“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Iraq, A sober assessment from McCaffrey.

To save Iraq, the U.S. must commit money, resources - and remove some troops
By Barry R. McCaffrey* Star News on line

A collapse of the Iraqi state would be catastrophic - for the people of Iraq, for the Middle East and for America's strategic interests. We need a new political and military approach to head off this impending disaster - one crafted with bipartisan congressional support. But Baker-Hamilton isn't it.
Our objective should be a large-scale U.S. military withdrawal within the next 36 months, leaving in place an Iraqi government in a stable and mostly peaceful country that does not threaten its six neighboring states and does not intend to possess weapons of mass destruction.

The courage and skill of the U.S. armed forces have been awe-inspiring.

Our soldiers, Marines and Special Operations forces have suffered 25,000 wounded and killed, with many thousands permanently maimed, while fighting this $400 billion war.

But the situation in Iraq is perilous and growing worse. Thousands of Iraqis are killed each month; hundreds of thousands are refugees. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is largely dysfunctional. Our allies, including the brave and competent British, are nearly gone. Baghdad has become the central battlefield in this struggle, which involves not just politically inspired civil war but also rampant criminality and violence carried out by foreign jihadists. Shiite and Sunni Arabs overwhelmingly anticipate and endorse a U.S. strategic withdrawal and defeat.

We could immediately and totally withdraw. In less than six months, our 150,000 troops could fight their way along strategic withdrawal corridors back to the sea and the safety provided by the Navy. Several million terrified refugees would follow, the route of our columns marked by the burning pyres of abandoned military supplies demolished by our rear guard. The resulting civil warfare would probably turn Iraq into a humanitarian disaster and might well draw in the Iranians and Syrians. It would also deeply threaten the safety and stability of our allies in neighboring countries.

There is a better option.

First, we must commit publicly to provide $10 billion a year in economic support to the Iraqis over the next five years. In the military arena, it would be feasible to equip and increase the Iraqi armed forces on a crash basis over the next 24 months (but not the police or the Facilities Protection Service). The goal would be 250,000 troops, provided with the material and training necessary to maintain internal order.

Within the first 12 months we should draw down the U.S. military presence from 15 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), of 5,000 troops each, to 10. Within the next 12 months, Centcom forces should further draw down to seven BCTs and withdraw from urban areas to isolated U.S. operating bases - where we could continue to provide oversight and intervention when required to rescue our embedded U.S. training teams, protect the population from violence or save the legal government.

Finally, we have to design and empower a regional diplomatic peace dialogue in which the Iraqis can take the lead, engaging their regional neighbors as well as their own alienated and fractured internal population.

We are in a very difficult position created by a micromanaged Rumsfeld war team that has been incompetent, arrogant and in denial. The departing defense secretary, in a recent farewell Pentagon town hall meeting, criticized the alleged distortions of the U.S. media, saying that they chose to report a few bombs going off in Baghdad rather than the peaceful scene he witnessed from his helicopter flying over the city. This was a perfect, and incredible, continuation of Donald Rumsfeld's willful blindness in his approach to the war. From the safety of his helicopter, he apparently could not hear the nearly constant rattle of small-arms fire, did not know of the hundreds of Marines and soldiers being killed or wounded each month, or see the chaos, murder and desperation of daily life for Iraqi families.

Let me add a note of caution regarding a deceptive and unwise option that springs from the work of the Iraq Study Group. We must not entertain the shallow, partisan notion of rapidly withdrawing most organized Marine and Army fighting units by early 2008 and substituting for them a much larger number of U.S. advisers - a 400 percent increase - as a way to avoid a difficult debate for both parties in the New Hampshire primaries.

This would leave some 40,000 U.S. logistics and adviser troops spread out and vulnerable, all over Iraq. It would decrease our leverage with Iraq's neighbors. It would not get at the problem of a continuing civil war. In fact, significantly increasing the number of U.S. advisers in each company and battalion of the Iraqi army and police - to act as role models - is itself a bad idea. We are foreigners. They want us gone.

Lack of combat experience is not the central issue Iraqis face. Their problems are corrupt and incompetent ministries, poor equipment, an untrained and unreliable sectarian officer corps (a result of Rumsfeld's disbanding the Iraqi army), and a lack of political will caused by the failure of a legitimate Iraqi government to emerge.

We need fewer advisers, not more - selected from elite, active military units and with at least 90 days of immersion training in Arabic. Iraqi troops will not fight because of iron discipline enforced by U.S. sergeants and officers. That is a self-serving domestic political concept that would put us at risk of a national military humiliation.

