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Watch This Space: Surge In Progress (Part 1)

June 21, 2007

“I know some people in the media are already starting to sort of write off the surge and say ‘Hey, hang on- we’ve been going since January- we haven’t seen a massive turnaround, it musn’t be working’. What we’ve been doing to date is putting forces into position. We haven’t actually started what I would call the surge yet. All we’ve been doing is building up… and trying to secure the population. And what I would say to people who say it’s already failed is: Watch this space. Because you’re going to see, in a fairly short order, some changes in the way we’re operation that will make what’s been happening over the past few months look like what it is: just a preliminary build up.”

Dr. David Kilcullen—Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser to Gen. Petraeus

One of the problems I have with blogging is the material most dear to me is not amenable to the dashed-off-tripe treatment worthy of many news items. As the last few threads have shown, we can drill down into the factiods of the past ad naseum, producing no agreement, no clarity and no real insight. It’s not the kind of conversation I really want to have, and what’s more, I’m not really good at it. What I like is the big picture view and an honest human story. Most of all, I like to try to see what’s going on in the present with an eye towards the future. So much of our discourse, here and in Washington, gets caught up in the blame game of who said what when and who knew and blah blah blah. I’m sick to death of it. I can’t stop the steel cage death match. But I’m going to keep trying. Can I get an Amen?

Required Reading and Listening

The above quote from Dr. Kilcullen is from a Pajamas Media podcast interview by Austin Bay. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It gives me great, great comfort to know that people like Kilcullen (who is Austrailian) are currently directing operations in this war. To write this so-called surge of as “clapping harder” bespeaks such a huge ignorance of what has been going on I don’t even know where to begin to counter it. Says Kilcullen:

I spend a lot of time talking with tribal and community leaders, religious leaders, government officials… endless cups of tea talking about how they see things going. Often the first question I ask them is ‘If you were us, what would you do?’ And it turns out that’s a question most of them haven’t been asked before. But when you ask it you get some pretty interesting ideas about how they see things and how they think things should be working. So pretty much everything I know about Iraq I’ve learned from the Iraqis.

It’s really one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve heard. This is an exrodinarily smart man who has also lived for several years with insurgents in Indonesia. He knows how to fight them- and the military part of it is just that. There is a whole social and political aspect to fighting an insurgency that is extremely important. But he also views the struggle in a very post-modern way (or is it) as a “struggle between competing narratives”. It’s a struggle he believes we can still win.

I look forward to your comments.

In terms of burnishing his non-partisan credentials, I supply this link to an article he mentions favorably ( believe the author is a mentor). If I were going to take apart the neo-conservative approach to Iraq, this is how I would do it. I don’t find it all convincing, but it is an especially well written and sourced version of what I understand Asghar’s arguments against the war to be (if he could ever get past the sputtering and evading to actually making a cohesive argument. Or if I wasn’t such a pathetic weakling.)

Part 2 and 3 to come. Watch this space!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2007 1:12 pm

    The US media has been completely misreading the situation in Iraq for close to a year now when the inflection point was finally reached.

    You had to basically ignore the MSM reports and sift through literally dozens of alternative sources, like milblogs, Yon/Roggio/etc, and dreary DoD and allied press releases, etc to see that though.

    It was just about a year ago that Yon was writing about a sharp spike in Iraqi “dime droppers” when Zarq’s crew were being particularly (and foolishly) vicious with the populace. I viewed that as the seminal indications of an inflection point.

    An insurgency doesn’t require the active support of the populace, but it does require their ambivalence. Once that ambivalence is lost, the conclusion has been predetermined.

    The media, being largely shallow idiots, don’t understand any of this.

  2. June 23, 2007 2:34 pm

    I’ll be gettin into MIcahel Yon and Roggio soon. I regret not linking to them previously.

    Most people want to live safe, prosperous lives. I remain astounded that so many would think that the US would not compare favorably to al Queda etc. As I have tried to pont out ad naseum, the question is who do you trust? Everyone can trust that terrorists will keep killing. Wether this country has the mettle to stand up to them, and protect the weak, is obviously a matter of debate. Sadly so.

  3. tim c permalink
    June 26, 2007 10:21 pm

    Dave wrote: “To write this so-called surge of as “clapping harder” bespeaks such a huge ignorance of what has been going on I don’t even know where to begin to counter it.”

    I think I was the one on the blog criticizing the surge strategy of being not dramatic enough of a change of plans… in essence more of the same, and hoping that somehow this time it would work if we just clapped harder and wished for it.

    Yes, “clear, hold build” strategy of the surge is different than some of what happened earlier. But a big pre-surge attempt at “clear, hold, build” happened with Operation Together Forward II… And failed in part due to too few American troops and too few capable Iraqis.

    The surge plan looked then, and still looks now like Operation Together Forward II done with slightly more troops… in essence still more of the same that didn’t work before.

    I hoped and still hope I’m wrong, and that the surge’s re-implementation of a “clear, hold, build” strategy somehow works this time, where it didn’t earlier. I don’t mind clapping harder and hoping.

    But early signs are not encouraging…

    “American military commanders now seriously doubt that Iraqi security forces will be able to hold the ground that U.S. troops are fighting to clear — gloomy predictions that strike at the heart of Washington’s key strategy to turn the tide in Iraq.

    Several senior American officers have warned in recent days that Iraqi soldiers and police are still incapable of maintaining security on their own in the most crucial areas, including Baghdad and the recently reclaimed districts around Baqouba to the north.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070626/ap_on_re_mi_ea/doubting_baghdad;_ylt=AipYsPfy28rIzNa9fz1SCkrMWM0F

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  1. Watch this Space Part 2: Understanding General Petraeus’s Strategy « Strange Monkey Doll

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