Friday, January 12, 2007

Binary Choices

A society with a billion dollar fast food industry is always short on time.

Michael, in a reply to Bill Roggio's article, Iraq: The Greatest Enemy is Time

Iraq is not simple. The war on terror is not simple. And no matter how hard our fellow bloggers and television pundits and Washington politicians try to KISS us off ("Keep It Simple, Stupid"), the real issues are complex and the solutions difficult.

Bill Roggio said it best in his really superb article Iraq: The Greatest Enemy is Time, originally published in Die Weltwoche, but thoughtfully translated into English and reprinted in his blog by the author himself.

As President Bush unveiled his new vision to move forward on Iraq, the political debate in the United States has continuously degenerated into a simple, binary choice of withdrawal to prevent further American casualties, or surge more troops to attempt to restore order in Baghdad.

I would be hard pressed to be more disgusted with the level of political posturing in Washington over the last two day. Democrats, nearly all of whom are running fro President, have pontificated endlessly in front of their supposed "witnesses," while barely able to put together an intelligent sentence, let alone a reasonable question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has now assured us that the Democrats don't need to come up with any ideas at all. "That's the President's job," he assured television reporters today.

I feel so much better now understanding his only responsibility is to insult the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. I am quite certain it is the only job for which Mr. Reid is qualified.

So we have President Bush's reasonably well laid out plan for the next several months in Iraq. In 22 minutes on national television Bush was pretty clear. And further details and specifics have come over the last two days.

And we have the Democrat's alternative of attacking the President for the next six months. Hold hearings. Attack and insult witnesses. Hold meaningless straw votes. Talk vaguely about some sort of troop withdrawal.

And the key Democrat strategy, of course, will be to distance themselves from real and very brave leaders like John Murtha and Edward Kennedy, who have specific plans and proposals and aren't afraid to state them.

The real situation in Iraq demands more. Bill Roggio's thoughtful article about a possible future for Iraq was developed after he spent two months embedded with the US troops in the Anbar Provence.

After spending two months out of the last 12 in the land between the two rivers, one thing I've learned is nothing is simple about Iraq, and there are no easy solutions to the vast array of problems. But despite the constant media portrayal of Iraq as a hopelessly violent nation, Iraq is not a nation without hope.

The average life of an insurgency is about nine years. In Iraq, the insurgents and al-Qaeda hope to wear down the will of the American government and people, and precipitate a premature withdrawal.

Roggio is not unbiased. Those who have read his blog, articles or seen or heard him, know he is a hawk in the war on terror. He sees a real threat. And he believes in real solutions.

But he is knowledgeable and he researches and studies his subject with discipline. His opinions must not be dismissed out of hand.

When I talk to American troops about Iraq, their greatest concern isn't for their safety, but they are worried the American public has given up on the war before they can complete their mission. They watch the news - CNN, MSNBC and FOX News are beamed into the mess halls, some even possess satellite dishes with access to BBC World, Al Jazeera and hundreds of programs at their fingertips. Internet is readily available in many areas. I surfed the web in the center of Fallujah on wireless Internet.

American troops watch the news and follow the debate in real time. They will tell you the war they see on television isn't the war they are fighting. To the troops, the war as portrayed on television is oversimplified and digested into sound bites. The soldiers are portrayed as victims and the violence is grossly exaggerated.

From my own experiences with two months in Iraq out of a year, I had not personally witnessed an ambush, a roadside bombing or other attack. The closest action I saw were some poorly aimed mortar attacks in Fallujah, or a near by patrol getting hit (the bullets and RPGs never made contact). And this is in Anbar province, the most dangerous region in Iraq. I make it a point to accompany the troops on foot and mounted patrols on daily basis.

We can not and should not dismiss the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was miscalculated and grossly mishandled. It's possible, even likely, that it should never have even occurred in the first place. Nothing that I write here or that Bill Roggio writes should be seen as a vindication or even an exoneration of George Bush and his team.

But is walking away, hat (and troops) in hand even a remotely acceptable answer to the mess we are in?

Senator John McCain went on his own offensive today against the grandstanding Democrats. The quotes below are from
the Associated Press article here:

"I believe that together these moves will give the Iraqis and Americans the best chance of success," said McCain, R-Ariz., a leading presidential contender for 2008.

McCain also took a shot at Democrats who say the United States must bring some troops home within four to six months.

"I believe these individuals ... have a responsibility to tell us what they believe are the consequences of withdrawal in Iraq," he said. "If we walk away from Iraq, we'll be back, possibly in the context of a wider war in the world's most volatile region."

What are the costs of withdrawal? How many Iraqi's are we willing to sacrifice?

Let's return to Roggio's article.