All of this may not work. We have very few options left. In my judgment, taking down the Saddam Hussein regime was a huge gift to the Iraqi people.

Done right, it might have left the region and the United States safer for years to come. But the American people have withdrawn their support for the war, although they remain intensely committed to and protective of our armed forces.

We have run out of time.

Our troops and their families will remain bitter for a generation if we abandon the Iraqis, just as another generation did after we abandoned the South Vietnamese for whom Americans had fought and died. We owe them and our own national interest this one last effort.

If we cannot generate the political will to take this action, it is time to pull out and search for those we will hold responsible in Congress and the administration.

Barry McCaffrey is a retired Army general and adjutant professor of international affairs at West Point. He served four combat tours and was wounded in action three times.


2d Airborne Task Force, Airborne Division Advisory Detachment (Airborne),

APO 96307

Awarded: Distinguished Service Cross

Date action: 6 October 1966

Theater: Republic of Vietnam

Reason: For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: Captain (then First Lieutenant) McCaffrey distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 6 October 1966 while advising a Vietnamese Airborne Battalion on a search and clear operation near Dong Ha. At 0315 hours the camp received intense mortar fire which severely wounded Captain McCaffrey in the shoulder. With complete disregard for his safety, he unhesitatingly ran through the intense automatic weapons and mortar fire to estimate the severity of the attack. He soon discovered that the senior American advisor had been killed, and all but one of the company commanders were seriously wounded. After rendering aid to the casualties, Captain McCaffrey took command and dauntlessly proceeded around the perimeter to direct the defense against the insurgent human wave assaults. Again he was wounded by mortar fragments, but ignored his own condition and quickly organized a counterattack which successfully repelled another Viet Cong attack. During the remainder of the 12-hour battle, Captain McCaffrey repeatedly exposed himself to the hostile fire and directed artillery and air strikes against the insurgent forces. Through his unremitting courage and personal example, he inspired the besieged Vietnamese unit to defeat four determined Viet Cong attacks and inflict heavy casualties on a numerically superior hostile force. Only after assuring that all the wounded had been extracted, and that a replacement advisor was with the battalion, did he permit himself to be evacuated. Captain McCaffrey's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


  1. The US Army Learns from its Mistakes in Iraq

    Global sensitivity training and a new doctrine,1518,455165,00.html

    New military doctrine where you don't have a "war face", you have a caring ,sensitive face"

    Of course all the brass is buying into this cultural sensitivity bullshit. We'll be lucky if we can take down Tahiti in a combat situation..of course we're never going to be in another "combat" situation, we'll show hi-def TV cartoons and hand out balloons and party kazoos.

  2. *Our* failure's cause is described by Habu.
    ...and McCaffery.

  3. It is good to see habu with his best face back on.

  4. "In fact, significantly increasing the number of U.S. advisers in each company and battalion of the Iraqi army and police - to act as role models - is itself a bad idea. We are foreigners.
    They want us gone.
    'Rat's plan, once viable,
    was squandered by fecklessness and the passage of time.

  5. Point being,
    whether the Iraqis are a "failed race,"
    is irrelevant if we can no longer take down Tahiti:
    THAT must be addressed.

  6. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is largely dysfunctional.

    This ain't no shit 2164. But leta add a few..France,Denmark,Norway,Sweden,

    IN fact can we come up with a list of governments that aren't dyfunctional?

  7. I'll take McCaffrey's words over any of the rubbish coming from the present Administration.

  8. "An American soldier restrains an Iraqi in Baghdad:
    The American soldier of the future will know when to shoot and, more importantly, when not to shoot.
    Habu's link.
    Have Rubber Bullets been outlawed yet?

  9. It didn't USED to be all rubbish.
    Now, about 90 + %.
    Better to change the rhetoric than change the plan.
    The MBA as CIC.

  10. Abizaid KNOWS you can't win when you leave sanctuaries untouched.

  11. (he's the guy that covered for his troops under fire behind an advancing D-9)

  12. Trish, if we were smart enough to pay them coming in, too bad we ruined a winning strategy by firing them all later.

  13. One of my favorite quotes from McCaffery:

    "As a company commander in combat . . . crawling around in the mud with an enemy machine gun hammering over my head . . . the crotch ripped out of my uniform . . . constipated . . . hungry . . . huge bug bites under my eyes .. .exhausted with days of intermittent sleep . . . I could always comfort myself by saying . . . 'it could be worse . . . I could be back in Ranger School."

    As far as his plan goes? Like Deuce said, it's better than what we're getting from the administration. His most plainly spoken comment?

