02 January 2008

Senator McCain's lost context

Senator McCain has a grand idea that *he* advocated the *right* military policy at the *right* time in Iraq. Shall we take a look and see at what he puts forth? From his website:

November 2003: "To win in Iraq, we should increase the number of forces in-country, including Marines and Special Forces, to conduct offensive operations. I believe we must have in place another full division, giving us the necessary manpower to conduct a focused counterinsurgency campaign across the Sunni triangle that seals off enemy operating areas, conducts search and destroy operations and holds territory. Such a strategy would be the kind of new mission General Sanchez agreed would require additional forces. It's a mystery to me why they are not forthcoming. We cannot achieve our political goals as long as a strategic region of Iraq is in a state of fundamental insecurity." (Sen. John McCain, Remarks To Council On Foreign Relations, Washington, DC 11/5/03)
Yes, there he is with counterinsurgency passing his lips in 2003! Lovely, isn't it, this 'oil drop' concept? Now, lets see how he *meant* that.

From the Council on Foreign Relations address by John McCain on U.S. Situation in Iraq and Afghanistan 05 NOV 2003:
Iraq is not Vietnam. There is no popular, widespread anti- colonial insurgency in Iraq. There are killers who prospered under the tyranny of Saddam and seek its restoration. Unlike in Vietnam, the Iraqi Ba'athists and terrorists who oppose us are not guerrilla fish swimming in a friendly sea of the people. Our opponents, who number only in the thousands in a country of 23 million, are despised by the vast majority of Iraqis. The vast majority of Iraqis share our goal of defeating the remnants of Saddam's regime and their terrorist allies.
The Ba'athist redentists, the guys who would not die, the ones who could not be pinned down. Remember them? Unfortunately even by then al Qaeda was already making its feelings known:
From Terror Knowledge Base: 22 MAR 2003 -Description: At least four people were killed, including an Australian cameraman, and nine others injured when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint in Sayed Sadiq. The bomber drove up to the car carrying cameraman, Paul Moran and another journalist Eric Campbell, both from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) and blew himself up. The extremist Ansar al-Islam group claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was carried out in retaliation for US air strikes against Ansar al-Islam strongholds.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: A car bomb stuck the al-Jumhuri hospital in the city of Mosul. It is unknown how many people were killed in this attack, however, in three attacks in Mosul on this day, about sixty-five people were killed (it is impossible to disaggregate the numbers for each individual attack). This attack, along with a series of others took place only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to the Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Tawhid and Jihad" claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, on an Islamic website. At the end of the day, over ninety people were killed and over 250 were injured.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: At least thirteen people, including two US soldiers were killed and at least seven others (all US soldiers) were injured when insurgents attacked a police station in Ba'qubah. This attack, along with a series of others took place only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to the Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Tawhid and Jihad" claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, on an Islamic website. At the end of the day, over ninety people were killed and over 250 were injured.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: A police station was attacked by insurgents in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. The damages and casualties were unknown, however this was one of a series of coordinated attacks throughout the country on this day, which killed over ninety people and injured 250 more. These attacks come only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to a new Iraqi interim government. The Tawhid and Jihad group, which is affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for this set of attacks.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: A car bomb exploded at the Iraqi Police Academy in Mosul. The specific number of casualties is unknown, however in three car bomb attacks in Mosul on this day, around sixty-five people were killed (it is impossible to disaggregate the specific numbers from each attack). This attack, along with a series of others took place only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to the Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Tawhid and Jihad" claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, on an Islamic website. At the end of the day, over ninety people were killed and over 250 were injured.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: Insurgents attacked a police station in Mahaweel. The amount of damages caused or the casualty numbers were unavailable, however, at the end of a series of coordinated attacks, over ninety people were dead and over 250 others injured. The weapon and tactic for this attack is unclear. This series of attacks comes only one week before a scheduled handover of power from the US government to an Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Tawhid and Jihad group, claimed responsibility for all the attacks.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: A car bomb attack struck two police stations in Mosul. The number of casualties caused by the blast is unknown, however in three attacks in Mosul on this day, around sixty-five people were killed. This attack, along with a series of others took place only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to the Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Tawhid and Jihad" claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, on an Islamic website. At the end of the day, over ninety people were killed and over 250 were injured.

24 JUN 2003 - Description: A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint in Baghdad, killing five people, including four Iraqi soldiers. This attack, along with a series of others took place only one week before the scheduled handover of power from the US government to the Iraqi interim government. A group affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the "Tawhid and Jihad" claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, on an Islamic website. At the end of the day, over ninety people were killed and over 250 were injured.

12 OCT 2003 - Description: A suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives outside the Baghdad Hotel housing Iraqi government leaders and US contractors. At least eight people, including the bomber, were killed and as many as forty others were wounded. The wounded included one member of Iraq's Governing Council and three Americans. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack.

From RFE/RL Archives at Global Security
31 OCT 2003 are multiple reports:


Car bombs nearly simultaneously ripped through the Iraqi capital on 27 October, targeting the Baghdad headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and three Iraqi police stations. A bomb attack at a fourth police station was averted.

At the ICRC headquarters in Baghdad, an Iraqi policeman told Radio Free Iraq (RFI) that at least 11 people were killed and 23 wounded in the bombing. He said that an ICRC ambulance packed with explosives crossed a security barrier outside the ICRC building. When Iraqi police fired at the driver, the vehicle rammed into an electricity generator outside the building and blew up.

Three Iraqi police stations in Baghdad were also attacked on 27 October, RFI reported. In one incident, a land cruiser packed with explosives detonated near a police station as Iraqi police attempted to stop it. Three to four police officers and an unconfirmed number of civilians were killed in that incident. The explosion caused severe damage to a nearby housing complex, RFI reported.

Police thwarted a fourth attack on a Baghdad police station when another land cruiser carrying three or four passengers attempted to hit the station. When police fired after the vehicle refused to stop, three of the vehicle's occupants escaped. The driver was shot and later transported to a nearby hospital where it was reported that he was of Syrian origin. Iraqi police later said that they were investigating his nationality, and that he might be Yemeni. Police found 17 kilograms of TNT and four small rockets inside the vehicle.

In all, the attacks killed at least 36 people, including one U.S. soldier. About 230 people were wounded, including six soldiers, international media reported. The attacks coincided with the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Muslims believe that God revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PENTAGON NAMES ANSAR AL-ISLAM AS MAIN THREAT IN IRAQ. The U.S. Defense Department has named the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam the key terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Iraq, AP reported on 23 October. Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, said U.S. forces are concentrating their efforts on Ansar militants.

U.S. and Kurdish forces destroyed an Ansar stronghold in northern Iraq in late March (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 28 March and 2 April 2003). It has been reported that Ansar militants subsequently dispersed to other parts of Iraq and reorganized. Schwartz said the United States has uncovered links between Ansar militants and former Ba'ath Party members, but added that "generally speaking, [Ansar members] are independent actors." (Kathleen Ridolfo)


By Kathleen Ridolfo

The Kuwaiti daily "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reported on 26 October that hundreds of Al-Qaeda fighters have entered Iraq from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia in recent months, and are working alongside Ba'athist elements in an effort to destabilize the country.

Citing sources close to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, the daily said that the number of Al-Qaeda militants in Iraq multiplied in mid-August, entering the country through four major routes. A number of Saudi Al-Qaeda fighters entered Iraq via Iran, the report claims, as did fighters from Pakistan and Afghanistan. From Iran, the fighters reportedly met up with Ansar Al-Islam militants in Iraqi Kurdistan, and then took up positions in the so-called Sunni Triangle towns of Al-Ramadi, Tikrit, Balad, and Al-Fallujah. While the number of Al-Qaeda fighters was initially estimated at between 600 and 800, "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reports that number has increased significantly in recent months.

According to "Al-Ra'y al-Amm," the Al-Qaeda fighters have formed two units, the "Jundullah" or warriors of God, and the "Al-Usud," or lions. The Al-Usud militants have reportedly taken up positions close to the Syrian border where they receive fighters from Central Asia, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Once regrouped, the militants carry out joint attacks on oil installations in Bayji and Mosul. The paper also cites U.S. military officials as saying that the militants attacking coalition forces in the Sunni Triangle area receive manpower and administrative support from Bedouin.


Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to France Sadegh Kharrazi confirmed to reporters in Paris on 28 October that there were links between Al-Qaeda and the military elements of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Ba'ath Party. "Unfortunately, it is to a certain extent normal to note that, because of this situation [in Iraq], there are now links being forged between Al-Qaeda and the military branch of the Ba'ath Party," Reuters quoted Kharrazi as saying. He added that Iran intends to bring to trial Al-Qaeda members "under Iranian law because they have committed crimes on our territory," CNN reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'a told London's "Sunday Telegraph" on 26 October that Syria is unable to prevent foreign militants from crossing its border into Iraq. "We are doing everything we can," he said, adding: "We have tightened our checkpoints and are turning people back. But the border is long and we cannot cover it all." Al-Shar'a then compared Syria's situation to America's inability to prevent Mexicans from crossing its borders illegally. The "Sunday Telegraph" also interviewed the muezzin of a Yarmouk mosque, who said that many Palestinians from the Yarmouk refugee camp had traveled to Iraq, and some had been killed there fighting U.S. soldiers. "I don't know how they cross the border," Wajih Ma'ud said. He added that the Palestinians were not receiving help from the Syrian government in entering Iraq.
I, apparently, remember a *different* Iraq with a *different* and more complex counter-insurgency problem than John McCain does. Yes, indeed, the Sunni Triangle... Mosul... Bayji... Baghdad... Baqubah. And note that the 'Saddamists' were no longer considered the major threat and that al Qaeda's affiliate, Ansar al-Islam led by Zarqawi had taken over that spot. Zarqawi also had his own outfit Tawhid and Jihad along with that. Lots of foreign fighters showing up from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Palestine, beyond just Ba'athist Iraqis.

But then John McCain also goes on to give us more fun views about COIN work:
Unlike in Vietnam, the Iraqi insurgents do not enjoy the kind of sanctuary North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos provided. They do not have a superpower patron that sponsors, supplies and sustains them beyond the reach of our power for geopolitical reasons. These murderers cannot carry the banner of Iraqi nationalism, as did Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam for decades. Their return to power offers the Iraqi people the promise not of self-rule but of mortal danger, not of a better future but of a return to a hated and fearful past. Iraq is not Vietnam because our ally is not a corrupt government unwilling to defend itself, but a newly-freed people that desperately want to build a new future. Most fundamentally, Iraq is not Vietnam because the United States and the Iraqi people share the same goal of building a free, prosperous and secure Iraq.
Sen. McCain has forgotten that COIN actually needs a government that can stand up for itself. Without that you have extreme problems doing any COIN work as outside forces are seen as 'occupiers'. Iraq was not unwilling to defend itself: it was UNABLE to defend itself as its new Army had not even started to FORM then. The old one was dismissed as it was *worse* than nothing full of killers, rapists, and folks that just liked to abuse their fellow Iraqis. You have a nearly impossible time running any form of COIN without indigenous forces to actually help weed out bad actors and get something sustainable going and the government in Iraq would not get that started until 2005. These are not regular armed forces standing down after a war: these are individuals running Private War to their own ends and nearly impossible to weed out because they don't need to be 'fish swimming in a school of fish', they were piranha willing to devour anyone who deviated from keeping silent.

Since he doesn't even remember the need for the local government to stand up for itself he then goes on a bit later to further demonstrate that lack of knowledge:
The United States will fail in Iraq if our adversaries believe they can outlast us. If our troop deployment schedules are more important than our staying power, we embolden our enemies and make it harder for our friends to take risks on our behalf. When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude. When in the course of days we increase by thousands our estimate of the numbers of Iraqis trained, it sounds like somebody is cooking the books. When we do this as our forces are coming under increasing attack, we suggest to friends and allies alike that our ultimate goal in Iraq is leaving as soon as possible, not meeting our strategic objective of building a free and democratic country in the heart of the Arab world.
Remember - helping people to learn how to defend themselves is *not* going to spread freedom and democracy. There you have it, John McCain in 2003! Keep to any slow pace and show 'certitude' and you will get by just fine and the US will do all the fighting for you so you don't have to worry your little heads about it. And then, once we have antagonized your population, gotten you a tiny security force and have been unable to understand *why* the insurgency is getting worse, we will just point out that our long term objective is more important than achieving anything.

Further along we get to see more from John McCain that makes one scratch their head a bit:
I was heartened to hear the president say that we cannot cut and run in Iraq. To sustain the credibility necessary for victory over the long term, the administration needs to strive at all times to ensure that its assessment of the course of events in Iraq is candid and reflects the situation on the ground as best it can see it. Administration officials must be careful not to adjust our military posture in Iraq for political reasons. The only legitimate reason to adjust our posture is to improve our ability to accomplish our mission or respond to our successes in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.
Remember do NOT adjust postures for political reasons! Also remember that very lethal and coordinated attacks are happening *outside* the Sunni Triangle.

