Sunday, January 25, 2009

Victory is elusive for those who can't see

Victory in Iraq will not look like victory in any previous war. That is because all wars are different, have different foundational problems and different ways of defining 'victory' beyond the battlefield. Winning the fighting is not winning a war. Ending the causes for the war by establishing a system to prevent the underlying causes from recurring is essential. Thus the problematic part of 'ending the fighting' might not mean ending the war, as World War I amply demonstrated. Each campaign has its own terms, definitions and guidelines for what victory is and how it can be achieved, and it is only by stepping back and taking that higher level view that an individual can begin to discern individual phenomena that have high levels of duplication and corollaries in other conflicts.

A tell-tale sign of 'victory' is declining cost of fighting and shift to 'troop maintenance' in situ. That is the shift from combat to enforcing a peaceful system and the way that is seen is willing cooperation on the part of the local communities and Nation to take up some of that burden. In Iraq that means that foreign workers for the US armed forces doing the non-military work (cooking, cleaning, grounds maintenance) being done by locals. Strategypage on 31 OCT 2008 looks at this phase of shifting from combat to winning:

For the 150,000 foreign workers, there was some danger in Iraq, but for civilian workers, the chances of getting killed or wounded were a third of the rate for the troops, and the troops had a casualty rate that was about a third of what it was for previous wars (like Vietnam). Moreover, in the last year, combat casualties among foreign contractors has come way down, to, like, hardly any.


In Iraq, most of the civilian contractors work in the well defended bases, and most of the contractor casualties are among those (about a quarter of the total) who do security or transportation jobs that take them outside the wire. But even those have a lower casualty rate than the combat troops. For the really dangerous work, the troops are used. But working in a combat zone is still dangerous, no matter what your work clothes look like.

One of the first major bases to replace foreign contractors will be al Asad air base. There are 5,000 foreign civilians at al Asad, and all are expected to be gone, and replace by Iraqis, within a year. It may be a few years before all (or nearly all) of the civilian contractors are replaced by Iraqis. This will save the United States a lot of money, as the Iraqis will be paid according to prevailing wages in Iraq. That's less than half what most of the foreign contractors are paid.

When you are spending less money on maintenance and support operations and keeping the same level of troops you are no longer talking about 'combat' but 'overseas basing'. As noted in the article the number of armed forces to civilian ratio in Iraq has hovered at 1:1 which is customary for professional armies no matter the time period: only conscript armies can find it cheaper to staff all the necessary positions with conscript labor, and the US prefers a professional army system with civilian backing.

The cost of overseas basing is often misunderstood as it is a complex problem, and on 18 APR 2005 Strategypage looked at that:

But for most American troops overseas, the main additional cost is travel. The troops are moved economically, usually on chartered aircraft. There’s also the additional expense of shipping ammunition and new equipment. Although in places like Europe and East Asia, a lot of equipment can be purchased locally.

It’s an accounting nightmare calculating what the exact “additional cost” of having troops overseas is. But in the long run, it isn’t as high as the numbers thrown around in the media. Iraq may even decide that it’s in its best interest to have some American troops permanently stationed there (for protection from their ancient enemy, Iran). In that case, oil rich Iraq will be under some pressure to pick up part of the tab. In the case of South Korea, all the money they contributed went to pay South Koreans working on American bases, and for supplies bought locally. The South Koreans wanted the American troops to stay, to aid in protecting them from North Korean aggression. It’s a form of peacekeeping that American troops overseas don’t get enough credit for.

Overseas basing, or maintaining troops in a 'combat ready' and 'actively deployed' base situation in a Nation that is undergoing a transformation from wartime to peacetime with US help, is not a simple DoD line item. The actual cost must also factor in things like travel, but also exchange rates and who will do which jobs. The cost of foreign civilians doing jobs for DoD is less than the cost of US citizens doing those jobs and the cost of Iraqis is less than the cost of other foreigners doing the work. Thus the cost of the civilian side in Iraq done by Iraqis is far less than having US citizens doing those same jobs overseas or even having non-native foreigners doing those jobs. The 'sunk cost' of having to transport equipment is a non-recurring cost, so once the equipment is deployed and the troops moved to use it, then the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) cost is the recurring part of the budget. In some instances it may actually be *cheaper* to have US troops overseas due to the cost delta between US civilian to foreign non-local civilian to local civilians doing the contract work: Bring the troops home and the cost in O&M rises, even once you factor in the 'sunk cost' of returning the equipment to the US. Often it is cheaper to leave old equipment near the end of its useful lifecycle than it is to ship it back home. And the cost of shipping stuff from the US can be very high, as SP points out on 03 MAY 2008.

