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November 20, 2008

More on Victory in Iraq: Could It Have Been Had in 2005?

I don't know myself. But the Fortress model didn't seem to work.

Soon after the initial invasion of Iraq, when it became apparent that there was an insurgency, many of my (non-military) friends claimed there was no way to win an insurgent fight and we should just throw in the towel. “We’ll be stuck there forever! No one has ever won a guerrilla war!” All gloom and doom.

My response? Six to nine years. History tells us that most insurgencies fail. Even most insurgencies against an imperial power. They do tend to last a long time though. Say, 6 to 9 years.

When it became clear that Gen. Casey and the rest of the leadership was engaged in a bastion defense, I was flabbergasted. The very core of counterinsurgency is protecting the population. That’s the whole fight. You can’t do that when you are buttoned up in a FOB. Further, being holed up gives the insurgents freedom of maneuver, so that when you do travel outside your forts, you are vulnerable to attacks such as ambushes and IEDs. To hole up is to surrender the initiative to the enemy. You spend all your time reacting to him, rather than making him react to you. John Boyd must have been spinning in his grave.

We saw the results of this stupid policy through 2004, 2005, and most stunningly in 2006. Despite a great deal of blood, sweat and tears, and much truly heroic soldiering by our troops, the situation continued to deteriorate.

It wasn’t until General Petraeus was nominated to lead the effort in Iraq that we began to see changes. Petraeus was the guy who wrote the book on counterinsurgency. He didn’t come up with anything particularly new, but he did learn the proper lessons from history. Soon, American troops were no longer sitting inside their camps, but rather working side by side with the fledgeling Iraqi National Army, giving them a concrete example of what their army could and should be. The US Army became far more aggressive, pursuing insurgents and terrorists with a renewed vigor. And as the Iraqi people saw that our forces were there not as an occupying army, but rather the first line of defense against the barbarian forces of Al Queda in Iraq, they began to cooperate. Cooperation usually spelled actionable intelligence. Which lead to greater successes on the battlefield. Which lead to greater cooperation.

I would point out, though, that while our troops were based in FOBs, they were still fighting -- and grinding the enemy down, too.

I just have to point out that the Surge, itself, didn't win the war -- there was also the matter of the military fighting these guys for four years prior. There was a lot already done. I don't mean to discount the obvious fact that the surge really turned the trick -- I'm just pointing out that an enemy can be battered quite a bit before suddenly collapsing.

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posted by Ace at 07:55 PM

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