Thursday, September 01, 2005

How to Win in Iraq

An essay by Andrew Krepinevich on the last issue of Foreign Affairs by the same title tries to answer just that. It criticizes the Bush administration for its lack of consistent planning and indicates the military strategy necessary to defeat the terrorists.

Mr Krepinevich, a Vietnam expert and history professor, bases his strategy on the successful counterinsurgency campaigns in Malaysia and the Philippines.

Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present.

The essay is limited in that it barely touches upon the regional aspects of the war in Iraq and the global implications of the war on terror. However, it is very interesting and will generate – hopefully – constructive discussions beyond the sterile, preposterous and self-defeating “let’s quit”.

Read it all.


John A said...

It is long past time some planned approach was developed, beyond cursory training of Iraqi police and soldiers (I understand at least the new Iraqi Air Force gets pretty good training). But probably not the "oil spot". Yeah, it worked elsewhere - by controlling primarily low-tech-agricultural villages and small towns, perhaps less than 60 square miles at a time: but proposing to do that with Baghdad and Mosul?!?!! These are not low-population areas that can survive without electricity, fuel for cars and trucks, transportation (road) links to agricultual and shipping points, large-scale water and sewage, etc.

marlow said...

Good point, Jack, thanks.

marlow said...

Oops! John, sorry!