So when you hear the 'cost' of being in Iraq as 'high' the question is: in comparison to *what*? Being based in the US? Being based in Europe? If you can get those figures in a report and attempt to deal with the 'sunk cost' of moving material around, then you have some perspective at what the actual cost represents. If 'bringing the troops home' doubles the O&M cost and you then hear, in a year or two, how EXPENSIVE it is to have troops at home, then the question is: in comparison to *what*? Basing them overseas?

But then the media never brings up that sort of thing, which is why it is in the 'Dirty Little Secret' category at SP.

Just looking at the one-time cost to outfit a armored division ($4 billion) and its cost per year in O&M ($2 billion) brings into perspective that once you put the cost of moving such a unit to a new locale for deployment, the O&M cost becomes one to analyze but only with the additional cost of active deployment, spares and replacements factored in. That goes for the human side, too, beyond equipment. So when you see the shift of work to Iraqis, this is a cost *savings* not a *loss* of not having US citizens do the work... unless you want to *pay* for that with a higher cost of recruitment, retention and deployment of US citizens to an area that still has some active combat going on.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the 7th Army HQ is going 'mobile' which means it won't be in Europe as an active HQ, but one that is deployable to the field. US combat presence in Europe has been dropping since the early 1990's and EUCOM is reflecting the fact that Europe will have to fend for itself or depend on highly mobile, highly competent and highly lethal US forces if they can't defend themselves conventionally. Yes, the Cold War is 'won' and 'over' and the US has other things to do now. This is also the final close-out of all but such services like the medical and basing services in Germany, Italy and Spain for strategic purposes. Iraq and Afghanistan point to the future 'hot spots' no longer being in Europe, unless Europe decides to implode, in which case no amount of US troops there can help the continent.

That is 'victory': when you don't need to worry about a place to the point where its total disintegration can bring you back. Which, given the unassimilated Muslim folks roaming around in Europe, may be sooner than anyone expects it to be. But that will be Europe's 'peace' to lose, not that of the US.

Are you getting the idea that war and peace are not flip sides of a coin but a continuum? Good!

'Fighting for peace' is only an oxymoron on the political left, while for the rest of the planet is the operational description of how the world works on an ongoing basis. 'Winning' in Iraq, getting more or less back to the topic at hand, is not just a military venture but has a hard and fast civilian side. Strange as it may seem the military component is winning the civilian side of things in Iraq, no matter how much the civilian side tries to botch the job (hey! whatsamatter with those guys in the military? They are FAMOUS for botching the military side! Its like they got their act together, or sumthin...)

It is in that civilian realm, however, where the enemy has sought to make a winning proposition into a losing one. The intent to formalize the terrorism equation, by getting the US to actually deploy soldiers overseas, was to enrage Moslems. While some were enraged, they also get enraged by cartoons, the idea that someone just might disrespect the Koran, and generally find anything to protest against, save their own governments because they value their own lives. In the West, however, the Islamic Radical terrorists had a willing 'fellow traveler' who would not take any talk of 'victory' or even 'winning' into account. Seen here in this Strategypage article of 25 JUL 2008:

But al Qaeda still had a lot of Support in the West. The political opposition in the United States, true to form (as in all past American wars) found ways to criticize the Iraq operation without actually joining the enemy. The media in the West backed the opposition, as that's where the headlines, and the profits, were.

Out of all this, the American military found other lessons. Their professional and resourceful troops found ways to neutralize enemy weapons (suicide and roadside bombs) while keeping their casualty rate at less than half what it was in Vietnam and pervious wars. The generals got no credit, in the media, for that, but the troops sure appreciated it. This resulted in the volunteer military to maintain its strength in wartime, the first time the U.S. had accomplished that since the American Revolution.


