April 2, 2007

How to Win/Lose In Iraq

Hatched by Dafydd

Arthur Herman, he of the "Herman Option" -- which may be less effective now, as Iran tries desperately to convert vehicles to natural gas, than when Herman first proposed it -- has a new article up on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com: "How to Win In Iraq."

(Be aware; the sub-head is "And how to lose.")

The article is long, so I will summarize its main points, peppering them with my own few thoughts en route, rather than waiting until the end.

Herman not only points the way to military success in Iraq, he also warns of the most imminent danger threatening to turn that victory in defeat. But in the end, I demonstrate why we will likely prevail after all, dodging that deadly peril. At the end of the political steel-cage death match, Democratic defeatism will be the loser (and will have to leave town in November 2008).

So slither on, friend readers...

I intersperse my thoughts amid a quick abstract of the Arthur Herman article. Note that throughout this post, I define "insurgent" as anyone who actively works to undermine and overthrow the current government, whether by corruption, terrorism, death squads, or by open, armed insurrection.

De profundis ad astra

Arthur Herman begins his essay by analogizing the current insurgents in Iraq to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN, in French) in Algeria a half-century ago -- a Moslem, anti-Western, antisemitic, totalitarian, collectivist, terrorist group that was trying to drive the French out of that colony.

But then he demonstrates that the French army, after repeated failures over many years to come to grips with the Moslem insurgents, hit upon a strategy that was extraordinarily successful, crushing most of the resistance in just a couple of years.

This is the first shocker of the article: Herman, a historian, points out that in fact, we in the West do know how to fight an insurgency; we have done so on many occasions:

In fact, the historical record is clear. The roots of failure in fighting insurgencies like the one in Iraq are not military. To the contrary, Western militaries have shown remarkable skill in learning and relearning the crucial lessons of how to prevail against unconventional foes, and tremendous bravery in fighting difficult and unfamiliar battles. If Iraq fails, the cause will have to be sought elsewhere.

This is more subtlely subversive of the dominant worldview today than anything else he could say. The Democrats -- and most of the world -- flatly say that "there is no military solution." This mantra underpins the entire Democratic policy of forcing American troops out of the "unwinnable" war in Iraq and instead, focusing on "diplomacy," as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) is doing right now in Syria.

But there is another term for diplomacy undertaken after an aborted attempt to use force: conditional surrender. If we follow this path, the message we send is, "We know we've lost; we just want to negotiate a slightly less abject defeat than our enemy wants to inflict."

But since we do know how to fight against this sort of insurgency, since other countries (and even our own) have done so successfully in the past, then contrary to the Left's assertion, there is a military solution after all. That solution will certainly involve other aspects than the use of force; but military might is a critical element... and we know the road to victory in that element.

Therefore, the failure to vigorously and determinedly pursue victory demonstrates nothing less than cowardice, sloth, or the Stockholm Syndrome on the part of the appeaser: "Peace at any price" is the root of slavery.

Three cheers for the red, white, and pink

The winning strategy in Algeria was developed by Lt.Col. David Galula of the French army, following many years of increasing French military involvement to little effect. Galula managed to turn the war around in just a year or two by his new approach to fighting against the Algerian insurgency, the FLN.

So what is this strategy? First of all, Galula realized that counterinsurgency warfare was unlike ordinary conventional warfare:

Galula's subsequent book, "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice," laid out the blueprint for success in this form of warfare. From the start, Galula had discarded the assumptions governing conventional conflicts. A decisive battlefield victory of the kind familiar from World War II, he saw, would never work against indigenous, loosely organized but deeply committed insurgencies like the FLN. As he had learned from watching the British mount successful counterinsurgencies in Malaya and Greece, neither heavy casualties, nor the loss of weapons and bases, nor even the loss of leaders, would stop the rebels. Ultimately, indeed, "military action [was] but a minor factor in the conflict."

This is hardly controversial today, but it was a very different world in 1956; then, just a decade after World War II ended, it was virtually heresy to say that France should fight the Algerian war using means completely different from those that had achieved unconditional victory in the greatest war in all of human history.

But of course (as we see now), fighting insurgents in Algeria is vastly different from fighting Panzer divisions in the Rhineland.

