Thursday, September 29, 2005
The occasion of Darling’s remarks was the Washington Post article, describing how Zarqawi 'Hijacked' Insurgency. The lede:
The top U.S. military intelligence officer in Iraq said Abu Musab Zarqawi and his foreign and Iraqi associates have essentially commandeered the insurgency, becoming the dominant opposition force and the greatest immediate threat to U.S. objectives in the country.Austin Bay also noted the Post article, and links to an earlier post of his which explains US anti-terror strategy:
"I think what you really have here is an insurgency that's been hijacked by a terrorist campaign," Army Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner said in an interview. "In part, by Zarqawi becoming the face of this thing, he has certainly gotten the funding, the media and, frankly, has allowed other folks to work along in his draft."
What’s the context? The US has its fight against jihadists in the heart of the Arab Muslim world– the “fatal attraction” component of US anti-terror strategy (see this column from January, 2003). The Iraqi government also fights a nationalist struggle (Iraqis versus “foreign fighters”). Zarqawi’s jidhadists are clearly at war with the Iraqi people.Austin Bay and Dan Darling capture exactly the nature of this struggle as essentially a fight driven by foreign forces and influences. Whatever Saddam and any hidden partners may have initially planned – and there is good reason to suspect he had co-conspirators and accomplices in Damascus and Tehran – Zarqawi and his ambitions have clearly overwhelmed whatever other military players still operate in Iraq. For all intents and purposes, the Baathist hold-outs have faded nearly out of existence.
Darling lays out a convincing case for Zarqawi’s two-pronged strategy. First and foremost, Al Qaeda in Iraq must continue whatever minimal level of attrition of U.S. military personnel that they can maintain at the least possible cost in munitions, manpower, and money. Hence, improvised explosive devices (IED). They are cheap, they make use of readily obtainable military munitions, and the expertise to create and deploy them is relatively easy to learn or transfer.
Ah, but the benefit is meaningful in Al Qaeda’s effort to diminish public support in the US and otherwise weaken Western resolve. The body count retain its usefulness in this regard, unless it continues to grow, however incrementally. Initially, Zarqawi hoped that this alone could generate sufficient helpful media attention in the Information Operations (IO) battle. But almost inexplicably, the US public has grown somewhat used to a low level of losses, and Zarqawi knows all too well that, if he masses his forces to generate higher levels of US losses, his forces get pounded into oblivion.
Which prompts the second prong in the Al Qaeda skewer, and one that makes a lie of any rational depiction of this struggle in Iraq as an Insurgency. Zarqawi desperately needs Western press attention and coverage. He needs to give his (mostly unwitting, and witless) allies in the Western press something to use as fodder for attacks against US Iraqi policy, so they kill Iraqi civilians, in large quantities. This part is easy, and as Zarqawi and others of his noxious ilk quite readily perceive Iraqis as just as sub-human as the rest of us Infidels, this epitome of ruthless fanaticism sees no meaningful “collateral damage” in the mass deaths of Iraqi innocents.
Zarqawi needs to maintain both prongs of this strategy, but an unpleasant side effect is that he has turned any otherwise sympathetic Iraqi resistance against him and his foreign fighters.
It's supremely unfortunate that major media no longer consider in-depth and long term military analysis of value (or at least not worth the expense). But sometimes, I think the expense might simply be the cost of giving up preconceptions and report facts on the ground, rather than continue to spin each new round of casualty figures in keeping with the "template."
No matter. As long as fine analysts such as Dan Darling and the folks at Winds of Change, Bill Roggio, and Chester (of Adventures of), stay focused on them, there will be at least some voices that speak truth into what would otherwise be silence, and ignorance.
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