    Our troops and their families will remain bitter for a generation if we abandon the Iraqis, just as another generation did after we abandoned the South Vietnamese for whom Americans had fought and died. We owe them and our own national interest this one last effort.

    If we cannot generate the political will to take this action, it is time to pull out and search for those we will hold responsible in Congress and the administration.

  14. ***** on a F****** Crutch!!

    Any of yous remember at the end of the Odyssey when Athena/Minerva wafts down from Olympus and tells the Ithacans and Odysseus to just stop the bloodshed? And that's that.
    Two generations of ithacans slain as a result of Odysseus' adventures. Alot of greivances and humiliation in those Ithacans. Those who came to kill Odysseus were bloodthirsty and foolish, but were saved from their fate by the magical pleadings of Athena, an agent of goodwill towards foolish bloodthirsty men! Mutualism applied to murderers! Fin!

    Anyone care to comment on how this half baked plan similarly wishes security wafts down from the sky at the beck of our $10 billion a year aid packages & less powerful force? Anyone want to take a stab at how reduced power means reduced ability to cause things? This is like some infernal drama where our leaders propose literary devices instead of destroying the harmful agents that machinate against us night and day. Good will to Sauron! Americans have abandoned the Uruk-hai economy!

    Next time you have cancer, ask your doctor to just feed the tumor so maybe it will slow angiogenesis, invasion of surrounding tissue and lymphnodes as well as bound the inflammation! All those chemokines are signals that the tumor just wants to the immune system to think of it as "self!" It tries to play by the body's rules and yet us barbarians have the patriarchal gaul to cut them out!

    The desperate entreprises of bloodthirsty foolish entrepreneurs in waiting! Can't you see them waving their Series A! They have all the power tools but don't haven't American money to build cabinetry with them, of course!

    The jumpers get to watch it all, our hilariously foolish "first principles" and our faith that "right" will make us stronger and that we can hedge our depreciating "might" with yet more righteousness imbued into our virginal "principles in waiting."

    Bet they're thankful they're free of having to rely on such a fickle public!

  15. Doug,

    The Aussies have a stout, in fact impeccable record of backing the US.
    They are the ONLY country that has been allied with us in all our travails, although they have an active anti war segment. Google Pine Gap 1975 or take a look at this link

    I was at Pine Gap and at times we were locked and loaded literally waiting for a car train of anti war dopeheads to assault Pine Gap. Instead we engineered a change of government.

  16. Its the spirit in the air, Olmert will free prisoners, remove checkpoints and Israel will net security!

    You needn't be constrained by a problem's internal logic when you conform to really cool morality!

  17. ppab,

    Look on the bright side. With all the Iraqi engineers being killed off by the Islamists, there's little chance of Iraqi WoMD program(s) being revived any time soon.

  18. A Gift from GWB Appointee, and the Compassionate Citizens of Texas.
    (THEY can join Mexico,
    instead of US becoming Mexico)
    Americans demanding President Bush
    Pardon Border Agents Ramos and Compean

  19. To: President George W. Bush,

    As a citizen of the United States I am outraged to learn that two U.S. Border Agents have been convicted of lengthy prison terms for doing their jobs-- pursuing illegal aliens who cross our border, and I’m calling on you to officially pardon them for their actions.

    I am even more outraged to learn that this illegal alien (who was attempting to smuggle about 800 pounds of marijuana into our country), was tracked down by a Department of Homeland Security Investigator and granted immunity for his testimony against these two agents!

  20. Mat,

    It's a good point - its not as if our enemy's capabilities are built like Superman. I just know in my lifetime, should I live that long, the Atomic Bomb will have been invented a century ago. My children and grandchildren will know of this technology like that. Now, its not as if the human brain is going to intrinsically evolve and propagate some Enrico Fermi neurology, but Fred Ikle posits that harmful agents of many kinds await those ambitious enough to wield them. Software itself could rampage through a whole nation. A bomb is limited to a city, for instance.

    My worry is that attacking capability will not pay off as well as attacking intent. That is, you must find the bad humans, not just their tools. In a sense, both those factors (capability & intent) reside inside a human's skull, but one is far more prevalent and "infectious" and therefore demands a different kind of attack, one that Jack Bauer, James Bond and Superman cannot implement. That we see how fearsomely prevalent such intentions are, one must correlate a response proportional to the breadth of what is maligned against us. Otherwise, the game is mere refereeing, policing tool distribution instead of bad ideas. Perhaps Pakistan lost Waziristan because it refereed when it should have been fighting. Taliban intent won the day, with plentiful access to soviet hardware to help then articulate their thoughts.

