Sunday, May 13, 2007

Iraq To-Do-List

A very interesting article from Max Boot. I got lucky and saw him shred Tucker Carlson in a discussion on Iraq. His responses held Carlson to accurate statements and perspective that Carlson was not following in his questioning.

He discusses the usual of the necessity for patience, an increasing the size of the Iraqi military, more Prisons and a strong well protected judiciary. The to-do list has some interesting statements that I'm certain will raise the hackles from the anti-war set.
The New York Times ran a front-page dispatch by Alissa J. Rubin on April 22 ("3 Suspects Talk After Iraqi Soldiers Do Dirty Work") reporting that Iraqi troops managed to break up a major terrorist ring in the violent Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya by beating up a captured insurgent. Such conduct is not tolerated in the American ranks, but the Iraqis are fighting for their lives against the most vicious terrorists on earth in a society that has never heard of the Warren Court. It's hardly surprising that they might resort to "third degree" techniques that were in widespread use by American police until a generation ago, and remain commonplace throughout much of the rest of the world. American advisers need to have the leeway to exercise their best judgment--to be able to turn a blind eye to minor abuses without risking court martial, while at the same time remaining vigilant against major abuses. Just as no counterinsurgency has ever been won employing the norms of modern Western peacetime policing, so too it is very rare to defeat insurgents by terrorizing the population into acquiescence--and in any case that is not a strategy that either the United States or its allies could employ.
From an ethical standpoint, I'm not much for the blind eye to third degrees, but that ignores the issue that they are at war, and that it is their country. Counterinsurgency necessitates that the locals get control and security. They must win the minds of the people, but being nice and compliant will not stop those most bent on keeping Iraq in conflict. As in all things, a balance is required. I'm willing to bet that under Saddam it was just as bad if not much worse. Not a justification, but perspective. It would be nice to have the Iraqi's provide all the rights expected in a free country like the US, but that won't ever happen until the insurgency is brought under control.

Then there is this:
An Iraqi version of CORDS (Civil Operations and Rural Development Support) might help here. This was the agency created in 1967 under the leadership of "Blowtorch Bob" Komer (with a young Richard Holbrooke as his aide-de-camp). A veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council, Komer coordinated all civilian pacification efforts in Vietnam. He and his successor, William Colby, reported to the four-star commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, thus tying civil and military efforts closely together.

As part of a broader administrative overhaul, it would make sense to put more emphasis on "information operations" and to push these efforts down to lower levels of command. There is widespread agreement within the U.S. military that the war for hearts and minds is essential, and that so far al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have done a more effective job than the United States of competing in the "information battlespace." They are able to get their messages out more quickly and to make a bigger splash. Part of this is due to the natural disparity between a ruthless foe that can lie with impunity and intimidate the press and a democratic government that must tell the truth and not interfere with the free functioning of the media. But part of the disparity is also due to self-inflicted wounds on the part of the U.S. government.

I was stunned to learn in Iraq that leaflets and radio broadcasts need to be approved at the division level, and that press releases need to be approved one step higher, at the corps level. Even more amazing was the revelation that U.S. forces are forbidden to conduct information operations on the Internet--the jihadists' favorite venue--because of concerns at the highest levels of the U.S. government that American propaganda might inadvertently be seen by U.S. citizens browsing the web. Several junior officers told me that they have the authority to call in an airstrike that will kill dozens of people but not the authority to issue a press release. That's crazy. The authority to conduct public affairs and information operations needs to be pushed down to the level of the battalion and even the company, and American commanders at those levels and above need to be graded on their success in engaging in this all-important battleground.
All things that should have been started quite a while ago. The CORDs systems would have been more effective if they were implemented earlier. As for the InfoSec, I'm not surprised, since anything the US military said that wasn't vetted to the point that they are today would lead to incidents where the MSM would misread or misinterpret a low level statement and then make it a political fiasco for the President. Not that his political workings in the press are ever given fair hearings, but allowing too many freelance press releases would ensure distortions from the press.

Read the rest, it's got some very interesting ideas.

No comments: