Tuesday, January 09, 2007

# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES A SURGE HAVE A SNOWBALL'S CHANCE IN HELL? Taylor has argued the negative, so let me see how much of an affirmative argument I feel like making. Yesterday, I mentioned in passing that I'm for a surge. Dignam wants to know why. So let me give it a shot.

But be forewarned: I haven't done much thinking yet about how much of a surge would be necessary to make a difference. Would I only support an impossible increment of 50,000 US combat troops? Or is there some value to sending only an additional 20,000?

So let's begin with Fred Kaplan's argument, since both Taylor and Josh Marshall seem to consider it decisive. Kaplan's math begins with the proposition advanced by the US Army's new counterinsurgency manual: You need 50 combat troops for every 1000 individuals in the target population. That's a good rule of thumb, and I'm pretty willing to accept it for the sake of argument, although no rule of thumb should be applied mechanically.

If Baghdad has a population of 6 million, then the counterinsurgency force should number 120,000 combat troops. So what the heck are we going to accomplish with an extra 20,000? For Kaplan and Marshall, that seems to be the only question anyone needs to ask.

But I'm curious. I haven't read the Army's new manual yet, although it's near the top of my reading list. Does it say that an effective force needs to be 100% American (or British or Canadian, etc.)? Or can Iraqi troops be included in the total at an appropriate discount?

As George Will would be quick to point out, a lot of Iraqi troops are almost as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution, because of their affiliation with Shi'ite militia and death squads. But some number are presumably effective, even one American GI is worth two or three Iraqis. Before passing judgment, it seems Fred and Josh should figure out what the Iraqis can contribute to the surge.

Kaplan also argues that no plan can work unless Maliki's Shi'ite government allows the surge to target Shi'ite militias as well as Sunni insurgents. I don't see why that's the case. Broadly speaking, a functioning government can't tolerate the existence of militias and death squads, even if they're roughly on the government's side. Yet given that the militias and death squads are out there now and we don't have much ability to stop them, I don't see why we can't focus the surge on forcing the Sunni insurgents out of Baghdad. In the unlikely event that a surge actually shuts down insurgent activity in Baghdad, then the counterinsurgency force may have enough leverage to start dealing with the Shi'ite irregulars.

Now let's continue with the premise that a surge might actually force the Sunni insurgents out of Baghdad. Won't they just go somewhere else? According to Fred Kagan and Jack Keane, the authors of the leading surge proposal, one of the reasons we need a surge in the neighborhood of 50,000 GIs is to reinforce the US presence in Anbar, so the insurgents can't just pull back to the Sunni triangle. So does that mean if we only surge 30,000, the whole operation will be pointless?

Frankly, I don't know. It's very hard for a non-expert to gauge the significance of an increment like 20,000 troops. So I'll have to do some more reading (including the President's speech, once it's available.)

In the mean time, here's my question for Taylor: Democrats opposed to the surge, like Joe Biden and Barack Obama, keep insisting that "there is no military solution" so what we really need is a political solution in Iraq. By a political solution, they mean a deal that addresses issues like sharing oil revenue and balancing the powers of the regions versus the authority of the center.

But who would negotiate on behalf of the Sunnis? The US has an ambassador and the Shi'ites have a government. There are a handful of Sunnis in the government, but they seem powerless. As for the insurgents, they have neither an identifiable leadership nor any apparent interest in negotiation. How do you engineer a political solution when only one side can show up at the negotiating table?
(9) opinions -- Add your opinion

It's not a question of all or nothing with troop levels. The US military in Iraq will use whatever is available to do what it can against priorities.

The additional troops do not need to be US/UK, though it seems like those countries arethe only ones willing to send troops without ridiculous restrictions on their use as Germany and other NATO countries have placed on their troops in Afghanistan.

You don't stabilize a country, or win a war, through half measures when working towards a goal, unfortunately, half measures have been employed consistently throughout OIF.

