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26 July 2005


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Col. Lang,

It's nice to see you've joined the blogosphere! I really respect your views on security issues. In contrast to many of our "leaders" in Washington and elsewhere, your analysis and comments seem to be founded in the "reality-based" community. This is indeed refreshing.

In respect to the administration's response to the growing global jihad now being experienced, it seems that most of their efforts these days is focused on public relations-related activities and not an evaluation of the actual policies being persued. This is perhaps too simplistic, but you get the general point.

It seems to me, a mere observer of the situation, that it's our policies that may need adjustment as Michael Scheuer has forwarded in "Imperial Hubris."

I wonder if at some point you could comment on this.




I agree with Mike that our policies in the Islamic World have exacerbated the ill feelings of the people of that culture toward us, but I differ with him in that I do think that some in the Islamic World see the world as divided into two cultural zones, one being the world of the 'Umma (the Caliphate) and the other being the World of the Unbeliever. The people who see things this way think of the West as an enemy. We may not think that this war against the international Jihadis is a "Clash of Civilizations," but the Jihadis see it that way. Bottom Line: Even if we changed the policies that the Muslims find offensive, we would still be at war with the Jihadis. They would insist on it.

Iraq is a different subject.


This isn't really a comment but, rather, a question.
Some people I've been talking to are suggesting that the large number of recent Iraqi casualties and the small number of American casualties (if that's true - 6 on the 24th) may indicate that the military is reining in their patrols, etc, to keep them out of harm's way. What do you think.


We may not think that this war against the international Jihadis is a "Clash of Civilizations," but the Jihadis see it that way. Bottom Line: Even if we changed the policies that the Muslims find offensive, we would still be at war with the Jihadis. They would insist on it.

I agree, but there is a serious difference. The jihadist, like any extremist group, can not successfully survive in an environment where they do not have some public support.

The German RAF could only exist with some support from sympathizers. When that support drowned, the RAF ended.

The US machinations in the Middle East do rage enough sympathizers to allow the "fish to swim". They get some money, they get moral support and at least people look away whatever they are doing.

If the sympathizers can be won over, the fish would have no water to swim in. It would die. Sure this would take some years. The RAF had three (or four) "generations" of fighters. The jihadist are just in their second. But one needs to start.

Get serious with Sharon: either zero money and support or 100% roadmap. Get serious in Iraq:
set a short term leave date and leave on that date.

There are maybe 13,000 jihadists, maybe 130,000. But they swim in a sea of 13,000,000 or 130,000,000 sympathizers (only 10% of 1,300,000,000 muslim).
Reduce that 1% support to 0,01% and the issue is won.


Glad you have a blog now and welcome!

Any word on Micheal Scheuer's blog (does he have one)? How 'bout Robert Baer?


Col. Lang,

I've always appreciated your clear insights, starting from the Lehrer News Hour and then to "No Quarter."

Thank you for your help in understanding how we got into this mess, and your facilitating further, all possible discussions as to how we might develop real, winnable strategies.



It's pretty clear that the operational tempo for US forces has been reduced.

There are some exceptions:

1-Along the syrian border operations involving a reinforced battalion of infantry (1,000+) continue with the intendtion of reducing border crossing by jihadis and breaking up the emergence of "redoubt" areas more or less under insurgent control.

2-Escort operations continue along supply routes needed for the support of US Forces. These escorts for convoys are very vulnerable to roadside bombs (IED).

3-Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) for incidents. These QRFs are essentially acting as a mobile reserve for friendly Iraqi forces.

All that adds up to much smaller US casualties than would otherwise be occurring. pl



In regard to your comment on "draining the swamp" of supporters of the Jihadis, I think you have the right idea in believing that some combination of "sticks and carrots," would do the job.

The real question is which sticks, which carrots, where and for how long?

Jihadism is not a new phenomenon in Islamic history. Thee is a kind of sine curve of this activity back through the centuries. Surges in Jihadi activity have always "died out" in eventual discouragement over defeats and losses.

I do not think that this kind of behavior will ever disappear from Western-Islamic relations until the overwhelming majority of Muslims come to see their religion as something other than a two sided contest with the west.

Jihadism employing terrorism does not require a very large number of supporters to be possible. A major change of attitude would be needed to prevent future recurrences of this phenomenon. pl


I'm pleased to learn of this blog (through No Quarter), and look forward to viewing it regularly. I've seen your comments on the Lehrer Newshour and have almost always found them interesting and enlightening. Thanks for increasing the quotient of good information generally, and keep up the good work.


