Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iraq Strategy and Bitter Realities 2

This is continuation of Part 1

6. Training of Iraqi forces (promoted by President Bush) is not a solution.

“Yet despite significant progress, there is nearly universal agreement that Iraqi forces will not be able to take over our security responsibilities any time soon,” says Captain Gary Felicetti.[i] To him “more training courses are not going to stabilize Iraq” because the real problem is improving performance, not training. He lists four root causes for performance problems at the level of the individual performer: a lack of skills or knowledge, a flawed work environment, flawed incentives, and a lack of motivation. Training would help if the problem were lack of skills and knowledge. Add to those poor organizational culture and design, along with improper personnel and leader selection criteria, all are polluted with corruption, as related factors.

Former assistance Secretary of Defense Bing West correctly identifies why this the case: “many Iraqis look first to taking care of family, then tribe, and then religious sect, with national loyalty a distant fourth in priorities.”[ii]

Captain Felicetti[iii] tells the result: “We have taught thousands to shoot straight and true, but many Iraqis still must decide whom they will shoot at and why.” There is a huge lack of Iraqi military values and ethics. Therefore, “It remains unclear, however, if the Iraqis are willing or able to reinvent their security forces and society.”

His conclusion summaries all: “It’s time to more accurately describe what US forces are attempting to accomplish in Iraq. Clearly, it’s much more than just training and mentoring. Call the task nation-building, culture change, or societal reform. Any realistic label will do, provided it reflects a far more complex task and recognizes the limits of our ability to control the outcome. Just don’t call it a training program—unless failure is an option.” [Emphasis in original]

More importantly, it is in fact the US forces who need more training as Lt. Colonel Brown, Commander of US forces in South Baghdad said: “We are fighting a fight the squadron did not train for.”[iv]

7. Now there are fewer prisoners in Iraq than Saddam’s time. This is due to the ineffectiveness of the collation forces and Iraqi government in imprisoning criminals, insurgents and death squads. Even though Iraqi government is already paralyzed, it is not too late to make a population census and to register every one. Census would allow identifying quietly potential people who should be further focused on.

8. It appears that a significant portion of Iraqis are not yet ready for a real democracy. The US could therefore be prepared for several scenarios including a strong military with weak government as well as a strong government/dictator with weak military.

9. Confronting the insurgents and murderers under the framework of counterinsurgency should have had concentrated on basic needs and capacity building. Here is what commander of US Forces in South Baghdad says: “I also had the sense that they didn’t care much what kind of government they’d ultimately have, whether it would be a democracy, theocracy, or autocracy. The people’s priority was to ensure that their basic needs were satisfied, and the government or group that could best do that would gain their favor….If you drink the same water as your cows, you’re likely not interested in a U.S. Soldier explaining the advantages, theory, and practice of Jeffersonian democracy.”[v]

The late Captain Travis Patriquin completely agrees with that: “Insurgents who have no prospect of a job or a place in the new Iraqi society will have no reason to stop fighting; in fact, they will have every reason to continue.”[vi]

Here are some hard facts: Inflation is in the range of 50-60%, lost oil revenues accounting for more than a billion dollars per year, and unemployment rate is above 40%.

Robert Gates agrees with that: “[President’s Iraq] strategy entails a strengthening across all aspects of the war effort – military and non-military – including the economic, governance and political areas. Overcoming the challenges in Iraq cannot be achieved simply by military means – no matter how large or sustained – without progress by the Iraqis in addressing the underlying issues dividing that country.”[vii]

However, Gates accepts that “Significant mistakes have been made by the U.S. in Iraq, just like in virtually every war in human history. That is the nature of war.” No, Mr. Gates, no war can be won by mistakes. In Bush word’s, you are “flat wrong.”

Bringing and maintaining security must be the first priority in Iraq. I am not fond of Frederick Kagan, but the emphasis in his January 2007 study “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success” in which he calls for a sustained surge of American forces to secure and protect critical areas deserves attention.

10. One day before Bush’s Address to the Nation on January 10, 2007, United States Government Accountability Office released a 114-page report titled “Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight.”[viii] It perfectly documents what President Bush’s proclaimed new Iraq strategy has always ignored the elephant in the war room – corruption.

After detailing the corruption and related issues in a Department of Defense, Iraq, and contractors triangle, the GAO report concludes with: “The U.S. government lacks a plan that integrates current efforts to improve Iraq’s capacity to provide security and deliver essential services.”

11. The coalition forces cannot wait any longer to get shot or blown up. The GI’s might die accidentally on the streets in the US, but they survive accidentally in Iraq. On the other hand in a place where “going along to get along” became a policy for survival, it is premature to expect Iraqis to commit to any side. Therefore the US should, first of all, eliminate the lack of integrated intra- and extra- departmental and governmental communications and listen to what the people in action say.

12. Who is to be blamed for then? Remember, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me,” said President Bush in his address to the Nation. But blaming doesn’t bring billions of dollars evaporated and thousands of people died, which were the results of those mistakes.

How many of those points President Bush will openly mention in his State of the Union address? one or two?

[i] Captain Gary Felicetti, “The Limits of Training in Iraqi Force Development”, Parameters, Winter 2006-07, pp. 71-83.
[ii] F.J. Bing West, “Waiting for Godot in Iraq”, Military Review, Jan-Feb 2007, pp. 2- 11.
[iii] Captain Gary Felicetti, “The Limits of Training in Iraqi Force Development”, Parameters, Winter 2006-07, pp. 71-83.
[iv] Lieutenant Colonel Ross A. Brown, “Commander’s Assessment: South Baghdad”, Military Review, Jan-Feb 2007, pp.27-34.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Captain Travis Patriquin, U.S. Army, “Using Occam’s Razor to Connect the Dots: The Ba’ath Party and the Insurgency in Tal Afar“, Military Review, January-February 2007, pp. 16-25. Capt. Patriquin was killed in action in Iraq. Rest in Peace dear Captain.
[vii] Testimony of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Senate Armed Services Committee January 12, 2007.
[viii] United States Government Accountability Office, Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight, GAO-07-308SP, January 9, 2007.

Tags: Iraq Strategy, US Military, Iraq


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