What Pres. Bush, and Sen McCain, need to emphasize is just how important success in Iraq is; that the surge will bring that about; and that there is a solid, but adaptable plan in place to bring about stability in Iraq.

Iraqis either hate us, support us, or are waiting to see who will be the stronger before committing. Unfortunately, there are severely partisan individuals in the government, or supported by the governemnt, that are also fall into those categories.

Many IRaqi Army troops are now nonsectarian, and in Ramadi at least, the IP are drawn from the local populace, so slowly the IRaqi security forces are being seen as sources of stability, and are taking the lead in fighting.

I have seen successes in Iraq, and as Sen McCain describes, the lack of manpower for the "hold" phase of the strategy is where the troops in any number will be most useful.
Hey David. Lowry offers some more Kaplan rebuttles at the Corner. I'll take a stab at your question later in the day...
The short answer to the orginial question is no!

President Bush has never learned that in a democracy leadership is more than one man getting his own way. He has replaced the top general several times with no avail. Irag is not going to be something the Americans can change but something the Iraqis will have to sort out themselves, which will be long and bloodly.

The debate between the Sunnis and Shites is now something so self-evident the repetition of arguementation is futile and irrational. The United States has no basis for legitimacy left in Iraq and any further deployment in that country is a waste of time. life and money.

The era for the United States in the Middle East is over. That is something the current adminstration doesn't want to face but that is the hard cold reality. A troop surge will correct or change the problems this country has created. We made our mistakes and will now pay for them. Similar to the old adage: "The path to hell is paved with good intentions." That is actually the position the US has put itself in.

Danny L. McDaniel
Lafayette, Indiana
Instead of a surge wich will waist billions of dollars lets put our money toward something that can really make a difference. According to the Borgen Project, it will only cost $19 billion anually to defeat world hunger. Now that's a managable amount of money producing some huge results!
I missed your last paragraph, in which you asked, "So who will negotiate with the Sunnis?". Short answer, negotiate wit hte Sunni sheikhs, becuase ultimately the sheiks will be deciding who represents them in the government.

Iraq is a tribal society, the tribal leader, a sheik, really has a lot of control of the tribe, and subtribes, etc. HIs decisions will be adhered to, though unpopular decisions can cause trouble. In Anbar, the tribal sheiks are being diplomatically engaged, you'd actually be surprised to know that in Ramadi, several sheiks have started fighting against Al-Qaeda, if not necessarily alongside US forces. More importantly, local Sunni tribesmen are now joing the Iraqi security forces, so local Sunnis will be policing local Sunnis, removing a lot of the friction of Shia cops and soldiers in a Sunni area.

Interested readers might want to Google up CPT Travis Patriquin, and his presentation "How to win in Al Anbar." He was a good man and officer, and his efforts with the local sheiks really helped bring about change in our little corner of Paradiase on the Euphrates.

Danny, leadership is not about getting your own way, but it is about making a decision, and leading your subordinates towards it. There is a big differnece between admitting that mistakes were made, and walking away to leave the mess to others, or working to correct those mistakes.
I don't fault you for your opinions, if all I had togo on was news coverage, I'd be resigned to failure, too.
I am on my second tour in Iraq, and I have abettter idea of the balance between success and failure here, and I am optimistic that success can be achieved here, with a resulting troop wothdrawal, but it requires that we do the hard fighing and heaqvy lifting that should have been done three years ago, with the right number of troops to secure it. Only then can we leave.
It's very hard for a non-expert to gauge the significance of an increment like 20,000 troops.

It really isn't so hard. According to the CIA FactBook, Iraq had an estimated population of 26,783,383 in 2006. So those 20,000 troops would be one additional troop per 1339 Iraqis. 50,000 would be 1 per 535. About a third of them would hold guns.

Given how bad things are now, this is not a credible effort to actually improve things. Instead, Bush and the Republicans are simply trying to stretch things out so that they can blame it on someone else.
''Broadly speaking, a functioning government can't tolerate the existence of militias and death squads, even if they're roughly on the government's side.''