Finally, the continued hammering the military is taking, for "failing" in this new kind of war, at least makes it less likely that there will be a problem with the victory disease (where winning brings with it complacency and all the ills that follow believing your own press releases.)

Yes that continued harping will actually *help* the US armed forces to fight stronger, faster and harder, while taking fewer casualties. By not joining the 'winning' side, the critics are actually making it more likely that troops will not only be better prepared for future wars but will need to fight them more often as any enemy can hope that the internal US opposition will deploy on its side fast enough to prevent US combat forces from getting critically needed support at home.

Really, if you want fewer deployments, you support winning and then allow the armed forces to get complacent, turn into a garrison or peace-time force, and get embroiled in political in-fighting over weapons systems that serve as a symbol for careers, not as a measure of effectiveness of the troops. Luckily those who oppose the US winning don't realize this or they would have, long ago, gotten on the 'success' bandwagon and even now be looking to weigh down the armed forces with new peace-time agendas that are ill-suited to combat. If you want to end fighting wars, you must support fighting them to completion so you never, ever, have to go back and re-fight them, like World War II that turned out so much more lethal than just slogging on for another couple of years in 1918.

Through the 1990's and 'downsizing' and the 'Peace Dividend' the armed forces had to start thinking in terms of actually getting its act together, which meant logistics *first*. The pay-off as seen in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the only time things couldn't get shipped to the troops and arrive in a regularized fashion is when the factories hadn't made enough of what was required. That included: bullets, batteries, dust screens, body armor, armor for HUMVEEs, comms gear... the little things in life, in other words, that allow you to fight and protect yourself. Food there was plenty of, bullets saw the US buying stores from France, Germany, UK, Canada. Lets face it, a couple of 'allies' weren't going to be putting ammunition to good use, and we really did need it.

All of this while the military budget for Iraq was eating up 1% or so of GDP, the rest of the Pentagon and Afghanistan conflict another 5% or so, getting you into the COLD WAR range of 6-8% per year of GDP. World War II? Approx. 50% of GDP per year as I was taught in University in the 1980's. This is at or below the percentage expenditure during Vietnam with far, far fewer casualties and a weaker dollar that doesn't buy as much as it used to... but we gots scads more of them to throw around. When you examine the constant dollar value of WWII, it comes out to about what we are spending, as a percentage of GDP *today* that is about what the entire set of two conflicts plus standard DoD work costs per year. Even at twice that you still are only in the 12-16% range of GDP, nothing like 50% from WWII years: the modern economy is *huge* compared to what it was then. Staggeringly so.

Considering that the last time the US put a small section of its armed forces into an equivalent sized (manpower wise) conflict was the Philippines in 1899-1910. Casualties there were higher not only due to lack of medical training (which we have today) but due to climactic conditions. A minor injury in the desert doesn't get infected promptly like it does in jungle and humid low lands. For all the fact most want to forget the Philippine-American War, it is the proper context in size, placement and general course of events to Iraq, and took about as long to get to a stable government to transition power to. Well, that isn't strictly true... we have cut years off of that timeline, in fact cut it in half. It was only by 1915 that Congress looked to turn full Sovereignty back over to the locals in the Philippines (about 16 years) while in Iraq its been 6-7 years (depending on which turnover you are going to count for that). The only time the US had to go back, in force, was to liberate the Philippines after Japan tried to make the Pacific their personal pool.

The objective of the 'anti-war' movement has been to make the conflict in Iraq longer, harder, give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Nation and attempt to gain power using the blood of US soldiers in a conflict authorized by Congress as their means to do so. In other words the Citizen Soldier had become a political pawn to pontificate about, but then drop immediately after their political victories were secured. Such commitment to their 'ideals'... which is 'the will to power' and nothing more. No scintilla of conscience plagues them when their leader does the exact, same things they reviled the previous one for doing. So much for principles: the Left has none.

