September 12, 2007

Kagen On Jones

Hatched by Dafydd

Hugh Hewitt had a little snippet about this Fred Kagan article Thursday, but I decided it needed a more thorough discussion. And besides, it's a good excuse to schedule another post to automagically appear while we're drilling for oil in Alaska, one of the original fourteen colonies that became the United States.

Military analyst Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute -- one of the creators, along with Gen. Jack Keane, of the counterinsurgency strategy currently in use by Gen. David Petraeus -- is rather steamed about the way the media has spun (twisted is the better word) the Iraq report by Retired Marine General Jim Jones. In fact, let's start with Kagan's final sentence:

Presenting the Jones Report as a condemnation of the Iraqi Security Forces, proof of their hopelessness, or support for a rapid withdrawal of American forces or a "change of mission" goes beyond spin. It is simple dishonesty.

There; now the entire rest of this post is officially a flashback.

Who is Gen. Jones? I presume they're talking about Ret. Marine General and 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps (1999-2003) James L. Jones. After leaving that position, Jones was made Commander of U.S. European Command, and the next day, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (the two commands have resided in the same general since Matthew Ridgeway in 1952). The latter position, SACEUR, is the top officer at NATO, and descends in spirit from the first "Supreme Allied Commander," Dwight D. Eisenhower, during World War II.

Gen. Jones appears to have no special expertise in counterinsurgency warfare; but he has a lot of combat command experience and appears, from the report, to have thrown himself into the job with vigor, determination, and honesty.

Thus, it is doubly despicable that the Democrats are trying to "recruit" him, without his knowledge or consent, onto their "surrender-now" team.

Back to Kagan:

Some in the media have been remarkably quick to report on leaked copies of reports about Iraq before the average person has a chance to read them. There is a reason, apart from the usual journalistic desire to be first with a story. The reports often don't say what the reporters want them to. First leaks about the National Intelligence Estimate and the report of the Government Accountability Office turned out to have painted them darker -- and in the case of the NIE much darker -- than they actually were. That is even more true of the report of Retired Marine General Jim Jones about the state of the Iraqi Security Forces.

Kagan quotes from the New York Times and the Washington Post, the two newspapers read most often on Capitol Hill (members of Congress are the only important consumers of such scare-stories in the drive-by media) after the Congressional Record, which is typically only read by members ego-scanning for their own names in print. And both newspapers spin the Jones report as if it were some dire condemnation of the war, Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Gates, David Petraeus, and of course, George W. Bush:

The Washington Post made it sound even worse: the report "estimates that '[the Iraqi army] will not be ready to independently fulfill their security role within the next 12 to 18 months' without a substantial U.S. military presence. Logistical self-sufficiency, which it describes as key to independent Iraqi operations, is at least two years away, the report says." Worse still, "the report, which emphasizes the failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to achieve key political benchmarks, says that violence will not end without political reconciliation."

But the reality is that, while Jones pulls no punches on areas of operation that simply aren't working well -- notably the Iraqi National Police, though Jones finds they are improving, and the Iraqi parliament, which Jones finds annoying -- in general, he finds much significant enhancement and an impressive stand-alone ability among Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), particularly the Iraqi Special Forces but the rest of the Iraqi Army as well. Those areas where they are deficient are precisely those that nearly all Arab armies have difficulty with:

  • Logistics, "the procurement, distribution, maintenance, and replacement of materiel and personnel," including the supply and transportation of food, water, fuel, ammunition, armor, arms, and actual soldiers;
  • Fire support, especially close air support -- which of course requires attack aircraft, both fixed and rotary, and coordination with ground units (wouldn't be prudent to strafe your own forces). This is a very, very advanced skill (despite being decades old) that few non-Western nations have ever effectively demonstrated; and it's hardly surprising that the new Iraqi Army is not yet able to accomplish what eluded Saddam Hussein for decades;
  • Intelligence, especially including "SigInt" -- which used to be called signals intelligence to distinguish it from HumInt, human intelligence: Any electromagnetnic means of gathering data. Since this usually means satellite photography, EM transmission monitoring, and unmanned aerial vehicles, and since very few third-world nations have launched military satellites or Predators (actually, I think that the precise number is "none"), again, it's hardly a black mark against the Iraqi Army that they don't have the intelligence-gathering mechanisms and analytic skill that we consider vital to modern warfare;
  • Equipment -- does anybody really expect Iraqis to be building MRAPs, Strykers, and MOABs? Secure communications nets? Cruise missiles?
  • Transportation -- or taking over from KBR, or conducting air assaults across scores of miles?

