Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lost Book

Unfortunately, I left my new book in a tent somewhere, and survived numerous delays and long flights reading hand-me-down novels, courtesy of the USO.

I will go out and buy another copy tomorrow, and write about it later.

Note: Ambien has still not kicked in!!!

Wilsonizer: Jetlagged, But Back in Business!

Wilsonizer is safe and sound at home, after a short trip half-way across the world and ever slowly back again.

I spent many a night in overstuffed billets, warm transient tents, and the ubiquitous C Hut, and kept my sanity largely due to this amazing device (thanks for all the iTunes gift cards by the way, mom).

I had spotty access to news and internet over the past few weeks. However, critical events nonetheless proceeded at a lighning pace in my absence, as is to be expected. Give me a day or two to catch up to what has transpired in my absence, and the site will be up to snuff just as quick.

Hopefully the Ambien kicks in soon, and I can get some sleep tonight. . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stuck in Turkey

Well, I remain in a near-news blackout, stuck in Turkey awaiting flights that are in perpetual delay. It seems like the President's speech was received to extremely mixed reviews, and that the plan he proposed is watered down from the Choosing Victory AEI plan. Again, I have little access or time to check the news and to post responses to it.

Check out some of the links on my blogroll to stay in the loop, and hopefully I will have more time to blog intelligently later. Elephant Bar has some great commentary already posted, by the way.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sporadic Blogging Expected

I will be "away from the desk" for the next week or so, and may not have either the access or the time to monitor and post here at the Wilsonizer. Stay tuned, however; if I can post something relevant, I will, and worst case scenarios have me back on the blog in ten days or less.

See you on the high ground.

General Thoughts and Musings.

Stars have fallen on the blogosphere today; there are several posts concerning General Officers, past and present.
Hugh Hewitt provides some in-depth analysis on the personal history, drive, and character of Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who is slated to be promoted to General Officer (4 Stars) and assume command of forces in Iraq. The starting point for Hugh's thoughts is a decent article in today's Washington Post. The Post covers highlights of Petraeus' military career, his capabilities, and when detailing the steps he will take as he assumes new duties, states:
Upon Senate confirmation and the receipt of his fourth star, making him a full general, [Petraeus] is expected to spend some weeks assessing conditions in Iraq and drafting a strategic plan that goes beyond the current debate over whether to increase U.S. troop levels by up to five brigades, roughly 20,000 troops. That "surge" is consistent with the military's new counterinsurgency manual, much of which Petraeus wrote, which stresses protecting the indigenous population and imposing security as a condition for stability.
Hugh Hewitt examines the article's key points, and provides an insightful conclusion in his post on this monumental changing of the guard in Iraq:
I hope General Petraeus also embraces the idea that part of his theater is the American media's reporting on it, and that he takes the time on an almost daily basis to communicate with the American public about the stakes and the situation in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a post at the Elephant Bar matches an article where General Wesley Clark (USA, Ret) expresses opposition to the tentative plan to surge forces in Iraq against an earlier article that questions his judgement during the Kosovo war, and lets readers jump into the fray. The juxtaposition of the two articles definitely provokes some thoughtful comments. One of them writes in response to the negative portrayal of Clark in the second article:
"The vast majority of us who actually served as part of the Bosnia/Kosovo team know that General Clark was an outstanding commander, both militarily and in his ability to maintain NATO's political support thru the conclusion of the war. That's why so many of us supported Wes Clark for president in '04, and who will be there for him next time should he decide to run."
And another commenter responds:
Gen. Hugh Shelton was asked if he would support retired Gen. Wesley Clark for president, Shelton, said. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf when asked what he thought of Clark. "I think the greatest condemnation against him . . . came from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was a NATO commander. I mean, he was fired as a NATO commander," Schwarzkopf replied, "and when Hugh Shelton said he was fired because of matters of character and integrity, that is a very, very damning statement, which says, `If that's the case, he's not the right man for president,' as far as I'm concerned. . . I would very much appreciate what your personal take on Clark is. What do you see in the man that others have not?"
Meanwhile, Victor David Hanson ponders the skillful (and not so skillful) employment of reinforcements throughout history. He concludes that while additional troops may have enabled tactical success, it was more than sheer numbers in many cases that actually led to victory in war:
In the first dark months of the Korean War, Gen. MacArthur increased U.S. troop strength for the September 1950 Inchon assault. But that dramatic breakthrough and recapture of Seoul came as a result of risky amphibious operations — not just more boots on the ground.

