Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Colonel Kilcullen, the “Surge” and The Guardian

    Posted by Zenpundit on March 1st, 2007 (All posts by )

    The major Left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, published an unflattering ( surprise, surprise) article – ” US commanders admit: we face a Vietnam-style collapse” about the new counterinsurgency-oriented “surge” strategy being employed by the Bush administration in Iraq. LTC. David Kilcullen, the special adviser to the State Department for Counterinsurgency, strenuously disagrees. Well, I infer Kilcullen believes that The Guardian’s article is cross between shoddy journalism and a politically motivated “hit piece” but holding an official position, he’s too reticent to blast The Guardian that explicitly.

    Some background: Dr. David Kilcullen is an Australian Army lieutenant colonel on loan to the USG who holds a PhD. in Anthropology, whose area of expertise is Islamist guerillla-terrorist networks in Indonesia. I have, at best, a very superficial introduction to the sociology of Indonesian politics through the graces of attending periodic lectures in the last few years given by scholars associated with The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at NIU. Indonesia is incredibly complex, far moreso than is even polyglot Iraq, and this is where Dr. Kilcullen cut his teeth learning counterinsurgency warfare in steamy tropical jungles. His journal articles “Twenty Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency” ( a play on the original by T.E. Lawrence) and “Counterinsurgency Redux” are “must-reads” in professional military circles and among defense intellectuals. Colonel Kilcullen is a practitioner of this kind of warfare, not just a bright scribbler in a think tank somewhere inside the beltway.

    So, given his experience and his involvement in the war in Iraq, I take heed when Kilcullen has something to say. Today at the SWJ Blog, Dr. Kilcullen issued a sharp corrective to The Guardian, “Guardian article misrepresents the advisers’ view“. An excerpt:

    “There is a real country called Iraq, where a real war is going on, with real progress but very real challenges. We are not going to “win the war” in six months — nor would anyone expect to. But the Guardian seems to be describing some completely different, (possibly mythical) country, and some imaginary group of harried and depressed advisers bearing no resemblance to reality. As counterinsurgency professionals, we take a fact-based approach and we are well aware of the extremely demanding task we face. That makes us cautious realists — but we are far from pessimists, as The Guardian’s anonymous source seems to imply.

    The article is littered with inaccuracies:

    • the “advisers” are not bunkered down in the Green Zone, but in another location, and frequently out on the ground.

    • the article (incorrectly) describes me as a serving military officer – I’m a civilian diplomat, as any source truly familiar with the team’s thinking would be well aware.

    • while recognizing the severity of the challenge, the team’s mood is far from pessimistic. Success will take months or years, not weeks or days, and although early signs are somewhat encouraging it’s really far too early to say how things will play out. The war has been going for four years, the new strategy for less than four weeks. Give it time.

    • the State department is not failing to meet its personnel targets. On the contrary, more than 90 % of civilian positions in Iraq are filled, and we will grow to 20 Provincial Reconstruction Teams soon.

    • the coalition is far from disintegrating – British redeployment from the South reflects improved security, not lack of will, and the same day the British announced their move the Australians announced a force increase in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • The plan is not “unclear” or “constantly changing” – we all know exactly what the plan is. The article seems to be mistaking the freedom and agility which have been granted to us, allowing us to respond dynamically to a dynamic situation, for vacillation.”

    Read the rest here.

    In my view, the so-called “surge” is about changing tactical situations in Iraq for the better and ceasing to treat battling terrorists and insurgents with tactics better suited to defeating the Wehrmacht or the Red Army. In other words, it is adjusting the U.S. military to the war the United States is actually in, rather than the war that the Pentagon would prefer to fight against a mythical “near-peer” competitor. Strategic change in Iraq can only come with shrewd diplomacy, politics and economic policy building upon any improvement in the short-term military situation. This is something out of Kilcullen’s hands or even those of General Petraeus.

    But for the job they are doing, give them the room to run.

    ADDENDUM:

    For Chicago Boyz readers interested in military affairs, military history or the insights of active duty military professionals, I warmly endorse The Small Wars Council and The Small Wars Journal, run by Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle. Each site represents a superb resource and many, many hours of interesting reading.

     

    9 Responses to “Colonel Kilcullen, the “Surge” and The Guardian”

    1. outraged Says:

      I’m sure the Iraq counterinsurgency team is optimistic, highly qualified, etc. etc. But I put a question to the patriots who read this site. If a foreign army invaded the United States, overthrew our government, no matter how hated, and remained to manage extraction of a natural resource that we happened to have, what would YOU do? If you didn’t flee (as millions of Iraqis have done) I suspect the red-blooded Americans reading this would be part of the insurgency/resistance. I’m not fond of our current administration but I wouldn’t appreciate a foreign army coming in to rescue us.

      Why is it so difficult to grasp that invasions like our invasion of Iraq have no chance of being sustained, no matter what kind of counterinsurgency expertise is hired? Either it will be driven out, or folks back home will turn against it, or both. Twentieth century history provides overwhelming evidence of this.