Galula likewise realized that civilians played a much greater roll in counterinsurgency than they did in the second war to end all wars, where they were mainly bystanders (or by-victims). Civilians, both government and private individuals, are the counterinsurgent's secret weapon:

Without the help or at least the passive acquiescence of the local population, the government would be doomed. In a crucial sense, it did not matter how many guerrillas were killed, or how many regular soldiers were on the ground; the center of gravity was the opinion of the local community.

Thus, the key to success lay in bringing to the surface the portion of the populace that hated the guerrillas, and then turning that minority into a majority by a combination of political, social and cultural initiatives.

In other words, the successful counterinsurgent needs to win, not necessarily the hearts and minds of the populace, but at the very least, their consent and support -- however grudgling. The people must prefer us to the insurgents.

But this itself requires a strong military effort; Lt.Col. Galula was certainly not dismissing the military side. He was noting that military action was the prelude to the real work: getting the entire country engaged in "fighting" (isolating) the terrorists through civic, economic, religious, and social means.

Galula advocated three basic strategic "stages", beginning with a method of concentrating his forces where they were most needed:

The first was concentration of force. Whereas terrorists were able to do much with little (witness, in today's Iraq, the improvised explosive device or the lone suicide bomber), government forces could do but little with their much. Even after having expanded in number to 450,000 men--nearly one soldier for every 23 Algerians--French forces could not confront the elusive FLN everywhere. So Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.

This is important, because it allows you to track progress easily: If the white areas are growing, you are winning; if the pink areas are growing while the red areas shrink, you are winning. But if the pink grows at the expense of the white, and if the red grows, then you are losing, and you had better refocus your efforts on the pink zones.

The pink zones are the linchpin: As they go, so goes the war. Every time a pink area comes under your control, becoming white -- that automatically makes all adjacent red areas more pinkish, because now your forces are directly able to take the fight to enemy territory. The insurgents' "complete control" turns into competition... forcing the enemy to draw scarce resources from where he would rather they remain.

This winning strategy was also used successfully in Vietnam by Gen. Creighton Abrams, who assumed command of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV) on June 10th, 1968 -- just two days after the Tet Offensive ended in the crushing defeat of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Abrams' counterinsurgency warfare (using far fewer troops than the hapless Gen. William Westmoreland had used during his tenure as commander of MCAV) is now largely credited with destroying the Vietcong as an effective insurgency.. while Abrams simultaneously stopped the advance of the NVA and even turned them back. As Herman puts it:

By 1972, the American military there had broken the back of the Viet Cong insurgency, had fought the North Vietnamese army to a standstill, and had forced the government in Hanoi to the bargaining table.

Thus, we already know that the Galula strategy works. This is a crucial point.

Galula's other two stages of victory against an insurgency were "a visible and continuous military presence, in order to build civil institutions of support and trust;" and "a sense of inevitable victory" (emphasis in original). About the first, Herman explains:

In counterinsurgencies, the classic Clausewitzian dictum--that war is the continuation of politics by other means--turned in on itself. Through constant policing and patrolling, by running down insurgents and punishing them on, if possible, "the very spot" where they committed a terrorist attack or outrage, and above all by visibly supporting and rewarding allies, the military occupation would itself become a political weapon: outward and conspicuous proof that supporting the government translated into increased security, peace of mind, prosperity, and eventually social and political advance.

(This sparks an interesting thought: Should we encourage the Iraqis, whenever they sentence a terrorist to death, to erect the gallows exactly where he carried out the terrorist attack that got him condemned? And even if he only gets prison time, maybe he should serve it in the very city he attacked.)

The "sense of inevitable victory" requires the increasing use of native forces... for the obvious reason that a foreign force will eventually leave. When the country is increasingly under the control of the local government, which (by definition of insurgency warwar) is on our side, the populace sees that they will be the eventual winner. Since most people prefer to back the strong horse over the weak horse, to use Osama bin Laden's own analogy, they will increasingly back the government.

In practice, this means they will rat out the insurgents, cease giving them aid and comfort, and (as we see in Anbar province in Iraq), increasingly take up arms on behalf of the government they once opposed.

"Here and now, boys; here and now."

It is one thing to recognize the unique counterinsurgency genius of Lt.Col. David Galula; it is quite another to implement it in the present war... which, while similar to the Algerian insurrection, is also very different in many ways. That success reveals the unique genius of the other David, Lt.Gen. Petraeus:

Herman next shows how the current counterinsurgency strategy of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus, newly elevated to commander of all Multinational Force ground troops in Iraq (MNF-I), consciously matches the Galula strategy almost point by point... and thus stands an excellent chance of producing exactly the sort of victory that Galula achieved in Algeria in the late 1950s.