William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army of the West finally reached a level of nearly 100,000 troops in late summer 1864. Yet its success was predicated not on increased numbers per se, but rather on a radical shift in tactics, abandoning reliance on rail support and living off the land. When Sherman left on his March to the Sea, he actually pruned his forces. A good argument could be made that Lee finally cracked, not because Grant’s surges smashed his lines, but due to southern desertion and loss of morale, once it was known that a huge and unpredictable Union army under the unconventional Sherman was approaching the Confederate rear through the Carolinas.
All of these posts are well written and thoughtful, and help frame the problem facing the United States as it awaits word of what comes next in Iraq.

Recommended Reading

UPDATE: Barnett has a blog, and it's good! I added a link on my blogroll, too.

I used my $20 Barnes and Noble gift card yesterday and purchased
The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P. M. Barnett (and a venti coffee).

discusses the security requirements of the 21st century, and the best way for the Department of Defense to prepare itself for meeting them. It comes highly regarded from many, including Hugh Hewitt's site.

The subject material also dovetails with many of the national security policy discussions resonating throughout the blogosphere and beyond.

Expect feedback on the book in the coming days.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Making the Army Better, and Insulating Against Drafts

UPDATE: I made some minor changes to this post, which was published late last night. I made some spelling/syntax corrections, and added links to reinforce points made.

Recently, A fellow national security blogger wrote the following in response to a post arguing against the notion that the United States Army is a broken organization:

The best way to prevent a broken army is to accept that we will be engaged in long dirty wars and restore the draft.

So back to the question at hand; to draft or not to draft?

I would choose the latter, hands down. The all-volunteer military performs superbly, and has proven to be a resilient force in the two theaters of operation where the U.S currently is engaged in combat.

As an active officer with sixteen years of experience, I would much prefer to command or support a force of volunteers, who serve of their own free will and volition; I do not wish to have the burden of administering standards upon troops of malcontents who stand on the line only because they have been ordered to do so*.

The blogger who suggested the draft argued for it on the basis of the open-ended struggle in Iraq; I would argue that Iraq and Afghanistan, if strategy is linked to resources and actors, can be reduced to what is commonly referred to as stability operations, or Foreign Internal Defense activities, in 2-3 years ; why sacrifice the character and culture of a well trained Army if objectives can be achieved without conscription?

If, through a surge and or political and economic activity, the violence in Iraq can be reduced considerably over an intermediate time horizon, then there is absolutely no resason whatsoever to consider a draft. As forces required to maintain order in Iraq decrease, the duration of time between conventional force rotations into theater increases.

A diminished level of societal violence would reduce the need for conventional forces enabling Special operations forces (SOF) to take the lead in military activities in theater. And then the US is one step closer to achieving its long term objectives.

SOF, especially Army Special Forces, are accustomed to long deployments outside the Unted States that lack fanfare or glory; if the level of violence can be reduced to the point where Special Forces deploy and work with Iraqi security forces steady state in an austere environment, then the US will be close to achieving many of its objectives in Iraq.

Let us conclude the post with a few more questions. Must the nation endure an unpopular draft to have an effective military apparatus that enables it to achieve major national security objectives? I think not.

If major tumultuous change is in order for any governmental organization or apparatus, then reform the State Department so it is more effective in engaging the problems of the 21st century post-Soviet world. State should be as engaged in Mesopotamia as any organization of the United States Military at this point; however, the Department's foreign service officer corps lacks the depth and expertise to be major players in this endeavor.

For shame.

Post Script Update: The support of the arguments proffered here bordered on the anecdotal, and was slightly tainted by opinion not effectively substantiated; the blogger known as 2164 (the Deuce) offered a defense of his views favoring the draft that was much more substantial than the defense of the volunteer force. Kudos to the points made for initiating a draft in the comments section. I am still vehemently opposed to it however, and plan to do more analysis before I comment on the subject here again. A spirited argument for what the 21st century military should be is coming, however!

