« "They Fled to Syria?" | Main | "A Dayton Process for Iraq?" Rahim »

08 May 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


PL, all, what do you make of Petraeus' warning?


There are many soldiers in France today who state unequivocally that the war in Algeria was won when DeGaulle decided to withdraw.

It is said that DeGaulle made the decision in great part because, although the military victory was in place, the nation's appetite for continued warfare in Algeria was gone.

Colonel Lang knows this history better than I do and he should correct my mistakes.

In any case, it may well be true that the war has been lost at home in Iraq. That Americans no longer wish to have their young men and women killed and to expend billions of dollars to turn "Iraq" into a democracy.

So, let the record show that the "Bushies" have LOST the political war at home.

Are we to believe that that war was unwinnable? Are we to believe that a coherent case for war in Iraq was impossible to make?

That is the real question. Was it possible for the Bush administration to actually successfully make the case for this war?

Or do they get off scot-free on that question?

Militarily the war appears to be lost. But does the Bush administration get a free pass for losing the political war?

Could Dick Cheney and AIPAC have done a better job?

That question needs to be asked. The American people are capable of remarkable sacrifice, but they have to be convinced.

It reminds me of the story of the woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts who voted against Jack Kennedy for Congress. Jack enquired why. She said, "You never asked me."


Nevertheless, the biggest threat is that of a complex attack involving the use of one or more vehicle bombs employed as a substitute for artillery in a "breaching" role against the walls or a gate, followed by a ground assault taking advantage of confusion and under conditions of limited visibility (night, smoke, sand, etc.). An attack such as that would likely be supplemented with ambushes of the routes that reinforcements (QRF) would take on the ground or in the air.

Like this one?


Petraeus warning is, in the first place, cover for no results/bad results. He is covering his ass.

In the second, it is an admission that his master plan is not at all guaranteed of success. I think that when you start talking about an enormous effort, you're talking about potential failure.

When Bill Belichick talks about the next game, he praises the hell out of the other team, but in response to the question what his team is doing, the response is always the same:

"We're doing what we do every week."

Petraeus is definitely not saying that. He is saying this is by far the toughest game he has ever been in in his life and it will require enormous commitment.

I reiterate: if the "enormous commitment" is not forthcoming from the American people, who is at fault? Traitors? Treasonous cowards? The Democrat Party?

The Bush administration has no responsibility to persuade the American people that what it is doing is right?


(just fixing the comments snafu)

Frank Durkee

If I assume that the present leaders of the US effort in Iraq are not deliberately obtuse, the question arises as to their defence of their tactics aganist the critique offered by Col. Lang and others? What is it? What merits, if any does it have? How is it responsive to the comments of the Col. and others?
As a non kilitary person the Col.s argruments carry weight with me. As a practioner of change in the domestic world, I'm clear that most tactics are ambigious and represent a choice among options, with evaluation comming as a result of outcomes, not all of which can be tied to the choice. I.E. other factors always play apart in the outcome.

Nancy Kimberlin

We should not be there and I don't think we have a leader such as Degaulle in either party to get us out.


administration spin and the lack of detail in press reporting do not represent the bagdad neighborhood mission context realistically

the "surge" applies to parts of bagdad

us troops are not going to provide "security" for sadr city

they enter sadr city at night, with helicopters looking for mehdi army caches, etc

sadr city has about 3 million inhabitants - (half of the bagdad population?)

general opinion seems to be that Sadr City is the most peaceful place in Iraq

poor but safe

the battle is to provide "security" is being waged in the other part of bagdad

an urban battle

like beirut, sarajevo, gaza city, grozny, algiers, and mogadishu

Cold War Zoomie

Wow, I feel for our folks over there.

Check out the USO Operation Care Package charity:


It's not a big thing, but it's something from home.


Lots of comparisons to Vietnam and Algeria, but this conflict seems to have much in common with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

"[The Mujahideen] concentrated on knocking out bridges, closing major roads, destroying convoys, disrupting the electric power system and industrial production, and attacking police stations and Soviet military installations and air bases. They assassinated government officials and PDPA members. They laid siege to small rural outposts. In March 1982, a bomb exploded at the Ministry of Education, damaging several buildings. In the same month, a widespread power failure darkened Kabul when a pylon on the transmission line from the Naghlu power station was blown up. In June 1982 a column of about 1000 young party members sent out to work in the Panjshir valley were ambushed within 20 miles of Kabul, with heavy loss of life."

