Thursday, October 26, 2006
I have spent considerable time lately mulling over diverse viewpoints of both supporters and opponents of our efforts in
No, not the feedback packaged by General Officers enticed by fulfilling media, publishing, or partisan expectations, but feedback from boots really on the ground, lower ranking enlisted soldiers and officers.
Before I review some of these discordant voices, a disclaimer of sorts, to ground my opinion.
I believe we’re trying to do the right thing in an increasingly dangerous world. I further believe our President to be an honorable and religious man, true to his faith and to the American people, guided by his own discernment and spiritual practice, and supported in his decisions by military leaders who believe in their missions and possess the knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities to implement decisions as effectively as humanly possible. Mistakes have and will be made. However, I conclude that “sins of omission,” in a state of extreme threats to national security, have long been worse in practice than whatever our sins of commission, now that we act.
My regular readers know I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) III, mobilized and deployed to
I didn’t work the Intel mission in
My deployment experiences are mine, I deployed along with 200 others, and each of our experiences were different. We were all more or less “Fobbits,” so called from the Army nomenclature for Forward Operating Bases or FOBs. A dozen or so – a special group fp soldiers as I’ve written -- were attached to Scout units at remote locations. Many never left the FOB, except for a pass or R&R home, or when we left for good. A good number went on convoys regularly, with trips lasting anywhere from one to several hours. I went on about a dozen, more when I was filling in for our BN Command Sergeant Major (CSM).
My perceptions of
All by way of preface for a reflection on differing viewpoints.
Here’s one viewpoint that gave me pause, reported by James Taranto, in today’s Best of the Web at Opinion Journal (via Instapundit).
There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.
First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of
I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into
There have been distinct failures of policy in
This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing
In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while
For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by
If we continue on as is in
We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.
If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.
James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.
At the same time, failure in
This SGT sounds a lot like many of the young SGTs who worked the Intel mission for us. Their experiences are real, “ground truth,” and their perspective is important. It’s a slice, and an important one.
I wouldn’t even try to argue the good SGTs point about adapting late, or being a few steps behind our enemies in
Others have commented better than I can about the necessity of breaking Iraqi dependence upon US forces. More
As T. E. Lawrence is often quoted:
"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 to win it for them." (Full text of
I think there are fundamental differences between the challenge of reconstructing a savagely war torn and battered
As to 4th ID officers feeling pressured by superiors, or applying pressure to their subordinates, I can’t assess, other than to suggest that officers need to look to their own consciences. I don’t doubt such impulses exist, but I wonder how widespread, Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR) are PIR, defined by Commanders. In our AO, I saw every confirmation that violence and hostilities or any kind, Iraqi on Coalition or Iraqi on Iraqi, got reported. These predominated in our Significant Acts (SIGACTS) reporting.
I’ve had conversations with many of our Intel SGTs who felt as this soldier does, and they can be troubling. I’ve written in the past about patterns of analysis, and how analysts sometimes lose perspective in broader patterns, trends and implications, given their almost exclusive focus on the pinprick data points of violence. If anything, the Intel picture focused on such data points, and could not offer any real insight or information about what wasn’t happening where it wasn’t happening – the “white space” between data points.
I also remind myself is what I remind myself: as an Intel soldier, I’ve been immersed in thinking Red. It took me a long time to learn even the rudiments of thinking Blue.
For the uninitiated, what I’m explaining is that Intel soldiers are taught extensively about threats: their doctrine, operations, and tactics, as well as warnings and indicators that reveal patterns that can explain enemy situation. That’s referred to as thinking Red, like the enemy. Not Red as in Communist, but the color of enemy symbology when depicted on overlays or maps.
I served as an Analyst for three years in
More voices and commentary to follow in Part Two.
Links: Gulf Coast Pundit, SeaSpook
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