A word on women in warfare. I am deeply honored and indebted to the women in the armed forces of the United States one and all. I have read of your exploits against fierce and sudden attacks beyond those of high profile media coverage and am staggered at this untold story of Iraq and Afghanistan and Colombia and Philippines. The most liberating thing for women to do, in equality, is see their common responsibility to the safety of the Nation and become a Citizen Soldier to protect us all. And if I shudder at pilots of previous wars nursing their shot up planes against all odds to safe landing, then I do so today with the pilots, drivers and women who suddenly find themselves in the front lines of a war without any front line. Nursing a shot up A-10 home is just as impressive as those who did so with the P-40, P-38, B-24, B-17, F-4... that is a proud cohort to be in. So to are those on the supply runs or helicopter runs showing good piloting and marksmanship skills in some of the most treacherous urban terrain on the planet. I am saddened that the 'Women's Liberation Movement' does not recognize such 'breaking of stereotypes' and the true heroism of our mothers, daughters and sisters. I am humbled by the work of these women and they have my eternal gratitude as an individual.

I can recognize the hard work that our Citizen Soldiers have put in to liberate over 50 million from the yoke of tyrants, despots and regimes that terrorize its citizens into submission. The desperately hard work of shifting the equation of war from active to and kinetic to background and undermining those seeking to wage Private War is one that must be won. We cannot win it just abroad. As we did with Haiti in the 1919-34 stretch we can do everything right, by the book, never address the local culture and population and leave to let our good works crumble back into chaos. Haiti is an island, not connected easily to any where, unable to easily transship hatred and terror to distant lands due to poverty. Our current enemies have no such mitigating factors to them. They have enlisted deceitful aid from those seeking political power on our shores so that we lose these conflicts, see regions of the world put back into deep peril and discredit our government of all political hues as worthless.

Left or Right it matters not: they want to kill our liberty and freedom.

Not through cryptic concepts of Fascism, although that is horrific, needless to say, as practiced by the Left today under sweet cult of personality and mantras that are meaningless. No, these killers seek to do it via the simple expedient of KILLING US and terrorizing us into submission. Too bad so many on the Left want to give them that and stifle the population with threats of un-PC laws and muzzling those who seek to warn us of these killers. It isn't 'nice' to point out what bad people these killers are... so shut up, already and let them kill all those other people... before they come for you.... and you follow that advice at your direct peril, and that of your family, community, society and Nation.

And where are the worrywarts of fiscal infidelity when their own prescriptions and nostrums have gone awry and cost the US more in SIX MONTHS than the entire Iraq conflict has in SIX YEARS? 'Oh, just let government solve it!' Unfortunately it is that self-same government meddling that caused the problem in the first place... we are asking Congress to save us from their own ineptitude without requiring them to realize how inept THEY ARE.

Just like the 'anti-war' movement refuses to now hold the same standards to one of their own or clearly state how vacuous those statements of theirs has been.

These are the ones calling victory 'illusive'.

There are none so blind as those who cannot open their eyes to see.

Once you start war you mean it, do it, commit to it, and finish it and then turn immediately around and start building something BETTER to not get you into that damned fool spot AGAIN. A COIN war is one with many different fronts, but it is not Peace by any way, shape or form. COIN usually dissolves until the need for having ready forces fighting disappears. It is hard, gritty, nasty war with the face of so many not fighting put at peril by those wishing to not surrender to the society that has taken up arms against their native killers.

My statement that is haunting me for some time now, long before 'the surge' was that the trendlines in Iraq look good and are strengthening, while those here look bad and are getting worse. That we may soon need Iraqis to come save us and teach us about liberty and freedom...

I wish that we had some capacity as a people to grab a hold of our government and tell it to leave us the hell alone and protect us all and forget about 'being nice' or 'doing good' and just DO ITS DAMNED JOB.

For all of us.

Liberals won't do that: they want fascistic government where they can tell others what to do.

Conservatives want the same.

Just look who they put up for high office, and the story is told. Yes you can find some outstanding exceptions, but they just prove the rule.

The Left is doing something unique and turning JFK's quip around so that Victory will be an Orphan and Defeat will have many proud Fathers and Mothers.

That doesn't last long in the affairs of men.

And as our desert Southwest becomes the next spot for a COIN deployment, remember that you could have supported the war, the Nation and our borders when it was cheap and easy to do so.... in 2001, 2000, 1996, 1993, 1992, 1986, 1979.... those we have chosen have served us ill.

Too bad the payment won't just be in money and treasure.

And only YOU can determine if YOU are worth fighting for.

I know what victory looks like.

Do you?

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