* While not wishing to denigrate the service of those who were drafted over the years, here is an interesting anecdote, where economist Milton Friedman argued against the draft with none other than General William Westmoreland:

Milton Friedman was very persuasive. One of [an associate of Friedman's] favorite stories, which his widow, recalled in a recent interview, was of an exchange between Mr. Friedman and General William Westmoreland, then commander of all U.S. troops in Vietnam. In his testimony before the [Draft] commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?" Mr. Westmoreland replied, "I don't like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves." Mr. Friedman then retorted, "I don't like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher."

An interesting characterization, to say the least.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The State of the Army

I have written several posts about the power of narrative in the infosphere.
One particular narrative I see driven hard through most news reports, op-eds and editorials is that the military is being beaten down in Iraq:

"Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain", which is excerpted from a letter from House Democrats to President Bush.

"It's clear that the surge option will break the Army and Marine Corps, already stretched so thin that they're barely able to meet the current requirements for maintaining a force of 140,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan, leaving few if any in reserve for emergencies elsewhere", from Joe Galloway's column.

Is the Army Broken? Yeah, I think so. We're on the brink. We are in a situation where we are grossly overdeployed, and it is unlike any other period in the 229-year history of the Army. We have never conducted a sustained combat operation with a volunteer force, with a force that we have to compete in the job market to hire every year. Every other force that we've ever done this with, going back to the Vietnam period to something comparable, has been a draftee conscript force. So what we are all worried about is that the manpower situation will come unglued. ... from Thomas White, Former Secretary of the Army in a PBS interview.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. Army is ``about broken'' from the Iraq conflict and cast doubt on whether the military could or should boost the number of troops in the country.

Victor Davis Hanson, on the other hand, wrote a strong counter to the broken Army mantra, dispensing it as a myth:

There is often voiced pessimism about our current military, to such a degree that it is termed broken or exhausted. But how true is that? The traveler to Iraq is struck not by dearth, but opulence—everything imaginable from new SUVs to Eskimo Pies. Internet Service there was far faster than from my home in rural Fresno County. So far recruitment levels are being met. No one in the military has warned that it is a bad idea to create more brigades of ground troops. Such a caveat about the current proposed expansion we would expect if we could not even meet our present manpower targets. . .There might be thousands of trashed humvees and worn out Bradleys, but not frigates, F-16s, or carriers. This is not 1943 when the US military was fighting in Sicily, as B-17s fell from the sky, as our merchant marine was under U-boat attack.
Hanson goes on to write about the problems this military is having achieving objectives in Iraq, compares these problems to past military campaigns, and proposes a way ahead to succeed in Iraq. All interesting of course, and worthy of debate. But let us focus on the state of the military, the subject of this post.

Is the Army any less lethal, competent, seasoned, disciplined, equipped, or spirited than it was on September 10th, 2001? The answer to that question is a resounding NO on all counts!

The Army deployed in theater is arguably the best equipped and best trained force ever fielded by this nation. The Soldiers who comprise its ranks continue to reenlist, and there has been no critical shortage of recruits throughout the past four years, despite the unpopularity of the war here at home.

Assertions that this Army is a broken one are based upon the belief that rotations into and out of theater are wearing Soldiers and equipment out and cannot be sustained, and that conducting counterinsurgency degrades the ability of combat arms units to conduct major combat operations. These assumptions are not entirely valid, however.

Currently, most conventional Army forces rotate into theater for a year, redeploy to the States for 12-24 months, then rotate back to one of the theaters, and not necessarily in the same area where they previously operated.

Nowhere, however, is it written in stone that units will disentegrate if deployed more than 365 days into theater. Leadership in the DOD decided upon the year rotation policy at some point, and now this nation is fighting the long war, one combat tour after the other. When a unit is relieved in place by another, nearly all of the experience, contacts, and cultural orientation dissipate as the old unit departs, replaced by the new personnel and commanders. It takes the incoming unit weeks, if not months, to build rapport, get a feel for its area, and reach a high level of operational competence in its assigned AO; months later, a new, green Army unit arrives to take its place, and the cycle starts over again. Not for the insurgents, the militias, the criminals, or the Iraqi civilians, however; they remain in place, and watch as the gringos come and go.