There are some areas where it's disappointing that the Iraqis haven't stepped up better; but even here, they are improving with every month:

  • Command and control -- everybody knows what this is and why it's so hard in a tribal world;
  • Advanced strategies that require a fully functional national government, such as "clear, hold, build" -- "to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions," as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote.

But Gen. Jones concludes, writes Kagan, that most components of the Iraq end of the Iraq war are moving in the right direction; and they are already very well advanced along the road to complete independence:

In other words, the Iraqi Army has made tremendous strides, is fighting hard and skillfully, and is now a critical component of the counter-terrorism campaign in Iraq, but it cannot continue that campaign without continued Coalition combat and logistics support over the coming months (for more on this, see a new report from the American Enterprise Institute released today, "No Middle Way"). Almost all of the trendlines for the Iraqi Army and for security in Iraq noted in the report are positive.

Kagan acknowledges that not every Iraqi institution has put on its manly gown, girded its loins, and pulled up its socks; the Iraqi National Police is still riddled with militia infiltrations, is corrupt, and does not yet think of itself as "Iraqi" so much as the "muscle" for powerful members of parliament.

When the media quotes Jones as concluding that the Iraqi National Police should be disbanded and reconstructed from scratch, they rather give the impression they're talking about all law-enforcement agencies in country. But that is not so: The "locally recruited" police are doing a very good job. Our focus on a "national police" (like the FBI) is, in my opinion, a misplaced construct of our own culture of nationalism... we imagine everyone more or less thinks like us and wants to solve most problems from the head down, rather than from the ground up.

We have both the uniformity and expanded jurisdiction of a Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies, and also the flexibility and attention to local needs supplied by a city police department or a county sheriff's office; and so too do the Iraqis:

The National Police, the report rightly notes, are broken, and the media has made much of this. But the National Police consist of around 25,000 members, compared to perhaps 300,000 members of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. The Iraqi Security Forces can hardly be judged a failure on such grounds.

I have argued before that in a tribal society, reforms must come from the grassroots (or in this case, from the desert sands); the society is simply not set up for top down rule by any means but brutal tyranny and dictatorship. The correspondence here is to focus first on improving the local constabularies in each city, then the provincial cops, and only then the National Police: The first brings immediate security; the second yields communication and widespread order; and the last generates uniformity, predictability, and nationalist sentiment... the last three all vital facets of a finished democracy, but endgames, not opening gambits.

All of which brings us back, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the beginning, which was the end:

The issue of [the ISF's] "independent" operations is and always has been a red herring. For Americans concerned about how long their sons and daughters will have to be in harm's way in Iraq, which is everyone, the point isn't how long it will take the Iraqis to operate independently, but how long it will take before they can carry more of the burden of fighting the enemy. The Jones Report makes it clear that they are already carrying a significant part of that burden, and that their ability to do so will increase steadily and rapidly in the coming months--as long as we maintain our presence and our current strategy, which the report clearly judges to be working.

The real question is how many Republicans on the Hill will read the actual report or listen to what Gen. Jones said during his testimony, thus understanding that Jones is in fact far more praising than damning the Iraqis' effort -- and how many will simply skim the fabricated "leak" in the Times and Post and conclude that it's all a waste, and that it's time to pull the plug. That vital unknown, the vision factor, will determine whether we finish the job or abort the mission.

But to paraphrase Anne Frank, I keep my optimism, because in spite of everything I still believe that most congressmen, at heart, actually do care about the country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2007, at the time of 6:07 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Freetime

Some months ago the blog "Adventures of Chester" described what it takes to create a functioning military out of whole cloth (which was the basic problem in standing up an Iraqi military). Among the most important requirements is time. Time for NCO's and junior officers to gain experience at the ascending grades and experiences that they must go through to run squads, platoons, companies and battalions; time to learn the intricacies of modern strategy and tactical command at the upper officer levels and time together to gain trust and experience in and with one another. No amount of training or book work will suffice for that shared experience. Those that complain that the U.S. can train soldiers, sailors and airmenin 3-4 months are obviously stay-at-homes who were never in the military and who don't read about or understand anything about the military----or are Democratic politicians. It's pretty easy to meld a new member into a fully functioning, historically experienced and battle-hardened military institution.

The real story in Iraq vis a vs the Iraqi military is that they have come together so well in such a short time and in the U.S. advisors that have trained them.

The above hissed in response by: Freetime [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2007 8:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/12/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2007 11:26 AM

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