The following is a purely personal and pointed outlook paper of The Jacksonian Party.
You read at your own risk.
"No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy." - Helmuth Von Moltke
Or, as it is in sweetened condensed form: "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. That is why they are called 'the enemy'."
Starting from the very first in Iraq, this has been an ongoing concern until the last year or so, when actually ensuring that the battle plan was to get lots of contact with the enemy was put in place. The starting phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom were not ones that went anywhere near as planned:
- Turkey proved unreliable due to internal politics and, perhaps, some external coercion.
- Saddam Hussein, receiving good INTEL from the Russians on what the upcoming US battle plan was, chose to ignore it because the Russian diplomat was unreliable. He knew that because *he* could bribe the man!
- Not paying attention to Iraqi disposition and understanding it, the US 'Shock and Awe' part of the campaign did cause chaos, but not much shock or awe.
- Instead of having resistance at the border, the US and Coalition forces executed a near perfect Blitzkrieg attack over the desert, routing around any 'hard points' and letting follow-on troops 'mop up'.
- The Iraqi Republican Guard and Army had been deployed for a hard COIN campaign against their own population, expecting the US to have to sit and wait while the 4 ID was re-deployed from Turkey to KSA. This did leave a lot of troops hanging out to dry and with little oversight. You could, often, find their commanders, but the troops themselves?
- The Iraqi Republican Guard finally got its act together and was going to make a stand south of Baghdad. An entire armored column got taken out by two bombs. Because of the extremely light 'contact' force, nothing could prevent the Iraqi forces from disintegrating.
- Baghdad Bob had a humorous time telling everyone there were no US troops in Baghdad, while reporters in Baghdad a few miles away reported just the opposite with US armored forces moving down roads.
- As those US forces came into Baghdad, the entire government evaporated and fled. Nothing on God's Green Earth could stop that.
- The US, after mopping up organized attacks soon was getting hit by attacks that were from al Qaeda's Iraqi group, and large numbers of people were getting killed by that.
In a period of three weeks the US went from uncertainty of *if* we were going to go into Iraq to facing a land without leadership, without an army, without a police force, without a government, and with outside terrorists paying folks to attack US forces and those working with them. From most reports I heard at the time the DoD had been prepared for:
- Capitulation by Saddam after 'Shock & Awe', or,
- Three months of fighting and clean-up after soundly defeating Saddam's forces in the battlefield.
Instead the US got a victory that is only rivaled by the Nazi victory over France, and even *that* didn't go as fast as the operational phase of OIF. In theory this was a 'dream come true' - a low casualty toppling of a regime that had fled.
In practice it would be the start of a nightmare as the US and Coalition forces had not put the administrative work in place to bring up a new Iraqi interim government, had not established decent relations with defeated forces, were unable to even *find* people at administrative jobs, although damned lucky that a technical cadre from the Saddam government continued showing up at work, and, in general, scrabbling around and saying 'now what do we do?'
A defeated Iraqi Army would have allowed for personnel processing, background checks and finding reliable, non-partisan individuals to reformulate a New Army. Similarly a government that 'went down with Saddam' would have yielded similar good effects on the civil side for continuation of services. Also police could be processed and vetted, with the worst offenders kept in camps until a new civil government was stood up. That was the post-WWII template, but the US found that Iraq's culture is not that of Germany, Italy or Japan and no one had a real dedication to work when the strongman had been toppled. Quite the contrary, without the RG to back things up, most of the government personnel that had been exploiting the population could expect to be on a personal 'hit list' by those looking to settle scores.
The US had 'won' but still wasn't victorious: and finding a way to move from winning to victory was something that had not been done in at least one generation and successfully, in such a situation like Iraq, since 1915 with the end of the Philippine-American war and COIN work. Separated by over a century, the record of history hit a skip and the US forces in Iraq were now faced with a similar situation that 'Blackjack' Pershing faced in the Philippines... with about the same size of force involved, to boot! With no viable government after the short US victory in 1901, the US forces in the Philippines scrambled to get something in place, train up a new Army and face down one of the most brutal and vicious opponents that would ever be faced: the Moros. Even suicidal Japanese attacks by Kamikaze and Banzai charges in WWII would not equal the tenacity and pure, outright viciousness of the Moros, who would skin enemies alive and stuff their skins to hang by trails to demoralize their enemy. In Iraq the enemy in the COIN phase would find the US and Coalition forces very, very hard targets to go after, so they would turn on the civilian Iraqi population, instead.
