows these units to bring the technological advantages they have to bear against the opposition’s weaknesses. Identifying local combatant leadership and neutralizing them using intelligence gathered locally and then using indigenous local law enforcement personnel to affect their capture is also a main goal and one that is not difficult to achieve. Cutting off, strategically as necessary, material supply from state and non-state actors has the direct effect of limiting the effectiveness and sustainability of the local combatants. This goes hand and hand with identifying and curtailing the flow of money into the hands of the enemy as well. Achieving success in these last two objectives tends to decrease the pool of combatants that the enemy leadership can recruit into action and ultimately the success of the entire enemy endeavor.

The US can achieve its objectives in Iraq. I think there is a great misperception, world wide, that the US Armed forces have not a clue. Quite the contrary. They are very good at what they are doing but it must be recognized that the enemy is very good at what they are doing as well. It takes time, patience and support …. something that Americans in particular, and the world at large, do not seem willing to give.

Posted by JB @ 02/20/2007 03:55 AM CST

With respect to Ami and JB, there is no "alternative solution" in Iraq. I agree that the Democrats haven't given one because they seem unwilling to stand firm on the decision to get our troops out of harms way. To date, we still have not been told by the Bush administration precisely what the latest "surge" is supposed to accomplish. Other than getting more of our best and brightest caught in a brutal civil war--or sectarian strife if you will, but I prefer to call a spade a spade--the goal(s) seem quite vague. We don't have a unified Iraq but we do at least need to be certain that those Iraqis we train and recruit, provided they show up, will not turn out to be our enemies in the near future.

Success today pretty much comes down to trying to keep our troops alive. Forget about reconstruction or peace. Four years and 3,000+ American lives later, the administration shows no willingness to learn from its mistakes and appears bent on baiting another conflict with a more difficult nemesis (Iran). That should scare any sane person. However repugnant the idea might seem in dealing with hostile countries and their leaders, direct communication with these countries involved in and around Iraq will be important, perhaps eventually necessary. To me, that's as close as we've got to a viable "alternative" solution right now. Or we can, as Ami suggests, spend the next 5-50 years restoring order the hard way. I'm not confident about that one: Occupations tend to leave some ugly scars.

Posted by Tobin @ 02/21/2007 06:23 AM CST

Just wanted to comment on the rediculous idea that an "Insergent" is distinguishable from a citizen of Iraq. Suppose you have a 14 year old in shia garb and a 40 year old Sunni in common clothing. One of them is an insurgent. What quality distinguishes the insurgent? Suppose they both carry AK's. One of them is for security the other for offensive purposes against rivals and the US military. Do you honestly think the US intelligence attends the rebel meetings and know who is who? Truthfully I would assume the 14 year old is the insurgent for the simple fact that he is ignorant about history and impressionable. A 40 year old man probably already has a clear and defined alliance either way. Then again I may be completely wrong. Please indulge us with your great wisdom of how to identify the enemy. Better yet head to your local recruiting office, tell them that you have solved their problems and enlist. Maybe they will put you in command of the entire operation.

Posted by OMFG @ 02/21/2007 07:18 PM CST

Before you throw the "They use intelligence gathered from informants and survellance and such" at me. Here's a simple fact. The "insurgents" are not without family, freinds, etc,etc. Each time we move against these people, each time one of them is killed, it is likely their family members or friends may take their place. Human nature is to seek revenge on those that kill our loved ones even if we did not agree with the deceased's views. We kill 1 tow more will take their place. Iraq is not only in the midst of occupatioin by a foreign entity they are in a civil war. Everyone has an agenda and they are fighting to see it prevail. Don't pressume there is a clear line between right and wrong among their people. As long as the people of Iraq ride the fence with their alliances, while their nation is in chaos, the flood of resistance will not cease. As long as the US forces (in their eyes) an illigitimate government upon them, instead of letting them find their own way,each factioin will continue to have hope that their people will rise to power. The US must bow out, let be what will be. Only then will we have a clear idea of who we are dealing with.

