In a meeting that’s happening about the time I’m writing this post, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that General Peter Pace will recommend increasing the number of troops in Iraq along with a number of other smart measures. Highlights:
- substantial buildup in American troops
- increase in “industrial” aid
- major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr
“Shinseki was right” is the mantra, but troop numbers should not be the focus, and it appears Joint Chiefs gets the need for a real “combined arms” offensive that enlists the support of military and non-military resources.
Key, however, is the ability of the military to carry out a smart catch-up. We’ve had three years of “staying the course” to polarize the people, tear apart our own reputation, and strengthen the criminals, terrorists, and tribal and sectarian factions. Reversing this trend won’t be easy. Certainly reconciliation will be much more difficult.
This ability is heavily contingent on really conducting counter-insurgency in Iraq. Lessons learned over the years, included regurgitated lessons from the past century of insurgencies, barely trickle through the force. COIN includes aid, believable messages, building of trust, increased participation and buy-in by the Iraqis, and respect. It is this complex mixture of getting the population to side with us, to reject the extremists, in what form they take, that makes COIN hard and, unfortunately, reduces the chances of American success in Iraq. We had our chance at the beginning, but allowing the looting and the general collapse of civil order blazed the way to our current condition.
At the same time, the Washington Post is reporting the Army and Marines are finally requesting permanent increases in their troop levels. I’ve commented on the need to upsize the forces and the unfortunately condition under which current troop levels are maintained: through supplementals instead of admitting a requirement… outsourcing the “surge capacity” during a “Long War”… etc
Both actions clearly come as the Rumsfeldian lid comes off. As the Iraq Study Group report noted, civil-military relations have been frayed during this Administration. The clamp down Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz felt was necessary after the “decadent” Clinton years has backfired and suppressed professional and highly competent advise from our career officers.
It will be interesting to see what Pace’s group actually proposes. State has done a fine job of allowing itself to be marginalized (what were the priorities of Rice and Hughes?), buy we’ll probably still see opportunities for State to step up further in the Pace plan. But how much will be Pentagon (military, not civilian members) CYA and how much will be real partnerships?