Lord Acton - Right Again

Sunday, June 03, 2007
Michael Yon has written a riveting tale concerning the personal initiative taken by Col. Crissman in arresting a hero turned gangster in the lovely Iraqi oasis of Hit. 'Gangster' rather than 'simple Chicago pol' because the police chief, while having been appointed by coalition forces, had apparently lost any sense of being responsible to any governing authority, Iraqi or coalition. LTC Crissman's actions are in perfect correspondence with the Values Message which Gen. Petraeus had recently penned and yet Yon was quite clear that Col. Crissman was apprehensive regarding potentially negative reaction to his decision:
When Crissman said with full sincerity that he probably was in trouble, and then joked that he might need a place to stay, the council burst into laughter, with members saying he could live in Hit.

Gen. (actually Col.) Hamid behaved in a manner entirely consonant with his culture. Having obtained power, he used it to benefit himself and those closest to him. A Mafia boss would understand and applaud his actions, a Capone or a Gambino would only question his intelligence in allowing himself to be taken so easily. It will be interesting to see what the Iraqi government, which so desperately wished to keep their distance from anything that might be construed as responsibility regarding the outcome, will do when Hamid is transferred to their care.

It will be even more interesting to see if LTC Crissman was correct in his assessment of the probability that, while Gen. Petraeus is capable of penning a fine document for public consumption, those showing initiative in actually fulfilling the lofty ideals espoused by the General have reason to fear should they attempt to actually engage in their implementation.

Michael Yon is certainly the best reporter in Iraq at the moment. It is to be hoped that coalition leadership is cognizant of the fact that booting him or making his job more difficult because of truth telling would constitute poor public relations.


vnjagvet said...


At least there is enough authority "push-down" for heroes like Crissman to take this kind of action.

IMO, the only way this thing improves is if you give the field grade officers the authority and realistic ROE to encourage the bad guys to exhaust themselves fighting for power that will never come.

I am encouraged that Michael Yon has irrefutable evidence on this.

Rick Ballard said...


Crissman has filed some reports of his own from Hit. He seems very competent, knowledgeable and willing to take measured risks. He also had Hamid down in the "good guy" column in his previous reporting.

I suppose that there is a possibility that the concept of governance by law rather than men might catch on in Iraq. Not by September, though. Petraeus has proven willing to take casualties at a higher rate in order to give his theory a decent trial. Crissman really owes it to his men to find out if Petraeus is serious and I certainly admire his forthright choice for the test.

I just can't quite grasp what metric for success is being used to determine whether progress is actually occuring. Petraeus needs to flesh that out a bit.

vnjagvet said...

A bit of mafia training might help, Rick. Not terrorism, you understand. Just some old fashioned "protection".

Like Crissman's own report says. You find out who the good guys are and reward them. Bribery (in the "baksheesh" sense of course) sometimes may be neessary in this process. Culture is important here. Little things can really make a difference, too.

Then, you use the good guys to find out who the bad guys are and punish them. Punishment comes in many guises. Fiscal punishment is often more effective than physical. It is often the opposite of backsheesh.

Metrics? When the bad guys are becoming fewer than the good guys, and killing mostly other bad guys things are turning around.

Who is bad and who is good, of course, depends on who is doing the counting.

Slowly but surely, things seem to turn around.