Posted by OMFG @ 02/21/2007 07:32 PM CST

We have no need to comment muslim knows the result ,unfotunatly here agressive thougt think he will succes infact he is involve for cowerd his soldier. they never occupy a country ammong center of muslim states.
American are warning other for human right .American need to topple Bush for enquiry whether why he ignored American people call to not war.
Iraqi innocient children killed women people with indisciment bombardment .where is world u.n.o.
Every Iraqi government internaly work against occupation. so never in expect of hope.so you need to asside the Haliburton oil.In new resolution U.N.O.you go to decrease your cowerd army and muslim country army be place. thank you for calling comments .Pakistan made fully co operation with you but you donot accept instead of Pakistan you are helping India.

Posted by Naseemrindbaloch@yahoo.com @ 02/23/2007 02:04 PM CST

I am a former army seargent from the vietnam era. I was stationed in Korea in 1967 and 1968. I saw first hand the slow process of Americanizing or Westernizing a country. I see what Iraq could look like in 10 years. People with jobs, education, hopes for their children. Like most of the free world, that it not achievable without sacrifice. Parts of the country are achieving that success but we will never see that on national network tv. They prefer to only use the daily body count to blur our views. We have sent plumbers, teachers, doctors, and all types of professions into that country. They are not the marines but the guards and reserves that are not all 19 and gung-ho killers. They are helping rebuild the country and yet get no credit. Just ask them and they will tell you about the good they have done there and it continues today. Freedom will prevail if we persist and all the Iraqis will share the profits of their resources.

Posted by Joe Dube @ 02/25/2007 08:22 PM CST

Joe you are absolutely right, Iraq, given enough time will become "Westernized". But now we have an ethical dilema. Do the people that we proclaim to help in fact want to be "Westernized"? Sure, they want to live in peace. Sure they don't want bombs raining down on their heads or death squads dragging away their families in the night. But do they want to live as Americans do? I have seen no reports of that debate. I have not seen one organized vote. I believe it is up to each nation to choose their path. If we, as Americans, truely believe in free societies then we must also be prepared for the fact that free societies do not always relfect the life style of Americans. Until the people of Iraq can live without fear to speak their minds regarding the progression of their nation we will not know what they truely want. Our role their should be to enforce peace among their people, preventing armed thugs from strong-arming Iraqis into submitting to their will. Contrastly, we are just another band of armed thugs imposing our will upon them. It is their country, their future that is at stake. We need to open our ears and create an environment that is conducive for them to speak.


The reports here in the states indicates that Mussarif cooperated with the U.S.. That in fact we strong-armed and bribed Mussarif to get cooperation. As those of us, who actually pay attention to world events, understands, the Pakistani people and most of the Pakistani military does not support Mussarif. This leaves me with the perception that Pakistan is not cooperating with the US, but instead they are submitting to a bully and only handling matters as they are brought to our attention. Is this the case or is this just more media spin in the US? When one nation has to be the care takers of another nations leader, to protect him from his own people, it speaks greatly of the stance of the people of that nation.

Posted by OMFG @ 02/28/2007 07:50 PM CST

"I see what Iraq could look like in 10 years. People with jobs, education, hopes for their children." Yes that is possible, but I understand Iraq had high standard of education, health and general standard of living BEFORE Western sanctions and occupation. Also, you say "They are helping rebuild the country and yet get no credit." But don't forget the reason it needs rebuilding in the first place. Getting credit for rebuilding something you damaged in the first place is a strange concept. I'm sure you have your own idea of US rights to 'improve' other countries, but if they were left alone in the first place they wouldn't need saving.

Posted by Jason Beale @ 03/03/2007 01:58 PM CST

It is requested and is my last responding in your comments .the reason writting to you have been blamed without detail on an information .I declare it for your knolledge President Pervez muhraf is an honest man, no any opposite leader at home they better know than you can blam on his honesty . only inflat supporte to U.S.A .People are against him ,whether why we need to immense cooperation with you when one otherside does not accept us.previous history Afghanistan ussr occupation period. Pakistan Military in somallia you left him alone in U.N mittion . A resolution need U.S.A can select every country president on his behalf.every where your interference where oil discovered like darfur.

Posted by naseemabbasrindbaloch@yahoo.com @ 03/18/2007 06:20 PM CST

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