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  • Iraq: A New Strategy

    Again, I could not resist but post Stratfor's latest analysis. They propose quite an innovative and original way for the US forces to deal with the crisis and the ongoing occupation of Iraq. I found the idea interesting, now that's a plan! It's a long read but it's worth the time:

    THE STRATFOR WEEKLY

    17 May 2004

    Iraq: New Strategies

    By George Friedman

    Last week, Stratfor published an analysis, "The Edge of the Razor," that sketched out the problems facing the United States in Iraq. In an avalanche of responses, one important theme stood out: Readers wanted to know what we would do, if we were in a position to do anything. Put differently, it is easy to catalogue problems, more difficult to provide solutions.

    The point is not only absolutely true, but lies at the heart of intelligence. Intelligence organizations should not give policy suggestions. First, the craft of intelligence and state-craft are very different things. Second, and far more important, intelligence professionals should always resist the temptation to become policy advocates because, being mostly human, intelligence analysts want to be right -- and when they are advocates of a strategy, they will be tempted to find evidence that proves that policy to be correct and ignore evidence that might prove the policy in error. Advocating policies impairs the critical faculties. Besides, in a world in which opinions are commonplace, there is a rare value in withholding opinions. Finally, intelligence, as a profession, should be neutral. Now, we are far from personally neutral in any affecting our country, but in our professional -- as opposed to our personal lives -- our task is look at the world through the eyes of all of the players. Suggesting a strategy for defeating one side makes that obviously difficult.

    That said, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We normally try to figure out what is going to happen, what other people are going to do -- whether they know it or not -- and explain the actions of others. At times, people confuse Stratfor's analysis for our political position. This time -- this once -- we will write for ourselves -- or more precisely, for myself, since at Stratfor our views on the war range even wider than those among the general public.



    The Mission

    The United States' invasion of Iraq was not a great idea. Its only virtue was that it was the best available idea among a series of even worse ideas. In the spring of 2003, the United States had no way to engage or defeat al Qaeda. The only way to achieve that was to force Saudi Arabia -- and lesser enabling countries such as Iran and Syria -- to change their policies on al Qaeda and crack down on its financial and logistical systems. In order to do that, the United States needed two things. First, it had to demonstrate its will and competence in waging war -- something seriously doubted by many in the Islamic world and elsewhere. Second, it had to be in a position to threaten follow- on actions in the region.

    There were many drawbacks to the invasion, ranging from the need to occupy a large and complex country to the difficulty of gathering intelligence. Unlike many, we expected extended resistance in Iraq, although we did not expect the complexity of the guerrilla war that emerged. Moreover, we understood that the invasion would generate hostility toward the United States within the Islamic world, but we felt this would be compensated by dramatic shifts in the behavior of governments in the region. All of this has happened.

    The essential point is that the invasion of Iraq was not and never should have been thought of as an end in itself. Iraq's only importance was its geographic location: It is the most strategically located country between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. The United States needed it as a base of operations and a lever against the Saudis and others, but it had no interest

    -- or should have had no interest -- in the internal governance of Iraq.

    This is the critical point on which the mission became complex, and the worst conceivable thing in a military operation took

    place: mission creep. Rather than focus on the follow-on operations that had to be undertaken against al Qaeda, the Bush administration created a new goal: the occupation and administration of Iraq by the United States, with most of the burden falling on the U.S. military. More important, the United States also dismantled the Iraqi government bureaucracy and military under the principle that de-Baathification had to be accomplished. Over time, this evolved to a new mission: the creation of democracy in Iraq.

    Under the best of circumstances, this was not something the United States had the resources to achieve. Iraq is a complex and multi-layered society with many competing interests. The idea that the United States would be able to effectively preside over this society, shepherding it to democracy, was difficult to conceive even in the best of circumstances. Under the circumstances that began to emerge only days after the fall of Baghdad, it was an unachievable goal and an impossible mission. The creation of a viable democracy in the midst of a civil war, even if Iraqi society were amenable to copying American institutions, was an impossibility. The one thing that should have been learned in Vietnam was that the evolution of political institutions in the midst of a sustained guerrilla war is impossible.

    The administration pursued this goal for a single reason: From the beginning, it consistently underestimated the Iraqis' capability to resist the United States. It underestimated the tenacity, courage and cleverness of the Sunni guerrillas. It underestimated the political sophistication of the Shiite leadership. It underestimated the forms of military and political resistance that would limit what the United States could achieve. In my view, the underestimation of the enemy in Iraq is the greatest failure of this administration, and the one for which the media rarely hold it accountable.

    This miscalculation drew the U.S. Army into the two types of warfare for which it is least suited.

