14 November 2008

Obama and Iraq

I know that it is conventional, received wisdom that BHO's victory has nothing to do with Iraq. It's amusing how the pundits can have conventional wisdom in such a short time, but this is the era of the insta-poll, where we can call a state with 3% of the vote counted and where opinion polls, regardless of methodology or bias, are revered as former generations revered Holy Writ.

I am inclined to disagree in that BHO wouldn't have been viable candidate without the anti-victory crowd.[1] He consistently hammered the theme that he wouldn't have invaded Iraq in the first place, although to his credit his voting record supports that notion, unlike the vast majority of the legislators that make that claim today. And while at the end the credit crisis and so forth took over Iraq in public conciousness (most notably through the media's refusal to run positive stories which means Iraq virtually disappeared from the evening news), those folks are most passionate about getting out of Iraq NOW are in the forefront of the Changey-Hopey-Dopey crowd.

BHO promised specifically to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of office, "establish regularity in deployments"[2], and end stop-loss. He also want to push more forces into Afghanistan, although how he would manage this in the near future is unclear. After we pull everyone out of Iraq and "establish regularity" it might be possible to do so with the dwell times he seems to support.

Never mind that the generals and diplomats are putting together an agreement to stay there until 2011, with faster withdrawl always an option. Give us a little wiggle room, you might say. There's still a lot of hemming and hawing, and the process was fraught with the usual histronics and drama attendant on any Middle Eastern negotion, but it seems to be on track to pass the Iraqi Parliment.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, they have started removing the "Stay Back 100m or you will get shot" signs from the back of US vehicles. Believe it or not, posting those signs was originally a 'hearts and minds' initiative compared to the TTP in 2003, which basically worked out to 'shoot tailgaters, use warning shorts if they aren't too close or if you see kids in the car'. If you need an explanation as to why this is significant, you haven't thought about it hard enough. It means that the suicide car bombings against moving convoys are no longer a serious threat, which acccords with the information I was seeing during my brief stay there a few months ago.

Once upon a time, when I was in ar-Ramadi with COL McFadden's 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division (side note: my old BC just got picked up for full bird, go him), the strategy was to push units out of the big FOBs and into neighborhoods, setting up COPs (Combat Outposts) and JSS (Joint Security Stations). The idea was to get agressively involved in the neighborhoods and create a real sense of security among the inhabitants rather than just aimlessly patrolling at random intervals. Being Engineers, my unit built a Metric Boatload of these pocket fortresses. This was a precursor to the strategy that the Surge intended to use, neatly summarized by Grim. The idea is/was to push in, establish a security climate, train Iraqis to do that job, and then get the hell out of the neighborhoods because that shit is both dangerous and manpower-intensive. Eventually the Iraqis are going to have to do the job.

Think about it--suppose you were an Iraqi. Wouldn't you rather have men of your own town in an Iraqi police organization patrolling the streets doing law-and-order work than Americans out looking for a shootout? So while you might be (and probably would be) pretty grateful to get rid of the terrorists (who finance their terrorism through extortion, do remember) it's a step forward to get IPs doing the job.

Of course, when the AP writes about it, it's "abandoning — deliberately and with little public notice — a centerpiece of the widely acclaimed strategy it adopted nearly two years ago to turn the tide against the insurgency." There is a grudging acknowledgement down five paragraphs that this was always the plan, but the rest of the article is a lot of hedging and speculation.

Another interesting indicator is the number of insurgents coming in and deciding they don't want to play on the wrong side anymore. JD has an interesting article on a JAM-SGC leader. National Reconcilliation it ain't (yet) but it is moving in the right direction.

The question is not whether or not we will stay in Iraq for 100 Years. Some Americans will stay in Iraq for 100 years (providing neither we nor the Iraqis suffer total collapse) in the same way that there are US Soldiers working with many militaries around the world as trainers and in joint operations and training operations. The question is whether the main combat units will withdraw on a three year schedule that can be sped up as circumstances permit, or on a 16 month schedule that becomes a millstone around Obama's neck if the Iraqi security forces are not ready to take over all of Baghdad and Mosul and other less secure areas.

This also affects how BHO will be able to fulfill some of his other promises, promises to rebuild an Army whose equipment is in dire need of refit and replacement, and whose force levels were clearly cut too low during the heady Clinton years and not built up under Bush as soon as they were needed. An Army nursing a stab-in-the-back syndrome and suffering from a perception of failure is not nearly as quick to rebuild as an Army that achieves a hard-won success at great cost.

As a side note, I question BHO's ability to rebuild the Army from an equipment standpoint, given that a precipitous withdrawl would likely result in transfer of a good bit of equipment to the IA, necessitating replacement of that equipment stateside. BHO has also come out against the next generation of combat vehicles, currently being developed as the Future Combat System. Given his social programs and the inclinations of supporters in Congress, I doubt we'll see serious refit and reset of existing equipment sets either.

Well, we'll see.

[1] Anyone not clinically insane is anti-war. The so-called "anti-war" crowd prefers immediate "peace" to victory. The rest of us want peace through victory because we believe it to be more lasting and favorable. Hence they are 'anti-victory' whether though a hatred of America, lack of belief in the concept of victory, or because they are irrationally convinced that victory is simply impossible.
[2] Deployments not driven by ongoing commitments are driven by contingencies. The only way to "establish regularity" is to consistently and regularly back down from challenges and refuse to use military power that had been forecasted specifically well in advance. It is, simply put, an impossibility.


Blogger Chris said...

Welcome back to your blog, John. We missed you over here.

Take a look at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NWMxOGY4YmExN2E2NzA0YzY2ZTUwOGU2MGNjYTlhNzQ=

This has to be one of the finest analysis of the November 4th election: "Our Catholic tradition has always recognized the possibility of “invincible ignorance,” whereby a person does something wrong while sincerely and perhaps blamelessly believing it to be right. I doubt many Americans voted for Obama thinking they were doing something wrong.
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t morally responsible for this choice. Some people may have allowed more superficial concerns triumph over more weighty moral issues in determining which way they would vote. All who voted for Obama will in some way share in the responsibility for his actions as president, at least as far as they were foreseeable"

So while you may rightfully blame Obama and his administration for all the failures that are sure to happen in the next 4 years, it is the American PEOPLE who voted for failure.

It makes no sense to me. I've always had gret faith in the ability of the American electorate to act in its own best interest. This last election proves this faith to be in vain.

I am SURELY glad that God is not an elected office. Faith in Him is not in vain.

McCain wasn't a great choice as Prez, but he was (and is) a far, FAR better choice than the man who actually won on 11/4.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous SFC D said...

"It means that the suicide car bombings against moving convoys are no longer a serious threat..."

Numerically, suicide car bombings were used more often against civilian targets and never were what rigerous analysis would term a "serious threat".

It more likely has something to do with the negotiations around and the signing of the new SOFA agreement.


10:15 PM  
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