November 28, 2006
My column at TCSDaily this week rejects the three choices for Iraq recently leaked from the Pentagon: go big, go long, or go home. Instead, it offers "go native" as an alternative.
Sadly, I'm quite sure it's about as useful as whispering in a hurricane, but one does what one can.
Posted by Chester at November 28, 2006 12:23 AM
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Item #5 on your "go native" blog is worrisome. It appears the Sh'ites have completely overrun the security forces in Iraq, and to have US military personnel "embedded" with theirs would, in my opinion, result in a lot of "fraggin'". I agree that Muqtada al-Sadr needs to be neutralized, and if Maliki is hesitant to do that, the "receivership" option is a good one.
Posted by: Scott Chadwick at November 28, 2006 3:41 PM
I think there is a difference between the Iraqi military units that are Shi'ite and those that are coopted by the Mahdi militia. One does not imply the other. I think the militia is the smaller of the two, and its members are being run from the Interior ministry's forces, rather than those of the Ministry of Defense.
All the same, it's a good point. You can't just show up and expect to lead people. You have to truly live with them for long periods of time to gain their trust, especially when linguistic, cultural and other barriers intervene.
The main point of the article is to paint an image of a different set of options. Any one of them might not be right, but I'm pretty sure the electorate a)doesn't want defeat and b)doesn't want more of the same thing.
Thanks for reading.
Posted by: Chester at November 28, 2006 3:59 PM
I've been thinking along exactly the same lines. I've got a notion of how to float this politically:
We need to get with the Iraqis (and allies) and 'suggest' that we are going to appoint a Supreme Coallition Commander with authority over all forces in Iraq. This can be done as some sort of emergency act by the Iraqi government (and if they dont play ball make it clear we are out of there in 6 months flat).
This is basically a Trojan Horse to gain direct control of the IA and get the Iraqi ministries out of the loops. Its clear the Iraqi government's corruption and infiltration has sidelined if not ruined the IA. Once that is done we can begin integrating American advisors into IA units, which should alleviate the false flag death squad tactic, as well as getting the IA back on the positive path.
The Iranians and Sadr will see through the ploy but we should be able to railroad it through before anyone can do anything about it. Appointing a supreme commander saves face for the Iraqi government because we arent technically demoting them. This will also help satisfy everyones (here and in Iraq) demands for a sea-change in policy. It buys us time and gives us a fighting chance to get the Iraqi Army back in the game (and on the right side again).
Another bonus- this is something that should have been done ages ago. We need an individual in Iraq with complete control of military and political policy. This idea of having dueling civilian and military commands (and the military commander running Afghanistan as well!) is insane. The reason nobody seems to be responsible for our Iraq policy is that nobody is- we need a single individual to grab this beast by the horns. Its frankly astonishing to me that this was never addressed, its such a no-brainer from a historical point of view.
Posted by: Mark Buehner at November 29, 2006 12:19 PM
Good ideas, especially the Arabic language training. Wouldn't the elite, anti-ROTC schools howl! It's strange that the Pentagon is only now backing into an advisory effort. Apparently they learned too little from Vietnam. But they sure can't do it well without more Arabic speakers.
Posted by: Dick Stanley at November 29, 2006 12:44 PM
Good point on the Supreme Commander idea.
I am sympathetic tothe idea that there needs to be one individual in charge of both the diplomatic and military aspects, but I think this has problems as well. Senior military officers sometimes are ok at diplomatic maneuvering, but frequently they are warfighters, pure and simple. On the other hand, putting a suit in charge of the military would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, since he'd be more or less running the country (ie Paul Bremer). So I think a joint group that works well together will be alright for now. Maybe Casey and Khalilzad do just fine as a duo.
Posted by: Chester at November 29, 2006 12:46 PM
I think the joint idea has failed badly thus far for a couple reasons. First, you are almost certain to have 2 people answering to 2 different chains of command. This more than doubles the level of Washington micromanagement- each buearocracy has to make sure the other isnt screwing things up, no matter how much confidence they have in their respective guy.
