Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Staying The Course" To Disaster

Lord and Lady help me, I agree with David Brooks!

Or to be more precise, he agrees with me. In the New York Times today, Brooks gives his unequivocal backing to an essay by one of the masters of military strategy:

Andrew Krepinevich is a careful, scholarly man. A graduate of West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel, his book, "The Army and Vietnam," is a classic on how to fight counterinsurgency warfare.

Over the past year or so he's been asking his friends and former colleagues in the military a few simple questions: Which of the several known strategies for fighting insurgents are you guys employing in Iraq? What metrics are you using to measure your progress?

The answers have been disturbing. There is no clear strategy. There are no clear metrics.
Krepinevich has now published an essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "How to Win in Iraq," in which he proposes a strategy. The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president.

Brooks then goes on to summarize the strategy:

Krepinevich calls the approach the oil-spot strategy. The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

Once you've secured a town or city, you throw in all the economic and political resources you have to make that place grow. The locals see the benefits of working with you. Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods. You mix your troops in with indigenous security forces, and through intimate contact with the locals you begin to even out the intelligence advantage that otherwise goes to the insurgents.

Well damn, that sounds a lot like stuff I suggested in my Twin Wars series of essays back in April. Don’t believe me? Go look.

Brooks is utterly scathing, now, in his attack on the lack of strategy that “staying the course” entails.

If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. But if that were true the road to the airport in Baghdad wouldn't be a death trap. It would be within the primary oil spot.

The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

And then:

If President Bush is going to rebuild support for the war, he's going to have to explain specifically how it can be won, and for that he needs a strategy.

It's not hard to find. It's right there in Andy Krepinevich's essay, and in the annals of history.

Well, DUH, David. It’s not as if others haven’t been saying this all along. Krepinevich's essay is an excellent one and I think there’s maybe half a dozen sentences in the whole thing I would quibble slightly with - but the British Army, fourth generation warfare expert William Lind and maverick US Army officers like the C.O. of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Col. H.R. McMaster, have already covered pretty much all the ground involved and Bush, Rumsfeld and the Pentagon politician-Generals took not one blind bit of notice.

Nor will they this time, David. It may be true that Krepinevich's strategy could work even now - although to be honest I think the moment has passed now that the constitutional crisis has thrown everything on the Iraqi side up in the air - but even if the perfect plan was submitted with endorsement from Myers on down, Bush and Rummie would never, ever, admit they were wrong and would insist on “staying the course”. And that’s exactly how much notice they will take of David Brooks too.

I think Brooks knows it. For a cheerleader like David to be so forthright in slamming Presidential policy (well, at first he tries to blame Rumsfeld) shows that even the most avid Bush fans are finally beginning to realise what the rest of us have known for some time - that there comes a point where “sticking to your guns” becomes petulant, childish, compulsive and stupid - and Bush passed that point over Iraq about mid 2003.

Oh, and Krepinevich says that in the absence of some huge changes in US method, the best the US can hope for is “leveraging its waning influence to outmaneuver the Iranians and the Syrians in creating an ally out of Iraq's next despot.” Ouch.


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