No matter what the post-war plan was that could be imagined by any US planner, including ones of near prescience by some of the staff in DoD, it would not survive the non-contact of a regime that evaporated like a thin film of water on a road under the hot desert sun. The few remaining Ba'athists, al Qaeda and Sadrists would shift to insurgency against the US and Coalition, seeking chaos of their country. The US armed forces after years of 'peace keeping' in the Balkans were not trained for COIN work, nor its basics, nor its implementation, nor in the doctrine of it. US Special Forces were, but they were spread incredibly thin between Afghanistan and Iraq. In trying to calm down the population of Iraq that was facing increased insurgent attacks, the US went into 'force protection mode' and to large bases and lost contact with the Iraqi people. Some things could have been done differently, but without the hard training and doctrine to get the US forces up to speed on COIN and to re-adjust personnel so that those unsuited to that work (and there are many) were not put in places where they were ill-suited there was no way in Hell that any sort of COIN campaign could have been put together in 2003 or 2004.
Hard work to get a regular government stood up on the civil side took time after many mis-starts. Those were due to bureaucratic foul-ups between DoD, CIA and State Dept. each thinking *they* had THE PLAN, while, in fact, they all held pieces of a plan that needed to work in coordination with each other. That did not happen. In many ways it STILL has not happened, although on the ground cooperation in the field is much, much better. What could be won in towns and desert of Iraq was being lost in the rings of the Pentagon, the Puzzle Palace at NSA, the spook center at Langley and in the impenetrable atmosphere of Foggy Bottom. The war of bullets, blood and a Nation was nearly lost on memos, bureaucratic in-fighting, turf wars, denials of responsibility and finger pointing. The plan to start changing that, as seen from the outside, was starting... and it would let the one bright spot of Mosul descend into chaos again, while bringing a steel curtain down on the most violent and most dishonorable part of the insurgency in Anbar.
While Iraq descended into chaos the beginnings of something new was seen in 2005-06. Getting a constitution drafted, elections staged (multi-party and open!) with purple fingers started to show that large parts of Iraq wanted *nothing* to do with the insurgents. The quietest provinces were turned over to Iraqi control and an Army was being stood up. Like any untested combat organization thrown into hard combat, it often broke and ran. Similarly the police faced the same problem and were outgunned. The darkest part before the dawn was seen and trumpeted globally as an American failure. Yet a hard, long drive along the Euphrates to Tal Afar gave the first glimmerings of light and of a town liberated from vile insurgents who acted no better than Mafia thugs or plain old warlords. Stretching combat out over wide areas brought new contact with the Iraqi people, who had now seen those that claimed to be supporting them, and yet brutalized them mercilessly. While the First Battle of Fallujah would be a loss and disprove wisdom in re-instating the old Iraqi Army, the Second Battle of Fallujah would show the wisdom in creating a new Iraqi Army as many of those units stood to the bitter end and victory there. The repercussions would bring a harsh onslaught by al Qaeda and nearly bring the house down in mid-2006. Anbar would be written off as lost... just months after the tribes there had banded together to agree to reject the insurgents and wage war ON THEM. And Gen. Petraeus would be giving new doctrine and training for COIN via US Army TRADOC, which incorporated all the 'lessons learned' and instituted a new regimen of training based on those lessons.
