Bob W., Wilsonizer *
2 January 2007
One train of thought I respectfully disagree with is the Ethiopians in Somalia/US in Iraq comparison, though. I believe it is largely irrelevant, and provides marginal use as we try to decide what is next in Iraq.
First of all, the Islamic Courts Union fighters had fairly coalesced into a "regular force" (I use the term VERY loosely, of course), and were the de facto open law in Mogadishu.
That force has apparently dissolved into the populace now, or retreated into Kenya.
And what of U.S. forces in the two theaters where we are engaged in combat? Is the United States currently having a severe problem during combat engagements in either Iraq or Afghanistan? Not really. And if insurgents massed into a battalion or regimental-sized force to conduct a sustained operation, would there be serious issues in either theater? A resounding NO there as well.
In fact, I would say that the average, run of the mill Brigade Commander fervently hopes something like the latter scenario would happen on his watch.
In MY opinion, how well or poorly the United States performs in conventional combat operations (ie conducting operations like raids, movements to contact, and the like) at the Battalion level and below are largely irrelevant in either theater at this point.
Unlike what the Ethiopians faced, American forces are dealing with an insurgency, whose forces aren't the law of the land, and who only coalesce to fight when it suits them.
And neither theater is running out of insurgents, despite the fact that units are readily killing them.
In Iraq, a valid argument can be made that ROE is severely limiting the US' ability to deal with militias that are becoming THE threat to stability there. Less so in Afghanistan. Any shift in Iraq strategy MUST address dealing with the militias.
I believe that addressing the tangible, root causes of the insurgency is where most of our efforts must be focused. Yes, we must fight and kill/capture insurgents as part of this war.
But don't make light of the effects improving infrastructure would have, or discount the effect improving economic conditions would have on reducing the violence.
Rufus, you made a great comment about NYC; however, how safe would you feel taking the subway at night there after three years of employment hovering over 40%, with rolling blackouts, a garbage strike, corrupt cops, et al? My guess is you would do a lot of online shopping!
Improving the environment people live, work, and play in would make many people opt out of crime, insurgencies and militias for the honest life.
There are people who will never disarm at any cost (the military refers to them as "total spoilers" in its stability operations joint operating concept), and they will have to be dealt with harshly; many people will opt not to stick their necks out if there are better opportunities, though.
A surge that dramatically reduces violence over a period of one year, coupled with real improvements to the infrastructure/economy, would likely enable US Central Command to reduce forces in theater over time.
Iraq does not have to turn into Kansas for a major victory of U.S. foreign policy. No one expects it to at this point, and the lowered expectations of virtually everyone (including yes, even me!) increases the information operation value of modestly succeeding there.
"Winning" for the US is turning Iraq into CENTCOM's Colombia.
That country faces a formidable insurgency, yet has a functioning (democratic) government. Robust U.S. aid, coupled with our inter-agency and DOD efforts there, help to reinforce the government's efforts to counter the narco-insurgency in that country.
Yes, I know there are a multitude of serious problems in Colombia. Whether or not drug eradication is working or not is a serious issue, one worthy of multiple posts and tons of excellent comments, I am sure.
But the fact of the matter is the average American knows nothing about Colombia, and one rarely reads about it in the paper or sees it on the news.
The second issue with the Somalia comparison is this: I think it would be prudent to wait awhile before I call last week THE decisive defeat of Islamists in Somalia. While these are heady days for the UN-backed government, they must now administer the failed city-state of Mogadishu;
those Islamists who slipped into Kenya or simply blended into the populace can and most likely will continue to make mischief, especially if they have some external backing.
Thus, I believe it is too early for
Meles Zenawi to land a jet on one of Ethipias many nuclear powered aircraft carriers and emerge from the cockpit beneath a large "mission accomplished" sign.
Yet another incredibly long comment. Sorry folks, didn't mean to burn so many electrons here. Too much caffeine on my last day of Christmas vacation. I am back in the salt mine tomorrow morning, and I am procrastinating in avoidance of transitioning to work mode. I most likely will expand on this comment and turn it into a post over at my site, so watch for it.
You can read more at Wilsonizer
*(an un-edited posting from the previous thread worthy to be above the fold. The Elephant is a discussion blog and we encourage lead postings from our guests and members.)