The nature of the insurgency in Iraq is complex, and cannot be simply framed as a sectarian war or a war against "U.S. occupation." The insurgency is designed to destroy any semblance of a democratically elected Iraqi government, and is directed at the developing Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi government and institutions, U.S. and Coalition forces, and against sectarian targets.
In Anbar province, where I embedded in the city of Fallujah last December, sectarian violence is virtually non-existent. In fact, Sunni tribes have rallied to protect their Shia neighbors numerous times in the past and drove of al-Qaeda attempts to 'cleanse' the region of Shia. Al-Qaeda blood ran in the streets the few times they tried to purge the Shia from Ramadi.

In Fallujah, Ramadi and greater Anbar province, Al-Qaeda in Iraq the most dominant insurgent organization. Al-Qaeda focuses its attacks on Iraqi government security forces, government institutions, as well as U.S. Army and Marine units operating in the region. Their ability to fund the insurgency in the impoverished province is their greatest weapon. Unemployed Sunnis are a paid well (as much of $1,000 according to a military intelligence source) to attack Iraqi and Coalition forces. While there is a large volume of insurgent attacks, the large majority of attacks fail.

Inside Fallujah, there is no U.S. Marine or Army presence, save the members of the Police and Military Transition Teams – small, 15 to 20 man teams that are embedded within the police and Army units. I embedded as a reporter with both the Police and Military Transition Teams in Fallujah. The Marines in these teams take great risk in dong their daily job. They live, eat and sleep with their Iraqi counterparts, and are wholly dependent on them for security. Their American backup is stationed outside the city limits.

As brave as the American Marines are, their Iraqi counterparts outshine them. The police, who are local to the city, are specifically targeted by insurgents. Since the late summer, 21 Iraqi police were murdered by insurgents. Their families are regularly threatened with violence. Several police officers told me how that while they were home they would sit with their backs to the door, AK-47 in hand, as they feared their homes would be stormed and their families would be killed.

This is quite a different picture than we see in our national media.

Can this Iraqi force develop and grow? Is there a future for the elected Iraqi government? Will threats of scheduled troop pullouts help the fledgling Iraqi police and military?

The [Iraqi] police and soldiers do their jobs with very little resources. Some haven't been paid in a year. Supplies and equipment such as helmets, bullet proof vests, uniforms and batteries are in high demand demand, as the Iraqi Army logistical system is broken. The police just received armor Humvees to patrol the city, and have been up-armoring their pickup trucks with scrap armor kits. Despite these problems, morale and fighting spirit are not an issue. In fact, the police and Army believe that, if given the right equipment, they can defeat the insurgents without U.S. help.

Nationwide, the Iraqi Army and Police clearly are not ready to fight the insurgents and militias on their own. Baghdad and Ramadi are clearly two cities where the police and Army would collapse without U.S. backing. But the police and soldiers in Fallujah believe they can. Pride, courage and fighting spirit are certainly traits these soldiers do not lack.

They will need time to develop the capacity to fight on their own, and time is the one commodity the West seems to be short of.

From the very day the Coalition invaded Iraq I have said that we cannot win. We have superior fighting force. We have vastly superior weapons and logistical supply lines. We have talent and military knowledge. And we have great soldiers.

We can't win because we lack the patience and persistence to win. Our will was strong on day one. But we like six day wars. We want everybody home on Sundays.

There are dozens (perhaps hundreds or hundreds of thousands) of reasons why President Bush should not have embarked on this folly. For a man who so adamantly campaigned against the concept of nation building back in the fall of 1999, Bush began one of the toughest projects ever attempted.

But, having embarked on this tragic adventure, our problem today is that Al-Qaeda or Syria or Iran (or the Shi'ites or perhaps even the Sunni's) have the ultimate weapon we lack. Time.





Vigilante said...

So we have President Bush's reasonably well laid out plan for the next several months in Iraq. In 22 minutes on national television Bush was pretty clear.

Have another glass of Kool-Aid, Wizard.

Bob Keller said...

You know, vigilante, I watched Bush's address and then I read the White House released transcript of his speech and I daresay I understood every word.

It was clear, logical, concise and well presented (for Bush).

Understanding IS NOT the same as agreeing. As I stated in this earlier entry I am very concerned about his approach.

But the vast majority of Democrats offer absolutely NO ALTERNATIVE. They quip in seven word sound bites (the supposed maximum number of words for inclusion in the netword news) and they whine and they posture and preen.

Your anger should be rightfully directed at this inane and inept group of unprincipled oposition leaders.

the Wizard.....

Vigilante said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vigilante said...

Wizard, I'm not an apologist for Democrats. (You must have me confused with someone else.) Murtha, Kennedy, and HAGEL have the right idea, at least they're leading in the right direction.

John said...

I like your new font.

Vigilante said...

Wizard, as I do not hold elective office, I do not distract myself with partisan politics. Country over party is my slogan. I will switch parties in a heartbeat, according to where the talent is that sees the national interest where I do.

My post today parallels your binary choices to a remarkable degree. I have yet to give up to reaching you, my friend. You have a good heart and strong voice.