DefendAmerica News - Profile Article


First, a small update: I'm going to be out of pocket until Tuesday. Should be back by then.

Before I go, I would like to draw your attention to this story from the Defense Department. It is the tale of a Marine pilot who was POW in Iraq for 37 days. He's currently assigned to one of the most underreported, but highly important, units in operation: Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.



The Congressional Research Service has a new report out on the role of security forces in peacekeeping operations, including Iraq. It can be found here (.pdf warning). If the topic interests you, you'll find this to be a brief (58 pages is brief for the government) history lesson, coupled with lessons learned.

One of the most interesting sections is the "problem areas," which identifies gaps that show up regularly in operations of this type:

The second problem area is the presence of three security gaps in the ability of the international community to establish law and order in peacekeeping and other
post-conflict situations. (Deficiencies in recruitment and training systems can contribute to the first two of these gaps.) These gaps can be particularly troublesome in situations where not all parties to the conflict are dedicated to peace or where criminal networks have taken root, and where local authority has been removed or
replaced by an international intervention.

*The first of these security gaps is the deployment gap, or the failure or inability to deploy police forces as quickly as needed, or in adequate numbers to perform the mission assigned to them. This was noted in the U.S. unilateral intervention in Panama in 1989, and subsequently in some of the earliest international missions of the 1990s, for example in Cambodia. There, the UNCIVPOL mission could not perform some of its mandated tasks because it took several months to deploy CivPol components and some 10 months for the mission to reach its authorized size. In Somalia, it took nearly a full year to deploy the first dozen UNCIVPOL. In other cases, such as Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the United Nations was able to recruit only about half of the number authorized for the mission. Although deployment time apparently has been somewhat reduced as missions have become more complex, it still is not considered optimal. In addition, a gap remains in the U.N.'s ability to deploy a sufficient number of people with specialized skills.

* The second is the enforcement gap, or the inability of deployed police forces to assure the level of security needed to provide the necessary climate to conduct normal policing operations. In these cases, the police deployed often lack the necessary skills to handle the situation, in particular the military skills needed to carry out constabulary functions in hostile situations, and investigative and intelligence-gathering skills to deal with organized crime. When military forces have not been available to assist police in handling hostile situations, either because they were in short supply (as occurred in Somalia in 1993-1995) or because their mandate did not include law enforcement functions (as in Bosnia in 1996), peacekeeping operations have been compromised.

* The third is the institution gap, where the indigenous law enforcement system lacks adequate numbers of honest and efficient judicial and penal personnel, as well as sound judicial and penal institutions, and thus are unable to effectively follow-up to police work with prosecution and punishment necessary for sustainable security. In many post-conflict situations, understaffed (if not partially intimidated or corrupted) judiciaries and penal systems, lacking even basic resources, have not been able to handle effectively the increased workload that results from more efficient policing.

We have, of course, seen all of these kinds of problems again in Iraq, though one or two of the specific examples has been avoided. Unfortunately, as often is the case with government--and especially Congressional--bureaucracies, the paper is much better at identifying problems than positing workable solutions. Indeed, predictably, the suggested reforms generally involve the creation of large, new bureaucracies.

The State Department comes in for some criticism in having attempted a market-based solution:

In what was intended as a major innovation in the U.S. CivPol system... the Department of State has issued contracts (as mentioned above) for the establishment and maintenance of a reserve cadre of up to 2,000 U.S. law enforcement personnel, who would be available for international police service on short notice....

As envisioned by the bidding proposal, the new cadre of U.S. civilian police would "eliminate the requirement to conduct from scratch, recruitment, selection, and training activities each time the U.S. contributes police to an international CivPol operation." The RFP also called for the contractor to identify technical advisors, who are not police officers, who could be called upon to assist with establishing institutional capabilities in police, judicial, and corrections systems.

The State Department's decision to award contracts for the new CivPol cadre program to multiple companies, rather than one as originally envisioned, has raised some questions about whether the process will be as expeditious as originally planned. While there may be some advantages to be gained by continued competition for CivPol deployments, and the greater number of applicants from which to choose, which some may judge necessary because of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, some analysts fear that these advantages will be offset by additional costs and delays.

It sounds to me like State's on to something, for a change.


Spirit of America:

The contest has begun! You'll find the donate button to the right, just below my shield, or you can follow this link.

