Monday, February 05, 2007

"Inkblot" or Rorschach test? Military theory made E.Z.

Bush has been lying again.
Hold on there, I'll fetch you a glass of water to revive you from the shock. So what's "the" fib du jour? Well, it's about that blessed "surge" we've been hearing so much about lately. Bush wants to escalate the war in Iraq. Ok, augmentation, escalation, po-tay-to, po-tah-to. He wants to send more bodies over there. Preferably bodies with guns to tut-tut at those incorrigible Iraqis who just can't seem to "step up to the plate." And, if they don't happen to...
What? "Play ball?" (or do you think it's time they stopped speaking idiomatic baseball?) Ok, if the Iraqis don't happen to get their shit together in time for the next US president, well...y'know, that's just too bad, too sad. That damn future-Democrat preznit shoulda thought of that before s/he voted/didn't vote for the invasion in the first place. I mean, we all saw the same intelligence, right?
You know what would be a great start? If US politicos quit infantilizing the people they invaded & occupied (I'm lookin at you, too, John Edwards).
But I digress. (again, I will revive you from your shock)
The lie-of-interest to me this week relates to whom advised Bush to send more servicemen/women to Iraq. Here's an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's latest interview with the Smirker in Chief (Jan 16, PBS Newshour):
MR. LEHRER: General Casey said yesterday that the commander said that it may be spring or even summer before we have any signs of success from the new program -
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
MR. LEHRER: -- from the new strategy, and even then I can't guarantee you that it's going to work. That's the general; that's the guy who is the commander.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I - look, I mean, I think that's a -
MR. LEHRER: That's -
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- that's a sober assessment. Well, it's a sober assessment. I think he's not going to stand up and make guarantees that may or may not happen, but he is also the general who felt like we needed more troops, and he's also the general that believes this is the best chance of working. I think he's giving a realistic assessment for people.
But He-LLo, what's this? Turns out the same General "best chance" Casey denied that the escalation was his suggestion. Here's what happened at his confirmation hearing, last week (he's been nominated for Army Chief of Staff):
The outgoing top U.S. general in Iraq diplomatically aired his differences with the commander in chief on Thursday, telling lawmakers that President Bush has ordered thousands more troops into Iraq than needed to tame down violence in Baghdad.
Now, I don't mean to pry but... if it wasn't Casey's big idear, then who ordered all those bodies?
Why, t'was the Decider, of course. Mr. 'the buck stops anywheres but me' Bush.
Sigh.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending Gen. Casey's honour. Casey had scarcely testified his denial when he simpered:
Gen. George Casey quickly added he understood how his recently confirmed successor, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus could want the full complement of 21,500 additional troops that Bush has ordered to Iraq. Casey said they could “either reinforce success, maintain momentum or put more forces in a place where the plans are not working.”
Right. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. The thinking man's General. The guy literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency. All bow before him and his success in Tal Afar. Even my buddy Al Franken has heaped praise on the man who did his PhD on counterinsurgency. Franken has said, only half-jokingly, mind: "I'm gay for General Petraeus," though the good liberal from Minnesota has the sense to know that "even" a man-god like Petraeus can't fix what's so irretrievably broken. First off, the 20K troops doesn't even come close to satisfying Petraeus' own doctrine. Here's Fred Kaplan with debunk #1:
Petraeus and his co-authors discussed this strategy at great length in the Army's counterinsurgency field manual. One point they made is that it requires a lot of manpower—at minimum, 20 combat troops for every 1,000 people in the area's population. Baghdad has about 6 million people; so clearing, holding, and building it will require about 120,000 combat troops.
So there won't be 120 000 new troops entering the Petraeus calculus. Ok. I think that's a good thing.But what's all this hoopla about his success in Tal Afar? Here's Matt Taibbi with debunk #2 :
I was in Tal Afar's "genuine success" story over the summer. It was such a success story that the city's neurotic, hand-wringing mayor, Najim Abdullah al-Jubori, actually asked American officials during a meeting I attended if they could tell President Bush to stop calling it a success story. "It just makes the terrorists angry," he said. At the meeting he pointed to a map and indicated the areas where the insurgents held strong positions.
"Here," he said. "Oh, and here. And here. Here also...."