". . . The toll in casualties, economic resources, and loss of support at home increasingly felt in the Soviet Union was causing criticism of the occupation policy. Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982, and after two short-lived successors, Mikhail Gorbachev assumed leadership in March 1985. As Gorbachev opened up the country's system, it became clearer that the Soviet Union wished to find a face-saving way to withdraw from Afghanistan."


Regime change in Washington, DC is still 19 months away.


When your ass is on the line you will do most anything given the resources you have on hand. Building mini-forts is counterproductive to pacifying the resistance but necessary for survival.

After torture, imprisonment, bankruptcy, rifling homes and indiscriminant killing; no people will settle for a permanent foreign occupation. They will always be in revolt. The blinders that the Bush Administration wear are so polarizing that they see no other option than a military occupation of Iraq forever. US troops will be attacked everyday till they leave Iraq.

The Surge strategy is doubly dangerous besides isolating troops in mini-forts under constant attack. Currently the Shiites are passive because US troops are doing the dirty work of ethnic cleansing Sunnis. But, Shiite militias want the foreign Christians out as much as the Sunni. When the US troop withdrawal day approaches, all hell will break loose in Central and Southern Iraq.


There's also the psychological effect on the troops isolated in the forts. The French Foreign Legion had a term for it, "Le Cafard"--the bug. Soldiers would simply go insane from the stress.

A similar situation existed for the English troops manning castles in occupied Scotland in the Middle Ages. One castle was so vulnerable as to rate the name, "Castle Perilous." The story goes that one English noble, Sir John Wilton, took command to win the hand of a lady--only to be killed by the Scot James of Douglas like his two English predecessors!

Duncan Kinder
Lunch clunch Brunch munch Those health food snobs Can take a punch.

Machiavelli discussed this problem in The Prince, where he states that it is relatively easy to conquer a country that is like one's own but to conquer a country that differs would be daunting.

As applied to today's world, it would be relatively easy to conquer Canada, more difficult to conquer Mexico - as for Iraq: we entered into the thing actually intending, by "democratizing" the place, to change it, chanting "What went wrong?" about Islam.

Following Machiavelli's precepts, that would demand that we colonize the place.

Apparently from the Bush administration's failure to master Machiavelli, we may conclude that it is indeed so conservative that it actually is more than 500 years out of date.


I think that the Bush administration has exactly one winning strategy in Iraq:

Produce a casus belli so ghastly that it enables them to re-institute the draft.

It would have to take place on American soil. It would have to match or exceed the Twin Towers.

And it would have to have occurred in the context of perfect security.

And the culprit would have to be known immediately.

Go for it, Dick!

Peter Principle

Tim G: "What I see as the major challenge in this war-- the invinsible ignorance of military matters that permiates the civilian world, especially the American left."

Does he mean as opposed to the brilliant military insights and strategic thinking of the conservative morons who got us into this mess?



Your point about breaching the garrison walls is true, and it's sad the general in question seems to have missed that possibility, but it may not even need to come to pass for disaster to strike. The garrisons could also simply be harrassed to death. Pardon me if this point has been made, or if it's too obvious:

Installing mini-garrisons into hostile neighborhoods with so few pacification carrots serves to negate the overwhelming advantage in firepower, and the considerable advantage in manoevre, which our ground forces are designed to hold at their core.

Putting professional soldiers into these forts is nothing short of criminal. They're not even useful for "bait-and-destroy," because they encourage dispersion and steady nuisance resistance. Our soldiers become static targets waiting to either run out the clock, get wasted, rescued, or get extracted. Or go twitching mad.

All you'd have to do to generate a wasteful response from the garrisons and rescue/reinforcement elements would be to get a few friends with light weapons, some surgical tubing, a dog food bowl, and catapult some molotov cocktails at it most every night. Or mortars. Or pot-shots. The recreational RPG. Or the occasional suicide bomber. All backed up by daytime stares.

By pressuring such an occupation structure lightly but steadily, forcing responses out of it, an adversary can provoke the whole logistical structure to grind itself to bits while it runs around trying to defend these damned forts. At comparatively little cost to the adversary in insurgent casualties or equipment.