The Fighting Fusileers, HQ company, is the place to report for updates.



I've had an email question I can't answer on the Rules of Engagement in Iraq's Marine area of control. If any of you feel competent to shed some light on it, drop me an email and I'll pass along the query.

Belmont Club

Belmont Club:

The Belmont Club today offers a couple of useful pieces of analysis on the current state of Iraq.

Welcome to Castle Argghhh! The Home Of One Of Jonah's Military Guys.

Spirit of America:

A reminder: today begins the Spirit of America campaign among bloggers. I'll update through the day, but be sure to check out The Fighting Fusileers for Freedom, HQ Company.

UPDATE: Hmm. At the last minute and without warning, the kickoff has been postponed to tomorrow. This really does remind me of the military.

New War

Big and Small Wars:

It appears that the war has entered a new phase. My conclusions are that things are about to escalate sharply; that the Bush administration is aware of it, and has decided to support escalation; and that we should expect to see, in the near future, much higher rates of casualties and an enlarged scale of warfare. There are two roads for such warfare, which I will outline below. I will conclude with some remarks on the upcoming election, and how we need to change the debate.

I. Drums at Night

The story on the Syrian firefight appears to be wrong on a critical point. The news media is claiming that the attackers were breakouts from Ramadi and Fallujah. That is highly unlikely, for two reason:

1: The numbers involved in the attack on the border were as large, or larger, than the total forces we've seen committed to battle anywhere else. With a cordon around Fallujah and Marine Recon in Ramadi, it is highly unlikely that this number of forces escaped without our notice, assembled unwatched with their mortars and equipment, and attacked in surprise. It is much more likely that these are infiltrators rather than exfiltrators, from Syria rather than from deeper in Iraq.

2: The attack was majestically coordinated, with three waves of surprise attacks carried out almost flawlessly. This is not the work of a cobbled-together force of breakouts, but of a unit that has trained together for some time.

This should not be surprising. Enemy statements and recovered evidence have suggested increased collusion between the non-state actors in the region: consider the statements, cited below, by Hezbollah's leadership and al-Sadr which are mutually reinforcing; consider also the extended tribal ties that bind so many in this region, but particularly al-Sadr and the leadership of Hezbollah; and consider the expansion of coordinated bombing of bridges on caravan routes. According to a letter published in National Review Online, 82 truck convoys have been hit in the last ten days.

The stakes in the region likewise suggest collusion, both between state and non-state actors: al-Sadr, as mentioned frequently on this page, has to win or die. The stakes are also very high for Iran, which is on the list of "Axis of Evil" nations, suffering domestic unrest against the mullahs, and which has standing border issues with Iraq and will continue to under any new government. The stakes for Syria are also high, and the reverence with which Assad regards Hezbollah suggests that he would be amenable to joining an expanded war on their side. There is every reason to believe that the war in Iraq has unified certain domestic militants with foreign opposition, which is providing (Iran, Lebanon) or at least not restricting (Syria?) overland routes, training bases, and havens for guerrillas.

II: Small Wars

If the analysis is correct--and I have seen no reason to doubt it, but could spend three days pulling up more OSINT to reinforce it--we should expect to see a wider, and harder, guerrilla war. When considering how to respond, it is not enough to look at the static situation. We have to consider not just how to respond to the threats faced today in Iraq, but to the threats likely to be faced in the future. Steps taken to address the current attacks will be met with responses from the enemy. That said, we need a strategy that isn't based on reaction to threats as they occur, but rather an overarching strategy to win this kind of war, regardless of the particular new threats which arise. "Action beats reaction" is a standing piece of military wisdom. What actions are possible? How do you beat a guerrilla war? There are two answers available, the first of which needs little argument, and the second a great deal.

The first--the standard--answer is to engage in "clear and hold" tactics. In American military history, the USMC pioneered this technique, and used it with great success in Vietnam, in contrast to the Army and air campaigns:

In Vietnam, the strategic concept of the Marine Corps emphasizes small wars. As the legendary Marine general, Victor H. Krulak, noted in his book, First to Fight, the Marines employed an approach in Vietnam -- the Combined Action Program -- that the Marines had first used in Haiti (1915-34), Nicaragua (1926-33), and Santo Domingo (1916-22). "Marine Corps experience in stabilizing governments and combating guerrilla forces was distilled in lecture form at the Marine Corps Schools...beginning in 1920," Krulak wrote. The lectures appeared in Small Wars Manual in 1940 and later adopted as an official publication.

The Marine Corps approach in Vietnam had three elements, according to Krulak: emphasis on pacification of the coastal areas in which 80 percent of the people lived; degradation of the ability of the North Vietnamese to fight by cutting off supplies before they left Northern ports of entry; and engagement of PAVN and VC main-force units on terms favorable to American forces.

The basic approach is sound, but the particulars--especially the definition of "terms favorable to American forces"--need to be updated for the war in the Middle East. Such warfighting is done with an eye toward the medium and long term, and can result in heavy casualties at times. Nevertheless, there is a century of success behind the policy.

The key features of USMC "Small Wars" as it would apply to Iraq are: keeping the regular military confined to Iraq; using special operations and air forces to eliminate training camps and supply depots inside Syria, Iran, or elsewhere; trying to maintain control of major population centers rather than trying to engage the enemy; and patrolling the regions we need to protect to secure supply lines, but leaving the areas we do not need to control to the enemy. Control the towns, let him have the deserts. In this way, you reduce the amount of damage that the enemy can do to small-scale bombings and sabotage, which kills some but leaves the majority of the population and economy untouched. Protecting the population, over time, denies the guerrillas the 'sea in which they swim,' to paraphrase Mao Tse-Tung. It also gives you time to train local forces that will be loyal to the new government, who can prosecute the war after your withdrawal.

III: Big Wars

This does not appear to be the route the Bush administration has chosen. In accord with the "Bush doctrine," they appear to have decided to fight not a small war but a big one. The underlying philosophy for such a war is sound, but it is a risk. It is genuinely dangerous, though "dangerous" does not mean "bad." Sometimes great danger is worth daring if there are great rewards. As Tolkien reminds, in the voice of Gandalf the White Wizard, "Dangerous? And so am I." So is the US military.

The Bush administration has a different answer to the question, "How do you fight a guerrilla war?" They appear to be drawing, not on the American model, but the Israeli one. Negotiation fails: guerrillas who are fighting a successful campaign use negotiation only to extort concessions while they rearm and strengthen. In addition, the guerrillas and terrorists opposed to the U.S., like those opposed to Israel, have very large goals. A negotiated settlement with someone whose goal is to see the last Western soldier (or the last Jew) out of the Middle East is unlikely to prove fruitful: withdrawing half the soldiers just means they feel they can fight harder; withdrawing from half the territory just gives them more havens from which to fight.

The West has an option that Israel does not have, which is to withdraw. The unity of our enemies would collapse if we did not provide them with a common enemy. Once that collapse occurs, much or all of their strength is wasted on infighting. After the groups have wrecked each other and the last one standing rules, in a decade or in fifty years, the West can return and fight only the straggler--you return, ally with a few of the survivors from among the opposition, and make them kings. Consider Afghanistan, where the Taliban were the strongest remnant of a shattered Mujahedeen, which once destroyed the Russian army. By allying with the Northern Alliance, tenuously holding a fraction of Afghanistan, we quickly eliminated the government and have been able to move to antiinsurgency operations with less than a tenth of the forces used in Iraq.

The problem with this approach in Iraq is that it is the approach. We could withdraw, but we just did. Fifty years back the place was under British rule. We've let the opposition sort itself out, allied with the exile and Kurdish groups, and are now making them the kings. Withdrawing again doesn't fix the problem, it just puts it off. There is a second problem, which may be called the China problem, again after Mao--once a guerrilla army has beaten its opposition, it is ripe for overthrow only until it develops nuclear weapons. Recent events have shown how close we are to seeing that even in Iran.

If negotiation and withdrawal are not options, what remains in this Israeli model is escalation. Guerrilla fighters must be forced off their game by creating situations in which time is not on their side. Instead of letting them "strike and fade," you have to force them either to attempt to hold ground, or to engage in conventional fighting. The usual two methods for this are assassination of leadership agents, which reliably causes reprisals; and an assault on a region that they feel bound, out of honor or religion or for pure practicality, to defend. By forcing the guerrillas to take the field in a conventional war, you eliminate their advantages and make them fight on the terms least advantageous: a stand up fight against a regular army. You dare them to do their worst--indeed, you force them to do it--and then you fight them down.

Does this sound familiar? It is exactly what the Marines have been doing to Saddamite elements in Fallujah. It is what Israel is doing by assassinating Hamas leadership targets with a new prejudice. Bush has changed two major policies this week as regards Israel, both of which move the US out of the "honest broker" role, and into a partisan role: the tacit endorsement of Israel holdings in the West Bank, and the rejection of "right of return." Now project forward: the Coalition has surrounded Najaf and Karbala with thousands of troops. Both Iranian and Iraqi insurgents--as well, it might be noted, as more responsible voices in Iraq--are warning that an assault on those cities would be intolerable. It is territory that the enemy has to defend.


As this is an election year, there is an opportunity to have this debate among the citizenry and force the politicians to adhere to what we decide. Currently no such debate is engaged. The Bush administration is not forthcoming as to their intentions, and the Kerry campaign appears to lack serious military thinkers necessary to address the question. Kerry's recent "plan" for Iraq addresses exactly none of these points, nor outlines which strategy he might use in the war. Calling for reinforcements--which is essentially what he does by asking for UN guidance and NATO forces--is not a strategy. I have seen nothing to suggest that his campaign contains anyone who understands the issue, which is exactly what is to be expected from a man whose career, inspired by his antiwar protests, has been run for two decades against "the military-industrial complex" and the intelligence community. Nevertheless, there are strategists on the Left, both inside and outside of the Democratic party. The party needs to engage them.

I said at the beginning that there are two options in Iraq, but in fact there are three. The first is the American model, "Small Wars" campaign. The second is a broader, Bush-doctrine campaign that will aim to widen the war and eliminate terrorist havens--first Fallujah, then perhaps Najaf or Karbala, Iran, Syria. The third is to fail to adopt an overall antiguerrilla strategy, attempting to bring stability through the use of military forces in a police action, or engaging in a withdrawal. Any such non-strategy will result in defeat in the medium to long term.

As it stands now, I believe a vote for Bush is a vote for option two, and a vote for Kerry is a vote for option three. We need a candidate for option one. If enough people understand the issue and can bring it forward in the campaign season, we may get one--either Bush or Kerry may move to that position if pressure is brought to bear. Ideally the election should be a referrendum on whether the Global War on Terror is fought as a series of small wars, or one big war.

What we don't need is to have a choice made by default. This is a free Republic, and we are here considering the largest of questions. It is proper to consult the citizenry, and I see no evidence that anyone in the government wishes to do so.

Firefight on the border

Firefight on the Syrian Border:

Big news from the Syria-Iraq border. As usual, the Marines killed--either five or six, depending on the source--were slain in the surprise attacks that opened the battle. There's an hour-by-hour account of the battle through the link.

The attack was well designed, with a decoy bombing followed by small-arms and machine-gun fire to pin responding forces. When they called for reinforcments, those were met with a coordinated mortar assault from two dozen positions. It sounds as if the number of enemy KIA and captured will provide some good intel. Once they'd worked through their surprises, they were steadily eaten up by the Marines, with the final kill ratio being somewhere in the neighborhood of ten or twelve to one, again depending on the source. The captures, at least as important, were over twenty.

Just in case anybody reading this thinks the Marine are being heavyhanded, do take special note of these two paragraphs in the story:

At one point, many of the insurgents reportedly had gathered in a local mosque, and Marines were preparing to bomb the building. They pulled back the attack, however, when they couldn't not get positive identification of the occupants of the mosque....

"We're trying to get the snipers in position for a shot," Major George Schreffler told the other commanders through tactical radio communications. "They're looking at guys in blue uniforms and others with black clothes and black masks. Some are using children to shield themselves. We will not take shots in which we could possibly hit children."

With one hand tied... It continues to astonish me what these young men can do.

The Onion | New Negative Campaign Ads Blast Voters Directly

Negative Ads:

Honestly, we're not far from this:

The Bush people initiated this volley of negative ads, but we won't be lured into a reactive campaign against the Republicans," Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said Monday. "It's time to redirect the cheap name-calling away from Bush and toward those Americans who might be idiotic enough to vote for him...."

Over a series of images of America's senior citizens, the narrator of another 30-second spot says, "The Medicare drug bill is a triumph of right-wing ideology masquerading as moderate reform. The pharmaceutical-drug and insurance industries are tickled pink. Guess who's paying for it? You. Congratulations, moron. I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."