I think its going to have to be a single individual. Somebody needs to have their reputation at stake on this one to provide maximum incentive to succeed (a mercenary way to look at it, but when a project is yours and yours alone there is just a different leadership dynamic). Moreover, you are right, it almost certainly has to be a military man. If i'm Bush, i find somebody that i get the indication wants the challenge, even if it means reaching down a star or two.
Petraeus comes immediately to mind. He can do the diplomatic thing, and has some name recognition with the pundits back home (even the Dems) which should start some positive buzz.
Posted by: Mark Buehner at November 29, 2006 1:23 PM
I think the nationalizing of Arabic departments would face a pretty big hurdle - the extremely small number of instructors and department heads who would want to cooperate. I know my Arabic professor would quit long before he'd work for the US government - for him, it would be from personal conviction; but for others, if that weren't sufficient reason, then community pressure would take its toll.
That being said, there's no reason Arabic can't be taught to tens of thousands of soldiers by native speakers - we're liberating a nation of 25MM native speakers, most (or at least many) of whom support our efforts. Setting up Arabic language academies, where the alphabet and the first few months are taught by bilingual speakers, and then the intensive work is handled by native speakers in an immersion setting - either in Iraq, or in Kuwait, or even bringing the teachers here to a military base - there's no reason that wouldn't work, at no more (and probably far less) expense, without the howls of outrage from the academy.
Because I have no doubt you're 100% right when you say learning the language would be an incredible force multiplier, and that's true no matter which "Go ____" method we choose.
Thanks for your article!
Posted by: Ethan Hahn at November 29, 2006 3:07 PM
Is Iraqi Army so secular that Shia units will fight and kill Shia militia? Will Sunny units?
Any evidence of that?
Iraq is a primitive tribal society, one has loyalty to family, extended family, tribe, co-religionists, and only then, much lower, to one's country.
Do you expect IA to break from that culture? Do you really?
Our best friends there, the Kurds, have ZERO loyalty to Iraq. Not that it is a bad thing IMHO.
Posted by: No-PC-wars at November 29, 2006 3:20 PM
"Any evidence of that?"
Saddam didn't seem to have a problem. I don't think we need to result to his methods, but I definately think we have been entirely too lax and PC in training up Iraqi units.
My friends that have done some of this say that we are basically 'accomodating' their cultural heritage of lazyness, total lack of initiative, etc. We need to turn back the clock a little- this is a survival situation for the Iraqis, we dont have the time or luxury of multiculturalism or even using our own standards of military discipline. That culture understands and respects force, and force we need to give them. Deserters need to be shot, shirkers need to be smoked, and theives need to be jailed. Essentially, if we intend to turn this mob into anything resembling a disciplined military force, we are going to have to train them as we trained conscript armies in the first half of the 20th century. We've learned that this soft PC training goes straight out the window once an all Iraqi chain of command takes over. That mistake cant be repeated.
My best friend spent a year (mostly) in Anbar, and resorted to training Iraqis to aim a rifle by duct taping their heads to the stock because they couldnt be brought to look down the sights (if you aim and miss, you are a failure. If you fire blindly and miss, it was Allah's will). Thats my best analogy for the only way we are going to get things done in Iraq, we need to tape that nations head to a rifle.
Posted by: Mark Buehner at November 29, 2006 3:56 PM
"I definately think we have been entirely too lax and PC in training up Iraqi units."
Whole war was the first completely PC war. I don't hear recognition of that fact among pols, big shots in military or virtually all pundits.
Top commanders in Iraq have failed to win this war so far. Of course Bush on his own would never replace anyone regardless of performance. If they could not win because of Rules of Engagement forced on them by bushies, generals must say so.
If it is not the case, those generals must be fired.
Posted by: No-PC-wars at November 30, 2006 3:56 AM