Saturday, December 25, 2004

Counterinsurgency for Losers

[Following on a discussion at Winds of Change] - The International Crisis Group is a Brussels-based think tank which has its snout in every feed trough the Western world has to offer, from Bill Gates to USAID. In return for all this money (which could have fed a few unfortunate people in Bangladesh, I would think) the ICG regurgitates the kind of stuff that career bureaucrats and busy-body left-wing millionaires like to hear, a process commonly known as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

So as a joint effort between the Eurocrats in their Brussels office and their allegedly objective Middle East experts in Amman, Jordan, the ICG offers a report entitled What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq?

Here’s the world-weary punchline:
Its initial objective was to turn Iraq into a model for the region: a democratic, secular and free-market oriented government, sympathetic to U.S. interests, not openly hostile toward Israel, and possibly home to long-term American military bases. But hostility toward the U.S. and suspicion of its intentions among large numbers of Iraqis have progressed so far that this is virtually out of reach. More than that, the pursuit has become an obstacle to realisation of the most essential, achievable goal -- a stable government viewed by its people as credible, representative and the embodiment of national interests as well as capable of addressing their basic needs.
Since it was totally crazy of us to think that Arabs could be democratic or secular, or even not openly hostile to Israel, it looks like we’re screwed. But wait – the ICG has a whole bunch of great ideas to “save” us:
To the United States Government:
1. Recognise new realities and constraints under which it operates, and in particular that:

1 (a) the insurgency is not confined to a finite number of fanatics isolated from the population and opposed to a democratic Iraq but is fed by nationalist feelings, widespread mistrust of U.S. intentions and resentment of its actions …

So a crew of Europeans and leftists ask us to recognize that Iraqi insurgents hate the United States for all the same reasons that Europeans and leftists do. We already suspected that they were sympatico, so we’ll take this as a confession – a rare moment of candor on their part. But the fact that anti-American loons are fond of living vicariously through the violence of revolutionaries and terrorists is not news to us.

Of course, their description of the insurgency’s intentions is missing a few things. How about the desire of former Baathists to evade justice? More importantly, how about the militant Islamic jihadism of al-Qaeda and their ilk? Anybody notice anything like that going on in the world lately? [Crickets chirping …]

1 (b) the current transitional process is not the answer to the legitimacy deficit but one of its sources …
The insurgents have murdered Iraqis, civilians, Muslims, UN and Red Cross workers, and generally any outsiders they can lay their hands on – in the most gruesome and brutal fashion possible. They have stated their intention to violently disrupt democratic elections. But guess who’s on the short end of the “legitimacy deficit”? You guessed it – the evil Yanqui imperialist cowboys, same as always.
1 (c) national elections scheduled for January 2005 will change little unless they produce institutions that can address basic needs and prove their independence by distancing themselves from the U.S. and reaching out to all political components.
Of all the possible problems that the new Iraqi government might face, the deep thinkers of the Old World mention only the one that concerns them – the new government might fail to distance itself from the United States. Apparently, the Iraqis do not have the right to choose a pro-American leadership, as Europe will only recognize a government that aligns itself with Europe’s ambitions. There’s some good old-fashioned colonialist condescension for you.
2. Designate a senior official in Washington with lead responsibility for designing and implementing a transitional strategy for the U.S. in the lead-up to late 2005, and if necessary beyond, ensuring proper coordination between agencies and with the field.
Thanks for the advice. It never would have occurred to us to “implement” and “coordinate” stuff.
3. Develop an integrated counter-insurrection strategy that: (a) is focused on gaining the population's support rather than on eliminating insurgents; and …
Now the geniuses who gave us Vietnam, Algeria, Rhodesia, and the horrific Belgian Congo are going to advise us on counterinsurgency techniques. Rule Number One is “Hands off the insurgents”.
(b) further subordinates military operations to political and economic initiatives -- including offers of amnesty or negotiated surrender to combatants; establishment of elected, empowered and duly funded local government structures; reconstruction; payments to displaced civilians; and compensation for damages.
By further subordinating military operations, of course, they mean no military operations other than providing target practice to insurgent rocket and mortar attacks. Meanwhile, we hand the various localities over to local jihadist warlords, along with a truckload of cash. It’s doubtful that any of this cash will come from Saddam’s massive bribes to Europeans – after all, they earned it and a deal’s a deal.

As for amnesty, ask yourself this question: Who has the right to give amnesty to the criminals of Saddam’s regime, and to terrorists who have deliberately targeted Iraqi civilians and police? Might not that right belong only to a duly elected Iraqi government? Or do Iraqis have rights only insofar as they conform to the wishes of the insurgency’s foreign cheerleaders? Would amnesty be a convenient way of covering up some inconvenient and embarrassing European behavior that might be further exposed in court?
4. Signal quick acceptance of a fully sovereign Iraqi government both before and after elections by: (a) abstaining from commenting on the desired election date and making clear it would accept a delay decided by the Iraqi government;
There are no indications that Iraqis want to delay the elections. All indications are to the contrary. So what does “quick acceptance of a fully sovereign Iraqi government” have to do with making it clear that we’ll accept a delay? And if we are to abstain from commenting on a date, are the back-seat drivers of Europe going to shut the hell up, too?

An uncharitable interpretation of this might be that some in Europe – and elsewhere - do not want quick elections that will de-legitimize the heroic insurgency’s struggle against American imperialism.