While longer tours drastically increase the hardship and level of sacrifice demanded of Soldiers, the benefits of seasoned units operationally attuned to the nuances of their areas of responsibility outweigh the costs. Would T.E. Lawrence have been effective, had he knowingly been on a one year tour in the desert? I think not.

Longer tours in theater mean extended periods at home base to rest soldiers and refit equipment, too.

And what of the notion that military units deployed in counterinsurgency operations are less prepared for major combat operations, a la Desert Storm? While some units (ie Armor and mechanized forces) may not be exercising all of their required skill sets, most of their officers and Soldiers are conducting combat operations in theater. The men of these units are acquiring the judgement and seasoning of combat veterans, which will no doubt serve them well in whatever type of operations they conduct in the future. While some of their combat skills may atrophy temporarily, they are easily regained via a combat training center rotation, and more than offset by the skills and experience gained via actual combat in Iraq.

Other units, like light infantry and special operations forces, are able to exercise all of their organic capabilities in this sort of environment; the experience in Iraq more than prepares them for any future combat operation.

The Army is thus far from exhaustion, collapse, or the veritable breaking point. It is a seasoned, disciplined, spirited, lethal force, and is well equipped for the rigors it faces. Unfounded, panic-laden discussions of "the broken Army" are easily debunked, and serve little purpose other than to obfuscate the problems we face as a nation in Iraq.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Changes on the Ground in Iraq

From the BBC:

Adm William Fallon will replace Gen John Abizaid as head of US Central Command and there will be a new ground commander in Iraq, ABC News reported. . . . ABC said Lt Gen David Petraeus was expected to replace Gen George Casey as the leading ground commander in Iraq

Admiral Fallon is currently the Commanding General of United States Pacific Command. Here is a bio.

LTG Petraeus currently commands the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was a driving force behind the new Counterinsurgency manual, and his efforts at changing the mindset of the military in COIN is detailed in this post at the Elephant Bar. Here is a decent bio, too.

I am unfamiliar with Admiral Fallon, but I cannot think of a better officer to command U.S. forces in Iraq than LTG Petraeus; I have no doubt that he will provide guidance to the leaders and policymakers inUnited States government as they craft strategy for Iraq, and he will masterfully execute plans and policy on the ground.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The New Yorker on COIN

I came across this New Yorker article by George Packer a few days ago. It is interesting, to say the least, and it touches on some of the salient points that have been presented both here as well as on other national security discussion blogs, like The Elephant Bar and Belmont Club.

The chief subject of the article, one David Kilcullen, has developed an interesting understanding of what the U.S. largely refers to now as the Long War:

Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.”

Kilcullen has an insightful take on U.S. COIN operations in Afghanistan, too:

Many American units [in Afghanistan], he said, are executing the new [Counterinsurgency] field manual’s tactics brilliantly. For example, before conducting operations in a given area, soldiers sit down over bread and tea with tribal leaders and find out what they need—Korans, cold-weather gear, a hydroelectric dynamo. In exchange for promises of local support, the Americans gather the supplies and then, within hours of the end of fighting, produce them, to show what can be gained from co√∂perating. But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. “They’re essentially armed propaganda organizations,” Kilcullen said. “They switch between guerrilla activity and terrorist activity as they need to, in order to maintain the political momentum, and it’s all about an information operation that generates the perception of an unstoppable, growing insurgency.”

Read the whole article; it provides a great perspective on counterinsurgency, especially the non-kinetic aspects.

Post Script: I am also reading another counterinsurgency book, Modern Warfare, by Frenchman Roger Trinquier. It is an interesting and useful look at COIN operations, to say the least. Expect a post on it soon.

For those interested, here is a link to the complete Trinquier book online.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Somalia and Iraq

The fighters of the Islamic Courts Union have fled over the border to Kenya, or dissolved into the Somali populace, in a significant defeat for Islamists in the tactical and informational realms.

One train of thought I respectfully disagree with is the Ethiopians in Somalia/US in Iraq comparison, though. There has been a tendency by some esteemed writers in the blogosphere to comment that the all business "hard hand of war" tact of the Ethiopian government is the critical element that the U.S. is lacking in the Long War. A recent post at Captain's Quarters captures this sentiment perfectly:

Once again, this [overwhelming victory in Somalia] shows the West how to properly square off against Islamist forces. Only by conducting a true war with massive, overwhelming force will these terrorists be destroyed.