    Oddly enough, at the end of The Dark Knight Falls, Batman beats the boyscout Superman before faking his death and starting an underground army, one that could better defend civilization from the carnival of threats that beseiged it. Superman was helpless, a dinosaur of the Cold War, while Batman knew the fight was still on, and what was needed was more power, not less. Whatever thats worth...

    But, hey, maybe we can JIT our adaptations and be the Michael Jordan of global policing! At the buzzer...

  21. ppab,

    Samson knew Dalilah's intent. But he loved pussying around.

  22. Menses: Ya just can't stop em.

  23. ppab,
    My wife and I went to Church on Christmas Day:
    Suddenly she shouted:
    "My Gawd, he's acting like a raving lunatic."
    If we had not gone to church, she would have been institutionalized.
    Luckily, there were several Psychiatric Professionals there that convinced her that she's coped with me this way for years, and if she just got hold of herself and calmed down, everything would be OK.
    Think if she'd been driving!

  24. Samson also knew the intent of the Philistines, hence the improvisation with the donkey's jaw bone or w/e.

  25. Doug,

    She would have Vanilla Sky'd your ass and your conscience would be externalized into Jason Lee.

  26. Another True Christmas Story:
    Son's best friend just arrived from Calif just as his dad was hospitalized w/diabetes.
    Not quite as dramatic as yours.
    ...or mine.

  27. I much prefer the medical analogies to the sports ones (Go home, go long etc).

  28. ppab,

    Simple common sense tells us that if it quacks like a duck.. It's time for new elections.

  29. How's that for a medical prognosis? :)

  30. While Ethiopia claims to have killed 1,000 jihadists, with the survivors in full retreat.

    1,000 dead jihadists

    in full retreat

    1,000 dead jihadists

    in full retreat

  31. "I just think that I knew not to let things make me despair, not to break. If I want something, I'll persist." - Haifa beauty queen

  32. Bipartisan Effort to Draft Immigration Bill
    Now all the Bush-loving "Conservatives" Can Tell us that Ted Kennedy and John McCain have just the ticket for what's good for America.
    Odd "Conservatives," indeed.

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 — Counting on the support of the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.

    The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, a law championed by Republicans that passed with significant Democratic support.

  33. re: "To save Iraq, the U.S. must commit money, resources - and remove some troops"


    Bring in the Ethiopians.

    "Have Gun Will Travel"

  34. Few pundits,pols,or top military people say anything other than a US pull out from Iraq would be a disaster. Here I mean pull out in the sense of we just boogie, but even timetables are give aways to the enemy.
    The hour arrives, we're gone and the entire region where most of the worlds oil reserves are falls into chaos.
    That is followed closely by Iran gaining ICBM's that can reach NYC and DC. Oh, yes they'll get them for the proxy war is now back in vogue, the Cold War again. Russia or China will make sure Iran gets the ICBM's and the warheads. Iran in turn will get them to Hugo Chavez.
    To buy into the program that we are not the worlds TARGET is to live in a fantasy world. Be it jealousy, envy, whatever they don't like us.
    So where do we make a stand? Do we allow ourselves to be economically blackmailed as Russia is getting ready to do to Europe? Do we await a nuclear attack so that we can "justify" our response?
    General McCaffery says time is running out and that we have one last chance. Well until the lights go out globally buried under nuclear rubble then it isn't the last chance.
    Our problem is not in our stars but in ourselves. We are too nice. We worry about image over substance.

    To train warriors to also be "big brothers and big sisters" is THE greatest, most devistating exercise in cognitive dissonance I have ever witnessed and can only lead to the total failure of both. To have the military at the top levels buy into this requires them to suspend all knowledge of victorious armies throughout history.
    President Bush has some time in office. No one can say what will happen in that time.
    Whoever we elect in '08 will face a
    world I believe will be at least as perilous as the one we have now, perhaps worse. A big group hug by the 101st Airborn or the 2nd Marine Division, or an Air Force Air Wing is not going to tamp down hostile forces. War is the natural state of man, peace just a ephemeral wisp of vapor. Somehow we must configure an armed force that can and will win regardless of the cost inflicted on the enemy.
    Personally I do not believe our citizenry has the guts to back that military action, and thus, like the very world itself the US is wobbly and soon to be in retrograde.

    Too bad the Greatest Generation raised the Baby Bum Generation, enough of whom bought into Joan Baez, and harmonic balance to end up giving away two hundred and thirty years of grit and hard work.

  35. re: Baby Bums

    Right On!

    There is hope. With the ill-trained and ill-equiped Ethiopian military making mincemeat of about 1,000 "foreign" jihadists (some Brits), the public might (a big might, I know) come to say, "Hey, if they can, why can't we?"