28 October 2007

Three organizations: one quagmire

We have heard a lot over the past few years about how first Afghanistan was going to be a 'quagmire' for military forces from the US and its Coalition there. Unfortunately the US, out of need due to inability to get large forces to Afghanistan, put in tiny forces with large throw-weight via airpower. For the first time since Alexander the Great used a small forces concept to move through the region, a foreign power has replicated that success. The nasty Afghan winter didn't show up, and when it finally *did*, a few years later, it was Canadian forces that went on the winter offensive... possibly for the first time *ever* in Afghanistan. Mind you that was counter-insurgency (COIN) work, not battlefield fighting. Still, the effects this year have been startling and built upon that success.

Then comes Iraq, the mother of all quagmires, apparently. The US had not fielded a similar size force for a few decades, and it did not have the deep manpower reserves of the previous forces in Vietnam, Korea, WWII and WWI. The force size was equivalent to that used in the Philippine-American war and with similar, almost eerily prescient, results: the main opposition collapsed quickly and the US was put into a COIN role for which it was unprepared. In the 1901-10 era of that previous COIN, the armed forces sustained more casualties from tropical diseases than from combat, and yet won through. That effort took a few years to get oriented, understand the societal milieu and then address it. There are *still* those in Mindanao that have hard feelings about not getting a separate Republic once the US left. Nearly a century of hard feelings and grudge, though softened over time, held because of the outlook that folks should work together in a Nation and not be Balkanized. So much for thanks on the multi-culti side of things: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Americans, not bothering to learn any history of their Nation in wartime, have forgotten that experience, thus we have the same sort of editors, writers, thinkers and such decrying the venture in Iraq as they did the Philippines. Pretty much the same verbiage about 'American Empire' and 'lost cause' overseas. The 'Yellow Journalists' didn't put much of that out, but the 'respectible' elite newspapers and journals did, which also brings out an eerie tone of the modern era, save that there is no Nationalist media in the US anymore. So when the complaining and moaning about a 'quagmire in Iraq' started, one could only look to the modern re-orientation of combat forces to COIN and see the same parallel a century previous to this. The US Army, in particular, takes time to get its bearings when put down in a strange land to fight. It is the main battle force of the US and was once designed to take out the Soviet Union. The US Marine Corps., used to having to go anywhere and do anything on a moment's notice, held their history and training together on COIN, although it, too, needed a bit of updating for the modern era.

By not having a conscript military, the US invests its time and energy on those volunteering to take up military work as a profession. That is not understood *as* a profession by the other professional classes in America, and those classes tend to devolve military work as 'shooting and killing' only. That does happen, yes, and military conflict requires that the wilingness to counter an enemy with brutal means must be done for survival of one's own forces and to reach the goals of the Nation in such a conflict. Denigration of all other professional classes, but particularly in academia, has lowered the ability of the US population to understand military work and how it works. Without knowing the 'why' it is done the way it is, and 'how' things are achieved not *just* by killing, nearly an entire generation of Americans are left with very little concept of the utility and necessity of military power.

While the various critics and naysayers and pontificators put forward that Iraq was a 'quagmire' they refused to review or address the underlying structural changes going on in the armed forces due to the small forces victory in Afghanistan (a direct attribute of mountain warfare views) and within the US Army for Iraq. One thing that left many people scratching their heads is *why* Gen. Petraeus was taken out of the active combat theater and put at a 'desk job'. The man was *successful*, and that is his reward? So a bit of background before getting to the three groups stuck in an Iraqi quagmire is necessary.

Gen. Petraeus was sent to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). There he not only re-wrote the COIN concept and re-designed it, but he was in the #1 spot to give it the widest application possible. TRADOC drafts and creates all training and doctrine for the US Army and, as such, when Gen. Petraeus had a new COIN doctrine, it was immediately taken up and *applied* to training. Some of the other things going on at the time were also picked up and inculcated, such as the logistics force using high speed comms back to stateside training facilities to tell what sort of attacks they were seeing and good ways to counter them. That tactical knowledge was picked up at the training centers, examined, then put into real-time situations so that new methods and appraoches for combat protection could be designed. That was impossible before the late 1990's and came into its own during the early years of Iraq. Training shifted heavily from generic Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) to Iraq and Afghanistan specific training on how to deal with locals, language, religion and the differences in the MOUT situations and traditional combat in both areas.

The lesson is clear: the US Army kicks extremely successful individuals up to have the highest influence possible so as to spread success. It is not in his advanced degrees that Gen. Petraeus got put into TRADOC, it was for his ability to apply his knowledge and craft a successful strategic and tactical view for COIN that did that. His reward was to be the man to implement that across the entire theater of operations in Iraq. That is a merit-based reward system, not a nepotism or educational level based one. The US Army uses that, because success has a quantifiable meaning in successful operations and lives *saved* by not having to fight unnecessarily when other means will allow one to win. For all the modern aspects of this, the time scale is nearly the same in Iraq as it was in the Philippines with almost the same force size, the only difference being that in Iraq the native population is huge compared to the Philippines circa 1901.

Thus the three organizations that can't adapt to Iraq are now stuck in their own quagmires:

1) Mainstream Media (MSM) - We have learned over the last 6 years that anyone who has outprocessed before Afghanistan has no idea how the modern military works. Afghanistan is mountain warfare and highland warfare, even going into 'out of oxygen' warfare at very high altitudes. The long, hard lessons learned over centuries by Persians, British, Germans and Russians is that you do not take large forces through mountain terrain without securing the terrain via small force action *first*. Not only Afghanistan, but the rugged terrain of the Balkans and the Alps (alpine warfare), all lead to this one conclusion: large armies get stuck in unsecured mountain terrain and require the use of very small, very well adapted units to dislodge fighters. In Iraq the entire utilization of TRADOC and shifting the learning basis of the armed forces remains, to this day, unspoken and unresearched by the MSM.

By not giving the US population any idea of how COIN works and *why* it can fail and *how* it can fail, every single critic that has faulted the work of the armed forces, but particularly the US Army, has slandered them. For the first time in recorded history the Media is trying to fight the last war and the Army has adapted faster than the Media. Successful COIN work does not mean an *end* to the insurgency over-night: insurgencies will often drag on for a decade or two after it has lost any foothold in society. In this ignorance the US Academic professional class has shown their ineptitude and inability to actually move away from ideology and understand the use and utilization of force and the outcomes of same. Not only does academia not prepare students for 'real world jobs' it does not prepare them for the actual world itself. Together the aged retirees, hidebound media and ivory tower academics have joined forces to sink into a losing fight. They are now stuck in a quagmire of their own stupidity, and those unable to part with them when they spout nonsense are likewise stuck in that.

The difference between ignorance and stupidity, is that the first is cureable.

2) Al Qaeda - Yes, the nasty terrorists have found that they do not know how to counter small force mountain warfare forces nor how to counter large scale forces on flat terrain as part of an insurgency. By starting with outdated tactics and then trying to out-adapt their foes, the al Qaeda based insurgency has come face to face with a military force that not only adapts faster than the now defunct Red Army, but faster than most politicians, not to speak of terrorists. Terrorists waging illegitimate warfare lack the necessary infrastructure to maintain high levels of training and combat effectiveness over time. They can devise successful tactics, like how to create newer IEDs, but the application and utilization of those for a higher concern is scattered at best. Without donning uniforms, forming an organizational infrastructure, and inculcating the utilization of tactics to higher strategic goals, al Qaeda has learned 'the old fashioned way': did you survive trying something new? Did it work? Can we get you out of here to teach anyone else?

Bin Laden, himself, in his latest audiotape, now puts it out for all to hear, as seen at Strategypage (H/t - Instapundit):

October 27, 2007: On October 22nd, Osama bin Laden admitted that al Qaeda had lost its war in Iraq. In an audiotape speech titled "Message to the people of Iraq," bin Laden complains of disunity and poor use of resources. He admits that al Qaeda made mistakes, and that all Sunni Arabs must unite to defeat the foreigners and Shia Moslems. What bin Laden is most upset about is the large number of Sunni Arab terrorists who have switched sides in Iraq. This has actually been going on for a while. Tribal leaders and warlords in the west (Anbar province) have been turning on terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda, for several years. While bin Laden appeals for unity, he shows only a superficial appreciation of what is actually going on in Iraq.
Remember, just a couple of years ago Iraq was going to be where the infidel Americans were routed and the new Caliphate would begin. His knowledge of Iraq appears to be about the level of the MSM. He needs better INTEL and isn't getting it, just like the MSM.

Al Qaeda actually *does* have a force doctrine manual called The Management of Savagery, which puts forward a relatively straightforward concept of winning a terrorist started conflict on a global scale. The first is to find weak Nations and target ethnic or religious sub-populations, utilizing cash to gain acceptance and start destabilizing the Nation. Step two is to utilize violence to cause internal disorder and disarray, and do that so as to drive supporters to you. Third is to bring civil war to the Nation involved and to spread the instability to other groups in the Nation, utilizing backing now intra-Nation to do so. While doing that, spread instability across borders so as to make the problem more regional or more dispersed, depending on where target populations are located. Once an area is out of control of a government, institute Sharia law and schools and exploit the region to spread influence, back at step one.

Wash, rinse, repeat. In Iraq the al Qaeda organization had the Ansar affiliate that it sent Zarqawi to. Especially in Diyala province, but elsewhere, al Qaeda had existing ties and strengthened them after the US invasion of Iraq, this was Step One. At that point, to get funds to go after an extremely able opponent, ties with the ex-Ba'athist regime were made and al Qaeda settled down to brewing a civil war, this was Step Two. A funny thing happened on their way to Step Three: they ended up not being able to adjust their 'rough and ready' outlook to the highly tribal centered views of Iraq. Unlike in other parts of the Middle East or Africa, the Iraqis take their tribes damned seriously and killing tribal elders and force-marrying their daughters is a big 'no-no'. Zarqawi's tactics did not get directed just at the government, but at anyone that disagreed with him, which included his own power base in Iraq. By AUG-SEP 2006 the tribes started turning on al Qaeda and the 'managing of the savages' soon became the savages managing *them*, usually in lethal ways.

For the sophistication of their terrorist operations, al Qaeda has proven to be less adaptable *with* Arabs to the differences in Arab populations than the US Army has been with outsiders. That should have been a trump card for al Qaeda: ethnically known and religiously affiliated views should trump outsiders each and every time it is done. By being hidebound on societal tactics, al Qaeda started losing its tactical edge in the insurgency, to the point where their Ba'athist backers are starting to go after them, too. It appears that after shooting at *everyone* for so long, al Qaeda has the new experience of having *everyone* shoot at them.

3) Iran - Being a neighbor, Iran is stuck with Iraq but not the way that Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait are. Iran is looking not only to extend its hegemony to include Iraq, but also is growing desperate for sustainment of its petroleum cash flow. By 60% of the Iraqi population being Shia and having ties to the Shia community, many MSM pundits and academia put forth that it is 'natural' that Iran will gain the upper hand. Unfortunately they are not dealing with the actual hatred of the Iranian regime by a large number of Shia in Iraq. One of the largest communities to send *volunteers* for Saddam during the Iran/Iraq War was the Shia community, and they volunteered in droves. That, alone, has to say something about the strength of feelings there. Worse for Iran is that they are Persians and some 80% of Iraq is Arab, and they are not treating their Arab community(nor indeed any ethnic minority) well in Iran which their cousins over the border hear about directly. Iran also does not have the strong tribal affiliation set-up as seen in Iraq, which is also playing against their main pawn, Moqtada al-Sadr.

In trying to counter each of these things Iran is stumbling, and badly, in setting up a Hezbollah affiliate in Iraq. The strong differences between the elder Iraqi cleric, Ali al-Sistani, and Iran creates a strong religious outlook in opposition to Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr is proving not to be his father's son and only has a great ability for self-survival and a limited one for organizational capability. His clashes with the Badr Brigades (also supported by Iran) have proven to be a continuing source of heartache for both, and causing growing resentment in the general Shia population towards both. In trying to stir up dissension in the Shia community so as to exploit that, Iran is facing a community that is uniting against the Iranian pawns.

This is not in the standard playbook of Iran, which puts forward a multi-decade view for radical support. Really you want one, centralized and focused oranization to destabilize a country, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, not two that are quarreling with each other. So the only remedy is to send in your OWN forces under cover and... well, they are having problems now that native Persians are getting picked up in Iraq, which is causing further grief in the population with Iran, Badr organization and al-Sadr's JaM. Apparently a force to do the *right thing* and attack Americans is hitting other folks a bit more than planned, clashing with other front organizations and having problems gaining any new recruits to the cause. After that, shifting attacks against the government has proven to be a nasty surprise for Iran as the New Iraqi Army is now the lead element in Basra and a few other points along the border, and instead of al-Sadr destabilizing things by pulling out of the Shia dominated government, that government is now performing hard and fast outreach to the Sunni Arabs and Kurds. By supporting local 'concerned citizens' or 'police auxiliaries' or 'neighborhood watches', the Shia government is demonstrating that it understands and legitimizes the need for self-protection under National auspices. Yes, Iraqi Nationalism that is *not* Ba'athist Nationalism is the outcome of Iran's opportunistic support for insurgents. And the New Iraqi Army has picked up widespread Sunni Arab support after being seen, not as oppressors as many in the MSM and punditry predicted, but as helping to quell instability and stand up local government.

To make the New Iraqi Army less effective, Iran wanted to ensure that the Badr organization was pulled into it, lock, stock and barrel. Some parts were, indeed, pulled in... but the INTEL work of the US to find those with close attachment to Iran and helping the Iraqis to form their own martial justice system, has proven to be something that was unexpected by Iran. Arabs policing themselves in an Army! Even the Turks have problems with that! While it is no 'magic wand' to weed out the bad actors, it ensures that ALL bad actors have equal expectations of justice. Trying to counter corruption before it starts in the New Iraqi Army is the leading challenge of the Coalition. Getting it to stick is challenge two. Iran was, clearly, not expecting this, and thought that just like Lebanon, getting a few capable and competent turn-coats into the New Iraqi Army to destabilize and discredit it would be *easy*. The New Iraqi Army is only *majority* Shia Arab and includes all ethnicities, religions and outlooks in Iraq, and while there is common corruption rampant in the Middle East, the soldiers in the IA recognize that treating their own soldiers with respect and dignity, supplying them properly and building up esprit de corps is a long-term winner.

Clearly, Iran expected to operate a catspaw insider force and discredit the IA, Iraqi Police and Iraqi Government. Instead they are creating resentment of the interference, causing tribal strife to the point where the southern tribes are now starting to do as was done in Anbar, and, even worse, is that the IA is proving to be as effective as the Peshmerga, which have repulsed a few military operations from Iran into Iraq already. Trying to stir up ethnic differences and religious problems, exploit them and then gain power is similar to what al Qaeda does, although Iran has lots more money. Then there is the 'backflow' of money and help going to Baluchs, Arabs, Kurds and Azeris in Iran, which was absolutely not expected.

Each of these three have losing outlooks with regards to Iraq. And while the American people can't do much else about al Qaeda and Iran, because our government refuses to recognize them for the problems they are, we can and *should* start to hold the MSM, pundit class and academia heavily responsible for being so ill-adapted to the modern world that they can no longer describe it accurately.

Or at all, and just make up stories to fit their outlooks.

With the MSM Americans can vote by changing the channel or finding more reliable individuals for their information. As for academia, that is up to parents to decide on their actual support for school systems and higher education and its utility when Leftist ideology is stuck in a quagmire of its own making. As individuals and a society, we can and should hold academia and the media up to scrutiny and then vote to remove their support from government. Local seems to work best, and it is past time to get the Federal side out of local affairs so that the media and education can reflect society, not attempt to remake it.


