Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Obama's COIN Cowed Iraq Into Submission [Steve Schippert]
Counterinsurgency, or COIN, is serious business undertaken by serious people. So when credit is unduly taken or given for its effects by those well outside the circles of COIN strategic development or tactical execution, there is an understandable sense of bitterness among those who constitute such circles. COIN is not an acronym for presidential campaign donations. Nor is COIN to be cashed in as in-kind contributions for the enrichment of those who clearly do not understand it.
I rarely write on politics or politicians beyond the application of principle in decision making. But as a Marine Corps veteran with many friends serving in military, intelligence, and NatSec policy positions who develop and execute COIN, frustration and anger have been brewing beneath the surface for several days.
So the Washington Post asked, “Why do Democratic candidates refuse to acknowledge progress in Iraq?”
On one hand, a good question, and even better to see the question raised within the pages of the Washington Post.
Yet on the other hand, one Democratic candidate has acknowledged progress in Iraq. And, in what strikes me as nothing short of self-serving fantasy, Barack Obama this past weekend swiftly and wrongly assigned significant cause for said progress in Iraq to himself and the Democratic majority in Congress.
I welcome the genuine reductions of violence that have taken place, although I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province — Sunni tribes — who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, you know what, the Americans may be leaving soon, and we are going to be left very vulnerable to the Shi'as.
This is nothing short of absolutely stunning. Brazen. And mythical.
Yes, there was an agreement with Iraqi tribes in Anbar — one which was overdue by at least one full year. But it had nothing to do with the U.S. Congress beyond its approval of Gen. David Petraeus — and his sweeping team — as the new MNF-I commander. And even then, his approval was given without much cerebral energy. He was, after all, simply poised to be the fall guy remembered for the "last helicopter out of Baghdad," remember?
And, it should be soberly noted, even in his attempt to take undue credit for the positive turnaround in Iraq, Obama still shuns such taboo terms as “success” or “victory” to any degree at all in association with Iraq.
Perhaps the people of Iraq — many of whom likely have no clue who Barack Obama is — may differ with words less measured than my own here. When was it that the Iraqis “started to see"? It couldn't have been at the baking of their children by al-Qaeda, which served baked children to Sunni families to intimidate entire Iraqi towns into submission. It surely wasn't because of the dead, tortured, or otherwise still missing Iraqi family members, many of whom were freed from al-Qaeda only when their torture camps were raided and cleared by American forces. (Note: None of them were senators or representatives, fearsome as they apparently may be to ordinary Iraqis.)
No, Iraqis. Get with the program. It was Obama and the rest of the Democratic-majority U.S. Congress that intimidated you into cooperation by sheer (and distant) imposition of will. And the resulting Democratic reduction in violence is thus undeniable.
Perhaps those American men and women deployed in Iraq and serving near and far in intelligence capacities may also differ in words less measured than my own. The Iraq Awakening movement did not arise in a vacuum. There were many in military and intelligence circles that — for a long time going against the grain — nurtured relationships with a pleading segment of the Iraqi public. “I swear to God, if we have good weapons, if we have good vehicles, if we have good support, I can fight al Qaeda all the way to Afghanistan,” the assassinated Anbar leader Shiekh Abdul Sattar said. But from pre-Petraeus U.S. command in Baghdad, Sattar was regarded as simply a warlord and dismissed. As was the detailed intelligence information on al-Qaeda that his followers and tribesmen possessed. The successful establishment of his Iraq Awakening movement — partnering against al-Qaeda and simultaneously extending a hand to Iraq's Shi'a — apparently had nothing to do with the eventual U.S. military decision to support it. And many American military men and women risked and sacrificed life and limb to maintain this relationship and continue to earn the trust of the Iraqi people.
No. That's all bunk. We are now duly informed that it was the Democratic majority in Congress that was finally able to turn virtually unabated Iraqi violence into the present and undeniable settling of relative calm.
Is this not absolutely and breathtakingly arrogant?
Silly me. I thought it was Gen. David Petraeus's arrival and the decision to finally — finally — begin supporting Iraqis on the ground who knew the terrorist enemy and also wanted to kill him — for reasons far more personal than the vast majority of America cares to internalize.
Silly me. I thought it was a genuine shift of counterinsurgency strategy and tactics, with Petraeus and his planners jolting U.S. forces from their garrisons and teaming with local Iraqi citizens to bloody al-Qaeda and break their grip over Iraqi cities and towns.
Silly me. I thought it was because significant numbers of Iraqi citizens — Sunni and Shi'a alike — recognized that Iran was stirring both extremist pots because Iraqis killing Iraqis serves Tehran's ambitions.
Silly me. I thought it was because a new counterinsurgency strategy finally recognized that — like politics — all security is local, and thus began to approach things neighborhood by neighborhood, clearing and holding in a relentless drive against the terrorist enemy in Iraqi streets.
Silly me. I thought it was a parallel recognition that the overall solution — like security in Iraq — must be driven bottom-up, by Iraqis. That the top-down Baghdad-centric central-government approach was meaningless — and even counterproductive — unless it positively impacted the ordinary Iraqi at the most local level. New to the lexicon came “Provincial Reconstruction Team” and “Concerned Local Citizen.” Receding from view were Maliki and other national officials holed up in their protected zone in Baghdad.
No. It was none of these actions. It was the sheer invisible force of will exerted by the new Democratic Congress in 2006. Whatever is good in Iraq is due to them, their appearances on televised news programs, radio interview, alloted editorial space in newspapers, and countless hours of podium-pounding on CSPAN. So frightened and intimidated by the Congress's undeniable will, Iraqis were cowed into submission and strong-armed into cooperation. Without even doing a single thing or enacting one piece of legislation that would hint at the inevitable U.S. withdrawal. Now that's power.
This is offensive beyond description. It's self-serving dishonesty. And it must be rejected without reservation or pause.
01/09 04:55 PMShare