By the way, do you have any information on the status of the various investigations into the forged Niger uranium documents? The last I saw on this was your post on No Quarter that ended "carrots and sticks." Even a hint would be welcome!

Dale R. Davis

Some thoughts on withdrawal as a strategy for success in Iraq.

My academic experience compels me to begin with a definition of success. Two and half years ago the definition of success in Iraq would have been a stable, secular, ethnically and religiously diverse government, at peace with its neighbors, leading a rejuvenated nation, powered by a vibrant economy, driven by one of the most educated people in the region - a strong ally of the US and a powerful example of democracy for the broader region. Today, the best success we can hope for is a gradually diminishing insurgency, limited in its scope and divided in its goals, suppressed (perhaps a bit brutally) by a nominally secular yet Shi'a dominated and Iranian influenced government that is not totally opposed to every US policy goal in the region.

If we begin with this vastly different understanding of the realm of possibility then a carefully executed withdrawal strategy becomes increasingly eloquent. It is so because it directly addresses the centre of gravity of the insurgency.

Critical Assumption: Even if the US withdraws the insurgency cannot win a military victory. It will not displace the Shia dominated government or any of its successors. Many would argue that withdrawal will result in Iraq being taken over by Pan-Islamist Wahhabi forces under the leadership of Bin Laden and Zarqawi. Or perhaps a return of the Baathists to power. Neither of these scenarios is remotely possible. The Shi'a, (65% of the Iraqi population) having tasted both freedom and power, with the latter being the more intoxicating, will never allow the their mortal enemies – the Sunni Jihadists to come to power. Even, if they didn't have the capability to stop the emergence of an Iraqi Taliban (which they do), their friends in Iran would put an end to such a threat in short order. Likewise, any attempt to return the “old guard” to power would be crushed with certainty.

The Insurgency’s Critical Vulnerability

The insurgency is a Sunni tribal revolt, seeking as its primary goal the protection and restoration of Sunni dominance over the Iraqi socio-economic and political system. This tribal revolt has been joined by the forces of global jihad due to a temporary convergence of interests - the desire to remove US and Multi-national forces. In fact, it is the very presence of these forces, especially the US forces that catalyzes both the active and passive support for the insurgency both within Iraq's Sunni community and in the broader Sunni-Islamic world. Removal of this catalyst will quickly expose the fractious nature of the Sunni -Jihadi alliance and greatly diminish popular support for the insurgency, especially for the Jihadi cause. This is due to the distinct divergence in the interests between Jihadists and Sunnis. The Jihadists are idealists who want to purify and unify the Islamic world beginning with Iraq. The motivations of the Sunni are more self-centered, simply seeking to regain their status as the dominant sect and short of that guarantee the best deal possible in any compromise. Herein lies the insurgency’s critical vulnerability. While the Jihadists seek the complete and humiliating defeat of the US, the Sunnis actually require US influence over the current government to protect their interests (although they may not yet realize it). If the US withdraws who will guarantee a role and protection of status for the Sunni minority from a possibly more radical Shi’a dominated government? By threatening withdrawal the US places the forces of insurgency on the horns of a dilemma. Continued violent resistance after a US withdrawal removes the pan-Arab, pan-Islamic fig leaf from the insurgency. It becomes publically what it already is – a religious-ethnic civil war – something the Jihadists seek but the more pragmatic Sunni will realize is not in their interests. Do the Sunni continue their alliance with the Jihadists or do they recognize their lot could become much worse if they continue to reject cooperation? Without the restraining and protective US presence the Shi’a dominated government will likely take quite aggressive action to suppress the insurgency.

How To Do It

Begin with statements like those uttered recently by Rumsfeld, Jaafari and Casey. “We will withdraw soon.” Get the Sunni leadership thinking about the real possibilities of what life might be like after a US withdrawal. If they don’t get the picture at first then give them a taste of it – turn the security of certain critical Sunni areas over to the Shi’a militias. Meanwhile, increase the intensity and quality of training for Iraqi security forces. Move as rapidly as possible to an situation where the US ground combat presence is mainly an advisory role a la El Salvador while continuing to provide combat support (artillery, air support, logistics, etc). (Another reason to withdraw is the Iraqi security forces will always be reluctant to engage if the Americans continue to do the heavy lifting).


Col., I just wanted to thank you for starting and running this forum. I've personally learned a great deal from you.

The reason history's wheel doesn't just spin in place is that there are people like you that are brave enough to do something about it.


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