John F. Opie said...

Hi -

Kudos. I've rarely seen anyone nail it as well as you have here. :-)

The real question is how we can hold the MSM responsible: changing the channel and finding other sources of information is all well and fine, but given the preponderance of MSM - after all, they *are* the mainstream - this is virtually impossible.

The only way I see to do it is for true alternatives to show up. Perhaps when the wars are over and those who did the fighting come back and decide that there needs to be an alternative...

I'd buy stock in that.

A Jacksonian said...

Dear Mr. Opie - My thanks!

The MSM problem is on in which its older organizational structures allow it easy access to homes. That it is losing viewership and the print media circulation tells the story that their views are no longer guiding... they are 'Mainstream' only in their access, not in their acceptance or delivery. The alternative that is being developed is a disagreggated New Media, that has great wants in accuracy at times, but nothing worse than is seen at NYT, TNR, WaPo... indeed the accountability to factual presentation and interpretation is much higher in New Media than in the older forms.

With the preponderance of new devices and ways to deliver information comes a growing need to organize disparate media sources, and it is only in that area that New Media lacks are preventing wider acceptance and utilization. The MSM cannot morph to this as it is a decentralized concept of information gathering and distribution.

We are barely past the first decade of the first web page, and yet we have seen concepts like 'disintermediation' take hold in business, finance and commerce. Middlemen must *add value* to transactions to be worth having around, and many non-value added middlemen are no longer around. The MSM has two problems in regards to this: first monopoly control in print and, second, value added full-spectrum analysis by individuals. To date the only ability the MSM had was as a 'funnel' or 'gatekeeper' that could get some reasonable 'value added' content along with advertisement so as to keep them going. That monopoly position has diminished diversity of input and promulgation of same, and the numbers in the print media have been in decline since the late 1970's just due to that.

Consider that 1439-1639 saw the first disintermediation of religion and the nastiest religious wars in Europe due to the printing press. Monopoly position in information distribution moved out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and into distributed hands. While the Catholic Church is still powerful and has the largest number of followers, it is *not* the sole source of religious information and only considered the first amongst many. That is happening to the MSM in the first *decade* since the web was brought about. The tools put into the hands of individuals to decide, for themselves, what they will get as *news* are now developing. What there will NOT be is an old-fashioned, trusted, media source. That day is over. A distributed trust system developed by individuals willing to be accountable to their readers and the wider public is starting to hit the punditry industry and seep into the actual news reporting business. The MSM will not 'disappear' but will no longer be a sole-source or even main-source provider of information. Today the best pictures and reporting from crises are not the reporter blown around in hurricanes, but the individual on a wireless remote setup in a basement looking out the shielded windows and telling you what they see. The best war reporting its being done by those that embed and by soldiers... not 'reporters'.

Apparently reporting does not depend upon journalists, but upon those that report: reporters. This 'Army of Davids' also gains a distributed trust system of people who can verify and bring valid criticism to bear - those that cannot are throwing ideology before facts.

The best reporters after Iraq will be those who 'know what they are doing': Yon, Roggio, Ardolino, and members of the Armed Forces that believe in getting accurate information to their fellow man trumps all other things. That is slowly happening in politics, the last bastion of the older order of things... disintermediation has yet to happen in that and the old two party system will hold on for a few more elections. But its monopoly position will also disintegrate, and we may see the first sub-50% turnout for a Presidential election next year. At that point democracy, itself, becomes unstable and prone to overthrow. There will not be a 'rise of a third party' but the rise of an accountable system of parties and interests... it will have party structure of sorts, but will not be a traditional old party concept. The two main parties will still exist in 'strongholds' but those will be limited population bastions.

Democracy is in its distributed form, not the limited form we have today. That was the case at the Founding all the way to the industrial age... now we are going post centralized industrial in all things and politics *must* follow. That will diminish the roles of the parties as the American People are far more diverse than two limited positions... that is the way things are heading, as of today... tomorrow it could be different...