The story of 2007 to now is one of the hard, sudden shift of focus from combat to support of the Iraqi people to live normal lives. Michael Yon reveals that Special Forces played a critical role in Anbar and they won us credibility and our troops showed honesty and compassion, and yet a fierce determination to rid Iraq of killers. I read the war reports from MNF-Iraq and could see that bit-by-bit in 2006. Ramadi turned and by JAN 2007 there was talks to reopen factories. Bill Ardolino would travel to Fallujah and witness the standing up of police and basic, civil government and document the problems and successes that were being seen. I called the US Armed Forces 'honest brokers' because our forces were HONEST and they sought a way to bring PEACE to Iraq. Of all the photos by Michael Yon, the one of a US soldier cradling a dead Iraqi child broke my heart, and those of millions... that soldier was in mourning. And the Iraqi people UNDERSTOOD THAT as they cherish their children with a depth that only a mother and father could understand. We have mothers and fathers in the US Armed Forces and they understood.
I placed my trust not in political ideology, as that is the ephemeral wind under the desert sun: it blows up sand but doesn't offer cooling nor solace and actually makes thirst worse by drying you out. The hopping and skipping dust devils of Left and Right were self-parching and useless in understanding Iraq. The mirrors and prisms that both sides use to lose themselves in grand talk is never backed up by the hard understanding of our soldiers and our history as a Nation. It is a history that stretches beyond 1968, beyond 1945, beyond 1915, beyond 1787, beyond 1776 and beyond 1648. I grew absolutely disgusted with the child-like pewling of the Left, in which America is always wrong, never good, and weighed on a scale in which only those things that measure against us as a Nation and People matter. Similarly the Right in trying to wish the worst of the war away ill-served the Union and made their own assertions incredible because they did not match up with what was happening on the ground. Neither Right nor Left could be trusted.
The ideologies, or purported ones as the omnibus categories have lost all their meaning and coalesced, were no longer in contact with daily life and that was aided and abetted by the media. If the politicians were morally blind and cowards to face up to their responsibilities for DECLARING WAR and not wanting to WIN IT, the MSM was, likewise, breaking with all journalistic tradition and with the Geneva Conventions to show the dead and wounded before their very families could be notified by the proper authorities. In previous conflicts that got folks put in jail and, in the battlefield, executed as collusion with the enemy and being spies. If you truly believe that the US has broken the GC for those not covered by it, then do, indeed, LOOK AT THE DAMNED THING and see what it says about the coverage of war and what is to be done. The Left, in picking up the laws of war want them to be PARTISAN for their 'cause'. The Right wants to ignore the history of non-Nation state warfare and what, exactly, civilized Nations do with such that fight Private War: they are no better than common criminals or pirates on the battlefield and deserve exactly what EVERY such barbarian has gotten in wartime.
Those ARE the laws of WAR.
If we wish to consider ourselves 'civilized' we had best adhere to them, even when we DON'T LIKE THEM. That is what they are there for: to force us to act in ways we DON'T LIKE so that the greater good of all Nations is secured. That is why it is called 'duty', no one ever said it was pleasant, fair or nice. I have seen lots of lawyers deployed for asinine reasons in this conflict, but I have yet to see one deployed to beseech the government to DO ITS JOB and prosecute those breaking the laws of war on the CIVIL SIDE. This is a breakdown on civil government by the Left and the Right to willfully misunderstand, misinterpret and misuse civil law to purely partisan ends against their own Nation.
I have had to come to trust bloggers, particularly the MilBlog community, to give it to me straight as a fellow citizen. They have, often, not wanted limelight or recognition, just to get their simple and plain story out, unadorned of human tragedy and triumph and troubles. Not in hour long, glitzy affairs adorned by retired generals who have a problem spelling COIN, but by present soldiers just doing their job and telling me it is worth doing for our Nation. I now trust my fellow citizens doing the hard job that the Left and Right can no longer comprehend far better than any ideologue of any stripe. Especially those pushing the same old nostrums for 40 years that haven't worked in the Middle East or much of anywhere else, come to that.
The 'knowledge worker' at any of the Big Lefty Blogs can go to Hell, quite truthfully, and so can the wishy-washy Big Right Bloggers who can't seem to find the constitution because their moral blinders are stuck on an arcane passage of John, Luke or Paris Hilton. These latter types of bloggers, trying to push some god damned asinine ideology off as 'analysis' end up in some fairy land where either the US is evil incarnate or near heaven on Earth.
