Category ►►► Grand Strategy
July 2, 2007
COINs and Moles and Stuff; a Round-Up
Let's start with the good news (sorry, no bad news this time; so this can't be mainstream News!) Baghdad pacification proceeds apace, and we now firmly control half of the city that all agree is the linchpin of Iraq (or, with the recent executions, perhaps the lynchpin):
In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough -- with the recent arrival of reinforcements -- to complete his mission....
Fil said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48% to 49% of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19% in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40% of the city was under control.
Fil defined "control" as "where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces." [In Col. David Galula's lexicon, these would be "white" areas.]
U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36% of the capital's neighborhoods ["pink" areas] -- about the same percentage as in April, he said. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared ["red" areas -- now down to 15% of Baghdad], coalition forces are "disrupting" insurgent forces, Fil said.
And it's not just Sunni areas we're holding, clearing, or disrupting: We have commenced moving heavily into Sadr City, much to the public chagrin (and temper tantrum) of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum - a politically sensitive district for him - in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 Iraqis dead.
The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But residents said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.
It's odd that we're always "firing wildly;" and yet in these gunfights, there typically are major enemy casualties -- and hardly any Americans shot.
Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.
Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.
And now he's whining again. Fiddle-de-dee! I suspect it's more for internal theater than any real objection to our raids: Muqtada Sadr, still nominal head of the Mahdi Militia, represents a rival Shiite power source; it's hard to imagine Maliki's loyalty to his old friend would slop over into carrying water for the renegade, virtually illiterate "cleric"... who himself is carrying water (or perhaps Uranium) for the Iranian mullahs.
Maliki's faux anger reminds me of Groucho Marx ("Otis P. Driftwood") in a Night at the Opera. He's having lunch with a floozy he picked up, when he sees rich patron of the opera Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool) -- with whom he was supposed to lunch -- waiting in annoyance at the next table. The waiter brings the check for the meal that Driftwood and his girl du jour just ate, and he picks it up...
Then Groucho promptly switches tables and begins sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool. I strongly suspect that after declaring our raid to be an outrage, Maliki too will quietly switch tables and suggest a few more Sadr-City oases to hit. (Another movie quote, this time from Casablanca, that is apropos: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!")
The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians.
Of course... technically, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri are also "civilians;" they're certainly not in anybody's official army, navy, or air force. So let's say both sides are right: We killed 26 civilian terrorist combatants -- sorry, make that "terrorists," scare-quotes and all.
But what's all this in service of? Where are we really going with this counterinsurgency? Who better to instruct us but retired Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen. Who is David Kilcullen, some might ask? Well, Wikipedia is usually fairly reliable for simple biographical details of newsmakers:
David Kilcullen, Ph.D. (born 1967) is a leading contemporary practitioner and theorist of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. A former Australian Army officer, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 and is now a senior civil servant, seconded to the United States State Department. He is currently serving as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq, a civilian position on the personal staff of American General David Howell Petraeus.
Currently based at the US State Department, Dr Kilcullen, 39, has a doctorate in political anthropology, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies. (His thesis was on the political power-diffusion effects of successful and failed counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia.) He has served in several counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare campaigns in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. While based at the U.S. State Department he has served as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia. He has also written several very influential papers on the insurgency in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
(He also advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which I find surprisingly unsurprising.)
He wrote one of the most fascinating explications of the general purpose behind a counterinsurgency strategy ("COIN") and how it differs from ordinary warfare. Here is the most important point from Kilcullen's important summation of the important purpose and method of the urgently important counterinsurgency in Iraq:
When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain -- as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.
The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.
Kilcullen notes that this isn't due to kind-heartedness; rather, the purpose of the strategy is fourfold:
- To separate the terrorist enemy from his most potent weapons: the Iraqi people;
- "The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed." That is, we know where to find the population, but we cannot distinguish the insurgents from the citizens who just want to live, work, and trade. We cannot kill all the enemy; that's impossible. But we can protect the population and drive out the insurgency. So we do what we can and not what we can't.
By cutting the insurgents off from their captive populations, we "asphyxiate" them:[The enemy] has either to come out of the woodwork, fight us and be destroyed, or stay quiet and accept permanent marginalization from his former population base.
Finally, we know who the population is but not who the insurgents are:[W]e know who the population is that we need to protect, we know where they live, and we can protect them without unbearable disruption to their lives. And more to the point, we can help them protect themselves, with our forces and ISF in overwatch.
(I know, I know, some of the differences between these points are subtle; don't worry, I don't get them either.)
So if our goal is to protect the population, rather than kill some target number of terrorist insurgents, is it working? Are we protecting the population better than we have been in the past?
We certainly don't know for sure yet; the actual COIN operations have barely begun (they started in earnest about two weeks ago). But even so, already civilian casualties are dropping like a stone; here's Power Line's John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger from my favorite blog:
Iraqi government figures suggest that civilian casualties nationwide were down something like 36% in June, for the lowest total this year. I don't know how reliable these numbers are, but the trend clearly seems to be positive. American military commanders said it is too soon to credit the "surge," since the full complement of troops has only been in place for a couple of weeks and operations are ongoing. Again, though, the cause and effect relationship appears pretty clear.
But it's not just the government; even the elite media agree. The website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count keeps track of all media reports of civilian deaths and woundings in Iraq; it's certainly not influenced by the governments of either Iraq or the United States, and it's a completely different count than the one from the Iraqi government.
Yet it shows virtually the same result:
The civilian death toll shows that in May of 2007, there were 1,782 civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the MSM. In April, it was 1,521, and in March, 2,762.
But last month, June of 2007, the elite media reported only 1,146 civilian deaths: that's a drop of 36% from last month (just as the government figures showed by a different count), a 60% drop from this year's high (February, 2,864 deaths), and the lowest rate of civilian deaths since last July.
So to put it on a nutshell...
- We now control 50% of Baghdad;
- We're moving hot and heavy in both Sunni and Shiite enclaves;
- Our purpose is less to kill insurgents than to protect the population from the terrorists' wicked depredations;
- And in point of fact, there is hard (albeit early) evidence that we're succeeding at just that.
And that is the very definition of -- good news!
February 25, 2007
The Pentagon's New Map - Simplified
I just realized I can boil down much of what Thomas P.M. Barnett writes in his book the Pentagon's New Map to a single pair of sentences. This drops all the fine detail, of course; its advantage is that it makes the central point as clear as a nutshell.
Barnett divides the world into two regions: the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap. And I can define those two thus:
- The Functioning Core comprises the nations whose people say "We love life." This includes all those countries that are taking advantage of globalization to interconnect their economies, their communications, and their legal systems to the rest of the civilized world, hoping to "immanentize the eschaton" -- or at least create la dolce vita.
- The Non-Integrating Gap comprises the nations whose people say "We worship death." This includes all jihadist states, of course, but also places like Rwanda-Burundi, Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Haiti... places where life is a flickering spark, and murder is a negotiating tool or an expression of tribal triumphalism.
I use the verb "to worship" with great deliberation: it's not an abstract love of death that animates these cultures; rather, it's almost like human sacrifice -- as if they must appease a dark and terrifying Chaos Lord by feeding him blood and souls.
Although the details are important, it's also critical to understand that our Grand Strategy over the next few decades (what replaces the Cold War) is the fight between the culture that loves life and the culture that worships death. Our task is to shrink the geographic area that comprises those nations that are members of the latter... to deny our enemy territory.
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