The Iraqi insurgency needs not scale up into squad or platoon-level concentrations to win by overwhelming specific garrisons. While losing forts like that would be a tremendous loss of prestige, the insurgency can also win by keeping its operations on a micro-logistical scale and overwhelm what's supporting the entire fort system. Maybe in the same amount of time. Or, when the support system has tired and there's been plenty of time to probe, map, and measure weakness in response, then comes the breach and the assault.

The sheer asymmetry of expenditure and result almost guarantees total force exhaustion. And once we pull out of one fort, we've demonstrated our own defeat. I don't see how this can possibly succeed.

TR Stone

David (Axis of Evil) Frum in today’s Financial Times quotes the following in his article-

“Mr Bush's principal concern is that Iraq policy will increasingly be driven by a rebellious Congress and by army generals on the ground.”

Wow, can the Congress and the Generals come to an accomadation about the future of this war. The military knows that they are "broken, if not badly bent".

Maybe we should be investing in people and equipment that runs on the ground, not in the air (unless it supports directly, the ground forces), under the seas, or the next generation of nuclear warheads.

P.S. How is the next quadrennial review coming along, as the last was spot on.


Sir Walter Scott called "Castle Perilous" - Douglas Castle - "Castle Dangerous".

"The Douglas family built the first Douglas Castle, which was constructed of either wood or stone, sometime before 1288. In 1307, during the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured and garrisoned by the English under Lord Clifford. Sir James Douglas, companion of Robert the Bruce successfully recaptured his family seat by storming the castle on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel. He had the garrison killed and thrown into a cellar, before the structure was burned. The event has become known as 'Douglas's larder'." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Castle

Let's hope the bad guys aren't reading much Scott - or Scottish history.

"Bruce was joined by friends and followers, and the English were compelled to keep their garrisons; until Sir Henry Percy, instead of making head against the invader, deemed it necessary to evacuate Turnberry Castle, and retreat to England. James Douglas penetrated into his own country in disguise, and collecting some of his ancient followers, surprised the English garrison placed by Lord Clifford in Douglas Castle, and putting the garrison to the sword, mingled the mangled bodies with a large stock of provisions which the English had amassed, and set fire to the castle. The country people to this day call this exploit the Douglas's larder.

"The efforts of Bruce were not uniformly successful. Two of his brothers, Thomas and Alexander, had landed in Galloway, but were defeated and made prisoners by Roland Macdougal, a chief of that country who was devoted to England. He sent the unfortunate brothers to Edward, who executed them both, and became thus accountable to Bruce for the death of three of his brethren. This accident rendered the king's condition more precarious than it had been, and encouraged the Gallovidians to make many attempts against his person, in some of which they made use of bloodhounds. At one time he escaped so narrowly that his banner was taken, and, as it happened, by his own nephew, Thomas Randolph, then employed in the ranks of the English. When pressed upon on this and similar occasions, it was the custom of Bruce to elude the efforts of the enemy by dispersing his followers, who, each shifting for himself, knew where to meet again at some place of rendezvous, and often surprised and put to the sword some part of the enemy which were lying in full assurance of safety.

"At length, after repeated actions and a long series of marching and counter-marching, Pembroke was forced to abandon Ayrshire to the Bruce, as Percy had done before him. Douglas on his part was successful in Lanarkshire, and the numerous patriots resumed the courage which they had possessed under Wallace. A battle was fought at Loudoun Hill, in consequence of an express appointment, between Bruce and his old enemy, the Earl of Pembroke, who was returning to the west with considerable reinforcements, the 10th of May, 1307, in which the Scottish king completely avenged the defeat at Methven. Pembroke fled to Ayr, in which place of refuge the Earl of Gloucester was also forced to seek safety. By these and similar skirmishes, in which his perfect knowledge of the principles of partisan warfare enabled him to take every advantage afforded by the excellence of his intelligence arising from the goodwill of the country, or by circumstances of ground, weather, weapons, and the like, the Scottish king gradually accustomed his men to repose so much confidence in his skill and wisdom that his orders for battle were regarded as a call to assured victory. He himself, James Douglas, and others among his followers, displayed at the same time all that personal and chivalrous valor, which the manners of the age demanded of a leader, and which often restored a battle when well-nigh lost. It was to these latter qualities also, as well as to precaution and sagacity, that Bruce was indebted for his escape from several treacherous attempts to take away his life, by the friends of the slaughtered Comyn, or the adherents of the king of England. Several of such assassins were slain by Robert with his own hand; and a general opinion, long suppressed by the former course of adverse events, began to be entertained through Scotland, that Heaven, in the hour of utmost need, had raised up in the heir of the Scottish throne a prince destined by Providence to deliver his country, and that no weapon forged against him should prosper."


