American Successes in Iraq

Monday, April 30, 2007
There really are thousands of them and the Iraq Reconstruction Report has provided a consistant means of assessing measurable progress in realizing objective successes that may have a lasting impact on Iraq. Every project run by the Corps and/or the ground commanders brings Iraqis into contact with a system that actually functions. Quite a few of the CERP projects are actually of the rent a sheik variety but they're still important because some of the money spent does dribble down to the workers, providing them for a reason to not participate in planting IEDS.

It's good to see that the school construction and reconstruction projects will be the first to be completed at 100%. There have to be tens of thousands of teachers who will bear some very good will towards Americans for putting schools first and some of that good will is going to be transmitted to the students and their families.

While I don't believe that actual democracy is possible under a constitution that elevates sharia to the position of primacy, I do believe that Iraq has the potential to be a model for the ME.

It would be shameful to abandon the Iraqis to AQ and its allies in the Democratic party. I don't think much of the Petraeus surge and I hope that the President demands more from him than he offered last week. I've found Alaa at The Mesopotamian to be the most consistant of the Iraqi bloggers and the linked post presents a more rational view of a strategic rather than tactical focus than does the Petraeus 'surge without end'. The only clear addition that I would make to Alaa's ideas is that turnover of specific areas would occur 'ready or not'. The IP and the IA have the manpower advantage to take and hold any area in Iraq - if they have to.


vnjagvet said...

Good post, Rick. I am not as negative on the surge idea as you are, because I do not believe that is the only chance in tactics being employed.

The New York Times article yesterday reported some successes in Anbar.

I was talking to a CPT Infantry with 14 years of service over the weekend. He has two tours in Iraq as an officer, and was an enlisted man in Desert Storm.

His take is that there has been a lot of on the ground flexibility exhibited in the tactics since 2003. That has been necessary as shifting alliances and tribal "deals" are made, broken and remade.

It is a real cat and mouse game. It reminds me of the early days in VN when the VC insurgency was at its peak.

It took from 1960 until 1968 for our side to get it right there (and we did get that right, eventually).

Keep in mind that we expanded our footprint from 1964 to 1968, during the latter days of the Johnson Administration, to over 550k troops -- some 3-4 times the number in Iraq.

We learned a lot from the ROK troops who were fighting in certain provinces, and also learned a lot from the Fifth Special Forces gang who developed a tactical approach embraced by Gen Abrams who succeeded Westmoreland.

These tactics allowed the reduction of troops to under 200k by the first two years of the Nixon Administration in 1971, and by this time the insurgency phase of the war was over.

From then on, it was essentially a conventional war between the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) and the North Vietnamese Regular Army (NVA) with us supplying artillery and air support along with periodic bombing of North Vietnam.

In addition, we supplied troops in Cambodia to try to interdict the NVA's supply lines through that country.

We will see how well these 40 year old lessons learned can be modified to apply to a country with very different mores traditions and customs.

vnjagvet said...

I should have noted, Rick, that I believe that history has shown the increased footprint in Vietnam was a mistake. The effective tactics employed beginning in late 1966 and early 1967 did not rely on numbers. They relied on the classic anti-insurgent tactics written up in the Petraeus report.

Increased numbers proved counterproductive.

Rick Ballard said...


I have 100% confidence in the ability of our men and officers at the battalion and brigade level. If Petraeus sounded like Abrams rather than Westmoreland I could possibly come up with some confidence in him. He doesn't though and Casey sounds more like Westmoreland than Westmoreland did.

The tactical shift may work out but the concept of "outposts" (which did work well enough in Nam) doesn't make much sense in an urban setting. Suiciders are dirt cheap and they weren't used to any extent at all in Nam.

When the CPT to whom you spoke says "That has been necessary as shifting alliances and tribal "deals" are made, broken and remade.", he is referring to precisely what I was mentioning. It's fine to rent sheiks, time honored Arab custom and all that, but even a cursory study of the Ottomans reveals that when a sheik broke a rental deal, the penalty was death. If we enforced that penalty a bit noisily, even a few times, we would eliminate nonperformance issues on the part of our rentiers in short order.

Perhaps it's happened and hasn't been reported but I don't think so. By not enforcing the agreements we are (according to Arab custom) both showing weakness or stupidity and, worse, actually condoning the errant sheiks conduct.

I don't believe that a full scale Operation Phoenix program is necessary at all. The Arabs are too well conditioned for large scale killing to be necessary. I just wish we'd take out a few and see what happens.

vnjagvet said...

If anyone is going to carry out that type of operation, Rick, it has to be the SEALs or the Special Forces, and will be of necessity clandestine. Of course, that is not the type of thing that is publicized in "doctrine" or in speeches by CG's. Therefore, I am not sure that is not being done.

To do it with conventional forces in this day of universal communications would not be politic in the existing political climate we have in the US.

We'll see.

Rick Ballard said...


In the early days after 9/11 we blew up some Saud oily sheiks (or maybe princelings) using a Hellfire off a Predator drone. That's all I care to hear about whatever might befall a negligent sheik - maybe just a short series of "hunting accidents" or even a few deaths of 'indeterminate cause'. I don't even have to hear about them - the sheik next door does.

vnjagvet said...

On that, Rick, we totally agree.