Lt.Gen. Petraeus understands Galula's strategy better than any previous commander of MNF-I, and he has done a magnificant job of applying it to the present insurgency... starting with the first stage, concentrating his forces where they are needed most:

The current surge of 21,500 troops in Baghdad is a textbook example of Galula's lessons in action. First, as in the northern city of Mosul in 2003-04, where he used a similar grid system, Gen. Petraeus aims to turn things around in the single most vital "pink" zone--namely, Baghdad and its environs, within whose 50-mile radius 80% of the violence in Iraq takes place.... As he has said, "The idea is to end each day with fewer enemies than when it started." Anything more ambitious leads to overreaching, disenchantment, and ultimately failure.

In other words, Petraeus has divided the map into three zones, white, pink, and red, and has focusing on making progress by concentrating his forces in the pink areas. By turning them white, he automatically turns adjacent red areas pink. Thus, stage one.

Stage two is a "visible and continuous military presence."

The nation itself must be seen as the victor when the insurgents are defeated; that means significant movement towards life becoming more normal the more the government has control. If government control is associated with horror, mass executions, kidnappings, and vicious suppression of dissent -- as under Saddam Hussein -- then the people rightly wonder what the difference is between the government and the insurgents.

But when government control means roads, schools, hospitals, banking, commerce, and the people being by and large let alone to be their potty, little selves, then more and more does the populace turn away from the insurgency and long for -- and strive for -- a government victory:

"Increasing the number of stakeholders is crucial to success," writes Gen. Petraeus, again self-consciously following both Galula's model and his own prior experience. In the northern district of Kabylia, for example, Gen. Petraeus had his men operating schools for 1,400 children, including girls, offering free medical support, and helping with building projects and road construction. One of his proudest accomplishments was the help given by troops of the 101st Airborne in rebuilding and opening Mosul University.

Gen. Petraeus's field manual states: "Some of the best weapons do not shoot." They come instead in the form of meetings held with local leaders, wells drilled, streets repaired, soccer leagues organized.... forcing the bond between insurgent and citizen to give way to a new bond between citizen and government.

Stage three requires creating "the sense of inevitable victory." This means the increasing use of Iraqi forces, rather than American forces, to make the counterinsurgency seem less like an occupation and more like a living nation fighting for order against anarchy:

In counterinsurgency terms, [native troops] were more than just auxiliaries in the fight; they were also signposts of the future, of a secure post-insurgency order around which the local populace could rally.

Note that Petraeus's previous Iraq command before being named Commander MNF-I -- was the training of native troops. It was his success at that very job, coupled with his successful counterinsurgency fight in Mosul, that caused the president to select him to that command in the first place.

Petraeus has further applied Galula's "stage 3" to the Iraq situation, beyond merely training the new Iraqi forces, by a move that seems at once bold and bizarre: He has ordered the creation of a number of Joint Security Stations (JSSs), where Iraqi and American troops live together, eat together, and patrol together, completely intermixed.

Besides more deeply incorporating the native troops into the fight, it also embeds Americans into every Iraqi unit -- both army and national police -- leading to reform and the purging of insurgents from the Iraqi forces. This is more than even Galula did to give the fight an Iraqi "brand," and draw a distinction between the government and insurgents, as the latter are exposed and cast out.

The enema within

So does winning the war on the ground, and even winning the active or passive acquiescence of the Iraqi population, inevitably mean victory in the war? Sadly, no. Arthur Herman drops the other hammer in the part of his essay characterized by the subtitle, "and how to lose."

While the French army followed the Galula strategy and systematically wiped out the Algerian resistance, the elite, effete, leftist intellectual poodles led their own insurrection at home.

Led by Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, they turned the French citizenry decisively against their own army, convincing them that all the violence in Algeria was the fault of France -- not the FLN -- and turning the war, in the minds of the French populace, in to a war of colonial imperialism, rather than a war to destroy a jihadist movement.

The mission of the Left in human events has always to confound truth with lies, freedom with slavery, and democracy with totalitarianism. In this case, the French Left was led by the man who famously rejected reason as the source of meaning, and who believed that reason itself was a bad-faith attempt to impose order on a fundamentally chaotic world.

