Saturday, March 25, 2006

tactical vs. strategic intel: knowing instead of jut killing bad guys

Imagine a pathologist looking into the microscope and
spotting a new bacterial form on his specimen slide.
He then takes the slide off the mount, puts it on the
table and smashes it with a hammer instead of
patiently studying its biology, chemistry, genetics
and antibiotic resistance. Is it imaginable that he
would then go home satisfied that he saved mankind
from yet another infective agent?

It was much like that when our forces entered "injun
country" in Vietnam and now in Iraq. They literally
enter forcibly but intelligence (intel) blind, smash
everything that looks suspicious and then leave. How
does that contribute to understanding the enemy?

Sol Sanders, an old Indochina hand used to lament that
in their efforts to smash the Viet Cong Infrastructure
(VCI), American forces never took into consideration
the Vietnamese familial structures and how the VC
might exploit that to form the VCI. When I brought
that up to a Marines general, he responded that he
didn't care how many relatives a VC had, but how many
were massing for an attack on the villages he was
protecting. Yet, it was the marines who brilliantly
worked the very difficult Vietnam I Corps with their
brilliant CAP Program in the northern provinces
constituting the route of infiltration from the
beginning of the war. Small units of Marines would
become a part of popular hamlet defense and would
gather lineage-- political and sanguinary-- to better
understand who was who and how were they committed or
incriminated. This later became the model for the also
very successful MAT program in the Mekong Delta of the
army. But before this "better war" that Lewis Sorley
wrote so well about, Gen. Westmoreland had insisted
that he had nowhere near enough troops to protect
every village and so he had to aggressively sweep
after the enemy, though intel blind. Only tactical
intel was then sought to find, fix and kill Mr.

We went in Iraq also intel blind. Our objective was to
quickly move boxes on a screen onto Baghdad as if it
were a video game. But as our troops dispensed with
Saddam's Republican Guard, write Gordon and Trainor in
their new book COBRA II, they failed to note Saddam's
Fedayeen irregulars. These lightly armed guerrillas
firing from the back of white pick-up trucks, cut into
our overextended logistic lines. Yet, when yet another
marine, Bill Wallace, pointed this out to Gen. Franks,
the latter sought to dismiss him for not being a team
player. Later, our occupying forces stood dumb-founded
watching as Iraq was raped and pillaged by violent
criminals; they soon to become the backbone of
Saddam's resistance. Behind all the criminal cacophony
was being set up a Saddam Fedayeen Infrastructure
(SFI) that later became the loose net that held
together the insurgency.

At no time did Sec. Rumsfeld allow more Iraq savvy CIA
and DoS personnel to develop strategic intel about
what they were up against and what was developing,
until President Bush turned the political side of
occupation to Condy Rice. And still, again, tactical
intel to "kill the bad guys" was the objective.

In Iraq our troops are on average five years older
than in Vietnam. They are thus moms and dads desperate
to survive intact so they can get back to their kids
and spouses waiting for them at home. They are
intel-blind, up against a lightly armed guerrilla
force that, according to the Iraqi intel chief
(supported by US field commanders) is over 200,000
strong-- larger than our entire Alliance force. And,
while our soldiers, desperate to live, weighed down by
body armor and gadgets and driving around in
inadequately armored HUMVEES, patrol more defensively
than offensively, the enemy is on a one way trip to
Paradise, seeking to take down as many Americans as he
can on his way. Our troops have the firepower in air,
on land and on the ground. But they are intel blind
while the enemy's eyes are everywhere. This is a
recipe for a lot of defensive collateral damage.
Indeed, according to Mike O'Hanllon of the Brookings
Institute, in the first year of our occupation, more
than 20,000 innocent civilians died. It is forgotten
that before four Western contract gunmen were killed
in Falluja and their bodies hung from a bridge-- thus
provoking our assault on Falluja-- Marines shot into a
peaceful demonstration, killing 11. Given our totally
incompetent, also intel-blind and corrupt,
reconstruction program, one can understand why the
Iraqis that welcomed us as liberators soon came to see
us as occupiers to be fought.

From 9/11 forward, little effort was made to quietly
experiment on our foe in order to understand what
makes him tick and then systematically experiment with
ways to exterminate him. I am reminded of the Ho Chi
Minh Trail; it was so hidden by triple canopy jungle
that we hit it statistically. We then realized that no
matter how great our fire power, it was never enough
to succeed intel blind. But in Iraq the lesson never
seems to have been learned. We got away with it in
Afghanistan by the skin of our teeth and though our
luck would hold out. Today, what the US Command knows
about the insurgents-- what it really knows-- can be
fit on five pages. We still speak of Sunnis vs. Shiia
to cover up our total ignorance of tribal lineages
though already into our fourth year in Iraq.

For President Bush, wishing to portray himself as as
"war president," there was everything to be said for
an Action-Jackson approach. Claiming to operate
secretly so as not let the enemy know what we know,
he seems more determined to keep secret from the
American people all that we don't know about the
enemy. So, focused on tactical intel, Gen. Miller
sought timeliness over legality when it came to
interrogating prisoners. So much was for show that no
one can yet explain why we still have no "metrics"
with which to tell how we are doing, per Sec.
Rumsfeld. Cong. Murtha seems to speak for much of the
field commanders when he claims that we have become
victims of our own war. And still, we are intel blind
because we, defensively now more than offensively, are
killing "the bad guys" before we ever understand them.
The inevitable result of a bad mix of intel blind
soldiers, with extremely superior firepower, that are
still losing "buddies" to the insurgents is the My Lai
like Haditha incident where, according to Iraqi
police, a marines unite lined up and shot an entire
family of 15 men, women, children and babies to avenge
the loss of one marine to a remote explosive device.

Like Vietnam, Iraq is a nation with a language to
which we are deaf and a culture to which we are blind.
Intel is not just tactical in order to fix and kill
"the bad guys"; it is also strategic so that we can
put everything into context. Because of our firepower
substituting for understanding, we have built little
in Iraq, destroyed much and find ourselves defending
our desperate desire to live against an enemy
determined to avenge those who died by our hands.
Unlike us, the insurgent does not care about living,
he only lives to avenge the dead (for a great
perspective on the Mediterranean cult of revenge read
Laura Blumenfeld's REVENGE). An insurgency that began
with looting by criminals has become an overwhelming
cosmic force determined to die pleasing God by killing
"infidel Crusaders" en route to Paradise:

Now, a counterinsurgency student I always respected,
Dan Byman,

is leaning towards resorting to "targetted killing"
approach used by Israeli forces. But what he fails to
mention is that in order to carry out its targeted
killing, Israel's Shin Bet depended on 33,000
Palestinian informants. We have nowhere near that
many, nor are they as reliable. Worst still, our
national sense of moral guilt will soon come to haunt
us because we are not yet as hardened and desperate as
the Israelis who faced suicide terror bombing on a
daily basis.

While discussing the war on terror with a young
general serving in the White House, I brought up
Vietnam. He cut me off and warned that our discussion
would be cut off if I continued to associate him with
"that loser's war." Brazen in his ignorance, he failed
to note how much better my generation understood the
Communists than his understands the Jihadists. What
Goss brought to the Agency is sycophancy, not analytic
skills, as existed in Vietnam. But military intel is
no more brilliant, as can be seen from a recent
assessment of the pre-invasion Iraq obtained through
interrogation. Even in shackles Saddam's men made
monkeys out of us!

We need a more mature intel service so as not to turn
our soldiers into desperate intel blind vengeful
killers. We must better know the enemy before we kill
him or before killing what we guess is him.

Daniel E. Teodoru


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