Saturday, May 06, 2006

Anbar mutiny: making a catastrophe into an opportunity

A very interesting story made yet another scandal for
the White House:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/01/AR2006050100854_pf.html
At the end of a basic training ceremony, Iraqi Army
recruits in Anbar province tore off their uniforms and
refused to serve. According to the Wash. Post:

The protest was triggered by an announcement that the
new soldiers, all residents of Anbar province --
widely considered the heartland of Iraq's Sunni Arab
insurgent movement -- would be required to serve
outside their home towns and outside the province as
well.

To me, having posted Mr. Metz's 2003 article on the
Iraq insurgency, I am encouraged that someone finally,
in effect, said: Rumsfeld goes or we go!

To understand this view, one must first recall the
imperial McNamara solution to the Vietnam War: a large
central army. I was in Danang Airport waiting for my
plane to Saigon when I met and ARVN soldier on
emergency leave to go back home to his Mekong Delta
village. He was stationed in a unit near Danang and
the local Viet Cong Committee of his village tried to
talk him into deserting, using the well known
nice-->mean "binh van" tactics scripted way back by
Lenin. First he was sent requests to return to protect
his family; then he was sent a death warrant if he did
not desert; then he was sent a threat to his family;
finally, he received a package with a small child's
hand in it. Thinking it was his young son's, he asked
leave to return home. There was no other way to
confirm that. I have no idea what happened. But the
story came to mind when I read the above story about
the Anbar training camp. In fact, we succeeded in
Vietnam only after the Tet Offensive, when we
concentrated our assets and efforts into training
local forces-- RFs and PFs-- to resist the VC from the
villages. That spelled the end of the Viet Cong and
the war became against Hanoi's regular troops sent
south.

Let us remember that Rumsfeld ordered our "liberator"
troops to not interfere with looting, violence and
murder after Saddam fell on grounds that "freedom is
messy." Thus, the insurgency began as a crime spree.
As a result, we could not disarm people; they needed
their AK-47s to protect their homes. It was only when
our troops came under constant attack that all Iraqis
were deemed suspect of trying to kill our troops until
proven innocents.

The more we preempted, barging into homes in the
middle of the night, the more we turned the Iraqis
into outraged resistors. Soon they went from avenging
insults to their Iraqi dignity to avenging dead
relatives. Apparently none of Gen. Sanchez's
commanders read Lora Blumenfeld's book REVENGE, as
seen by Mediterranean peoples. We kept, as Metz wrote,
assuming that we were dealing with Jihadists from
abroad. And so, as in Vietnam, when we realized that
we couldn't stay, we concentrated on building up an
Iraqi army to replace ours.

To make a long story short, we turned an unleashing of
criminals into a foreign Jihadist insurrection from
abroad (for Rumsfeld ideology substituting for
intelligence). And so we focused on creating a Shi'ite
Army to protect against Sunni insurgents and then a
Sunni Army to protect against Shi'ia Death Squads (not
to speak of the Kurd Peshmerga we fully armed). When
we tried to put it all together into a national army
that we control, we only repeated the ARVN catastrophe
of mass desertions.

But now the lowest soldiers have made it clear that
this is a LOCAL war, to protect their neighborhoods
and villages. Perhaps now Mr. Bush will go the next
step and fire Rumsfeld and replace our military
trainers with able Arab speaking advisers who can
train local police forces to protect their own
families.

At the same time, withdrawing our troops on a fixed
schedule and asking the UN to replace us with police
advisers will refocus this war into the many local
wars that it really is. The Central Government can be
helped by us with reconstruction funds that are
performance standards based (their corruption could
never be as bad as that of our contractors).

In the end we may not get credit for Iraq's police
suppression of a bandit insurgency fought and won at
the local level, the UN police advises will, but them
we also will be remote from any final failure if it
occurs. Yet I really think that our ability to
persuade Iraq at the central and local levels will
only manifest once we remove our ham-bone military and
empower Iraqis one local sector at a time.

Dsniel E. Teodoru

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