    First, it drew the Army into the cities, where the work of reconstruction -- physical and political -- had to be carried out. Having dismantled Iraqi military and police institutions, the Army found itself in the role of policing the cities. This would have been difficult enough had there not been a guerrilla war. With a guerrilla war -- much of it concentrated in heavily urbanized areas and the roads connecting cities -- the Army found itself trapped in low-intensity urban warfare in which its technical advantages dissolved and the political consequences of successful counterattacks outweighed the value of defeating the guerrillas. Destroying three blocks of Baghdad to take out a guerrilla squad made military sense, but no political sense. The Army could neither act effectively nor withdraw.

    Second, the Army was lured into counterinsurgency warfare. No subject has been studied more extensively by the U.S. Army, and no subject remains as opaque. The guerrilla seeks to embed himself among the general population. Distinguishing him is virtually impossible, particularly for a 20-year-old soldier or Marine who speaks not a word of the language nor understands the social cues that might guide him. In this circumstance, the soldier is simply a target, a casualty waiting to happen.

    The usual solution is to raise an indigenous force to fight the guerrillas. The problem is that the most eager recruits for this force are the guerrillas themselves: They not only get great intelligence, but weapons, ammunition and three square meals a day. Sometimes, pre-existing militias are used, via a political arrangement. But these militias have very different agendas than those of the occupying force, and frequently maneuver the occupier into doing their job for them.

    Strategies

    The United States must begin by recognizing that it cannot possibly pacify Iraq with the force available or, for that matter, with a larger military force. It can continue to patrol, it can continue to question people, it can continue to take casualties. However, it can never permanently defeat the guerrilla forces in the Sunni triangle using this strategy. It certainly cannot displace the power and authority of the Shiite leadership in the south. Urban warfare and counterinsurgency in the Iraqi environment cannot be successful.

    This means the goal of reshaping Iraqi society is beyond the reach of the United States. Iraq is what it is. The United States, having performed the service of removing Saddam Hussein from power, cannot reshape a society that has millennia of layers. The attempt to do so will generate resistance -- while that resistance can be endured, it cannot be suppressed.

    The United States must recall its original mission, which was to occupy Iraq in order to prosecute the war against al Qaeda. If that mission is remembered, and the mission creep of reshaping Iraq forgotten, some obvious strategic solutions re-emerge. The first, and most important, is that the United States has no national interest in the nature of Iraqi government or society. Except for not supporting al Qaeda, Iraq's government does not matter. Since the Iraqi Shia have an inherent aversion to Wahabbi al Qaeda, the political path on that is fairly clear.

    The United States now cannot withdraw from Iraq. We can wonder about the wisdom of the invasion, but a withdrawal under pressure would be used by al Qaeda and radical Islamists as demonstration of their core point: that the United States is inherently weak and, like the Soviet Union, ripe for defeat. Having gone in, withdrawal in the near term is not an option.

    That does not mean U.S. forces must be positioned in and near urban areas. There is a major repositioning under way to reduce the size of the U.S. presence in the cities, but there is, nevertheless, a more fundamental shift to be made. The United States undertook responsibility for security in Iraq after its invasion. It cannot carry out this mission. Therefore, it has to abandon the mission. Some might argue this would leave a vacuum. We would argue there already is a vacuum, filled only with American and coalition targets. It is not a question of creating anarchy; anarchy already exists. It is a question of whether the United States wishes to lose soldiers in an anarchic situation.

    The geography of Iraq provides a solution.

    Click here to see Potential U.S. Basing Locations

    http://www.stratfor.com/iraq_map.neo

    The bulk of Iraq's population lives in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. To the south and west of the Euphrates River, there is a vast and relatively uninhabited region of Iraq -- not very hospitable, but with less shooting than on the other side. The western half of Iraq borders Saudi Arabia and Syria, two of the countries about which the United States harbors the most concern. A withdrawal from the river basins would allow the United States to carry out its primary mission -- maintaining regional pressure -- without engaging in an impossible war. Moreover, in the Kurdish regions of the northeast, where U.S. Special Forces have operated for a very long time, U.S. forces could be based -- and supplied -- in order to maintain a presence on the Iranian border.

    Iraq should then be encouraged to develop a Shiite-dominated government, the best guarantor against al Qaeda and the greatest incentive for the Iranians not to destabilize the situation. The fate of the Sunnis will rest in the deal they can negotiate with the Shia and Kurds -- and, as they say, that is their problem.

    The United States could supply the forces in western and southern Iraq from Kuwait, without the fear that convoy routes would be cut in urban areas. In the relatively uninhabited regions, distinguishing guerrillas from rocks would be somewhat easier than distinguishing them from innocent bystanders. The force could, if it chose, execute a broad crescent around Iraq, touching all the borders but not the populations.

    The Iraqi government might demand at some point that the United States withdraw, but they would have no way to impose their demand, as they would if U.S. forces could continue to be picked off with improvised explosive devices and sniper fire. The geographical move would help to insulate U.S. forces from even this demand, assuming political arrangements could not be made. Certainly the land is inhospitable, and serious engineering and logistical efforts would be required to accommodate basing for large numbers of troops. However, large numbers of troops might not be necessary -- and the engineering and logistical problems certainly will not make headlines around the world.

    Cutting Losses

    Certainly, as a psychological matter, there is a retreat. The United States would be cutting losses. But it has no choice. It will not be able to defeat the insurgencies it faces without heavy casualties and creating chaos in Iraqi society. Moreover, a victory in this war would not provide the United States with anything that is in its national interest. Unless you are an ideologue -- which I am not -- who believes bringing American- style democracy to the world is a holy mission, it follows that the nature of the Iraqi government -- or chaos -- does not affect me.

    What does affect me is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is trying to kill me. Countries such as Saudi Arabia permitted al Qaeda to flourish. The presence of a couple of U.S. armored divisions along the kingdom's northern border has been a very sobering thought. That pressure cannot be removed. Whatever chaos there is in Saudi Arabia, that is the key to breaking al Qaeda -- not Baghdad.

    The key to al Qaeda is in Riyadh and in Islamabad. The invasion of Iraq was a stepping-stone toward policy change in Riyadh, and it worked. The pressure must be maintained and now extended to Islamabad. However, the war was never about Baghdad, and certainly never about Al Fallujah and An Najaf. Muqtada al-Sadr's relationship to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the makeup of the elders in Al Fallujah are matters of utter and absolute indifference to the United States. Getting drawn into those fights is in fact the quagmire -- a word we use carefully and deliberately.

    But in the desert west and south of the Euphrates, the United States can carry out the real mission for which it came. And if the arc of responsibility extends along the Turkish frontier to Kurdistan, that is a manageable mission creep. The United States should not get out of Iraq. It must get out of Baghdad, Al Fallujah, An Najaf and the other sinkholes into which the administration's policies have thrown U.S. soldiers.

    Again, this differs from our normal analysis in offering policy prescriptions. This is, of course, a very high-level sketch of a solution to an extraordinarily complex situation. Nevertheless, sometimes the solution to complex situations is to simplify them.


  • #2
    There is an increasing number of voices claiming that the case for WMDs was fabricated by the former favorite of the Pentagon, and US advisor Chalabi. It's not that the Bush administration had no reasons besides Chalabi's stories to deal with Saddam, but it's possible the "intelligence" provided by him tipped the scale in favor of the invasion. Some people describe him as a excessively ambitious person who used the US military to get rid of Saddam for his own benefit. As far as I know Mr. Chalabi was convicted of some kind of fraud or racketeering and sentenced in absentia. Some people had said at the start that he could not be trusted.

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/...ain/index.html

    BTW, this article confirms things I had suspected at the start-that the war in Iraq was meant to be a demonstration of force & resolve and little else. Prior to and immediately after 9/11 the image of America in the Islamic world was that of a corrupt and lazy nation afraid of sacrifices. A nation led by president who masturbated women with a cigar in the Oval Room and waged war by ineffective cruise missile strikes.

    It is good that the Islamic hate of America has risen to new heights-it's part of the cure, the bitter medication they will have to swallow as they reevaluate their opportunities and limitations in their relationship with USA.
    Last edited by MonsterZero; 20 May 04, 17:17.

    "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
    --Frederick II, King of Prussia

    Comment


    • #3
      Tzar I found your post very interesting and thought-provoking. In my opinion the US is acting in a way that is difficult for the world, or at least me, to understand. I believe the US is by its actions and lack of clarity and credibility about its fundamental policy, about to lose the PR war, and as a result, maybe also the war (or what shall I call it) on the ground and whatever it is the US is trying to achieve.

      I read in yesterday's paper a review on a book written by a Mr. James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: the History of Bush's War Cabinet. I provide a link to another review of the same book.

      As far I as understood the review, there is a deep and old underlying agenda in the Bush entourage. They have staged a historic paradigmic shift, actively seeking to enforce democracy globally, among other things...

      Has anyone read the book and could comment on it?

      http://www.iht.com/articles/509424.html
      "You can't change the rules in the middle of the game."
      "Hey, you just made that rule up."


      Heil Dicke Bertha!

