Archive for the ‘Assessments’ Category

Israel vs Iran: the regional blowback

Paul Rogers. Open Democracy, 11 November 2011.


The near-unavoidable reality is that out of confrontation Iran will soon acquire a limited nuclear arsenal. This is because even a limited bombing of Iran will create a new dynamic where Iran is at the centre of the post-attack region; will have several new options to impose costs on its opponents; and will go full-tilt for its own deterrent.

The Arab Spring and the Future of U.S. Interests and Cooperative Security in the Arab World

W. Andrew Terrill. Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2 August 2011.

“Red Team” Report in 2009 Raised Concerns about Fiscal Constraints

Sebastian Sprenger writing in Inside Defense on 21 April 2011 reports that the QDR Red Team headed by Gen. James Mattis (USMC) and Andrew Marshall, director of the Office of Net Assessment, raised concerns in 2009 about the fiscal restraint effects of the deep recession on military plans to be represented in the QDR.

The Red Team report was not made public. When the QDR was published in early 2010 it did not include a presentation of the effects of fiscal constraints.

Last week, a little more than a year later, President Obama asked Secretary Gates to find $400 billion in additional security budget cuts over a twelve year period and called for a new review of military roles and missions.

The effect of this development will be an update of the 2010 QDR which will likely now heed the concerns of the 2009 Red Team concerning fiscal constraints.

The Statistical Irrelevance of American SIGACT Data: Iraq Surge Analysis Reveals Reality

Joshua Thiel. Small Wars Journal, 12 April 2011.


Maneuver warfare at its core is a mechanistic endeavor and fits with a corresponding necessity of top-down hierarchies. Conversely, counterinsurgency is a more ambiguous environment that varies in its complexity and context; it is the chess match of war. It is different in every locale and can cover the entire spectrum of war simultaneously. Consequently, counterinsurgency is difficult to put on a bumper sticker, to trademark as a catch phrase, or sell to a population and their representatives. In 2006 the United States (U.S.) public’s perception of success or failure of the Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy was concentrated around the concept of massing combat power in time and space, often called the “The Surge.” The term, “The Surge,” condensed a new counterinsurgency strategy into a simple and quantifiable slogan for the sound bite culture surrounding current affairs in the modern world. Unfortunately, counterinsurgency is more complex than “add more and then you win.”

Comment by Gian Gentile:

Joshua said this at the end of the piece:

“…in Afghanistan in 2011, will the victor once again write the history by touting the Afghanistan troop surge of 2010-2011 rather than the decisive operational changes.”

What evidence, I mean hard evidence (and beyond what officers who were part of the Surge recall)that there was a “decisive operational change.”? How much “decisive” operational change can there be in an area security mission where combat forces are dispersed widely and operate in a decentralized manner? This operational framework was in place in Iraq from spring of 2003 on. The answer is that there was not a decisive change in the operational framework. Oh to be sure there were some tweaks made here and there, a few more outposts here and there, but by and large it remained the same.

Unfortunately a narrative has been constructed that posits that a savior General named Petraeus came on board, reinvented his field army operationally and combined with an increase of troops was the primary cause of the lowering of violence. This is a chimera.

Yet folks, especially us in the Army who have spilled blood in these places, want to believe that what happens or doesnt happen is because of us and what we do or dont do, or because of savior generals riding onto the scene.

Yet the foreign policy elite (and many military leaders) in this country love this narrative and want it to stick because it places emphasis and criticism on the mechanics of doing these wars of intervention and state building and away from the strategy and policy that put them into place. Since success in these wars and conflicts are simply a matter of getting the right number of troops on the ground with the right tactics and with the savior general, then they can be won again and again.

As senior Army generals in Afghanistan argue “the right inputs are finally in place,” so too are we already seeing calls in certain quarters for bog in Libya.

But in Iraq it was neither the increase in troops as part of the Surge (as Joshua effectively argues) nor was it a decisive change in operational framework (as he incorrectly asserts) and instead the lowering of violence had to do with other more critical conditions (the spread of the Anbar awakening, the Shia militia stand-down, the physical seperation of Baghdad into sectarian districts) occurring.

If You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

Steve Clemons. TPM Cafe, 13 February 2010.

Quadrennial Defense Review Fails to Match Resources to Priorities

Lawrence J. Korb, Sean Duggan, and Laura Conley. Center for American Progress, 04 February 2010.


The QDR … does not prioritize the missions that the military must be prepared for. The document states that “successfully balancing [DOD’s priorities] requires that the Department make hard choices on the level of resources required as well as accepting and managing risk in a way that favors success in today’s wars,” yet it also notes that “U.S. forces must be prepared to conduct a wide variety of missions under a range of different circumstances.” In other words, the QDR promises to make tradeoffs but asserts that DOD must be capable of confronting every contingency.

Editor’s Comment:

Follow the money. The priorities are reflected in where the money goes. A few changes, per usual, at the margins. Mostly the same ol’ same ol’ division of spoils.

Assessing the 2010 QDR: a guide to key issues

Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo 46, 26 January 2010.


Today’s military is stressed by having nearly 25% of the full time military overseas, including 16% in overseas operations.

How does the QDR seek to reduce the stress of overseas stationing and deployment?

In recent years large counter-insurgency campaigns have demanded much of the military’s attention and energy.

Is the QDR preparing for more of the same in the future? At what scale and frequency?

After Action Report—General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret) Visit to Kuwait and Afghanistian – 10-18 November 2009

Barry R McCaffrey. McCaffrey Associates, 05 December 2009. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.


Most Afghans are also dismayed at the injustice and corruption of the government (in particular the ANP) compared to the more disciplined and Islamic Taliban.

Twice in recent months we have seen battalion sized units of Taliban fighters conduct highly successful (not-withstanding catastrophic losses by the attacking insurgents) complex attacks employing surprise, reconnaissance, fire support, maneuver, and enormous courage in an attempt to over run isolated US units. This is not Iraq. These Taliban have a political objective to knock NATO out of the war —backed up by ferocious combat capabilities.