While the Islamic Court Union's rout is a significant occurrence, discussion of Ethoipian versus American tactics against the Islamists is largely irrelevant, and provides marginal use as the nation decides what is next in Iraq (or Afghanistan).

First of all, the Islamic Courts Union fighters had fairly coalesced into a "regular military force" (regulars is used VERY loosely, of course), and were the de facto open law in Mogadishu and much of Somalia.

That force has apparently dissolved into the populace now, or retreated into Kenya.

And then there is the United States military involved in Iraq. Apple, meet orange.

The United States combats loose knot bands of insurgents and armed militias that are hostile to the government on a regular basis in Iraq, and likewise in Afghanistan. Are U.S. forces currently having a severe problem during combat engagements in either theater? 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, one could surmise that the average, run of the mill Brigade Commnader fervently hopes something like the latter scenario would happen on his watch there.

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 to achieving strategic objectives in either theater at this point.

Unlike what the Ethiopians faced, American forces in Iraq are dealing with an insurgency, whose forces aren't the law of the land, and who only coalesce to fight when it suits them. They are dealing with lawlessness, and with sectarian strife in a country where decades of near-totalitarian rule kept a lid on the pot.

And neither theater is running out of insurgents, militias, or criminals by the way, despite the fact that U.S. and their military counterparts in either nation units are readily killing them.

In Iraq, a valid argument can be made that Rules of Engagement (ROE) somewhat limit 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.

The violence must be dealt with, along with the insurgents that cause it. But the U.S. needs to focus beyond purely kinetic operations and simultaneously address the tangible, root causes of the insurgency and lawlessness. In fact this is where most of our efforts must be focused.

Yes, we must fight and kill/capture insurgents as part of this war. But victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is going to flow purely out of the barrel of a gun*; no one should discount the effects improving infrastructure would have in either theater, or scoff at the belief that economic improvements would sharply reduce localized violence.

Look at the mass of humanity coexisting peacably in New York City for example; how safe would you feel taking the subway at night there after three years of unemployment hovering over 40%, with rolling blackouts, a garbage strike, corrupt cops, et al? Most people would take to shopping online to avoid their fellow New Yorkers, I would wager!

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.

The second issue with the Somalia/Iraq comparison is the early call in thise sort of thing; it would be prudent to wait awhile before calling Ethiopia's military victories THE decisive defeat of Islamists in Somalia. While these are heady days for the transitional 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. Already there are fears of an Islamic insurgency. It is unlikely that Ethiopia wants to spend years and limited resources fighting an insurgency in its neighbor's slums, either.

Thus, while radical Islamists suffered a strategic loss in Africa, there are few tactical lessons to be learned and in turn applied in Iraq or Afghanistan. And like the past few years have taught us, the victors' euphoria may prove to be achingly short lived.

* Mao is credited with saying "Power flows from the barrel of a gun".

UPDATE: Ralph Peters lays out an argument that sharply contrasts mine in this article.

Rumors of a Surge

According to this article in the BBC, President Bush plans to increase the number of troops in Iraq:

[President Bush's upcoming] speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq to focus on ways of bringing greater security, rather than training Iraqi forces. . .

The BBC was told by a senior administration source that the speech setting out changes in Mr Bush's Iraq policy is likely to come in the middle of next week.

Its central theme will be sacrifice.

An energized re-crafting of this Nation's Iraq policy probably couldn't come at a better time.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The U.S. Military and the Blogosphere, Part II

Several days ago, I wrote about the United States military and the blogosphere; in the time since that post I have come across several controversial yet seemingly unrelated media reports bolstering my view that the military needs to dramatically increase its presence in the infosphere:

  • The public editor (ombudsman) of the New York Times identifies serious factual errors in a cover story, and the editors take no action in terms of a note, retraction, or update to address reader's concerns (Read here, here or here for some excellent commentary on this story in the blogosphere, by the way).
  • Meanwhile, in Iraq, what the military described as a firefight with insurgents is also regarded as an airstrike that killed civilians in a Reuters report.
  • And of course, once again in Iraq, there is the Associated Press story of Sunnis being burned alive, based on an eyewitness account of one Jamil Hussein who, despite fervent assurances from the AP, has yet to be found.
The insurgency in Iraq is being fought in many disparate places. Infantrymen conducting raids on suspected insurgent safehouses certainly have a clear perspective on what the war is about. But the effects of that raid resonate far beyond the geographical confines of the ground where it transpired.