I'll trust those individuals who give it to me straight up with a water chaser, thanks.
Save the Shirley Temples for yourselves, because not a single one of you that so adores the two parties of the One Party State of Incumbistan has a clue that it is YOU WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I've got a laundry list of Right and Left nostrums that not only haven't worked, but have actually backfired on the Union. When I hear those being pushed as 'proven true' when I can cite things that are contra-indicatory of that, I know I have found a religious fanatic. Tell you what, if you think you have an 'ironclad' argument and I raise a contra-indicator, take it to heart that I don't take your gospel as ironclad, ok? Because it has failed in Iraq.
Global Warming? Snow in Baghdad.
Free trade brings liberty? Hey, we should have done THAT with Saddam, no?
Government Health Insurance? All Iraqi's were covered under Saddam... hmmm... what was that about plastic shredders, now?
Let's talk to tyrants! Hey, that worked really great with Saddam, didn't it? He gave up right quick with all that talk and followed through on his promises post-haste, didn't he?
If you can't see disconnects in those four previous and only see it in less than four, then you have a religion.
And YOU are part of the problem.
The reason I am making this a very and extremely pointed post is that, on a global basis, there are some very successful COIN campaigns that the US is supporting, and that are ALL now on winning tracks. I don't want to see any of these put in danger as, due to the nature of Transnational Terrorism, we will be much worse off if one of them fails. Here is the very short list of the ongoing generally successful ones:
- Iraq - Pushing hard on al Qaeda and Iran, and slowly de-legitimizing them not only in Iraq but having them lose face and favor more broadly.
- Afghanistan - Against the Taliban and al Qaeda, the US and Afghan government are slowly getting a handle on the problem, but its source is now outside of what the US can easily do in Pakistan.
- Philippines - In a slow and unheralded hard push to isolate Abu Sayyaf from the native Moros, the Philippine government is slowly getting rid of the al Qaeda affiliate and ensuring that the Moros needs are met. If you want to see a hell of a place to win a COIN victory, it is the Philippines. We did that once and are now helping the locals to do it *again*.
- Colombia - FARC, for the first time in 40 years, is being seriously pressed and the Leftist radicals around the world are trying to band together to stop that. FARC has managed to get contacts with the PLO, IRA, ETA, FMLN, OSPAAL, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, HAMAS, Shining Path, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea... its a damned long laundry list to support 21,000 or so fighters. And yet, these successors to the Medellin Cartel are losing.
- Somalia - With the help of Ethiopia and some locals in Somalia, the Islamic Courts Union are now having to live in Yemen, KSA and Eritrea. They are doing some recruiting and financing in Kenya. It is close to an attrition war, at this point, but longevity of persistent surveillance is winning there. Nothing will happen in Darfur until Somalia is cleaned up.
- Kosovo - This is a real bitch as the local support for al Qaeda is either endemic or vanishingly small. But the connections to the 14 Families in Albania point to something larger than the small end. The Wahhabis have done a nasty job of trying to radicalize some areas of Kosovo and there are *still* al Qaeda raids going from Kosovo into Serbia. While the general population may adore the US and Israel, the nasty parts have to be identified and ended, and right now that is a real hard toss-up.
Nice list to put in front of the next President, huh? Now for the places that are not in such good shape and with little the US can do about them:
- Tri-Border Area of S. America - Who doesn't operate from there? Really, this is one of the last, great lawless areas on the planet ripe for terrorist training and smuggling. None of the local governments have been able to do anything there, ever, so getting this patch of Rock 3 under some form of accountable law on all three sides will be well nigh impossible.
- Chechnya - al Qaeda with the support of the Hekmatyar organization and the Red Mafia is *back*. Also, apparently, with some support via Georgia and Iran still trying to set up shop in the place. Good luck, Russia. You will need it.
- Pakistan - Your guess is as good as mine what happens there. It won't be easy, fun, and bloodless. And have the Baluchs started up some sort of Unity concept with their ethnic brothers in Iran to form a break-away state yet? No? Why *do* we never hear of them?
