Sunday, October 02, 2005


LTG Petraeus at Princeton

TigerHawk reports a very important and illuminating speech given by Lieutenant General (LTG) David Petraeus at Princeton University, "A Soldier's Reflections on Iraq." Important and illuminating? That would certainly mean it received no coverage from major media outlets.

And yet it should have. TigerHawk manages to both cover the content of the speech quite capably, but get his picture taken with the LTG.

LTG Petraeus most recently served as the Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command and NATO Training Mission. These are the folks working most closely with the Iraqi Army, and whose subordinate commands and detachments work with individual units, such as those described in my post A Visit with the Iraqi Army.

As reported by TigerHawk, General Petraeus described five primary missions for the Transition Command:

"Help Iraqis." TigerHawk reports:
"We believed what TE Lawrence said: “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.”
"Organize" the Iraqi military. Most significantly, LTG Petraeus highlights truly this has been a coordinated effort between the Coalition and NATO, while Iraqi military leaders are making their own decisions about unit design, personnel and command structures.

Equip the Iraqi military. TigerHawk conveys the magnitude and scale of what’s been accomplished:
This is an enormous task. "I cannot overstate how big this mission is." More than 700,000 uniforms, 210,000 sets of body armor, hundreds of thousands of small arms, helmets, hundreds of million of rounds of ammunition, 20,000 vehicles and so forth have been distributed to Iraqi forces.

All these soldiers and equipment have been housed. We have built more than twenty facilities for the Iraqi military, including five large bases that can house an entire division, "each the size of Ft. Drum."
Train the Iraqi military. LTG Petraeus explained how much “re-education” the Iraqi Army requires, citing the example of the “the inshallah school of shooting,” whereby Iraqi soldiers hide behind some cover, raise their weapons over their head, and fire indiscriminatingly until out of ammo. “Inshallah -- meaning if God wills it -- you will hit something.”

There are a great many aspects of the cultural and personal attitudinal changes that are required, as I pointed out from my short visit with an Iraqi Army unit and comments given by General Aziz. The average Iraqis precondition towards fatalism and a sense of the permanence (and predestination) of God’s will is a big part of what needs to change for the Iraqi Army to significantly improve.

Mentor Iraqi military and police leaders. This is perhaps the single source for hope that we will be successful in helping Iraqis to help themselves. TigerHawk conveys LTG Petraeus’s optimism in this area:
So, what's the "bottom line up front?" Iraqi soldiers and special police are “very much in the fight,” as evidenced, “sadly,” by the casualties they have taken in combat, which are at least twice the American.

The most impressive thing about the Iraqi units is how tenacious they have become, notwithstanding early reports that they would cut and run. According to General Petraeus, since the January elections, from which the Iraqi security forces “took an enormous lift that still persists,” the Iraqi forces "have not run from a fight, they have not backed down." This strikes me, by the way, as enormously hopeful for the future of Iraq, the persistence of the counterinsurgency, and the power of democracy to motivate the fight against the war on terror.
Those who dismiss and disparage our mission in Iraq likewise greatly discount the power of the ideals embedded in any experiment in Democracy. The Iraqi Security Forces, military and civilian, grow in experience. Their civilian counterparts grow familiar with the mechanics of representative government. The Iraqi People experience the beginnings of freedom, amid a continuing redefinition of those who cling to violence as mostly foreign, wholly evil, and completely non-Islamic.

TigerHawk captures some of the better questions LTG Petraeus was asked, and this received the most pointed answer:
"Are we losing the PR war to the enemy? What are you doing on the marketing PR front?"

General Petraeus said that they have given the media an enormous amount of information, including countless important metrics for measuring progress, but that it is largely ignored. He observed that the enemy “On many days it is impossible to break through the steady drumbeat of sensational attacks occurring in Baghdad throughout the country. The opening of the new military academy got no coverage at all, even though it was a big event with the whole Iraqi government in attendance."

Petraeus is obviously extremely unhappy with the monomaniacal press coverage.
In his excellent post, TigerHawk also captures the General’s explanation of the “readiness levels of Iraqi Army units, and put these into proper context, in contrast to much of what has been widely reported by less informed sources. It’s worth taking the time to read the whole thing.

(H/T Instapundit)

Links: Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, bRight & Early, Mudville Gazette

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