To go with previous paternalism we get added paternalism towards Iraqis:
There can be little political or economic progress in Iraq until the United States creates a stable and secure environment there. Prematurely placing the burden of security on Iraqis is not the answer. Hastily trained Iraqi security forces cannot be expected to accomplish what U.S. forces have not yet succeeded in doing: defeating the Ba'athists and international terrorists inside Iraq. It is irresponsible to suggest that it is up to Iraqis to win this war. In doing so, we shirk the responsibility that we willingly incurred when we assumed the burden of liberating and transforming their country, for their sake and our own. If the U.S. military, the world's best fighting force, can't defeat the Iraqi insurgents, how do we expect Iraqi militiamen with only weeks of training to do any better?
How about we train them better, Senator McCain? Ever hear of that? Fight along side them, maybe? Train some commanders and maybe help get an internal set of laws made for a military? Ever hear of that, Sen. McCain? Because, in the end, the main bulk of cleaning up the Iraqi insurgency is NOT up to the US, but to Iraqis. This, indeed, would take time and the first real combat troops would not be seen until 2005, which is near lightning fast in this modern age. And the reason that the world's best fighting force can't do this on its own is that it is NOT OUR COUNTRY. We can only achieve this with the Iraqi people if they want this for themselves - if they didn't then nothing on this Earth would end that insurgency and Iraqi would become one of the nastiest 'failed states' in modern history, Afghanistan not excluded.

That is the heart of COIN, Sen. McCain. The British in the Malay had an exception as they could force a lot of folks to move and separate everyone. In the Philippines the US forces could only overcome the insurgents with the help of local forces. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be an invader and perform successful COIN if you are trying to hand the Nation back to its people.... taking it over is something else again, but the US really doesn't like to do that.

Then we get to the paragraph his campaign cites and let me say this about this 'division' he would like to plunk down: where the hell are we supposed to GET IT?

This is not mere rhetoric - the US armed forces can barely maintain the 130,000 rotation we had before the surge and we are tiring out a lot of troops on extended tours to perform the surge. If you want to get more than the 30,000 added in on an ongoing basis... hmmm... that is only 7-10,000 or so effective combatants. Say, Sen. McCain, do you remember that 1990's 'Peace Dividend'?

This is our payback for it as PACOM would need to strip its 'ready reserve' entirely and go on a lean system deployment and you would have to shut down EUCOM. Actually, Europe should be able to stand on its own now, right? So take out 1/3 of PACOM and all of EUCOM... done! 225,000 extra folks, the bulk support personnel for 70,000 effective combatants and 1/3 of those deployed for a year at a time. WAG it at 24,000 effective combatants.

Scratch off Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, S. Korea possibly, Japan definitely, maybe suck some of the counter-narcotics forces into PACOM from South COM... they can do some extended duty in Africa to keep an eye out for the Islamic Courts...

Dear Senator McCain - If you wanted a division on rotation, thus nearly 3 divisions to keep one on station and in COIN work, why, the hell, didn't you PUT THAT IN THE DAMNED BUDGET?

That is YOUR JOB and that of CONGRESS.

Because you then go on to cite what you think is NEEDED:
MC: You know, I mentioned an extra division, but what I meant was not a division itself. We don't need more howitzers, we don't need more tanks. We need Marines, Special Forces, counterespionage operations, better intelligence people, linguists, all the kinds of people that are involved in countering a real insurgency.

Everything we see on television, my dear friends, is a reaction to an event -- to a bombing, to an explosion, to whatever it is, an ambush. We should, over time, be seeing films only of actions that provoke reactions on the part of the people we are after. And the only way you can do that is through good intelligence.
And do you know what, Senator? The President does NOT have to ask for these things: Congress provides via Article I, Section 8 and NO asking by the President is necessary. Look at all the earmarks that end up in the DoD budget for *proof* of that. And, if I may say so looking at the recent NIE, that Congress is failing its job on the INTEL provisioning side, too.

Now back to the 'Peace Dividend'... from NYT 06 OCT 1991:
Lawmakers from both parties agree that changed circumstances mean that the military budget should be re-examined. If, as the President said -- even before yesterday's announcement of plans for sweeping cuts in the Soviet nuclear arsenal -- war with the Soviet Union is "no longer a realistic threat," then why, they ask, is it necessary to keep active a dozen aircraft carriers at an annual cost of about $600 million apiece? Why should the nation spend billions for the Star Wars missile defense system, the B-2 Stealth bomber, a new attack submarine or other astronomically expensive state-of-the-art weapons? Why should tens of thousands of troops be maintained in Germany, South Korea and elsewhere around the world?

Those questions were raised not only by liberal Pentagon critics but by such staunch conservative supporters of the military as Senator Sam Nunn, the Georgia Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, a conservative Republican and former career naval officer who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Why were you asking those questions, Senator McCain? No need for a robust military any more?