Er, right, David.
First, I'm so glad that Kaplan's math has put people to actually talking about what makes for smart counterinsurgency. For me, it's a relief to get away from the polarizing ideologies that have driven so much of the fray and endless debate questions like, "Are we safer now than we were five years ago?".

The next steps will be if folks can think in terms of what the reaction will be to a 'surge' and what the appropriate counter-action ought to be when that raction occurs. At some point, maybe people will actually ask for some metrics on how clear-hold-build is going, a focus that can only help (I would say, *even if* the data come in poor for a periods like Ramadan, etc.).

Here are some observations, in no particular order, on David's post:

-It is probably important conceptually to separate 'insurgency' from 'sectarian violence'. A sense of law enforcement and rule-of-law might be important to halt sectarian reprisal killings. It might not end an insurgency, however, which might require more.
-Kaplan does ignore the Iraq components in his numbers, but take care when writing in a 'discount' to Iraqi forces - so many Iraqi police and army have been killed while bravely defending their country, facing their foes without armor, without sophisticated backfield support, and without fortified operating bases to return to at night (while the French, for one, sit home, comfortable that they have the superior moral ground with their troops safe from conflict).
-A "surge" is something that ought to be part of general thinking when engaging in counter-insurgency and even counter-terrorism. Ask yourself, what is overwhelming force in the context of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency? There are any number of tactics that would require large mobile forces that can be deployed and re-deployed quickly (perimeter operations come to mind). One *could* argue that a 25-75% "reserve" force is a suitable *combat* force structure ...

I don't think the goal of a "surge" would be to defeat the insurgency, altogether. At a minimum, it might calm things enough, for a time, to hold municipal elections in key places where Sunni participation has been vesingly absent, including Baghdad. Also, done properly, a period of relative calm could restore hopes to a populace and restore a sense that real *political choices* are on the table and not mere survival.

In regards to David's question on the composition of the force, the general answer is that the best counter-insurgency force would be all Iraqi (it is very, very hard to fight insurgencies as a foreign power), but one key compositional character is that a force be *persistent*. One cannot clear an area and then leave - this may be why McCain (who I don't support) is so against a 'small, temporary' anything. Leave and you greatly risk losing the trust/support of the local populace (cf. testimony of Colonel Hammes).

As an aside, those with long memories will recall that opponents of the Iraqi invasion warned of action without the French, because of their experience with the Gendarmerie ...

More force will have an impact on the violence, hopefully without too large an adverse re-action.

If we accept that as non-partisan, then we can quickly move on to the more mundane but critical measure of progress: (a) how best can Iraqis be incented to take over security, so that USA doesn't bear the costs of time (b) how well has the populace been enlisted to support counter-terror activities (c) what is being done to mitigate campaigns of fear and intimidation.

Baghdad has a population of 6 million, then the counterinsurgency force should number 120,000 combat troops. So what the heck are we going to accomplish with an extra 20,000?

For another perspective, securing just eastern Baghdad or just wester Baghdad would require half the number required for the full city. If we send the additional troops, which with the troops already there would bring the troops is Baghdad up to 60,000, we could probably secure half of Baghdad, just as long as we don't try to secure all of Baghdad. After doing that, Bush could address the people, declare that half of Baghdad is secure, that we cannot do anything further with the current troop level without surrendering our gains and ask for the troops needed to secure the rest of Baghdad, using the track record of the initial surge as a justification. If 20,000 is not enough for a full half of Baghdad, doing so in part of a half would have a similar effect.

I don't see why we can't focus the surge on forcing the Sunni insurgents out of Baghdad. In the unlikely event that a surge actually shuts down insurgent activity in Baghdad, then the counterinsurgency force may have enough leverage to start dealing with the Shi'ite irregulars.

It's important to note that more than killing/capturing/neutralizing the bad guys, the job of the troops in a counterinsurgency is to protect the good guys. This means that the troops operating in Sunni areas of Baghdad, in addition to pursuing Sunni insurgents in the neighborhood, would also be responsible for protecting the locals from Shi'ite death squads.
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