The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How the Limited Surge Might Fail

The 2007 surge strategy cannot alone solve the political situation of Iraq’s internal, sectarian division. Why? Because the political policy behind the surge had only the objective of prolonging time allowed for Iraq’s government come to their own solution. The benchmarks placed on Iraq’s government did not determine the final outcome, only set waffable progress toward something different, not better. And the Iraqis have not shown good enough progress thus far to meet the benchmarks. In return, US politicians have refused to hold the Iraqis accountable for even that. Considering the promises for the surge strategy, which is the eventual reduction of the need for US combat forces, the surge will only add to the list of futile strategies–the invasion itself and the Coalition Provisional Authority rule from March 2003 to June 2004; and the “Iraqification” of the burden from 2004 to 2006 under General Casey.

The military policy ordered by the administration fails to bring a likely solution to the US problem: the demoralization, drain and wastage of the armed forces. The situation is now similar to the Korean War after June 1951. At that point in that conflict, the lines settled and stayed consistent until the armistice of July 1953. The original political goal for fighting in Korea, set before the US crossed the 38th parallel in September-October 1950–was a “limited” war preventing a wider war from happening while keeping South Korea independent. That had been achieved in the summer of 1951. The war continued two years in miserable trench warfare in an unfriendly geography, causing scores of thousands of US dead and wounded, and millions of Korean lives.

In Iraq, as in Korea, the US also fights a limited war in terms of commitment. The US economy and population have not been mobilized and put on a war footing for what is a very expensive war in flesh and gold, for Americans and Iraqis. The economic burden is only money. But financial costs brings long-term problems. Wasting away America’s military potential to deter others and as an instrument of policy is bad enough. The real cost to Iraqis, and the cost to soldiers and families of Americans, are the insufferable, never repaired costs of dead and wounded (mentally and physically). The half-measures by which America’s political leaders direct this war can no longer be defended, in either party. The unwillingness to go all-out prolongs the misery of everyone because the aims and scope of the surge strategy are too small when morally compared to the great damage done to all concerned, not to mention US national interests.

Tearly 180,000 military contractors in Iraq (a small number of combat mercenaries, but also mercenary-like combat services and combat services and support) and the same number of American bona fide troops now committed to the surge policy, it is a policy of too little too late. The current military commitment would only be successful if directed at one political objective–to find and empower one “leader”– not a divided political coalition--ruling in Iraq, That would have been the only solution possible with the present surge. It is hard to accept, repugnant even, absolute hypocrisy, but altogether might be true. A new Saddam Hussein-style regime in Iraq may be result in the end and the US people must be prepared to live with it.

Technically, with contractors, there are 460,000 “coalition” forces in Iraq. The surge augmented the previous level by roughly 50,000 combat and military support personnel. 460,000 still leaves gaps everywhere, especially along the border from where infiltrated arms, aid and men to insurgents from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria come. Those gaps still undermine US strategy everywhere Americans are not. Guerilla-terrorist still have places to which they can run away, hide, reemerge, and strike later and elsewhere, as all insurgents need to do.

If there was a clear military solution, then a total national commitment of the US (political/military, economic, social and cultural mobilization), in other words, a last gasp strategy, was the only option. This was true before the war, which Amry Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki predicted. The need for any surge effort required upwards of a total of 600-700,000 military men and woman and contractors. The need above all was, is and always will be to provide what the Iraqi people and government need and want in return for battling the insurgency on their own: complete security coverage. While nothing is 100%, less than trying for it is counter-productive. When combined with non-provocative patrolling and trust-building using the “Patreaus” doctrine of counter-insurgency, the surge would have had a better chance of success.

Counter-insurgency depends on presence and coverage, intelligence building, non-aggressive rapport with the “neutrals,” to undermine and prevent the guerilla-terrorist propaganda and control by fear of terror. We have already explained better border control. That sort of “coverage,” penetrates “sanctuaries” in the land, heart and culture of the people living and suffering with the guerilla-terrorists. It gains allies in the population; it provides the type of thing that gives the stabilization and reconstruction process time to work: the free and safe assembly, individual empowerment and “voice” in civil matters, and development and job growth needed to fight the appeal, promises or inspired fear of insurgents.

This total approach would have called for at the very least an extra 100,000–basically everything the US could muster on the ground without fatal damage to global security. Diplomacy, the navy and the air force could have managed the worst of the world-wide challenges that might have arrived if the US had staked everything on victory or failure. Either backing a friendly strongman, as despicable as that sounds, was the only political objective compatible with the surge policy in the reality that exists. Rolling the political dice for a “hail Mary”-plan end to the war surge was the only sensible military policy that fits with the current political benchmarks–give Iraq’s coalition government time. It is far too late change course now. The US military is demanding disengagement of major units beginning in the summer of 2008.

Rumors have it that top US commanders disagreed with the president’s current strategy when formulated in late 2006. For all practical purpose at this point in the Iraq War, opportunity for a military solution has run out of options. If the limited surge policy works, and it might just end with Iraq having a military junta (in which the Baath’i will re-emerge as the most organized and powerful), that is all to the well. While not an equal measure to the lives lost and ruined, it would nevertheless avoid that suffering in complete vain. Americans must live with such a small condolences. History will judge whether the Bush Administration policies in Iraq, especially its surge policy, were a short-term national or personal partisan or even greedy economic, opportunity. If this war turns out to have been for “limited” aims, and the same standard needs to be applied to the military surge/political benchmarks, the entire effort was a waste. It will not have lasting value or benefits to the US national interest.

Even so, the “go big or go home” surge might have temporarily broke the US military until the end of 2008. Yet, at that point, all but a small remainder of the 300,000 needed in the Persian Gulf theater of operations, and in Iraq itself, but have been at or on the way home. Like all futile military action, the half-measures of political policy by Congress (on both sides) and the Administration, will have failed to understand the real basis of all strategy: The use of total power (non-military), or violence (the military), to shape the political outcome. This has been the problem since the authorization for war in October 2002. (And even earlier, in the late 1990s, when a bi-partisan Congress gave Clinton a clear commitment that regime change in Iraq was henceforth US policy, something never mentioned).

US politicians have always proven poor strategist. The US joint and functional commanders saw this whole thing becoming undone in 2002. The politicians have their own interests and reasons for doing things, much of those involving a special interests in business. Can America survive such a complex world where the short-comings of fear and greed of the professional leadership class destroy security, ruin prosperity, and cause wars of whim and whimsy?

It is time the United States brought itself to face some of the realities it faces in the 21st Century. Only then can it develop national strategies for long-term solutions.

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