Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

A First Strike Against Iran? It’s Time to Recall the Case of Iraq

Now that speculation and discussion of a possible attack from Israel on Iranian nuclear development facilities is rampant, it is time to bring back a review I did on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq:

First Strike Guidelines: The Case of Iraq
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #25
by Charles Knight, 16 September 2002 (revised and updated 10 March 2003)
http://www.comw.org/pda/0209schneider.html

Excerpt:

…despite the repeated use of the term “preemption” to describe their counterproliferation strategy (see the 2002 National Security Strategy), the Bush administration’s strategic approach to Iraq is one of preventive war. The U.S. Department of Defense defines preventive war as “war initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve greater risk” while it defines preemptive attack as “an attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent.” Preventive war has long been understood to be highly destabilizing and it is nearly impossible to reconcile it with the notions of non-aggression imbedded in the United Nations Charter.

Vimy Paper 2012: The Strategic Outlook for Canada

Paul Chapin and George Petrolekas. CDA Institute, February 2012.
http://defensealt.org/xSKPtu

Quarterly Report on Iraq Reconstruction to Congress

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. October 2011.
http://defensealt.org/H7NCl2

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

Joshua Thiel. Small Wars Journal, 12 April 2011.
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/732-thiel1.pdf

Excerpt:

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.

Stop the Iraq madness!

Nir Rosen. The Best Defense, 23 February 2010.
http://defensealt.org/HogQCa

Excerpt:

Iraqis on the street are no longer scared of rival militias so much, or of being exterminated and they no longer have as much support for the religious parties. Maliki is still perceived by many to be not very sectarian and not very religious, and more of a “nationalist.” Another thing people would notice if they focused on “the street” is that the militias are finished, the Awakening Groups/SOIs are finished, so violence is limited to assassinations with silencers and sticky bombs and the occasional spectacular terrorist attack — all manageable and not strategically important, even if tragic. Politicians might be talking the sectarian talk but Iraqis have grown very cynical.

An alternative to COIN: It’s time to adapt our security strategy to leverage America’s conventional strengths

Bernard I. Finel. Armed Froces Journal International, February 2010.
http://www.afji.com/2010/02/4387134

Excerpt:

A fundamental challenge in devising a strategy for the use of American military power is that the world has literally never seen anything like it. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal to the rest of the world combined. There is virtually no spot on the globe that could not be targeted by American forces, and at most a small handful of countries that could thwart a determined U.S. effort at regime change — and some of those only by virtue of their possession of nuclear weapons.

American military capabilities are not a potential form of power, subject to use only following a lengthy mobilizing and requiring a long campaign to achieve significant goals. Instead, the U.S. can destroy fixed locations in a matter of hours or at most days, and implement regime change in a matter of weeks or a few months.

Because this capability is so novel — dating only to the end of the Cold War — American strategists lack a clear framework to guide the utilization of this force. They have sought to match capabilities to conceptions of the use of force from a different era, one in which the Cold War made regime change unpalatable due to the risk of escalation and that tended to make localized setbacks appear as loses in a perceived zero-sum competition with the Soviets.

The reason, in other words, that the U.S. didn’t simply remove Fidel Castro from power was that after 1962, the international consequences seemed too high and the goal too risky. The reason American leaders felt compelled to engage in a lengthy counterinsurgency in Vietnam was the concern that a communist victory would have been a setback in the broader struggle. But imagine a world in which there were few or no international consequences to removing Castro from power, and imagine a world in which the commitment to Vietnam was strictly commensurate to the threat that the Vietnamese communists could pose to the U.S. That is the change in context that has occurred over the past 20 years, and the U.S. has not yet adapted.

Editor’s Comment:

And so many in the U.S. choose to ignore how this dominant military power motivates other nations to seek nuclear weaponry or hold tightly to those they have acquired already!

Majority Staff Memorandum prepared for Hearing on Afghanistan Contracts, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, 16 December 2009

Majority Staff, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, 16 December 2009. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.
http://www.comw.org/qdr/fulltext/2009-12-16StaffMemo.pdf

Excerpt:

[The] number of Defense Department Contractors in Afghanistan May reach 160,000. There are currently 104,000 Defense Department contractors working in Afghanistan. The increase in troops may require an additional 56,000 Defense Department contractors, bringing the total number of Defense contractors in Afghanistan to 160,000.

Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis

Moshe Schwartz. Congressional Research Service, 14 December 2009.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/24124212/CRS-Contractors-Study-12-09