      Comment


      • #4
        Tzar,
        Outstanding, very logically reasoned.
        I concur.
        Unite your forces in space & time, split the enemy forces spatially & defeat them at different times - Rommel

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        • #5
          I agree that Saudi Arabia is the key to fighting Al Qeada/Islamic terrorism, and not Iraq. 17 or 19 Sept 11th hijackers were Saudis, Bin Laden and Al Qeada originate from Saudi Arabia, etc. I don't understand why many people still fail to see the connection.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Martin Schenkel
            I agree that Saudi Arabia is the key to fighting Al Qeada/Islamic terrorism, and not Iraq. 17 or 19 Sept 11th hijackers were Saudis, Bin Laden and Al Qeada originate from Saudi Arabia, etc. I don't understand why many people still fail to see the connection.
            Because US and Saudi Arabia have been reasonalby close allies since the First Gulf War and the US has valuable bases in that country. If it weren't for the Saudi-American ties forged during Desert Storm years S. Arabia would have been targetted for economic sanctions at best, an invasion at worst.

            "Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a ugly brawl."
            --Frederick II, King of Prussia

            Comment


            • #7
              Interesting article. I do disagree with it on some central points though.

              Mission:

              It is in the interest of the United States to support the establishment of a popular government in Iraq. Whether or not that government is favorable to the United States is less relevant. What is critical is that any new government will not seek to exploit its resources and geographical position to threaten the vital interest of the United States.

              The Bush Administration seems convinced that democracy is the only acceptable solution for the basis of an Iraqi government. This is unrealistic and imperalistic. I believe almost any form of government that represents the people, and illustrates a good faith toward international law would likely not pose a threat to American interest in the Middle East, and will serve to deter the expansion of those ideals that could give rise to conflict. It should be enough if Iraqis simply don't seek to kill us. Whether or not they shake our hand or have nice things to say about us is less relevant.

              These conditions should not infringe on Iraq's soveriegnty. They simply reinforce those ideals which are shared by everyone, including Iraqis. (Not threatening neighbors. Agreeing to respect the Geneva Convention, etc.)

              Strategy:

              Pulling back, so to speak, is counterproductive. Iraqis currently look to Coalition troops for some kind of security, even if it is less popular. Building forts in the desert while Iraqis fall victim to disorder and chaos will likely invoke greater resentment, and lead to instructions to withdraw.

              It is better if the Coalition accepts the role of peace enforcement. This means abandoning the counter-insurgency aspect and focusing more on reconstruction, development, and "point-defense" (attack only when attacked by a clearly defined target).

              America should rely on it's economic power rather than military force. The terrorists can't afford to rebuild communities and stimulate the economy. We can (sort of). I truly believe if the US simply accepted the high price of reconstruction and employ a clear economic plan, Iraqis will be more receptive and patient. Tens of thousands of foriegn contractors are in Iraq performing jobs that could be accomplished by the local population for less. Loans and grants to businesses could also be useful. A small tax can be levied on the people which would go toward community improvements decided by the people in local votes. (aka Want to build a mosque, but need people to move, taxes could fund it.)

              We can not defeat the insurgents with weapons. However, we can turn the Iraqi people against them by showing the Iraqis we give a *amn.

              America must accept the reality of the situation, and responsibility for making sure we do all we can to improve the siuation. Running away will only prove the US didn't give a hoot in the first place, and don't care about what happens to Arabs. Despite the deteriorating situation, most Iraqis would be more supportive America was doing more to improve their individual problems. How can anyone care about elections when their kids are crying because they don't have the basic necessities? How can people express outrage at attacks against American forces when no one said anything when criminals kidnap, rob, kill, and terrorize the local population right in front of Coalition forces?

              We can either try to save our own *sses, or do something productive and try to save the *sses of others. Hopefully, at the end of the day Iraqis will not hate us to the point where killing Americans is justified.
              "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

              Comment


              • #8
                DH has some interesting points - can the the people of Iraq handle anything
                close to freedom? Rebuilding Iraq is a lofty goal but you need the intelligence to stop the perps - I think the biggest US error to date was the dismantling of the goverment - maybe a policy of total information disclosure from the Baathist's (SP) before resuming a position of authority? I'm finding it hard to believe how little info on the number & nationality of the resistance is being published - disinformation?
                Black & blue from the TOAW learning curve!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thats a nice 'nutshell' description of what needs to be done now DP, i agree. Do you think there is any chance of it happening with the current administration?
                  Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Iraq left to its own fate