The poodles effectively argued that violent Moslem leftist extremists were merely attempting to create more "freedom" for the Algerians to determine their own lives... disregarding the fact that these putative freedom-fighters were in fact great believers in totalitarianism and had nothing but contempt for liberal, Western democratic ideas -- such as freedom, reason, and silly exercises in intellectual self-abuse -- such as Existentialism.

This "revolution" in France itself, Herman recounts, led to the government yanking all the French troops out of Algeria, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The poodles, many of them literal Communists, demanded "self-determination" for Algeria... which in practice, turned out to mean absolute victory by the hard-line Moslems.

Who then proceeded to butcher anyone even suspected of collabortation with the French, turned Algeria into a vast killing field, a crucible to melt the colony into a collectivist dictatorship. The FLN believed in raw power. To quote a great Communist who finally awoke, Eric Arthur Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell)...

When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.’

When the "ACE" coalition of Anarchists, Communists, and Existentialists forced the French to abandon Algeria, colonization was replaced, not by freedom and happiness, but by collectivism and horror. Quelle surprise! So of course, the coalition that had supported the pullout immediately recanted, admitted it was in the wrong, and called for the actual liberation of Algeria... right?

If you believe that, you'll probably vote to reelect President Al Gore next year. In fact, the French poodles wallowed in an orgy of self congratulation. They not only cast Algeria into an abyss of totalitarianism, from which they have yet to emerge; they also brought down the Fourth French Republic itself. The yappy Leftists were top dogs again! Scratch an Anarchist, scratch an Existentialist, and you'll find a Stalinist lurking beneath the epidermis.

I think we all know where Herman is going by this point... the parallels are again startlingly exact, for we have our own coalition of Sheehanites, CAIR-mongers, and weak Reids. Herman convincingly argues that the elite, effete American Democratic intellectual pit yorkies are also following the Algerian playbook.

But rather than Galula's book about how to defeat a Moslem insurgency, the book followed by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) is that written by the "ACE" French poodles, who pulled the plug on the Algerian counterinsurgency war at the very brink of victory.

Just as their ideological cousins -- and the ideological forbears of today's Democratic majority in Congress -- did in Vietnam 15 years later (35 years ago): The "peaceniks," chanting "Ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh," crammed defeat down the throats of our victorious troops... thus crippling American military morale and effectiveness for a generation.

The dangerous analogator

But this is no reason to despair. There are a number of differences between us and the French -- and even between us and the United States of 1973 -- that may be determinative in allowing us to escape Santayana's curse of repeating history.

  • First and most important, we are not the French. We are Americans; we are exceptional... so it takes far more exceptional circumstances to force us to act like cravens.
  • The French Left in 1959 managed to get President Charles DeGaulle, the first president of the Fifth Republic of France, on their side; the American Left has no hope whatsoever of gaining the agreement of President George W. Bush to pull out of Iraq before victory.
  • France was fighting to maintain a colony; Iraq has never been a colony of the United States, and we have never attempted -- for all of the Democrats' absurdist rhetoric -- to "colonize" Iraq. We have always fought for a free and independent Iraq.
  • The French military was, in fact, guilty of using horrible acts of actual torture against the FLN in Algeria to gain intelligence -- the primary claim of the poodles. Although Lt.Col. Galula personally opposed (and thought ineffective) such tactics, they were quite widespread within the army.

    By contrast, there is no evidence of American forces using techniques that most Americans would call "torture" on any widespread basis, or with Pentagon approval. Even the claim that Americans "tortured" prisoners at Abu Ghraib are controversial, as few Americans think making male prisoners wear women's panties is in the same league as stretching on the rack, crushing feet, or using cattle prods on the genitals.

    We are simply more decent than were the French... and the necessity of holding the political home front is precisely why we cannot become as vicious and indiscriminate as some loons demand.

  • In 1973, the Democratic, anti-Vietnam-war Congress was negotiating with a wounded presidency and a paranoid president desperate to stave off impeachment and removal. The Democrats very effectively extorting Richard Nixon into caving on Vietnam -- in exchange for Congress agreeing to back off the Watergate investigation. (So much for trusting a Democrat's promise.)

    President Bush is neither paranoid nor desperate, and his presidency is neither wounded nor weak. He has plenty enough Republican support in Congress to sustain his vetos.

