Sunday, August 28, 2005

How to win the Iraqi war

In the NYTimes today there is a story titled "Winning in Iraq" that attempts to bring a very strong theory into the mainstream. It is a theory by a very smart man (and former Army Lt. Colnel) named Andrew Krepinevich that outlines a plan that could help us actually win the war in Iraq.

I urge you all to at least read the NYTimes piece and if you are really interested, read the actual essay by Mr. Krepinevich (which is very readable and actually quite interesting). But, for those of you who want the quick synopsis, I’ll give you my take on it.

We are fighting the insurgency like a game of Whack a Mole. For the uninitiated, this means that we are going into towns, trying to stamp out insurgents, and then we move on to the next place that they are. This method is understandable. In Iraq, we all can agree that there was no post invasion planning done. In the absence of a plan, the plan becomes “put out the fires you can see”. I mean, you’re a military force, you are there and you can see little goals along the way, why not follow them?

This is a huge problem for a number of reasons on a number of levels. I don’t need to outline them here, you can see them. The people in Iraq are not helping us fight the insurgents (even though they are usually victims), the people here and around the word see no progress at all, and the insurgents just keep coming.

It seems to mr. Krepinevich (and I fully agree with him) that a good strategy to the fight over there would be one that restores the good will of the Iraqi people, shows the world that we are making progress, and actually increases security in the nation.

His plan is simple and it’s simply incredible that the people of our government haven’t thought of it earlier. I mean, aren’t there people in the Pentagon sitting around thinking of ways to win this war?

Anyway, the plan is this. Start with a piece of land, a town or a city, move in and make it secure, stay there, fix the electric, sewers, and plumbing. Train the Iraqi forces there to help you patrol and make that area safe. Make it so that the residents there feel as safe as we do here in our cities and towns. Once that is accomplished, expand the borders of the safe zone a bit. Repeat, continue outward.

These are things our government wanted to do all along. They wanted to make the country safe, they wanted to restore power and water, they wanted to train the Iraqi people to protect themselves. The difference is that we are focused on one area. This focus has obvious benefits across the board. But there are two benefits that aren’t so obvious. First is that the people will finally trust us and will actually aid us in intelligence gathering a bit. The second (and the BWH would love this one) is that the media can actually see progress. It is centered in one place. So instead of a fixed power plant in one town and a insurgent free day in another and a new school in another, it’s all happening at once in one place.

Think of the people who aren’t living in that town. They will be begging us to include them next once they see how nice things can be. Once they see that America is actually there helping them. The world at large would become more positive as well. The insurgency, which feeds on national discontent will finally wane out.

I could totally see a “grass is greener” kind of accelerated positive revival thing happening in Iraq.

I’m not smart enough to say weather we should totally pull out of the county or not but I am smart enough to demand that if we’re going to stay there, we should at least have a plan and a strategy to actually accomplish something.


Lingo Slinger said...

I agree 100%! Building trust is the key. All they are seeing is death and destruction. Buildings being blown up, fires in the streets, and chaos. How many civilian and American lives have to be lost??!

If the troops could demonstrate what it is exactly that makes America so great (ability to build and create prosperous life), then maybe they wouldn't hate Western Society so much. They would reap the benefits too. A lot of the hate is based on jealousy and a misunderstanding of what makes an American an American. Look at their country compared to the U.S. The differences are night & day. There's gotta be some resentment there... Especially with new media and the ability to "really see" the differences.

Maybe we can ask the same dude how to settle the Canadian / U.S. softwood lumber dispute too! I'm sure he'd have some good ideas. LOL!!

Good post!!

Ryan said...

Not to be a pain in the ass, but isn't that what they tried to do with the "Green Zone?" That didn't work too well either, and it may be difficult to set this plan up. It's not as if the insurgents are playing like a regular army, dressing up in uniform and all. They look just like every other Iraqi citizen. In fact, they even have the support of a good number of Iraqi citizens.

A "secure zone" may not be achievable if all the "bad guys" don't stand up and declare themselves.

And even if we could set up some sort of "secure zone," won't we have to let traffic in and out of that zone? Unless we intend to rule the country, we are not going to set up a dictatorship with us in control. We need to let people in and out of the secure zone to see family, we need to let trucks and supplies into the zone, etc. That opens up the new power plants, the new waste treatment faciities, the new water tanks, and the new schools and hospitals to some sort of attack from suicide bombers or any other weapon.