After that meeting, the unit I was with -- MPs from Oklahoma on a personal security detail, guarding a colonel who was inspecting police stations in the area -- went to a precinct house in one of Tal Afar's "safe" neighborhoods. There I found five American soldiers huddling in a room about the size of a walk-in closet, hunched over a pile of MRE wrappers and PlayStation cassettes. They seldom ever left that room, they explained. Occasionally they would have to go out and fight whenever someone started shooting at the police station (a regular occurrence, they said); sometimes they'd even round up the aggressors, only to have some Iraqi army creeps come by later and insist on the attackers' release, telling the soldiers they had the "wrong guys." The Iraqi army units and the Iraqi police in the town were constantly at odds and the soldiers there spent a lot of their time breaking up violent outbreaks between the two groups. In short, Tal Afar was a total fucking mess, a violent chaos, and yet Tal Afar is still upheld as the Iraqi success story-- and an example of the "impossible" standard of a one-soldier-per-forty-residents security paradise that even a liberal columnist like Nicholas Kristof dismisses as a hopelessly optimistic fantasy, saying such a wonder couldn't be replicated in Baghdad.
And from the Booman Tribune, last spring:
We have gone into Tal Afar twice now and declared victory: in 2004 the 3rd Cavalry cleared out the local insurgents in Tal Afar, but as soon as the 3rd Cav left, those insurgents returned. Now the same thing has happened again. This last time, it was elements of the First Armored Division which drove out the "bad guys" and reinstated law and order, only to see history repeat itself when the city was returned to the control of units of the Iraqi security forces.
Tal Afar is not a success story. It is a ongoing repetitive tragedy with elements of farce.
But Nevermind Kaplan. Nevermind Taibbi. Nevermind Booman. Why don't we ask the troops what they think? Y'know...the ones who are currently mired in hellish East Baghdad:
While senior military officials and the Bush administration say the president's decision to send more American troops to pacify Baghdad will succeed, many of the soldiers who're already there say it's a lost cause.
"What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us," said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. "Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight."
"Once more raids start happening, they'll (insurgents) melt away," said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. "And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back."
[...] "We can go get into a firefight and empty out ammo, but it doesn't accomplish much," said Pvt. 1st Class Zach Clouser, 19, of York, Pa. "This isn't our war - we're just in the middle."
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily.
There you have it, from the mouths of the "grunts," the very people Bush has no problem loading into his gilded cannon (from thousands of miles away, mind).
I would be remiss if I let you think that all servicemen and women felt this way. As you might expect, the outlook grows rosier as you ascend the rungs of the military ladder. Here's what an older officer told the same McClatchy Baghdad crew:
If there's enough progress during the next four to six months, "we can look at doing provincial Iraqi control, and we can move U.S. forces to the edge of the city," said Lt. Col. Dean Dunham, the deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, which oversees most of east Baghdad. Maj. Christopher Wendland, a senior staff officer for Dunham's brigade, said he thinks there's a good chance that by late 2007 American troops will have handed over most of Baghdad to Iraqi troops. "I'm actually really positive," said Wendland, 35, of Chicago. "We have an Iraqi army that's actually capable of maintaining once we leave."
And whence does Maj. Wendland gain his confidence? Wait for it...wait for it...
If the Iraqi army can control the violence, his thinking goes, economic and political progress will follow in the safest areas, accompanied by infrastructure improvement, then spread outward. In counterinsurgency circles, that notion is commonly called "inkblot" approach. It's been relatively successful in some isolated parts of Iraq, such as Tal Afar on the Syrian border, but in most areas it's failed to halt the bloodshed for any length of time.
So here we are: more bodies are on their way. Expect to hear more about the genius of Petraeus' counterinsurgency doctrine and the 'inkblot' approach. Expect to hear virtually nothing regarding the US role in arming Kurdish and Shia militias as long as 2 years ago (the "Salvador" option. Turns out Negroponte had such success with the Central American deathsquads, they couldn't wait to see what he did in Iraq. The big question? Will the media play ball and continue to censor the bloody results?

As for the fabled city of Tal Afar? People will continue to see what they want in the inkblot.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Brilliant post! Simply brilliant.

2/08/2007 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

Wonderful post. By the way, you've been added to Galloping Beaver's blogroll. Long may you blog!

2/08/2007 12:47 PM  
Blogger Jan_ from_ BruceCounty said...

great post. Thanks.

2/08/2007 8:08 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Welcome, Galloping beavers!! Thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks heaps for adding me to the GB blogroll :)

2/08/2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Welcome, Jan! Thanks so much for reading :)

2/08/2007 11:26 PM  

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