Phil Carter back from Iraq

The Thin Green Line

Phil Carter (of Intel Dump) at Slate, writes:

Efficiency and force protection cannot define our military footprint in Iraq; if those are our goals, we may as well bring our troops home today. Instead, we must assume risk by pushing U.S. forces out into small patrol bases in the middle of Iraq’s cities where they are able to work closely with Iraqi leaders and own the streets. Counterinsurgency requires engagement. The most effective U.S. efforts thus far in Iraq have been those that followed this maxim, like the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar, which established numerous bases within the city and attacked the insurgency from within with a mix of political, economic, and military action.

The Iraqi military continues to slowly come on line, and there have been signs for optimism that they’re going to be a capable force, but we cannot pull back into fortress-like bases as long as the insurgents have the run of the country like they do today. If Iraqi forces can take on more and more security, as they’ve been doing, that’s great. But we should be using the relief to push back harder against the enemy in what has long been a guerrilla civil war.

We can obviously win militarily wherever and whenever we want. That’s never been in question. But, as has often been the case, the other things required to secure a lasting victory also need to be addressed.

Second, the United States needs to reinforce the most successful part of its strategy so far–embedding advisers ($) with Iraqi units. Our embedded advisers achieve more bang for the buck than any other troops in Iraq; one good 12-man adviser team, living and working with an Iraqi unit, can bolster an entire Iraqi battalion. Without these advisers, Iraqi army and police units remain ineffective–or worse, they go rogue. However, these advisers are drawn primarily from the reserves and the staff ranks, not from America’s military elite, so they represent the B Team of today’s military talent. The military needs to invest its best people in the job. If necessary, it should shatter existing units to cull the best officers and sergeants–those selected for command positions–for this critical duty.

It’s very clear that we can still lose in Iraq, but things aren’t as dire as some would have you believe. Much of what we do is working and requires a great deal of patience. That doesn’t mean everything we do is right, of course. Carter is pretty pessimistic about things right now.

Go read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile:

U.S. officials said Tuesday Iraqi leaders have agreed to develop a timeline by the end of the year for progress in stabilizing Iraq, and Iraqi forces should be able to take full control of security in the country in the next 12 to 18 months with “some level” of American support.

No way will this happen in 12-18 months. At least not in the way it’s presented here. I guess I’m taking “some support” to mean mostly logistical and other non-combat support of the type that separates ‘Level 1’ units from ‘Level 2’ and ‘Level 3’ units. I’d love to be wrong, but I sure think we’re going to be much more heavily engaged a year from now than this announcement (or at least the way it’s being reported) makes it sound.

Dave Price at Dean’s World has more.


  1. It’s election time. Every election cycle this time the war basicly stops or at best goes defensive on our side (political) and the enemy goes full alt (again political). I don’t like it but it is the reality we live in. Before we start 2nd guesing our stradegy we should wait till about a month after election day. I imagine just like the previous election cycles we will go full alt again. The radicals can only kill their bretheren so long before the moderates decide its time to fight. On that day if we are still thier along with the IA and gov they will join the strong man US. If we puss out and withdrawl redeploy whatever when that day comes they will pick thier local strong man militia and we will see Iraq balkinize.

  2. Wait, what? ‘Every election cycle this time the war basicly stops or at best goes defensive on our side (political) and the enemy goes full alt (again political).’ What about the Second Battle of Fallujah, Bush ‘just happening’ to kickstart that offensive a couple days before the 2004 election? That’s not defensive.