Aspin was not the only member of Congress who believed deeper cuts were feasible. During the budget debate, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Jim Sasser called for doubling the Bush budget cuts while Senator Edward M. Kennedy indicated $210 billion in defense spending could be saved over the next seven years. Senators Bentsen, Bradley, Roth, Gramm, and McCain also proposed deeper cuts that could pay for domestic initiatives. In fact, a May 1992 Congressional Research Service report indicated a total of sixteen members of Congress had proposed alternative defense spending proposals, including Les Aspin.
Deeper cuts in the armed forces, Sen. McCain? For 'domestic initiatives'? How about that border, huh, Sen. McCain?

From America's Defense Monitor, 22 MAR 1992 (via CDI), How Much is Enough?:
NARRATOR: So how much military spending is enough?

The Congress has not settled on an answer, but many members feel the administration plan would spend more than enough. Senator Jim Sasser, chairman of the Budget Committee, has proposed spending $120- to $140 billion less than President Bush over five years. Senator John McCain, an influential Republican on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed spending about $250 billion in 1997, $40 billion less than the administration in that year.

Large savings could come as early as next year.
You mean that you didn't want to give the President what he asked for, Sen. McCain? Why should YOU expect any different when YOU get in office if YOU couldn't do that for the President when YOU could have supported that? Making political points with defense spending, Sen. McCain?

From the Army's Strategic Studies Institute, Transforming Defense paper, by Conrad C. Crane, DEC 2001:
Large reductions in military personnel require several years to effect due to the need to assure appropriate skill mixes and experience levels are retained. Direct cuts in readiness resources, such as suggested by Senator John McCain in 1996 by implementing 'tiered readiness' for major force elements, are difficult to achieve in practice since they would suggest that some of the active forces would not be ready for employment on short notice.19

19. John McCain (U.S. Senator, R-AZ), Ready Tomorrow: Defending American Interests in the 21st Century, White Paper, Washington, DC: March 19, 1996.
Getting a bit unrealistic in what the armed forces can do, Sen. McCain?

As Sen. McCain didn't think we needed a fully ready set of armed forces, nor as much of them, he is also familiar with the problem of needing 'lead time' to increase the size of the armed forces as that cannot be done overnight. Standing up new personnel takes time to get more equipment ordered and the entire organizational structure changed to accept them. The USMC can do this a bit faster, but the Special Forces deriving, as they do, from veterans of other armed forces that are highly skilled already require a larger base to start with to get more personnel. Thus to expand the USMC could take as long as 3 years to ensure such things as helmets, rifles, and increased logistics are put in place so that individuals can be properly trained, equipped and fed. Then throw in 5 years after that for increasing the Special Forces, although upping their pay by 50-100% might attract and retain some individuals normally going to much better private sector jobs.

If Senator McCain truly believed what he said he was in perfect position to push legislation through to get these things *done*.

He did not do so.

Pointing to his words on the campaign trail when being in a position to materially increase the size and scope of the armed forces and the INTEL Community points to neglect of the duties of a Senator to defend the Nation. If he can't figure out his current job, then he has reached, via the 'Peter Principle' the limits of his incompetence and is perfectly placed where he can do the least amount of harm.

He is part of the *problem* in Washington, D.C.

Congress will do as it damn well pleases with a President's budget and armed forces requests just as John McCain did in the 1990's. Sen. McCain also has some strange ideas on force size, readiness, scope and deployment capability which points to a lack of understanding of what Congress has done to the armed forces of the United States over the past 15 years.

Sen. John McCain should know this.

He was instrumental in doing these things and embracing a 'peace dividend'.

An extra set of divisions in the armed forces really did look like a nice thing back in 2003.

Too bad he helped to send them away in the 1990's.


Jack H said...

Just a word to commend your efforts here. Stumbled somehow across your blog and am impressed by your diligence. Probably don't agree with everything you say, but I don't agree with some of what *I* say, so there you go. I especially like what your quoted from TR. Good man.

And allow me to commend my own effort,




A Jacksonian said...

Jack - My thanks!

I do not aim for agreement, but to state what I see and *why*.

When I put forward a different path I state *why* I think it is a better one, but do not press for agreement there, either.

I trust in my fellow Americans to use reason and understand our dedication to this mutual effort we call the United States. We are coming into the testing phase of democracy and republics and I hope that we are not found *wanting* as a people. I may not be a good man, but that does not stop me from putting effort into being a good American.

Achievement I leave for others to decide... just as our politicians do their activities to We the People. Apparently this is something lacking in America these days: we judge before we decide.