                    Once in this Country we were left to our fate. Let the Iraqi's create their own anarchy or democracy. We just need to keep enough troops to ensure the future Iraq stays within its borders and to suppress any form of terrorism.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Temujin
                      Thats a nice 'nutshell' description of what needs to be done now DP, i agree. Do you think there is any chance of it happening with the current administration?
                      Nope I'm not hopeful Kerry will do better. Everytime the man speaks about Iraq, he seems to equate international involvement into paying for the effort. That is about as deplorable as Bush's "with us or against statement." Kerry simply wants to palm Iraq on the UN so he can move on to other things.
                      "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Deltapooh
                        Nope I'm not hopeful Kerry will do better. Everytime the man speaks about Iraq, he seems to equate international involvement into paying for the effort. That is about as deplorable as Bush's "with us or against statement." Kerry simply wants to palm Iraq on the UN so he can move on to other things.
                        Gloomy days!
                        Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Interesting article, I dont quite agree with it but at least it shows some new ideas how to look at thinks.

                          First: The Mission. It says that basically the USA invaded Iraq only to show its might and determination to fight AlQuaeda by demonstration Islamic states that they are willing to use force to achieve its goals. Uh, is Afghanistan already forgotten ? If any such example was needed... that was it! The USA attacked and defeated an islamic state who harbored and supported terrorists, it had wide international support and at least the goal of defeating the Taleban was easily achieved. So, if they needed to point out their strength and determination... that was it!
                          Iraq on the other hand was different, the USA went in without too much international support and the whole pre-Iraq situation made it clear that another US adventure (invasion of Syria??) would probably find no international support (except probably Israel) at all! In that matter it was actually showing a weakness. I dont think that there is any doubt that the US army could defeat Syrias army if it wanted to but as Iraq shows: winning the war doesn't guarantee achieving the objectives.
                          So, if the mission really was to show the strength of the USA (and not some dubious WMD hunt, installing a democracy or plain and simple securing ressources) it already failed.
                          The other argument that they simply needed a base in this strategic position is equally nebulous, they already have bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and as we all know if the US wanted to get some serious firepower into the region they could always assemble a few carrier groups in the gulf, another land based base was not needed.

                          Next is how to handle the situation, the main point of the article is that the US forces should leave the cities and retreat into the desert and dug in. Well, in my opinion this will fail, for one the US invaded and toppled the government so they are clearly in charge now and responsible for the civilians! If they are now abandoning the civilians, probably leading to chaos and civil war their international support would decrease to zero. Now if out of this chaos a new government emerges (no matter whether democratic, islamistic or another dictator), does anybody really belive that he would want US forces in his land any longer ? Forces that brought so much suffering to his ppl and than abandoned them and retreated into the desert to protect themself ? No way, the USA would probably be hated even more, even those that still support you now will turn against you and without support from the ppl in Iraq, what good would a US military force in the middle of the deser be?
                          As I said, if they needed some serious firepower they could always rely on their ari supperiority first and a situation were 100.000 grunts are needed to wage another war in the middle east is not likely. So IF they retreat from the cities they could aswell immediately leave the country alltogether, wouldn't make a difference.
                          "The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose."

                          Henry Alfred Kissinger

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Foggy
                            DH has some interesting points - can the the people of Iraq handle anything
                            close to freedom? Rebuilding Iraq is a lofty goal but you need the intelligence to stop the perps - I think the biggest US error to date was the dismantling of the goverment - maybe a policy of total information disclosure from the Baathist's (SP) before resuming a position of authority? I'm finding it hard to believe how little info on the number & nationality of the resistance is being published - disinformation?
                            I think the situation in Iraq is very hard. Originally (before war) it was a tyranny, and the governmental offices were build around it. As Saddam regime was destroyed, no one run this country in administration point of view, no police, no (local) offices, no strong political forces.

                            In Hungary the democratic changes were built on the original administration organization, and only slowly changed.
                            But in Iraq, first, must be built up a new (educated) administration down to the lowest level. After they getting in tune, can be see Iraq as ready to building democracy.

                            So I think not the military mission is now the most important but making a new administration. Germany, after the war, can be a model, but Germany was a strongly administered country before, so it was culturally easy to convert to democracy. But Iraq and the Iraqi people don't have much experience in that.
                            a brain cell

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              It's not unusual for occupying powers to pull back into protected military bases.

                              When the Irish Free State was established in 1922 the British retained a number of bases in the South known as the ''Treaty Ports'' which they kept until 1938.

                              Thye also kept a base in the ''Canal Zone'' in Egypt for some years after pulling out of that country. IIRC they left there in 1954 under some pressure from Nasser.

                              To this day they retain bases in Cyprus but thye will be reduced in size if and when that island is reunited.

                              Who knows maybe it might even happen in Ireland one day
                              http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

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