This article appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine recently. The author is Andrew F. Krepenevich, Jr., Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. Definitely worth a read.
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. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.
1. Jeff Crossett09/19/2005 07:34:47 AM
Increased casualties + longer timeline = Zero buy-in by the McGeneration and our 24 hour new cycle. The present strategy seems to rely very heavily on the Iraqis providing security for themselves which seems to be more difficult than one might imagine.
2. Richard Schwartz09/19/2005 08:46:34 AM
Developing buy-in for a war that was initiated on false pretenses is going to be an uphill battle no matter what. Still, as is readily apparent from the positions taken by the leadership of the loyal opposition, there is very little support for a cut-and-run strategy. Even with the increasing evidence that the current strategy on the ground is failing, cut-and-run is not making significant gains amongst Democratic leaders. It's readily apparent that the political strategy in Iraq is going to take far longer than the Bush administration believed. It took our own country years to build a concensus behind a constitutional democracy, and decades to really work out the kinks, and we started with a far more cohesive population than they have in Iraq. The prevailing attitude amongst the Democratic leadership is still that it's a mess we've made, and a mess we need to fix, which means that they're also on the "stay the course" path. The problem for the Democratic leadership is to differentiate the course they want to stay from the course the Bush administration wants to stay -- and to sell it to a Democratic constituency that will be pushed ever more toward cut-and-run the longer we go without a clearly spelled out alternative.
3. jonvon09/19/2005 08:32:26 PM
i heard an expert (don't remember who now) on a radio program saying that if security were really left up to the iraqi's, that they would be able to get the job done much more effectively than US forces. basically because we can't tell who is who, and no one wants to come outside of the green zone to talk to anyone. but the iraqis know who is there, they know who is who, who is from iraq and who isn't. autonomy isn't really given to the iraqis (except, it seems, in rare cases) because the american military doesn't trust them. it is a recipe for disaster, seems to me, no matter how you look at it. if they end up in anything but a civil war, america having long since pulled out, i will be very surprised.