The reports of the raid in the media span across the globe, and shape the narrative of how the war is being fought, and who is winning. The aforementioned raid, whether it was successful or not, is now in the minds of many mired in uncertainty, because the media reports that civilians were killed as a result of US actions.

Right now, the military has marginal presence in the infosphere; Commanders issue a press release, and then rely upon the media to receive the release and disseminate it widely, and rely largely on the media to interpret the facts, resolve any amiguities, and to assign relevance to the press release.

The military is thus waging a proxy war in the infosphere, relying on the conventional media outlets to drive their narrative, despite the fact that these same entities have in recent times been proven to play loose with the facts, often to the detriment of the military's efforts.

If we are to be successful in "The Long War" it is past time for the military to establish a robust presence in the informational realm, and quit relying on fickle media proxies to drive the war's narrative.

AND so I ask once again, where are CENTCOM's Blogs?

Different Takes on the Surge.

Michael Barone eloquently reviews the debate over increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the different schools of thought emerging within the corridors of Washington. He contrasts the sharply differing views of Senators Lieberman and Obama when it comes to the next steps America should take. In doing so, Barone ponders the essence of America's character during during times of conflict:

I think [Senator Lieberman's] approach is more in line with the American character. There are writers in Europe who argue that the threat of terrorism is just a nuisance. Sure, you get a 9/11 or a London 7/7 attack every so often and a bunch of people die; but your civilization goes on, and the Islamofascists aren't really going to take it over. We put up with a lot of deaths in traffic accidents and we can put up with a lot of deaths in terrorist attacks. So the argument goes. I think what it misses is that the terrorists may be able to get their hands on weapons that could inflict vastly more destruction than we saw on 9/11 or 7/7. And that any attempts at appeasing them–like the multicultural policies Britain and some European countries have been following–tend to take away our freedoms. Figuring out how to fight back and prevail is not easy and there will be errors along the way (as there have been in all our wars, and in great abundance). But it's better than sitting back and seeing what is the worst they can do to you.

Meanwhile, Bob Novak surmises that a surge will be unpalatable to most in the Senate. His article links to an op-ed by retired General Jack Keane that reiterates a short term surge will accomplish absolutely nothing, and ultimately lead to failure.

General Keane was a key contributor to the American Enterprise Institute's report Choosing Victory, a Plan for Success in Iraq. I commented on that report here. Obviously, General Keane supports deploying additional troops in Iraq; his piece simply states that a three to six month surge of forces is too short to actually accomplish any objectives there.

Meanwhile, Wretchard at the exceptionally astute Belmont Club speculates that the administration is strongly considering adopting the AEI plan. A great comment snipped from Belmont's post:

I feel the plan is not detailed enough when destructing (sic?) reconstruction: the "build" part of "clear, hold, and build." There needs to be a dramatic decentralization of funding, a renewed commitment to the CERP program; full staffing of provincial reconstruction teams; and the USAID and State Dept need to become expeditionary and fully staffed virtually overnight -- there's no reason why USAID personnel shouldn't be asked to work at the company level. My thoughts here are not enough. I'm not a reconstruction expert. But several Marine officer friends have noted this problem. Robert Kaplan did so as well in an Atlantic piece not long ago. Basically, the rest of the elements of national power are not present on the battlefield in the ways that they should be [emph added].

These comments echo many I have made repeatedly in pasts posts on this blog, and they formed a central recommendation in my Master's monograph a few years back. A Goldwater-Nichols type restructuring is definitely required over at the State Department if they are going to be effective in dealing with the emerging foreign policy challenges the United States must tackle in the 21st century. And certainly, the rest of the agencies and elements of the United States government need to ante up resources and efforts if the US is going to accomplish its stated objectives in Iraq.

These are just a few of the many diverse ruminations over the surge, but they are definitely worth your time. If anyone comments or links to this post, how about including other schools of thought for the next step for this country's Iraq policy? Look for stuff that sharply contrasts the AEI report, but is still far from being an "Australian Peel" conducted at the strategic level.