Let's just face it, there are no black and white answers to ramping up the security over there. Our soldiers will continue to be targets, as will the Iraqi people, until...well, I don't know. They claim all they want is for the U.S. to stop intervening, but is it really that easy?

Also, there are a good number of Iraqi people who are thankful for the American forces - which is something that doesn't quite make it into American news. You can look around for Blogs, et. al., but you can also find Iraqi statements on great news sites like the BBC. Not everybody out there really thinks we are the devil incarnate; that's just the extremists, and that's what the news media reports. After all, hate sells.

A lot of Iraqis are also very supportive of a democratic government. The majority of the people suffered under Saddam's regime and they do not want that kind of life to return.

trace said...

Ryan, you should read the article itself. I really didn't do it justice. However, first off, the "Green Zone" is extremely secure and it has worked as planned. The problem is that the Iraqi people just don't trust us as well as they could and therefore don't give us anywhere near the intelligence we could expect from them about the insurgency.

Ryan said...

I personally know people who are in Iraq's Green Zone (now the International Zone), or who have been in Iraq, and just because the American propaganda machine says it's safe, that doesn't make it so. They get shelled regularly, mortar and suicide attacks are common, and the State Department lost its first agent during active duty - EVER - in this so-called secure zone. I just can't imagine that anywhere in a war zone is safe.

As for the trust we should be gaining from the Iraqis, see what this article says about our "secure zone:" "Being in the Green Zone in Baghdad provides a limited possibility to meet regular Iraqi people. Americans are walling themselves in, mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.

In an analysis on 01 September 2003 ["After Najaf: The Emerging Patterns of Combat in the Iraq War"] Anthony H. Cordesman states that "a critical mistake [was] made by ORHA and carried on by the CPA by creating US security zones around US headquarters in central Baghdad. This has created a no go zone for Iraqis and has allowed the attackers to push the US into a fortress that tends to separate U.S. personnel from the Iraqis. This follows a broader pattern where terrorist know that attacks tend to push the US into locating in "force protection" enclaves and cut Americans off from the local population." (

If we were to go ahead and make isolated yet secure enclaves, what's to say that the Iraqis wouldn't view that as another move to save our own soldiers and yet keep them outside? What's to make them think our people are there to support theirs? Where does the trust come in when they think we are out of touch with their needs and their culture?

It's a very difficult question, and although I'm no authority on military strategy, I know there is no black or white in a matter like this - everything will not go as easily as a nicely written dissertation says it will.

trace said...

Not sure you read the article I'm siting at all. That's cool.

Ok.. this may become an argument of relativity. Would you agree that the Green Zone is the 'safest' place in Iraq?

Secondly, I'm not saying that the Green Zone as it is currently implemented is ideal in the sense that Col Krepinevich is suggesting. The Green Zone as it is is a very isolated American stronghold in the middle of Bagdad. This is hardly what the Col is proposing.

Ryan said...

I also wanted to add that, as your everyday citizen, we just CAN'T KNOW what our representatives know. What I mean by that is that you and I are not privy to their intelligence briefs, their sources, et. al. We think that because CNN and every other news agency has their people on the ground in Iraq that we have a good idea what's going on, but I for one, contend that we do NOT.

While I wish I did know and could make better-informed opinions of what we should and should not do in Iraq, I truly believe that there are excellent reasons why the American public should NOT be made aware of every piece of intelligence that comes through the door. There are strategic reasons for this.

In any case, I just wanted to add a post that says, "Hey, what the hell do I know anyway?!"

trace said...

In response to that, I totally agree. However, here is a quote from the NYT piece I cited :

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

Ryan said...

I just wanted to let you know that I DID read that article, and would also point out that this man is not exactly pointing out anything new. In fact, as the article states, the people in charge already THINK that is what they tried to implement.

I guess my whole point was, however, that things may not ever fall into place as easily as it is stated on paper. Maybe that was the initial plan employed in Iraq, but people like Rumsfeld insist on backing off the program because of the lack of tangible results and/or support from the American public and abroad.

trace said...

Ok.. I'm going to have to disagree with you there. I don't belive there was any post invasion plan at all in Iraq and you apparently do.. which is cool.. And from waht you were saying it didn't seem as if you'd read the piece.. sorry about that

bblluueee said...