Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nine paradoxes of a lost war

By Michael Schwartz
Asia Times

"In the past two weeks, however, rumblings of discontent, the urge for a change of course (or at least a mid-course correction) in Iraq have been persistently bubbling to the surface of already roiling Washington. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner recently returned from Iraq to rattle the Bush administration by saying that policy there was "drifting sideways" and if it didn't improve, "all options" should be on the table not long after the mid-term elections.

Suggestions are rife for dumping the president's goal of "democracy" in Iraq and swallowing a little of the hard stuff. Reports indicate that in two desperate capitals, Washington and Baghdad, rumors about possible future Iraqi coups are spinning wildly. People of import are evidently talking about the possibility of a new five-man "ruling commission", a "government of national salvation" that would "suspend parliament, declare martial law and call back some officers of the old Iraqi army". Even the name of that Central Intelligence Agency warhorse (and anti-neo-conservative candidate) Iyad Allawi, who couldn't get his party elected dogcatcher in the new Iraq, is coming up again in the context of the need for a "strongman".

This was, of course, the desire of the elder George Bush and his advisors back at the end of Gulf War I, when they hoped just such a Sunni strongman - one who could work with them - would topple a weakened Saddam Hussein. Dreams, it seems, die hard. And, as if on cue, who should appear but former secretary of state and Bush family handler James A Baker III, a Bush Elder kind of guy.

Below, Michael Schwartz considers the latest in military mid-course corrections and explains why such corrections can no longer hope to plug the gaping holes in Iraq's political dikes. Similarly, Warner, Baker, Casey, Senator Joe Biden (with his "three-state solution"), and so many others can all promote their own mid-course corrections, suggest them to the president, bring them to the new Congress, promote them among military figures, but as long as that embassy goes up and those bases keep getting hardened and improved, as long as the "mission continues" (in Baker's phrase), changing troop levels, tactics, even governments in Baghdad's Green Zone, not to speak of "policy options" in Washington, will solve nothing. Wherever that "table" is sooner or later all options will really have to be displayed on it.

But this plan had one ingenious section, derived from an article by four military experts published in the quasi-official Military Review and entitled "The Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency". The nine paradoxes the experts lay out are eye-catching, to say the least and so make vivid reading; but they are more than so many titillating puzzles of counterinsurgency warfare. Each of them contains an implied criticism of American strategy in Iraq. Seen in this light, they become an instructive lesson from insiders in why the American presence in that country has been such a disaster and why this (or any other) new counterinsurgency strategy has little chance of ameliorating it.

Paradox 1:
The more you protect your force, the less secure you are

Paradox 2:
The more force you use, the less effective you are

Paradox 3:
The more successful counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used

Paradox 4:
Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction

Paradox 5:
The best weapons for counterinsurgency do not shoot

Paradox 6:
Baghdad doing something tolerably better than US doing it well

Paradox 7:
If a tactic works this week, it will not work next week

Paradox 8:
Tactical success guarantees nothing

Paradox 9:
Most important decisions are not made by generals

Read The Details of These Paradoxes

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