  • By 1973, we had lost over 50,000 Americans (0.025% of the population) in Vietnam... and most of them were conscripts, sent involuntarily and unprepared into combat. To date, we have lost 3,255 soldiers in Iraq (0.001%, or only 1/25th the deaths in Vietnam as percent of population)... and every, last one of them volunteered to join the military, because we have not had a draft for over 30 years.
  • And last but by no means least, Americans have a much stronger and deeper connection with our military, more of a martial tradition, and much more communications with our ordinary soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines than did the French in 1959... so it will prove virtually impossible to convince a voting majority of citizens that our men and women are all vicious thugs who revel in war crimes, atrocities, and torture... which was the idea pitched successfully by the poodles about their own troops in the Algerian war.

So read the article -- it's very important -- and take heart; the future of Iraq, the Middle East, and in a sense America itself, is in our own hands. If we maintain the will and refuse to allow our own Republican congressmen (those of you lucky enough to have such) to rabbit on us, we will prevail; and the Democrats can stuff their defeats and appeasements in a sack.

If that happens, then 2008 can be a very good year indeed for world freedom and democracy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 2, 2007, at the time of 6:36 PM

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» Submitted for Your Approval from Watcher of Weasels
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Tracked on April 3, 2007 9:37 PM

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As you may know the members of the Watcher’s Council each nominate one of his or her own posts and one non-Council post for consideration by the whole Council. The complete list of this week’s Council nominations is here. The Glittering Eye... [Read More]

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» Submitted 04/04/2007 from Soccer Dad
Every week the members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote on their own submissions and submissions of the best stuff they've seen around the internet. Here are my synopses of this week's submissions by my fellow Watchers. In Securing the Food Supply,... [Read More]

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Tracked on April 6, 2007 9:01 PM

» Was McCain Really an Early Advocate For "Counterinsurgency?" Actually - Yes! from Big Lizards
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) has recently been claiming that he was an early advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy we're now using so effectively in Iraq. For example, during his speech to the Virginia Military Institute: After my first visit... [Read More]

Tracked on April 12, 2007 2:44 PM

» AP Quantizes Counterinsurgency Success from Big Lizards
Grudgingly -- peevishly -- truculently, the Associated Press has started to report figures that show us just how successful Lt.Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency has been so far: Figures compiled by the AP from Iraqi police reports show that 1,586 ... [Read More]

Tracked on April 13, 2007 4:37 PM

» Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq from Big Lizards
Most of this post derives from several sources: Historian Arthur Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Win In Iraq (and How to Lose);" Weekly Standard contributing editor and AEI scholar Fred Kagen's article in the current issue... [Read More]

Tracked on April 25, 2007 2:32 PM

» Horrific Kurdistan Bombing Shows Counterinsurgency Working from Big Lizards
Contrary to the line many elite media are taking, the coordinated quadruple suicide bombings in Nineveh yesterday -- which appear to have killed between 250 and 500 Yazidis, making it the single worst terrorist attack of the entire Iraq war... [Read More]

Tracked on August 15, 2007 6:24 PM


The following hissed in response by: Cincy

Excellent insights as usual. What can we do to get insightful insights like these published in our local papers?

The above hissed in response by: Cincy [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 3, 2007 10:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: AMR

As in Vietnam, just as the military turns things around, the Democrats leap to surrender mode. If we had followed that path in the Pacific or North Africa during WWII, we would now be the slaves of either the Nazis or the Imperial Army or split between them. The Democrats of that time were made of sterner material.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 3, 2007 12:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


What can we do to get insightful insights like these published in our local papers?

Petition your newspaper to hire me as a columnist!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 3, 2007 1:27 PM

The following hissed in response by: DaveR

...it was virtually heresy to say that France should fight the Algerian war using means completely different from those that had achieved unconditional victory in the greatest war in all of human history.

For the French those "means" were a quick surrender, establishment of a puppet government, complicity in genocide, and then jumping in front of the first column of American tanks to lead the way back into Paris.

Not just snark here - I want to point out that the French did not need to be demoralized by the ACE alliance during the 50's - France had already been effectively neutered in the 20's and 30's.

The question is - have we? As I listen to the media and the Democrats fight against us in this war, I feel that I am powerless to do anything about it - anything legal that is. They claim to speak for me, and they have the power, apparently to make it so. I am more afraid of them than of terrorists right now - we can shoot terrorists.

The above hissed in response by: DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2007 6:49 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin


While a similar argument is insuing at CQ in this post, I took the liberty of linking your insightful post in the CQ comments.

The fears that the democratic party could very well be re-writing another history of defeat by submission and deception is very dissheartning to say the least.


The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2007 9:39 AM

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