In a posting that I missed when it first came out, Herschel Smith writes:
In Eschatology and Counterterrorism Warfare I discussed the exodus that is occurring from Iraq, with the Anbar and Diyala Provinces being particularly hard hit. There are now 1.4 million displaced Iraqi citizens and every day sees three thousand more who flee the country. Working the back alleys and neighborhoods where there is no constant U.S. presence, the Sunni insurgents are waging a campaign of murder and intimidation to demonstrate that neither the Iraqi government nor U.S. forces can protect people.
It is stylish to cite David Galula and claim that the U.S. approach to Iraq has been too heavy handed. The solution, it is claimed, is to see that 80% of the solution is and will always be political. But just to show how utterly irrelevant Galula’s system is to Iraq, consider a single quote: “The battle for the population is a major characteristic of the revolutionary war. . . . The objective being the population itself, the operations designed to win it over (for the insurgent) or to keep it at least submissive (for the counterinsurgent) are essentially of a political nature. . . . And so intricate is the interplay between the political and military actions that they cannot be tidily separated; on the contrary, every military move has to be weighed with regard to its political effects, and vice versa.”
It sounds nice. Now take a closer read: “The objective being the population itself, the operations designed to win it over (for the insurgent) …,” has exactly backwards what the insurgents and counterinsurgents have been doing. The U.S. has been trying to win over the population, not keep it submissive, and the insurgents have been trying to keep them submissive, not win them over. If anything, intimidation has been the one and only tactic of the insurgency. The premise being false, the system then suffers in misapplication. (source)
|Goal is to overthrow the existing order and establish a new, improved system||Goal is to preserve and reinforce the existing or previous system|
|Tactic is to win hearts and minds and kill counterinsurgents||Tactic is to subdue the populace and kill insurgents and sympathizers|
|Theme is hope and freedom||Theme is tradition and prosperity|
|Stance is as infiltrators, not those who hold the ground||Stance is native, holders of the ground|
The U.S. has attempted to conduct an Insurgency on behalf of a hypothetical populace of Americans with Iraqi accents against the traditional authorities in Iraq: Baathists; Sunni and Shi’ite Militias; Tribes; and Clans; with the complication of gangs of zealous, Holy Assassins who infiltrated Iraq from neighboring countries and are waging an insurgency of their own. The U.S. Counterinsurgency as it was run under Abizaid and Casey was not a Counterinsurgency at all. It was an Insurgency.
As a commenter noted:
The Galula model has not failed in Iraq, it has not even been attempted. The Galula model states that an area be cleared of insurgants first by military force then held by civil athorities. Once American Forces clear an area, they leave to quell another hot spot. The vacuum created by departing US troops is filled by the bad guys. Its whack-a-mole. (source)
To be fair, the Galula model has worked in Iraq. But there are two problems. Sometimes after pacifying an area the units move out completely. Other times, new units that rotate into an area don’t continue to do what it took to keep the areas pacified. In both cases the areas deteriorate and jihadists regain influence, which they use to counter the American insurgency. This process repeats, disheartening our allies or dooming them to death as collaborators whom we have abandoned.
Smith loves to pound on one glaring example of a practice that doesn’t work. In some areas of Iraq the U.S. military will not do what it takes to keep snipers out of the minarets. There are minarets all over Iraq, overlooking every military base of any size. As a result, snipers are a primary cause of deaths and casualties. Send American forces embedded with Iraqi Police (IP) who clear all mosques of arms caches, and then station the IP at the entrances and search everyone who enters. It’s easy to find rifles and mortar tubes even under a long robe. Normal people won’t mind, and in fact will appreciate the fact that their mosque isn’t going to draw return fire because of some jackass jihadist up in the minaret shooting at or lobbing mortars at heavily armed soldiers. (source)
These sorts of actions will pacify an area, allowing the U.S. to conduct counterinsurgency actions. But in an area that U.S. forces can’t or won’t pacify, they can only function as insurgents. See the table. U.S. soldiers in Abrams MBTs and Strykers can’t melt away into the scenery. Without offering security, which is the one thing of value we can really do well if we go ahead and do it, we cannot run a counterinsurgency, but are stuck running an insurgency against terrorists, tribes, and local and sectarian militias.
Sitting, isolated in huge bases, American forces suck as insurgents in Iraq.
The huge bases may be necessary as places to keep support staff safe, but if Iraqi cities are pacified and made safe then the cities can be used to house support staff, who can be hired from the populace. This is not only cheaper, but it reduces American exposure and would allow non-combat personnel to be moved out of Iraq. Of course, if they are brought back to the U.S. then the BRAC process of closing down bases will make it difficult to find a place to station them. Combat personnel can be embedded in Iraqi police and army forces, or roaming the desert looking for brigands and holy warriors, and the steady desertion of Iraq by its educated class will stop and reverse itself.
This is the change that Bush proposed in his two recent speeches, the shift from a misguided Insurgent approach that was labeled a Counterinsurgent approach, to an actual Counterinsurgent approach. The actual Counterinsurgent approach requires additional combat troops, and once it begins to succeed then non-combat troops can be withdrawn and the large bases that lefties love to complain about can be turned over to Iraq for their Army, or other legitimate uses.