Thursday, February 22, 2007

Petraeus 'Gets It'


There is a good chance that things will improve in Iraq, now that General David Petraeus is in charge of the US military. What took us so long to get to this point? Based on Gen Petraeus' previous successes, he should have been the top man at least 3 years ago.

Newsweek speaks of a do-over. And the likelihood that under the new Petraeus plan for Iraq, we're going to be there a long time. It's frustrating to me that we've spun our wheels with crap plans from non-thinking people for about 4 years now. But ineptitudes aside, I consider The Do-Over to be our only option.

Like only a few others, David Petraeus has been successful in combating the insurgency where he has tried it before. Thomas Ricks' stellar overview of our last few years in Iraq, entitled Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, points out that the adventure has had its bright spots. And Petraeus' tactics have been some of the best and most successful.

Gen. Petraeus took seriously the counter-insurgency tactics learned in Vietnam as he served over the 101st Airborne in Mosul in 2003. His maxim: Violence is a last resort.

Counter-insurgency
(CI) realizes that the indigenous population is a crucial element to success. CI understands as best it can the culture and seeks to maintain human dignity at all costs. As opposed to anti-insurgency, which breaks in doors, points weapons at innocent people in a show of defiance, and rounds up all men in the area and carts them off to prison, CI understands that if you seek to understand, you will be understood.

CI realizes that constantly bringing the attack to the ever-elusive enemy is an exercise in frustration, which will only marginalize that portion of the populace that is your only hope for success. Anti-insurgency reaps ever smaller intelligence returns on its in-your-face investment. CI works among the people, learns the language, cultures, and frustrations, and seeks to help them overcome the problems that beset them--and inevitably gets far better intelligence information as to who the insurgents are. Where CI has been tried, two things have generally happened: (1) The place has gotten much more peaceful, and (2) the successful US military unit has been replaced by a unit that neither gives nor understands two cents about successful counterinsurgency tactics--and the place gets violent again.

Ricks provides an anecdote that captures the essence of Petraeus' engendering of success. When one of his brigade commanders heard of a rumor that Iraqi men thought American night-vision goggles could be used to see through Iraqi women's clothing, the commander had a town meeting where anyone who wanted to could look through the NVGs to see what they were really for. This generous act led to a a monthly convention of what came to be known as the Tigris River Valley Commission, which accomplished a great deal.

It's about time that they put Petraeus in charge. Imagine where we might be now if someone like him had been in charge from the beginning--someone who shows respect for the Iraqi people.

10 comments:

Matt said...

Frank, I think it's pretty easy to criticize in retrospect. You know, hindsight is always 20/20. Plus, I mean, you've been over there. You know what it's like (the environment and all the variables). That's something that can't be valued enough, in my opinion: on the ground experience.

Frank Staheli said...

That's why I'm so excited to see Petraeus there, because in the midst of counting the days until I could be home with my family again, the shortcomings we had are exactly the ones I think his leadership will fix. Admittedly, Gen. Casey has gone some distance (but not enough) in fixing the problems.

My blog is entitled Serving Iraq, because I think that understanding and serving the people is the key to success (victory).

Rich Warnick said...

Counter-insurgency might have been a good overall plan in the early days of the occupation, but now it's just a piece of the puzzle. Secretary Gates recently pointed out that Iraq now has four wars going on: the Sunni insurgency, the Shia-Sunni civil war, internecine Shia fighting in the south, and a war between the USA and Al Qaeda.

I expect that whatever our side tries to do in the counter-insurgency campaign will be quickly undone by the spillover from the civil war, etc.

Frank Staheli said...

You raise a good point. I think we've probably overdrawn our 'emotional bank account' with Iraqis by so far that they probably don't trust us enough any more to do any good. Except perhaps in those isolated areas where it was done correctly in the past.

Rich Warnick said...

The Guardian has a report that tells where we are now. Not enough soldiers on the ground in Baghdad, and General Petraeus' staff is still trying to come up with a plan.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2023541,00.html

Rich Warnick said...

Via Talking Points Memo, Gen. Petraeus believes his Iraq plan has a 25 percent chance of success.
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/012771.php

The Bush administration says there is no Plan B.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/04/AR2007030401321.html

Frank Staheli said...

Based on what I've read "State of Denial", "Fiasco", "Hubris" unfortunately there doesn't seem to have ever been a plan B. Gen Pace's comments in the WashPost article are very unfortunate.

Petraeus's statement as quoted on TPM "If you're really going to do a surge, you don't do it with 20,000, you do it with 250,000," he said, noting that Baghdad is a city of nearly 7 million people." -- indicates that he does get it. What I'm worried about now is that he will become Bush's sacrificial lamb when it doesn't work because there never have been and still aren't enough troops.

Frank Staheli said...

Here's similar take on the issue, that I just found.

Anonymous said...

OUR GANG BY WOLFGANG

Wolfowitz Petreaus Mozart
Knew that confidence denotes art,
So he did the best he can
To play the confidential man.

He knew so much, but left some to
Superiors who better knew,
And he professed to have a chart
As revelatory of his art.

Sweet accolades and honors were
His for the taking: so confer
Honors the richest, wisest, smartest
Upon one so sublime an artist.

His art is hanging in Iraq,
A helium-blubber-filled Big Mac,
A multi-colored jammin´ dildo--
No tellin´ how far up that he´ll go!

--i.m.small

Frank Staheli said...

That is so cute!!! You must be proud of yourself!!!! Good job!!!