Streetwise Professor

July 25, 2007

Old Bull Bull

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 2:59 am

I am having a difficult time figuring out the “logic” (if one may call it that) in the Old Bull Republican (with an emphasis on the “bull”) senators’ calls for a change in American strategy in Iraq. If I understand them correctly, they want to short circuit the surge, withdraw American forces from intensive action in Iraq’s Indian Country to more secure bases, from where they would engage in strikes against Al Qaeda. This is couched as being a reasonable middle ground between precipitate withdrawal as advocated by most Democrats, and the current aggressive approach adopted by General Petraeus.

Er, have these guys been paying the slightest bit of attention? This is exactly what we did in 2005-2006, and was Bush’s (and Rumsfeld’s) biggest mistake in the prosecution of the war. Indeed, it is largely responsible for our current predicament.

As I noted in an earlier post, this ceded the initiative to Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups. It also deprived the military of vital information and gave the insurgents secure rear areas where they could plan, train, arm and equip. It also violated every fundamental tenet of counterinsurgency. An effective counterinsurgency must deny the enemy logistical support and access to the population. An effective counterinsurgency must be persistent, gradually (and often bloodily) throttling and choking an insurgency by depriving it of the material, popular, and moral support necessary for its survival.

The Surge is essentially a by-the-book counterinsurgency operation. A persistent American presence in Indian Country is the essence of the strategy. This persistence constrains the insurgents’ operational flexibility, deprives them of the initiative, and forces them to fight for their bases—and suffer large losses as a result—or flee ignominiously. Once Americans secure key areas, Iraqi forces can serve as the agent of persistence, freeing Americans to move on to other hotspots. Although this more aggressive strategy seemingly poses the risk of greater American casualties, in practice casualty rates are falling as the Surge crescendos because we are fighting on our terms using our comparative advantages, rather than letting our opponents choose the time and means of engagement, thereby allowing them to maximize their advantages. Moreover, whereas the casualties incurred in the Surge at least hold out the prospect of helping secure victory, the casualties incurred in the old approach—which is also the “new” approach of our latter-day Ciceros—essentially contributed nothing to a favorable long-run outcome in Iraq.

In brief, the Surge is an effort to retrieve the mistakes of 2005-2006. How bizarre it is, therefore, to see supposedly intelligent people base their attack on a diametrically opposed operational concept by advocating a return to a failed strategy. It makes my head spin. Let me see, Lugar, Domenoci, Voinovich et al have decided that based on the administration’s failures in the last two years that the war in Iraq is lost, and so we should . . . adopt a strategy that is hardly distinguishable from the that employed by the administration during that period. Yeah, that’s the ticket. But hey, I haven’t been a Senator since Hector was a pup, so what do I know?

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