- Kashmir - If you want antsy places it is there, in India controlled Kashmir. It is at a great cross-roads of smuggling paths and even China doesn't like the state the place is in. Until Pakistan stops aiding and abetting the various organizations that operate there, it will continue to be on a slow boil.
- Lebanon - Is this Civil War 3? Can *anyone* finally intervene and just do the 'dirty job' and get rid of Hezbollah? The US is kinda busy at the moment, so call back in a decade if you survive that long.
- Indonesia - Nice, laid back, haven for tourists, beach goers and, oh, the night club bomber or three. Why do they keep letting radical Islamists go there?
Tasty bunch, no? Got a foreign policy to cover them? I know this President doesn't and none of those applying for the job next have a clue, either. Now for the places no one wants to really think about that will need some attention by the next President:
- Albania - If the Kosovars love the US, then what in God's name are the local Mafia in Albania doing with al Qaeda, Hezbollah, HAMAS, and GIA?
- Mexico - The unheralded slow overthrow of the Cartels by locally well financed drug gangs is something that many are missing. The external money is coming from one or more Red Mafia outfits. There is, apparently, more than a little presence of al Qaeda and Hezbollah in the area, possibly with some Shining Path. FARC is a definite presence. Look at all that lovely oil and gas in Mexico! Wouldn't it be so nice to have the Red Mafia control that? Want the next place for a US COIN deployment? It will be Northern Mexico.
- Ukraine - I love the history of the area. I am less enamored of the oligarchs making it a rich criminal's play region. Russian meddling doesn't help. And all the criminal elements can quickly bring in folks far nastier to 'get things done'.
- North Korea - They had to show up some time! What happens if the Magic Kingdom of Mr. Kim suddenly goes bye-bye and all that lovely counterfeiting, nuclear, bio, and pharma technology evaporates and becomes unaccountable? We may get a chance to find out!
- Iran - Yeah, they are making money hand over fist in the oil market. They aren't making as much as one would expect since their management was and is atrocious. They have to *import* gasoline AND natural gas. That points to a nearly dead set of refineries and awful management of the oil and gas extraction systems. When the refineries collapse, most of the rest of Iran will go right with it. Also notice that Turkmenistan, possibly with the help of the Red Mafia, is playing hardball on natural gas as Iran has to import it from them. Something will give and four years is starting to sound just about right.
- China - Hekmatyar can easily start up an Islamic revolt in western China. A few bribes, a pay off or three and *poof* insta-jihad. The industrial infrastructure is between 30%-60% resting on bad debt. In comparison, the 'bubble economy' of Japan in the late 1980's was on 10% bad debt. The 'Asian Tigers' before they got hard economic problems between 12-14% bad debt. China at 30-60%? Not good at all. If they got a jihad *and* sudden industrial collapse, wouldn't that be fun?
You know, 'hope & change' just doesn't cut it with this laundry list. Nor does the Cold War era foreign policies of the other two candidates. Sorry, all the nostrums have gone way past their expiration dates.
If your candidate of choice can't even handle 1/3 of this list... ANY 1/3... then why should you vote for them? Some of these are so close to home that botching them will make things in the US very, very bad with almost no effort at all. And 'no effort' seems to be what that triumvirate are preaching.
Iraq, in comparison, is damned simple compared to these things. Extremely simple: persevere, establish the rule of law, let our soldiers do the hard work of teaching what it takes to honorably protect society and sustain it without taking bribes. Call it $80-100 billion a year. Some of these others? China I can see a global depression... makes Iraq look like peanuts. Mexico? Now thats a chilling thought, isn't it? TBA suddenly rising up under one or more Islamist outfits? Two or three governments in the hemisphere destabilized plus jihad exported across the region. Albania going hard over would be a nasty surprise for Europe, I would think. Pakistan just might take down Afghanistan, India, China and Iran... leaving the radicals and organized crime to pick up the pieces.
And yet getting Iraq *right* just might put a cap on *all* radical Islamic views by delegitimizing them in the Islamic world. That could save us lots and lots of money, no? And a lot of blood, too.
I have run out of choices that can even address three or four off of all of those lists.
To me that spells trouble.
Lots of trouble.