    2. Dr. Weevil Says:

      Why is it so difficult to grasp that being governed by George W. Bush, with his two daughters out of the loop, is entirely different from being ‘governed’ (i.e. brutalized) by Saddam Hussein, with his psycho thug sons Qusay and Uday waiting to take power? If the U.S. were ruled by the latter, I would welcome liberation by some disinterested power, as did most Iraqis.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      If a foreign army invaded the United States, overthrew our government, no matter how hated, and remained to manage extraction of a natural resource that we happened to have. . .

      You are insinuating that we are in Iraq to take the oil. But it is a fact that we are not taking the oil. Indeed one of our goals has been to help the Iraqis create a system to “manage extraction” of the oil for themselves.

    4. zenpundit Says:

      The Bush administration has been cosmically incompetent in the occupation of Iraq but those who imagine that we invaded for oil are lacking in elementary economics or understanding of global oil pricing. Good grief,if we just wanted to seize underexploited oil fields, we’d have invaded and annexed Mexico. It’d have been a heck of a lot cheaper.

    5. Wes Turner Says:

      Jonathan and Zenpundit to a good job of destroying the risible argument that the U.S. invaded Iraq ONLY to steal their oil.

      But they are mischaracterizing the “blood for oil” position.

      When I say the U.S. invaded Iraq over oil, I mean that exclusively U.S. and British oil companies were handed no-bid contracts to extract the oil. Sure, the Iraqi government would be paid for the oil, but U.S. friends of Cheney/Bush would have exclusive access to the billions of dollars worth of contracts to develop, extract and refine the oil.

      As chicagoboyz, surely you understand the role of incentives in motivating actions.

      More important, perhaps, without oil, the Baathists regime’s depredations would almost certainly be ignored, as that kind of thing is in so many other places on the planet.

      This is not all nefarious, of course. Without oil, Saddam would have been far less able to engage in military aggression or support others who do, so less of a security threat to the region.

      Any attempt to understand what’s happening in Iraq that doesn’t include the incentives oil provides is doomed to be overtaken by ideological cant.

    6. Anonymous Says:

      If a foreign army invaded the United States, overthrew our government, no matter how hated, and remained to manage extraction of a natural resource that we happened to have, what would YOU do?

      I’d shut down the universities and send them home.

    7. mishu Says:

      So what Wes Turner is saying is that the Bush Administration was more motivated in lining their friends’ pockets than removing Saddam Hussein from power so that he would not use oil profits to purchase nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In this case then, greed is good.

    8. zenpundit Says:

      Hi Wes,

      “When I say the U.S. invaded Iraq over oil, I mean that exclusively U.S. and British oil companies were handed no-bid contracts to extract the oil. Sure, the Iraqi government would be paid for the oil, but U.S. friends of Cheney/Bush would have exclusive access to the billions of dollars worth of contracts to develop, extract and refine the oil.”

      I’d argue that is partly an ad hoc result, rather than a rigid a priori intention on the part of the Bush administration. Who is a ” friend” is a flexible concept.

      French, German and Russian companies were excluded for political reasons due to their governments’ vigorous opposition to the invasion of Iraq ( opposition motivated, in part, by illegal “pre-contract” agreements, such as TotalFINelf’s with Saddam’s regime to have interests the development of the bin umar and related oil fields). The desire not to “reward” these countries on the part of Bush appointees was very strong but had the diplomacy shaken out differently I’m hard pressed to see the Bush administration scotching French and Russian deals if those two countries had supported the invasion, even if the pre-contracts (and “oil for food” bribes) did violate the UN sanctions.

      There was also the Iraqi debt issue hanging in the air, if you remember, to these states and leasing the oil fields could have been part of a debt forgiveness/refinancing package. Hard to have said “No” to Paris if the Foreign Legion and the French Air Force had gone into Iraq with the Coalition.

    9. Wes Turner Says:

      You’re right Zenpundit, I’m not suggesting these oil contracts were the Bush administration’s primary motive. The primary motive was domestic political power, which, for the Bush team is inseparable from their sense of ideological entitlement. (Remember Andrew Card’s memo about “marketing” the war in Iraq ahead of 2002 congressional elections?)

      As you note,it seems reasonable that Cheney/Bush would have been happy to share the oil contracts with allies, had they been stupid enough to join the invasion.

      Still, oil is the active ingredient here. Iraq’s recent history is based on oil wealth and nothing that happens there takes place outside that central fact.

      Remember, the Bush administration insisted, against objections of the Iraqi leadership-in-exile, that oil resources could not be nationalized. Of course, this was one of the many ideologically driven mistakes the administration made and one that has now been reversed. Even the administration has now admitted that oil resources first must be divided among factions in the government before they can be developed via private investment.

      As for Bush lining his friends pockets, I read yesterday that the administration also insisted on privatizing health care delivery at Walter Reed hospital, and, surprise, surprise, who won the no-bid contract: two former Halliburton employees.

      The extent to which ideology trumps competence and results for some Bush supports never fails to astound.