History certainly does not repeat itself but there are striking echoes, not least in the amazingly patronising comments of those who have forgotten (or never knew) how our own "advanced" state is constructed on a shambles.


Tim G,

"what I see as the major challenge in this war--the invinsible ignorance of military matters that permiates the civilian world, especially the American left."

I'd argue instead that the ignorance of military matters on the American right, who treat the military as if it were a video game, and currently have their hands on the switches of power, continues to be the much greater threat. That people like Perle, Wolfowitz, Frum, Cheney, Kristol et al, who have never served a day in their lives, yet retain positions of influence, is the much greater danger to our civilization.

The American left....not so much.


What does everyone think of this:

"It wasn't a question of guts," [Olmert] said. "Everyone showed courage in battle. But something in how we operated our forces, something in how we controlled them, wasn't what we had expected - and there is no doubt that this created a gap between what we could achieve and what we actually achieved."

I don't think in my entire life I have ever read anything more despicable.

Tim G

McGee/Peter Principle

The people comprising the American right that you've listed are stupid or dense; you can pick.

Wanderer's remarks displayed ignorance of military culture.

Both are dangerous.

"The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander must make is to establish...the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.---Clausewitz"


"It wasn't a question of guts," [Olmert] said. "Everyone showed courage in battle. But something in how we operated our forces, something in how we controlled them, wasn't what we had expected - and there is no doubt that this created a gap between what we could achieve and what we actually achieved."

At the beginning of the summer war, when I saw all of those young, soft, idealistic Iraeli boys, I knew they'd be massacred by Hezbollah in a large-scale ground invasion. I think the Iraelis knew it, too.

TR Stone

I have seen few if any posts about the current conflict vis-a-vis WWI.

The military strategy maybe different, but the pigheadedness of the US leadership is similiar. Both Anglo leaderships had non-visionaries at the "decider" positions. America had a President then, and if you believe the pronouncements, again has a president, who wants to spread democracy to the masses(especially if they have oil).

90 years ago the combatant governments were looking backwards to a time that was percieved to be more stable than the time of the mid 19-teens, thus battleplans could be set to that percieved time (fighting the last war).

The present American neocon administration has that same faulty perception, a time that was more stable and more amenable to the world's leader (strongman). Our soldiers may not be charginging the machine guns at the Somme, but these tactics are just as futile. Advances in medical science has limited mass casualties to a smaller number of deaths against catastrophic injuries which are evident today and will be more so in the future.

The results are the same, a large amount of troops to be sacrificed on the alter of a limited vision of the battle!

Unfortunately, history is a tough evaluator of facts. This present admin may think they are the masters of today's reality, but tomorrow brings a new reality that is more enduring than the spin that passes for today's truth.


Here's some comic relief from an article about the U.S. attempt to use fake grafitti in the Sunni areas to cause fighting between segments of the insurgents:

"Many of the (Iraqi First Battalion) police are well-practiced themselves, having sprayed messages like ...."THE FIRST BATTALION ARE HEROES" on the blast walls surrounding their bases and compounds."


Here's another angle - literally - to consider, that of the locals surrounding such posts.

From the USG Open Source translations of Iraqi media posted at Juan Cole today, comes this consideration. Surely its applicable to the situation - of the posts themselves - and in general.

"Tariq al-Sha'b runs on the front page a 450-word report on the demonstration staged by Basra residents living near the British Consulate yesterday, 9 May, demanding the transfer of the consulate to another place to avoid the continuous random shelling in their district. . ."

Wonder if the locals, the object of the exercise - after Pat's troop imperative to survive, that is - are consulted when abandoned schools and the like are fortified in expectation of defensive combat?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad