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Goodbye LJ

Long time, no write.

I've been busy as a bee, and for one reason or another haven't really felt like writing much.  I'm thinking of giving it another go, but I'd like to try it on a new site - Politics and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We'll see how that goes.

Part of Building That Trust

Part of what you would need to do in creating these 'safe havens' is make a clear statement of the intent, and try to get everyone living there to buy into it.  Its like when taking over a platoon or company - eventually you should have a 'command philosophy'.  A clear statement for your soldiers explaining what you think is important, how you will handle certain issues, what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.  Then of course you have to live up to that command philosophy, because they'll test you on it.

So before creating these safe havens you would have to say 'we are doing this in order to help make your lives safer.  We will do X, Y and Z.  If this is to work, we will need your support.' and make it clear we're looking for them to turn anyone trying to start something in, before they get the chance to cause trouble.  And in Iraq that probably would mean involving the key leaders in whatever area you are considering, and getting them to buy into it.   The key thing to sell is that sense of safety - and their ability to make it happen. 

And then we would have to back up that promise with action, with the steps necessary to create those safe havens, and the manpower to enforce it.

Fighting an Insurgency

I guess first of all the usual caveats - I am by no means an expert on counter-insurgency operations.  Or even infantry operations.  I'm also coming up with this stuff without tying it to our own logistics and financing, so it may not even be practical.  Oh, and I am pulling bits and pieces I've heard from places - like the whole 'inkblot' counterinsurgency plan of creating safe havens and then spreading them out like an inkblot (which seems to make a lot of sense to me, in many different ways.)

In Iraq we are trying to balance the need to fight a war with the need to develop an open and democratic society - which means, for example, that anything that detracts from that and seems to rely only on brute force is kind of detrimental to the larger fight.  We want to put bad guys through the legal system, create criminal records and try them legally, for example.

Still, I think the one of the key 'targets' is the perception of control.  That is what insurgents attack, every time they fire mortars or blow up a convoy.  They are attacking the perception that we are in control, that we can stop them, arrest them, and keep them from attacking.

Unfortunately, a perception of control (or lack thereof) can spiral out of hand rather quickly.  The criminals know what they are doing, who they are attacking, and where.  Which leaves the other side reacting after the fact all too often.  It takes time to track down who might have been able to support an attack, time to track down the networks - and you can't always catch all of them even then.  Its a classic Leviathan problem (which all governments could face.  Governments always have fewer people and often are less knowledgeable than those immediately in an area) - where we don't know who is bad or not, and are likely to make errors of either not arresting bad guys (leaving them free to attack again), arresting good guys by mistake (and potentially alienating them in turn), and risking corruption with those we trust in identifying bad guys (not just because the Iraq army has those problems, but informants often have ulterior motives).  And of course if the news is right about the insurgent supply channels becoming more solid, and their ability to sustain themselves despite our efforts is strengthening, then it shows that time is a big factor in the tactics you choose.  Things you do early on may be too little too late after the insurgency has had time to blossom.

Which is sort of a fancy way of saying that regaining a sense of control right now would take a hella lot more effort than if we'd had it right at the beginning, and yet the need to seem like the 'good guys' is also even more important now. 

I think on the flip side, though is that people are getting tired of feeling like they are living in fear, and might possibly support harsher measures if it would offer some feeling of safety.  Which means a concerted effort to create 'safe havens' where we start off with heavy-handed control, perhaps consider measures like a one time house to house search for IED munitions and other weapons before making a place a 'safe haven', and then creating tight security for everyone entering - and then expanding those borders and areas gradually - coupled with a Psyop campaign explaining what we are doing, why, and exactly how - just might work.   Then you'd have to bring in the Iraqis to maintain control, but with a heavy US presence at the beginning and establish penalties for ethnic favoritism and corruption, and start turning the center of these safe havens over to them. 

Of course, that would be a pretty manpower intensive effort I think.  And there still would be all the problems we have now of maintaining secure checkpoints and whatnot.  And I'm not sure how easy it would be to make a true 'safe haven' in urban areas where there are multiple routes from one place to another, nor how good our searches would be at rooting out potential threats, never mind whether insurgents within the safe haven would be able to find more creative ways of attacking.  Still, if you also tie in a campaign linking these guys to the lack of safety and extending the US presence (and other incentives) perhaps we can get them to turn these guys in for us.  And you'd need a heavy police presence within these safe havens at the beginning, to help forestall sectarian violence.   You'd also still have to keep on trucking with turning things over to the Iraqis and building trust in their institutions.

Good Summary

Of the same things I'd heard last year, the same problems and issues.  Logistics is broken, they don't know how to use NCO's (or build an NCO Corps), and there is a definite lack of trust.


Of course, on the last page they talked about the need to put these criticisms in perspective   "As for logistics, he said, it is important that the Iraqis demonstrate that they are in control of their own military by assuming responsibility for sustaining and paying their own soldiers, though measures to ease the strain, like allowing commanders to buy some provisions locally, are under consideration." for example.

I dunno.  I guess we'll have to see how things turn out. 

Still, I keep thinking of basic leadership/team building.  Well, that's what I think of with the whole involvement over here, honestly.  Its kind of hard to explain, but its sort of like what I've been saying about having boundaries and being centered.  You have to create a vision of what you want, show people how to make that vision happen, and give them a reason to buy into your vision.  In order to do all of that you must have trust.  Not trust as in being perfect - the pressure to be perfect is what often leads to hypocritical leaders who tell their soldiers to do the 'right' thing when everyone knows that they themselves haven't been doing it.  For all my own mistakes, my soldiers tend to trust me because I don't try to hide them or be hypocritical about it.  Anyways, you have to build the belief that you can make your vision happen, and that you will.

In some ways that is what we lost, by not having enough troops on the ground to prevent looting and rioting while protecting ourselves.  We destroyed some of that social fabric of trust - the belief that those who step out of line are punished, for example.  People say they are shocked by the looting in Hurricane Katrina - but people are very much social creatures and their ability to do 'right' is often as much a product of environment as it is that they are 'civilized'.  Hell, if the Holocaust taught us anything it should have taught us that 'civilization' does not preclude the ability to act like beasts.  Really, people aren't going to be 'good' independent of environment unless/until they have an internal code and motivation beyond the whole legal system. 

Anyways, I got sidetracked.  What I was saying by that is that people react to their environment, and once some people react by looting - and get away with it - it creates an environment of the Wild, Wild West of sorts.  Where the person with the most firepower and the willingness to back it up - and is right there in front of you - gets what they want.  Not that they were too far from that under Saddam anyway, but he at least made sure it was always his guys that had the most firepower. 

The article talked about how a lot of efforts were like 'whack a mole'.  You just move around and occasionally find targets and occasionally get hit, but it isn't necessarily a cohesive plan to win the war.

I guess to me a cohesive plan would be to focus strongly in one area - not as in killing all the insurgents (and then leaving), as we've done that before and they roll right back in after we leave.  Actually, let me write about that in a separate post here.

Fighting Terrorists

Years ago, while trying to learn more about all that fun interrogation/neurolinguistic stuff, I borrowed the book "Killing Rage", an autobiography by a former IRA member named Eamon Collins.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1862070474/026-3012326-2515614?v=glance&n=266239 He talks about what drew him to the IRA, how he withstood interrogation when arrested, what led him to break under interrogation a different time, and finally what made him withdraw from the IRA.  He was ultimately killed by that organization for his outspoken criticisms.

One of the things that I remember very well was a point he made later on.  Namely, that he realized the IRA could never win.  But he also realized that the British police could never truly defeat them, either.  Now, the rest of this is all stuff I'm sort of pulling from bits and pieces, so take it with a grain of salt.

Terrorism highlights all the problems associated with a 'Leviathan' type of government.  Namely that when you centralize all the power, two problems arise.  First - how do you identify those who are breaking the rules?  You know if you're neighbor is doing wrong - but someone from another city won't.  Therefore a centralized government will occasionally jail the wrong people and NOT jail the 'right' ones.  The second problem is 'who watches the watchers?', i.e. if the policing force is itself corrupt it makes it hard to properly police everyone else.  Terrorists may not be able to mount a coup and topple the government, they may never 'win' and create a pan-Arab Muslim state...but they don't necessarily have to.  Because even if you kill all but one of a terrorist cell, if that one terrorist can mount a public attack it will show everyone else that they are still around, and not defeated.

From what I understand the British made true progress against the IRA in a couple of different ways.  One is they had public cameras that allowed them to gain evidence on who was involved, better track the organizations, and be more effective at catching them.  The other was that they started changing the way they handled Irish Catholics, thus removing some of the incentives/anger/hate that led to terrorist actions.

Terrorists are by definition small - if they had more manpower they would fight differently, fight more like a civil war or something. (though a class of mine did discuss what hte differences were between terrorism and an insurgency, and seemed to think the major difference is all in numbers.  Now that we're calling events in Iraq an 'insurgency' does that mean there are enough members to move beyond terrorist actions?)  Anyways - terrorist tactics are centered around the fact that they are relatively small.  If they were larger, they'd be mounting attacks against bases, conducting raids, and cutting supply lines.  Whittling away by ones and twos and conducting small scale operations with a big psychological impact (like Vehicle Born IEDs) are things you do to maximize your affect when you're small.  And while the damage from these attacks is large in the sense that it creates a sense of insecurity and instability, (and large to a lot of the Iraqis who have taken some pretty massive casualties) it doesn't really threaten operations.   Yet.

So in order to fight terrorists you have to do a couple of things.  You have to show that they haven't 'won' by continuing with typical combat operations - arresting insurgents and mounting patrols, etc.  But that just maintains the fight...to truly win it, you have to, have to, HAVE TO start thinking about two things - a) how to show that terrorist acts only lead to more death and destruction and b) that there are better, less violent ways of achieving your ends.

The fight isn't truly over until the average citizen thinks that a suicide bomber is a stupid violent idiot who is going to hell for killing himself (which IS against the Muslim religion) and that they are better off achieving their desires through peaceful methods.  You have to de-romanticize these so called martyrs, make sure that when an Iraqi's loved ones are kidnapped and/or killed that they get angry at the terrorists instead of blaming the US for not keeping the peace, and show them a way to achieve the stability and respect they want without violence.

The War Against Terror

I guess, first a rehash of something I've thought about and I think written pieces of earlier.  Namely, what The War Against Terror truly means.  It seems pretty obvious to me that terrorism is at threat that pays no attention to national borders, that gets support from a variety of sources, and will move/adjust as necessary to continue the fight.  So when the US decides to war against terror what immediately comes to my mind is "How serious are we?".  Because if we are serious, then we will eventually have to track down each and every haven for terrorists - will eventually have to turn every single country into either an ally of sorts or an enemy, because any place that does not cooperate in fighting terrorists will become a safe haven for them.  Now, we can always stop short of a complete solution - find some diplomatic answer, turn a blind eye to certain countries, put a lid on the simmering problem because we don't have the ability to handle something that large (or perhaps to work on a small bite at a time and get around to the rest of it as necessary).  But if we are truly serious, then we have to start thinking on a global scale, because that IS the level these guys are operating at. 

Heh, and I can totally see the war against terror creating a growing need for a true international governing force, able to track networks and arrest criminals supproting them.  The question is, where will the US fit into that international governing force?  Will we create a patchwork of allies that share data and loosely cooperates?  Outright take over certain countries?  Or will we stop blocking the power of an outside agency (because of course we don't want interference in our own national soveriegnty, and that is something an outside agency would be able to do) in order to create some sort of international government with the power to interfere within nation/states - kind of like the difference between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

I think this article kind of captures some of the changes implied by this change: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/weekinreview/30shanker.html They're exactly right, in that we are fighting networks rather than conventional forces that we can easily locate and destroy or cut the supply lines to.  Of course, I personally think they aren't as strong as they think, either.  That they can 'win' in a war where 'winning' means making it clear that they haven't given up and can still make other people miserable, but that they really aren't effective at attacking strategically in enough forces to make a difference (i.e. destroying our bases, interdicting our supply lines.  But who knows, that could change if they get enough manpower, I suppose).   Their main weapon is terror, is making people afraid - but fear is a well that eventually runs dry, as people get fed up and tired of living in the shadow of a threat.

What bothers me is that I don't see the kind of thinking I think truly necessary to successfully win this fight.  I mean, okay I'm not involved in high level decision making so who knows what is really going on, but there isn't much in the news about a coherent plan.  I have no issues with the need to fight it, but I think that too few people truly grasp what is necessary and know how to use it effectively.   I think we still have problems with information operations, psychological operations, running humint sources - the things that will win this.  And who knows if we have people that can pull all those tools together to create an effective offensive.  NOT an offensive of 'more manpower on the streets of Baghdad' but rather an offensive combining safe havens created by military forces (and probably a lot of them) with a campaign to make people feel safe, or that they will eventually be safe as we spread these safe zones outward, and to pin the blame for their lack of safety squarely on the shoulders of these terrorists, tied in with a campaign similar to that Iraqi TV show where they show detained insurgents confessing to the things they've done in order to de-romanticize insurgents and show them for the criminal thugs they are.