(b) seeking participation of as many non-U.S. and non-Coalition election observers as possible;

(c) abstaining from challenging steps to revisit earlier decrees or decisions made by or in
coordination with the U.S. and from interfering on sensitive issues such as economic policy;

(d) systematically consulting and coordinating on reconstruction priorities and implementation and involving local and national Iraqi institutions in the management of funds;

(e) transferring as soon as possible any prisoners to independent and credible Iraqi judicial authorities; and

(f) dealing with the new government as with any sovereign partner,
conditioning longer-term support on respect for human rights, financial
transparency and anti-corruption steps, and dismantling of militias.

More cheerful prattle about coordination, implementation, and abstention. Can’t have too much of that. Interesting that the Coalition is not allowed to use force against the insurgents, but we’re supposed to threaten cutting off support to the Iraqi government if they fail to forcibly dismantle “militias” that might interfere with insurgent operations.
5. Change Iraqi perceptions of U.S. by: (a) commencing immediately and visibly the process of ending co-location of the embassy in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government and by substantially reducing its size;
Apparently it isn’t fair that we appear to be siding with the Iraqi provisional government against the murderous terrorists who are trying to destroy it. This is the famous “even-handed” approach to Middle East foreign policy that the left (and the extreme right) are so fond of.
(b) redeploying troops to ensure a more dispersed and less visible presence, while maintaining a rapid intervention capability;
Security is the number one concern of Iraqis, so the “crisis group” decides that the solution to this is to have the security forces hide. After all, they reason, surely Iraqis are as revolted by the sight of brutish US Marines as Europeans are. So they would have us lurk in the desert, where we can rapidly intervene in the wake of terrorist attacks on Iraqi civilians. After it’s too late.

Insurgency warfare targets population, not territory. By ensuring that the insurgents are allowed to have an unrestricted presence among the population (unmolested by any politically incorrect military operations) while the Coalition is not, these people are suggesting to us a really good way to lose. We’ll charitably assume that they’re just idiots on the subject of Guerrilla Warfare, because we’d hate to think they’re on the other side.
(c) entering into transparent negotiations with the Iraqi government over the timetable for a staged withdrawal, including (if that government wishes) a target date for complete removal of all U.S. troops, and repudiating publicly and unequivocally any intention of establishing long-term military bases;
No one has said anything about long-term military bases. If Iraq desired such a base, that would be between them and the Coalition nation in question. That goes along with “sovereignty”, and it is no business of the International Nervous Class.

It’s very typical of the irresponsible left to simultaneously talk about “independence” and “sovereignty” while attempting to dictate their own policy, point by tiresome point, to sovereign, independent states.
(d) making clear that the military priority is not to destroy the enemy but physically to protect civilians, in particular by limiting military operations that imperil civilians and altering procedures governing arrests, treatment of prisoners and homes searches;
A “sitting duck” strategy that refuses to do any harm to the enemy will absolutely fail to protect civilians. It is a deliberately losing strategy. Again, we’ll assume that the fools are just trying to be helpful.
(e) continuing transfer, to the extent possible, of full security responsibility to Iraqi forces in areas where Coalition forces would intervene in emergency situations only;
Thanks for noticing our efforts on this front – without much help from the region’s former colonial masters, I might add.
(f) refraining from referring to Iraq as a "model" for the region or the new "front" in the anti-terrorism war;
Allah forbid that Saudis or Iranians might pick up bad ideas from all this wild neoconservative talk about democracy. But if we refrain from calling Iraq a model, are the opponents of our Iraqi policy going to refrain from all their trash talk about oil and imperialism? Probably not, huh?
(g) adopting a more credible communications strategy by publicly articulating U.S. objectives, admitting setbacks …
In return for downplaying our achievements and generally being ashamed of ourselves, will our opponents reciprocate by admitting that their efforts to protect Saddam were misguided? Probably not, huh?
(h) encouraging negotiations with opposition elements who do not resort to deliberate acts of violence against civilians.
Like who?

I skip points 6 and 7, in which the International Crisis Group gives us organizational pointers based on their own vast military experience, offer vague suggestions about Iran and Syria, and drag “Israeli-Palestinian and other Arab-Israeli conflicts” into the picture.

Point 8 – addressed to “To the Newly Elected Transitional National Assembly and Forthcoming Transitional Iraqi Government” - is another amusing example of “Prove that you’re sovereign and independent by doing exactly as you’re told”:
8. Clearly demonstrate their sovereign independence by:

(a) reviewing agreements reached between the U.S. and the Interim Government as well as decisions with continuing effect made by the Coalition Provisional Authority;
(b) debating openly status of forces arrangements for Coalition troops and negotiating with the U.S. and its partners the criteria and timetable for gradual withdrawal, including a target date for completing that process; and
(c) naming a credible independent commission to investigate human rights abuses and violence against civilians since the war began, in particular by Coalition forces, and recommend compensatory damages to victims.
The ICG's idea of a sovereign, independent Iraq is one that acts as a proxy for Europe’s revenge fantasies against the Coalition – especially the US – and punishes the nations that helped Iraq win sovereignty and independence.

What they clearly don't want is an independent Iraq that unmasks European collaboration with the butcher Saddam, and demands compensation for the billions in Oil for Food aid that was stolen from the Iraqi people. Clearly, only a US puppet regime would do such a rude and unsophisticated thing.