Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Still Getting It Wrong

By Cernig

Matt Yglesias is spot on today in his column at the UK's Guardian newspaper (nice gig, Matt!). He points out that the U.S. Army's own counter-insurgency manual (author - Gen Petreaus) says that air-strikes are counterproductive since all they ever really manage to do is cause collateral civilian casualties which hands the hearts-and-minds battle directly to the insurgents. So why the hell are air strikes in both Afghanistan and Iraq increasing instead of decreasing, with predicatble civilian deaths driving the populace into supporting the enemy of those raining death on them from above?

He also notes that the Air Force is writing its own counter-insurgency manual and are sure to find a place for air power despite the condensed wisdom of almost a century finding that air power used against resistance fighters, insurgents and terrorists has a negative gross effect. Got to justify all those shiny toys. The multi-billion F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter have even been touted by the Air Force as usuable for electrobnic countermeasures missions, exploding a few dozen dime-a-dollar IED's on each million-dollar flight. The U.S. is already using its E-6 Prowler aircraft, which have actual, real gold in their cockpit canopies, for such missions. The idea of loading the same electronics into a truck or hummvee obviously hasn't occured to them.

But that's not the only area in which the U.S. military is allowing political power games inside the military and sycophantic sucking-up to civilain masters with an axe to grind to degrade their own counter-insurgency performance.

Eric Martin notes that "the surge" is a failure by the most reliable litmus test of all - while still pushing it as a PR campaign, the military in Iraq has quietly gone back to the kind of whack-a-mole operations it has previously used to such little effect. The only reason for that is that the surge is even less effectual - which is exactly how Gen Petreaus' manual told us all it would turn out. Our very own Libby also notes that areas where "clear and hold" operations have been undertaken never end up being either cleared or held and instead US forces end up "causing more damage than we presumably are trying to prevent".

The good General's own manual also says there's precious little hope of success in any counter-insurgency effort where things like this are still happening.
For weeks, Baghdad has been in the grip of a power shortage, lasting sometimes as long as 23 hours a day. That means there is no electricity to operate the city's water pumps, leaving many areas with no running water. With temperatures already beginning to soar in advance of the approaching summer, many Baghdad residents have taken illegally to using their own generators to power electric pumps to draw water from the city's system.

But a growing fuel shortage is making even that option unavailable for many.

...Government officials blame recent attacks by al-Qaida in Iraq in part for the shortages. In recent weeks, insurgents have launched a campaign of damaging or destroying major roads and bridges in the capital. They have often used tanker trucks to stage such attacks. The damage, along with new security measures at key roadways to prevent similar attacks, have limited access to the capital by the trucks used to supply the country's electric generators.

Sabir al-Isawi, the governor of Baghdad, said efforts to increase the amount of fuel available in the capital have so far been unsuccessful. Asim Jihad, the oil ministry's official spokesman, confirmed his agency is unable to provide an adequate supply of fuel to Baghdad because there are fewer routes for tanker trucks to get into the capital. Meanwhile, those that use undamaged highways are required to wait for hours or even days to undergo new security inspections.

Karim Hattab, another oil ministry official, added that the supply problem was exacerbated last month when insurgents blew up the pipeline that brings fuel into Baghdad. ''This deprived the capital of huge amounts of fuel,'' Hattab said. ''Both ministries of defense and interior refused to provide protection for us to fix the pipe.''

The water shortage has even reached inside the Green Zone, where most government offices and foreign organizations are located. Tayseer al-Mashhadani, a member of the national assembly, said the water supply there has been shut off for several hours a day.
Basic amenities like water and power are the responsibility of the government and the occupation. That they cannot guarantee even a median level of supply this many years in speaks more volumes than any number of statistics on dead terrorists, wounded suspected terrorists and empty posturing about "Al Qaeda's Waterloo" possible could.

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